Using Illustrations from Culture To Help People Understand Jesus Christ Can Be A Good Idea …
Getting People to Worship False Gods Is Not
by Sandy Simpson, 5/29/14
Cultural illustrations can be helpful but only if taught in the light of the true accounts in the written Word. Putting cultural accounts on the same par as Scripture by using the mythology of pagan nations to replace what needs to be taught about Jesus Christ and the True God degrades the Bible accounts, in fact “blasphemizes” them. There is only one Name under heaven by which men may be saved, and there is only one Name of God, revealed by God Himself.
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Zechariah 14:9 NIV The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.
Using the names of “foreign gods”, as the Bible calls them, is anathema to YHWH.
Joshua 24:23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
With this in mind, let’s look at Richardson’s missiology paradigm. Don Richardson was a missionary in New Guinea starting in 1962 where he first started experimenting with his ideas later set forth in his 1984 book “Eternity in Their Hearts” such as finding a “supreme being” in indigenous cultures and then claiming they had always been worshipping the True God.
Don Richardson (born 1935) is a Canadian Christian missionary, teacher, author and international speaker who worked among the tribal people of Western New Guinea, Indonesia. … Richardson studied at the Prairie Bible Institute and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). In 1962, he and his wife Carol and their seven-month-old baby went to work among the Sawi tribe of what was then Dutch New Guinea in the service of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union. The Sawi were known to be cannibalistic headhunters. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Richardson_(missionary)
In his book “Peace Child” he relates how he used the illustration of a peace child in the Sawi culture to try to help the people understand about why Jesus Christ was sent to mankind.
After two months of reflection and questioning to learn more of the peace-child custom, Richardson returned to talk with the elders of the Sawi villages. "When I saw you exchanging children, at first I was horrified," he began. " I kept saying to myself, 'Couldn't they make peace without this painful giving of a son?' But you kept telling me, 'There is no other way.' " He leaned forward and, in accordance with Sawi custom, placed his right hand palm down on the floor. "You were right," he said. Every eye in the manhouse was fixed on him as he continued. "When I stopped to think about it, I realized you and your ancestors are not the only ones who found that peace required a peace child. (http://www.jcu.edu/bible/101/Readings/Ethics/PeaceChild.htm)
Now if he had stopped there in this process and used this local illustration to teach the truth about YHWH and His Son Jesus Christ that would have been helpful. But he didn’t.
Myao Kodon (Mou´ Kodon´), the Spirit whose message I bear, has declared the same thing--true peace can never come without a peace child." There was silence. "Because Myao Kodon wants men to find peace with him and each other, he decided to choose a once-for-all peace child to establish peace forever." "Whom did he choose?" asked Mahaen. Richardson answered with another question, "Did Kaiyo give another man's son or his own? "His own," they replied. "And, Mahaen, did you give another man's son or your own?" "I gave my own," he replied, remembering the pain. "So did God," Richardson replied, looking sideways at the wall with a Sawi gesture meaning 'think about that.' He opened an English Bible and read a part of Isaiah's prophecy in Sawi: "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end." Mahaen looked at Richardson. "Is He the one you've been telling us about?" "He is," Richardson replied softly. "But you said a friend betrayed Him. If Jesus was a peace child, it was the worst thing anyone could do to betray Him," Mahaen continued. The room was quiet. As he walked away, Richardson wondered about the future. He wanted to believe the Sawi could incorporate his message about Jesus Christ into their own traditions. Would the message of a once-for-all peace child be effective in changing the Sawi bent toward violence? And if it was, would the message be distorted beyond recognition? (http://www.jcu.edu/bible/101/Readings/Ethics/PeaceChild.htm)
As you can see, Richardson did some teaching that was correct, but the error that would take over his future writings and “research” was to tell them that their god, Myao Kodon, was the “spirit” that had given him the message he was declaring to them. Whether or not he made this “god” up from the Sawi language or got it from a “supreme being” they were already worshipping is unclear. Richardson then begins to build another narrative based partly on the Bible and partly on their traditions and culture. Later Richardson helped translate the New Testament into Sawi.
