What comes to mind when you hear the word “pagan?” Maybe someone in a more primitive time or place prostrating themselves before the an idol? While there is some truth to that – such a person would be a pagan – there’s more to it than that. Paganism is not just idol worship but a world-view that, as we’ll see in a moment, confuses two very important things – God and the creation.
As we saw last time, Kuyper says a life-system is defined by the answers to three questions:
- How does man relate to God?
- How does man relate to man?
- How does man relate to the world?
This time we’ll look at how he says paganism answers those questions.
How does a Pagan relate to God?
In paganism, man worships God in the creature. Any belief system that doesn’t have a concept of the independent existence of God apart from creation is pagan. As Kuyper says, this is true of the lowest animism and the highest Buddhism.
In our day, this can be said of the many belief systems that enshrine nature and ecological concerns above all things. These groups are sometimes called neo-pagan but they are really just a resurgence of the garden variety paganism of centuries past.
This would include any belief system claiming man contains the divine or that man has the ability to become divine or has within himself all that is needed for redemption. This too fails to separate God from His creation and is therefore pagan – because ultimately what is worshiped in such systems is man.
How does a Pagan relate to his fellow man?
If there is no differentiation between the creation and the creator, then men will equate the “good” they see in creation with divinity. So, if I’m healthy, wealthy & wise, it must be because I’m more god-like than those who aren’t so fortunate. According to Kuyper, from this line of thinking comes the caste systems of India & Egypt. Those who are furthest from god-likeness (as evidenced by their low station in life) are inferior and therefore to be subordinated to those who are of higher caste. The more god-like something is, the more right it has to rule over the unwashed masses. Roman emperor worship was in this category. The Third Reich was in this category as well. Much has been written about their fascination with paganism and I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to view their belief in a “master race” which had the power of life and death over their “inferiors” as a consequence of that.
We see this today in the radical environmentalism that weeps over the felling of old growth forests while treating as sacrosanct a woman’s right to kill her unborn child.
How does a Pagan relate to the world?
Kuyper says, paganism has too high an estimate of the world. Paganism says the world is to be worshiped. The planet is not a resource to be used for the betterment of mankind but a god-like living thing to be preserved in it’s pristine state, even if that means human beings have to suffer and die to accomplish that.
Next time: How does Islam answer the three life-system questions?
- Lectures on Calvinism by Abraham Kuyper – Part I (larryfarlow.com)
- What Is Your World View? – Lectures on Calvinism by Abraham Kuyper – Part II (larryfarlow.com)