The Paganization Of The Church (2)
Written by Cornelis Pronk
|Reformed Worldviews - Postmodernism|
In the first of his articles, the author introduced the subject of the paganization of the church and stated that this paganization largely has to do with the way our culture views human sexuality, Cornelius Pronk quoted extensively from a recent published book entitled True Sexual Morality by Daniel R. Heimbach. Now he continues;
The Post-Modern View of Sex
While for many centuries Western civilization has been shaped by the Judeo-Christian approach to sexual morality based on the Word of God, with the rise of modernism there emerged an opposing view according to which sexual activity need not he restricted to heterosexual relations within the bond of marriage, but may be engaged in by anyone and with anyone, regardless of gender or relationship, provided it takes place with mutual consent. Sex, in this view, serves no moral or spiritual purpose beyond the experience itself.
Today, modernism is rapidly being replaced by postmodernism. Dissatisfied with modernism's non-spiritual and one-dimensional approach to sex, postmodernism has added a spiritual and mystical component to it. According to this view, sex is meaningful and purposeful, not because it builds marriages and strengthens family relationships as Christianity teaches, but because it enhances spirituality. Through sexual activity, no matter how unconventional and perverse in the eyes of traditionalists, human flesh is joined to the divine spirit or cosmic energy and thereby saved.
According to Heimbach, this new approach to sexuality is not new at all, but signals a revival of the ancient pagan view of morality, which says that sexual activity is primarily a spiritual experience whereby man makes contact with the gods. As David F. Wells explains:
To the pagan mind, nature was alive with divine presences, linked to them in rhythms that were cosmic and supernatural. The seasons of sowing and harvesting, the rhythms of spring, summer, fall, and winter, of the dying and regeneration of nature - all these were as much supernatural as natural . . . All things terrestrial were the shadows of things celestial . . . and the people saw themselves as inescapably a part of the pulsating rhythms of the cosmos. And if one were in contact with the gods and goddesses through these rhythms, then every act in some way participates in the sacred . . . Every act had divine significance (No Place for Truth, p.266).
The Pagan View of Sex
For the pagan no human act had more divine significance than the sexual act. That is why all pagan religions included ceremonies and rituals of a sexual nature. Everywhere temple prostitutes, both male and female, ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of the worshippers by putting them in touch with their favourite deities through personal encounters and communal orgies. It is especially this immoral aspect of pagan religion that is so strongly condemned in the Bible. Both the Old and New Testaments contain many warnings to God's people to keep away from these abominable practices.
Yet, what we see in our day is a return to those very pagan ideas and practices that Christianity was able to abolish or at least suppress for many centuries. What we are facing today is not just a tidal wave of immorality coming from a secular and sin-loving world, but the real enemy that confronts us at present arises from within the bosom of the church, be it a church falsely so-called. There are radical feminist theologians, endorsed by their male counterparts, who are openly teaching pagan views of sexual morality at "Christian" colleges and seminaries. What some of these deceivers are saying is so shocking that we dare not print it in this magazine.
Some Neo-Pagan Spokepersons
Among the least offensive statements are the following, quoted from Heimbach's book, True Sexual Morality. Rosemary Radford Ruether, who teaches at Pacific School of Religion in Berkley, California writes:
I have a great deal of sympathy with . . .the pagan goddess religion . . . the many goddesses of the Mediterranean world: Ishtar, Anath, Isis, as well as the Greek poetic rendition of these figures as Athena, Hera, Aphrodite, and Artemis . . . I retain a fondness for the ancient mother. . . [and] have no objection to people finding religious nurture through theophanies of the divine outside the biblical or Christian traditions (Heimbach, p.74).
Virginia Mollenkott, a self-professed evangelical Christian, has spent several years teaching at evangelical Christian schools promoting religious feminism. She admits that she has been "authentically lesbian for as long as I can remember and that all her special people are feminist lesbian women and gay men." Mollenkott believes that Christianity needs to become interreligious, and that women must lead the way by denying the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and introducing goddess worship in their churches. This will "modify" sexual morality among Christians until what Christians believe on sex will be "fused" with pagan sexual morality.
How can anyone with such views still call herself an evangelical Christian? Why not renounce the Christian faith and leave the church? Because Mollenkott's strategy is to subvert the biblical view of morality still held by large segments of the evangelical community, in an effort to persuade her unwary sisters to accept the pagan view of sex (pp.76-77). While lesbians, as Ruether, Mollenkott and many others, are actively promoting the pagan view of sexual morality in the interest of religious feminism, theologians like James B. Nelson and Eugene Rogers are doing the same to advance the homosexual agenda among Christian men.
