One might think that Christianity and Paganism go together like oil and water. But it is in fact possible to be a “Christian Pagan” once you loosen the reigns of orthodoxy around what it means to be Christian and open your mind to the many possibilities of paganism.
Christianity as a belief system and worldview is usually focused around Jesus Christ as a means to salvation. Jesus has always been central to Christianity. More on that later.
Paganism comes from classical Latin paganus, meaning “rural” or “rustic.” It was a term used by early Christians to denote all the non-Christian and non-Jewish religions of the world, the ones enshrined to local places and that were usually polytheistic and focused on things such as ritual sacrifice to the gods. It became a generic term to denote the religions of the peasantry outside of Christianity and Judaism.
Modern paganism or neopagan religions such as Wicca are reconstructed pagan religions that often center around polytheistic worship, ritual, and veneration of Nature.
Neopaganism as a whole has exploded into a million eclectic pathways that are impossible to define. Some pagans consider themselves witches. But not all. Some witches consider themselves pagan. But not all. Some believe in “magic.” Some don’t. But it’s generally recognized that modern paganism is usually polytheistic and centered around Nature.
So how can one be a Christian Pagan? Aren’t Christians usually Monotheistic? And isn’t worship supposed to be focused on God the Trinity and not Nature?
First of all, let’s tackle the issue of the Nicene Creed. This is an early statement of orthodox Christian belief that has come to represent Christianity in the West:
We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life.
He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He spoke through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and to life in the world to come. Amen.
However, it is absolutely critical to understand that orthodoxy does not encapsulate the entirety of Christianity.
Orthodox credal statements like the Nicene creed were essentially established as “Christian” via a “winner take all” system because the orthodox forms of Christians won out and then subsequently stamped out, violently, all other forms of Christianity they deemed heretical.
However, in the first centuries of Christianity, Christianity was diverse from its very beginning. There was no such thing as “Christianity” but rather there were “Christianities.”
So it’s important to realize that the Nicene creed is not essential to Christianity.
In my opinion, any person has the right to define for themselves how they relate to the historical or mythological figure of Jesus Christ or any aspect of the Christian tradition.
Consider the concept of henotheism. Henotheism is where you acknowledge the existence of multiple gods (like polytheism) but you focus on one god as your spiritual “home base” so to speak.
In the Old Testament when Yahweh says “thou shalt have no other gods before me,” this is generally considered an expression of henotheism.
Christians can take the same perspective. You can believe in multiple gods as in polytheistic paganism but derive your core spiritual power and inspiration from Jesus, or anything else within the Christian tradition.
Insofar as witchcraft is a subset of paganism and witches often believe in some kind of magic if there was a way to incorporate magic into Christianity we could square the circle and begin to imagine what “Christian paganism” might look like.
- Magic was widely practiced in the Greco-Romans times of early Christianity
- Many historians believe that Jesus himself should be considered as a magician, who performed miracles just like the infamous Simon Magus mentioned in the Bible
- Jesus was sometimes depicted in early Christian artwork to be holding a magical wand
Once we accept that magic is at the core of Jesus’ ministry, it puts the whole thing into a different perspective. From that line of thought, we can begin to imagine a litany of magical practices that could be incorporated into the life of a Christian magician:
- Angel magic
- Saint magic (which could be seen as a form of polytheism)
- Prayer (which could be seen as a form of magic)
- Bible magic (the psalms have long been used by magical practitioners, for example)
- Christian liturgy as ritualistic magic
- Sacred, magical objects (crucifixes, rosaries, etc.)
The possibilities are endless. The Christian magician has many resources at her disposal to enchant her life with a spiritual focus on Jesus Christ and the deities of the Bible.
Christian metaphysics is often considered boring because it’s falsely seen as monotheistic. However, when viewed from a pagan perspective, Christian metaphysics has a rich spectrum of divine beings to work with. It’s important to realize that in ancient times, people did not think of divinity as an on-off switch. Divinity was a spectrum ranging from the divinity of humans (like emperors) to local gods (like the god of the crops or the weather) or Ultimate Gods like Zeus who are Gods of the Cosmos, all the way up to transcendent Monadistic gods.
When viewed in this light, the Christian spectrum of divinity looks very rich and busy:
- an entire hierarchy of angels ranging from guardian angels to archangels and all the way of to principalities and virtues, etc.
- Mother Mary
- The Saints
- Jesus Christ
- Holy Spirit
It is beyond the scope of this post, but it is possible to expand the range of Christianity to include a kind of Christian gnosticism which extends the cosmological hierarchy even further to include beings like the transcendent God Above Gods, Barbelo, Sophia, the Aeons, the Archons, etc.
So when you get right down to it, the possibilities of Christian Paganism are incredibly rich once you get beyond the rigidity of the Nicene Creed and the limitations of orthodoxy.
It is absolutely possible to be a Christian Pagan, or Christian Witch, or Christian Gnostic, or Christian Magician, or any combination thereof. Christianity is a rich tradition. I haven’t even begun to discuss the rich mystical tradition that is even intrinsic to orthodox Christianity. There is also the fact that Christianity has been incredibly influential on the entire history of the Western Esoteric Tradition.
Just look at Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, one of the foundational occult texts in the Western tradition, and you will see the stamp of Christianity all over it.
So in summary, yes, you can be a Christian Pagan. It’s ok to be heretical. Orthodox Christianity has long used fear and violence to force Christianity into a singular, narrow box. But it doesn’t have to be like that. If you are a Christian and feel drawn to magic, paganism, witchcraft, etc., embrace it! It’s a beautiful and powerful combination.