(This originally appeared in the Winter 2002 edition of the MCOI Journal beginning on page 10)
I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The “Life Force,” the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work—The Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshiping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits”—then the end of the war will be in sight.1
C.S. Lewis wrote these words in 1942, while the now-thriving neo-Pagan movement was still in its infancy. Lewis put these words into the mouth of the sinister, but priggish, arch-devil Screwtape who is instructing his demon nephew Wormwood in the ways of winning the spiritual war. While Lewis would never consider the above quote as a prophecy, the frightening fact is that Screwtape’s plan has become reality. Thousands of people in America are doing just as Screwtape envisioned. They are worshiping “forces” while denying the existence of the satanic spirits, and they are doing it cloaked in psychobabble and carrying the banner of sexual anarchy. Neo-Paganism and its worldview are facets of our culture Christian apologetics must deal with. It is a group of people to whom we must “give an answer for the hope that is within us with gentleness and respect.”2 Apologetics and counter-cult researcher Don Veinot contends that America’s current spiritual climate is more like the first century than any other time in history.3 From what we know of the first century, the greatest obstacle to Christianity was not Atheism (as it was in the first half of the twentieth century), it was Paganism. Lack of belief in God was not the problem, devotion to a plethora of gods was. Paganism has come of age in this country. It is couched in the terms of Jungian psychology, wrapped in the shroud of Hindu pantheism and reincarnation, and fueled by a distaste for Christian patriarchy and morality. How are Christians to respond and communicate the Gospel to those who do not even believe in an objective reality? How are apologists to defend the cosmological argument with people who do not even acknowledge the supremacy of logic?
First we must understand why Pagans do not care about cosmology—why logical first causes are not an issue for them. Then we must find a way to convince them that logic and first principles are a reality with which they must cope. Then we should apply those principles to the inconsistencies within the Pagan cosmology. Confronted with this, most Pagans will admit there is no rational reason for their religion. However, they will continue to practice it because it “brings them peace” or it “gives a sense of power.” One 16-year-old Pagan practitioner told me it was “the rush of having control over energy.”4 This is not belief based on fact, but rather Hedonism based on preference. In other words, Pagans refuse to accept the logic of Christian theism not because they have assurance their experience is reality, but rather out of rebellion to the implications of Christian morality. As Margot Adler explains, “Many people said that they had become Pagans because they could be themselves and act as they chose, without what they felt were medieval notions of sin and guilt.”5 This is at the heart of the resurgence of Paganism in modernity. At this point, apologetics must give way to evangelism. The only thing in existence that can draw a human heart away from moral rebellion is the Holy Spirit through the Gospel. As noted Apologist Norman Geisler has said, “Apologetics can lead the horse to water, but only the Holy Spirit can make him drink.”6
It should be noted that, as with all apologetics and evangelism, the entire exchange should be done with prayer and respect, for I contend much of the reason Pagans refuse to discourse with Christians is because of the ill-informed and belligerent responses they receive from them.
While this article will deal with all aspects of this apologetic, it will concentrate on the illogic of the Pagan7 cosmology and how this subsequently nullifies the Pagan worldview. Once the argument is made for the inadequacy of Paganism as a viable understanding of reality, then the Christian can bear witness of a God who is rational, knowable and moral.
