Examples of the many cultures aware of the inadequacy of their own religion
The Mbaka believed that the Creator revealed to their ancestors that he had sent his Son into the world to do something wonderful for all humanity. Their ancestors, the folklore continues, later turned from the truth about the Creator’s Son and in time even forgot what he had achieved for humanity. Since then successive generations longed to know the truth about the Creator’s Son. All that they could learn was that messengers, who would probably be white, would eventually come to restore the lost knowledge. One day those messengers arrived and the Mbaka joyfully embraced Christianity as the culmination of their spiritual longings. (56-58)
In the late 1860s two missionaries began preaching to the Santal people, of whom there were about two and a half million. Suddenly Santal sages excitedly declared that this new teaching must mean that the ‘Genuine God’ had not forgotten them after all. It turned out that these people believed they originated from the far west and that their ancestors traveled with a knowledge of the Genuine God, until they came to some impassable mountains. In desperation they made a covenant to serve the spirits of the mountains if the spirits showed them a way through the mountains. Soon after, they found a pass (the Khyber Pass?). Because of their oath, the Santal began appeasing spirits and engaging in sorcery until all knowledge of the ‘Genuine God’ was lost except the name. The thought that Jesus could heal the rift between their race and the ‘Genuine God’ moved them so greatly that tens of thousands became Christians. (41-48)
There was an ancient belief in China and Korea that there is just one God and he must never be represented by idols. This belief seems to have predated Confucius by over 2,000 years. By about 1000 BC, however, religious leaders so emphasized God’s majesty and holiness that they decided that the Emperor was good enough to worship him just once a year. Everyone else was forbidden from worshipping God directly. (63)
Pachacuti, king of the Incas from 1438 to 1471, restored one of the temples of the god worshipped by all his people – the sun. But he began to have doubts. He noted that a mere cloud could dim this ‘god.’ The sun did nothing but the same thing over and over, acting more like a laborer than a god. His observations brought the conclusion that the sun is neither universal, nor perfect, nor all-powerful. In Inca tradition there was a vague memory of Viracocha, the omnipotent Creator. Pachacuti’s own father had had a dream in which Viracocha reminded him that he truly was the Creator of all things.
Deciding that the Creator, not the sun, was worthy of worship, Pachacuti met with the sun priests. He told them that the Creator is supreme and uncreated. He made all spirits and all peoples by his word. He manifests himself as a trinity when he wishes but otherwise he is surrounded only by archangels and heavenly warriors. He warms the world through his created sun. He brings peace and order. He is in his own being blessed and he has pity on people’s wretchedness. He alone judges and forgives and enables people to overcome their evil tendencies. From now on, Pachacuti commanded the aristocracy, the sun was to be regarded, like humanity, as created and that prayer was to be directed to the Creator with awe and humility. (33-41)
(Numbers in brackets refer to pages numbers in Don Richardson: Eternity in their Hearts Revised Edition CA, Regal, 1981, 1984)