Published in several languages since its first release in 1981, Eternity in Their Hearts was reprinted in 2005. I finally discovered this book in 2011 while reading Vishal Mangalwadi – The Book That Made Your World. The book that we call Bible is expected all over the world. Remote people with impressing languages and customs testify of the general revelation God gave. Acoording to Don Richardson (1935) former missionary and author of books like Peace Child (1975) and Lords of the Earth (2003) God’s general revelation (see Ps. 19:1-4; Rom. 1:19-21; 2:14-15) is not an effete, inconsequential, inert bystander watching from the sidelines as God accomplishes everything related to redemption via special revelation alone. Instead, cosmic general revelation and canonized special revelation turn out to be stunningly coordinated players serving on the same team. God, via general revelation, imprints human cultures in a variety of ways. Discerning the particular way God has already imprinted a given culture helps a missionary discover how to poignantly explain redemption to members of that culture.
Richardson compiled and published these evidences of “redemptive analogies” in diverse fields. In Part One, he shows that the world was prepared for the Gospel. Epimenides, a Cretan hero, responded to a request borne to him from Athens by a man called Nicias, asking him to advise the city of Athens in the matter of a plague. Statues dedicated to the unknown god were placed on Mars Hill, Athens. St. Paul reminded his audience of who this unknown god is (Acts 17). Canaanites (calling the Lord of Lords El, El Elyon), the remarkable story of priest Melchizedek blessing Abraham and Abraham’s reaction (Genesis 14, Hebrews 7), Incas (Viracocha), Indian tribes (Thakur Jiu), Africans (Sheit’an, Koro), Chinese and Koreans (Shang Ti, Hananim) and tens of other examples bearing witness to a genuine God that’s not idolized, has a son and reveals himself through a book.
In Part Two Richardson describes the various ways the Gospel is prepared for the world. There’s a 4,000 year connection starting in Genesis 12. Its first 3 verses contain Yahweh’s initial articulation of something Jews and Christians together call the Abrahamic Covenant. Authors of other parts of the Bible sometimes call that covenant “the promises” because several such are included in it. Other times they call it “the promise,” in the singular, because the various promises included in the covenant together constitute one coherent purpose of God.
Jesus Christ, the Messiah came for all people, not just for Jews and inhabitants of then Palestine. The author reveals the hidden message of Acts. It lasted years to get the apostles out of their relative safe home base, Jerusalem and practice what Jesus had commanded just before He ascended to heaven: go and tell the whole world, all the peoples the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Unfortunately 19th century scholars like Edward B. Tylor did much damage to the discoveries of ‘native monotheism’. The idea of a human “soul” must have been the natural seed thought from which all other religious concepts evolved led to theories like ‘man made god’, ‘religion is opiate’, the ‘Übermensch’ concept. Blind lead the blind. We all need(ed) revelation! The 2005 version now includes end notes and a study guide for use in groups.
Not all agree
Just like any other subject on religion you can find disagreement on this topic. You can take a viewpoint like “our god is the best, you have to join our ranks. Worshipping other god(s) than YHWH is blasphemy.” (deceptioninthechurch.com – IPM False Teaching). Others agree with Richardson (Biblequery.org – What of Those Who Never Heard?, SimplyTrusting – God’s Keys in Man’s Cultures, net-burst – Pagans find the true God).