In August of 1993 Joy and I, along with a handful of other Evangelical apologists, attended the second Parliament of the World’s Religions. The first one had been held 100 years earlier in 1893. The 1993 event was well attended:
with 8,000 people from all over the world coming together to celebrate diversity and harmony and to explore religious and spiritual responses to the critical issues which confront us all.11993:Chicago, “There Is No Better Time Than Now For This To Happen Again”
At the time, our primary focus in ministry was pseudo-Christian cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and a few others. The founding and incorporation of Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc., as a mission to cults and non-Christian religions was still about twenty months away. One thing we learned in 1993 was the value of talking directly with those who hold to different worldviews.
Some groups were there looking to be included at the table with other more well-established [false] religions. Two of them, The Covenant of the Goddess and the Fellowship of Isis were Wiccan groups. Wicca was already on a growth path in 1993. Phyllis Curott, President Emerita of Covenant of the Goddess, claimed they had a following of about 300,000. Another Wiccan group, The Fellowship of Isis, was founded in 1976 by Lady Olivia Robertson and her brother, Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, a clergyman in the Church of Ireland and priest of Isis. Lady Olivia represented the Fellowship of Isis at the 1993 Parliament. This, indeed, was a coming-out party for the Wiccan community. Wicca, witchcraft, Druidism, Paganism, and even Satanism have become far more accepted and mainstream over the past thirty years. Some pagan practices are experiencing rapid growth within the church. It is another sad fact that many, if not most, pagans were raised in the Christian faith — and had, in fact, attended a Christian Church before their involvement with paganism. Why were they lost to paganism? Obviously, they were not taught to defend their own faith, nor taught why paganism is not compatible with Christianity, nor even compatible with rational thought, when one thinks about it, which most people sadly do not.
Accordingly, Paganism is now a large part of the mission field where apologetic ministries labor. This is an arena into which far too few Christians venture. This mission field is, in many ways, the same sort of environment into which Paul was invited on Mars Hill in Athens. (Acts 17:16-34) Paul understood pagan thinking and utilized their own idols, worldviews, poets, and philosophers to lead them to the gospel — with the result that some believed.
In September 2000, Twin Cities Pagan Pride in Minnesota held its first Paganicon at the University of Minnesota. It has grown substantially since those days. About four of us, two from MCOI and two from Haven Ministries attended Paganicon 2023 last week. After we returned, I emailed Twin Cities Pagan Pride and asked if they have an attendance count and was told 1,000 had registered. Carl Teichrib at Forcing Change attended Paganicon in the past and contributed two articles on the event, Journeys in Paganistan -Part 1 and Journeys in Paganistan – Part 2. In Carl’s first article, he described:
a reality beyond books and TV screens — a spiritual worldview that honors creation over the Creator. Is a new Pagan age dawning? It appears so.
What happens at Paganicon? Attendees gather to connect as a community with a shared spirituality. They participate in a variety of workshops to learn about paganism’s “ancient history,” how to better engage in ritual and worship — and how to connect with the deity or deities of their choosing. Many of them are looking to find a personalized faith — unlike their experience in Christian churches, which ideally still believe in and present “the faith once delivered to the saints.” These would be churches that, in centuries-long practice, have not been open to egotistical self-stylized interpretation. We have noticed that “the new thing” is often far more exciting to people than “the old thing” because, well, the new thing is NEW, and the old thing is OLD. In most cases, new personal revelation from their deities replaces that “old religious book.” But some pagans just read a new and happier (in their thinking) understanding into the ancient book without throwing the whole thing out. There is a melding going on, as Carl points out:
This workshop reinforced something I would hear more than once; that many who formerly identified as Christians now follow Pagan paths. For example, during a Saturday panel, the question was raised as to which religious affiliations people held before joining the ranks of neo-Pagans: Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Orthodox, and Missionary. Heads around the room nodded in affirmation. In fact, it was acknowledged that a relatively new movement was being born, Christo-paganism — an intentional cross-pollination of Christian teachings with Pagan practices and beliefs.2Journeys in Paganistan -Part 1
This is not only occurring within the pagan community but, as we already mentioned, Christians are embracing some pagan practices within the church as well. One of the workshops I attended was “Shamanic Journeying” and was led by Shaman Sherry L.M. Merriam, MA, LPCC, TCHI. She described the reason for these spiritual journeys:
Shamanistic journeying is to receive new personal revelation from spirit beings instead of information from an old religious book.
