Book Review 6: Disciples of All Nations

The last one of the quarter!

Disciples of All Nations by Lamin Sanneh

Chapter 1:  Chapter one argues for mission that encompasses cultures.  As Christianity is embraced in new cultures, it should be folded into that culture, not become and antagonistic force fighting against the native culture.  Therefore, the author states, Christianity has become the history of the world’s peoples and cultures.

Chapter 2:  Although as Christianity grew it became a cultural force, being institutionalized by converted rulers, Islam presented a stalemate.  Neither religion could overcome the other.  The challenge to Christianity’s social and cultural achievements stemmed from Islam’s rapid rise during the seventh century.  The Islamic enlightenment of the fifth century was in some was a precursor to the European Enlightenment. 

 Chapter 3:  After the stalemate with Islam, Europe sought global supremacy through colonization.  Colonization brought with it great abuses to native peoples.  In this new globalization, the weak, nonwhite and poor became targets.  Faithfulness to the church became secondary to economic interests in the drive for European colonization.  As a byproduct of the slave trade, many European missions were established in Africa. 

 Chapter 4:  Attention to the Christian movement was focused on the foreign transmission rather than the local reception of the gospel message.  This affected the study and understanding of missions.  The author suggests a revisionist history of missions.  In practice, things were much more complex than the simple view of a united Christian mission and colonialism.  Bible translation acknowledged the priority of local usage and caused a fragmentation in the alliance between the colonial system and missionaries.  Missions cultivated local sensibility, which complicated colonial control.  The supposed offense of missionaries was in questioning the divine order of white supremacy over the denial to blacks of the basics of justice; eventually, even the missionaries began adopting such an attitude.  Christianity under African conditions revealed both its indigenous potential and its Western presumptions.

 Chapter 5:  The Pietism generated anitcolonialism.  They said government was the enemy of the gospel.  People under colonial rule quickly identified with this movement.  Africans had adopted Christianity under the belief that it would provide for them all that was needed for their welfare and future. However, the missionaries often failed to live lives that reflected the Christian message.  Eventually, African leaders made the choice to cut ties with the mission churches.  In 1929, the East African revival began.  This new movement brought to life a new understanding of koinonia in the Christian community of Africa.  This awakening came out of the indigenous encounter with the legacy of European overseas missions.

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