Is Christianity just rehashed paganism?

Monday Musings for December 21, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

I wasn’t brought up in an evangelical household, and I knew nothing about the Bible when I got saved (at 19). I was familiar with some of the Bible’s stories, of course — like Adam-and-Eve and Noah — but I had to check out “the Book” for myself. Now that I had jumped in with both feet, if the Bible turned out to be false, then I was back in the same old trouble — grinding away at life, hoping for prosperity and mercy… but uninformed about their particulars.

The first Scripture I read was a stand-alone edition of the Gospel of John, but soon I was reading Luke, Paul, Peter and James… and starting to feel comfortable with the New Testament. But strangely, I found this comfort disquieting on some level, so I began reading the Old Testament. That fixed my comfort problem!

What I found particularly uncomfortable were the people that God chose to become his people — the Jews. I simply wanted to drop-kick Jacob for how he and Rebekah (his mother) duped Isaac (his father). That was unconscionable, I thought — and I still think so today! But I was so taken aback by my first reading that I reexamined the relevant Scripture hoping that there were other people named Jacob and Rebekah through whom God would build his holy nation… because I must have missed something on my first reading!

I was wrong, of course. There were only those two. So, I swallowed hard… and started digesting the idea that those were the people God chose. Today — over 50 years later — I still feel uncomfortable… and I find myself apologizing for that duo every time I talk about them.

What this means is, I’m not comfortable with Christianity’s roots — and our “roots” are at issue in today’s Q & A. Abraham, the father of all faithful people, was a pagan before God called him. Jacob, the father of the Jewish nation, fled the wrath of his brother Esau (whom he also duped… I’m just saying) and ran away to live with his pagan uncle, Laban.

But the story doesn’t stop there. He sired 12 sons who became the heads of Israel’s twelve tribes through Laban’s two pagan daughters and their two pagan handmaidens… so I say under my breath to the Omniscient One (in case he doesn’t know how I feel), “Nice way to build a holy people — a non-pagan nation, God!”

I’m (obviously) a little miffed at God for not choosing a purer spiritual stock, but the New Testament teaches that there is no such thing — not after Adam. So, you think I’d give the patriarchs a break: they too were “works in progress” as I am. But didn’t God know the trouble all this pagan ancestry would cause? I’m thinking, he did.

Romans 1:18-20 says that people can know God’s power and deity through his creation; this teaching is in place for pagans — as is Romans 2:14-15 which teaches that we all have a morality sensor — a conscience. When we combine this with John 6:44’s teaching that God is proactive in drawing people to himself, we should not be surprised that Christianity and paganism share a history and have some points of intersection.

Today’s challenge is from a skeptic, but there is also a lesson here for believers: do not ever think that you are somehow unqualified or too sinful to do God’s work! Learn from your history.

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