Institute for Creation (Credulous) Research (Retards), PO Box 2667, El Cajon, CA 92021 Voi
Institute for Creation Research, PO Box 2667, El Cajon, CA 92021
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No. 240 "Vital Articles on Science/Creation" June 1993
CREATION EVANGELISM CROSS CULTURALLY
by Dale Taylor *
Copyright (c) 1993 by I.C.R.
All Rights Reserved
* Mr.Dale Taylor is a missionary with New Tribes Missions.
The Tarahumara Indians of north-central Mexico present a beautiful case
for the power and validity of creation evangelism in a cross-cultural
setting. To illustrate this, we must first understand who these people
are, along with an understanding of their present day world view.
This indigenous group lives high in the mountains of the Sierra Madre at
elevations of 6,000-8,000 feet. Nestled in the valleys and canyons,
these people have managed to maintain a unity and diversity from the
Mexican settlers while speaking their own language. Their indomitable
spirit has been evidenced over the last 400 years since the days of the
Spanish Conquistadors and Jesuit priests who sought to claim them for
the Roman Catholic church. They are proud of who they are, because they
alone are God's people. According to their traditions, God, and his
older brother, the Devil, set about to make man. God took dark clay and
formed the Tarahumara, breathing into them the breath of life. The Devil
took white clay and formed the white man (all non-Tarahumara). However,
in spite of all his efforts, the Devil could not make his clay dolls
live. He then asked his brother to give them life. This legend explains
why they have been so mistreated by the white man. The white man cannot
be trusted. He is evil, and will be punished by God in the end. They, on
the other hand, are the true children of God to whom all mankind is
Their witch doctors and shamans all claim to have had face-to-face
encounters with God--an old Tarahumara spirit-being who will demand
sacrifices of goats, chickens, squirrels, or cows, as well as plenty of
their corn beer, called tesqino. All this is offered symbolically at
the cross to their god, who comes to eat and drink with the Tarahumara
people. If these sacrifices are not performed, the world will face
destruction by either water, snow, or drought. Since only they perform
these sacrifices, they view themselves as saviors of the world. They
view their god as a rather old god, because our sun is an old sun. Nor
is this god the only god that has existed because other suns have come
and gone, and more are coming in the future. Our sun is therefore
perceived as father god, and the moon their mother, making them the
children of these deities.
When the Jesuit priests came preaching of God, seeking to convert the
heathen to the Catholic Church, they brought the teaching of Mary and
Joseph and the virgin birth as the central doctrine in establishing the
worship of Mary. With the coming of church teaching, their paganism and
deification of celestial bodies was given substance. The Tarahumara
quickly incorporated these Biblical names, creating a syncretism of
paganism and Christianity. Soon their sun god became Joseph, and the
moon, Mary. Mary's child, Jesus, became the first true Tarahumara.
Today, the witch doctors claim to cure by the power of the spirit of
Jesus. To complicate the matter, the early stories told by the Jesuit
priests included creation and the fall of Adam and Eve.
One may ask, "What's wrong with that?" Interpreted correctly, nothing.
However, we must remember that all communication is filtered through the
cultural grid of the hearer and given meaning accordingly. In the case
of the Tarahumara, all evil originates from the Devil. When told of Adam
and Eve and the subsequent introduction of all evil into the world, Adam
and Eve were assumed to be the first children of the Devil, from whom
originated all the non-Tarahumara. The forbidden fruit that was eaten in
Eden was believed to be a bitter variety of apple that grows in the
mountains where they live. Their total lack of understanding of world
geography causes them to place the Biblical happenings within the
boundaries of their known world.
Taking all this into consideration, and this is only a skeletal
explanation of their world view, what method of evangelism would be
effective in unraveling this syncretism? How could we possibly
reinterpret for them the Biblical account? How can the church planter
reshape their view of God, and add to it all the essential
characteristics of His holiness, righteousness, mercy, and love?
First of all, as a church-planting team, we committed ourselves to a
thorough investigation of their culture and a fluent grasp of the
language before any evangelism should take place. We felt convinced that
only through the medium of their own language would they listen--a fact
later testified to by the people themselves. Six years after moving in
with the people, we were finally ready to begin actual evangelism.
First of all, however, we had to establish our credibility, that we,
being non-Tarahumara, could communicate to them truths about God. Their
exclusive belief system required that we first establish common ground
from which to build. That common ground was in the creation of the
world. We knew that in explaining creation, we would thereby expand
their concept of God. We cut out dozens of quality pictures from
_National_Geographic_ and acquired a 12-volt slide projector. We carried
with us an inflatable globe of the world and explained to them, little
by little, the concepts of distance and time. Building on how much a
Tarahumara man can walk in a day, we projected this concept over weeks,
moons, and years. We took them up to the North Pole--to the land of ice
and snow--where the summer sun does not set. They at first thought I had
to be talking about another sun, but because we could personally testify
to the changes of the sun over the globe, they tried to comprehend this
new truth. We took them to the ocean, a body of water so big it would
take many moons to walk across. We showed them pictures of the many sea
creatures. The black people of Africa fascinated them. "Where could they
have come from?" they asked.
