Concerns Over NAIITS and Wheaton College’s Symposium on Indigenous Mission and Theology

This weekend, Wheaton College and NAIITS (North American Institute for Indigenous Theology and Studies) are presenting the Symposium on Indigenous Mission and Theology.The symposium will be discussing the Indigenous People’s and First Nations Movements. One of the speakers, Richard Twiss, is a leader in these movements (where the belief that we are to redeem cultures and incorporate cultural practices into Christianity is taught). Lighthouse Trails author Nanci Des Gerlaise addresses this in her new book, Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality (2nd ed). Below Des Gerlaise discusses the First Nations Movement’s efforts to “redeem the cultures.” The following is an excerpt from Chapter 9: “Can Cultures Be Redeemed?”:

Did God Create Cultures?

[Indigenous People’s Movement] leaders teach that God has been redeeming cultures and that He placed in all cultures a way for men to have a relationship with God outside of the Gospel. Sandy Simpson, Deception in the Church

A growing trend in the evangelical church is what is referred to as “redeeming the cultures” or “Cultural Identification.” Essentially, it is the idea that God created cultures and has no desire for anyone to leave their cultural practices but can incorporate their belief in Jesus into their already existing culture. Mike Oppenheimer of Let Us Reason Ministries has studied this “redeeming the culture” movement extensively and writes:

The new idea being presented is that God has left certain elements in every culture that are redeemable qualities, pathways to Himself . . . that He revealed Himself to nearly all indigenous people groups prior to the Gospel being brought to them [and that] in every culture “God has left treasures and worthy traditions within the indigenous cultures” [and that] we can bring Jesus Christ to people and then leave them to worship God in their own cultural and religious ways. . . .

What is taught is that God set forth His plan of salvation through all ancient cultures and that “redemptive analogies” can be found in most, if not all, cultures.2

But did God really create cultures? I do not believe He did because cultures are man-made. Webster’s Dictionary defines culture as being: “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.”

Another definition states:

The quality in a person, or society that rises from interest in arts, letters, scholarly pursuits, etc. 2. a particular form or state of civilization.3

On the contrary to what leaders in the “redeeming the cultures” movement teach, most cultures were “pagan, polytheistic and animistic.”4 For most of these cultures, there was a significant emphasis placed on religious practices. Oppenheimer points out that the words culture or society cannot be found in the Bible, but rather it talks about “nations” and how these nations worshiped false gods as opposed to the “one true God5 (read Romans 1).

What does the Bible have to say about the different nations (cultures)? In Deuteronomy, we are cautioned to:

Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them . . . that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:30-32)


And Deuteronomy 18:14 tells us not to “follow the abominations of those nations.”

In all of human history, God has sanctioned just one culture, and that was Israel. This may be a humbling thing for other cultures to accept, but this is what the Word of God clearly demonstrates as the prophet Isaiah said, “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory” (Isaiah 46:13). Then, after Jesus came and died upon the Cross, people from every other culture were given the opportunity to accept God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Bible says that we can be grafted in as adopted sons and daughters. And God takes the born-again, grafted-in believer and separates him or her from the world to Himself “to take out of them a people for his name” (Acts 15:14).

Also in Acts, Barnabas and Paul cried out to the Gentiles, who were about to offer sacrifice to them, saying:

[W]ho in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. (Acts 14:16, emphasis added)


Paul and Barnabas said this because they were shocked by the ignorance and blasphemous behavior of the people.

The apostle Peter reminds us that God has set apart “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” so that we who believe on Him would be called “out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:6-10). God calls people out of their cultures and invites them to come into His kingdom. (excerpt from chapter 9, Muddy Waters, 2012)

Notes:

1. Sandy Simpson, Deception in the Church, “Reasons to Reject the “World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People” Movement”  (http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/reasonstoreject.html).

2. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity” (http://www.letusreason.org/current70.htm).

3. Random House Dictionary, taken from Let Us Reason website: “Looking For God in All the Wrong Places”  (http://www.letusreason.org/Emerge13.htm).

4. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity” (http://www.letusreason.org/current70.htm).

5. Ibid.

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