The Testimony of Heneri
regarding the state of religion and society in Hawaii before the Gospel—a rebuttal to Daniel Kikawa's book
“Perpetuated In Righteousness”
by Sandy Simpson, Apologetics Coordination Team,
This article is a rebuttal to Daniel Kikawa's book Perpetuated In Righteousness that is one of the foundations underlying the “A Call to the Nations” 2005 conference in Oahu, HI, which is part of the New Apostolic Reformation “First Nations” movement. The testimony of Heneri Opukaha’ia refutes the leaders of this movement such as Daniel Kikawa, Don Richardson, Leon Siu, Terry LeBlanc, Richard Twiss and many others who are teaching: (1) that Hawaiians have always known the gospel because it was written in the stars1 (2) that Hawaiians already were worshipping God in the form of ‘Io (actually a bird god) long before missionaries arrived2 (3) that “these are clues that we felt God had left (the Hawaiian people) and evidence that He’s left as well as processes He has left in which our Hawaiian people can respond in a very natural way to God and really set things right between them and God.”3 (4) that “There’s a myth that we have labored under for centuries in indigenous communities and the myth is that we are a godless heathen people.”4 (5) and that we have “Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World” claiming that hundreds of cultures in the world were already worshipping YHWH before missionaries came and preached the Gospel.5
The biblical fact is: all Gentiles were outside the covenant of God in the Old Testament, and are still outside the New Covenant if they do not hear the Gospel preached to them.
Eph. 2:11-13 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are
Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call
themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of
men)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from
citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without
hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once
were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
Rom. 10:14-15 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
This article is a reminder of what Hawaii was like before the Gospel was preached. This is the account of a very important eyewitness. It is an unfortunate fact that often, by the third generation of Christians or so, in any given area of the world, important information has begun to be lost and forgotten. This is clearly evident in the writings of people like Daniel Kikawa. The stark facts of Hawaiian culture and religion before the Gospel was preached in Hawaii are made evident by the testimony of a man, without whom, the peoples of Hawaii may never have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel message. Our beloved Hawaiians and other islanders would likely still be living in the sins of their ancestors.
I am writing this article not to belittle the people of the Hawaiian Islands, but as a reminder of the truths of the past by very important eyewitnesses. Remember that the Bible teaches that the facts of a matter are established by the testimony of eyewitnesses (2 Cor. 3:1, Matt. 18:16, Luke 1:2, 2 Pet. 1:16, etc.). Heneri Opukaha'ia (Henry Obookiah) is responsible for bringing the reality of the Hawaiian culture and religion to the attention of the Congregationalists in America. Later the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent the first missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands. Obookiah dreamt of coming back to his homeland to preach the Gospel to Hawaiians, but he died an early death in America. Here is his epitaph:
“In the little village of Cornwall, set in the Litchfield Hills, the northwest corner of Connecticut, there is a country graveyard. Walk up the steep bank, past the old headstones tilted in the tall grass, or, depending on the season, the deep snow, and you will come to a large, flat stone resting on a quadrangular tomb of rocks. The inscription, worn and weathered by a thousand New England storms, is still easy to read.”
a native of
arrival in this country gave rise to the Foreign mission school,
of which he was a worthy member.
He was once an Idolater and was designed for a Pagan Priest;
but by the grace of God and by the prayers and instructions of pious friends, he became a Christian. He was eminent for piety and missionary Zeal.
When almost prepared to return to his native Isle to preach the Gospel, God took to himself.
In his last sickness, he wept and prayed for Owhyhee, but was submissive.
He died without fear with a heavenly smile on his countenance
and glory in his soul.
Feb. 17, 1818 aged 26”6
The publishing of the book “Memoirs of Henry Obookiah”7, circulated among the churches of New England, was the inspiration for many Christians to give up their lives and families to come to Hawaii as missionaries to fulfill the vision of Obookiah. I urge all Hawaiian islanders to read this book containing the eyewitness historical account of Obookiah. If it were not for the testimony and heart of compassion of Obookiah, the Gospel may not have been preached in Hawaii as it still has not been in many places.
Obookiah's family were killed in the wars of dominion in Hawaii in the early 1800s. He was found by an uncle in the house of the man who murdered his parents. Here is part of his account.
