Christians and Christmas, Revisited

This blog was pretty much dormant for three years, and during that time quite a backlog of comments got stuck in moderation.  I’ve been working through them all, clearing them through moderation if they don’t violate the commenting rules, and responding.

The most heavily commented articles, while I was away from blogging, were the articles on Christmas.

In 2011-12 I wrote several articles on a question that sometimes divides Christians — is it commanded, forbidden, or permitted for us to celebrate Christmas?  Those articles are linked from the summary page, Christians and Christmas.

Going through all these comments, I wanted to reiterate some things especially from this article:  Flawed Reasons to Abandon Christmas — #2 “It is Pagan/Catholic”.

Doctrine by Speculative History is Error

We should not try to determine matters of faith and practice based on alleged historical events from more than a thousand years ago, and not on Scripture.  If Scripture says something, we know it is true.  If historians say something, we have no certainty that what they have said is true, especially on matters more than a thousand years ago.

If you believe something happened in ancient history, you are free to let that affect how you will think or act about it, but you have no right to teach it as authoritative to other people.

To do so violates the doctrine of sufficiency of Scripture.

Doctrine of Discernment by Origins is Error

The Scripture does not tell us to determine if something is good or bad by its origins.  In fact, the Scripture gives specific examples of things with good origins becoming bad, and vice versa.  This is discussed in the article I linked.

Some of My Readers Illustrate the Point

I have received many comments alleging that Christmas is a pagan festival, and has pagan origins.  These statements are made with absolute certainty.

We have been told by my readers that it is:

  • A Roman Catholic invention
  • Babylonian worship
  • The birth of Tammuz
  • It is the birthday of all the pagan gods
  • It was created in the third century
  • It was created for pagans to be able to keep Christian holidays
  • It is Mithraism
  • It was copying the Roman holiday of the birthday of the Unconquerable Sun (which itself originated in AD 274).
  • It is a holiday for “Ba’al/Osiris/Nimrod/Lucifer/Gilgamesh/Odin and his son, etc”
  • It is associated with “the goddess of fertility, Ishtar/Isis/Ashtoreth”
  • It is the convergence of Roman numerology and the Winter Solstice
  • It is the Egyptian festival of Ra as adopted by the Romans
  • It was invented absolutely by the Romans in AD 336
  • Most of its traditions are from the Roman festival of Saturnalia
  • We should read the Wikipedia page about Christmas (Jon’s note, how in the world would Christians have known what to do before Wikipedia?)
  • It all goes back to Nimrod who rebelled
  • It is sun-god worship
  • It is bringing Mithra back
  • It is the birthday of Lucifer the son of Shakar, who is probably also Apollyon, the beast who comes out of the abyss, so it is probably worshipping antichrist

So, for those who wish to practice doctrine by uncertain history and the doctrine of discernment by origins, I have some questions:

  1. Did Christmas originate in the third or fourth century?  Which is it?  If we’re supposed to guide our life by this history we need to have history correct.
  2. How do Christians who don’t have the Internet know this stuff?  Are they under God’s wrath for idolatry because they don’t know it?
  3. Is it the birthday of Lucifer, or of Mithra, or of the Roman sun-god, or of Ra, or of Tammuz?  All five of them, or 1 or 2 or 3 or 4?  How can we know?
  4. Is it about Baal or about Mithra?  How can we know?  Just because someone said so on the Internet?
  5. Was it a Roman Catholic invention, or was it Babylonian worship?  It can’t really be both, Babylon was destroyed before the Roman Catholics could have invented it.
  6. Is it Saturnalia or the Winter Solstice?  Which?  Or both?  How can we know?
  7. Egyptian or Babylonian or Roman paganism?  Which of the three?

And the final question:  Where is the Bible in all this?

Where does the Bible tell us how to decipher all these allegations?  Where does the Bible tell us we need to search through ancient Roman, Babylonian, or Egyptian paganism?  Did the apostles say, “Study what the Assyrians did and make sure you aren’t doing anything similar to their paganism?”  Did they warn against the ancient Hittite gods and tell you to avoid certain dates because of them?

Do we have to obey and restrict our practices anytime anyone says that something we are doing has pagan origins?  Do we then have the responsibility to go and research it and prove or disprove it?  Where does God tell us anything that would force us to research ancient paganism to decide whether things are right or wrong?

The above list makes it clear — Doctrine by Speculative History is bound to fail.  It can’t have any authority because it is speculative.  No one knows exactly what happened, when, and why decisions were made.  It’s all speculation.  If there were authority, we’d have a dependable, authoritative source we could go to, but the only dependable, authoritative source for doctrine and practice is the Bible, and it doesn’t tell us the birthday of Tammuz or Ra or Sol Invictus.

