Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbour, for we are members of one another. [Ephesians 4:25]
I had the privilege recently of speaking with Dr. Peter Jones at the Connecticut Valley Conference on Reformed Theology and the topic was modern paganism. My job was simply to prepare the way for Dr. Jones’ lectures on the newest lie being foisted on Americans, namely neo-paganism. One of Dr. Jones’ lectures was entitled ‘The Five Points of Paganism’ and he observed that we increasingly face a monistic worldview, namely that all is One and One is all. That is, God is within us and we are within God. This is distinctly different from the Christian view that God is separate from us, that he is transcendent. Second, all humanity is one; we are all part of one another. Third, all religions are one; there is no difference between any of them. They are all different paths up the mountain to the same god. Fourth, we have one problem, and it is a lack of true gnosis, or intimate knowledge of ourselves and our universe. Thus the goal of neo-paganism is to remove distinctions between monism and theism, creature and Creator, God and man, animals and humans, life and death, heaven and hell, homosexual and heterosexual, right and wrong, good and evil, sin and holiness, the Bible and other scriptures, monotheism and polytheism, parents and children, monogamy and polygamy, love and pornography. And the fifth point of neo-paganism is that there is one solution, that there is no answer outside of us, that all answers are found within us. In other words, there is no need for thinking. In fact the word mantra is a Sanskrit combination of two words meaning to think and to be liberated from. Thus when one cites his mantra he is emptying his mind of thought and looking for an inner experience of liberation. Dr. Jones suggests that we put away the language of New Age, for that is now outdated. We should also not speak of this being a post-Christian world. Rather the language we ought to use is to refer to our present world as a pre-Christian one, very similar to what Paul found when he came to Ephesus at the end of his second missionary Journey.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, is writing to former pagans, those who had worshipped the goddess Artemis, who, by the work of the Holy Spirit, had been given new life in Christ, who had turned from goddesses, from monism to theisim, who had believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, putting away their idols and serving the true and living God. After telling the Ephesians what they are not to do (Eph. 4:17-19), telling them not to act like pagans, he then tells them positively what they are to do – to put off the old man (how they lived prior to their conversion) and to be renewed in the spirit of their mind, and to put on the new man (all they now have in Christ as new creations). From there Paul gives a series of exhortations on how to live practically as believers in a pagan world. We would do well, in our neo-pagan world, to heed the advice of the Apostle Paul.
The foundation of his exhortation is found in the first phrase of the verse – ‘therefore, laying aside falsehood’ The Greek word translated falsehood is pseudo and the article with it connotes the idea of the lie, the falsehood. What is the nature of the lie, the falsehood? Paul makes clear in Ephesians 4:14 that it is false doctrine, listening to dice-playing men who engage in crafty scheming. The lie refers to anything or anyone who undermines the truth as it is in Jesus, verse 21. Then Paul gives the exhortation, that we are constantly and consistently to speak the truth to our neighbour. Our neighbour is not just a believer but anyone whom God brings our way. The truth refers to the gospel, and all that comes from it – namely being truthful in all our speech. And the explanation as to why we are to do this is because we are all members of one another. All true believers are one body in Christ.
So practically, what does this mean for you? Due to the fact that you are united to Christ in his death and resurrection, you have a relationship with the true and living God whom Paul describes to Titus as ‘one who cannot lie’. You are to listen to him. You are to get your marching orders for life from him. You are not to listen to the devil.
Jesus told us that the devil is a liar, that he has come to kill, steal, and destroy. And how does he lie to you? He tells you that you have plenty of time to repent, that many roads lead to God, that God is unfair, unjust in his dealings with you, that God does not love you, nor does he provide for you. On the one hand he tells you that you are not so bad, but on the other hand he tells you that you are beyond hope, that you should give up forever the notion that God could forgive you and love you. Further, the devil convinces people that there is no hell, that they ought to put away their outdated notion of perdition.
But perhaps the most virulent strain of lie he uses is to convince us that we ought to worship the creation rather than the Creator-Redeemer. It goes like this: we all are prone to look to the world – our parents, children, a friend, our money, our accomplishments, or any other thing – to liberate us, to give us a sense of well being, to give us what the Hebrews call Shalom, the fullness of life, mental and emotional well being, etc. The moment you worship anything it becomes your master. It controls and enslaves you. That’s why Paul can say in Romans 6 that if you become a slave to disobedience you become a slave of the one you obey, of sin resulting in greater unrighteousness or a slave to God which results in sanctification and eternal life. When you worship anything other than God you are beholden to that person or thing. That’s why you fear certain people. You crave their acceptance. They have enslaved you. You fear their frown. You fear their rejection and you will compromise yourself in order to maintain their respect or affection. That’s why you feel intimidated around certain people. You need their approval. This is true of a preacher who longs for the respect of his peers and feels inferior when around them, measuring his ministry against those whom he respects, always feeling less accomplished than they. That’s why a young mother caves in to the demands of her young children. She wants to look good before her peers, and she does not want to appear a failure. She gives her children what they want instead of what they need in order to keep them quiet, appearing well behaved. The moment you listen to this lie you will be on the road to Hades instead of Shalom. I am not saying this leads you to hell, but I am saying your life on earth can become a living hell. Your fear, anxiety, and anger will grow because those whom you seek to impress will discover you, realizing that you are not all you claim to be . . .
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
‘Christianity is Taught Not Caught’ July 19, 2019
Today more than ever attention focusses on young people. Newspaper headlines of their activities feature everything from revolution to drugs, student sit-ins to the generation gap, hooliganism to hijacking. Not that the news media are unfair or disproportionate: in a year or two the average age in America will be twenty-four. Most of these young […]
On Doctrine and Practice July 16, 2019
A charge that is made repeatedly against historic Christianity is that its stress on doctrine makes it authoritarian, theoretical, and cold. The Christian religion is a practical affair; putting the faith in terms of truth to be believed alienates or repels many who would otherwise be sympathetic. As John Robinson puts it, ‘the effect of […]