A House Divided

There are only two possible ways to be spiritual: worship of nature or worship of the Creator of nature.

While the multitude of pagan cults that flocked to Rome could add to their list the divinized Caesar as an additional god, for Christians, this was an act of polytheism and thus a denial of the very nature of the true and only God. Here was culture shock leading to cultural deadlock. Christianity was seen as politically “subversive with respect to the pagan foundations of the pre-Christian Roman state” (Smith, 144–5). Moreover, the Christian affirmation of an all-seeing transcendent Judge undermined the pagan sense of freedom and dignity, and was considered by pagans as “an intolerable curtailment of liberty” due to unreasonable censorious and dogmatic attitudes.

 

Respected Jewish commentator Dennis Prager has just made a stunningly bellicose judgment[1] about American culture:

America is currently fighting its second Civil War…There will be unity only when the left vanquishes the right or the right vanquishes the left. Using the First Civil War analogy, American unity was achieved only after the South was vanquished and slavery was abolished. 

He notes the current culture’s deep divide in all the important areas of human life. “Like the left in every other country, the left in America essentially sees America as a racist, xenophobic, colonialist, imperialist, warmongering, money-worshipping, moronically religious nation … [and] seeks to erase America’s Judeo-Christian foundation.” He concludes: “Without any important value held in common, how can there be unity between left and non-left? Obviously, there cannot.” As another author puts it, “we are expected to adapt unquestioningly to bizarre cultural changes like the celebration of ‘gender fluidity,’ abortion, infanticide, 11-year-old drag queens [and the normalization of prostitution]. It is assumed as a given that we must force girls to use ‘non-gender specific’ bathrooms, to reward victimhood, and to demonize ‘toxic masculinity’ and law-abiding citizens. And intense pressure is on us to embrace the destruction of our borders – and to forfeit our right of self-defense.”[2] Well-known Sheriff David Clarke charges progressivism with a constant attempt “to destroy the bedrock institutions of Western culture, such as religion, schools, family, capitalism, businesses, law and order, the Constitution including the First and Second Amendment, and the rule of law.”[3]

Are there other reasons why an intelligent and balanced scholar like Prager would come to such a worrisome conclusion?

Some historians point to ancient Rome as a time when such antagonism was just as sharp as it is today, particularly for Christians, when two different views of the divine caused profound conflict. These same scholars document a return of the spirituality of pagan ancient Rome in “once Christian” Western culture. Among these are: Ferdinand Mount, Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010); Kyle Harper, From Shame to SinThe Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013); and Steven D. Smith, Pagans and Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017). Smith, in particular, shows that the opposition between Rome and Christians was due largely to a fundamental religious distinction. He states:

The pagan gods were actors…within this world. The God of Judaism and Christianity, by contrast, is ‘the creator of the world’…who dwells beyond space and time…pagan religion locates the sacred within this world…an immanent sacred. Judaism and Christianity, by contrast, reflect a transcendent religiosity: they place the sacred, ultimately, outside the world (Smith, 111–12).

He argues that “paganism served to sacralize the city…this life, and the good things of this life, are the only ones we need to concern ourselves with” (Smith, 114). Smith goes on:

…the full majesty of the gods was deployed in support of the political community and its rulers…religious life served to enlist the subject’s full loyalty…Patriotism and paganism were coextensive.” (Smith, 126).

Roman life and spirituality have returned. In describing the Reagan family’s use of astrology in the White House, Ferdinand Mount states: “Not since the days of the Roman emperors—and never in the history of the United states presidency—has an astrologer played such a significant role in in the national affairs of state” (Mount, 220). Mount goes on to state: “…the ways in which we live our lives corresponds to the way Greeks and Romans lived their lives.” (Mount, 3). A telling article appeared in response to the horrifying legislation passed in Virginia and New York (unknown in the history of the West), which justifies the murder of babies in the birth canal or even on the table, should they have the stamina to survive an attempted abortion. The article is entitled “Infanticide Is the Historical Hallmark of Paganism,”[4] and it carefully shows the prevalence of abortion in pagan cultures. Even the famed Stoic Seneca says that killing a child is the “reasoned” thing to do, if it is “useless” to society. Today, our leading politicians are also proposing another extreme moral position: namely the full “decriminalization of sex work to promote the safety, wellbeing, and health of all people in the sex trades.”[5]

Smith notes that the two fundamentally irreconcilable religious beliefs—the god within or the God above—now face off in an “ongoing contest between two contrasting and enduring religiosities” (Smith, 13): modern progressivism versus classic theism (Smith, 12-14). Progressivism fails to see that essential conflict, since it believes that history cannot go “back to earlier stages” (Smith, 12). Rather, “history [always] moves forward from one phase to another leaving past phases irretrievably behind…from pagan to Christian to secular to post secular” (Smith, 12-14).

