Christianity vs.old cultural religious systems | Gregory the Great

Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 CE) writing a letter to Abbot Mellitus, speaking of the missionary work of Augustine of Canterbury:

After mature deliberation on the condition of the English, [I have] decided upon, namely, that the temples of the idols in that nation should not be destroyed but the idols which are in them should be destroyed. Let holy water be prepared and sprinkled in said temples; then let altars be erected and relics set in place. For if those temples are well built, it is right that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God, that the nation, seeing that their temples are not destroyed may abandon the error in their hearts and know and adore the true God, while still resorting familiarly to the places to which they are accustomed.

And since they have been used to slaughtering many oxen in sacrifices to devils; some solemnity should be substituted for that On the day of dedication, for example, or on the nativities of the holy martyrs whose relics are there deposited,[6] they may build them selves huts of branches of trees around the churches which have been converted to Christian use out of temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, offering no more beasts to the devil but killing cattle for eating to the praise of God and returning thanks for their food to the Giver of all things, to the end that while some outward pleasures are permitted them they may more readily accept the inward consolations of the grace of God.


  • Interesting example in the history of theology (more missiology) and culture.
  • Assumes English native religion is of Satan
  • But is remarkably accomodating to allowing the architecture and sacrifice practices to remain, but "re-purposed" toward a Christian worldview.
  • Issue:  can existing systems of meaning be changed?