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Only Two Religions

An Interview with Peter Jones

R.C. Sproul, Peter Jones and Lee Webb discuss fundamental religious convictions that drive modern culture, demonstrating that in the final analysis there can be only two religions—worship of the Creator or worship of creation.

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    One or Two?

  2. blog-post

    Star Wars and the Ancient Religion

  3. article

    Truth Exchange: An Interview with Peter Jones

One or Two?

Peter Jones

An ideology is taking over the West that is both very spiritual and self-consciously anti-Christian. It intends, ever so subtly, without ever saying so explicitly, to grind the gospel into the dustbin of history. The 1960s was an incredibly formative decade. In 1962, Mircea Eliade, the world expert on comparative religions, observed: “Western thought [he meant Christendom] can no longer maintain itself in this splendid isolation from a confrontation with the ‘unknown,’ the ‘outsiders.’” As if on cue, the “Fab Four” met the Maharishi and introduced the “wisdom of the East” to popular Western culture. In the same decade, the “Death of God” theology arose, which turned out not to be the final triumph of secular humanism over the God of the Bible but instead the arrival of “the new polytheism” in the rebirth of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome. Bob Dylan sang, “The Times They Are A’Changin,” and we heard for the first time of the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” an age of pagan utopian spirituality. This was the age when many became aware of the ancient heresy of Gnosticism through the discovery of ancient Gnostic texts and the psychological theories of the modern, very spiritual Gnostic Carl Jung, who called Christian orthodoxy “systematic blindness.” Jung followed the ancient Gnostic god Abraxas, half man, half beast, as a deity higher than both the Christian God and the Devil. His secular biographer recently stated that Jung, like the Roman Emperor Julian in the fourth century AD, succeeded in turning the Western world back to paganism.

The results of this pagan invasion of the West are stunning. In August 2009, Newsweek announced that “we are all Hindus now,” meaning that the Western “Christian” soul has been profoundly and definitively altered by Eastern spiritual one-ism, the seductive message of which is bound up in the Hindu word advaita, meaning “not two.” Here is the massive clash of two fundamentally opposed worldviews. Whereas Scripture affirms two-ism (the Creator/creature distinction and all the distinctions God creates in the cosmos He made), Hindu one-ism categorically affirms that things are “not two” but “one.” In a cosmos without a Creator, all distinctions collapse and man is god.

The conversion of the West has had practical effects. California is now mandating, in the name of oneist fairness, that gay history must be taught in all the schools, including grade school. The effect on Christian teachers will be devastating. If they leave, we hand over public education to the pagans. The same is happening in the military chaplaincy, just the way it happened in the fourth century under Julian the Apostate, who turned the empire back to Isis worship and purged Christians from the imperial administration.

Pagan territory is new for us. The theological binary (two-ism) is being ineluctably undermined by the rejection of the normative male/female binary. In a Swedish, tax-funded preschool, teachers can no longer use the pronouns him or her and must address the children as “friends.” “Homophobic,” gender-specific children’s stories such as “Thumbelina” or “Cinderella” are forbidden. A Toronto couple is raising their baby, Storm, without telling anyone the child’s gender.

While only 1.4 percent of the U.S. population claims a same-sex orientation (see the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 2011), this minuscule tail wags the massive dog of Western culture because the agenda of homosexual oneness fits the “new ideology” of advaita — “not two.”

The one-ism of secular environmentalism is capturing the mind of the rising generation, raised in grade school through college on the notion of “sustainability” that worships Mother Earth and flattens the difference between creatures made in God’s image and those that are not.

What will happen to gospel witness when Western culture is “purified” of its literary canon and its Christian ethical past? The church must still speak and live out all issues of fundamental truth, whatever the cost — not to save America but to save souls from eternal doom. Without a clear understanding of the biblical worldview of two-ism — especially without the unambiguous embodiment of gender distinctions — as part of the image of God, we lose the essence of who we are as human beings, and the gospel loses its clarity.