“Obookiah, being now a prisoner in the hands of the enemy, was taken home to the house of the very man who murdered his parents. With him he remained until he was found by an uncle, who having obtained the consent of his keeper, took him into his own family and treated him as his child. This uncle was a priest, and had the rank of high priest of the island. It was his design to educate Obookiah for the same service. In pursuance of this purpose, he taught him long prayers, and trained him to the task of repeating them daily in the temple of the idol. This ceremony he sometimes commenced before sunrise in the morning, and at other times was employed in it during the whole or the greater part of the night. Parts of these prayers he often repeated to gratify the curiosity of his friends, after he came to this country. They regarded the weather, the general prosperity of the island, its defence from enemies, and especially the life and happiness of the king. He continued with his uncle, and in this employment, until he took his departure from his native country, to go in quest of another, where he hoped to find the happiness which the death of his parents had taken from him, and which nothing now to be found in his own country could supply. His feelings on this subject, with some account of his situation while he remained upon the island, of his departure for America, and his reception in this country, are found in a his story of his past life written by himself several years before his death. As this, to all the readers of these memoirs, will doubtless be interesting, considered as the production of a heathen youth, the greater part of it will be inserted, with but few slight alterations. His own ideas, and, in general, his own language will be preserved. The history commences at the time of his parents’ death.”8
Obookiah believed in the Gospel message and was saved soon after his arrival in America. He began to relate the terrible circumstances of his islands.
“It is well for the young to understand that in the Sandwich Islands, as in all heathen countries, females were degraded, and made the servants and drudges of men. The Gospel raises them from this servitude and makes them their equals and companions.”9
Obookiah began to learn English, and very early on he related the “ludicrous nature of idol worship” in his home islands.
“The same trait of character was discoverable in the manner in which he was affected with respect to the idols of the heathen, upon the first instruction given him concerning the true God. He was at once very sensibly impressed with the ludicrous nature of idol worship. Smiling at its absurdity, he said ‘Hawaii gods! they wood, burn. Me go home, put’em in a fire, burn ‘em up. They no see, no hear; no any thing’ - then added, ‘We make them - Our God, (looking up,) he make us.’”10
Obookiah's first recorded prayer in English revealed much about the false religion of Hawaii.
RESIDENCE AT ANDOVER AND VICINITY
“AT THE CLOSE of the year 1810," he says, "I left Torringford and went to Andover. I continued there for some time. Here my wicked heart began to see a little about the divine things; but the more I see to it, the more it appears to be impenetrability. I took much satisfaction in conversing with many students in the institution. I spent a little time with some of them and in going to one room and to another to recite to them, for I was taken under their care. Whenever I got a lesson I had a right to go to any room in college to recite. While I was there, for a long time, my friend Mr. Mills was there; one of my kindest friends that I had, who took me away from his father's house. This young Mr. Mills was studying divinity at the college when I was instructed by the students." It was at this time, and with the friend who has been mentioned, that Obookiah made his first attempt to pray in the presence of another. His friends, having knelt down and prayed, turning to him before they rose, said, "You may pray." When he expressed himself substantiary in the following terms. ‘Great and eternal God-make heaven-make earth-make every thing-have mercy on me-make me understand the Bible-make me good-great God have mercy on Thomas-make him good-make Thomas and me go back Hawaii-tell folks in Hawaii no more pray to stone god-make some good man go with me to Hawaii-tell folks in Hawaii about heaven-about hell-God make all people good every where-great God have mercy on college-make all good-make Mr. Samuel good-have mercy on Mr. Samuel's father, mother, sister, brother.’ ‘Our Father which art in heaven; Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.’”11
In a letter to a friend, Obookiah again spells out the condition of his homeland at that time.
