Pagan Christianity

The insightful Carl Olson posts here on a new (yet wearingly old) attempt to discredit the established churches because their origins are pagan. This time the attack comes not from your polyester suit fundamentalists, but from some hip and groovy ’emergent church’ types. Think Chick tract in jeans and T-shirt with a iPod. Olson’s post refers you to a guy called Witherington, a proper Protestant historian who critiques the new book.

I have posted before on the problem of primitivism: the idea that the church should return to some golden age where everything was hunky dory. Some Protestants like to imagine that the ‘early church’ was the pure church and that it should be reproduced. The problem is, they can never agree on what the early church was actually like, and even if they could, they could never agree on how it should be reproduced. “Shall all the women and men sit in separate sections, the women with their heads covered?” Amish say ‘yes’ others say ‘no’. 
The other problem with Protestant primitivists is that they are either ignorant of, or deliberately ignore the early church documents we do have. Since one of their assumptions is sola Scriptura they don’t read Didache, Protoevangelium of James, Shepherd of Hermas, Epistle of Clement etc etc even for the information they contain about the early church.
Finally, they ignore the obvious that when Christianity did actually adopt the pagan festival dates, pagan customs and pagan worship sites they did so to replace them and show that they were defeated forever. A case in point it the ancient church of the Pantheon in Rome. It was once a temple dedicated to all the gods. Now it is a church dedicated to All Saints.
Anyhow, read Olson’s post and link to Witherington’s if you’re interested. I am.

"Catholicism has always defined the ideal but there are no limits on God's mercy and ..."

Tony Palmer: Is There Salvation Outside ..."
"With all due respect, Shaun, are you relegating the actual Faith to whatever the local ..."

Notes on Tony Palmer’s Funeral
"There are good parking valets and bad parking valets. There are good housesitters and bad ..."

The Case for Conversion to Catholicism
"did you vote for Bush Fr Longenecker? would you have?"

Understanding Iraq

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Not did, Catholic Christianity still does adopts the pagan festival dates, pagan customs and pagan worship sites. Sacrosanctum Concilium reads:”Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples’ way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible preserves intact” (Article 37).As John Martin would say, Catholics “baptize” the prevalent culture rather than convert it to its own norms. I think its great because its not so ethnocentric.

  • Ooh, just like those crazy people who say Halloween is a pagan festival. They always present some ridiculous piece of historical “evidence” that reveals 1) that they have no idea about the real historical origins of the American holiday, 2) that they have an EXTREMELY strange idea of what sort of things Roman pagans did and what gods they worshiped, 3) they throw their brains out the window in their willingness to believe that some sort of devil worship has continued (only one day a year, no less) for more than 2000 years, and 4) that they are far more willing to believe that they could be tricked into worshiping demons by a couple of pieces of candy than they are to believe in a God they profess is all-powerful.I have always been mystified by people who have a crisis of faith when they find out that this or that holiday was celebrated hundreds or thousands of years ago by pagans. I guess that is because I am a Catholic and I don’t see any harm in it, while they are usually Protestants who need to feel that they are different from “the world” and are looking for evil everywhere. I think it must be a sad thing to be so fearful all the time.

  • Beware simplistic arguments that the Church’s feasts were simply plucked out of thin air to correspond with pagan precursors. We creatures don’t “baptize” anything, our Creator set the moon and sun revolving in the heavens. The Christian calendar is a peculiar thing, unlike the other great monotheistic faiths of the Hebrews and the Mohammedans, it is NOT based on the moon to record the passage of time, but rather the sun, a most irregular scientific conundrum that gave us the Julian reforms to the Gregorian dates of Roman origin. If we were so inclined, Catholics could excoriate any number of “backwards” political societies who stuck with the Julian scheme way past its “sell-by-date” out of sheer bloody-mindedness! Modern historians still have to calibrate documents written after the reformation during the centuries leading up to the American Declaration of Independence in order to match the dates to correspond with the actual events. I posted more on this topic a couple of years ago” on the occasion of the Elx Mystery play in Spain, Mary’s Assumption (aka Dormition of the Theotokos in the Eastern rites) celebrated on 8-15 a date settled on very early by Syrian Christians not European pagans (Gallican monastics favored a date in January modeled on Egyptian-styled observances) The date of Christmas is biblical, based on Zechariah’s temple service… the commemoration of Easter is based on Passover, while the Marian feasts have no corresponding pagan models…God Bless Clare Krishan

  • Is that Barna, as in Barna research?Which recently found that Evangelical youth are fornicating at higher rates than their heathen peers, True Love Waits rings notwithstanding. Paul’s wrangling with the Corinthians show widespread immorality and fornicating as a pagan practice…so Evangelical fornicators are PAGAN!!!!Wedding rings are pagan but even JWs and fundies use them.Christmas Trees are pagan.The word Easter is pagan, and not used universally in the Catholic world–mostly Anglo Saxon world. Most places use “Feast of the Resurrection.”Big whoop. Circumcision and meat sacrificed to idols. Same stuff, different day.You can’t violate your conscience and worship the devil without your knowledge, will, and consent.To the pure all things are pure.