The Inevitability of Scripture

Star Foster at Patheos has a new article titled “The Inevitability of Scripture: The Challenge of Authority and the Promise of Tradition.” She makes a logical case that there will be Pagan scripture someday, but ultimately I think she’s wrong.
Her argument goes something like this: Pagans need the authority and consistency that only scripture gives, Pagans have already given authority to authors, eventually Pagans will select certain texts to “slowly form a set of scriptures and commentary, much like Judaism.”
A lot of people have compared today’s Paganism to first-century Christianity, including me. But that comparison only goes so far. The volume of written works is thousands of times greater today – there is little mystery around the written word, and there is no need to slavishly copy a few books and letters. While I think all inspiration is Divine, no Pagan books are thought to be direct revelations from God/dess (it’s my amateur opinion that few if any writers of the Bible thought they were writing scripture, and many would be shocked at the way their words are used today). Essentially, the conditions necessary for canonizing certain writings as scripture don’t exist in our world.
Some books will stand the test of time and will become classics – a few already are. But can you ever envision someone swearing an oath on a copy of Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner or Drawing Down the Moon?
Star acknowledges that Paganism is very diverse, individualistic and anti-authoritarian, and that this limits our ability to come together to form a unified, powerful Pagan community. My opinion is that while this may point toward a need for scripture, it’s yet another reason why we’ll never have it.
I touched on this two weeks ago in a blog post on the future of Pagan leadership. The second generation of Pagan leaders have been authors. But the spread of Paganism and the explosion of the internet have further decentralized what was already a pretty scattered group. Our future is as a collection of individuals who form families of Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, UU Pagans and other flavors, and who occasionally work together in a loose confederation called Paganism.
As much as I like organization and structure, I think our decentralized, organic approach is better. As soon as you establish scripture, myths stop evolving and morals become frozen in time. Our world is changing too fast – our religion has to keep up with it.
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  • >As soon as you establish scripture, myths stop evolving and morals become frozen in time. Our world is changing too fast – our religion has to keep up with it.

    Oooh…this is ringing so very true in my ears at the moment. Let me take in my daily morning ritual of walking past the horses and cows while enjoying the sun…and I'll be back with a little more thought on my perspective for this. 🙂 /|

  • All right John — I said I would be back after I had pondered it a bit…

    This idea of Pagan scripture…it doesn't add up for me. Again, just my own perspective here. Pagan authors, for me, don't represent a dogmatic, rigid structure to what they present. Its a framework of what worked for them — or in some instances, of what worked for the people that they interviewed for their book.

    For me, the concept of Scripture sets up a lot like programming code. It presents belief in the form of If-Then-Else statements — where the particular notation is trapped in the If-Then loop until an a particular equation is satisfied and the thought is allowed to move forward into the next set of coded statement until a final result gets realized.

    For my mind, Paganism is much freer than that. Its a set of values that are set to the individual, wrapped throughout a set of experiences that, while shared, can produce varied results from individual to individual. Once a formulatic approach is attached to those experiences (where an individual must continually repeat the experiential aspect until a particular result is derived from it), the "juice" of the experience is sucked out. This, again from my perspective, sucks the life out of the belief system — and starts to approach the idea of assembly-line religion.

    In essence (and if any of this makes sense to anyone reading it) — when I hear the concept of "Scripture" bandied about for Paganism's future…I see the beauty of what makes Paganism what it is being sucked right out of it. It loses the beauty of experiencing Life and interpreting those experiences for the individual — and starts to resemble a stamping press, where everything created looks, acts, and feels the same.