Gospel & Culture blog
How pastors from Africa, Asia and the Pacific influenced the United Methodist decision to support a scriptural stance on homosexuality
by Kenneth Nehrbass
Dr Lamin Sanneh, Professor of History of Religion (Harvard) and then professor of World Christianity and History at Yale Divinity School, passed away this Jan 6.
Sanneh, originally from Gambia, converted from Islam to Catholicism. His academic career has focused on Islam and Christianity. He has authored over two hundred scholarly articles and of more than a dozen books on Islam and African expressions of Christianity. Additionally, he “is an editor-at-large for The Christian Century and a contributing editor for the International Bulletin of Missionary Research”(Bonk, 2003).
The first edition of Sanneh’s (1989) book Translating the Message enjoyed wide popularity among missiologists because it argued that Islam destroyed culture whereas Christianity preserves culture (often protesting colonialism) by encouraging contextual expressions of faith and vernacular Bible translations.
By Ken Nehrbass
Author and missionary to Indonesia (then, Irian Jaya) has passed away this Dec. 23.
Richardson received his education from the Prairie Bible Institute and the Summer Institute of Linguistics. He never taught full time at a university, and his publications would be considered popular rather than academic. Yet his theories of redemptive analogies, the Melchizedek factor, and original monotheism captured the imagination of missionaries and mobilizers of missionaries. He also had a tremendous impact on my own life: I was planning on being a pastor in the USA until a friend at church gave me a copy of Richardson's Peace Child. After I read it, I knew I was called to Bible translation.
Richardson provided data from around the world that suggested that God has planted the notion of a Supreme Being deep within the human psyche (Richardson, 1981). This is a simplified version of Wilhelm Schmidt’s (1931) massive “culture-history.” Like other “diffusionary anthropologists,” Schmidt believed that cultural elements (bows and arrows, ideas about exogamy or endogamy, religion, etc.) must have been diffused from a proto-civilization. For Schmidt and Richardson, this uber civilization was directly inherited from Noah’s descendants, so it must have had a vestige of belief in one high God. The original culture, then, was monotheistic, but subsequent diffusion and cultural innovations led to increased interest in ritual and “middle level” religious activity, to the near extinction of belief in the high God. Yet spanning from the Karen of Burma to the ancient Incas, to Sub Saharan African religions, tribal peoples seem to have a name for the High God who seems to have forgotten them. Perhaps if missionaries would just re-introduce these peoples to their long lost belief in God, they would experience a collective conversion. Richardson’s stories of mass
Kenneth Nehrbass, Ph.D.
Associate Professor at Biola University, Author, Pastor