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  • Paganism in the Pews and The Truthxchange Corrective

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    June 17, 2024

    “Antidotes to Idolatry” – Part 9

    By Dr. Jeffery J Ventrella

    “Astrology is one big word association game.”[1]

    “The basic problem of Christians . . . is that they have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals.”[2]

    “Claiming to be wise, they became fools”[3]

    Paganism’s ethos and ethic is among us.  Hear this plainly:  I am not saying the barbarians are “at the gates.”  No, the data suggest that WE Christians have invited paganism into our midst; it now dines and reclines – quite comfortably and unchallenged – at our own tables.  Because Truthxchange exists to Inform the Public; Equip the Church; and Protect the Future, let’s get to the gist.

    Dear Christians:  Look in the Mirror

    Recently, a study disclosed that over 60% of Christians hold to at least one “New Age” – aka pagan – tenet.[4]  This is not some occasional quirky software bug, but instead suggests deep corruption of the church’s operating system.

    This comprehensive study reports on the beliefs of several categories of Christian across the spectrum: Evangelical, Mainline, Historically Black, and Catholic.  It also compares these results to what it deems the “Unaffiliated” – Atheists, Agnostics, and “Nones.”  Well, the Christian categories are cumulatively less pagan than the Unaffiliated – by one percentage point:  62% to 61%. 

    Here’re the results encapsulated:

    Overall, roughly six-in-ten American adults accept at least one of these New Age beliefs. Specifically, four-in-ten believe in psychics and that spiritual energy can be found in physical objects, while somewhat smaller shares express belief in reincarnation (33%) and astrology (29%). . . .[5]

    This produces syncretism, a deadly form of heresy:

    While eight-in-ten Christians say they believe in God as described in the Bible, six-in-ten believe in one or more of the four New Age beliefs analyzed here, ranging from 47% of evangelical Protestants to roughly seven-in-ten Catholics and Protestants in the historically black tradition.[6]

    Christ Himself articulated and “called out” this syncretism nestled in several congregations, warning them that He would remove their lampstands absent corporate repentance:

    • Ephesus – losing their first love, that is, loving something more than the Creator God – a form of idolatry[7]
    • Pergamum – embracing the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, resulting in sexual immorality and Gnostic notions[8]
    • Thyatira – tolerating the teaching of Jezebel, resulting in sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols and predicated on seeking the “deep things of Satan” aka Gnostic notions[9]
    • Sardis – rejecting a living faith that manifests works of obedience and instead being “dead”[10]

    What’s all this mean? The difference between what Christians believe compared with what real pagans believe is statistically immaterial.  The doctrinal salt is losing its saltiness.  While evangelicals “do better” than the other Christian categories, it would be premature to boast.  Atheists – by far – reject pagan views much more readily than Evangelicals:

    [A]theists are much less likely to believe in any of the four New Age beliefs than agnostics and those who say their religion is “nothing in particular.” Just 22% of atheists believe in at least one of four New Age beliefs, compared with 56% of agnostics and eight-in-ten among those whose religion is “nothing in particular.”[11]

    Let’s peak under the doctrinal hood of the Evangelical car.

    24% Believe Spiritual Energy can be Found in Physical Things:  Forget Jesus and Just Use the Force?

    The pagan notion here is that things contain energy.  By manipulating that energy, the practitioner can control outcomes and/or achieve desires – in other words, be like God.  Theologically, this is a form of panentheism – God is “in” and inter-penetrates all physical things.  This heresy derived from mystic and pagan notions and surfaces formally in Neoplatonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, et al.  And, it has entered broad Christianity via Process Theology as well as through apostates like Richard Rohr who “reinterprets” the Scriptures in this crabbed manner:

    But Paul merely took incarnationalism to its universal and logical conclusions. We see that in his bold exclamation “There is only Christ. He is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11). If I were to write that today, people would call me a pantheist (the universe is God), whereas I am really a panentheist (God lies within all things, but also transcends them), exactly like both Jesus and Paul [12].[20]

    This constitutes syncretism, the mixing and diluting of orthodoxy with paganism.   More precisely, this confuses the Creator with the creation and leads to exchanging the Truth for the Lie.[13]  

    33% Believe in Psychics:  Palm Readers for Jesus?

