The conclusion of Don Richardson's Inclusion: folk cultures gods as the true God
Richardson does not mention a specific supreme god that is found in scripture as the Father that sent Jesus the Son from these folk religions: Why not? Because it clearly would show an opposition to Israel’s God and can be deduced to not be YHWH.
Micah 4:5 “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we (Israel) will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.” There has always been a distinction.
Richardson collected missionary stories of the Supreme gods/sky gods of various tribes that knew nothing about Abraham, Israel or the Bible. He presented to the church that the people of these cultures had Jesus as the Son of their God, even when they had no mention of a Son of God, or a triune God. These cultures had no direct connection to the source of true revelation, any revelation of God of the bible was learned from travelers.
Richardson lowered the bar to make these cultures with a mere mention of a flood and creation, myths, as significant to justify God working in their culture. He is advocating cultural mythology as acceptable truth.
He made the supreme gods of all the different tribes (10 in his book) the same God of the Bible. But He did not even prove they were the same god among the different cultures, much less God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no biblical sense in his presentation, in fact, there is no common sense in it either. Are all these other gods the same as Israel’s God? None of these tribal gods are God, only the God of Israel’s 12 tribes is the true God.
So the concept that he presented (which is a progressive theory of religious inclusivism) is meaningless and should have not been accepted as a way to evangelize the nations. But it was accepted and is being used, leading many astray, even creation apologists who have not looked into it further.
This concept becomes a most dangerous teaching because it promotes a religious unity of numerous cultures outside Israel that knew God, some before Israel did. Every believer needs to consider this from a Biblical perspective, not the worlds view.
Lets summarize some of the Biblical inaccuracies that we have seen by Richardson’s book to refresh ourselves in what is taught. He has the myths of cultures speaking truth like the bible (Other stories and details given on the first man, the flood etc.) accepted as if it was transmitted by the same God to the tribe. An example quoted "Belief in Shang Ti/Hananim predates Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism by an unknown number of centuries" (P. 63 Eternity in their Hearts). That China had worshiped God 2,600 years before Christ, that over 1,000 years before Moses was given the law to Israel, 1,500 years before Christ came. This is all after the unity at the tower of Babel which began false worship of the nations. Where God purposely confounded their language and spread man throughout the world. It seems so many overlook this event as insignificant affecting only a few, but it resulted in 69 more languages in the divide.
He had a diminished view of the Covenant between God and Israel which changed the uniqueness and importance of Israel. This promotes these cultures to have a spiritual equivalence with Israel, (an example is: Richardson promotes as true, an account of a so called prophet of the Karen people of Burma). To have true prophet he must know God and be sent by Him. (see pt.7) Richardson says: “Could it be that Karen beliefs about Y'wa predate both Judaism and Christianity? … The answer is almost certainly—yes! (p.84 Eternity in their Hearts)
Richardson’s lack of accurate research, containing embellishment’s and conclusions that misled what the myths actually mean. Other researcher’s conclusions contradict his. Also presenting teaching’s built on improper interpretation of Scripture, taking it out of context to make his inclusive arguments. Which leads to Christians accepting the names of other cultures gods as the true God who sent the son.He is teaching that they knew God before the gospel came, the god they worshiped (prior or 100 years ago) is the true God, he is the Father who gave the Son. Intentionally or not he proposes some secret knowledge of the beginning of God’s creation given to these other tribes. The tribes (10 are mentioned) believed by Don Richardson’s to all have a book (the Bible) but they ALL lost it (they were given this book before the Bible began by Moses). Yet none of the cultures mention the genealogies, the priesthood, the tabernacle the sacrifices like the Bible; nothing of Israel without obvious former contact with travelers or missionaries.
He also teaches that there are other Melchizedek’s that exist today throughout the world which devalues Christ as the only mediator of the Melchizedek priesthood.
