As Christianity Declines, Pagan Worship Fills the Void
The Post Christian World
As the world increasingly rejects God and His Gospel, His glory departs and darkness descends on a rebellious people. Have you seen it? Do you feel it? Chaos, disorder, violence, corruption, and hatred are no longer uncommon. The days of peace and tranquility may become merely fond memories. The future looks grim if things don’t turn back for the better. The Apostle Paul tells us in (2Tim.3:2-5), that there will be an increase of godlessness in the last days. That is not to say that we are in the last days, Paul could be describing an era or length of time prior to the end-times. He mentions mankind’s condition where people will become arrogant, abusive disobedient to parents, ungrateful, heartless, brutal, treacherous, and without self-control, among other things. Do these descriptions sound familiar? Do they describe todays news reports? These things have always plagued mankind but there is no denying that evil is on the rise. If this analysis is correct then how do we understand this from a biblical viewpoint.
The answer is that we have transitioned into a Post-Christian World. For the past several decades, survey after survey has indicated that Christianity and Church membership has declined. We have now reached the point where Christianity is losing its influence over the culture. It is no longer the dominant worldview that determines ethics, morality, conduct, and character. There was a time when a Bible quote was widely accepted as authoritive in determining proper behavior or action, but those days are gone. To illustrate this point I have included the following quote from an essay I wrote in 2008 titled “The Decline of Christianity in Europe.” It was based on the writings of Callum Brown, “The Death of Christian Britain,” and Phillip Jenkins, “The Next Christiandom.”
While the decline of Christianity in Europe is much more advanced than in the U.S., we are headed in that direction if there is not some form of revival. A culture that rejects the Gospel of Christ will find a replacement. Our modern culture has abandoned Christian teachings and values for worldviews that are non-judgmental, more tolerant, and that include diversity. The Gospel message has been declared irrelevant because truth no longer matters. Secularism and relativism have pronounced that there are no more valid truth claims since truth is merely a construct of each persons experience. Ultimate reality cannot be known since reality is determined by each individual. The world has embraced the post-modern philosophical worldview where neither science nor religion produce factual knowledge, and self-evident facts are now a matter of personal choice. This is evident in real time as we live in a culture that proclaims; that there are no differences between male and female, that there are 72 different genders, and that men can actually become pregnant. This futile thinking will only get worse as the darkness increases. This is the Post-Christian World!
The Teaching of the Apostle Paul
In the citation of Romans 1:21-23, Paul warns that there are those who reject the glory of God and instead give glory to idols of images of men, birds, beasts, and crawling things. Their hearts are darkened as they engage in pagan worship and abandon the one true God. Paul is not only addressing future events, he is also speaking about current situations in his own time. The Bible contains numerous stories of idol worship in the Old Testament, such as the Golden Calf, the household idols of Laban stolen by Rachel in Gen. 31, and the worship of the false idols, Ashtoreth and Milcom, by King Solomon in his last days. Idolatry and pagan worship were common before Christianity spread throughout the world. The spread and influence of Christianity diminished the pagan religions and idol worship. But with the decline in Christianity, the pagan religions are returning. Mankind is degenerating back into worship of the creature instead of the creator. God is being pushed off of His throne and is being replaced by demons, bulls, goats, serpents, and creatures of all sorts.
Paul makes a point to state that those who worship idols and other gods, do so even though they know the true God so they are without excuse. In response God darkens their hearts causing them to become fools and futile in their thinking where they cannot discern good from evil, truth from error, or light from darkness. So they become lost in their rebelliousness against God.
Return to Paganism
The opening photos above show the various forms of pagan worship that are being embraced. In Mexico there is a growing movement in the worship of Santa Muerte(Saint Death), who has become the patron saint for the drug cartels there. Santa Muerte is the go-to deity for those who are involved in criminal activity and other sinful pursuits since she does not judge or condemn, she blesses those who pray to her regardless of their spiritual condition. The other images show the rituals and ceremonies of the Druids, and Wiccans. Paganism includes the ancient religions of the Celts, the Norse, Wicca/Witchcraft, Egyptian and Greek mythology, and African pantheistic worship. There is also the rise of Santeria, Shamanism including Native American, Central and South American where the use of psychedelic mushrooms, ayahuasca, and mescaline are used to connect to other spiritual realms. The growth of the green movement or the concern for the planet has led to a rise in nature religions, including goddess worship. Paganism and Christianity have been and still are in conflict. There is a spiritual warfare aspect involved in Pagan worship where occult practices are involved. Their practices and rituals often involve contact with spiritual forces and beings believed to be divine guiding spirits who give secret knowledge and supernatural power, but Scripture teaches that they are demonic spirits. The growth of Paganism and idolatry are just another consequence of the decline in Christian belief as the growing spiritual darkness descends upon the world.
The attraction to paganism includes a rebuke of Christianity and a distrust of organized religions overall. According to a self-proclaimed pagan who operates a pagan podcast, the attraction is in the independence of the individual to blaze their own trail and take control of their destiny. They are not under the control of an authoritarian dictatorship of religious leaders who demand submission. The pagan teachings give them power over the natural world. I would add that their refusal to submission includes the submission to the God of Christianity and His commands. Whatever the attraction is, paganism is growing. A survey in 2008 by Trinity College found that the number of Wiccans in the U.S. had grown from 8,000 in 1990 to 340,000 in 2008. The Nov. 18, 2018 issue of Newsweek indicated that recent studies show the number of active Wiccans is the U.S at around 1.3 million. We can extrapolate these figures to estimate that the numbers continue to increase to the present time. While the numbers remain small in comparison to the overall population, it is still an issue for the church and a concern for the state of our culture. As global church membership declines, the interest in alternate forms of worship will increase. Pagan religions and occultism will fill the spiritual needs of those who reject Christ and His Gospel message.
The Good News
Regardless of how dark the future may become or how the great the attack on the faith may be, we know that the church will stand because Jesus declared that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, (Matt. 16:18). While unbelievers will become fearful in dark times, believers will find hope and courage in the God that is sovereign over all things. He will not forsake or abandon you. He has already died for you. He lives and reigns in you because you are His temple, (1 Cor.3:16). The spiritual weapon against the coming darkness is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. We must preach the Gospel of Christ, teach the Gospel of Christ, and witness to others with the Gospel of Christ. Be aware of the changing times and be encouraged by the word of God through the following quotes:
“Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”1 John 5:5
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”Isaiah 41:10
Secularism-A system of doctrines and practices that disregards any form of religious faith or worship. The belief that religion should not enter into affairs of the state.
Relativism-The belief that there are no absolute truths. Truth, knowledge, or morality are relative to the individual, society, or historical context. Truth is determined by personal choice and not by self-evident facts.
Modernism-The view that science and human reason have replaced religious beliefs concerning truth claims.
Post-modernism-The philosophical worldview that there are no grand narratives explaining reality. Ultimate reality cannot be known. Truth claims are determined by a persons experience.