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