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In the Gates

The Dangers of Pagan Worship

Abiding Principles from the Ceremonial Laws: Worshiping God (3)


Pagan practices lead away from God unto sin.

You shall make no covenant with them and their gods…They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” Exodus 23.32, 33

The problem with incorporating pagan practices into the worship of God is twofold. First, because God has not sanctioned these practices, and, indeed, has warned against employing them in seeking Him, they could not be expected to fulfill the purpose of worship, which is to renew Covenant with God. Pagan practices may feel very spiritual. They may provide a certain amount of aesthetic pleasure. And using pagan practices in the worship of God might even serve to endear pagan neighbors to a certain extent. But because they are not what God prescribes, and because they are the very opposite of what He prescribes, they will not renew God’s people in His Covenant.

Consequently, and in the second place, pagan practices, brought into the worship of the living God, can only lead to sin. Apart from abiding in God’s Covenant, Israel was defenseless against the wiles of the devil and the allure of sin from all directions. Only within the framework of God’s grace and truth – the framework of His Covenant and promises – could Israel have the perspective and the presence – of God – to enable them to remain a holy people unto the Lord.

Thus by bringing pagan practices into the worship of God, Israel would cut herself off from God, forsake the protections of His Covenant, and fall prey to all manner of compromise and sin in their worship and in their everyday lives.

Pagan practices are a snare. The may “feel” right and we may “enjoy” worshiping God that way. We may even manage to “pad” our attendance at worship by making it “feel” more “enjoyable” for our pagan neighbors if we conform our worship more to their expectations and experience than to the plain teaching of God.

This way of worshiping God is not the way of Covenant renewal, but the way of a snare. No wonder God says clearly, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.”

For a fuller study of the pattern of worship revealed in Scripture, order the book, The Highest Thing, by T. M. Moore, from our online store. These studies and brief essays will help you to see how the pattern of sound worship, which began in the Law of God, comes to complete expression in the rest of Scripture. Pastors, we’re getting ready to start the next season of The Pastors’ Fellowship. Write to me today at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about how you join in these online discussions. Our theme for the coming series is “The Worldview of God’s Law.” There is no charge for participation, but you must reserve a place for these monthly gatherings. Subscribe to Crosfigell, the devotional newsletter of The Fellowship of Ailbe.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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