Volume 7, Issue 6: Doctrine 101
Christianity and the Pagan Gods
For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there
are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom
are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all
things, and through whom we live" (1 Cor. 8:5-6)
We live in a culture of materialistic superstition. We are taught to think
that ancient beliefs about spiritual forces directing nature were nonsense, and
that our modern "enlightened" conversion from this "backward" way of thinking has
enabled science to advance. When we explain natural phenomena solely in terms
of matter and its properties, we think we have explained nature in full. But
the fact that many happenings can be explained in material terms does not mean
that matter is the only relevant factor.
Trendy materialistic presuppositions prompt many to wholly discredit pagan worship.
"There was nothing behind it," some say. But we must remember that there are
indeed many gods and many lords. Didn't Pharaoh's magicians really perform miracles
(Ex. 7:22, 8:7)? Did not our Lord punish Bel Marduk, god of Babylon (Jer. 51:44)?
Did not the angels Gabriel and Michael contend with "the prince of Persia" and
the "prince of Greece" (Dan. 10:12-14, 20-21)? While many forms of paganism are
man-made, clearly not all of them are. The Scriptures affirm the existence of
gods (e.g., Ps. 86:8,138:1,136:2, 1 Cor. 8:5). And, of course, the Most High
rules over them all. These lesser deities are creations of the one true God;
none of them can stand before their maker, the God of gods. Though they are
impressive, these so-called gods were not to be worshipped.
Yet while they do not deserve our worship, pagan gods may not be treated lightly.
One of the dangerous errors committed in Christian circles today is the flippant
treatment of things that are of greater splendor than we. One popular contemporary
Christian singer performs a number of songs that purpose to tell off the devil
and make him look like a wimpish idiot. In reality, the singer comes across
as a little man who hunts a great whale with a toy squirt gun. He doesn't know
what he is up against.
The attitude of this artist, and many like him, meets a sharp rebuke from Jude:
"Likewise, indeed also, these dreamers even defile the flesh, reject lordship,
and speak evil of glorious ones" (v. 8). The context of this verse shows clearly
that these lords and "glorious ones" are celestial, not human, principalities.
The opening words "likewise . . . also" add a special sting to the rebuke, for
the preceding verse discusses the sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah. In
other words, the sin of those who "reject lordship" and "speak evil of glorious
ones" is as egregious and unnatural as sodomy! "Woe to them!" Jude continues, "For
they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for
profit, and perished in the insolent rebellion of Korah" (v. 11).
As his discussion continues, Jude sets before us a good example in the archangel
Michael. In disputing with the devil over Moses' body, Michael refused to bring
judgment of blasphemy against him (v. 9). If even the archangel Michael did
not have the rightful authority to bring judgment against the devil, then how
much more is that true of us? Michael is exemplary because he knew his place,
unlike those who "speak evil of whatever they do not know" (v. 10).
What about the prophets? Are not Isaiah and Elijah renowned for their devastating
jabs at the pagan deities? These jabs were appropriate to their prophetic office,
for they spoke the very words of God. We today do not prophetically utter the
very words of God as they did. In looking for an example of how to contend with
glorious ones, we are taught to imitate Michael the archangel, not Elijah on
Many Christians make great sport of devil-rebuking. We carry on with our presumptuous
prayers and hand-laying, reviling one whose splendor is far greater than ours.
True, the devil is evil, the father of lies, and was publicly disarmed in the
cross. Jude's instruction still applies to us. We should have no part in flippant
jokes and arrogant judgments toward the evil one, and we must distance ourselves
from dopey caricatures of him in red tights and horns. Such attitudes toward
paganism are not fitting for Christians.
Though it may seem somewhat odd, the doctrines regarding pagan deities and the
devil deserve our attention. The great old pagan religions are not all merely
fabrications of fallen man's corrupt imagination. Many of them have their source
in spiritual realities that lie well beyond man's dominion, so we may not treat
them with arrogant flippancy. However, none of these powers lies outside God's
dominion. Hence, the God of gods alone deserves our worship.