Such doctrine, and its companion, the Doctrine of Discernment by Origins, makes anyone with access to the Internet a voice to be feared, because we might be forced to go and start researching the next time they tell us that starting our service at 10:45 is a pagan practice.  And they might even find pagans who did exactly that, maybe even last year rather than 1700 years ago.

If they did, what would it prove?  We don’t meet for worship at 10:45 because a group of Wiccans somewhere meet at that time.  And I don’t celebrate Christmas because some Roman emperor in AD 274 said he wanted to celebrate the birth of the invincible sun.

We meet for worship at that time because it works for us.  It means if I preach a little longer that we still don’t go too extremely late.  And I celebrate Christmas on 25 December because I believe it honours the Lord to remember the incarnation of the eternal Son once a year, and doing it at that time fits well with work holidays and gives evangelistic opportunities.

These doctrines have no authority.  The Scripture doesn’t teach them.  Their adherents, instead of responding to the post that pointed out the error of these doctrines, have made most of the claims of pagan origins on the post about the date.  No one has made any answer to the Scriptural challenge to these two doctrines.  No one has given any Biblical support for them.

The widely scattered, and sometimes bizarre, list of historical allegations shows the folly of these doctrines.  The fact that their adherents mostly commented off-topic on a post about the date perhaps reflects how disorderly this movement can be.  If there is no absolute and verifiable authority to which all can point, and say, “Thus saith the Lord,” there is chaos, unruliness, and the loudest allegation is often the most heard.

We need to get back to this, and doing so will be sufficient:

II Timothy 3:16-17

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
This entry was posted in The Christian and Culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Christians and Christmas, Revisited

  1. David says:

    Yes!
    Solar Scriptura!
    And let the other stuff go and work out locally.

    Btw, welcome back.

  2. Patrick Heeney says:

    Amen.

  3. Nick Audet says:

    Kind of along these lines, I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about Christians and Freemasonry. Some locals are trying to get me into it and at least one of the people I know is a Christian.

  4. Nick Audet says:

    Thank you for the insights! I met with a Christian who is a member of the lodge in my town and mentioned some questions and concerns to him. Given that I don’t know very much of the symbolism in masonry and usually masons say that the applications of the symbols by Christian writers is misunderstood to frame them as occult, we discussed at length the things that no mason would dispute.

    The first, that religion (and politics) have no place at a Lodge meeting. This would prohibit a Christian from fulfilling the Great Commission with fellow Lodge “Brothers.” Also, since it is required for applicants to believe in a Supreme Being (though not specifically the God of the Bible) it would stand to reason that all prayers during Lodge, though addressed to “God,” would have to be addressed to this Supreme Being. As a Christian, that would be to the God of the Bible, but to another Brother Mason, it could be the Great Spirit, Allah, or any other monotheistic Being. Therefore, in my understanding, a Christian participating in Masonic Ritual would be giving the One True God an equal footing with any other monotheistic Deity. Nobody had ever asked him before, and he hadn’t considered it all in 20+ years of masonry and nearly as many as a Christian. I mentioned to him that I wouldn’t publicly align myself with a Christian organization that encouraged Muslims to be better Muslims and I certainly could not do so with a secular organization.

    Secondly, the issue of being “unequally yoked.” If we are commanded not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (in marriage, working relationships, or even close friendships depending on the Holy Spirit’s guidance) how could we partake with nonbelievers in a fraternity that openly professes to be a tighter brotherhood than blood? Nobody, even in his church had ever asked him this question.

    Third and finally – Masonry openly states its mission to be making good men better by bringing them to the Light of… Freemasonry. One of the initiation rituals involves the initiate stating that he is in darkness seeking to come to the Light. Since Jesus IS the Light of the world and there is none good but God, it seems quite blasphemous to offer another Light and to reaffirm human’s innate goodness that the Bible clearly tells us is as “filthy rags.” I asked him if Masonry could ultimately substitute itself in place of the Christ and the church. We used to attend the same church which I ended up leaving because the community was dead and the messages were little more than history lessons on the Bible instead of practical applications. He mentioned the things he does not get out of the church he gets out of Masonry. I mentioned that if he was lacking something from the church, likely the rest of his family was and turning to the world to find the missing pieces was not the answer. (I say this not as one who has never done this exact thing, I have sought community and friendship in all the wrong places and it has done way more damage than good!!) He also had not considered this.

    Anyways, these are the reasons I decided not to join the Lodge. I know some Christians view it as eating meat, and the number of “Christians,” both nominal and serious, had caused me to consider joining, but these reasons were sufficient to dispel me. I would still be very interested to read an article based on your research if you choose to publish one.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Thanks, Nick. Very good thoughts.

      Even if it were comparable to eating meat sacrificed to idols, the Scriptures give many good reasons, in multiple circumstances, where it would be best not to do so. But I think the comparison falls down in some important ways, too.

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