The Reformed Religion of Revelation and the Wiccan Religion of Choice: Part II

Part I

Five Solas

Protestant Christians believe in five Solas. They include Scripture alone which teaches salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. These principles stem from the Word of God as properly understood by God’s people throughout the centuries. The Church holds up the whole of Scripture as the infallible, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient Word of God. This objective revelation is to inform the thoughts and behavior of every person who is created in the image of God (namely, everyone). The revelation of God to humanity is objective, authoritative, and universally binding. God’s thoughts and ways are above our thoughts and ways. He knows everything, created everything, and guides everything to its end purpose of glorifying Him. God is, after all, God. Unlike us, God actually deserves the glory He receives.

Salvation

Salvation is thus all from God. The grace is of God, the faith is of God, and the Christ of Scripture is the Christ sent by God; there is salvation in no other name under heaven, and there is nothing we can do in order to merit our own salvation. God is the Giver, and the Giver gets the glory. Quite unlike virtually every other religion in the world, Scripture explicitly teaches against salvation by our sin-tainted works and calls upon us to cast ourselves upon the righteous works of the one true Savior and Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness of our sins. Christ Jesus lived a perfect life in the flesh under the law, died on the cross for sins, and was raised again in accordance with Scripture. Rather than resting in our contaminated works to do us any good we must – counter-intuitively and contrary to every natural inclination within ourselves – turn away from our sin and attempts at works righteousness and trust instead upon the perfect work of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Wicca can be sharply contrasted with Christianity even here, for Wicca, like virtually every other world religion, places complete faith in the self for “salvation” of a completely different kind. Indeed, in one sense there, “is no forgiveness or absolution of sins, no automatic salvation” at all (14). (One should note that the remark about “automatic salvation” is likely based upon a misunderstanding of Christian soteriology; I do not intend to imply by remaining silent concerning this observation that Scripture teaches anything like “automatic salvation,” whatever that may entail.) In Wicca, “The idea of karma eliminates the need for redemption, salvation, or purgatory” (30). At the same time, karma itself plays a role in what may be thought of as a lesser type of “salvation” for the Wiccan.

Wiccans take responsibility for their actions. They realize that usually what the Universe hands them is the result of their actions in the past, and what they may get in the future will be the result of their actions now. There is no shortcut for redemption. It takes hard work, personal responsibility, and a willingness to acknowledge faults to correct or overcome them. Self-examination with the end result of self-betterment is one way a person can clean up karma, so to speak. It isn’t easy, sometimes is very painful, but is ultimately cleansing. This self-betterment is what is termed the Great Work. (30)

One notes that the “Great Work” fits with Wicca’s strong emphasis upon individual autonomy. Wicca is a ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ religion, so, “Wiccans are expected to face up to their mistakes and problems, try their best to fix and/or resolve them, and take responsibility for their actions and inactions” (30).

Wiccans don’t have confession or absolution of sins; they are expected to face up to their actions and own up to their mistakes. If they do err, they examine what they did and why they did it, hopefully becoming more aware and avoiding such problems in the future. If possible, they set things right in the present. (29)

How an individual other than God can ever truly “set things right” is a daunting, and I suspect, impossible question for a Wiccan to answer (do what you will, you will not erase your fault against another or your guilt), but is beyond the scope of this article. It suffices to highlight that there is no salvation in Wicca, and most pertinent to the present discussion, there is thus no salvation made possible by Wicca on an intellectual level either. In Protestant Christianity humans are initially found in Adam and as such are totally depraved – touched in every respect by sin – but can be transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, from Adam to Christ, and this includes the intellect. In Wicca there is no such salvation to be found. In Wicca there is only humanity’s lonely striving to be free from the constraints of sin, to free oneself not only from the wickedness carried out against oneself and others, but from the intellectual lostness that characterizes the religion at every point. Some elements of the Christian view of Scripture have been provided above, but one element that has not yet been mentioned is the redemptive nature of the Word of God especially as it pertains to the intellect. The human intellect is clearly fallen and in need of salvation. The futility which results from would-be autonomous thought is demonstrable and will follow shortly in this article, but it is worth noting now before critiquing Wicca that not only will Wicca fail to provide the preconditions for intelligible experience, but it distances itself from “salvation” in this respect. Wiccans are vehemently opposed to anything like an authoritative redemptive Word from God and as such are stuck with an ego-centric predicament. There is nothing like an authoritative revelation from an all-knowing and transcendent God in Wicca as there is in Christianity.

Questions

Why then should, “Wiccans take responsibility for their actions” (30)? To say that anyone “should” do anything at all is to imply that there is some authoritative lawgiver, some personal absolute who lays claim to the individual and obligates him or her to behave in certain ways. What can fulfill this role in Wicca? Wiccan deity holds nothing like what the God of the Bible claims to hold in terms of power over the individual, and there is no authoritative revelation in Wicca like there is in Christianity which would provide even the slightest clue as to how people should attempt to live morally responsible lives.

