Saturday, May 22, 2010

Does Christianity Fulfill Paganism or Is It Based On Paganism?

What did worship look like in ancient (non-Christian, polytheistic) cultures?

Faith: Polytheistic religions used the phrase, "the fates" to describe how one placed the the future in the hands of the gods, but it is essentially the same as belief in, trust in the power of one's god. Although scholars today tend to imagine that the more technologically advanced civilizations discarded a real "heart belief" and simply followed worship to one's gods ritualistically, that theory is not backed up archeologically. There are thousands and thousands of prayers from these periods that show a deep sincerity of faith to their gods.

Prayer: Pagan prayers took both communal and personal characteristics much like Christian prayers today. They saw prayer as a pathway to contact with the gods. Each prayer not only included praise towards the deity, but requests and petitions as well as promises to perform acts to honor the gods.

Mystery: The idea of clashing supernatural forces of good and evil and that man has a place in this ultimate fight is also an age-old idea.

Visions and Prophecies: Dating back thousands of years before Christianity, oracles and supernatural ecstasies, very similar to Pentecostalism, were part of religion. The ancient Shrine at Delphi is a place where pagan prophecies and visions took place.

Healing: All religious systems had rituals and prayers that the adherents believed would cause the gods to heal them. They even held "healing" services and ancient records describe the miraculous healings.

Virtue: Honest and ethical behavior was expected from most ancient religions, although they may differ from our standards somewhat. Misbehavior was expected to bring bad luck or punishment from the gods. Pythagoreans and Epicureans had traditions that taught certain ways of life brought reward.

Scriptures: Not all religions had written laws and stories given from their gods, some did such as Hindu, Buddhism--but all had oral proscriptions and legends about how the gods formed the world and how they expect us to behave. These were considered sacred very much like Christians consider the Bible.

Divine Calling: Polytheistic religions believed certain people had a "divine" calling to teach others about their gods.

Sacredness: Pagan religions had places (churches), people (pastors, evangelists), things and times (holy days) they set aside as sacred.

Sacrifices: Pagan religions included sacrifices of unblemished animals that were taken to the temple and immolated after being anointed with salt and flour by the person giving the sacrifice.

The similarities are endless-- Pagans and Christians both have:
Conversion stories
Pagan Messianic prophecies that resembled Christianity: Virgin birth of deity who becomes savior of man.
Born-again rituals
Heaven for the righteous
Hell for the sinner
Final--last day events--Armageddon
Creeds and doctrines
Certain cults in polytheism claimed they should be free to worship the gods as their conscience dictated
Immortality of the soul (for certain people)
Soul sleep (for other persons)
Holy wars
Marriage ceremonies with cake, lifting bride over threshold, wedding rings (many other similarities)

When King Solomon said millennia ago that there is nothing new under the sun, he was right. Being a Christian, I am certainly not saying that Christianity is the same. I am just saying Christian forms of worshipping and even some theology are very similar to paganism.

So, when we realize that Christianity brought very little unique to religious rites and beliefs, we have a clear choice. Is Christianity a mere culling from the past? Are the critics correct when they say because Christianity brings relatively nothing new to religion and that it is similar to polytheism, that Christian roots are pagan?

Christians must acknowledge that arguments that point out the similarities are logical and that one can look at the facts and surmise that Christianity is simply a new form of paganism. However, it is just as logical to look at the similarities and suggest that Christianity fulfills paganism. That the ubiquitousness of religion and its cycles of mysteries and beliefs---rather than invalidate and disprove religion--does quite the opposite. These repeated similar beliefs, known in all languages, all geographical areas of the world, all time periods, all phases of evolution and development of civilization rather prove something... There is A TRUTH they are pointing to....

We can look at these facts and logically, reasonably surmise that these all came from an original source. And Christianity claims that original source.

"In the fullness of time" Christ came and fulfilled it all. He was what these promises, recycled and corrupted as they were by different societies, were pointing to.

To my Protestant Friends: 

Please, be mindful of suggesting that Catholicism is wrong and erroneous because their rites and rituals look similar to paganism. If you use the logic that, "if it is similar to paganism" and predates Catholicism therefore, it is then evil or sinful, you have just cut your own throat.  You certainly can say that because Christmas trees began in Druid homes, therefore it is evil to have Christmas trees, but then you must logically say that if Druids prayed then it must be evil to pray.

To have a clear and coherent argument you must prove the intrinsic evilness of an action rather than a comparative argument such "since jailbird Billy grew up reading The Hardy Boys series, therefore the Hardy Boys series are evil and we should not allow our children to read them." That is a lose-lose argument for the Christian.

Look at the above list. All of these religious beliefs and practices predated Christianity and all were used in polytheistic worship. So if Catholicism is evil for similar worship, anyone else's worship that looks similar is also. That logic can be used to prove Protestantism is ALSO based in paganism.

Paganism was the mimic, the distorted mirror of an ancient truth.... a truth that came to its climax, its actualization in Christ.

