From the previous discussions we can see the importance of culture in mission. How should we approach culture and other human sciences? By human sciences we mean not the study of chemistry or physics, but the study of man and his behaviour and history. Anthropology is the study of man, his nature, his society and his culture. It is an interesting and often very subjective field of study.
Archaeology is another category of anthropology. In the last 200 years a lot has been learnt about past civilizations by excavations, especially in Bible lands. Initially archaeologists were not able to confirm certain biblical narratives, such as the existence of the Hittite Empire.
In such cases rash archaeologists or media would announce that the Bible was inaccurate. They have always been proved wrong as archaeological work progressed. Whether it was about the Hittites, the occupation of Canaan under Joshua, the fall of Jericho, or the cultural practices of Abraham, the Bible has never been shown to be wrong. (See Werner Keller, The Bible As History.)
God acted out His redemption plan in history. The historical narratives of scripture, whether the history of nations, the history of creation, or the miracle ministry and resurrection of Jesus, are all literal historical events.
The Hebrew people did not use mythology or symbolic language when recording history. Governor’s names are given, cities and villages are identified and time periods are stated. All of these can be traced by independent historical sources and by archaeology. The Bible has not once been shown to be wrong after evidence has come to the surface.
A study of human society down through the millennia has also verified the migration of humans from Mesopotamia after the Flood and Tower of Babel to all parts of the globe. Population levels in various parts of the world are consistent with a general migration from this biblical time period.
Cultures all over the earth have very similar stories in their history concerning the Tower of Babel, Flood, Creation and the Fall. (See anthropologist Don Richardson in Eternity in Their Hearts.) They also have similar constellations. They mostly perceive related pictures in the stars, showing a commonality in ancestry. There are many more myths that are common also.
Anthropology is also valuable in helping us to understand culture. Further below we will look at the extent to which anthropology may help us in the missionary task. First though, we see that anthropology helps us to refute false ideas about religion.