Andover Dec. 15, 1812
“Dear Christian Friend,
“I improve this opportunity to write to you. And I saw your beloved book which you sent by Mr. G. and that I very much thank you for it. I am great joy to God to give me such a good friend in this land where we hear the words of God-God is kind to us and to the other-that is to every body else God will carry through his work for us. "I do not know what will God do with my poor soul. I shall go before God and also both Christ. "We must all try to get forward where God wish us to do. God is able to save sinners if we have some feeling in him. Is very great thing to have hope in him, and do all the christian graces. I hope the Lord will send the Gospel to the Heathen land where the words of the Savior never yet had been. Poor people worship the wood, and stone, and shark, and almost every thing their gods; the Bible is not there, and heaven and hell they do not know about it. I yet in this country and no father and no mother. But God is friend if I will do his will, and not my own will.”12
Obookiah lived with a high priest in Hawaii and was studying to be one himself. He was well aware of the state of religion in Hawaii. Contrary to the claims of Daniel Kikawa and others, it is clear Hawaiians could not find the Gospel “in the stars”, nor did the Hawaiians have “clues that we felt God had left (the Hawaiian people) and evidence that He’s left as well as processes He has left in which our Hawaiian people can respond in a very natural way to God and really set things right between them and God.”13 The Hawaiians were worshipping false gods of stone, wood, animals, and sea creatures. The Hawaiians knew nothing of the Gospel before it was preached in Hawaii. Obookiah explains the condition another boy from Hawaii was in spiritually when he first met him in Tyngsbury, and this boy also testifies to the religion of Hawaii.
“O how wicked and sinful are we. How shall we go the path of life and of his truth, and to be with him in heaven? No way at all; only we must give away ourselves to him and leave all our sins behind. Some think they know not how to pray; but they ought to know, for Christ bath taught us. I went to Tyngsbury last week to see a boy who came from Hawaii. He arrived last June (this is not Thomas that came with me.) As the distance from this place was small, I went to visit him. I hope the Lord will have mercy upon his poor soul. He knew nothing of the Savior before I told him. I first mentioned to him Genesis 1. &c. telling him that God made the world by his own power; then he said, 'O how foolish we are to worship wood and stone gods; we give them hogs, and cocoa nuts, and banana, but they cannot eat.' Yes, said I, it is foolish. Then he asked me where that man was that made every thing. I told him he was every where with us. Does he hear when you and I talk? says he. I told him yes, and you must believe in him if you would be his friend. He said he did believe what I told him. He has not learned to understand English, but I spoke in Hawaii. I took him with me to the minister's house on Sabbath evening, so I told him in Hawaii what Mr. Allen the minister said. He had been before, but could not understand what was said. I told him what God did for him in keeping him alive, and bringing him to this country. He said he liked that man very much, (meaning God.) He asked me many questions again and again about God, which I answered. After we went to bed he said he never would forget what I had told him. He said when he eat he would remember who gave him food. The people where he lived said he might stay there as he would; and when he had learned English a little, he might go to school. He did cry when I left him.”14
Again, Obookiah explained the spiritual condition of his homeland of Hawaii and his zeal to preach the Gospel there.
“The readiness and propriety with which he quoted passages of Scripture
on every occasion were particularly noticed by all who conversed with him. In
one of his visits he asked his friend, who was now in the study of divinity, to
go aside with him, as if he had something of importance which he wished to
reveal. But it appeared that it was his object to converse with him upon the
subject of accompanying him to the Sandwich Islands. He plead with great
earnestness that he would go and preach the Gospel to his poor countrymen. Not
receiving so much encouragement as he desired, he suspected that his friend might be influenced
by the fear of the consequences of attempting to introduce a new religion
amongst the heathen. Upon which, though he had now just begun to lisp the
language of the Scriptures, he said, “You fraid? You know our Savior say, ‘He
that will save his life shall lose it; and he that will lose his life for my
sake, same shall save it.’ His own fearlessness and zeal on this
subject he exhibited about the same time to an aged minister, who asked him why
he wished to return. He replied-’To preach the Gospel to my countrymen.’ He
was asked what he would say to them about their wooden gods. He answered,
‘Nothing.’ ‘But,’ said the clergyman, ‘suppose your countrymen should
tell you that preaching Jesus Christ was blaspheming their gods, and
should put you to death?’ To this he replied with great
emphasis, ‘If that be the will of God, I am ready, I am ready.’”15
In another letter to a friend, he further explained the situation in Hawaii.
“Goshen, June 9, 1815.
