Human sacrifice in Europe has been in the news lately. The following two stories are representative examples, one from the National Geographic news service, the other from LiveScience. AOL picked up the LiveScience story and included it on its sign-on screens for part of one day this week.
Common Stone Age graves in Europe that include the remains of physically disabled people hint at ritual human sacrifice there, a new study says.
Europe’s prehistoric hunter-gatherers may have practiced human sacrifice, a new study claims.
[. . .] The diversity of the individuals buried together and the special treatment they received could be a sign of ritual killing, said Vincenzo Formicola of the University of Pisa, Italy.
“These findings point to the possibility that human sacrifices were part of the ritual activity of these populations,” Formicola wrote in a recent edition of the journal Current Anthropology.
The news is neither shocking nor surprising. Human sacrifice has been widespread across cultures and through the ages. The prevalence of the practice points to a widespread shared belief that our alienation from God is deep and serious, and that our guilt before God (God’s righteous anger and judgement) cannot be easily assuaged. This widespread, shared belief is not easily dismissed as simply a primitive supersitition.
In fact, most human cultures have practiced human sacrifice. It is not, unfortunately, a thing of the past. It is reappearing in the new millenium. It was the coming of Christianity which put an end to human sacrifice. And it is the waning of Christian influence in the west, which is allowing it to re-emerge.
The evangelion of Christianity is that God himself provided the uiltimate, voluntary human sacrifice – that God himself became incarnate as a man, and offered himself as a subsitute for us, so that we might be reconciled.
Apparently the writers of these stories are without a trace of irony when they solemnly intone that “The new findings could mean the hunter-gatherers were more advanced than once thought.”
The findings are only surprising if you share the modern prejudice that we, of the current age, are obviously much more sophisticated, advanced, and evolved than all who have gone before us.
The truth is, human nature has only ever changed dramatically once – when Adam and Eve ate the apple and acquired a knowledge of good AND evil. Since then we have all shared the same nature. Our technological abilities have waxed and waned (The Ancient Egyptians and the Romans were quite advanced in many ways), but human nature has not changed. Man is still both noble and cruel. He bears the image of God, yet is a slave to sin.
And the solution to man’s predicament has not changed either – we cannot change ourselves. We cannot please God with our own offerings, not even a human sacrifice – for no human is spotless and perfect. We cannot save our selves. We can only be saved.
And that is why Christians for 2,000 years have sung and recited the following:
Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Lamb of God, who takes away sins of world, have mercy on us.
– Rob Shearer
Director, Schaeffer Study Center