Eternity in Their Hearts - A Review

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, May 27, 2016 1 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

People who have missions experience or are interested in the lives of missionaries may have read Peace Child by Don Richardson. He wrote another book in 1983 that I just finished reading: Eternity in Their Hearts. This book is as old as I am and typically only the generation before me knows about it. This is very unfortunate, because what I saw in this book is very important for anyone who is trying to defend their faith in Christ.

Don Richardson wrote Eternity in Their Hearts with a mission perspective. He wrote the book to show how the world is already prepared for the Gospel and how the Gospel was prepared to go out into the world. But when I read it, while I understand the mission-driven point of view, I saw the worldview side of it. This post is a review of this book and I am going to say this is a MUST have for any Christian apologist.

The topic: Eternity in Their Hearts covers the stories and legends of 25 different tribes and people groups around the world from the Greeks, to the Canaanites, to the Inca, to tribes in India, China, Korea, Burma and more. Each of these tribes have things woven deep into their culture that strike an incredible resemblance to the Bible’s teachings, particularly Genesis 1-11. What kind of things?

Richardson’s first chapter covers different tribes, many of whom were polytheistic, who had a concept and idea of an ultimate supreme being who was above any of the other gods the people worshipped. The first story Richardson addresses is about Epimenides, a “prophet” who was aware of an unknown god without a name the Greeks had not appeased. He proposed a sacrifice of a “clean” animal quite similar to how the Jews did it, and offered it to the nameless god. This is the account Paul used in Acts 17 when addressing Mars Hill. He knew of the story and revealed the name of this unknown God to the Greeks.

Pachacuti was the king of the Inca shortly before the Spanish Conquistadors arrived. To the Inca, the sun god was the chief of the gods. However, Pachacuti realized that the sun could be covered by a mere cloud and was only visible half the time. He discovered there was a single omnipotent God who was above and beyond all the others. Unfortunately the Incas had no one who brought the Gospel to them before the Conquistadors wiped them out.

My favorite account in the book was of the Santal of India. When missionaries Lars Skresfrud and Hans Borreson arrived, they heard of the stories of their history. The Santal has an account of Thakur Jiu, the Supreme God, interacting with an “Adam and Eve” who listened to “Lita” by making rice beer, getting drunk, and waking up realizing they were naked. Then the people then the people had to flee to Mount Harata to escape a flood. Those people settled in a plain, Sasan Beda, before Thakur Jiu scattered them. If you are remotely familiar with Genesis 1-11, this is quite spot on. The Santal tried to cross the mountains (likely Himilayan) and began to serve other gods to pass through and knowledge of Thakur Jiu was lost to legend but always stuck around.

I would go on and on, but one thing Richardson kept pointing out was how all these tribes had within their culture the things that pointed to God. These peoples were lost, but many of them longed for and sought the answer that was promised. Some were known to be waiting for “the book from God.” Others had very strange cultural practices that just so happened to be similar to those of the Hebrews. The Asmat of Netherlands New Guinea had a “scapegoat” tradition AND a “re-birthing” tradition. There was no need to try to explain what being born again meant to the Asmat because they already knew it. Richardson makes explicitly clear that all these legends and traditions were not “gospel truth,” but mere pictures of what God had in store for them, shadows of what Christ was to do. It is actually little different than what the Hebrews had. They had numerous pictures of what Christ was to do, while the picture itself was not the fulfilling promise. The difference between the general revelations of the different tribes and the special revelation of the Hebrews was that God had a direct hand in giving the Word to the Hebrews and validated it in numerous way that I do not have the space to get into here.

Richardson then also shows how through the entire Bible, God shows that the intention of giving the Hebrews his Word and his standards was not to make them “special” but so they could be the instruments to take it to the whole world. And through most of the Bible, we see a heavy reluctance in doing that.

Missions is Richardson’s driving point in this book. His goal and purpose was to encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and fulfill the “bottom line” of the original promise to Abraham (to bless all nations). However, what I see in this book is how the Biblical Worldview shows to be true. If the accounts of Genesis 1-11 are true, we should expect to see the different people’s tribes to have stories of the global events of Creation, Sin, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel dispersion. And we do. Richardson actually takes a whole chapter to address how the worldview issue has been attacked.

He addresses Edward Tylor who used Darwinian thinking (and the predecessor theories) to suggest a complete different history than what is actually there. Tylor suggests that monotheism came from polytheism which was just an invention to explain the soul and emotion. This theory also suggests that all peoples are “running a race” and the most advanced people group (Europeans at this time) had the right to dictate the standards for everyone else. Instead reality shows each people group is running a “different race.” Tylor theory was complete debunked but it has numerous “children” which are rampant today. The modern history textbooks, Evolution, and general secular humanism are all fruits of what Tylor compiled together and all of it has a specific purpose - the blind the eyes of the next generation from the actual history - which all points to Genesis 1-11.

Eternity in Their Hearts rang a lot of bells with me. With each section that lightbulb of awe lit up. I now know how to address how these people groups could be saved without hearing the Gospel: by looking forward to the coming of the Message, the same way the Jews before Christ were saved. This book is one I strongly recommend. Richardson is well-read and well-researched, and what he reveals matches precisely what we should expect if we take the Bible as truth. If it is not in your library, add it.

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Poetry Speaks said...

I noticed similarities between other cultures and Christianity studying other cultures via art history and art museums. In particular, in ancient Chinese Art, there definitely is a strong idea of eternity in their hearts and planning for eternal life.
The story of the Raven falling to earth to bring evil to humans was in the Native American Tribes mythology and art I encountered in Seattle Washington.
Thank you for reviewing this book.
I just heard about it this year, 2020!
Claudia Hill Duffee