“My dear Friend,
“I improve this opportunity to write to you a few lines. When you was up here last, you know that I was quite unwell then. On that account I could not talk much with you when you was speaking on the religious subjects. "0 my friend, what is our rule? Is not the word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament? Certainly it is. But we are apt to hate to put away sins, for they are sweeter than the grace of God. "O my dear friend, let us continue in the hope of the glory of our Redeemer, with true hearts in full assurance of faith. Cease not to pray for the fatherless, as I am. O what a wonderful thing it is that the hand of the Divine Providence has brought me here from that heathenish darkness where the light of divine truth never had been. And here have I found the name of the Lord Jesus in the Holy Scriptures, and have read that his blood was shed for many; and I remember his own words which he said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”16
So it is clear that the Hawaiians had no way to salvation, nor did they know God at all. They were worshipping false idols. The Bible states that when you are worshipping idols, though you are worshipping manmade objects, you are really worshipping demons (1 Cor. 10:19-20, Deut. 32:16-17, Rev. 9:20). They were in exactly the same condition as the rest of us Gentiles. We were “without hope and without God in the world.”
Perpetuated In Righteousness, along with a number of other books by “A Call to All Nations” participants, are dangerous and historically disingenuous. They are perpetuating myths that will cause many people of many nations not to come to repentance, but rather to rise up and assert that their cultures and former religious practices were always in line with God’s plan. I pray the same prayer as Obookiah ... “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
1—Daniel Kikawa, Perpetuated In Righteousness, pg. 55
2—Ibid., pg. 18, pp. 2
3—Leon Siu, Word to the World with host Danny Lehmann, KLHT, 2001, show #544
4—Terry LeBlanc, Ibid., show #542
5—Don Richardson, Eternity In Their Hearts: Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World, book title.
6—-Edith Wolfe, Honolulu, Hawaii, October 1, 1967 A.D. (Memoirs Of Henry Obookiah, by Edwin W. Dwight, 1818, Published 1990, Woman's Board Of Missions for the Pacific Islands, Preface)
7—THE FIRST EDITION of the Memoirs of Henry Obookiah was published at the offices of the Religious Intelligencer in New Haven in 1818, a few months after Obookiah's death. A second printing bears the date 1819. The first two editions were copyrighted to Lyman Beecher and Joseph Harvey, and included the full text of Beecher's Funeral Oration and Harvey's Inaugural Sermon at the installation of the Rev. Herman Daggett as principal of the Foreign Mission School in 1817. The Rev. Harvey was the Congregational minister at neighboring Goshen. A Sunday School edition printed in 1830 has Owhyhee, no chapter headings, and an excerpt from Beecher's funeral oration. The American Tract Society printed two editions both with no dates, but The National Union Catalogue lists one as published in 1831 and the other in 1847. Both editions are divided into chapters, have a Table of Contents, use the word Hawaii instead of Owhyhee and have added a chapter entitled "Conclusion". The American Tract Society underwrote an 1867 edition in the Hawaiian language. The Hawaiian translation included additional information obtained by translator Rev. S. W. Papaula, a minister at Kealakekua, Hawai'i, from people who remembered Opukaha'ia and his family. Other translations of the Memoirs include one in language of the Choctaw Indians and another in the Maltese (Greek). THIS EDITION, while retaining the 1818 title page with some exceptions, includes many of the changes incorporated in the later Revised Editions by the American Tract Society. The Table of Contents, chapter divisions and headings, and the "Conclusion" section come from these editions. Opukaha'ia, his Hawaiian name, has been used when referring to him in the Hawaiian context. Henry Obookiah is used with the New England notes and photographs. (Memoirs Of Henry Obookiah, by Edwin W. Dwight, First Edition 1818, Published 1990, Woman's Board Of Missions for the Pacific Islands, pg. 96)
8—Ibid., pgs. 2-3
9—Ibid., pg. 12
10—Ibid., pg. 16
11—Ibid., pgs. 21-22
12—Ibid., pgs. 26-27
13—Leon Siu, Word to the World with host Danny Lehmann, KLHT, 2001, show #544
14—Memoirs Of Henry Obookiah, by Edwin W. Dwight, First Edition 1818, Published 1990, Woman's Board Of Missions for the Pacific Islands, pgs. 28-29
15—Ibid., pgs. 33-34
16—Ibid., pg. 42