It is time for people everywhere to hear that the good news concerns the amazing grace of reconciliation with God, the great Other, who, while transcendently different from us, redeems sinful creatures like us and restores to us personal fellowship with Him through the atoning death of His Son.

Star Wars and the Ancient Religion

Peter Jones

The appearance of a new episode of the Star Wars film series is an important moment for Christian witness. To be sure, we can shrug our shoulders, since Star Wars is old news. Or we can enthusiastically introduce our grandchildren to what we might think is a beloved, harmless yarn. Or we can—and should—discover in the series an occasion to sharpen our presentation of the gospel message and help our children and grandchildren, and anyone else who might be interested, to understand the culture in which they live.

In this famous and creative saga, which we must respect for its artistic value, we find many positive ideals—bravery, friendship, love, and spirituality, and others—which help explain the success of the series. However, in examining Star Wars' account of the mystery and nobility of human life, the Bible's answer, in comparison, emerges with incomparably more convincing power.

The Star Wars Phenomenon

Answering questions of morality and spirituality was the goal of George Lucas when he created Star Wars. In the 1970s, in the heyday of secular humanism, people were hungry for spiritual truth. Lucas realized that stories were more powerful than intellectual theories—especially for children. He intended to produce a children's fairy tale set in outer space as a "teaching tool" for the re-creation of "the classic cosmic mysteries." In so doing, he influenced audiences young and old and deeply affected the last few decades of Western civilization. The new films will no doubt extend that influence into the next generations.

Understanding Worldview

As millions of people stream, perhaps naively, into theaters this weekend to reconnect with the powerful Star Wars adult fairy tale, most of them will be unaware of the worldview that gives this saga its structure and coherence. The term worldview simply means the way we think about the world without stopping to think about it. The fish doesn't need to think about the water in which it swims. I've spent much of my teaching and writing years showing that there are only two ways to see the world. I call them "Oneism" and "Twoism," which is another way of describing what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:25. He says that there are only two ways to be human—we either worship nature (in a thousand different ways) or we worship the Creator. If you can count from one to two you can understand worldview. Worship of nature is Oneism because nature is all there is and everything is made of the same stuff. "All is one!" This is the essence of a pagan worldview. Worship of the Creator means that in all of reality there are two kinds of existence: the uncreated Creator, and everything else, which is created. That is the worldview of Twoism.

By this standard, Star Wars is clearly Oneist. In spite of the fun elements we all enjoy, the message of the film is self-consciously pagan. If this sounds harsh, check out the following elements.

A Oneist Approach to Morality, Creation, Spirituality, Redemption, and Death

Here are some of the Oneist principles we find in the Star Wars movies:

  • Morality is what you make it. The Force is either good or evil, depending on how you tap into it via your emotions. There is no objective distinction between good or evil.
  • Existence creates itself. Obi-Wan Kenobi says, "The Force is an energy field created by all living things." There is no Creator/creature distinction.
  • Spirituality is found within, not revealed from the outside. Luke Skywalker must trust his feelings, empty his mind of questions, and "feel the Force flowing through him" in order to create his own truth.
  • In redemption, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader optimistically "saves" the galaxy and destroys the Emperor, though evil cannot ultimately be eliminated, because evil is an integral part of a Oneist world.
  • According to Yoda, death is eternal sleep.

Specifically, Star Wars Contains a Pagan View of God

Lucas said he desired to produce something spiritual, but the spirituality he proposes is clearly not based on biblical Twoism. This is most obviously the case when the constant pagan blessing "May the Force be with you" replaces the typical biblical blessing, "The Lord be with you." For Lucas, God is a "force"—not a person. Nature, containing that "force," is part of the Force. God the transcendent Creator, who is separate from creation, does not exist. This makes Star Wars, at the deepest level, Oneist.

But just how Oneist? To answer this question, we need a little background. You may want to watch the Ligonier teaching series Only Two Religions, especially part three, "Carl Jung's Alternative Spirituality." Very simply, Lucas' terms "dark side" and "light side" come directly from Carl Jung. Jung was an anti-Christian Swiss psychologist of the last century. His enormous influence planted seeds of Oneist pagan thinking that now flower vigorously in our culture. Part of Jung's legacy is Star Wars.

