“Eternity in Their Hearts” – Tribute to a 40 year old book.
I wrote a blog on China’s Altar of Heaven a couple weeks ago. A Chinese Christian author, Chan Kei Thong writes in Finding God in Ancient China that the Chinese for four millennia of history worshiped the one true God whom they referred to as “Shang Di,” the Lord of Heaven.
A missionary friend of mine wrote that this reminded her of a book she had read a long time ago called Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson. I have a copy of the book, printed in 1981, so I pulled it off my bookshelf and reread it. It has such a timely message that it is still worth reading.
The author tells stories of primitive peoples who believed in one Supreme God, a worldwide phenomenon of what could be called “native monotheism.”
He then explained how in 1871 an Englishman, Edward B Tylor, published a book, theorizing that primitive man saw spiritism in forces of nature and so birthed the first religion, which he called “animism.” Next came polytheism (multiple spirits) and then came monotheism. Many notable scholars gave Tylor support, seeing that it fit in with their theories of materialism and evolution.
Andrew Lang, a pupil of Tylor, read a missionary report that primitive inhabitants of a remote area already acknowledged the existence of a Creator God even before missionaries arrived. Lang researched further and found more examples and came to the conclusion that Tylor’s theory was wrong.
Another author, Wilhelm Schmidt, commented repeatedly on the persistent tendency of scholars to ignore or discredit the sky-god phenomenon. In Origin and Growth of Religion, Schmidt wrote that Tylor’s theory remained “the classical theory” as the doctrine of progressive evolution mastered the mind of all Europe.
When Schmidt published his huge work, he had quotations from dozens of anthropologists who shared acceptance of Schmidt’s research and rejected Tylor’s theory.
In Sacred Strands, the Story of a Redeemer Woven Through History, I show how very early man not only acknowledged a creator God, but looked for a promised Redeemer. You can buy the book here.