Let me ask those of you who want to know the truth. Where did the early translators of the Bible EVER try to find out the names of the local gods and call them “supreme beings” when translating the Bible into other languages? Only in our modern day did they ever consider such an atrocious thing. Only general terms were used for God, as “theos.” Notice that the Greeks were not given a translation that stated “In the beginning Zeus created the heavens and the earth.” Theos, a generic name for God was used. The Wycliffe Bible method apparently agreed with the unbiblical theory in Eternity in Their Hearts: (Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World by Don Richardson) as they have inserted numerous gods of the cultures into the Bible in that cultures language. It would have been so simple to have an alternative word or use the tetragrammaton to not cause this movement of inclusiveness to expand.
Nowhere does God call himself the supreme God or a sky God in the Bible, these are terms from those who did not know God. Which does indicate that these cultures had no special knowledge of God that we know as the creator – the God of the heaven and earth (a term referring to Genesis 1:1).
I’m floored that some mission ministries and churches so easily accept this or have nothing to say to question it. Do people know and hold to the truth or do they need to learn the basics again?
This is a god who wears many hats (names), not what we are taught from the Bible. And we find similarities by those who hold to universal theories of God.
“Many names in many religions are used to describe the same God. … Be aware that all major religions promote the belief in one God and one mankind, and that God is the source of Truth and Guidance. … In other words, God creates all religions. … The source of all religions is one. Truth is One. God is One.” (Bahai)
“Although we may have different concepts of God's nature, although we may pray to Him in different languages and call Him by different names--Allah or Yahweh, God or Brahma--nevertheless, we are speaking about the same unique Being” (The Bahá'í Concept of God http://info.bahai.org/article-1-4-0-2.html)
-- I believe in a loving God. I believe we are all children of the one God, who is called by many names. I believe all religions may be valid paths to the one God (“Christy's Garden,” www.smokylake.com/Christy/bosal).
Manly P. Hall, a Mason, wrote: “As a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, the names mean little, for he recognizes only the Light and not the bearer [person] (Lost Keys of Masonry, pp. 64-65, Manly Hall).
Much of this is very similar to what we have read about how these tribes beliefs are treated by Richardson.
Mother Theresa had an inclusive influence 'there are many ways to God': "All is God--Buddists, Hindus, Christians, etc., all have access to the same God” (Dec.4, 1989 Time magazine, pp. 11, 13).
Roman Catholicism has always been inclusive to the cultures they try to reach. Roman Catholicism has been involved in inclusiveness for a long time. From the 1964 dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium:
“But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*)
Roman Catholicism teaches that Muslims along with Catholics worship and adore the same God. (Muslims do not agree with this) Catholicism is in the forefront of this unity as the Popes continue to have interfaith meetings and bring inclusion; it is called Chrislam. But what do we call it is when other tribes cultures are being treated in the same way? RELIGIOUS INCLUSIVENESS
From the Movement called the emerging church who uses Henry Nouwen in his book, Sabbatical Journey "I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God."
Can one say these folk religions worshiped the true God and not recognize that their way is not the way the Bible teaches.
John Marks Templeton, a universalist, wrote: “The heart of true religion is the willingness to see truths in other religions … "
And what of the myths in other religions? Myths that are treated as having truth contained in them?
What I’m pointing out is that there is a fine line of truth and error with many who think outside the book (which happens to be the Bible)
All of this inclusivism is right out of the playbook of the WCC, World Council of Churches and URI United Religious Initiative that is interfaith. In the WCC document, called “Together Toward Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes,” which emphasizes what speakers called “holistic” evangelism.
The document states that “God’s Spirit … can be found in
all cultures that affirm life.” A clear implication of inclusivism, a
modified universalist view. The concept Richardson claims is similar.
They are intent on having believers get away from an “exclusivist viewpoint” and look at faith in an inclusivist broader perspective. Richardson may not be involved with this directly, but he is in essence saying the very same things.
This is also taught in YWAM where they want to call forth gods gift and fingerprint in every culture. Richardson states “Young men and women are learning that there are things in every culture that are not from the evil one, they’re from God. Things that God has given people to serve as eye openers to help them understand their need of Jesus. And these things are like compasses, cultural compasses that point people to them.” After Richardson we see on the video the application to what he is teaching. Another says he has “learned so much about cultural redemption and how to DISCOVER CHRIST IN OUR CULTURE… speaking of the course “It has inspired me to go back and redempt my culture through god” (University of the nations “Principles of Redeeming cultures school” posted on youtube)
So God has himself in every culture yet these cultures have a completely different system than Israel. The biblically grounded believer understands this is a counterfeit that brings inclusivism.
