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I re-read the interview with Lamin Sanneh in Christianity Today from 2003, and was again moved with a great sense of admiration for him and the way God has worked in his life. I urge everyone to read the interview (by clicking above). I plan to read a couple of his books this summer.
In the last post I referred to him with regard to Bible translation and the classics of English literature. Here are three quotations from the interview:
The overwhelming majority of the world’s languages have a dictionary and a grammar at all because of the modern missionary movement. …
More people pray and worship in more languages in Christianity than in any other religion.
I grew up reading the classics of Islam, with religious and historical accounts steeped in the vindication of the things of God. As a child I remember stumbling on Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life, which had a profound influence on me. It made me resolved to pursue the world of learning and scholarship. I became a voracious reader. Later on at school I read the works of the Western masters, such as Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Keats, Longfellow, Flaubert, Goethe, and so on. All that unlocked the teeming world of the imagination to me, just as Helen Keller intimated.
There are some disturbing descriptions in the interview. Sanneh tells how when he came to a living faith in God who revealed himself through Jesus Christ, both protestant and catholic church leaders were suspicious and tried to keep him at arms length. I thought of Saul of Tarsus after his Damascus Road experience. But it seemed Lamin Sanneh had a hard time finding a Barnabas to come to his aid.
He also described western Christianity as feeble because of its captivity to the West. At the same time he describes a vibrant faith arising in Africa and Asia.