George Lucas picked up Carl Jung's ideas from a man he called his "mentor" and "friend," Joseph Campbell, who was a committed disciple of Jung. A highly influential thinker in his own right, Campbell rejected Christianity and became an expert in pagan myths. He produced a highly successful PBS documentary series, The Power of Myth (1988), filmed, in part, at Lucas' Skywalker Ranch.

It was Jung who introduced the "spiritual," pagan myths about joining the dark and light sides. For him, this meant the rejection of the biblical Christ and the worship of the Gnostic God, Abraxas, who was half-man and half-beast—a god who combines all opposites. This joining of the dark side and light side, of good and evil, of God and Satan (in his estimation), is what Joseph Campbell called "the monomyth" of "the ancient religion," which he taught to Lucas. Thus, Darth Vader is "the balancer" of the light and dark forces.

Though Lucas doesn't go as deeply into such ideas as did Jung and Campbell, he popularizes their ideas effectively. We see the joining of opposites in the following areas:

  • everything is relative;
  • there is no distinction between animals, humans, and machines;
  • there are no moral absolutes;
  • there is no unique divine/human mediator;
  • there is no God, separate from us, who is creator and redeemer.

How Has Our Worldview Been Transformed?

Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727), one of the West's greatest scientists, said many years ago: "This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being. . . . This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all." Thanks in part to Lucas, many now believe that humanity is that intelligent and powerful Being, empowered by the Force, and that we will save ourselves.

Will the 'Force Awaken' with the Same Force This Time?

Doubtless, The Force Awakens will attempt to capture a new generation of naive myth lovers. The trailer declares: "The Force is calling to you. Just let it in."

With enough money and imagination, there is every reason to think that the Force will reawaken pagan thinking in a new generation of Western believers who have already bought $50 million worth of tickets for the December release. Moreover, the appeal of paganism has certainly not diminished since the '70s and '80s. The movie is bound to catch the imagination of those who now call themselves "spiritual but not religious." Our contemporary world now embraces Eastern pagan spirituality:

  • In Iceland, even atheists are joining the fastest-growing religion, Zuism, which is a pagan faith from ancient Sumeria.
  • Faerie Magazine (for people who believe in fairies) is the nineteenth most popular lifestyle title of the 157 sold at Barnes & Noble.
  • Millions of Americans practice forms of Eastern meditation and yoga to be released from the bondage of opposites and to succeed in joining the dark and light sides of existence.
  • In rediscovering "the Force," these eager spiritual ticket-holders believe they will find themselves "in heaven," as one fan recently said.

A Christian Response

A large part of my life has been dominated by Star Wars imagery, as I have published a trilogy responding to the pagan phenomenon that it represents. Thus, I wrote The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back, Spirit Wars, and Return of the Rabbi (as an ebook—in printed form, Capturing the Pagan Mind). These "wars of the spirit," popularly revived by Lucas, represent, as noted above, the only two spiritualities offered: the "monomyth" of pagan Oneism or the historic gospel of biblical Twoism. With Stars Wars, we find ourselves at the very center of this timeless spiritual struggle.

To Go or Not to Go

I believe there are good reasons for viewing this film. We can certainly respect its artistic and entertainment value. Galactic battle scenes and human drama are entertaining. But also, by seeing this movie, Christians can sharpen their understanding of both contemporary culture and their appreciation of the Christian faith, allowing them to see in antithetical clarity both the Christian message and the message of Star Wars in order to present the gospel in a fresh way for our time.

