Indian and Christian Parallels–Part 1

Within the past couple of weeks I borrowed and read two books by Kent Nerburn. They are Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder, and The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey Through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows.

I highly recommend both books. They’re easy reads. Nerburn’s style is captivating. He puts you right in his shoes. Both books are a must for anyone interested in understanding the ways of Indian or Native American people.

The Lakota Indian elder known as Dan shared his heart with Nerburn because he knew Nerburn was a white man who wasn’t trying to be an Indian himself. He wanted someone to help him build a bridge of understanding between Indians and whites for the betterment of the children and grandchildren who would follow.

Dan was about 80 when the first book was written and near 90 when the events of the second book came to pass. He shared much about the comparison and contrast between the ways of Native Americans and white culture. He definitely had the number, so to speak, of those of us who are ever inquisitive Americans.

What struck me as I read was the similarities between certain Lakota religious practices and Biblical truths. That may sound strange, but I want to bring out some important points over the next few weekly posts which believers in Christ might find enlightening and useful. It’s amazing how close the Indians are to knowing the truth of the Gospel.

This may be a sensitive subject, especially for Indians like Dan and so many others who were brutalized in boarding schools by Catholics decades ago. It may be a sensitive subject for the Catholic church, too. It’s my prayer that somehow what I share will indeed contribute to the building of bridges, rather than creating further divisions.

I don’t claim to be an expert on Indian religious practices. I’m going from memory of what I’ve read in Nerburn’s books. I’m also no Christian theologian. I hope in this instance that is to my credit.

Today I’ll look at one basic truth briefly.

Dan expressed the idea that whites compartmentalize everything, even to the point of putting their religion into a little black book. He’s referring to the Bible, of course.

He said he and his people are part of Creation, and Creation speaks, if we’ll only listen. While some of what he shared in Nerburn’s accounts is wise and instructive, some of it is pantheistic and unscriptural. One point deserves attention. God has indeed made Himself known throughout His creation.

Romans 19-22 says, Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…

All men everywhere throughout the world can see that there is indeed a God and an order to the universe because of what is all around us. But that isn’t everything there is to know about God.

We need that little black book to further enlighten us. It contains words of God which go beyond what Creation tells us. It gives the account of Jesus Christ and shows the way to true salvation.

If we had no little black book, God would find another way to communicate, just as He did in the days of the Old Testament prophets. But now everyone can have access to the Word of God because of that so-called little black book.

Does that mean the little black book solves all mysteries about God and His ways? No. The Indians are wise in acknowledging God as mysterious. But there are many things we can know, and I thank God for that.

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