Monday, July 21, 2008

Lamin Sanneh on expansion of Christianiy

In the 70's prophets of doom predicted that Christianity will experience a steady decline and its adherents would be greatly reduced. This is confounded with the resurgence of Islam. This fact seems to put the nail in the coffin.

However, by the year 2002 the continuous growth of Christianity in Asia and Africa come as a surprise to many. It could not be denied though that a decline is happening in its counterpart in the West.

According to Lamin Sanneh, “it had become clear that a major expansion of Christianity had been under way in Asia and Africa in spite of prevailing pessimism. In Africa in 1985, there were about 16,500 conversions a day. In the same period, some 4,300 people were leaving the church on daily basis in Europe and North America.

Many people, however, are skeptical about this growth not only because this comes from Africa but also because many Christians believe that these African Christians have abandoned the Christian exlucivism and instead become tolerant and inclusivist.

Nonetheless, the facts of the expansion of Christianity cannot be disputed. Lamin Sanneh offers an explanation and cites four major factors.

First, the expansion happened after the era of colonialism and during the period of national awakening. It can be assume that colonialism is a big hindrance to the growth of Christianity.

Second is the result of the Bible translations in local languages, in this case African languages. With the vernacular translation went cultural renewal that encouraged Africans to view Christianity in favorable light.

Third is that the locals stepped forward to lead the church. Young people especially women, were given a role in the church.

The last factor is a theological one: “Christian expansion was virtually limited to those societies whose people had preserved the indigenous name for God. That was a surprising discovery, because of the general feeling that Christianity was incompatible with the indigenous ideas of religion.”

1 comment:

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