The Journey with Jesus: Book Notes
Reviews By Dan Clendenin
Lamin Sanneh, Whose Religion is Christianity?The Gospel Beyond the West (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003)
Employing a question and answer rhetorical device, Lamin Sanneh, a native of Gambia who teaches at Yale Divinity School, creates an imaginary dialogue between a representative of the secular, post-Christian West, and himself, an advocate for and scholar of what he calls post-Western Christianity. "World" Christianity, as he understands it, must be distinguished from "Global Christianity." The latter is really just a version of European Christendom, the sad "cultural captivity of faith" no matter how exotic its location. World Christianity, on the other hand, as it has emerged with explosive force in the last several decades, is made up of previously non-Christian societies and cultures who have accepted and adopted the Gospel in and through their own unique idioms. Thus, Sanneh prefers to speak of indigenous cultures discovering Christianity rather than of Christianity (read: the post-Christian West) discovering indigenous societies. For the most part, this resurgence of World Christianity has proceeded since the post-colonial period began, and "without Western organizational structures, including academic recognition, and ...amidst widespread political instability and the collapse of public institutions" (p. 3). In the last third of the book he examines the revolutionary impact of Bible translations in these indigenous movements. Christianity, in fact, "seems unique in being the only world religion that is transmitted without the language or originating culture of its founder" (p. 98). Along the way, he explores ways in which the post-Christian West, so long accustomed to understanding itself as the spiritual creditor to the entire world, might now benefit and learn from World Christianity as its debtor (pp. 57, 74). Except for a few brief remarks about China, Sanneh focuses on his native Africa.