Throughout these sessions we kept exclaiming about the greatness and
power of God. Through careful questioning, we caused them to consider
their own ideas regarding origins, helping them understand that only One
who has been there could accurately tell about the creation of the
world. This led to the introduction of the Word of God. We explained
that God had communicated with men thousands of years before, who in
turn wrote down His message, and that only through hearing His message
could we know the truth.
But here our barrier was in the concept of numbers. Just by saying
"thousands" doesn't mean they will grasp its dimension. To help explain
this concept, I picked 1000 pine needles and carried them around in a
bundle as I taught. Once they visualized 1000 years, they could
understand more easily the age with which we were dealing. I asked them,
"Can you remember the names of your great grandparents?" None could
remember. "It wasn't written down for us like they do today." Their
reply revealed the need for a written record in order for there to be
accuracy. From here we could explain that in God's word the names of
people who lived 5000 to 6000 years ago are still preserved for our
knowledge. At this point we came to appreciate in a new way the reason
for the Biblical genealogies, for in them is preserved a beautiful link
to the present--a standard of measure easily verifiable.
This approach piqued their curiosity. When asked if they wanted to hear
what God had written, they wholeheartedly agreed. Thus began our first
phase of evangelism. Once again, where did evangelism begin? Not with
Matthew, but with Genesis. As we considered each day of creation, we
would show slides, National Geographic pictures--whatever helped them
comprehend the immensity of this world. We spent a lot of time
explaining the fourth day when God created the sun and the moon. Now
they had to separate God from the sun, and see the moon as just another
lump of dirt placed in the sky to serve as a light and a keeper of time.
The pictures of the lunar landings and close-ups of the moon made these
celestial deities become to them the creation of yet a greater God than
they had ever imagined.
Being a people intimately aware of nature, the explanation of the fifth
and sixth days of creation was impacting. By showing pictures of all the
different animal species found in the world, their appreciation for the
greatness and knowledge of God grew. When we came to the creation of man
on the sixth day, they became excited, because in their own traditions
God made man from the dirt and breathed into him life, and now we were
verifying this through the written account. They had never heard of the
woman having come from the man's side, but this truth gave them
understanding. When we came to the seventh day, they finally understood
why people set aside one day a week to rest from their labors. Up
through this point, the Tarahumaras were growing in appreciation for the
greatness of God. However, when we came to the first man and woman, we
knew that great care would need to be taken in order for them to
identify themselves as children of Adam and Eve, and not as children of
Mary and Joseph and Jesus.
Once again, we felt that the key lay in the establishing of a common
ground. As we went through the account of the Fall, they recognized the
story of evil entering into the world through the eating of a forbidden
fruit. What they hadn't heard of, were the consequences of this act. All
through these lessons, we did not use the names of Adam and Eve, but
simply called them man and woman. As we discussed the elements of the
Fall, we continually reminded them that the same consequences affected
all men--Indian and non-Indian. They identified with the difficulty in
growing food, the constant battle against weeds, thorns, and thistles.
The women could see that the pain of child birth affected the white
woman, as well as themselves. Death was explained as a universal
consequence for disobedience. As they understood that all the
consequences of the first disobedience were universal, they were able to
agree with us that all men must have come from the same stock.
This, however, caused them to ask the question, "Then where did we come
from?" "Why are there so many differences in people?" To this we were
able to answer, "God wrote this down, and soon we will find out how God
divided up mankind and gave to each of us our language." It was finally,
at this point, that we gave the names of Adam and Eve. Realizing the
conflict this would create in their minds, we were quick to explain that
Joseph and Mary and Jesus are all part of the history of mankind. "You
will find out, when they enter into the story, but you must wait," we
would say. God tells us the whole story from the foundation to the roof,
but we must build slowly, learning each story in its proper time.
This is the beauty of the revelation of God. Each precept is built upon
a preceding precept. If we fail to understand one, the structure is
weakened. The systematic, unfolding revelation of God from Creation to
the Cross becomes a powerful tool for dispelling darkness and leading
men and women to the feet of Jesus.
This "Impact" was converted to ASCII, for BBS use,
from the original formatted desktop article.
Comments regarding typographical errors
in the above material are appreciated.
Don Barber, ICR Systems Administrator
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