Paganism, or Not Paganism

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From Peter Jones book, The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat. Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press, 2015:

Our Worldview Alternatives: Oneism and Twoism

I claim, with the Bible, that there are only two worldviews—one based on the ultimacy of the creation, and the other based on the ultimate, prior, and all-determining existence of the Creator. Creation and Creator are the only alternatives as divine objects of worship—the only possible explanations of the world we know. The conflict is between two mutually exclusive, antithetical belief systems. Our choice will affect the answers we give to those two important questions: Is there something rather than nothing? And if there is something, what is that something like?
For the sake of simplicity, I call these two alternatives Oneism and Twoism.1 They are not mere variations on a general spiritual theme, but the only two timeless, mutually contradictory ways to think about the world. In these two terms (Oneism and Twoism), there is a universe of difference. These are the only two destinations on the tracks we can travel; let’s map them out in more detail now.

Oneism

Oneism sees the world as self-creating (or perpetually existing) and self-explanatory. Everything is made up of the same stuff, whether matter, spirit, or a mixture. There’s one kind of existence, which, in one way or another, we worship as divine (or of ultimate importance), even if that means worshiping ourselves. Though there is apparent differentiation and even hierarchy, all distinctions are, in principle, eliminated, and everything has the same worth. This is a “homocosmology,” a worldview based on sameness. The classic term for this is “paganism,” worship of nature.

Twoism

The only other option is a world that is the free work of a personal, transcendent God, who creates ex nihilo (from nothing). In creating, God was not constrained by or dependent on any preexisting conditions. There is nothing exactly like this in our human experience of creating; our creative acts are analogous to God’s. There is God, and there is everything that is not-God—everything created and sustained by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This worldview celebrates otherness, distinctiveness. We only worship as divine the distinct, personal, triune Creator, who placed essential distinctions within the creation. This is a “heterocosmology,” a worldview based on otherness and difference. This is often called “theism.”2
Both of these worldviews, whether implicitly assumed or explicitly embraced, require the same fundamental certainty. In other words, if one is ultimately true, the other must be false. In the moral universe of the Bible, knowledge is never neutral. That’s why Paul calls these worldviews “the truth” and “the lie” (Rom 1:25).

Endnotes:

1 I am not inventing anything other than a simplified terminology. Other descriptions of the two options include biblical faith or paganism, monism or theism, or the Creator/creature distinction.

2 If this is the biblical worldview, how does one relate it to Rabbinic Judaism and Islam, whose followers also claim to respect the Bible (though in very different ways)? There is only one pure Oneist—Satan—and one pure Twoist—Jesus Christ. Judaism and Islam have a defective view of biblical Twoism. Their denial of the Trinity leaves them with a transcendent yet impersonal God (an attempt at Twoism), who ultimately depends upon his relationship with human beings in order to constitute his personhood (which ends up in Oneism by a circuitous route). Rabbinic scholar Abraham Heschel (1907–1972) rightly critiqued Islam for seeing God as “unqualified Omnipotence,” who can never be “the Father of mankind,” and thus is radically impersonal. See Heschel, The Prophets (New York: Harper, 1962), 292, 311. Yet postbiblical Judaism cannot escape Heschel’s critique entirely. The medieval rabbi Maimonides, for example, also confessed an “absolutely transcendent God who is independent of humanity.” See Reuven Kimelman, “The Theology of Abraham Joshua Heschel,” First Things (Dec 2009). On the other hand, Kimelman notes that Heschel commits the opposite error to that of Maimonides (and Islam), namely that of making God dependent on man in a covenantal relationship that both God and man need in order to be who they are. Heschel adopts the rabbinical concept that it is human witness that in some sense makes God real (Kimelman, “The Theology of Abraham Joshua Heschel”). Once more, God is dependent upon humanity. This is the classic dilemma of a monotheism without the Trinity. Because Heschel does not believe God to be triune, God depends on man to be personal and therefore cannot be “Wholly Other” in relation to creation.
Peter Jones, The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat (Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press, 2015), 12–13.

The Frustration of Modern Education

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“Our work as educators would be hopeless and futile if we engaged in it on the principle of synthesis discussed above. But what joy it is to know that Christ has come to save man and his culture! The first Adam by his sin refused to undertake the cultural mandate given him. When he was told to subdue the earth he would not do so as unto God his creator. But the second Adam undertook anew what the first Adam, and all men with him, failed to do. Now then, we who are saved by grace, we who have by the Spirit of God been born from above, need not beat the air. There is for us a true synthesis of all things in Christ. And we may offer this Christ to all men that they too with us might escape the futility and the absurdity, the immorality and the blasphemy, of seeking to synthesize what by their very sinful act they are all the while destroying. The task of educators who do not educate in and unto Christ is like the task of Sisyphus as he rolled his stone to the top of the hill only to see it roll down again. If the facts of the world are not created and redeemed by God in Christ, then they are like beads that have no holes in them and therefore cannot be strung into a string of beads. If the laws of the world are not what they are as relating the facts that are created and redeemed by Christ, these laws are like a string of infinite length, neither end of which can be found. Seeking to string beads that cannot be strung because they have no holes in them, with string of infinite length neither end of which you can find; such is the task of the educator who seeks to educate without presupposing the truth of what the self-attesting Christ has spoken in the Scriptures.”

Cornelius Van Til, Essays on Christian Education (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1979).

Christ’s Rule

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“We may patiently pass through this life with its misery, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other troubles—content with this one thing: that our King will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph. Such is the nature of his rule, that he shares with us all that he received from the Father. Now he arms and equips us with his power, adorns us with his beauty and magnificence, enriches us with his wealth.”

John Calvin, Institutes, 2.15.4