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If we are to understand that Indigenous people had prior knowledge of God, as stated in Romans 1, before Europeans landed on this continent, might there be manifestation of God through Indigenous peoples narratives? 

When Europeans and missionaries arrived on this continent, they assumed America’s Indigenous people were members of a people or nation who did not have any knowledge of the God of the Bible. This line of thought contradicts Paul in Romans 1:19-20, “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

They lived in a universe in which kinship exists between all things. 

Indigenous people did know God. They lived in a universe in which kinship exists between all things or a “system of kinship” because they saw creation as sacred and beautiful; thus, thankfulness and gratitude were to be expressed in ceremonies, rituals, and customs.   

The problem was that western trained missionaries wanted to assimilate Native Americans rather than be acculturated by Native Americans.  Missionaries never queried if Indigenous people had prior knowledge of God because their belief was that Native American imminent destiny was to cast off their ‘heathen habits’ to become a Christian community.  Therefore, there was no need to appreciate the universal applicability of Indigenous stories and prior knowledge of God into their salvation teachings.

For example, let’s look at the synopsis of the Navajo creation account. 

At the beginning, First Man and First Woman climbed a water reed from a world of disharmony to the next world seeking hozho (Navajo word for harmony). This ascension up a reed of emergence continued four more times because each world has this recurring pattern of opposition, invitation (transformation) and ascension until they emerge to this present world. 

God gives all humanity an invitation to transform. 

This recurring pattern is also found in the Bible; opposition, invitation (transformation) and ascension. Just as today, there were problems in the Bible with disharmony. God gives all humanity an invitation to transform. 

One of the oppositions today is racism – a prejudicial attitude and/or behavior directed against persons based on their race. God has invited us  to become part of His restoration plan. To be in Christ is to be reconciled with one another as a community of racially and ethnically diverse people of God. God sees this new unity as transcending every human division. With each reformation, we come closer to the heart of God.

Romans 1 asserts the providence of God to all nations so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him. With each reformation and transformation in their knowledge of God, a changed heart, people align themselves with the Word of God in their appointed time.

Photo by Tom Gainor on Unsplash

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