“And yet all brings glory to God in its own special way, and that’s true of human beings and cultures as well. . . . God is now calling forth from among the indigenous communities of the world that good deposit which He has made in them of their cultures, their languages, their musical expressions and all that sort of thing . . . as an expression of praise and worship to Himself.”
–Terry LeBlanc, Word of the World program #542, cited in Idolatry in Their Hearts, p. 20 [emphasis added].
“To let indigenous people know that God lovingly created them exactly as He wanted them; that He has been with them and loved them throughout their history, that He left many treasures and worthy traditions within their culture, and that He desires they freely worship Him with, and celebrate, the beautiful and unique cultural expressions that flow from them.”
–Daniel Kikawa, Aloha ke Akua website, cited in Idolatry in Their Hearts, p. 170 [emphasis added]
These quotations above represent the essence of a new doctrine that began emerging in the early 1970s which is now referred to as “Redemptive Analogies.” This is the idea that God put a “good deposit” of “truth” in other cultures, analogous to something in Scriptures which could be “redeemed” for Gospel purposes. Sandy Simpson and Mike Oppenheimer, in their groundbreaking new book Idolatry in Their Hearts, cite extensive examples of this how this heresy has led to outright syncretism.
But this new teaching wasn’t originally marketed to the evangelical world so blatantly as syncretism. Rather it was first sold to the missionaries as a way to make the Gospel more relevant in hard-to-reach cultures. A read of the early literature on the topic reveals that the concept was quite seductive, promising a new and more effective way of witnessing.
This doctrine is credited to Don Richardson, who authored Eternity in Their Hearts (1981, 1984, 2006) and Peace Child (Regal, 1975) — two books which teach that God has embedded stories or practices in pagan cultures which can be utilized for the presentation of the Gospel. Richardson defined this new concept:
“The key God gave us to the heart of the Sawi people was the principle of redemptive analogy – the application to local custom of spiritual truth. The principle we discerned was that God had already provided for the evangelization of these people by means of redemptive analogies in their own culture. These analogies were our stepping-stones, the secret entryway by which the gospel came into the Sawi culture and started both a Spiritual and a social revolution from within.” (Peace Child [Regal, 1974], p. 10) [emphasis added]
A report from DAWN Ministries explains the significance of Don Richardson’s new teaching:
“Have You Found Your ‘Redemptive Analogy’?
“In his best-seller book, Peace Child, Don Richardson introduced Christians everywhere to the concept of “redemptive analogy.” He ultimately concluded in a later book that in every society there is some concept, some cultural given, that is similar in some way to the gospel message.
“If we can identify that, he observed, we can then establish a platform for effective communication of the gospel in a contextualized way to a particular people group.
“In the primitive society that he wrote about, warring tribes would commit themselves to peace when a child of one tribe was given to another tribe. This was the ‘Peace Child.’ The analogy is that God gave his son in order to bring peace between God and sinful man.”
The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization that met in 1974 brought this new idea to the attention of the world mission community. Ralph Winter wrote “The Highest Priority: Cross-Cultural Evangelism” which laid the theoretical groundwork for the Contextualization movement for this event, describing how the Gospel could be customized to fit the unique characteristics of each culture. He suggested that the only way that mission agencies could be effective would be to change their tactics and look at things through the lens of the sociological concept of culture. Winter’s ideas were refined and incorporated into the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course, which has taught an entire generation of missionaries in these concepts.
Another presenter in 1974 at Lausanne was Michael Green, whose report “Methods and Strategy in the Evangelism of the Early Church” was cited by Winter. In his paper he justified an emerging syncretism with the following statement:
“Clearly, there was nothing inflexible about these early Christians in the New Testament period. Nor was there in the succeeding century or two, as the Gospel spread. You find philosophers like Justin and Tatian retaining their philosopher’s robe and arguing the truth of the Christian philosophy against all comers. You find them looking not only to the Old Testament but to the myths of Homer and Hesiod for truths that would help to illuminate the person and work of Jesus. They were convinced that all truth is God’s truth. Therefore they rejoiced when they found that some of the ancient heathen poets or philosophers had spoken true things which were endorsed in the Gospel of Christ.
“I used to think it was odd (if not worse!) of Clement of Rome in the nineties of the first century, to use the mythical bird, the phoenix, before I had seen the picture of the phoenix at Pompeii (a city destroyed in A.D. 79) and read what the painter, hungering for immortality, had written below it. ‘Oh phoenix, you are a lucky thing!’ Then I realized how wise an apologist Clement had been in relating the resurrection of the Lord to the very symbol of need which the painter of the phoenix had revealed. Like Paul, Clement had become all things to all men, so that by all means he might save some.” [emphasis added]
The underlying philosophy is, as Green articulated it, that “all truth is God’s truth.” This explains the Redemptive Analogies emphasis that God has put a “good deposit” of some sort of “truth” into other cultures which can then be “redeemed.”
The 2004 Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization’s report on “Hidden and Forgotten People Including Those Who Are Disabled” (Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 35), highlights the evolving nature of “Redemptive Analogies.” Here is how it was described in 2004:
“2. Awareness of and adapting to social and cultural differences so that the gospel can be shared more effectively is essential for effectiveness. Ralph Winter in “Cross-Cultural Evangelism: The Task of Highest Priority” highlights the need for awareness of the “cultural distance” between the messenger and the recipient. The nearer the messenger is in cultural adaptation to the recipient culture, the more effective is the sharing of the gospel. This ‘nearness’ may be due to one’s culture of origin or even the result of careful adaptation to the recipient culture. The messenger must work hard to understand the other culture by learning their language, traditions, historical problems, religious allegiance and patterns of behaviour.
