A theory of the evolution of religion states that man started with a primitive understanding of “god” and developed a more complex or sophisticated faith as his society progressed. (See the “founder” of cultural anthropology Edward Tylor, of the 19th and early 20th Century, who developed this theory.)
The theory claims that man started in an unorganised society, with a religion of spiritism, seeing spirits in all objects with no single ruler. As society progressed into tribal chieftaincies man’s view of spiritual rule devolved into polytheism, the belief in several leading deities.
Finally, as people grouped into nation states around the time of Moses and had one main ruler or king, they began to see the spiritual world the same way, with one main god - monotheism. So here we see a progression from spiritism to polytheism to monotheism. It is claimed that Moses was the founder of monotheism.
But biblical evidence shows that monotheism was the belief of all God’s people from the beginning. Abraham, for example, hundreds of years before Moses, was clearly monotheistic. The Greek, who were supposed to be the most advanced, were polytheistic.
Secular authors have stated that religion is a natural phenomenon. They say that man developed religious ideas naturally to meet his need for security. It is true that human religion is natural, developed by man to meet his felt needs. Religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism for example were developed from the imaginations of man and from a twisted view of God’s revelation. “Christianity” without God’s Spirit is the same.
This is human religion. It is a “fig leaf”. It is a substitute for truth. It is not man seeking for God, but man using a cover of religion to hide from God. It is to satiate his conscience. But when God’s Spirit calls us we know that religion is empty of any power to save and empty of any truth. Human religion is a means of hiding from God (as Adam hid), not of genuinely seeking for Him.
True Christianity is not a human religion. It has not developed by men “seeking God”. It is God’s Self-initiative and Self-revelation through grace. God sent Jesus to reveal Himself. Today, through the Holy Spirit and word of God, the knowledge of God is a gift. Man cannot find God through natural theology, reasoning or even self-induced spiritual encounters. A man comes to the knowledge of God because God seeks and finds him.
The Bible says “seek and you shall find”. This must come as a call of the Spirit of God within our heart. We seek Him in truth only if He first calls us. He must draw us to Himself first. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19).
This is important. It means we that cannot reveal God naturally through human religion or culture as we go into mission. God can only be revealed by His own initiative through His gospel, as we are sent by Him as His co-labourers. We must be sent by God. As Benson Idahosa said, “Some were sent: others went.”.
Tylor’s evolution of religion model claimed that societies developed in an evolutionary series from Stone Age, Iron Age, Bronze Age, etc. Excavations are “dated” by these artefacts found in them. However, societies progressed and regressed often according to their circumstances and such dating methods are conjecture. Iron and bronze were available in the very earliest societies in Genesis.