From this rare picture came the analogy of God's sacrifice of his own Son. The Sawi began to understand the teaching of the incarnation of Christ in the Gospel after Richardson explained God to them in this way. Following this event many villagers converted to Christianity, a translation of the New Testament in Sawi was published, and nearly 2,500 Sawi patients were treated by Carol. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Richardson_%28missionary%29)
This New Testament uses Myao Kodon as the name for God.
“Myao kodon Sin harae” is the name of the New Testament in Sawi, a language spoken in Merauke region, Irian Jaya Province, Indonesia. (http://www.amazon.com/Myao-kodon-Sin-harae/dp/9794632244)
Why did Richardson take the somewhat helpful illustration of the “peace child” to another extreme? It was because he had not been having success preaching the Gospel in the traditional way and was eager to ingratiate himself with the Sawi people. So he made up or found a “supreme being” from their culture and decided to use that name in place of YHWH.
Richardson labored to show the (Sawi) villagers a way that they could comprehend Jesus from the Bible, but the cultural barriers to understanding and accepting this teaching seemed impossible until an unlikely event brought the concept of the substitutionary atonement of Christ into immediate relevance for the Sawi. ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Richardson_%28missionary%29)
Don began to speak of Myao Kodon, the supreme God, who was all powerful, who did not live in trees or rivers, who was the One to whom they were all accountable. He respects no witchcraft and no fetish could keep Him away from them. A look of defenselessness crept over their faces. Eventually, on later visits, he spoke of Jesus, Myao Kodon’s only Son, who was betrayed by Judas. (http://www.christcpc.org/weekly%20devotional%2020100408.htm)
Richardson not only made up or picked out a “supreme being” from their culture but also claimed that Myao Kodon had a son, Jesus Christ. Once Richardson saw that this methodology pragmatically “worked” he later set out to prove his thesis in many other cultures in “Eternity in Their Hearts” etc., and was appointed to the advisory board of Daniel Kikawa’s “Aloha Ke Akua” where Kikawa continues the same kind of narrative set in motion by Richardson many years earlier. But the ends of setting up a new religion for the Sawi people can never justify the means. The problem today is that they are now worshipping a “god” by the name of Myao Kodon who had an alleged “son” he sent as a “peace child” instead of worshipping the “I AM” of the Bible who sent the second Person of the Trinity to die on a cross for the sins of mankind. Myao Kodon was never triune so Richardson ends up teaching a type of “tritheism” instead of teaching who God really is. He also implies that God is pantheistic.
"I laid out a few notes on the mat in front of me and started in. First I coined a name for God in Sawi - Myao Kodon, 'the greatest Spirit.' Then I tried to describe Him. I explained that He didn't live in just one submerged log or one sago palm, like Sawi hamars, but instead filled the whole sky and the whole earth. 'In fact,' I added, 'we're sitting here inside Him right now!' (http://community.beliefnet.com/go/thread/view/44071/14343636/YEC_and_the_lie_of_light?pg=10)
What a confusing mishmash of ideas can end up being presented when you get away from true Bible teaching.
The Bible is quite clear that the Gentiles “did not know God” .
Gal. 4:8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to
those who by nature are not gods.
1 Cor. 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Rom. 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
1 Thess. 4:5 ...not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God...
Ephesians 2:12-13 ...remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
2 Thess. 1:8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
So making up a name or using a name of a god they were worshipping was unbiblical. Many illustrations could be made of this from Biblical accounts about NOT employing Richardson’s method.