In doing this, we follow what Christians have done throughout the ages. We need to realize that when Obi-Wan Kenobi instructs Luke to follow "the ancient religion," this is a clear technical reference (for those in the know) to "pre-Christian paganism." The gauntlet is thrown down in a call to theological confrontation. But this ancient, modernized "religion," while implicitly claiming to be true, creates immense problems and gives no satisfying answers to the major mysteries of life:

  • No impersonal force or "it" can meet the deep affective and moral needs of human persons.
  • No human or impersonal source can give an adequate account of origins, since such an account fails to provide a convincing explanation of either personhood or of intelligence, on which the universe, and this movie, in particular, are based—including the love between Luke and his father and the technological wizardry that makes Star Wars so much fun.

Only a transcendent, personal, triune Creator can do that. Only the truth of such a personal God can meet our deepest needs.

At this relaunch of the seductive Star Wars myth, with its declaration that "all is finally well because all is one," the world needs to hear not a clever myth. It needs to hear a bold proclamation of an historical fact—the fact that in Christ God defeated the darkness of the evil empire of human sin. He now grants real deliverance to needy human souls and a real promise—not of impersonal "eternal sleep"—but of a future eternal resurrected life and a face-to-face meeting with Him, our Maker and loving Redeemer.

Dr. Peter Jones is executive director of truthXchange, a ministry that exists to recognize and respond to the rising tide of neopaganism. He has authored several books and is the teacher on the series Only Two Religions.

Truth Exchange: An Interview with Peter Jones

Peter Jones

Tabletalk: What is the mission of truthXchange, and how did it begin?

Peter Jones: On February 9, 2014, I watched the Grammys' tribute to an event that occurred fifty years ago, when the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was nostalgic for me because it showed John Lennon at Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool, England, where we were close friends for five years. That same year, I came to the States for the first time. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The culture was so religiously "Christian," and, as a bonus, I met a young R.C. Sproul.

I did not realize then that this moment really was the beginning of truthXchange. Having studied in the States, I left in 1974 to teach New Testament in a Reformed seminary in godless, secular France. I returned in 1991 to culture shock. America was just as religious, but it had changed religions. The nation famous for its Christian missionaries was adopting the paganism it had once so successfully evangelized. Like a spy coming in from the cold, I could see the change clearly. In my travels, I meet Christians who decry the cultural decline as "awful," but how do you oppose "awful"?

TruthXchange seeks to provide adequate categories—for Christians and non- Christians alike—that make sense of the recent pagan transformation of the West. We seek to show the superiority of twoism, and to train leaders who understand these basic worldview issues of oneism and twoism to reach a world in crisis and a church in confusion. Especially, they must train the next Christian generation to think clearly and live virtuously in a culture more and more antagonistic to the Christian faith.

TT: How would you compare the religious landscape of the United States with that of post-Christian Europe?

PJ: That comparison used to be more black and white—Europe, secular humanist; the U.S., religiously Christian. But in the States, Christianity is in decline, while in Europe, secular humanism is in decline. Both are now turning to various forms of pagan spirituality, abandoning both Christianity and secular humanism. Time magazine said that the U.S. is Hindu, and in "godless" France, Buddhism is on the rise among native-born Frenchmen. The West is turning East on both sides of the Pond.

TT: Why is paganism so compelling to people in this postmodern era?

PJ: For many intellectuals, the sophisticated, rational critique of Christianity's faith-based belief in a transcendent God and in supernatural events chased "superstitious" biblical faith from the academy. However, such self-confidence in human reason was undermined by postmodernism, which clearly showed that it is logically impossible, using human reason, to show that human reason is reasonable. The argument is clearly circular, revealing a secular faith that is as religious as any other.

In addition, secular humanism's belief in human reason as savior has failed miserably, since two world wars and Marxist atheist regimes resulted, not in the saving, but in the slaughtering of millions of human beings.

Such failure has caused many to seek answers elsewhere, precisely in the area of once-rejected spirituality. The reduction of reality to the merely physical, biological, or rational leaves many abandoned to a cold and unfriendly universe. Many now seek a sense of wholeness, of belonging.

Some scholars speak of the post-secular age, when intellectuals can safely embrace forms of pantheistic spirituality, while rejecting the extremes of atheism and theism (biblical faith). This heralds a new day for paganism. It is now cool to be spiritually whole.