The “old religious book” is antiquated and not satisfyingly personal enough today. We need a fresh take that personal revelation provides. We note that Claudio Naranjo, from whom the Enneatypes were added to the Enneagram, was an admirer of Shamanism, which, according to him, is the path he feels most aligned. He was an advocate for better spirituality through better psychedelics. To borrow from a popular phrase of the 1960s — “Turn on, tune in and drop out” of churches that refuse to change with the times.
As Shaman Sherry L.M. Merriam was preparing the group to enter into the spiritual realm for a short Shamanistic journey, she said that those who have practiced Contemplative Meditation will be familiar with these techniques. With the amount of Eastern mysticism pouring into the church through Contemplative Prayer, my antenna went up immediately. I raised my hand and asked Merriam what would happen if someone inadvertently encountered an evil spirit while on this “journey?” She assured the attendees this would never happen because each of us will have a “spirit guide.” I then asked how we would know our spirit guide is good, and she responded:
The spirit guide is always good and is your protector from evil spirits.
Even Rocky the flying squirrel knew to ask Bullwinkle if the spirits he was calling up were “friendly,” but perhaps that simple precaution is lost on people today. Those engaged in “Contemplative Prayer” may not realize that Richard Foster gives a similar warning about spirits in “PRAYER: Contemplative Prayer – A Warning and a Precaution”:
I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as supernatural guidance that is not divine guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on the nature of the spiritual world, we do know enough to recognize that there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way!
I say these things not to make you fearful but to make you knowledgeable. You need to know that “like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8). You also need to know that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world,” (1 John 4:4).
With respect to spiritual warfare, I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.
Contemplative Prayer, like Shamanic Journeying, moves the practitioner to an experiential encounter with spirit beings they believe are God — and while so engaged, may receive new personal revelation from spirits with evil intent. The drawback is, like Shamanic Journeying, the unwitting contactee needs protection from assaults by evil spirits. We think it far safer and actually biblical to avoid such “experiential contact” altogether and pray the old-fashioned way and meditate on the word of God. Christo-Paganism is indeed rushing into the church.
We spent over an hour with Jean (Drum) Pagano, who is a member of the Reformed Druids of North America. He describes himself as a polytheistic pantheist, one who believes in many gods and believes that God is in the cosmos and all things. After our conversation, he presented his workshop, “An Introduction to Devotional Polytheism.” He described the various rituals he performs in his attempts to build relationships with deities. During our initial discussion, he explained that often when he teaches about Paganism, he takes along a box that is labeled “The History of Paganism.” At the beginning of his presentations, he lets the audience know that he is going to show them all the information we have about ancient paganism and ritual. He opens the box to reveal it is empty. There is, in fact, very little actual information about ancient Paganism passed down from ancient practitioners. Pagano and the other pagan groups are, in truth, creating their own traditions, deities, and practices today. In another workshop, “Lessons from the Indigenous Pagan Survivals,” offered by Andras Corban-Arthen, Andras mentioned that he has traveled to 67 countries in search of information on ancient Pagan practices. His findings could not add anything to Jean Pagano’s empty box.
Not only is it the ancient history of paganism and its rituals that is an empty box, but the newly minted paganism itself is devoid of anything that can enrich one’s life or save a lost and seeking soul.
As we met and spoke with a variety of Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, Druids, and Satanists, I noted that none of them understood Christianity in the least. They don’t see themselves as sinners needing salvation and assert that all religions are essentially the same at the core (perennialism).
We leave those with whom we shared the gospel with God. We clearly presented the gospel to many people and are praying for them. However, we are merely ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). God may use us to plant the seed and others to water while He causes the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)
Christians can be an essential part of this ministry, even though they may not have been physically in attendance. For all the people we witness to, whether cultists or pagans or simply people that have not given much thought to true Christianity, we ask you to pray.Ω
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