A Willful Ignorance: Pagans, Logic, and Reality
Before any apologetic can be utilized, the barrier of relativism and irrationalism that pervades the Pagan mindset must be addressed. When anyone attempts to do apologetics with neo-Pagans, one thing continually blocks the process to arguing the validity of or invalid nature of any system of belief. Logic just isn’t appreciated. Pagans object to any Christian apologetic with the criticism that the apologist is being too rational and dogmatic about his or her own particular perspective on reality. We are charged with using logic to destroy a beautiful experience. Since logic is just one aspect of reality, and reality itself is either relative or unknowable objectively (depending on which Pagan you talk to); then logic is not the only way of knowing truth and, therefore, not necessarily a valid way of determining what is right or believable. Wiccan author
Starhawk explains that witchcraft or the “Craft” has always been a religion of poetry rather than theological belief.8 Experience is preferred over theological doctrine based on logic. Adler describes her own “conversion” to Wicca in terms of experience not belief:
“Like most neo-Pagans, I never converted in the accepted sense—I never adopted any new beliefs. I simply accepted, reaffirmed, and extended a very old experience. I allowed certain kinds of feelings and ways of being back into my life … belief has never seemed very relevant to the experiences and processes of the groups that call themselves collectively, the neo-Pagan movement.”9
Unlike Christianity, which grounds its experience in the nature of a rational God, Paganism sees such rationality as unnecessary and even a straightjacket to experience:
“Anyone who believes in an orthodox truth—is like a great tree which will be toppled and destroyed by the hurricane of change that blows through this century, where the Witch is like the reed which bends with the wind and survives.”10
Indeed, the perceived superiority of the Pagan worldview is that one’s intellectualism does not have to be sacrificed, since the Craft is not anti-intellectual but rather above the intellect:
“… I became sure that the Craft could be religion for us skeptical middle class intellectuals: because it did not require us to violate our intellectual integrity because it operated nonintellectually, [sic] striking deep chords in our emotional roots, because it could alter our state of consciousness.”11
The intellect is seen as only one way of truly knowing reality. Argument, the vehicle of logic, is seen as not just one in a myriad of ways of knowing reality. Logic (being by nature exclusive and absolute) is seen as a poor way of knowing reality and rather closeminded. One Pagan I know stated that one of the reasons Pagans won’t debate with Christians is that many of the Pagan religions had been “demonized” by the Church and driven underground.
“Wiccans refuse to be intolerant of other’s [sic] religions.”12
Argument and debate about objective truth is seen as ineffective, intolerant, and even an excuse to disparage.
Somehow the apologist must get beyond this philosophical barrier to discourse. Otherwise, any critique of cosmology and explanations of first causes is seen as just one more perspective, and therefore, there is no need to abandon the Pagan perspective in favor of a Christian one. But, this is exactly what Christianity demands! When Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me,”13 He is creating an impassable dilemma. The Gospel requires one to reject any other belief system and any other means of understanding ultimate reality. In order for someone to accept the Gospel, they must also reject any other perspective that is contradictory. Jesus’ statement is not just an egotistical demand; it is the epitome of rational thought. Logic dictates that if Christianity is true, then anything that is opposed to Christianity must be false and, therefore, rejected. This is precisely what the neo-Pagan will not accept, and it is what must be dealt with first in the apologetic process.
There are two questions an apologist must successfully answer and defend before any argument for cosmology can be attempted. 1) Is there an objective reality? 2) Can the objective reality be known objectively? One is a question of metaphysics* and the other is a question of epistemology.** When attempting to answer the metaphysical question, what the Christian must realize is that Pagans are staunch relativists. Everything is relative, so reality itself must be relative, and therefore, not objective.
Some Pagans, however, will concede there is an objective reality that is true—usually when they see the irrationality of being a staunch relativist. However, they then say while reality is objective, our perception of reality is not. It is totally subjective, and therefore, no one can make objective claims about reality—especially the incomprehensible idea of the infinite. This is Kantian† phenomenology run amuck. Since reality is known only in the categories the mind gives (and each mind is individual), then reality can never be known objectively. Druid Isacc Bonewits declares: “Every sentient being lives in a unique universe.”14 As one Pagan explained it to me:
“While we may believe that there is an objective truth, we believe that the objective truth has been filtered through many subjective paths. Your subjective path [Christianity] to the objective truth differs from mine, and that’s the way it is, and we accept that. We accept that your subjective truth differs from ours because of your perspective, and we don’t wish to quibble over the subjective.
We find all subjective truths to be equally valid ways of reaching towards the objective truth.”15
We can never be certain our observation is objective, because the act of observing changes the thing observed. The same Pagan quoted above states as much: “Is any observation truly objective? Observation, it has been stated, changes both the observer and the observed. Observation is never quite as objective, my dear, as we would like it to be.”16 To answer these two major objections, we must affirm the objective nature of logic as exemplified in first principles. If it can be proven everyone uses the same mode of thinking (regardless of experience, regardless of religion, and regardless of perspective), then we have a common ground to judge any system of thought. We can test Paganism and Christianity by the same objective reality. That common ground is the rules of logic and first principles.
First principles can be defined as “principles of thought that cannot be denied without affirming them.”17 For instance, the principle of existence says something exists. This is a first principle because to deny something exists, something has to exist to deny it. Therefore, to deny existence one has to exist to do it. The principle of non-contradiction is a first principle. It says opposites cannot both be true. Like all first principles, it is true for all people no matter what their perspective. When a Wiccan exclaims “the law of non-contradiction doesn’t really apply to reality,” he is affirming it cannot both apply and not apply at the same time and in the same relation. First principles are inescapable and fundamental to all human thought. It is interesting that most neo-Pagans operate in the realm of first principles (like the law of non-contradiction), when it is convenient to their cause, all the while denying the principles exist.