“It is true, of course, that falsehoods, distortions and spiritual counterfeits do exist in the world. It is also possible for bearers of the gospel to get sidetracked by them (p.53 Eternity in their Hearts)
What about getting sidetracked looking for bible teachings in cultures myths? Reinterpreting teachings and practices contained in myths about a god and making them as the truth is not evangelism.
As Richardson disciple so often used … “It is time that Christians reclaimed the many beautiful names of the One Creator God in native languages instead of falling into Satan's trap and destroying them. We should reclaim those names and wash the dung of corruption off of them instead of giving them up to Satan. We must cast off the corruption that Satan has thrown on the many beautiful names of God in native languages.” … “God is the creator of all nations, tongues and peoples And is spoken of in each language (pp.26-27, 4th ed. Perpetuated in Righteousness)
While God is the creator of all people Kikawa’s assumption, as is Richardsons is that these culture’s gods are the same as the God who formed Israel and gave them (alone) the oracles. They received from God also.
One of Richardsons examples is “Hindus anticipate what they call "the tenth incarnation of Vishnu." A young missionary in India, desperate to gain the attention of Hindus, decided to proclaim Jesus Christ as simply that—the tenth incarnation of Vishnu!”… While Richardson does not agree with this tactic he does say “They should not, however, with their next breath argue from one such instance that the viewpoint of other cultures is basically irrelevant when one approaches those cultures with the gospel. That sort of deduction is an example of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater."
The fact remains that Hindu belief in the possibility of deity becoming incarnate among men makes us more understandable when we talk to Hindus about "the Word who became flesh, and dwelt among us"—not on successive occasions but once and for all time! (P.53 Eternity in their Hearts)
Potential points of contact used to bring one to Christ is far different than finding Christ in their culture or telling them they have truth. From my perspective, Richardson does not use these points in these cultures myths as springboards toward Christianity but actually affirms them as some ancient truth of the Bible, even the god they have known before the missionaries came is true.
As another writer explains “… the indigenous people confused between the Enlightened One and the Almighty One—the creature and the creator. As a result, employing the Burmese Buddhist atheistic term Paya [ဘုရား Bhura] as the Christian God has been problematic in the postcolonial time Christian mission.9
The present study shall carefully avoid using the English theistic term God while interpreting the deities of the region. For instance, Pathian, Karai-Kasang, Y’wa are not Gods but rather they are just the divine names of regional deities.”
(Interpreting Religious Conversions among the Peoples of Myanmar Assimilating the Christian Faith into the Local Cultural Heritages and the Impact of Christian Mission during the Colonial Era A Doctor’s Dissertation by Cope Suan Pau January 2013) For the Divine Name of the Christian God among the Chin Peoples: Pathian and the Pau Cin Hau Movement in MyanmarSangkeun Kim & Cope Suan Pau)
These are just a few examples of reinterpretation that is applied by Richardson, merging the folk religions culture with the Bible over and over.(remember he states that about 90% of the world's folk religions are permeated with monotheistic presuppositions.") Thus a mythical being is made into the same God who gave us the Bible.
The facts are, any trace of the original monotheism found in any religion is also contained with polytheistic, henotheistic and animistic beliefs. It is quite rare to be by itself and even then it does not mean the one god is the same as the true God of Israel, we have numerous examples even today. Richardson sees the monotheism of Islam has problems.
“In Ethiopia, Jesus Christ was equal to the Son of Magana (their one supreme God (p. 48-50 Eternity in their Hearts)
“The Mbaka people of Central Africa had one supreme God called 'Koro" and they knew also of Koro's Son who was sent into the world to do something wonderful for all mankind, but they but they forgot (over time) yet did know somehow that a 'white brother' would come to restore this knowledge. They also had "rituals of passage" and blood sacrifices and baptismal immersions that paralleled the Judeo-Christian tradition” (Eternity in their Hearts. p. 50-51.)
