Pagan Customs in the Church


Christianity has an awful history of taking on features of other religions.  We have taken on Christmas trees and embraced Santa Claus. We fill our mouths with Easter eggs. But much worse than these little light-hearted trifles, we have adopted many of the religious practices used to worship other gods.

Many people would class me as ‘religious’, simply because I am a believer, and vocal in sharing my belief.  Personally, I think I am far from religious. The one and only reason I am a Christian is because Jesus is real. I get no kick out of participating in rituals, regular church attendance, observance of moral codes or holding an esteemed position in some denomination. From the time I first met the Lord, I only ever wanted the real thing or nothing at all. Yet there are lots of people who do get a kick out of the practice of “religion”.

When the church first was established and empowered at Pentecost, Christians didn’t have church buildings.  They met in homes or out in the open. They were persecuted and had to keep a low profile as much as possible.  For many centuries, the Christian faith remained the way Jesus had envisaged: the people themselves were now His Temple.  Each one of them had personal access to Him.  His laws were written on their hearts and there was no need for any mediator, other than Jesus Himself.  This didn’t mean there were no problems.  The biggest problem is us. But at least the correct system for dealing with that problem was in place.

Ever since I became a Christian, (some 38 years ago at the time of writing, 2006), I have scratched my head wondering how such a powerful initial move of God can turn into the Christianity we see today. 

It wasn’t until the Roman Catholic movement desired to control the populace, the down-trodden and ill-informed, and the spirit of empire building took hold of its leaders, that the first church buildings were erected. This happened about three hundred years after Jesus ascended into heaven.  Regular services didn’t start until more than a thousand years after that! We then went from having a real soul-saving relationship with our Lord to buying indulgences from the church. 

And it’s apparent I am not the only one scratching my head.  The following is a very brief summary of concepts raised in a book by Gene Edwards, entitled "Beyond Radical" available from Gene Edwards ' Ministry, P O Box 18203, Atlanta, GA30316.



The letters Paul wrote to the Christian Churches were addressed to the 'brothers' or 'saints' (except for Philippians), NOT to the minister or clergy of any sort other than elders or deacons.  Invariably he exhorts the Church as a whole to do or not do things. WHY? Because the clergy was not invented till centuries later by the Roman Catholic Church (Pope Gregory the Great, 500ad who laid down the 'pastoral' duties of a priest).  The early church met in homes, had no rituals, no temples, no institutions.  It was what made Christianity unique, virile, flexible, powerful.  It had a low overhead.  And all the members were jointly responsible for the church.  Basically, Paul was a church planter, planting and then leaving them to their own resources, usually within weeks!!  If you took away the clergy today, the whole of Christianity as we know it would collapse.


All other religions have had temples, priests or pastors, vestal virgins (nuns), rituals, set times for worship, etc. So in our constant need to be in control and to formalise our worship, we invented these things, the way Israel invented the golden calf. The first Church buildings were ordered by Roman Emperor Constantine in 327ad.  The sermon concept is based on Aristotle's oration practices, brought in by John Chrysostom around 400ad. The Sunday morning service was invented by John Calvin in 1540ad, some 1500 years after Pentecost!  Yet the world knows us by this ritual more than by any other Christian practice. 

And  Christianity had survived 1500 years without it!


The thirteen letters of Paul (Romans - Philemon) were arranged by an Augustinian monk who taught theology in Germany. The order was based on what he considered to be the most doctrinal content. Philippians was actually the first letter Paul wrote but didn't have as much doctrine as Romans!  

The order of writing is actually:  6-4-5-1-10-8-7-2-3-11-12-13-9.


  1. Philippians
  2. Galatians
  3. Ephesians
  4. Romans
  5. 1 Timothy
  6. 1 Thessalonians
  7. Colossians
  8. 1 Corinthians
  9. 2 Corinthians
  10. 2 Timothy
  11. Titus
  12. Philemon
  13. 2 Thessalonians

No place is allocated to Hebrews, as its authorship is deemed uncertain.

Reading the letters in the order they were written, and more, knowing the storygoing on in the background, causing the letters to be written, can be a life changing experience. And it will turn upside down many of the ingrained beliefs we have formed over the years of being exposed to teaching by people who at Bible School learned ideas deeply influenced by pagan practices, ideas rarely personally experienced.  Being just one of the "brothers" in a church with no real leader other than the Holy Spirit is a far more meaningful education.


The book provides an interesting history of the activities of Paul, slotting his letters into that history to provide context.


Our impressions of what our faith is all about are formed by the exposure we get to sermons and traditions of practicing churches and church attendees. If we had the chance to go back to the first day of Pentecost the moment we made our decision to follow Him, do you think today’s church would look anything like what it is?  Try cleaning your mind of all preconceptions, wipe out all the assumptions you have made about Church and what it, and Christianity as a whole, is all about. Then consider everything the Bible tells us has happened since God first created us.  And then ask yourself honestly, what does Jesus want?