TT: Are there any pagan assumptions that Christians today might unconsciously share with the culture? What are they?

PJ: The power of culture is now used to intimidate rather than encourage biblical faith. We live in a post-Constantinian world with little protection from the state. Christians are accused of hate speech against homosexuals, of making war on women for opposing abortion, and of self-righteous intolerance for claiming the unique truth of the gospel. Under this barrage of unfair criticism, Christians can give up and "conform to the world," as Paul says in Romans 12:2. Christians feel great pressure to modify the message, go easy on sin, opt for programs the culture approves of (such as social justice), and to see mysticism as the high point of faith, since it unifies all religions. In all of these areas, the church often fails to preach the gospel, which is not about human actions or reactions but about what God has done for sinners at a particular point in time in the person of Jesus the eternal Son.

TT: Can you give some advice to parents for helping their children identify the culture's pagan worldview, and how they might assist their children in resisting its influence?

PJ: There is no magic solution for protecting our offspring, but parents are exhorted in Scripture to faithfully teach their children the way of life. Children do not like moralism ("Christians are better than pagans"), shaming ("You've let down the family"), an appeal to tradition ("We've always done it this way") or a nostalgic appeal to a past golden age (the lost glories of the parents' generation). They are sensitive to true descriptions of the timeless nature of reality.

TT: You say there are only two "spritualities"—oneism and twoism. What are a few of the defining characteristics of each?

PJ: Speaking of the "timeless nature of reality"—the categories oneism and twoism are, according to Paul, the only two options for thinking about the world. Romans 1:25 declares that you either worship creation or you worship the Creator. Worship of the creation is oneism—everything is ultimately and divinely the same. Twoism is a way of describing the eternal difference between the Creator and the creation, as well as the distinctions God places within the creation that reflect the ultimate Creator/creature distinction.

TT: What can we learn from how God's people have dealt with pagan spirituality throughout church history that can help us today?

PJ: When oneism was a powerful form of belief (in the Greco-Roman empire at the time of the early church and later with the heresy of Gnosticism), the church fathers responded with a serious analysis of the nature of pagan oneist thought. We must do the same today. We must be clear in showing that in this seductive world of unity and synthesis, where everyone should get along, antithesis and dichotomy describe the reality in a created and then fallen world.

TT: What are some examples of oneism in our culture?

PJ: A license plate on a car where I play golf declares for all to see: "All Is One." I recently got my license plate changed to state for all to see: "All Is 2."

Oneism is everywhere. Multiculturalism allows no value judgments about culture. Interfaith sees no distinction between religions. Alternative sexualities reject the male/female distinction and seek to eliminate the idea of gender distinctions altogether. Hollywood makes no judgments. Says Kristen Stewart of Twilight Saga fame, "I stand by every mistake I've ever made [including an affair with a married man and father of two], so judge away." Guilt is a psychological illness from which we must be healed. Liberal theology, appearing in certain evangelical movements, undermines the Creator/creature distinction, while the great stress on mysticism, in the same circles, does the same thing. Acts of mercy are confused with social justice.

TT: What do you mean when you say that your goal is to "turn spirituality inside out"?

PJ: Instead of going within, we must go without, beyond ourselves to the God who made us. Of course, I don't mean that there is no interior aspect to the Christian faith. It is only the Christian faith that allows us true, intimate communion with the God who is other than we are and transcendent over all things.

TT: What are the most important ideas regarding postmodern spirituality and the proper Christian response that you always try to convey to your students?

PJ: The absolute necessity is to maintain the vast distinction between God the Creator and us His creatures, who are forever dependent upon Him. The twoist Christian faith is the only faith to offer what everyone is actually seeking. Not just the Creator/creature distinction, but the communion we have with a tender, loving God through the salvation He's provided in Christ, who brought the possibility of being one with God through Him (John 17:11).

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. Dr. Jones is author of several books, including One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference and Stolen Identity: The Conspiracy to Reinvent Jesus.

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