One thing I have found helpful in getting Pagans to see the inevitability of first principles is to take one tenet of their belief system in which they are emotionally invested. One such idea I find useful is the concept of the threefold law.18It is called the Wiccan Rede of Three and states, “And harm none. Do as thou wilt.” I ask if the threefold law is both real and not real at the same time. I once spent several hours with a Druidic Pagan who would not accept the law of non-contradiction until I asked, “Is the law of Karma real or unreal?”
She replied vehemently, “It is very real. Believe me I have experienced it.”
I said, “Ok, what if I said that the law of Karma doesn’t exist.”
She saw where the conversation was headed and replied, “Well that would be sad for you, but I would respect your right to believe it.”
I quickly confronted her with the reality—not the morality—of the issue: “I appreciate that. However, I am not talking about the preference of it. If I said that Karma does not exist, could I be correct?”19
She tried to avoid saying I was wrong, but she was caught on the horns of a dilemma. If she said I would be wrong, she sacrifices her relativism and must affirm the first principle of non-contradiction. If she says I would be right, then she sacrifices something that, deep down, she believes is a fundamental law of the universe.
It seems to be effective. She admitted that if I said this, I would not only be sad, but I would be wrong about reality. She affirmed first principles. I could not be both wrong and right at the same time in the same relation—the principle of non-contradiction!
I like to use this analogy in explaining how we talk about first principles. There is some basic furniture of reality we all use and from which we cannot get away. All of us are in a room with the same set of chairs. What we must do is continue to place the same chair in front of our Pagan friends. If they bump their knees into it enough, eventually they will acknowledge it is there. Sometimes this takes many patient conversations, but once we settle this, we then can stop all subjective speculation and get down to the business of testing our views. Until this is done, nothing will be accomplished. Without some objective principles common to Christian and Pagan alike, we are just examining preferences of religion and not testing that which corresponds to what really is. However, once first principles are accepted, we have a test for all ideas. The law of non-contradiction states opposites cannot both be true. Any contradictory idea to known reality must be false. Likewise, any idea or system of thought that contradicts first principles must be rejected, since first principles themselves cannot be rejected because they are fundamental.
In fact, first principles lead to the answer to the metaphysical question. If there are first principles that are objective (not dependent on experience), then there must be an objective reality that is knowable because we can know the first principles which are undeniable and objective. The principle of causality is also a first principle. Every contingent event or being has a cause. It is undeniable that something cannot be caused by nothing. Nothing cannot cause something, because nothing cannot exist and only existent things can cause things to exist.
Once first principles are accepted, including the principle of causality, then we have an objective way to test the claims of Pagan cosmology against the claims of Christian cosmology. But it is always necessary to begin with the first principles of logic. Our apologetic must affirm that there is an objective reality to which God corresponds and we can know this objective reality. Furthermore, we can test what is true by means of the objective logic common to all people, in all places, and for all times.
Defining Pagan Cosmology
I really think the soft spot in the armor of Paganism is in its concept of cosmology. This is where all the inconsistency and irrationality comes to the fore. When I have gotten Pagans to accept first principles, I then get them to examine their cosmology based on those principles. Any view of the world must correspond (and not contradict) with the first principles, or it is false according to the aforementioned principle of non-contradiction. When I ask Pagans about the nature of the god and the goddess (or “Lord and Lady” as they refer to them), I usually get the objection that one really doesn’t need to understand the nature of the goddess to worship her. This is true. Young Christians who have little understanding of the nature of God may worship Him. What is at stake, however, is not the mechanics of worship but rather the validity of belief about the object of worship. Does the Goddess correspond to reality? Does she line up with the first principles? These questions of metaphysics determine who or what is worthy to be worshipped.
If the object of our worship is shown to be contradictory to first principles, then it must not correspond to reality. If this is the case, we are worshiping a false deity that does not exist—one not worthy of worship.
Every worldview must have some sort of cosmology—some way of explaining how the world came into being or how it is eternal. There must be some way to explain the relationship between the divine and the human—the spiritual and the material. When I do apologetics with Pagans I always ask, “Are the Lord and Lady eternal or are they just manifestations of the eternal?” and “Are they separate entities or are they simply two sides of the same coin?” How they answer this question reveals their understanding of the nature of the divine and, subsequently, their cosmology.
