Thursday, March 01, 2007

What do you say to a Neo-Pagan?

Wednesday before last (2/21/07), I followed up my teaching on Unitarianism (see my blog post here) with an interactive teaching on Neo-Paganism (listen to the audio here). Below is the outline from our study:

What do you say to a Neo-Pagan?
JPBC February 21, 2007
Jeff Riddle

I. Definitions and Background:

II. Two main categories:
1. Reconstructionists: "Pre-Christian."

2. Modernists: "Post-Christian."

III. Historical Background:

1. Religion before the time of Christ.

2. The triumph of Christianity (see Acts 14:8-20; 17:22-34; 19:23-28; Letter of Pliny).

3. Julian the Apostate, ruled Rome 361-63.

4. The long slumber of Paganism.

5. American Primitivism.

a. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82).
b. Henry David Thoreau (1817-62).
6. British Romanticism.

7. The 1960s.

8. Living in a Post-Christian world.

IV. Beliefs:

1. Worship of Nature: Pantheism, Panentheism, Animism

2. Man is divine.

3. Presumed superiority of pre-Christian religions to Christianity.

V. What do you say to a Neo-Pagan?

1. If Paganism was such a superior religion/spirituality why do you think Christianity was able to spread so widely, so quickly in the ancient world?

2. Is modern Neo-Paganism anything like ancient paganism?
3. How do the capricious ancient gods compare with the God of the Bible?

4. If everyone creates his own gods, what happens to order in life and society?

5. What does the Bible say about stewardship of the earth?

VI. Closing thoughts:

1. The example of Athenagoras (c. 133-190) and his "Plea for Christians."

2. G. K. Chesterton: "When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing—they believe in anything."
Note: We only made it through point III the first night. I finished off the outline last night (2/28/07) but did not get it recorded. We got a little giddy in discussing some of the bizarre aspects of Neo-Paganism but tried to bring it around to the serious and sobering realities at the end. Last night we began our study by reading this humbling passage from Paul:
NKJ 1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

1 comment:

Lonnie said...

Obviously I disagree with some of your points, however I do appreciate that you obviously took time to research the Neopagan movement.

I do agree that it has many roots in the Romantic periods and within the Transcendentalist movement, and I'm glad that you got that right. I should add though, that there are also surviving traditions of mesopagans as well, and surviving native traditions.

Also, a point that I think you were mistaken on is that the Neopagan movement had its origins in the 1960's. While certainly some of that counter culture influenced it, it was around long before then. What if I told you that there were neopagans in Charlottesville in the 1940's? In fact, one of the early groups in our area was established by a guy named Gleb Botkin, who was the son of the Tzar's Physician. There are also other older movements, including the one Yeats was involved with called The Order of the Golden Dawn. (Also, I always assumed that the man who coined the term "Neopagan" was Issac Bonewitz, but I could be wrong about that…)

Lastly, I noticed some snickers when you were discussing certain aspects of Neopaganism (i.e. colorful names and beliefs of certain neopagans.) You might also be surprised that we laugh at ourselves a lot too. In fact, being silly in our faith is practically a sacrament. I too sometimes meet pagans that I think are a little off the deep end, but then again, that could probably be said of all faiths. For example, I don't think the film Jesus Camp really made Christians look any more "normal" than Neopagans... While my brand of spirituality is very naturalistic and "down-to-earth", I recognize that not everyone is like me, and I don't expect them to be. In return, none of my fellow Pagans expect me to believe in psychic powers or paint myself blue and dance naked! (and no, we don't do that in NatureSpirit either, even it does sound like fun!)