    One in three sitting in an evangelical pew believes in psychics.  The point here is not that these evangelicals know that a category of such spiritual grifters exist, but that they endorse their validity.  Affirming psychics in this way results not from scriptural distortion, but from scriptural defiance.

    First, Scripture condemns turning to what we generically call psychics:

    “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers [psychics]; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.[14]

    Why?  To do so undermines and contradicts being a follower of the true and living God.  Second, in addition to obscuring one’s actual spiritual identity, this same Lord deems such practices abominable:

    “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead”[15]

    Here’s the worldview consideration:  God created us.  There exists a Creator/Creature immutable Binary.  God also created us as creatures imbued with five senses and rationality. Those faculties are more than sufficient for us to know God as the Creator:

    For what can be known about God because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes is plain to them, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.[16]

    Understandably, mankind yearns to know more, to know the future, to go beyond what our faculties can perceive.  Mankind indeed CAN know more, but must do so from the hand of God – by His special revelation in dependence on Him.  Appealing to psychics directly repudiates dependency on God.  And, since redemption requires special revelation, minimizing it blunts the pathway to salvation.  Evangelicals of all categories of Christians should firmly reject psychics and their traps.

    19% Believe in Reincarnation:  If at First You Don’t Succeed, Become a Better You Next Time?

    The pagan belief in cyclic time undergirds the notion of reincarnation.  So, to affirm reincarnation, as 19% of Evangelicals reportedly do, comprises a renunciation of a Christian worldview, starting with Genesis 1:1.  The cosmos had a definite beginning and proceeds to consummation.  It is not an eternal merry-go-road of endless cycles.  Creedal Christian orthodoxy embraces this point as an indispensable article of faith.  As the Apostles Creed states it:

    I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. . . .

    I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. . . .  

    He will come again to judge the living and the dead.[17]

    As the Nicene Creed states it:

    We believe in one God,

    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth, 
    of all that is, visible and invisible
    . . . .

    He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
    and his kingdom will have no end.[18]

    And following death – which occurs once – Scripture slams the door on reincarnation’s seductive, but damning idea.  Just as Christ appeared once to die for sin, He comes again to save those whose sins have been forgiven – there is one sacrifice for sins, one resurrection, and one judgment.  The plan of salvation warrants no Plan B following death:

    Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,  so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.[19]

    Jesus confirms His authority and action accordingly at the Resurrection:

    For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.[20]

    Reincarnation flatly flouts the work and offices of Christ.  From a worldview perspective, believing reincarnation is to imbibe a pagan Lie just as much as denying the Incarnation embraces paganism.  Affirming reincarnation is the flip side of the pagan coin that denies the Incarnation.[21]

    18% Believe in Astrology:  We need a Sign other than the Cross?

    Let’s understand what astrology proposes:  planetary and celestial positioning and movements determine destiny.  And, incoherently, people consult astrologers in order to make future decisions – FULL STOP.  How can a person make a morally responsible decision if the future is determined by the inanimate movements of the stars? The sheer absurdity to this scheme is patent.  It defies rationality, and yet Christians have been similarly duped by folks baptizing other irrational pagan schemes like the Enneagram[22] or the Four Temperaments.[23]  The same is true regarding astrology and its Zodiac gazing.

    From a worldview perspective, recall that God created the Heavens; He did not imbue them with independent authority to be consulted in secret (for a fee), but with abundant, ubiquitous, open speech declaring Him as the God of glory:

                The heavens declare the glory of God,

                            and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

                Day to day pours out speech,

                            and night to night reveals knowledge.

                There is no speech, nor are there words,

                            whose voice is not heard.

                Their voice goes out through all the earth,

                            and their words to the end of the world.

                In them he has set a tent for the sun,

                which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,

                            and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

                Its rising is from the end of the heavens,

                            and its circuit to the end of them,

                            and there is nothing hidden from its heat.[24]

    The Truthxchange Corrective

    TXC exists to “think in totals” as it engages in cultural apologetics.  This is why TXC begins where the Bible begins:  with God the Creator and His cosmology.  And this is precisely how the Apostle Paul presents the Gospel to pagan audiences.  Note his emphasis on the Creator and His Creation in explaining the consequences of the Truth being exchanged for the Lie.[25]

    And, TXC presents these truths – and their implications – in dynamic ways, delivering them to Inform the public, Equip the Church, and Protecting the future.  How so?

