Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Unorthodox Pagan

Looking at the title of this article, you may think that orthodox and pagan are mutually exclusive terms. Or you may think that an orthodox pagan is an oxymoron. And depending on which way you're using either orthodox or pagan you may be right. As is always important, we should define terms here.

of, pertaining to, or conforming to the approved form of any doctrine, philosophy,ideology, etc.
of, pertaining to, or conforming to beliefs, attitudes, or modes of conduct that are generally approved.
customary or conventional, as a means or method; established.
sound or correct in opinion or doctrine, especially theological or religious doctrine.
conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early church.
( initial capital letter ) of, pertaining to, or designating the Eastern Church,especially the Greek Orthodox Church.
( initial capital letter ) of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Orthodox Jews orOrthodox Judaism.

From this selection of definitions let me tell you which ones I do not mean. I do not mean definitions five, six, or seven. I want to push this outside the realm of Christianity to a broader usage of the word. I am speaking more along the lines of the definitions of one through four. The Encyclopaedia Britannica sums it up nicely, “(from Greek orthodoxos, "of the right opinion"), true doctrine and its adherents as opposed to heterodox or heretical doctrines and their adherents. The word was first used in early 4th – century Christianity by the Greek Fathers. Because almost every Christian group believes that it holds the true faith (though not necessarily exclusively), the meaning of "orthodox" in a particular instance can be correctly determined only after examination of the context in which it appears.” Orthodoxy, then, refers to the common and true doctrine as contrasted by the heterodox beliefs. Heterodoxy simply means “other beliefs”.

The second definition we need to look at is the definition of pagan. The “religious sense is often said to derive from conservative rural adherence to the old gods after the Christianization of Roman towns and cities; but the word in this sense predates that period in Church history, and it is more likely derived from the use of paganus in Roman military jargon for "civilian, incompetent soldier," which Christians (Tertullian, c.202; Augustine) picked up with the military imagery of the early Church (e.g. milites "soldier of Christ," etc.).” 1 Pagans are simply those who have not moved on from falsehoods to the enlightenment of Christianity. So, when I speak of pagans I am not only talking about the irreligious, but the Jews, Hindus, and Muslims, as well.

Now that we have that covered, what is an “unorthodox pagan”?