Over the next few weeks we are looking at Lamin Sanneh’s book, Whose Religion in Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West.
It is this section where Sanneh begins a more question and answer format. These questions and answers are broken up into topics with a total of 90 questions. In some cases, I will give the question, in others, just talk about the answer – it depends on how I feel about you the reader understanding implicitly the question by discussing the answer. This first section of questions form around the topic, Definitions.
The subtitle of this chapter is “Ferment, Renewal, and Pluralism in World Christianity.” By the term ferment, the author speaks of the spontaneous coming to into being of Christian communities among populations that had not been Christian. Christianity, as well, has caused a renewal of local languages, as well as the old customs and traditions of a population in response to the ethics it upholds; things such as love, reconciliation, justice, and responsibility. In addition, this renewal has led to new structures and institutions that are guiding this expansion.
The author then makes note of the difference between World Christianity and Global Christianity. “World Christianity”, Sanneh states,
is the movement of Christianity as it takes form and shape in societies that previously were not Christian, societies that had no bureaucratic tradition with which to domesticate the gospel…World Christianity is not one thing, but a variety of indigenous responses through more or less effective local idioms, but in an case without necessarily the European Enlightenment frame.
Global Christianity, however, is the replication of Christianity derived from the forms and patterns developed in Europe. It is “religious establishment and the cultural captivity of faith.”
The next question centers on the topic of Christendom. According to Sanneh, Christendom is the medieval, imperial phase of Christianity. During this time, the church became a domain of the state and Christian confession was enforced by the government. Wars of religion thus were wars of nations. Global Christianity still carries the vestiges of that root imperial phase by suggesting that growing communities of professing Christians around the world are evidence of the economic and political security interests of Europe, that churches everywhere are a religious expression of Europe’s political reach, or else a reaction to it.” By this, I have to think he would integrate Western culture and align it with Europe. This may help us understand the warring mentality of Islam and its aggressive state, especially towards western culture.
The next question Sanneh addresses revolves around the structural shift that began the demise of Christianity as a global, imperial mandate. The shift was brought about as the development of mother tongues as the means of receiving the gospel became the norm. Christendom had its evangelistic methodology integrated with annexation and subjugation and the church was an afterthought. The institutions of the conquering nation was imported to the colonies and church life was regulated. Indigonizing the faith meant decolonizing its theology. World Christianity was weaned of the politics of Christendom, though practices do not die easy. Some western writers still speak of Christendom as a political construct, “with religion creating new political groupings marked by competition and rivalry.”
Local pioneers have taken charge of the indigenous deployment. Therefore,
an inculturated Christianity is not merely a sequel of discredited versions of the religion; it anticipates an emancipated society,, a situation for which local leadership is best suited. Consequently the somewhat limited goal of Bible translation triggered a much broader process of ethnographic field research and historical documentation to produce a ripple effect on politics, economics, culture, and society, as well as religion.
An example he gives of this occurred in Hawaii. By translating the Bible, the missionaries were the first to learn the language and write it down. According to Sanneh, this has lead to the preservation of the language.