    TxC Intensives

    We Come to You!

    What:  On-site 1.5 day customized cultural apologetics presentations by TxC Scholars packed with realism and hope, equipping your church and ministry with hard-hitting timely analysis using the unique TxC hermeneutic to expose threats to the Gospel and showing how to neutralize them.

    How:  Dynamic and timely interactive sessions that “get to the gist” of the cultural moment to equip attendees with the tools and incentives to effectively let their lights shine before men.  These are not “talking head” dull conferences.

    Why:  Cultural confusion abounds:  Critical Theory; Transgenderism; Sexual Anarchy, Cultural Marxism.  If God’s people happen to address such things, they often think politics is the answer; others simply endlessly fret while playing a version of Whack-a-Mole.  TxC Intensives provide grounded teaching that addresses the root of our cultural corrosion (the Truth exchanged for the Lie) and shows that by knowing the Truth, we will be both sanctified and set free by the One who is the Truth.

    Outcomes:  Clarity, Conviction, and Courage for God’s people who can then “take it to the streets” to proclaim and promote the Gospel of Life no matter what “ism” confronts them.

    Please contact us to arrange a TXC Intensive for your church or group.

    TXC Symposia

    You come to us!

    What:  An annual 1.5 day thematic gathering focusing on a particular timely topic and featuring a number of TxC scholars.  Designed to facilitate interaction and fellowship, the Symposia rejuvenates those who attend.

    Why:  Christians need face to face encouragement as well as dynamic and informed instruction, and the public needs exposure to what’s really driving cultural corrosion.  The TxC Symposia supplies an experience for both.

    How:  A gathering featuring sessions that expose the Lie and elevate the Truth, especially designed to also allow informal interaction as attendees and speakers enjoy refreshments and meals together – the goal is not to transmit data, but to transform people in light of God’s Truth. 

    Outcomes:  Refreshment, enlightenment, and encouragement.

    Join us for the next TXC Symposium, August 30, 31:  Every Square Inch:  Taking Christ’s Lordship to the Streets


    [1] Felicity Carter, I Was an Astrologer – Here’s How it Works and why I had to Stophttps://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/nov/06/i-was-an-astrologer-how-it-works-psychics

    [2] Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (1981), 17

    [3] Romans 1:22

    [4] https://influencemagazine.com/practice/6-in-10-u-s-christians-hold-new-age-beliefs

    [5] https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2018/10/01/new-age-beliefs-common-among-both-religious-and-nonreligious-americans/

    [6] Id.

    [7] Rev. 2:4

    [8] Rev. 2:14, 15

    [9] Rev. 2:20, 24

    [10] Rev. 3:1, 2

    [11] Id.

    [12] Richard Rohr The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (2019)

    [13] Romans 1:25

    [14] Lev. 19:11

    [15] Deut. 18:9-11

    [16] Romans 1:19-21

    [17] The Apostles’ Creed, https://www.holytrinityanglican.church/apostles-creed

    [18] The Nicene Creed, https://www.holytrinityanglican.church/nicene-creed

    [19] Heb. 9:25-28

    [20] Jn. 5:26-29

    [21] Because Scripture classifies denying the Incarnation as heresy – 

    By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 1 John 4:2–3

    the ecumenical creeds likewise require believing in the Incarnation.  See, e.g., Apostles’ Creed, Article II and Nicene Creed, Article II

    [22] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-faqs-what-christians-should-know-about-the-enneagram/

    [23] Tim LaHaye of “Left Behind” fortune and fame, popularized the ancient pagan notion of the Four Temperaments by baptizing them in his The Spirit-Controlled Temperament (New Updated and Expanded 1993).  This theory stems from Hippocrates who based it on the medicinal theory of “humors” in the body supposedly regulating emotions and health, and the need to “balance” them.  So, Astrology involves 12 basic types; the Enneagram involves 9 basic types; and the Temperaments involves 4 basic types – the Bible affirms none of these pagan notions.

    [24] Ps 19:1-6

    [25] Romans 1:20, 25; Romans 8:19-23, 39; Acts 17:24, 25