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This book distills the tough missiological issues of a 25-year conversation between one of this generation's most significant Christian intellectuals—Lamin Sanneh, professor of world Christianity at Yale Divinity School—and his colleagues and students. The setting is the rarified environment of an Ivy League long marked by subliminal agnosticism and deep suspicion of Christianity—especially evangelicalism.

Sanneh employs a composite conversation partner whose questions reflect both the troubling cognitive dissonance of believers and the blunt skepticism of unbelievers. The tone is conversational, irenic, and disarmingly informal.

A typical question enumerates the ills that Christianity has supposedly caused in Africa—white rule in Rhodesia and 1950s Kenya, "a Calvinist-inspired apartheid regime" in South Africa, ethnic killings in Rwanda—and then asks, "Where is the good news in that?" Another asks if Bible translation ("a sectarian enterprise") has exported Catholic-Protestant conflict. And invariably the charge arises, "Why … did Christianity suppress so many native cultures? Why is religion so intolerant of pluralism and multiculturalism?"

By extension, Bible translation must be "cultural espionage by means devious and nefarious, is it not?" Moreover: "Doesn't the indiscriminate use of languages in Bible translation impede national unity and political integration?"

Sanneh's scintillating yet profound answers to these and other criticisms reflect his gentle humor and deep common sense. His firm grasp of missiological fundamentals and unflinching commitment to the gospel shine through.

The first chapter centers on 90 questions probing the often misunderstood but undeniable phenomenon of Christianity as a world religion. The ...

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In the Magazine

October 2003

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