Christian Hysteria And The Real Battle

Are we zealous in the wrong areas? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I wrote about what was going on on a well-known apologist’s page and how it was the same thing from a year ago with a meme that was entirely false. This was about Halloween. Sadly, too many Christians posting ignored multiple people asking hard questions about the authenticity of the claim and went on with either bad-mouthing the person in the meme as if he really said the claim or jumped straight into panic mode. More often, it was panic mode.

Of course, no one is going to deny that parents want to protect their children and should do so, but could the real threats be being ignored for the fake ones? In fact, for those wanting to avoid the snare of the devil, I would think that someone like the devil could certainly create a false threat in order to hide a real one, a sort of diversionary tactic. Halloween is just such an example.

Sadly, I saw people posting speaking about how this is how the antichrist is going to take over by making this stuff fun and innocent. I’m surprised I didn’t see anything this time about the Illuminati and the New World Order. Of course, we also saw more and more people saying that this is pagan and that Christmas and Easter are also pagan.

I honestly wonder what such people are going to do when they tell their children this and then they or their children see something like the claims of Zeitgeist where Christianity is said to be copied from pagan gods. If we apply the same methodology, why not?

I do want it to be known that I surely realize the occult is out there. I also realize many Christians buy into a sort of occult thinking without realizing it. My wife and I like to sometimes watch these videos where people talk about the rapture coming and such. We don’t believe in it, but it can be amusing. It’s amazing how many of these begin with “I had a dream and” or “I had an experience and”. Too many Christians read signs into everything that happens to them as if the universe is all about them, kind of mirroring the way pagans read the entrails of animals and the flights of birds and other such things.

So while acknowledging that the occult is out there and yes, children need to be ready to deal with it, I can assure you that I see no reason to think that having your child put on a costume and go door to door asking for candy means they’re being caught up in the occult. Dare I say it, but perhaps not opening your children up to imagination and wonder is getting them closer to atheism. Chesterton was the great advocate of the importance of fairyland after all.

Furthermore, I am wondering how many of you who are like this are preparing for other challenges? For instance, are you equipping your child to know how they can show that God exists, the Bible is reliable, and that Jesus rose from the dead, beyond their personal testimony? If so, is your child ready to engage with the atheism they will find on a college campus?

What about materialistic greed? Is your child thinking that they need to have every new IPhone and computer and toy out there? Is your child wanting everything they can get and not appreciating the good gifts that they have? I’m not saying never get your child gifts like this, but make sure their love for you and their happiness is not conditional on such things.

Or dare I say it, what about sexual temptation? This is something they will live with all their lives. Do your kids have more than a few verses from Paul? Do they have a whole foundation of sexual ethics that tells them what sex is and why it matters and why it should be saved for marriage? Your kid could run into someone who will want to lead them into the occult to be sure, but they are far more likely to run into someone who will want to lead them into a sexual relationship outside of marriage and without a proper foundation, they will want to be led!

If you think that sounds a bit over the top, then just do this. Go to your average man who is married or not and is a devout Christian and ask him if he wrestles with sexual temptation. It’s a real battle. Even those of us, like myself, who love our wives deeply have to face a daily battle with the flesh. Are your kids ready?

Hysteria will not convince your kids. If anything, it will lead to your worldview being mocked and ostracized. If your child is talking about candy, there’s no need to bring up the plot of the antichrist. It saddens me that we who are supposed to live the most without fear are often the most fearful of all. You would think that Jesus had not won the battle against the forces of evil. You would think that Jesus is not Lord of all, conquering daily.

By the way, if you want my opinion on Halloween, go and have fun. It’s a day for kids to relax and enjoy themselves and pretend. If you don’t have kids, don’t close your door on Halloween. Here you say you are a Christian and you shut the door on children coming to your house. Is that the Christianity you want to present? Be there, put a smile on the faces of the kids, and give out the best candy that you have.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Redemption Of The Pagan

Should we be concerned if something has a pagan origin? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s that time of year again. Halloween is going to be here in a few weeks and what’s being said about that? Pagan. Just yesterday a friend shared with me that a well-known Christian apologist is sharing a bogus meme from Anton Lavey that I wrote about last year. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence we’ve seen that the quote comes from LaVey, but oh well.

Before too long, it will be Christmas. What will people be saying about that in Christian circles? That’s right. Pagan.

You know, for people who seem to want to be wary of anything that has to do with magic, pagan is thrown around like it’s a magic word to get people to have nothing to do with whatever is in question.

A lot of people do this with the devil as well. Feeling tempted? There’s one reason. Satan! The devil is going after you! The problem with this is that it assumes unknowingly that if the devil was removed from the picture, that you would not have a sinful human nature that would be tempted. You would live your life sin-free if only the devil wasn’t constantly on your shoulder. It’s also interesting that it’s always the devil. It’s never a low-ranking demon or something like that. We practically treat the devil as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent when we do this.

Many of us know enough of our own nature. If we were absolutely convinced the devil or demons were not tempting us, we would still be tempted. If we want to know why we’re tempted to sin, the devil isn’t the problem. We are the problem. We have a sinful nature.

Let’s start talking though about this problem with paganism. One aspect of Christianity is that God did not come into this world to save sinners, although He certainly did that. He came into this world to save the world. He wanted to redeem everything. The world is His creation. He wants to save it and rule it all.

That includes every day of the calendar. That includes every culture. There is nothing in this world that God does not intend to rule. When we go into a pagan culture, we seek to redeem everything then. As the hymn says, this is our Father’s world.