Using the terminology of Oneism and Twoism, truthXchange has sought for nearly a full generation to clarify for our times what the Apostle Paul was saying two thousand years ago in Romans 1:25. Neither truthXchange nor Professor Smith are saying anything new! The Apostle (who grounded his teaching in the clear revelation of the I AM God of the Old Testament) clearly teaches that there are only two possible ways to be spiritual: worship of nature or worship of the Creator of nature.

There are many dangers in Progressivism. Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Pol Pot all claimed to be saviors, chosen by destiny to bring in a new form of earthly utopia. They were full of creative youthful optimism, eager to fight the outlived elders of dying Western civilization. They proposed enormous hope, promising the coup de grace for liberalism and capitalism. They would replace egoism with altruism and tired democracy with a new world order. They were banner bearers of a holy crusade that would make the world a better place. The whining and crying of impotent old men, they said, is futile. No one can stop the wheel of history, or turn back the clock of time. We need to be on “the right side of history.” To be on the right side of history means to define opposing theories as hate speech, which must be silenced. Progressivism is so right in its sense of progress that it does not even need to be discussed!

This self-absorbed vision fails to see that there is no real religious progress but only and always the constant conflict between worship of the transcendent God and worship of a self-divinizing creation. Paul defines these options as “the Truth” and “the Lie” (Romans 1:25). They cannot be joined in some interfaith mix. The clash between them all around the world, is coming to a head either in persecution, spiritual revival or, ultimately, in the return of Christ.

Smith asks this question: Why would tolerant, sophisticated Romans imprison, torture and kill fellow citizens for being Christians? His answer? “The failure to achieve mutually acceptable terms of co-existence” (Smith, 130–1). For a peaceful, functioning culture in Rome, “all citizens were required to express loyalty to the emperor…who was addressed with the same titles that the Christians used of Jesus” (Smith, 140, quoting Winter, Divine Honours, 277). While the multitude of pagan cults that flocked to Rome could add to their list the divinized Caesar as an additional god, for Christians, this was an act of polytheism and thus a denial of the very nature of the true and only God. Here was culture shock leading to cultural deadlock. Christianity was seen as politically “subversive with respect to the pagan foundations of the pre-Christian Roman state” (Smith, 144–5). Moreover, the Christian affirmation of an all-seeing transcendent Judge undermined the pagan sense of freedom and dignity, and was considered by pagans as “an intolerable curtailment of liberty” due to unreasonable censorious and dogmatic attitudes (Smith, 147–9).

This conflict became a civil war, though only one side took up arms.

Roman authorities, as is well documented, removed Christians from serving in the military or from teaching. Christian believers were imprisoned and sometimes killed. On February 23, AD 303, the Christian church of Nicomedia in Roman Bithynia was utterly destroyed, marking the beginning of a violent Empire-wide repression of Christianity known to future generations as the Great Persecution. This state-sponsored attack would be the most violent, wide-ranging, and longest-lasting effort of the Roman government to wipe out the hated Christian sect. It would also be the last. In a kind of spiritual war, a war of conversion, the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in AD 312.

What if such a war broke out today, as Dennis Prager imagines? For starters, and it is on their agenda, progressives would have to get rid of the Constitution and/or appoint six radical Supreme Court Justices. For Christians the response cannot be the war of the States but the war as conducted by Jesus and Paul. Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing he would be killed but that his death would eventually bring an end to all war. Paul, who knew the dangerous situation in Rome, nonetheless went there to preach the Gospel and convert pagans. While he knew the situation of these godless pagans who rejected their Maker, worshiped idols and engaged in creation-denying sexuality (Romans 1:18–27), he yet states:

I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:15–17)

Before the triumphant return of the Lord, the only answer to the history-long religious war between Oneism and Twoism is for Christians to take to progressives of all kinds the gospel of Jesus who, by his death and resurrection, removes the Lie about God as nature and re-establishes the Truth about God as the loving, redeeming Creator of fallen creatures. This is the deep truth about God that no one may deny, for to him as the Originator of all things belongs the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever.

[1]https://www.dennisprager.com/americas-second-civil-war/

[2]Trump Goes on the Offensive in the Culture War,

[3]The Cult-like Psychology of the Progressive Movement,

[4]Infanticide Is the Historical Hallmark of a Pagan Culture,

[5]Prostitutes Demand Meeting with Kamala Harris

Dr. Peter Jones is scholar in residence at Westminster Seminary California and associate pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, Calif. He is director of truthXchange, a communications center aimed at equipping the Christian community to recognize and effectively respond to the rise of paganism.  This article is used with permission.