Love in the Supreme Ethics

Friday, 22 May 2015

A BOOK REVIEW: Eternity in their Hearts By Don Richardson

ISBN 08307-0925-8PAGES: 223YEAR: 1981

Don Richardson (1935) is a Canadian Christian missionary, teacher, author and international speaker who worked among the tribal people of Western New Guinea, Indonesia.
Richardson says, “Redemptive antidotes to human bondage are what Eternity in Their Hearts is all about” (p. 191).
Richardson divides the book into two main parts: first, the “Melchizedek Factor” (general revelation) and second, the “Abraham Factor” (special revelation). To my understanding, the first part reads very much like a series of stories, primarily filled with stories and illustrations amongst unreached peoples and case studies explaining basic biblical principles. The second part explores the biblical principles surrounding God’s mission throughout all of history. In the Abraham Factor, he looks at what the Bible says about God’s mission as a whole, then spends a chapter specifically looking into how Jesus Christ pointed to God’s heart for the nations, and the last chapter explores what the apostles did with the Great Commission throughout the Acts of the Apostles.

The primary thesis that I advocate in the book is a simple one: God’s general revelation (see Ps. 19:1-4; Rom. 1:19-21; 2:14-15) is not an irrelevant, passive onlooker watching from the sidelines as God accomplishes everything related to redemption via special revelation alone. Instead, cosmic general revelation and canonized special revelation turn out to be strikingly synchronized players serving on the same side. God, via general revelation, imprints human cultures in a variety of ways. Discerning the particular way God has already imprinted a given culture helps a missionary ascertain how to sympathetically explain redemption to members of that culture. (p. 190).

In chapter 5 Richardson reminds us that there are “more than 300 declarative passages in the Old Testament which amplify God’s oath-sealed promise to bless all nations on Earth (ex: Psalm 67, Isaiah 49:6)” (pg. 143). He also shows that a great deal of the Old Testament is dedicated to narratives of various sons and daughters of Abraham being a blessing to non-Jewish peoples, that the Holy Spirit revealed so many narratives that show both the top and bottom lines of the Abrahamic Covenant at work in the lives of Abraham’s sons and daughters (pg. 142-143). Richardson also mentions that Pentecost “was designed to make crystal clear that the Holy Spirit’s power was and is given upon believers with the goal of the evangelization of all peoples” (pg. 177).

He talks of Epimenides, an ancient prophet from Crete who builds an altar in Athens to an unknown god. Many years later, the apostle Paul uses this as a jumping-off point to explain the message of Jesus. In the 1800s, various groups in Asia believe in one God who has created everything, and they wait for a messenger to bring them the holy book they have lost, so they can be reconciled to God. These people are overjoyed to receive the message of Christianity, although it is quite foreign to their cultures.

Other ethnic groups have a variety of religious practices which a missionary can use to preach the gospel, if only they are willing to study the culture enough to find the key. Some groups have places of refuge, where violence is absolutely forbidden, reflecting the cities of refuge in the Bible. Some groups cast their sins onto an animal or object, calling to mind the ceremonial scapegoat used by the Israelites to take away sins. Some peoples practice a symbolic second birth, where a chief and his wife pretend to give birth to a child of an enemy, as a symbol of peace, and this could be compared to the Christian idea of being born again. Many Native American tribes highly regard the number four, as does ancient Jewish numerology, and Campus Crusade for Christ's Four Spiritual Laws. The Chinese writing system has so many interesting symbols within ideographs, that many of them can be used to illustrate Christian principles. Richardson states that this is because God has prepared these people to receive his message.
Every Christian needs to read this amazing book! God has truly put eternity into the hearts of peoples everywhere, to prepare them to receive the Gospel
This book was an amazing validation of what it says in Romans about the world being without excuse. I never realized that this was so explicit in so many cultures around the world...that they are prepared to receive the Gospel.This excellent treatment of general and special revelation convinced me that God's motivation to save persons among all family groups of the earth is rooted in His promise to Abraham.

I strongly recommend this read to every Christians and non-Christians alike. Richardson does a brilliant job of relating current and historical anthropological evidence to the Apostle Paul's Romans 1 claims that God has placed His existence, His holiness, and His expectations of mankind on the hearts of every culture worldwide.