The Bible says, “In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Darwin’s theory of evolution has not only presumed an alternative view of the origin of life, but also stated that religion is evolutionary, moving from primitive to complex; from the worship of many gods (polytheism) to the worship of one God (monotheism). However, the Bible declares just the opposite; that the belief in one God is humanity’s basic presupposition.
God allowed nations to go their own way (disintegrate into polytheism), “yet He did not leave Himself without a witness” (Acts 14:16, 17). God revealed himself in different ways to successive cultures. He revealed himself as Yahweh (the Lord of the covenant) to a polytheist by the name of Abram in Ur. God revealed himself to the mysterious Melchizedek (Genesis 14), who did not worship the gods of Canaan, but was called a priest of the God Most High (El Elyon). Later in the Old Testament we read that God revealed himself through dreams to the Pharaoh of Egypt (Genesis 41) and to Abimelech, a Philistine King (Genesis 20:6).
He revealed himself more directly to Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius (Daniel 4-6). All of these were from different cultures and time periods. God also used the stars and planets (general revelation) to lead the Wise Men from the East to Christ (special revelation).
In the same way, God is at work today in the darkest corners of the world revealing himself through dreams and visions, and preparing people of different cultures for the gospel. Don Richardson once said that the God who has prepared the Gospel for the world has prepared the world for the Gospel. Richardson details this using a number of very interesting examples from the history of missions in his book “Eternity in Their Hearts.” Here is one of my favorites:
Scattered through the mountains rising between the Kachin and Lahu tribes [of Burma] lived another 100,000 tribesman called the Wa people. The Wa were headhunters [and spirit worshippers] . . . A benign influence was at work within the folk religion of the Wa people. From time to time, the prophets of the true God, whom the Wa called “Siyeh,” arose to condemn the headhunting and spirit-appeasement! One such prophet appeared during the 1880’s. He was called Pu Chan [and he] persuaded several thousand Wa tribesman in Pong Lai village . . . to abandon headhunting and spirit-appeasement. On what grounds? “Siyeh,” the true God, was about to send a long awaited white brother with a copy of the lost book. If he came close to Wa territory and heard that the Wa were practicing these evil things, he might think them unworthy of the true God’s book and draw away again!
One morning Pu Chan saddled a pony and told some of his disciples to follow it. “Siyeh told me last night that the brother has finally come near! Siyeh will cause this pony to lead you to him” . . . . While Pu Chan’s disciples gaped in astonishment, the pony started walking . . . and they followed it. The pony led those amazed disciples over approximately 200 miles of mountainous trails and down into the city of Kengtung. Then it turned into the gate of a mission compound and headed straight for a well. . . . They looked inside it and saw no water, but . . . a bearded white face. William Marcus Young climbed out of the well (he was digging) and faced them. “Have you brought a book of God,” they asked. “This pony is saddled for you. Our people are all waiting. Fetch the book! We must be on our way!”
The Youngs and the Karen [people] colleagues—in addition to recently baptizing about 60,000 Lahu people—soon found themselves with another 10,000 baptized Wa converts, who in turn spread the gospel still further in eastern Burma and southwestern China! Does anyone doubt that God could cause a pony to lead those Wa men so unerringly over so great a distance? Surely the God who used a star to lead the Magi to the manger in Bethlehem could use a mere pony to find a certain well in Kengtung.
The Church has not always been faithful to its mission, but there should be no doubt that God is a Missionary God who has “pre-tuned” the world for the gospel by placing a witness to himself in every culture. (Acts 14:17)