Whose Religion Is Christianity? the Gospel beyond the West

Article excerpt

Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel beyond the West. By Lamin Sanneh. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003. xii + 138 pp. $12.00 (paper).

Christianity has survived the Christendom guilt complex of the West and today thrives as a post-Western religion in the global South. Not only has the population of Christians in the South overtaken those in the North, this development also has had major implications for world Christianity. This is the primary argument in this short hut important book. The subtitle might be misleading, however, since the book's focus is primarily on Africa and not the whole of the global South.

A quick glance at this book and one might think that this is simply a popular version of the author's earlier, award-winning book Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture. Although Whose Religion is Christianity? appears to be a distillation of this earlier work, it turns out to be much more than that. True, Sanneh intends to reach a broader audience with this smaller and more popularly written volume; nevertheless, the book leaves no doubt as to the significance of the question it poses in its title. Even with the focus being on "brevity, clarity and dispatch" (p. 11), the urgency of the message is never in doubt.

Whose Religion is Christianity? goes beyond the questions of historical development of the reality of the predominance of Christianity in the global South (addressed in Translating the Message) to the implications of this reality in relation to Western Christianity. For a little book, it packs quite a punch in its breadth and scope of material covered providing serious food for thought for the reader. Issues ranging from the form of Christianity that is being formulated outside of the confines of Western theological ethos to the critical examination of such popular terminology as "global" are closely scrutinized.

Sanneh makes a significant distinction between what he calls "World Christianity" ("a variety of indigenous responses' to the gospel message) and "Global Christianity" ("the faithful replication of the Christian forms and patterns developed in Europe") (p. …