Believing Like Pagans

Pagans are perpetually insecure because they have no way of knowing that they are safe in the hands of their gods. That is, they have no certain, special revelation about God or from God concerning the nature of the spiritual world they live in. To the degree that Christians are influenced by pagan thinking, they also become more insecure. They are never sure when they might be cursed. They are never sure when a demon may invade them. They imagine they need some spiritual technology gleaned from the spirit world in order to insure a successful outcome for their endeavors. They need a “Christian” version of a shaman to mediate between them and the spirit world (usually called “prophets” or “deliverance counselors”). In short, they are like pagans in most respects.

Some adherents, like Greg Boyd, who are more theologically sophisticated, have emotional or philosophical reasons to prefer the pagan worldview. Boyd cannot accept the implications of the doctrine of God’s providence and willingly says so. The providential worldview is the Biblical worldview, though Boyd denies it, instead offering paganism as the alternative. The teaching of the Bible clearly claims that God is indeed in charge of His own universe and knows all things. That is what God told Job when Job found himself the victim of what Boyd calls “gratuitous evil.”

But exchanging the Biblical doctrine of providence for the pagan belief in the warfare worldview creates the type of insecurities common for pagans. Boyd realizes this: “Whatever else may be said about the classical-philosophical blueprint model of God’s providence [Boyd’s way of discrediting the doctrine of providence], it does provide the believer with a certain kind of security that the warfare worldview seems to lack—so long as one steers clear of concrete atrocities.”31 In other words, it may be more comforting to believe that God is providentially ruling over His own universe to bring history forward according to His saving purposes; but it is not emotionally satisfying to think of God allowing evil in His universe for His own good purposes. To think that evil happens outside of God’s foreknowledge and providential control seems more satisfying to some (such as Boyd). The implication, of course, is that to avoid being victims of gratuitous evil that God did not foresee and chooses not to control, we must figure out how to battle the spirits and find shelter from their malicious power. If we fail to embrace the shamans and their teaching, the evil spirits may very well get the upper hand and destroy us.