How do Wiccans know that, “what the Universe hands them is the result of their actions in the past” (30)? If this belief is true, then where did the process begin? If the process did not begin, then the Wiccan is faced with an infinite regress problem. If the process did begin, then the claim cannot be true, since there would have been a time when there were no past actions according to which the “Universe hands” the Wiccan anything. A more obvious question to ask is how Wiccans even begin to go about discerning that, “what the Universe hands them is the result of their actions in the past,” for this claim cannot be empirically verified. Not only does there not appear to be any empirical evidence supporting the claim in question, but even if there were empirical evidence supporting this claim in particular instances (again, what that empirical evidence would look like is inconceivable), there is no empirical evidence that can support the claim as a universal . Yet the claim in question is apparently a universal claim. Not only can the claim in question not be supported through an appeal to empirical evidence, but the claim is not an a priori truth of reason; it is not a claim that can be known apart from experience, nor is it actually the case that it is known apart from experience. Perhaps the Wiccan could appeal to divine revelation, but it has already been made abundantly clear that the Wiccan has nothing like divine revelation to appeal to for anything apart from alleged instances where deities obscurely reveal themselves to Wiccans through dreams. The Wiccan claim that, “what the Universe hands them is the result of their actions in the past” cannot be known through empiricism, rationalism, or revelation. In the end the entire karmic system is much more evidently based upon wishful thinking than it is upon careful thinking (or dare I say, any thinking at all!). But the difficulty does not end here.

How do Wiccans know that, “what they may get in the future will be the result of their actions now” (30)? Undoubtedly the answer will come that just like what the Universe hands them in the present is the result of their actions in the past, so will it be in the future as well. That is, what the Universe hands them in the future (‘future-present’) will be the result of their actions in the present (‘future-past’). But why assume that things will go on in the future as they have in the past? The Wiccan might say that in the past things have gone the same way, but this merely pushes the question back a step. It is fine that in the past things have gone a particular way, but why assume that the future will be like the past? Either the Wiccan must assume that the future will be like the past because the future will be like the past, which is viciously circular, or the Wiccan will assume in a completely arbitrary fashion that the future will be like the past, which is every bit as unwarranted and irrational as the alternative viciously circular excuse for reasoning in this manner. Perhaps the Wiccan could claim that his or her deity ensures that the future will resemble the past, but according to the Wiccan this is sheer speculation. There is no such guarantee because there is no authoritative revelation concerning the matter. With multiple deities and witches running about willy-nilly mucking things up with their powers and magicks one might even expect that it is extremely unlikely that the future will be very much like the past at all.

Finally, what is a “fault,” what is a “mistake,” what is it to “err” and what is, “self-betterment” (29-30)? Faults, mistakes, and errors presuppose a standard by which they are to be judged as faults, mistakes, and errors. The concept of “self-betterment” likewise assumes that some things, and some people, are “better” than others. But by virtue of what standard are witches making these sorts of judgments? Certainly not by virtue of their respective deities, for not only do the various deities that Wiccans accept sometimes differ from one another (and hence must be “better” in some respects than others), but none of them reveals any sort of authoritative standard by which such judgments are possible. And if the Wiccan insists that he or she is making determinations concerning faults, mistakes, errors, and betterment in terms of the autonomous self, then the Wiccan is thoroughly confused, for if the ultimate standard for such things is the individual, then the individual cannot fail to meet his or her own standards. A “fault” is actually a perfection and a “mistake” is really a success. There is no external authoritative standard by which the individual or his or her own actions is to be judged. There is no room for error with man as the measure of all things. Being less than the best is an impossibility.

Knowledge

Recall that the authors of the book that has been used in this discussion of Wicca differentiate between belief and knowledge when they discuss magick, claiming to, “KNOW magick works,” because saying that they, “believe in magick is not a strong enough statement to make it work” (8).

Belief implies a margin of error, a measure of doubt. We KNOW magick works. If you are a practicing Wiccan for any length of time, you have seen magick work enough times to realize how well it can work, but sometimes it works in ways different from your expectations. (8)

In traditional accounts of knowledge belief, truth, and justification or warrant are necessary components of knowledge. In the quote above it may be seen that the difference between mere belief and knowledge is at least the additional element of justification. The experienced Wiccan does not merely believe that magick works, but claims to know it, differentiating knowledge from belief through the added element of having, “seen magick work enough times.” In this instance, alleged justification is provided through the senses (specifically the sense of sight). But how does the Wiccan know that he or she can trust the senses? An independent argument would need to be provided to support the trustworthiness of sensory experience, but one that would not in turn rely again upon the senses. It is difficult to imagine what the Wiccan might try to offer in terms of an argument for the reliability of sensory experience, but one thing that is almost certain is that the Wiccan has already given up his or her ability to appeal to any authoritative religious text wherein a deity assures us that the senses are reliable. The same problem applies in the case of the questions above concerning justification for other Wiccan beliefs.

The Christian God, however, has plainly revealed Himself to us in the things that have been made, in His image bearers, miracles, in the Word of God, and in our Lord Jesus Christ. His revelation is authoritative. It is objective and universally applicable. The Word of God assures us of great truths that the Wiccan, by definition, simply does not have access to because of his or her rejection of the Word of the Lord. The Christian does not need to try and set things “right” for the self, for Christ Jesus has already atoned for that sin. In the Christian worldview, God is the authoritative standard for everything who holds us responsible and assures us of such mundane principles as that the future will be like the past and the senses are generally reliable. God created us in His image with knowledge of Him, ourselves, and the world and we are to use this knowledge to glorify Him as is our creaturely purpose.

More to come.

(Tuitéan, Paul, and Estelle Daniels. Essential Wicca. Freedom, Calif.: Crossing, 2001.)

Part III


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