Over the next few weeks we will begin to look at Lamin Sanneh’s book, Whose Religion in Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West.
Lamin is the D. Willis James Professor of Missions & World Christianity at Yale. Lamin Sanneh, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is descended from the nyanchos, an ancient African royal house, and was educated on four continents. He went to school with chiefs’ sons in the Gambia, West Africa. He subsequently came to the United States on a U.S. government scholarship to read history. After graduating he spent several years studying classical Arabic and Islam, including a stint in the Middle East, and working with the churches in Africa and with international organizations concerned with inter-religious issues. He received his Ph.D. in Islamic history at the University of London.He was a professor at Harvard University for eight years before moving to Yale University in 1989 as the D. Willis James Professor of Missions and World Christianity, with a concurrent courtesy appointment as Professor of History at Yale College.
He has written several books and many articles on both Christianity and Islam. One book, Faith and Power: Christianity and Islam in ‘Secular’ Britain was co-authored with Lesslie Newbigin & Jenny Taylor.
Many historians of religion now recognize that Christianity is a global faith whose most vibrant expression and growth are found today in the non-Western world. But no one explores this reality and its implications for modern life with the depth of learning and personal insight of Lamin Sanneh.
This book is unique in the literature of world Christianity, not least for its novel structure. Sanneh’s engaging narrative takes the form of a self-interview in which he asks questions about the cross-cultural expansion of Christianity and provides insightful answers and meaningful predictions about the future. This technique also allows Sanneh to track developments in world Christianity even while giving attention to the responses and involvement of indigenous peoples around the world.
Sanneh’s own background and lifelong involvement with non-Western cultures bring a richness of perspective not found in any other book on world Christianity. For example, Sanneh highlights what is distinctive about Christianity as a world religion, and he offers a timely comparison of Christianity with Islam’s own missionary tradition. The book also gives pride of place to the recipients of the Christian message rather than to the missionaries themselves. Indeed, Sanneh argues here that the gospel is not owned by the West and that the future of the tradition lies in its “world” character.