In this series (click here for Part 1), I’m looking at 5 questions about arts based on something a Puritan wrote and giving some answers.
Question (1 of 5): Can an originally pagan activity be good?
Answer: Christians certainly shouldn’t do activities that are part of pagan festivals or involve doing sinful things.
However, God can use secular concepts (activities and ideas) for his purposes, even when they have pagan overtones.
In the process, those concepts gain new meanings and become symbols of truth.
For example, scholars have noted that God’s covenants with Abraham and later with the Israelites were not new ceremonies.
They were based on suzerain-vassal treaties, which were common in Ancient Near Eastern cultures.
God didn’t create an original ceremony for these covenants. He took existing ceremonies and used them for good.
We see something similar in the New Testament when Paul visits Athens.
When philosophers asked Paul to explain his faith, Paul drew their attention to an altar he found in their city, an altar to an unknown God.
He then claimed that title for God and used it to explain the Gospel. Paul knew ‘unknown God’ was not a specific title for the God of Israel.
The altar’s craftsman may not have imagined a Judeo-Christian god when he built it.
Many people probably left offerings at that altar without imagining a Judeo-Christian God.
However, Paul used the altar to show God’s truth.
Since Biblical times, Christians have followed this same principle many times, taking concepts with pagan origins and using them to explain truth.
Sometimes they even took activities and gave them new meanings.
Christmas trees originally come from winter solstice celebrations. In modern times people use them to celebrate a Christian holiday.
Easter eggs (and bunnies) probably come from pagan religions that celebrated fertility. In modern times people connect them with a holiday celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.
Fantasy literature originated in pagan myth tales like The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey. Today Christians like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have written fantasy stories reflecting Christian principles.
With God’s direction, even a concept that has a pagan history can be redeemed and made new.
Stay tuned for Part 3. In the meantime, do you have any thoughts about this? Let me know in the comments