Did Abraham claim that the God who called him from Haran was the same as the god Baal of the Canaanites?1
Did Joseph upon being taken to Egypt tell the Pharoh that they had always been worshipping the true God by the name of Amen?2
Did Moses after going up to the mountain of God come down and tell Israel that their worship of the Golden Calf was good because it was the same as the worship of YHWH?3
Did Joshua in conquering the nations in Canaan claim that Baal was the True God?4
Did Elijah test the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel for a good laugh because Baal was really the True God?5
Did Jonah tell the people of Ninevah to repent to their god El, who was not Elohim but the consort of Athirat?6
Did David tell the Philistines to continue to worship the god Dagon because he was the same as YHWH?7
Did Daniel tell king Nebuchadnezzar to continue the worship of Marduk as the One True God?8
Did Nehemiah ask the Persians to rebuild the Temple as a tribute to their god Ahura Mazda?9
Did Paul use a clever missiological technique by telling the Greeks that God is Zeus, or the Romans that He is Jupiter or the Ephesians that He is embodied in Artemis?10
The only Biblical example adherents of Richardson’s missiology can find and try to use in claiming that the name of a “supreme being” can be used in the place of YHWH, is Paul at the Areopagus. They try to claim that Paul used the “name” of a god of the Greeks to build a bridge to their culture. They claim that all cultures were created by God at Babel and sent out with the true knowledge and worship of God all over the earth, therefore the Greeks already knew God through general revelation. But Paul’s oratory at the Areopagus was entirely consistent with his teaching that the Gentiles “did not know God” cited above. The Bible is not inconsistent. You have to not only look at the immediate context of a Scripture but at the whole counsel of God’s word. Paul said this:
Acts 17:23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
This altar was built, among many others, to try to appease any god in case an epidemic or other catastrophe affected Athens. Barnes New Testament Notes states that an altar had been erected in Athens during a time of pestilence some 600 years before Christ because all the other "known" and named gods could not deliver them. Paul came and used this altar to illustrate that they did NOT know God at all, saying “Him I declare to you” in other words,
“I make known to you his name, attributes, etc. ... In other circumstances it might seem to be presumptuous for an unknown Jew to attempt to instruct the sages of Athens. But here they had confessed and proclaimed their ignorance. By rearing this altar they acknowledged their need of instruction. The way was, therefore, fairly open for Paul to address even these philosophers, and to discourse to them on a point on which they acknowledged their ignorance”. (Barnes New Testament Notes, ALBERT BARNES. PHILADELPHIA, August 25th, 1832.)
An “unknown god” means they were worshipping something unknown, not known. John Gill Expositor states:
“God is an unknown God to those who have only the light of nature to guide them; for though it may be known by it that there is a God, and that there is but one, and somewhat of him may be discerned thereby; yet the nature of his essence, and the perfections of his nature, and the unity of his being, are very little, and not truly and commonly understood, and the persons in the Godhead not at all, and still less God in Christ, whom to know is life eternal: hence the Gentiles are described as such who know not God;” (John Gill Expositor , LONDON: PRINTED FOR MATHEWS AND LEIGH, 18 STRAND, by W. Clowes, Northumberland-Court, 1809, Edited and revised and updated by Larry Pierce, 1994-1995.)
In Athens, there was a temple specifically dedicated to that god and very often Athenians would swear "in the name of the Unknown God" (Νὴ τὸν Ἄγνωστον Ne ton Agnoston). (Pseudo-Lucian, Philopatris, 9.14) Apollodorus, Philostratus (Philostratus, Vita Apollonii 6.3) and Pausanias wrote about the Unknown God as well. (Pausanias' Description of Greece in 6 vols, Loeb Classic Library, Vol I, Book I.1.4) The Unknown God was not so much a specific deity, but a placeholder, for whatever god or gods actually existed but whose name and nature were not revealed to the Athenians or the Hellenized world at large. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unknown_God)
They did not know this god, therefore they called it the “unknown god”. This was not a “known god” by the name of “Theos” as Richardson adherents’ claim, which is a generic term for deity, but an unknown “theos”. But the word “theos” is a generic term for deity and can be applied to male or female deities.
QEOß Theos: a god or goddess, a general name of deities or divinities (http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/theos.html)
Paul used this unknown “theos” as an example to start the conversation of introducing them to the true God. What he did not do, which Richardson does, is put this “Unknown God” in the Greek Scriptures. He used the generic term “Theos” as well as the true titles of God.
