Paganism and Western Culture

Posted on December 5, 2011 by

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Christmas and other holidays aside, Western Civilization as we know it has some distinctly pagan roots and traditions. To claim otherwise is to ignore thousands of years of history, to misunderstand and misinterpret the culture in which God has placed you, and to ultimately miss out on some important opportunities to confront the culture for Jesus Christ.

The early church fathers understood this and wrote about it – even going so far to treat on it as it related to the celebration of Christmas.

The Reformation fathers understood this as they were addressing a culture that was not only steeped in the traditions of the Catholic Church, but also in centuries of Classical literature and Germanic Paganism.

Even the Founding Fathers of our nation (who were, as we see from both their writings and their lives, overwhelmingly Christian and concerned with the spread of the Gospel) understood this as they wrestled with establishing a godly nation in an Enlightenment culture.

It is only in relatively recent years that we as Christians have chosen to ignore this duality in the roots of our culture – a civilization that has at its roots both in Scriptural morality and in godless paganism and intellectualism – and, instead of confronting the error and sanctifying our culture, we’ve ignored it and shunned it. In our zeal for purity we’ve abandoned the cultural implications of the Dominion Mandate – to take dominion over culture instead of letting culture take dominion over us.

To be able to confront (address it) and sanctify (use it to point others to Jesus) the paganism that is so firmly entrenched in our culture, we need to be both aware of our history and skilled in handling the Word of God.

I know a lot of this is very intellectual, so let me make it practical. To those who say we should reject everything in our traditions that may have roots in paganism, I ask you, what day of the week is it? You’ll answer that it’s a Monday, or a Tuesday, or a Wednesday, or whatever day it happens to be when you are reading this. Granting for a moment that Christmas is essentially a pagan holiday (and I don’t believe it is, for reason we’ll discuss in a future post), did you know that the days of the week have more paganism in them than all the traditions of Christmas combined?

Let’s just take a brief look at the meanings of the English names for the days of the week:

  • Sunday – “Sun’s Day” for the worship of the sun
  • Monday – “Moon’s Day” for the worship of the moon
  • Tuesday – “Tyr’s Day” for the worship of the Norse God of combat
  • Wednesday – “Wodan’s Day” for the worship of the chief Norse god Wodan or Odin
  • Thursday – “Thor’s Day” for the worship of Thor, the Norse god of thunder
  • Friday – “Frey’s Day” or “Frigg’s Day” for the worship of the Norse goddess of love and fertility
  • Saturday – “Saturn’s Day” for the worship of the Roman god Saturn

Faced with this knowledge, we have two options: We can reject the days of the week, or we can accept the fact that the names of these days no longer have any pagan significance and we can appropriate them for the cause of Christ. Christianity has already successfully done this to the point that when you hear the word “Sunday” in the United States, one of the first and most universal images that comes to mind is one of going to church. Even unbelievers associate Sunday as a day of worship for Christians, not as a day to worship the sun god.

In the next post, we’ll discuss this concept further. We’ll examine the biblically-established precedent for confronting, and redeeming, the culture around us

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