We do not let go of the doctrine, the rites because they have been fulfilled. They were NEVER wrong--but were corrupted by the evil one so that the form would be deflected into false worship. Now our worship--of prayers, holy days, prophecies, etc. are fully realized and made perfect through the Savior.

Sourced from these classes I took:
The History of Ancient Rome by Dr. Garrett G. Fagan, Pennsylvania State University
Christian History by Michael Voris, St. Michael's Ministries
Early Christianity: The Experience of the Divine, Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson, Emory University
The Story of the Bible: Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson, Emory University
The Early Middle Ages: Dr. Philip Daileader, College of William and Mary
From Jesus to Constantine: A History of the Early Church, Dr. Bart Erman, UNC Chapel Hill
The History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon, Dr. Bart Erman, UNC Chapel Hill


Still said...


You made interesting points. What I would say is that the fact there are many religions in the world proves that there is a religious dimension in man that creates a spiritual thirst and that spiritual thirst has to be quenched.

In the same manner that our physical thirst "proves" that something exists "out there" to satisfy it, our spiritual thirst "proves" that there is a spiritual realm "out there".

But in the same manner as someone can satisfy his thirst with the wrong liquid (strong alcohol for example), one can seek to satisfy a spiritual thirst with the wrong spiritual beverage.

If we consider Catholicism, if there are many similarities with pagan religious it is not by chance. It is because it has deliberately taken them from paganism.

For example, Christmas is no accident. The date chosen by the Church for the supposed date of birth of Christ is no accident. But do we find Christmas in the Bible? No.

You spoke about the Christmas tree. Yes, you're right, it was used by druids and we shouldn't have them in our house for religious purposes.

Where you are wrong in your reasoning is when you spoke about prayers. Yes, the druids prayed but there is nothing wrong with praying. What is wrong is when you pray to the wrong god (in fact, even if you pray to God for the wrong motives, it is wrong).

The problem with the druids were that they were not praying God and that they had practices that were not good. They were dealing with idols and demons.

For Christians, the fact of using Christmas trees (having a pagan meaning) to celebrate a pagan holy day (25 of December) is not a good thing. As it is written:

"From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves." (1 Thes 5:22 from the Douay-Rheims Bible)

It is even worse when we say it is the birth of Christ.

Same thing with Easter. We want to say it is a Christian celebration but its name (coming either from the goddess Ä’ostre or Astarte/Ishtar) the use of rabbits or eggs say it all.

Do we think that the presence of eggs and rabbits (in chocolate or not) during Easter is an accident? We know that they are pagan symbols of fertility (and Astarte is a goddess of fertility). And we know that eggs and rabbits don't appear in any celebration in the Bible.

You said that "Paganism was the mimic, the distorted mirror of an ancient truth.... a truth that came to its climax, its actualization in Christ."

Well, it is not correct. Paganism is about worshiping the creatures. Christianity is about worshiping the true God. It has always been the goal of Satan to take the focus of mankind away from God. The best way to do that is by showing people visual supports (statuses, images,...) that would capture their imagination away from God. This is why Satan gave people idols and this is why God is against idols and this is why God is a God that you cannot see.

So we have to recognize that many things in the Christian church came from paganism and that it was not by chance but were introduced within Christianity for different reasons (for example, some people entered the church but were still pagan at heart; or the church tried to be more appealing to the pagans; or some Christians were attracted and seduced by pagan philosophies...). But whatever the reason, it was (and still is ) used by the enemy of our souls to drive us away from the pure doctrine of Christ.

Teresa Beem said...

Scholars today recognize that the day early Christians chose to celebrate Christ's birth was not based in paganism but on other calculations...(Jewish prophet myths... calculations of when Mary met Elizabeth...)

At that time there was no pagan ritual celebration on Dec. 24/25. It was only after Christians observed this time that later pagans wanted to usurp it with a pagan celebration of their own. I believe I read where scholars found the fifth or sixth century AD when a pagan rite was introduced on Dec. 24/25.... Look into it.

Also, I think you missed where I said, that we have to look at the rite itself to see if it is intrinsically wrong. Praying isn't wrong--but to whom you pray makes the difference. Worship isn't wrong--but to whom you worship makes the difference.

There is nothing at all wrong with cutting down a tree and putting it in your home to celebrate Christ's birth any more than it is wrong to place flowers on the grave of a loved one. (This was an ancient pagan practice.) We, as Christians need to quit cowering at the feet of paganism.... Remember the prophecy in the garden where the woman will crush the serpents head! We are victors! We do not have to worry about mimicking paganism! ALL good comes from God! If it is good--do it to the glory of God!

If the act is intrinsically wrong... don't do it.... That is one difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. We embrace ALL God has given as good. We take the glory and beauty of the world (even if other religions discovered it before Christianity was around) and use ALL the goodness of God's creation to glorify him. We are not bound to fear. We, like Paul, know that it is not sin if it comes from love.

Courage! Man of God and fear not! God has given us the victory over sin and evil. We can walk in the light of His glory!

Mike Senseney said...

Hi Teresa,

A very good post, as usual!

I'm reminded of 1Tim.4:1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

God bless all!!!