I just finished an incredible book called, “Peace Child.” I am completely pumped up from it. I love God’s creativity in creating diverse cultures. And I love his self-disclosure and how he uniquely pursues even this remote tribe with his love. This story of a missionary to a head-hunting tribe of cannibals is such a beautiful picture of Romans 1:19-20, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking.” The missionary in this book lived with this tribe, learning their worldview and discovering the key to explaining the gospel in a culturally relevant way.
Just like Paul in Acts when he explained the altar to the “unknown god” to the Athenians. The book “Eternity in their Hearts” explains the history that led to Paul’s teaching. Sometime before this event the city of Athens was being devastated by a plague. They made sacrifices to every god they could find hoping to appease survive the devastation. Finally they sought the counsel of a wise foreigner named Epimenides who claimed three assumptions: 1) There was an unknown god concerned in the plague. 2) This god is great enough to do something about the plague. 3) Any god great enough and good enough to do something about the plague is probably also great enough and good enough to smile upon the ignorance if they acknowledge their ignorance and call upon him. He then sent a flock of hungry sheep into a green pasture during prime feeding time with the prayer to this unknown god, “O thou unknown god! Behold the plague afflicting the city! And if indeed you feel compassion to forgive and help us, behold this flock of sheep! Reveal your willingness to respond, I plead by causing any sheep that pleases you to lie down upon the grass instead of grazing. And those you choose we sacrifice to you—acknowledging our pitiful ignorance of your name!” Well several sheep did not eat but lied down in the pasture. The Athenians built altars at each site and sacrificed offerings to this unknown god. The plague ended and they added this powerful, merciful god to their line up of altars in Athens. Acts 17:22-23, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” This book says, “Was the God whom Paul proclaimed really a foreign god as the philosophers surmised? Not at all! By Paul’s reasoning, Yahweh was anticipated by Epimenides’ altar. He was therefore a God who had already intervened in the history of Athens. Paul used this communication key to proclaim to gospel to the minds and hearts of those Stoic and Epicurean philosophers.”
“Redemptive analogies, God’s key to man’s cultures, are the New Testament-approved approach to cross-cultural evangelism. Redemptive analogies hidden away in a culture—dormant, residual, waiting like the Sawi peace child.” Says Richardson in the Peace Child