Taming the Human Desire to Own the Means of Grace

Good Morning!

To get back a little on track with our conversation about the rise of paganism in the twenty-first century we need to ask the question why, why is it growing, why are we even talking about it? It seems like secularism, atheism, and other concepts of life which do not include the spiritual dimension would be more worth our time. There is some truth to that, but in some sense it is important that we not give the atheists any room to put forward the idea that there is no God. They are a bit of a curiosity, kind of like the old freak shows at the carnival. Worth the odd look, but gawking at their screaming into the void gets a little discourteous. The kind of thing where you can feel your grandma give a scowl of disproval if you go around them too much.

Dealing with men and women seeking the devilish blindness of pagan spirituality, whatever form it may take, is where the church, and her leaders need to be focusing at this moment.

If you do any reading into the presence of pagan stuff it seems to primarily be the realm of rich, suburban, white women. This is especially the case when you think of the Celtic stuff which is particularly popular today. However, we would be doing a disservice to the widespread existence of these things in nearly every demographic in our great nation. When asked why many engage in it a Ms. Helen Berger, an academic who studies things recounts:

“The religion is individualistic in many ways,” Berger told me. “You can do your own thing. It’s not signing on to an institutional religion. It’s not signing on to a set of actions or beliefs that you must adhere to.” 

Yet, like most idiosyncratic ideas people who think they are being unique often are just following the whims of the mob. It’s like churches who claim they are doing worship like it’s been never done before and are in the meantime observing the same customs as thousands of big-box non-denom congregations around the world. There is no more unity than can be found in folks who think they are standing out from the crowd. As with most idolatry the quotation above highlights the main problem we are dealing with in pagan spirituality, and that is who gets to be God. When Elijah is dealing with the prophets of Ba’al he often points to the reality that the false prophets themselves are the puppeteers through which their god dances. They create their own illusions by the delusions of personal power. They are a law unto themselves.

In the article linked above the author makes a connection between Wicca and quantum entanglement. I am not going to pretend to try and understand what the latter means. I largely went into the ministry because I was bad at math and figured out pretty quick that engineering was not the path forward. The heart was willing, but the mind was weak. However, the way it is being used here is to describe the interactions, or energies, that objects can and do share with one another. It would be engaging in an ancient heresy called Gnosticism to refuse to recognize that there is some truth to these ideas. That’s the thing about pagan spirituality. Like everything else in the world they have to borrow from the truth of the living God in order to create their false ideas of divine presence. We most certainly believe that all things involve the Lord, we deny that the Lord is in all things. That’s panentheism. The unity which exists between objects, individuals, and the Creator is not in the sharing of atoms or essence, but in purpose. All things are made to bring glory unto Jehovah. It makes sense then that when we are around people, places, or things which are manifestly against His goodness that it does have a mystical effect on human beings. Paul warns us against having anything to do with the wicked works of darkness for this very reason. There is a realness to the spiritual belongings of things made.

Another thing from the article worth mentioning, and we will spend more time on this next week, is the way the author speaks of the association between folk religion and modern pagan concepts of worship and life. I have heard Carl Trueman say on a number of occasions that your local Presbyterian minister in Scotland in the seventeenth century was less worried about you running off to get secret mass from a Roman Catholic priest than he was about you doing the same with the old lady who knew the “ancient ways” to get the young lass you fancy to marry you. Part of the reason why paganism is growing is from a lack of faith and trust in the means of God’s grace to provide us what we need, and that comes from the fact that men and women don’t want what the Lord wants. It is not any more complicated than that. The reason why Ahab was uninterested in the counsel of Jehoshaphat’s prophet is because he told Ahab things that pricked the conscience of the king of Israel. Life is so much easier when you are the one discerning what is right and good in your own eyes. Never being wrong has its privileges to be sure. Yet, the king with fine robes is still naked, even the kids know that.

As we consider all these matters which we’ve talked about this morning, it can be easy to see why folks are drawn to pagan ideas, whether they be named that or not. The more difficult question is why if people are looking for spiritual answers why does the Church of Jesus Christ, the very kingdom of the living God, struggle so much to help them find what they are seeking?

Inward reflection is no more fun for us than it was for Ahab, but if we want Ahab’s reward we’ll continue to act like Ahab. From where I stand there are two reasons, and given space we’ll have to wait till later for more expansion on the points raised. First of all, the Church struggles because we ourselves too often long after pagan solutions to our own trials. Whether that be the bottle or the psychological wisdom of men, we are given over to it just as easily. We lack trust in the given word and the offered power of the Holy Spirit to bring us peace. Second, we want to use the place gifted and granted to us in God’s kingdom for our own power. Christ’s example of serving rather than being served would be a helpful corrective to both of these issues.

In closing, as we continue to grapple with pagan spirituality and the response we as the redeemed children of the Lamb are to give our first rejoinder should begin with reformation and revival in our own camp, followed with prayer, and a personal witness to the beauty of the gospel. We can’t expect others to be won to the King if we ourselves are not living that life in ourselves.

One more thought:

https://www.geneva.edu/blog/uncategorized/reflection-for-spiritual-growth-1-19-17

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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