To summarise the historical sequence of the salient events in history giving a framework to the Gospel message: 


About 4000 BC
1.God predestined us to be His chosen ones.  He chose us around 6000 years ago, earth time.
2.Our names were written in the Book of Life before the foundations of the Earth were laid.
3.Jesus is the meaning of the universe - "by Him and for Him was everything made"
4.First, God established an acceptable relationship between Him and His creation
5.Some of the angels in heaven rebelled against God's rule under Satan's leadership
6.The first created humans disobeyed God's requirements in their relationship
7.As a result of that disobedience, Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, each under a curse
8.For Adam the curse was hard labour to derive food from cursed ground, and death
9.For Eve the curse was pain in childbirth and being ruled over by her husband, and death
10.Genetically, the human race and all of Creation has been in decline ever since
About 2500 BC
11.God became fed up with Man’s rebellion and destroyed all but 8 people in a world-wide flood
12.Noah and his sons, plus their wives, became the seed of all the world’s population
About 2000 BC
13.Abraham was given a promise that he would be the father of many nations
14.Abraham's wife Sarah became the mother of the twelve tribes of Israel
15.Sarah's handmaiden Hagar became the mother of all the Arab tribes
16.The Israelites were selected from all the nations to be God's Chosen People
17.The Israelites were given the Promised Land as an everlasting possession
18.They were given Commandments to live by, and they found them too hard
19.The first and foremost commandment is to have no other gods before Him
20.He is a good God, but He is also righteous and jealous of His rightful place in our hearts
21.The Old Covenant tied obeying His Commandments to possession of the Promised Land
22.Whenever the Israelites ceased 'walking before Him', God gave them over to conquerors
23.The purpose of the Old Covenant was to show mankind how high His standards are
About 30 AD
24.It was always the intention to replace the Old Covenant with a new one
25.The Old Covenant was the letter of the Law, the New Covenant the Spirit of the Law
26.The Old Covenant was written on stone, the New Covenant on our hearts
27.The Old Covenant required regular sacrifice, The New Covenant one final sacrifice
28.God Himself died a human death on a cross, making Himself that final sacrifice
29.We have a choice to make whether to accept His offer of redemption, that final sacrifice
30.On a different level, He chose us first - we have been predestined to be His bride
31.He knew beforehand what choice we are going to make
32.Under the New Covenant, we are His Temple, church buildings and priesthood became obsolete
About 2000 AD
33.Those who don't want to recognise a Creator try to explain our existence in other ways
34.The most popular 'alternative' explanation is evolution - living things made themselves
35.The theory of evolution is just one way Satan uses to take our eyes off God's purpose
36.Many Christian practices are based on pagan customs, additions to His Word
37.The New Commandment requires us to love one another with 'agape' love
38.So far, the world has seen very little in the way of agape love
39.Jesus will be coming back to collect His bride at a time known only to the Father


To summarise in a nutshell the most relevant facts about the Gospel we have concluded so far, and in as simple terms as possible:  

1.If we are to be Christ's followers, we can and must believe the Bible, cover to cover 
2.God created the universe because He wanted an eternal life partner 
3.God has been courting His Creation from the beginning, to see who really loves Him. 
4.He intends to 'marry' those who love Him and choose to accept His way of redemption 
5.Our human nature makes us not accept Him the way He is, so we pretend He's different
6.Pretending He's different, is the same as making a 'golden calf' or idol to worship.
7.We often express our 'golden calf' in terms of unbiblical practices and false doctrine
8.God is male. Our relationship with Him in eternity will be in submission to Him
9.God wants proof that His bride won't rebel against Him in eternity
10.Mutual submission here on earth is the proof He is looking for
11.Jesus won't be coming back until we are ready for Him and the Father gives the OK
12.We will be ready, when the World recognises the Truth from our behaviour
13.That behaviour centres on obeying the New Commandment
14.Our relationship with Him is based on the New Covenant
15.The New Covenant does away with the need for Temples, blood sacrifices and priests 
16.The level of intimacy of our relationship with Jesus is the crucial enabling factor
17.The gifts of the Spirit should be shared with the Body, free of charge
18.Our primary source of teaching should be by revelation from Jesus Himself


At this point there is a dramatic adjustment of spiritual focus, away from the foundational intimate personal relationships with Jesus (which will nevertheless remain an absolutely essential requirement for all time) to the corporate expression of the Bride here on earth and in eternity.

19.Mutual love, mutual submission and mutual forgiveness are the New Commandment keystones
20.The expression of God through a multi-membered body is the most challenging yet
21.The world is waiting with bated breath to see its witness


There is a tendency in Man to be ‘religious’.  We see it everywhere, in cultures ranging from the most primitive tribes in the Amazon to the most sophisticated societies of the Western World.  We invent our gods and make up the rules of our religion, and then convince ourselves it’s all real. Trying to scrounge ideas from other religions is typical of man’s lack of imagination in spiritual matters.  In the end, all ‘religions’ end up looking very similar.  We organise our people, give them jobs and put some above others.  Sometimes we call them ‘medicine man’, sometimes senior pastor, sometimes arch-bishop.  We build buildings with expensive décor, conducive to reverence and religious feelings.  We design symbols to represent our ideals. We participate in chants or psalms or hymns to soften the psyche. We raise our hands in appeal to our god, so he will meet our needs, of which there are many.  We listen to the bit where the organisers get the chance to persuade us all, this is the way. And we are ready to be part of the pressure group responsible for enlarging the flock.

There is only one ‘religion’ that is real. Yahweh, the God revealed in the Bible, the God who created the universe 6000 earth years ago, wants to spend eternity with those of us who want to spend eternity with Him. It is a one-on-one relationship He is after, as well as a corporate relationship. It involves getting intimate with the only Higher Being in existence, a god, the God, who is all-powerful, all-knowing, totally righteous, omnipresent, and loves us with a passion. All He asks in return is that we love Him too. 

He expressed Himself in the beauty and mind-blowing intricacy of His creation, so no one could argue He doesn’t exist. But argue we do. He wrote us letter after letter, expressing how He feels. But we hardly bother to read them, let alone reply. He humbled Himself to become one of us and died a human death on a cross to save us.  Yet we carry on as usual, as if nothing has happened. 


What don’t we like about God?  Despite all His efforts to reveal Himself, We hardly know Him.