Some are Pantheists. They believe the Lord and Lady are just manifestations of the eternal One reality. These gods are avatars of the divine much like Krishna in Hinduism. We are all part of the divine and the gods are ways of focusing our divinity. Others say the Lord and Lady are two sides of the same coin—yin and yang. Some (like Wiccan Starhawk) claim the female principle was eternal, and she divided herself into a male and female part. The physical world itself is only an extension of the deus materia. This is a form of Panentheism. The world is to the divine like a body is to a soul. The divine is constantly changing, because the world is constantly changing. A very few are Polytheists. They claim the Lord and Lady are actual entities who exist as finite beings. They must be finite since it is a logical impossibility to have two infinite beings.20
When it comes to cosmology, Pagans will accept Pantheism,21 Polytheism, and even Panentheism. The one cosmology they will not accept is that of Christian theism which states that God is the eternal first cause, and that He created the world ex nihilo—out of nothing. I will undertake to define each of these cosmologies as Pagans understand them and then give a critique of each view from first principles.
Pantheism: The Ignorance of Separation
Pantheism is the most popular worldview among Pagans. According to Pantheism, all is God:
“God pervades all things, contains all things, subsumes all things and is found within all things. Nothing exists apart from God, and all things are in some way identified with God. The world is God, and God is the world … All is God and God is all.”22
Adler, once again, quotes one Pagan as echoing this idea: “I believe that all so-called gods are thought-form emanations of human beings toward the One Consciousness of which we are all a part.”23 In this sense, the god and goddess are manifestations of the one deity shared by all. Adler even cites a witch’s creed which says, “Divinity is immanent in nature … Thou art God Thou art Goddess”24
Pantheism has some inherent logical inconsistencies. The principle of non-contradiction says opposites cannot be true. Yet, Pantheism requires us to believe Man is God. The principle of causality says something cannot come from nothing. The principle of contingency follows from this. Ultimately, a contingent being cannot have caused itself. A contingent being must have a cause outside of itself by its nature. There must be a non-contingent (or necessary) something to cause all contingent beings. So then, whatever causes all finite/contingent beings to exist must itself be infinite/non-contingent. Therefore, Pantheism collapses because Man cannot be contingent and non-contingent at the same time. To put it in a simpler form, man who is finite cannot be infinite. Man cannot be the infinite divine, because he is finite. Pantheism teaches that without the divine, there would be no material functioning humanity; yet, humanity is said to be infinite. This is self-contradictory. According to the inescapable first principle of non-contradiction, contradictions cannot be true. Therefore, Pantheism is to be rejected.
Furthermore, if the One by its nature is indivisible, then how is it possible for the world to be part of the divine? The indivisible cannot be divided, yet the world is divided into a myriad of separate things. This is the problem with separation. If reality is fundamentally one, then why does reality seem to be so separate? Why are there many diverse things rather than one? Now it may be objected that all of the separateness we see is merely an illusion, but this, in itself, is self-defeating. A mind would have to be separate from the illusion to make any claim about the illusion. How could we even talk of anything being an illusion without being separate from it?
A Chinese proverb brilliantly expresses the dilemma: “If you want to know about the water; don’t ask the fish.” The fish cannot know anything outside of the water for he is immersed in it. Likewise, we cannot know all separateness is an illusion without being separate from it to make the observation. Other objective realities seem to crumble the Pantheistic worldview. If we are just modes of the one divine reality, then why is it that we must discover this truth or be reminded of it? This is what apologist H.P. Owen calls “metaphysical amnesia.”25 Supposedly all non-Pantheists are deceived into believing the divine and human are separate. Yet, what can account for this deception? If reality is all God, then what is left to deceive us? If it is the divine, then we are deceiving ourselves since we are the Divine. In addition, all self-deception has some reason—some cause of belief outside of the self. For instance, if I deceive myself into thinking I am a banana, there must be an objective idea apart from myself to which I latch onto falsely—namely the idea of a banana. However, in Pantheism there is no separate cause. Everything is caused by the divine, and every effect is divine. This is contradictory.
