What is a Heathen in the Bible?
In the Bible, the term “heathen” is used to refer to people who are considered to have lost sight of God and have adopted a worship of false gods. Generally, heathens are seen as those who deny the authority of God and live in disobedience to His laws.
The term “heathen” appears throughout the Bible, including in the book of Psalms. In Psalms 9:17, Hebrew scripture reads: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” The word “heathen” means the same in this context as “nations that forget God.”
In the Old Testament heathens remain a constant source of threat and judgment for the Israelites. Often, the Jews were commanded to annihilate the enemies of God, which included the heathens. God used many of the Israelites to act as His agents of punishment against non-believers and heathens.
When Jesus was on earth, he spoke about the heathen in many of his teaching. He often spoke about compassion and mercy for them, saying he did not come for the righteous, but for the lost. Jesus also taught not to judge others, no matter how far from God they seemed.
The New Testament speaks to the hope of salvation for those considered heathens. As Paul wrote in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Paul’s message is that of hope and redemption for the heathen.
Heathens in Relation to Christianity
In Christianity, the notion of being a heathen is a bit different than what is described in the Bible. In modern Christianity, it can refer to those who claim to be Christians but whose actions and worldview are antithetical to Christian doctrine. In other words, those who profess to be Christians, but whose behavior, beliefs, and philosophy do not reflect core values of the faith.
The Church has a long history of attempting to define what it means to be a heathen. Historically, the church sought to distinguish between “true” believers and those labeled as “heathen” or non-believers. The Church has used three primary groups to identify heathens: traditional enemies – those of a different faith, those who may know about Christianity but do not live according to it, and those who neither know nor practice the faith.
As a result, a large part of evangelism and mission work in the Church has centered around identifying those who are heathens and attempting to “bring them back to God”. This is especially true in cultures with potential large pockets of heathens. In some cases, such mission work is not embraced as it is seen to be a violation of an individual’s right to choose their own faith.
How are Heathens Viewed in Contemporary Society?
Today, the term “heathen” is less commonly used, especially in its derogatory sense. The Protestant Reformation brought about a shift in the public understanding of the term. In contemporary culture, heathens are seen more positively and the term is used to describe non-believers in a more respectful way.
Due to a more enlightened view of religious freedoms, those of non-Christian faiths are no longer considered heathens. Now they are seen as simply different and respected for their beliefs. Likewise, the Church’s attitude toward those living outside of the faith has changed.
Rather than seeking to convert individuals, many Christian mission organizations aim to build relationships of understanding and respect with those of other faiths. This approach is centered on creating shared experiences and building bridges of communication between different faiths, rather than attempting to convert them.
Heathens in a Social Context
In the modern day, a heathen is typically understood to be someone who lives outside of the established faith or a source of opposition to it. As such, heathens are often associated with rebellion, irreverence, and nonconformity—all qualities that those in power often oppose.
This view has been especially true in history, during which time heathens were used to vilify those in power, or to blame for the ills of society. In the past, some have used the term to refer to those who engage in behavior that is considered immoral or wrong within a particular faith, as well as those of other religious backgrounds.
Heathen as Symbol of Individuality
While the term “heathen” has sometimes been used pejoratively, it can have a positive connotation as well. Heathens have been seen as symbols of individualism, of standing up to authority, and of challenging mainstream ideas and beliefs. This idea of the heathen as an agent of change, rather than a force of evil, is one that many people embrace in today’s society.
At its core, the concept of being a “heathen” is about standing up for what you believe in, even if it means going against accepted norms. To many, this idea of “standing up for what you believe in” is an empowering concept, and one that shouldn’t be seen as something negative, but rather as something inspiring.
Heathens and Atheists
There is an important distinction to be made between heathens and atheists. While heathens may reject certain aspects of belief, they still maintain a belief in some kind of higher power or spiritual realm. Atheists, on the other hand, deny the existence of any kind of higher power or spiritual realm.
Heathens can have a wide range of beliefs and view points on life, while atheists have only one—that there is no supernatural power that governs and influences our lives. As a result, it is important to recognize the difference between heathens and atheists in order to avoid any confusion.
Influence of Heathenism on Popular Culture
The concept of heathens has become more prominent in recent years, particularly in popular culture. Heathens are often portrayed as anti-establishment forces that seek to challenge the status quo. This idea is a popular theme in books, television shows, and movies, making it an idea that many people can relate to.
Heathens have also been used to represent a new wave of thinking and ideology. Increasingly, people are realizing that it is possible to challenge the systems of power that have been in place for centuries, and are taking the opportunity to do so. This new wave of thinking and ideology is often referred to as heathenism in popular culture.
Heathenism as Political Statement
In recent years, heathenism has come to be seen as a political statement. People with this mindset are seen as rejecting traditional norms and challenging the status quo. As a result, heathenism has become intertwined with progressive politics, and those who identify as heathens often use that to signal their dissent with the mainstream.
At the same time, heathens are often seen as leading change and promoting positive social movement. While there are still those who use it as an act of defiance, many are using it as a way to stand up for what they believe in, and to ensure that their voices are heard.
The term “heathen” has a long and complex history. In the Bible, it is used to refer to those who have rejected the authority of God. In Christianity, it is often used to describe those who profess to be Christians, but whose behavior and beliefs are antithetical to Christian doctrine.
In contemporary culture, the term has taken on a largely positive connotation, used to refer to those who stand up for what they believe in and challenge the status quo. Heathens are seen as agents of change and are becoming increasingly intertwined with progressive politics.
Ultimately, the term “heathen” is reflective of an individual’s right to choose their own faith, and to stand up for what they believe in. As such, it has come to represent a powerful form of dissent and activism in today’s society.