“Paganism”, the Aboriginal family of religions of Europe and Mideast, is nearly extinct.
At the time of Christ, it included a strong element of true and false, good and evil. They knew about personal sin, but not about forgiveness, redemption, salvation.
You could almost say they were pre-Christians. They accurately knew the question, the diagnosis, but not the answer, or the cure. They were ready for evangelism.
Unfortunately people throw the word pagan around loosely now. They apply it in the New Age Spirituality, or to any kind of anti Christian conversion movement. Now and then reporters cover some “pagan” ritual on campus or somewhere, which has nothing to do with real Paganism.
Chesterton wrote that Paganism was the biggest thing in the world prior to Christianity, since then everything has been little.
Paganism is dead today, it’s the little things that are growing.
Read “The Everlasting Man” by GKC.
“Paganism was the largest thing in the world and Christianity was larger; and everything else has been comparatively small.”
Chesterton/THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND CONVERSION, chap. IV, “The World Inside Out”, last sentence.
So where does the Pentecostalism come in?
The modern Pentecostal movement began around 1900. It has always been decentralized. For instance, the largest “denomination”, is not the Assembly of God, but Assemblies of God.
In spite of occasional divergence on some matters, for decades they operated within the conservative parameters of evangelicalism (with exceptions).
In recent decades, evangelicalism has gotten looser, and Pentecostalism more so. Today you can be pro life, or pro abortion, and still be Pentecostal (though some groups are solidly prolife).
So some of Pentecostal growth comes from genuine evangelism; some from “sheep-stealing” from Catholicism; and some from admitting more types of people, without requiring change.
Pentecostalism is an exciting religion. It runs on high emotion and the sensation that one is filled with the Holy Spirit. There is singing and dancing and a loose structure to worship and a sense of community.
Paganism is an exotic and primitive religion. It appeals to people who imagine themselves as keepers of the Old Ways, and has no real moral code and makes the mundane lives of boring middle class people seem more adventurous.
This is true for some. But some Pentecostal groups like the Assemblies of God stood by the Catholic Church when we were getting slammed by Obama. There is a solid core there, though I am not sure if it will stay solid long term.
When I was in the Catholic Charismatic movement around 1980, I sometimes visited the nearby Assemblies of God Church. The pastor was a very effective preacher, not only in style and delivery but also in content. He constantly emphasized what CS Lewis called Mere Christianity, the common doctrines for all Christians.
This was at a time when the diocese, and nearby parishes, were pushing the peace and Justice position of the Democratic party and secular media, and no doctrine.
When the Pentecostals did “Communion service” it was more reverent, more focused on the Crucifixion, our sin, and forgiveness, than the nearby Masses. People actually cried.
But the RCC is “self” correcting, though not really “self”. The liturgical abuses disappeared. Most liberal clergy died, with no young replacements. Some doctrinal priests emerged. I knew this would happen, so I stayed RCC.
Protestantism is not self correcting.
This is true of what people now call Paganism, deeply affected by modernism, at least in the West.
The unrelated, ancient religion called Paganism had definite moral codes, and openness to Reason. The tiny minority of ancient pagans who were educated sometimes produced writings that, with caution, could be incorporated into Christian philosophy.
LOL modern Pagans seem to be very influenced by high-fantasy settings and superhero movies with a skosh of back-to-natureism.
I’ve read some of the old Greek and Roman philosophers (Im especially fond of Marcus Aurelius). They had a very precise way of looking at the world and the nature of reality . The Hippocratic oath forbade abortion.
St Paul met some violent, evil pagans but also some philosophers in Athens. Can you imagine if he had to visit a modern university, with highly restrictive Free Speech Zones?
From satire FIRE:
“The Georgetown Heckler humor magazine says a lot about campus culture with very few words in its satirical “Other Headlines” section this month: University Moves Free Speech Zone to Undisclosed Location That about sums it up!”
Or completely nonsensical rubbish that says it is the ‘Old Ways’. Witness people saying they are ‘Druids’. Whilst true in one sense there is no way any one can claim to be a Druid with the training or role these individuals had in the societies where they are referenced in myth or legend and quite a lot of this nonsense about them in the modern era can be attributed to people like Iolo Morganwg and those who imbibed the mostly invented stuff he came up with. Mix that up with, as noted, a spot fantasy games inspired stuff and similar sources and some of it looks remarkably silly. There are pagan groups that are of course more serious out there but a lot of people are playing with it to make mundane live seem exciting or to appear different.
I read somewhere that in the pagan days, Druids had to memorize incredibly large amounts of lore—myths and law and medicine etc — and it took them years of intensive training.
Yes, that’s referenced in a lot of the old sagas. Although their exact standing seems to go up and down. But in pre-Christian society is was at the top end of society.
I’m surprised that Fr Longnecker didn’t reference the most number one of all aspects of worship of the supernatural and that is its roots in unity. The pagans seemed to innately recognise that the supernatural gods commune with people through tribal-ness. Jesus made mention of such an idea when He said that when 2 or 3 gathered in His name He was there with them.
It therefore stands that to be a true pagan is to put your tribal identity above your individual or biologcal family identity for the purpose of communing with the deities.
Modern ‘pagans’ seem to more motivated by having a personal experience or gaining personal fulfillment and it seems that that motivates pentacostalism as well. That strong sense of getting personal satisfaction from worship rather than seeing any value in a tribal identity as hosting communion with the supernatural deity.
Pope St John Paul II made reference to such in Crossing the Threshhold of Hope when he recognised that ancestor worship among animists, sort of pre figures the timeless unity Catholics understand in the Communion of Saints.
Modern pagans and also lots of Christians defacto, seek to experience God/god inside themselves and their own experiences. They even state they shun the idea of unity with the motley crew of their tribesman (ie all Gods children) as causing them personal distraction from god inside their own experience.
The irony of God is that to have communion with Him we MUST make our unity with all His people top priority and be our prime identity.
LOL at this.
It’s very deep in our fallen nature to see ourselves as super-speshul.
Interesting, thank you
They also performed human sacrifice - we have good archaeological evidence of this.
(But that part gets swept under the rug by modern-day “Druids”)
Less and less swept under the rug. Modern druids call it “pro choice”.