This basic error of paganism is repeated in all ritualism: the belief that by performing certain ceremonies divine favor may be obtained. One finds such rituals everywhere in paganism and nature religions: the vestments the priests wear, the swinging censors filled with incense, the incantations, the elaborate ceremonies performed to obtain favors from the gods. So it is in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Beginning in the fourth century, with the influence of Emperor Constantine, Roman Catholicism became a mixture of paganism and Christianity. Augustine himself testified:
“The man who enters [a church] is bound to see drunkards, misers, tricksters, gamblers, adulterers, fornicators, people wearing amulets, assiduous clients of sorcerers, astrologers….The same crows that press into the churches on Christian festivals also fill the theatres on pagan holidays.”
There were those within the Church and even among the kings and emperors the popes installed who realized the evil in the old pagan practices and from time to time forbade them. Roman Emperor Charlemagne decreed: “With respect to trees, stones, and fountains, where certain foolish people light torches or practice other superstitions, we earnestly ordain that that most evil custom detestable to God, wherever it be found, should be removed and destroyed.”
At the same time, however, similar pagan practices were being “Christianized” and absorbed into the Church, where they remain part of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy to this day. The priesthood and ceremonies of Israel commanded by God in Old Testament times are often cited as justification for the sacramentalism within professing Christianity. The New Testament, however, makes it clear that the redemption we have in Christ made the Old Testament priesthood and sacrificial system obsolete.
An important distinction must be made between the rituals of pagan religions and Roman Catholicism and Eastern orthodoxy (which presume to obtain favor from God through sacraments), and the specific ceremonies of the Jewish priesthood. The latter were symbolic of the redemption that would be effected through Christ. All of the Old Testament sacrifices looked forward to the Lamb of God, the true sacrifice, God Himself come to earth as a man, to give His life in payment of the penalty for our sins:
“Which [the tabernacle/temple] was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks, and diverse washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands….
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews:9:9-12).
The entire Bible testifies that God is neither bound by, nor does He respond according to, any alleged “spiritual laws.” There is no automatic response that can be gotten from Him through certain rituals.