“Barriers and Bridge: One of the greatest barriers is the mindset that Islam is essential to ethnic identity. Becoming a Christian means that they must deny their cultural identity and risk being alienated from family and communities. In China, being Uighur and Muslim gives them an identity that separates them from the Han Chinese and atheism. In Kazakhstan and Central Asia, there is an assumption that Jesus is a Russian God. Non-contextual sharing of the gospel builds walls and keeps Uighurs from really hearing and coming to an understanding of the truth. Overcoming this barrier requires great relationship building which strengthens family and community ties rather than weakens them. When Uighurs see that there are fellowships or communities of Uighur believers, they are much more open to receiving the gospel themselves. . . .
“Redemptive analogies which can be redeemed for the gospel include the ‘Korban,’ the most important Uighur Festival when they celebrate God’s provision of the lamb to Abraham to save him from sacrificing his son [Ishmael, not Isac]. Further, music, songs and dance are important bridges. Uighurs love music and dance. Songs have been written and played on Uighur instruments and their dance is being used to worship Isa. Many Uighurs have opened their hearts because they have experienced Uighur music cassettes or music and dance in worship.” [emphasis added]
Perhaps this quotation above doesn’t seem too bad, but note the confusion between cultural and religious “identity.” By mixing the two concepts, borrowing heavily from secular anthropology and sociology, the new theology of Redemptive Analogies is justified.
Below is another example from DAWN Ministries which has been a major purveyor of this Redemptive Analogies heresy:
“New Delhi Newspaper Connects Christ’s Sacrifice to Hindu Tenet
“Over the years, many Hindu friends have asked me, ‘Why doesn’t the Church confine itself to socially constructive functions like running hospitals and schools? Why do you have to preach your religion and make converts?
“There is reproach in their voices when they say this. As we have seen from events in the last few weeks (see cover article), this reproach can be fanned into violence on the plea that Christianity is an alien religion.
“The implicit thesis is that there is no point of contact between Hinduism and Christianity, but I believe that the gulf between the two is not as wide as the logical conclusion of a primary tenet of Hinduism: the concept of yogna, as an act of expiation for sin and transgression.
“The New Testament suggests that man’s sin is so heinous that no amount of sacrifice is sufficient to expiate it. Only supreme sacrifice can cover the sins of humankind: God must sacrifice himself.
“This vision is closely related to the Prajapati Yogna described in Hindu scriptures where the king offers himself as sacrifice for the good of the people. Christ’s death on the cross is the Parama Yagna, the ultimate sacrifice. . . . [Adapted from an article by Mammen Thomas in The Times of India newspaper.]
The men who contrived the doctrine of “Redemptive Analogies” have stretched it even further than what is presented above. Ralph Winter has described how Christianity must be “decontextualized” entirely in order to reach these cultures. In other words, turned inside out. And that other religious cultures should be allowed to go “beyond Christianity as we know it” by no longer being required to identify themselves as Christians. For example, he wrote:
“The Lutheran-Missouri Synod study. . . describes millions of devout followers of Jesus and the Bible in the one city of Chennai (Madras), alone, who have not chosen to call themselves Christians nor to identify with the socio-ecclesiastical tradition of Christianity and who still consider themselves Hindi. . . .
“The future is correspondingly bleak for the further extension of our faith into the vast blocs of Chinese, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists unless we are willing to allow our faith to leave behind the cultural clothing of the Christian movement itself.
“Apparently our real challenge is no longer to extend the boundaries of Christianity . . . . Our task may well be to allow and encourage Muslims and Hindus and Chinese to follow Christ without identifying themselves with a foreign religion.” [italics in original]
And on his website, Winter has written:
• In general it is neither wise nor to be expected or desired that a believing Muslim would adopt the name “Christian.” . . .
• The same is true of Hindus who have put away their idols, revere and study the Bible, and revere and worship Jesus Christ as the Son of the Living God-whether or not they identify with any of the current traditions of Christianity in their land. …….
Essentially this teaching means that one can remain in their pagan world but also choose to identify with some tenets of Christianity. This is EXTREME seeker-sensitive! Often “fear” is used to persuade people with the efficacy of accepting these new doctrines. Simpson and Oppenheimer cite several examples in Idolatry in Their Hearts:
“Terry LeBlanc, who’s native American himself, stressed that if we don’t create indigenous theology, indigenous people have to make an impossible choice, they have to choose between Christianity and their own cultural identity. . . .
“Gabriel Gefen in his teaching added that if you ask a person to deny his culture when becoming a Christian, you’re asking him to deny the people and to give up the weapons God has given him in his culture to testify to God and express His glory through all that is good in the culture. Thus the person becomes marginalized in his own culture instead of becoming a ‘missionary in his culture. This way he might even prevent his own people from coming to know Christ, whom they ultimately long to see expressed in ways that they can identify with.” [p. 319, emphasis added]
The “Redemptive Analogies” idea has obviously gone way beyond what it originally claimed to do, and has opened the doors to a co-mingling cultural Christianity that shapes and molds itself to fit pagan religious systems. The reason this doctrine fits under the category of the “Doctrines of Dominionism” is due to its utopian view of the world, which presents human cultural systems as redeemable and suitable for transformation, and ignores the fallen nature of man, the Gospel of salvation, conviction of sin, repentance, and separation from sin.
Simpson and Oppenheimer wrote:“Rev. 2:13 says that we must ‘hold fast to My name.’ In Rev. 3:7 Jesus commends the church for keeping ‘both His word and His name.’ There is a difference between showing love to the people of a religion, and loving their false religious system that they need to be delivered from! Our message should always be rooted in the Word and our goal compelled by love to reach the lost of any religion or culture. Our practice should be: ‘For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 2:17 KJV)
“To teach otherwise is to betray the Gospel.” (p. 364)“God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by Whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the Word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:1-3)