This brings up another problem. If we are all emanations of the divine One, then what is the cause of evil? It is a common observation all people (including Pagans) recognize some form of evil. In fact, they often associate the evils of the Inquisition with Christian theology. This begs the question. If all people are ultimately divine, where does the impetus for this evil come from? It cannot be self-caused, since the One divine is perfect. It cannot be caused by another since this violates the all-is-one principle of Pantheism. The only other solution is to claim evil is an illusion, and there is neither right or wrong, good or evil; in which case, the claimed torture of nine-million witches by Christians is not really any big deal.
As Bill Honsberger notes, if neo-Paganism is true, and there is no moral absolute; then “burn the witch, drown the witch, take the witch to lunch”26 are all equally ethical alternatives. This, of course, is existentially unacceptable for most witches and puts them once again on the horns of the dilemma. A solution to Pantheism’s problem of separation can then be offered in the theism of Christianity, which sees God related to the world like a painter to a painting. The painter is at once above the painting in that he causes it, but he is also in it—in the sense that it bears his image and his mind. Evil is caused by those persons who are separate from Him but still bare His image.
The Ignorance of Causality: Starhawk’s Panentheism
One attempt to solve this dichotomy is found in the Panentheism of Wiccan author Starhawk and her concept of the “spiral dance.” Traditional Panentheism is associated with the philosophy of A.N. Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne. Panentheism sees the relationship of the world and the divine as two poles of the same idea. God is bi-polar with an actual and a potential pole. The divine is to the world as a soul is to a body. The world needs the divine to give it life and causation, and God needs the world to reach his potential. The divine is constantly changing and growing. The world is created ex materia. As Geisler explains this view:
“The present universe is co-created by God and man out of the preexisting ‘stuff.’ God, of course, is the prime Transformer or Shaper of each world and of each world-state … the world is God’s cosmic body and … those creatures who make up the world are like cells in his body … the creatures in the universe contribute value to God’s life. The inclusive aim or goal of all creatures is to enrich God’s happiness and thus help him fulfill what he lacks.”27
Compare this with Starhawk28 who says, “In Witchcraft, however, what happens in the world is vitally important. The Goddess is immanent, but she needs human help to realize her fullest beauty.”29 She affirms the creation ex materia and ex deo. “The world is born, not made, and not commanded into being.”30 The Goddess is eternal, but she creates all other existence within herself and gives birth to the world.31 Some part of her becomes masculine; and then, there is the endless interplay of the masculine and feminine, the swirling of opposite energies that fuel the universe: “Existence is sustained by the on-off pulse, the alternating current of the two forces in perfect balance.”32
This spiral swirling of everything provides a solution to the apparent separateness of the observable reality:
“The mythology and cosmology of Witchcraft are rooted in that ‘Paleolithic shaman’s insight:’ [sic] that all things are swirls of energy, vortexes of moving forces, currents in an ever-changing sea. Underlying that appearance of separateness of fixed objects within a linear stream of time, reality is a field of energies that congeal, temporarily, into forms. In time, all ‘fixed’ things dissolve, only to coalesce again into new forms, new vehicles.”33
The separateness of reality is only temporary then. All things are constantly changing in an endless dance. Starhawk’s modified form of Panentheism is actually more plausible than the Pantheism of other Pagans. It solves the problem of separateness while maintaining an essentially monistic view. However, it fails in two crucial areas. First of all, Starhawk’s cosmology has a self-caused being:
“Alone, awesome, complete within Herself, the Goddess … floated in the abyss of the outer darkness, before the beginning of all things … She saw her own light [sic] her radiant reflection, and fell in love with it. She drew forth by the power that was in Her and made love to Herself, and called her “Mira the Wonderful …Their ecstasy burst forth in the single song of all that is, was, or ever shall be … waves that poured outward and became all the spheres and circles of the worlds.”34
We know Starhawk’s goddess is a self-caused being, because she is mutable. A mutable being cannot be infinite. If a being is mutable, it can change. To change means it goes from one state to another. But if it does this, then it is temporal—in time. A being who is in time cannot be eternal and is, therefore, limited. If a being is limited, it cannot be infinite by definition. If Starhawk’s goddess is finite, then she is contingent (since all finite things are contingent and need a cause according to the principle of contingency).