The usage of "God" in the New Testament is a translation of "theos," the general Greek word for deity. Also almost universally, "Lord" is a translation of "kurios," the general Greek word for a master. (http://www.gotquestions.org/LORD-GOD-Lord-God.html)
This practice is what those who wrote the New Testament used. They did not insert the words for specific “supreme beings” in the Bible such as Zeus because that was considered blasphemous. Yet this is what Richardson did and what many Bible translation societies do today. Read this article (http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/blasphemizingthebible.html) for more information on that practice.
So it was really Richardson, who worked with SIL before going to the mission field, who came up with the idea of putting the names of “supreme beings” in Bible translations, since he began that process back in 1962. It is true that liberal denominations, who had previously split on the issue of the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, were already discussing ways to syncretize Christianity as the Roman Catholic Church had already been doing. But it was Richardson who brought it into Bible believing evangelical thinking. Later in his book “Eternity in Their Hearts” he continued this idea by mythologizing myths from many cultures and making up an entirely false narrative on a number of Bible passages and characters such as Job and Melchizedek. You can read an excellent review of that book starting here (http://letusreason.org/ecumen33.htm).
(Note: You can read my article "Monotheism In Ancient Cultures Is Virtually Nonexistent" (http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/monotheisminancientcultures.html) for more information on the false polytheistic gods ancient times here. It is important to note that in virtually every culture from Babel on, the "supreme beings" were not monotheistic (one god) but a male/female pairing patterned on the worship of Nimrod and Semiramis of Babel. Also note that every one of these "supreme beings" spawned a pantheon of other false gods to be worshipped.)
1. The "supreme beings" of Canaan were Baal and
2. The "supreme beings" of Egypt were Amen and Mut (http://socsci.colorado.edu/LAB/GODS/)
3. I have established that the ONLY god specifically called a "GOLDEN CALF" by the ancient Egyptians in their writings is Pharaoh in the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts (these texts exist into later New Kingdom times in reworked formats). In these texts Pharaoh calls himself a "Golden Calf," born of heaven, who wishes to be allowed to board the sacred solar bark or boat which carries the Sun god each day across the heavens. Pharaoh was called "Son of the Sun" and in New Kingdom times "the Sun," in letters from Canaanite princes addressed to Pharaoh Akhenaten (reigned ca. 1350-1334 BCE). (http://www.bibleorigins.net/EgyptianOriginsGoldenCalf.html) So Israel wanted to go back to Pharaoh worship. Note also that the worship of Pharaoh continues the pattern of the worship of Nimrod who was considered to be the Sun.
4. The "supreme beings" of Canaan were Baal and Asherah (http://home.comcast.net/~chris.s/canaanite-faq.html)
5. The "supreme beings" of Canaan were Baal and Asherah (http://home.comcast.net/~chris.s/canaanite-faq.html)
6. The origin of the name Nineveh is obscure. Possibly it meant originally the seat of Ishtar, since Nina was one of the Babylonian names of that goddess. (Source) El & Athirat were the "supreme beings" of Ninevah (http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa102197.htm)
7. The "supreme beings" of the Philistines were Dagon and Derceto (http://home.comcast.net/~chris.s/canaanite-faq.html)
8. The "supreme beings" of Babylon were Marduk & Astarte (continued worship of Nimrod & Semiramis) (http://home.comcast.net/~chris.s/assyrbabyl-faq.html)
9. The gods of the Persians were Ahura Mazda & Spenta Armaiti (http://books.google.com/books?id=Zg9dGPXn5FkC&pg=PA199&lpg=PA199&dq=Ahura+Mazda+consort&source=bl&ots=UaAGNrnK7X&sig=LNNkdeci0mb-gMANs1u76c3qh5g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=RM_tUcX7J9GyygHf7IH4DA&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAA)
10. The "supreme beings" of the Greeks were Zeus & Hera, though Zeus had a number of other consorts spawning a pantheon of gods (http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/zeusgirl.html) Jupiter and Juno were the "supreme beings" of Rome, again spawning a pantheon of other gods (http://www.gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/roman/) Artemis was a virgin goddess, never married, but was the daughter of Zeus & Leto (http://www.gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/roman/)