Sunday, December 21, 2014

“A New Pagan Era”

When it comes down to it, there are only two worldviews, according to Peter Jones (“One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference – Romans 1 for the Twenty-first Century”, Escondido, CA: Main Entry Editions, 2010). For simplicity’s sake, he identifies these simply as “One-ism” and “Two-ism”. The chart here (which I have modified somewhat) should be familiar to most Reformed readers. It illustrates how these worldviews line up:

Jones calls it “A New Pagan Era” and he lists “esoteric spirituality” “of all kinds” which are “available to all”. Among these are: “Alchemy, American Indian Vision Quest, Ancient Mythology, Arkashite Record, Aryuvedic Medicine, Astrology, Baha’i Unity, Buddhism, Buddhist/Christian Dialogue, Chakras, Channeling, Christian Monastic Mysticism, Crystals, Divination, Dream work, Druidism, Eastern Meditation, Eckankar (soul travel), Ecofeminism, Enneagram, EST, Feng Shui, Gnosticism (ancient and modern), Goddess worship, Hare Krishna, Hermeticism, Higher Self, Hinduism, Holism, Human Potential Movement, Hypnosis, I Ching, Iridology, Jungian Transpersonal Psychology, Kabbalah, Karma, Mandalas, Mantras, Mind-altering drugs, Neopaganism, Numerology, Occult, Pantheism, Paranormal, Parapsychology, Past Life Regressions, Reiki, Re-incarnation, Religious syncretism, Rolfing, Sacred Technologies, Santeria, Scientology, Shamanism, Sufism, T’ai Chi, Tantrism, Tarot Cards, Teilhardism, Therapeutic Touch, Tikkun, Transcendental Meditation, Ufology, Urantia Book, Visualisation, Wicca, Yoga, Zen” (pg 40-41). “The list could be much longer”, he says.

The worldview clash is clear—the Revealed Religion of the Bible against the occultist Perennial Philosophy of Religions Naturalism. Biblical Two-ism clashes with esoteric spirituality, which claims both the democratic right influence public policy and the ideological right to silence and the traditional view as “hate speech”.

In primitive cultures, Paganism has been practiced for millennia in its animist/spiritist forms. Its more subtle but more virulent form is perhaps found in the US, where it has been spruced up an ingeniously promoted by intellectuals and civic leaders with a fully developed ideology for the global future. America once sent educated missionaries of the Christian gospel. Now it sends graduates of “metaphysical spirituality” courses to promote a profoundly anti-Christian spiritual message.

As the Christian worldview is marginalized, it is ancient paganism, not secular humanism, that rises up to supplant it. This is the future we face: the Lie gussied up as the only true answer to both the planet’s physical woes and to our highest spiritual aspirations. The urgency to create a utopian planet is driven by prophecies of cataclysmic natural disasters such as glogalwarming, which, in light of an embarrassing cooling trend, has been renamed “climate change” (pg. 41).

He describes these as “sacred canopies” in our world, the Christian “Two-ism” worldview having now become something of a pariah in a “One-ism” world. These are “two mutually exclusive faiths (pg. 65, emphasis in the original), “If one is true, the other must be false”.

Sacred canopies are chosen by general consent, and presupposed as true. Replacing them usually involves conflict. Gideon discovered that, when, under cover of darkness, he tore down the sacred canopy of Baalism that had been erected by his own father. Radical progressives have been working in the night of our present spiritual and moral crisis to replace our canopy, stretching out over our culture a new pagan canopy that asks us to accept the idealistic notion of a this-worldy utopian future.

There is a reason why I placed Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy into the right-hand column. Some time ago, I wrote an article entitled “Aquinas, “existence”, and the failure to observe the Creator-creature distinction”. This distinction is the key distinction between the two columns.

Some time ago, I wrote a series of blog posts in which I identified Pope Ratzinger as a panentheist. That did not go over well in some quarters. But Pope Ratzinger at the time was clearly citing “Teilhardism” and its “omega-point” in this article. And of course, in his “Called to Communion” he outlines this, with Christians being “inserted into Christ and united with him as a single subject” and a “fusion into unity with him”. This is Greek thinking, not the thinking of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is not the “union with Christ” of which Paul speaks.

Yes, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy both begin with an orthodox “doctrine of God”. But through their doctrines of “theosis”, “deification”, and in the Roman Catholic case, Ratzinger’s “fusion” and the official Roman doctrine of the “ongoing incarnation of Christ”, these also move in the direction of the “One-ism” on the right.

In the underlying philosophy, (and it’s unfortunate that the same words are used to mean two different things – but that’s equivocation for you!), there is a “Great Chain of Being” in which God [who turns out to be “not the Christian God”] is simply “pure being” as opposed to sin, “non-being”. Man is somewhere in the middle, pulled in both directions. “The Greeks often expressed their view of the world in terms of the Great Chain of Being. The concept was brought into Christian theology through Thomas Aquinas [relying on Pseudo-Dionysius], as well as others who tried to combine Greek philosophy with Christian theology.”

Jones does call all of this “the Lie” (from Romans 1): “A stark contrast between two types of Gods”. And of course, Paul diagnosed all of this back in 55 AD:

The worship of creation is our [human] attempt to fill the gaping hole made by our refusal to worship the true God, who created all things. In Romans 1:18-20, Paul makes a series of earth-shaking statements about human beings who stand before the Creator. They know God, but “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” about Him (v 18). They know God because “what can be known about God is plain … in the things that have been made” (vv 19-20). They know God exists and long to connect with him and the evidence of His creative handiwork…

Paul urges the Christians living in Rome (la citta eterna) to understand the profound difference between the Christian faith they have espoused and their old pagan ways. There are only two kinds of god we can worship and serve: the gods we create or the God who creates us. (99-100).

As Machen said: “One attribute of God is abundantly fundamental in the Bible … in order to render intelligible all the rest. That attribute is the awful transcendence of God. It is true, indeed, that not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him. But He is immanent in the world not because He is identified with the world, but because He is the free Creator and upholder of it. Between the creature and the Creator a great gulf is fixed.”

The Christian response to all of this, of course, is not “erasing the distinctions between creatures and their Creator, but by reconciling those creatures with the Creator”.

Jones’s advice? “To the rising generation of Christians who may read this book, and to Christians generally, I can only exhort you, as Paul did, not to be conformed to this intimidating world, but, in detecting its One-ist blur, to discern the will of God through the clarity of holy living and transformed Two-ist thinking”.

Romans 1-3 contains the diagnosis. Romans 4-16 provides the solution.

See more on this topic here.


  1. Jones is too inclusive. There is nothing "new" in his list that did not exist earlier in germ form.

    1. He's correctly identified what we're facing in the culture. Of course it's not "new". It's ancient paganism revisited.