There are only two options for the cause of this goddess. One is that the goddess is caused by another non-contingent and uncaused being. However, if this is the case, then Starhawk’s goddess is not an ultimate being at all but only a finite creature. Once again, we are worshiping something not worthy of an ultimate devotion. The only other option is that the goddess is self-caused. However, this too is a violation of first principles. A self-caused being must have had a beginning, because you cannot have an infinite regress of finite causes. There must have been some moment in which the causing started; otherwise, there is no cause but an eternal state. But, if there was a moment when the goddess began to be caused, and she is the only being able to cause anything, then she would have to exist before she was caused to exist. An effect cannot be prior to its cause. The goddess would have to exist and not exist at the same time and in the same relation. This is a violation of the principle of non-contradiction. Therefore, this goddess cannot be self-caused. We have already shown Starhawk’s goddess cannot be eternal, since she is temporal. According to the principle of non-contradiction, something cannot both be temporal and eternal (its opposite) at the same time and in the same relation. Starhawk’s goddess fails the test of first principles because she is a self-caused being. Since first principles are our test of reality. Starhawk’s goddess cannot exist.
The Ignorance of Causality: Polytheism
A very few Pagans are true Polytheists—ones who believe the gods and goddesses to be separate beings. As it was pointed out, these beings must be finite, since it is impossible to have two infinites. Pagans differ as to the cause of these beings. Some believe they are caused by nature. They are primordial powers that give shape and meaning to existence. Adler cites David L. Miller’s The New Polytheism: Rebirth of the Gods and Goddesses: “The gods for Miller, are informing powers, psychic realities that give shape to social, intellectual, and personal existence.”35Others believe they are metaphysical extensions of the thoughts and beliefs of those who seek to worship them. Once again, Adler quotes Gwydion Pendderwen, “The gods are really the components of our psyches. We are the gods, in the sense that we, as the sum total of human beings, are the sum of the gods.”36 It should be noted that, at first glance, one might be tempted to see Miller and Pendderwen’s view as simply some psychoanalytical metaphor for human experience—a Jungian exercise to understand human psychological harmony. Indeed, some Pagans do see the gods this way. The majority do talk a lot about the gods in the context of psychology:
“I do not believe in gods as real personalities on any plane, or in any dimension. Yet, I do believe gods as symbols or personifications universal principles. The Earth mother is the primal seed—source of the universe …”37
Yet, in the same explanation, this Pagan reaffirms some real existent power manifested in nature: “… I believe in gods perceived in nature; perceived as a storm, a forest spirit, the goddess of the lake, etc. Many places and times of the year have a spirit or power about them. Perhaps these are my gods.”
This kind of dichotomy functions smoothly in a worldview that puts little, if any, value on reason and logic. However, once first principles are applied to the view, the dichotomy reveals itself. The gods must either exist as beings or exist only as ideas. They cannot exist as ideas and as beings in the same relation. They can exist as ideas and beings at the same time in the following relation. A banana can exist in my mind as an idea and exist physically as a banana. But my idea is not a banana, and the physical banana is not an idea. In the same way, the idea of a god is not the same as a being, and a being is not ontologically an idea. Once again, their worldview brings the Pagan to a dilemma. If they say the gods are just psychic metaphors, then they have yet to explain the cause of a contingent universe. The principle of causality says nothing cannot cause something. If the gods are only metaphors, then we have no cause for the contingent universe. We are essentially worshiping something that has no intrinsic reality. We are worshiping an idea. The debt of causality never gets paid, and in reality, there are no gods at all. The gods are not ultimate in their power. Worship existentially is what Paul Tillich called an ultimate commitment to an ultimate.38Yet, according to the principle of causality, something has to be ultimate and the first cause. So then, if this version of Polytheism is adopted, we have people who are worshiping ideas in their mind rather than any ultimate being. This is Atheism by ignorance.
If, however, the Pagan says the gods are existent in some way, then they have to explain how they have existence. What is the source of the existence? If the gods are finite (and, therefore, contingent), then what caused them? The principle of contingency ultimately says a contingent being cannot be the cause of another contingent being. There cannot be an infinite regress of finite causes. If the Pagan says the gods are caused by nature, then the gods are still contingent beings and not ultimate. Whatever is caused by something else is dependent on that something.39If the universe makes the gods, then what makes the universe? The universe seems, by all scientific evidence, to have had a beginning. Something has to be a first cause according to the principle of causality. That cause cannot be contingent or finite according to the principle of contingency. But, in Polytheism, the gods are contingent and nature (the universe) is contingent. Therefore, neither the gods nor nature can be the first cause. This leaves only two options. Either nature is eternal, in which case we are back to Pantheism with all its problems, or there is a necessary (non-contingent) being who is infinite and the first cause of all else—the precise view of Christian theism.