Nelson, who taught Christian ethics at the United Theological Seminary in Minneapolis for thirty years, made it his lifelong mission to "reunite" sexuality with spirituality and to attack the Christian notion that in order to please God one needs to restrict the passions of the flesh. Rejecting what he calls this false duality, he urges Christians to abandon the biblical view of sex, which requires disciplining the desires of the flesh, and to adopt a much healthier approach, which advocates "sex without limits." Thus, while the Bible says we are saved from sexual sin through the cross, Nelson insists that salvation comes from having sex. When Nelson speaks of reuniting sexuality with spirituality he means nothing less than a return to a pre-Christian pagan belief system that justifies promiscuous sex based on pagan spirituality (Heimbach, pp.79-81).
Another male theologian who is actively promoting a pagan view of sexuality is Eugene Rogers, professor at the University of Virginia. In his recent book, Sexuality and the Christian Body, he argues that Christians can no longer be Christian if they do not accept homosexual relationships in the church. He insists that unless Christians do welcome homosexuals into the church, God will deny them spiritual life. Absurd as this sounds, it gets worse when he asserts that spirituality depends to a great extent on sexuality. Whereas Scripture teaches that intimacy with God requires submission to His authority and repentance of sin, including sexual sin, Rogers turns this on its head by saying that life with God depends on [homo]sexual experience. Unless homosexuals are given the freedom to satisfy their sexual desires, he insists, "God will have nothing by which to redeem them, no 'hook in the flesh' by which to capture them and pull them up into life with God" (quoted by Heimbach, p.55).
Interpretation and Response
This, of course, is a thoroughly pagan notion, which one would expect all decent people to reject with disgust. As Peter Jones, instructor at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, sums up this pagan perversion of salvation, "when beds become altars, altars quickly become beds" (quoted by Heimbach, p. 56). The disturbing fact is, however, that Rogers and his ilk are making inroads into many Christian churches-so far primarily in mainline denominations as mentioned earlier-but even evangelical churches are beginning to feel its impact.
The paganization of the church is a slow process and is not immediately recognized for what it is. Like the proverbial frog in the kettle, by the time one realizes what has happened it may be too late. Many denominations are being torn apart by controversies about sexual morality and in most cases the pagans are gaining ground. The reason for the apparent success of these post-modern "Christian" deconstructionists is that looser and freer views on sex can always count on the support of the carnal element in the church. Fallen man is a pagan by nature and only a Christian by grace. Pagan religion is thoroughly sensual and geared to man's physical sensations. C.S. Lewis characterizes it as a popular religion which appeals to the natural bent of the human mind and has for that reason always been the most common for of religion practiced throughout history. "And no wonder," says Heimbach, "for paganism promises ordinary human beings that they can be gods and goddesses . . .doing whatever they please (p 53).
Paganism Began With Man's Fall
"Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil," the serpent promised Eve, if she would only follow his advice and disregard God's prohibition to eat of the forbidden fruit. When Eve, and subsequently her husband, did fall for Satan's ploy, paganism was born. As Heimbach explains:
The pagan concept of truth is subjective rather than objective. Truth, to the pagan, is something known not by reason but rather through body-acts (something that you claim to feel for yourself and that no one else can verify). Pagan truth is not rational but sensual and it is not something that remains fixed and applies to all the same way, but rather is something that changes and never applies the same to all (Ibid).
This subjective and sensual approach to truth which characterizes pagan religion, can already be detected in Eve's reaction to the serpent's suggestion: She "saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise" (Gen. 3:6).
Sin entered the world when Eve, and moments later Adam, went by what they felt and thought rather than by what God had commanded. Whenever therefore, their Sons and daughters say, I want to do this or that because it feels good or it appeals to me, even if what they want is expressly forbidden by God, they are reflecting a pagan mindset.
Nowhere is this more evident than in this whole area of sexuality. Some "Christian" young people will say, I see nothing wrong with having sex with my girlfriend because I love her and it feels good. Older church members may say, the other women in my life makes me feel more like a man than my wife ever did. The love we have for each other is so beautiful that I have to believe it comes from God. Intimacy with her is like a spiritual experience. It brings us not only closer to each other but to God as well.
Sounds good, doesn't it? Pious even. But it is really pagan. Why? Because it violates God's seventh commandment and his ninth as well, because this "beautiful" relationship by its very nature of secrecy has to take place behind the poor wife's back. It is pagan precisely because it feels so good and so spiritual. As Heimbach explains,
There is an ironic sense in which pagan sexual morality is 'closer' to biblical thinking than playboy, romantic and therapeutic approaches to sexual morality. This is because pagans and Christians both stress the spiritual dimension of sex and place spirituality at the center of sexual morality (p.299).
Rev. Cornelis (Neil) Pronk is an emeritus pastor of the Free Reformed Churches and the editor of the FRC Messenger. This article was printed in the FRC Messenger and is republished here with permission.