“The Baka are African Traditional Religionists that believe in the power of bark and metamorphosis. The Baka people worship Komba and believe him to be god above all. The spirit plays the role of the mediator between the supreme being, Komba, and the Baka people" (Azombo, Franklin. "Le Synode du Diocese Du Batouri". Regard sur la culture et la religion des Bakas. Retrieved 22 October 2013)
All these gods become legitimate in Richardson’s handling, however, nearly every time there is crucial information that is not included because it would contradict his theorem which does contradict the bible.
The Baka also worship the forest spirit called Jengi (also known as Djengui or Ejengi).The Baka thus compare Jengui to a protecting father or guardian.[IC Magazine: Supporting the Indigenous Peoples Movement". (Retrieved 21 October 2013. from en.wikipedia)
Richardson quoting another, “Even tribal "rites of passage" among the Mbaka, Eugene says, show Judeo-Christian parallels. First, the elders offered a blood sacrifice for the initiate. Then they baptized the initiate by immersion in a river. For several days following his baptism, the initiate must behave like a newborn child! In keeping with the imagery, he is not permitted to talk. (p.58 eternity in their Hearts)
I don’t see what Richardson sees, I find something very different from so many others who also do research on these matters.
Male Initiation Rite to the Spirit of the Forest (Baka Pygmies of Cameroon,Gabon and Congo). We can document far more accurately today what Richardson wrote of. And what I have found is not complimentary. Baka male initiation is an almost completely secret rite (occurring in secret places of the African rainforest), forbidden to foreigners. (http://www.pygmies.org/baka/male-initiation.php). For male circumcision women were amulets around their neck and paint their faces. Hardly considered the same as Biblical Christianity. Richardson writes “Every sermon I have ever preached ... has acknowledged Jesus Christ by name as the one and only Son of God and Savior of mankind" (p. 130 Heaven wins).
How he can say this is perplexing, clearly he does not understand the implication of his teaching of assigning these other cultures gods as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The principle of honesty must be part of evangelism as God not only looks at our intentions but accuracy, are we telling the truth about God and of their culture, their condition? Good intentions without explicitly telling the truth is just pragmatism; the ends justifies the means. Using their myths as if it is truth is not a Biblical proclamation. To find falsehood in the presentation can totally discredit the message and the work, so honesty must be evident in both the deliverance of the message for the recipients to accept it as truth and live out the Gospel.
When we consider all these other facts that were not included in his stories of these tribes one comes away with a very different picture than what Richardson has painted.
But unfortunately the majority of people do not look any further than his book for what these tribes are about. They are in the category of the naïve, unlearned, making a decision by a little information (that is slanted) not looking any further into the matter (I have only scratched the surface). They may not even care that he is not delivering the truth. As long as it worked, which makes them practicing pragmatism, not Biblical Christianity. They want to believe in religious inclusivism and avoid the scriptures that speak of the narrow path. This puts them in a precarious position in their relationship to Christ an the truth that is His word.
They should have carefully studied his THEORY, scrutinized it before they accepted it as part of their quiver for evangelism. There are far too many looking for the next best help tool when they should learn how to better explain the gospel to meet the need to any and all people.
The theorem of God having revealed himself by planting a root for the Gospel within each culture to call people to Christ, by using the practices within their culture is simply not true. We need to approach this biblically not like an anthropologist. Rom.16:25 says the gospel is revealed by the scripture, not culture. God did not create, nor was He involved in these cultures. Not even our western culture (they were on their own just as the Bible teaches, Acts 14:16). The creator identifies with Israel’s culture whom He formed and gave them the practices that were shadows until the light came to them. This cultural religious inclusivism is masquerading as another gospel.
The people we appeal to are those who are willing to look further, to have their eyes opened, that are willing to think, or become Biblical thinkers. To be those who want to adhere to Jesus’ and the apostles words.
This movement of cultural inclusivism is growing. What is at stake is the health of the church because what has been introduced is a foreign teaching, a strange teaching that has already become a trend, to look for Christ in your culture. And it leads to the very place of unity explained in Rev.17.