This week at Ratio Christi, we discuss Paganism, Wicca, and other similar religions and belief systems.
We are a club promoting thoughtful Christianity, so why would we look into and discuss other beliefs like Paganism?
We encounter many people on and off campus who believe VERY different things. If we want to engage in meaningful conversations with them, it helps to know a little about what they might believe. I say, “we should love our neighbor enough to think through their questions before they ask them.” This allows us to fulfil the charge in 1 Peter 3:15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect“.
Gentleness comes from being prepared and not being defensive. The respect comes from not creating a straw man of their beliefs.
Therefore, our goals for this meeting are to answer the following questions:
- What do Pagans, Wiccans, etc believe?
- Are there any hot-button differences with Christianity that will quickly shut down conversation?
- Are there areas where we might easily engage in thoughtful conversation?
We are not afraid of conflict, but leaning hard into the differences will likely end any lengthy conversation.
Likewise, we don’t want to exclusively discuss similarities as if there are no significant differences.
Let curiosity be your guide in getting to know someone’s beliefs, and focus on clarity before agreement.
What do Pagans believe?
From the Pagan Federation International, here are three main principles and characteristics of Pagan belief systems.
The Pagan outlook can be seen as threefold. Its adherents venerate Nature and worship many deities, both goddesses and gods.https://www.paganfederation.org/what-is-paganism/
- Nature: The spirit of place is recognized in Pagan religion, whether as a personified natural feature such as a mountain, lake or spring, or as a fully articulated guardian divinity such as, for example, Athena, the goddess of Athens. The cycle of the natural year, with the different emphasis brought by its different seasons, is seen by most Pagans as a model of spiritual growth and renewal, and as a sequence marked by festivals which offer access to different divinities according to their affinity with different times of year.
- Many gods and goddesses: The many deities of Paganism are a recognition of the diversity of Nature. Some Pagans see the goddesses and gods as a community of individuals much like the diverse human community in this world. Others, such as followers of Isis and Osiris from ancient times onwards, and Wiccan-based Pagans in the modern world, see all the goddesses as one Great Goddess, and all the gods as one Great God, whose harmonious interaction is the secret of the universe.
- The Goddess: Pagan religions all recognize a feminine face of divinity. A religion without goddesses can hardly be classified as Pagan.
Of course there is much more to learn about Paganism, but these main points are enough for us to discuss our second question.
Are there any hot-button differences with Christianity that will quickly shut down conversation?
- Christianity is clearly monotheistic in contrast to Paganism.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.Deuteronomy 6:4
- The Judeo-Christian charge to “subdue the Earth” is in direct conflict to any practice of worshipping the earth, nature, or stars.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”Genesis 1:28
- Masculine names like God the Father and God the Son are a clear conflict with the Pagan’s feminine face of divinity.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
The point is not to avoid discussing these differences, but rather to know that these are conversational mine fields that need to be approached carefully.
Let’s look at some topics that may allow a thoughtful conversation with a Pagan or Wiccan friend or colleague.
Are there areas where we might easily engage in thoughtful conversation?
Although the topic of the value (or divinity in their eyes) of nature is a topic of strong disagreement between Pagans and Christians, this might still be an area of fruitful conversation. Here’s why:
The Christian doctrine of “subdue” is also a command to “tend and care for” nature.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.Genesis 2:15
It is very important to the Christian that this was before the Fall of man into sin. Even in the perfect paradise of Eden, there was a caretaker role for mankind. A mutually-beneficial relationship existed between mankind and nature that was ruined by man’s rebellious actions.
So when a Pagan friend laments at what “we” have done to the Earth, we can agree wholeheartedly. We can’t agree to worship nature, but we can agree that “we” have the role of caretaker and steward of our natural environment.
The Bible talks about creation groaning for the day when the Lord will set things right.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.Romans 8:19-21
Of course, Revelation talks about that day when the Lord will make all things new, again.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”Revelation 21:1-4
The Orderliness of the Universe
I think an excellent avenue for discussion with a Pagan friend or relative would be this question:
Do the orderly and complex features of creation reflect a singular orderly engineer or a chaotic battle of multiple gods? By looking around, which seems more likely?
Yes, there is a fair bit of chaos in the world, but I’m constantly struck by the absolutely astounding orderliness of the stars, planets, seasons, life, death, rebirth, water cycle, carbon cycle, Krebs cycle, and on and on. We, being made in God’s image, can see and appreciate the engineering marvels of the Master Engineer.
The world does not seem to be “made by a committee” of gods.
I think this would be a great avenue of conversation with a polytheist.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.Psalm 19:1-2
If you are ever on the SHSU Campus on Monday Nights at 5:30 PM, drop by the Chemistry and Forensic Science Building Room 123 to join us in our discussions.
God bless you and keep you and give you peace.