Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Review: Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson

Did you know that the concept or idea of one supreme God has existed for centuries in hundreds of cultures? Because it has. This is a fascinatingly encouraging book that gives a variety of accounts of cultures and peoples around the world whom the Lord has prepared to bring to Himself. For instance, the Karen tribe of Burma had passed down an understanding that one day a ‘white brother’ would bring them a book that their forefathers lost long ago that would set them free from oppression. The knew the author of the book was Y’wa (remarkably similar to Yahweh, God’s personal name), the Supreme God. They had an incredible belief in a true God, an understanding of basic spiritual facts, and even songs about this Y’wa. These traditions can’t be traced to an influence of Judaism or Christianity, and there was no mention of an incarnation or a Redeemer dying for man’s sin in their traditions. In fact, one of the most striking aspects of their monotheism was their acknowledgment that their knowledge was incomplete and would finally be understood in full when foreigners brought this book. 

These people (and several other isolated Burmese tribes with different but equally amazing stories that all ended up weaving together) indeed had eternity in their hearts, and were simply waiting for a messenger to bring the good news of Jesus so their hearts and minds could be enlightened! The Bible says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. This is a crucial point- In order to be saved, we need to actually hear the truth of who Jesus is and what He did… and then believe it! The Lord had prepared these people in a very significant way! 

Richardson shares many equally true and equally incredible stories of cultures prepared for the gospel; yet how resistant we often are to GO and tell people of Christ! Richardson shows that there are many who are longing to know the truth, the truth that will set them free, the truth that enlightens and brings peace. Through visions and dreams as well as ancient traditions and redemptive analogies embedded in cultures that could not possibly have come from the outside, many have been prepared to receive the gospel. We just need to go and share with them about this good news! What an encouragement and testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord! 

3 comments:

JoeyTrip said...

Liz, did Richardson say that God simply prepared their hearts for the gospel or did he imply that they could experience regeneration apart from the gospel? Just wondering. I was discussing this same topic with some guys the other day. One of them suggested Richardson's book, even though none of us have actually read it. I googled the book title and came across your review. We were discussing whether there were any other ways to be saved for those who have never heard the gospel. Some suggest the idea that mere conviction over sin and belief in an ultimate God could be permissible if God allowed for it. I was just trying to figure out Richardson's stance prior to getting a copy. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Liz Spangler said...

Hi Joey, thanks for your comment. Great question!

Richardson's stance is that the Lord prepared people's hearts, not that there is another way to be saved apart from hearing of the gospel of Jesus. I think it's motivational for Christians to GO... God has prepared the way, and it's an encouragement that there are plenty of people out there just waiting to hear the good news. Even if we are convicted of sin, if we don't know about Jesus and the way to deal with sin, and then believe in His work on the cross, there's no solution for the sin problem.
A great book that really really helped me with this whole issue is John Piper's Let the Nations Be Glad. I wrote a review on it last summer after I read it- http://lizspangler.blogspot.com/2010/09/book-review-let-nations-be-glad-by-john.html
There is a lot in it about a variety of topics related to Missions, but in Part 2 he talks about why people need to hear about Christ to be saved. "The Supremacy of Christ as the Conscious Focus of All Saving Faith" is a great chapter, and he gives loads of scripture references. A lot of Piper's books are free on desiringgod.com, but even if this one isn't, there may be articles on the same topic if you don't want to buy the whole book (but it's worth it, it's a great book).

Romans 10:9-15 is great to clearly explain this issue, especially 14-15, as it explains the process... someone has to be sent, then preach, then people hear, then they believe, they call on the name of the Lord, and are saved. Also Acts 4:12, John 14:6, and I can find some others if you wanted.

All the best!

Sheila said...

Just came across your question Joey. The book itself answers it on page 59. the author says he is describing Redemptive qualities in various cultures, not Redeeming qualities. He explains the difference is that redemptive contributes to the redemption of a people but doesn't culminate in it.