The Roots of Ignorance: Moral Rebellion
The Pagan worldview (whether it be Pantheism, Panentheism, or Polytheism) does not stand up to the test of rationality according to first principles. The gods and goddesses of Paganism just don’t measure up to the way things really are. In fact, they are contradictory to the first principles which are the same for Pagan and Christian alike. When confronted with this undeniable fact, most Pagans will simply beg off the argument and return, once again, to the trite assertion that all this logic is merely word games. One Pantheist I spoke to ignored the implications of our argument by saying, “Well, that’s your logic and first principles. I don’t accept your logic.” When I asked if there was another kind of logic he would like to offer, he, of course, had no reply. There is no other logic but the first principles. They are not arbitrarily dictated by some belief system. All belief systems are tested by them. To use a crude analogy, they are “woven into the very fabric of reality.” We are all subject to the same logic. This is our common ground. I asked him, point blank, why he did not accept my logic in light of the fact he had no other logic to offer as a substitute. His answer was very telling. He replied, “If I accepted your logic, I would have to accept your God.”40 And that is the one thing he would not do. His answer strikes at the heart of all Pagan belief, indeed, at any belief contrary to the true nature of God. His problem was not that he could not accept my God; it was that he refused to accept my God. The problem ultimately is not philosophical, but moral. This is echoed in Paul’s address to the Romans:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them.”[41. Romans 1:18 (NIV)]
All men ultimately know there is one eternal, intelligent, and moral being. It is not a question of there being enough evidence. The evidence is adequate and the logic is inescapable. The problem is one of moral rebellion. This leads to a depraved mind and false worship:
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”41
Notice the mind is depraved first due to rebellion, and then, the false views of reality and Paganism are a result. Why is Paganism so hostile to the notion of a Christian God who is rational according to first principles, knowable, infinite, and moral? Because, if such a God exists, then we are all accountable to Him for our actions and our lives. This is the God of the Bible. Jesus Himself claimed to be this God manifest in human flesh, and He proved He was not a liar or a lunatic by His resurrection from the dead. The neo-Pagan is right about their assessment that Christianity is exclusive and dogmatic. First principles demand all truth be exclusive and dogmatic. The principle of excluded middle says that something either is or is not true. There is no middle ground. When Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,”42He is affirming what first principles make undeniable. There is an objective reality, and it can be known. But, Jesus goes farther. Not only does He claim to be the infinite, He claims the infinite earnestly seeks the finite. The divine seeks the human with a love unsurpassed. He claims truth is knowable because, “I am the truth and I am knowable.” He says the way is singular because, “I am the way and I am singular.” He says a life of relationship is possible because, “I am life and a relationship with me is possible.” He does not claim, “I have the truth.” He says, “I am the truth. All reality corresponds to Me.” This is why Christianity must be exclusive because first principles demand that if Christ is truth, then all that is contradictory to Him must be false.
Our Pagan friends must be confronted with the reality their worldview does not work logically. The Christian worldview does. God has made Himself plain to them, and furthermore, He seeks them out. Once first principles are seen as the test for truth, and the Pagan worldview is rejected; then the tenets of Christianity can be tested. This includes the reliability of the New Testament, the proof of the resurrection, and atonement. It is beyond the purview of this article to touch on those subjects. In that part of the apologetic, Christianity is shown to be true in that it does correspond to first principles and presents a rational worldview. Once this is affirmed, apologetics can do no more. Only the Holy Spirit can quicken the heart toward salvation. The task of the apologist is to remove the barriers in the mind—to till the ground for the seed of evangelism.Ω
*metaphysics: the branch of philosophy that deals with first principles and seeks to explain the nature of being or reality (ontology) and of the origin and structure of the world (cosmology): it is closely associated with the theory of knowledge (epistemology). (Webster’s)
**epistemology: the study or theory of the origin, nature, methods, and limits of knowledge. (Webster’s)
†Kantian phenomenology: the philosophy of Kant, who held that the content of knowledge comes a posteriori from sense perception, but that its form is determined by a priori categories of the mind: he also declared that God, freedom, and immortality cannot be denied and must necessarily be presupposed, although they cannot be proved. (Webster’s)
Jonathan is currently working on his Master of Divinity in Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary. He teaches Bible and English at North Hills Christian School, Salisbury, NC He is the most recent addition to the team of Midwest Christian Outreach. Inc in Salisbury, NC
© 2015, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.
- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillan, 1975),33 ↩
- 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) ↩
- Designer Faith, Midwest Christian Outreach, Taped Seminar: Foundations of Faith Conference, 1999. Cassette ↩
- Anonymous Pagan, interviewed by author, approx. 21 December1997 ↩
- Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, (New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1986) 23 ↩
- The Need for Defending the Faith, taped seminar, Impact AC9601, 1996, cassette ↩
- Nota Bene: This writer’s primary experience is with the Wiccan version of Paganism. Many of the quotes and examples will come from the Wiccan perspective. While it is true that paganism is myriad and varied, most if not all of the evaluation will be relevant to other traditions within paganism ↩
- Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, 10th Anniversary ed. Revised and Updated, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989) 22 ↩
- Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, (New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1986), 20 ↩
- Drawing Down the Moon, (New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1986), 171 ↩
- Drawing Down the Moon, (New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1986), 165 ↩
- Anonymous Pagan, interviewed by the author, 17 November 1999 ↩
- John 14:6 (NIV) ↩
- Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, (New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1986), 25 ↩
- Anonymous Pagan, interviewed by the author,17 October 1999 ↩
- Anonymous Pagan, interviewed by the author,17 October 1999 ↩
- Norman Geisler, The Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1999) 250 ↩
- The three-fold law says that any good or evil act or spell done by someone will return three times as great upon the person committing the act. It is similar to the idea of Karma accruing in the next life from Hinduism. The only difference is that the effect is experienced in this life not the next ↩
- Anonymous Druid, interviewed by the author, approx. April 1998 ↩
- There cannot be two infinites because, by definition, an infinite being has no limits. If one being differs from another in some way such as form (i.e. there are two forms; two tokens of the same substance), then there is not an infinite. If the two beings do not differ by anything, then there are not two beings but one. To differ by nothing is not to differ. Logically, there only can be one infinite being and all others must differ from the infinite by their finitude. This is precisely what Christian theism holds. God is infinite, and we are finite ↩
- Nota Bene: Pagans define all of these ideologies somewhat differently than we will define them here. Margot Adler admits this in Drawing Down the Moon (25). For instance, Adler says Pagans see Poly-theism as an “attitude or perspective that affect more than what we consider to be religion.” (24) I will categorize Pagan cosmologies according to their classical definitions. Christians should be careful to not take Pagans at their own categories but clarify terms. In Pagan thought one could be a Polytheist in attitude and a Pantheist in their basic understanding of the relationship between the divine and the world. Adler affirms this: “Many other neo-Pagans emphasized that polytheism allowed for both unity and diversity and several asserted that they were Monotheists at some moments and Polytheists at others.” (35) ↩
- Norman Geisler, The Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1999), Pantheism, 580 ↩
- Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, (New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1986), 139 ↩
- Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, (New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1986) 25 ↩
- Norman Geisler, The Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1999), 581 ↩
- “Why Not Burn Witches” Midwest Christian Outreach Journal (November/December 1995) 11 ↩
- Norman Geisler, The Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1999), Panentheism, 577 ↩
- Nota Bene: Starhawk’s Panentheism is not as developed as that of Whitehead’s or Hartshorne’s. The standard idea of Panentheism is offered here as a context and support. The two ideas are not identical. The reader is cautioned not to draw too many parallels between the two ↩
- Starhawk,The Spiral Dance, 10th Anniversary ed. Revised and Updated, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989) 26 ↩
- Starhawk,The Spiral Dance, 10th Anniversary ed. Revised and Updated, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989), 38 ↩
- Starhawk,The Spiral Dance, 10th Anniversary ed. Revised and Updated, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989), 31 ↩
- Starhawk,The Spiral Dance, 10th Anniversary ed. Revised and Updated, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989), 41 ↩
- Starhawk,The Spiral Dance, 10th Anniversary ed. Revised and Updated, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989), 32 ↩
- Starhawk,The Spiral Dance, 10th Anniversary ed. Revised and Updated, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989) ↩
- Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, (New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1986), 29 ↩
- Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, (New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1986), 31 ↩
- Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, (New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1986), 35 ↩
- Norman Geisler, The Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1999), 605 ↩
- Norman Geisler, The Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1999), 605 ↩
- Anonymous Pantheist, interviewed by author, approx. February 1999 ↩
- Romans 1:21-23(NIV) ↩
- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillan, 1975) ↩