In fact, if you think that you should avoid anything that has the taint of evil on it supposedly, then look in the mirror. Your origins Biblically aren’t the best. We were once slaves to sin and death reigned over us. Think you can get much better than that? We are now a new creation in Christ.

Redeeming a culture is child’s play to what it took to redeem us. It took the death of the Son of God. When we act like something is irredeemable because of its origins, then we have a hard time with ourselves. Ultimately, I don’t care what a pagan intended to do with XYZ. I care about why I do it.

Christians. Please stop living in fear. Just stop it. Christ came so that you could be victorious. There’s no need to be cowering. Don’t give the devil more power than he has. Christ defeated Him 2,000 years ago. Start living in victory today.

And once again, if you must share something, please check up on it. In fact, just now, my friend Jeff Harshbarger commented on this story. What he did was something odd. He actually sought out the source material himself. (Yeah. Bizarre thought. Who knew?) Here’s the result.

Re: Contact Form Submission from the Church of Satan Website

Administration <administration@churchofsatan.com>
To
far468@bellsouth.net
Today at 1:43 PM
No. Since Satanism is not devil worship, LaVey would not say such a thing.

On 10/8/17, 12:21 PM, “Church of Satan” <administration@churchofsatan.com> wrote:

Name: Jeff Harshbarger

Email: far468@bellsouth.net

Comments: Did Dr. LaVey actually make this statement? I’m glad that
Christian parents let their children worship the devil at least one
night out of the year.

Please be living in truth people. Do that, and you have no need to fear. Yes. It’s something we all still have to work on. Check your history when making a historical claim and remember, if God can redeem you, who knows what else He can redeem.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Dear Anti-Christmas Zealot

What do I think of those wanting to spoil the holiday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christmas is that wonderful time of year when so many people get to be reminded that Jesus is still a very active part of this culture. Even if you say the name Christmas, there is still Christ right there in it. At our apartment complex here, we went to a Christmas party with several people there who were not Christians. This is a great time to get to share the Gospel as well then.

Yet some of you are not in the same mood. Some of you are in fact quite anti-Christmas. You are convinced that we have been tricked into observing a pagan holiday. You are convinced that Jeremiah condemns Christmas trees plainly.

You are also people I do not put up with.

Many times as I go through Facebook, I will find many arguments going on. A lot of them, I will stay out of. My time is limited. I only have so much that I can do. I do not want to get caught in endless debates when I could be reading and spending time with my wife who frankly is much better looking than you all are.

Anti-Christmas zealots are an exception to this rule.

I’m going to grant that for many of you, your cause is noble. You think you’re doing a service. You think that you’ve come across a secret the rest of us have missed. I’m convinced you’re not only wrong but dangerously wrong.

To be sure, your arguments don’t sway me in the least. I’ve done my own research and I know enough to not believe something just because I read it on a website or saw it on a YouTube video. You see, I’ve seen so many claims from atheists about Christian history that have turned out to be bogus that I’ve learned to question them all. (For example, believe it or not, Columbus did not sail to prove the Earth was round. Everyone already knew that.) I in turn also question many Christian claims. That means I read the best scholarship that I can find on these subjects.

What I find you often doing is some of the worst research that there is. Don’t think I haven’t tried to correct organizations on this. When I had some friends getting interested in this from Jim Staley’s ministry, I wrote to the ministry and asked them for some sources on Mithras being born on December 25th. They sent some material and after my checking, I found that none of it held up or it was too old. One such resource was from 1961. We’ve learned a lot in fifty years so I wanted to know if they had any recent material. I emailed them back my concerns waiting for a reply.

It was probably a year or so ago. I’m still waiting for the reply.

Unfortunately, when you do the pagan copycat thing, you’re actually helping some of the most uninformed people on the planet. These are the people known as Jesus Mythicists. Some of you Christians might not be aware of it, but there are plenty of atheists on the internet who spread this garbage idea that Jesus never even existed. Many of my fellow apologists don’t even bother dealing with these people anymore because they’re that out of touch with reality. I’m an exception. I still do. (Usually, it only lasts a couple of days or so. Dealing with mythicists is like watching a slinky go down the stairs. It’s fun at first, but after awhile you realize it’s the same old, same old.)

These mythicists will cheer you on. They’ll say “Yes. You see? The Christians copied from the pagans! Let me give you a greater shocker! Jesus Himself is a copy from the pagans! Let’s talk about Mithras, Horus, Osiris, Dionysus, Krishna, Attis, etc.” Unfortunately, you’ve already taken step one and told them Christians copied from pagans. What’s to stop you from the second step?

Yet my greater concern here is with baby Christians. These newcomers to the faith might not know as much and will be swayed easily. A lot of Christians, unfortunately, can be caught blindsided by the pagan copycat claim. (Maybe this wouldn’t happen if our churches would actually start telling us why we believe what we believe instead of just having sermons on how to be a good person.) Many of them fall away because they see these claims and don’t know how to handle them. Sadly, your anti-Christmas zealotry I think helps with that.

It also does the harm of increasing conspiracy theory thinking among Christians. So many of you have bought into Illuminati thinking and believing that there is a grand cover-up going on in the world today. The claims are absolutely bogus, but I think a lot of Christians get a bit of an ego stroking by thinking that they are a group that is in the know. They see right through what is going on. In reality, you don’t. Your willingness to so easily believe things that don’t have any credibility to them and reject information from those who are informed will make others think that Christianity itself is not something to take seriously since Christians will believe anything.

Now, of course, you love Scripture and you’re more than happy to turn to Jeremiah 10:2-4 and tell me that God condemns Christmas trees there. Sadly, you again fall into a trap that many people in the West fall into today. You think that the Bible is all about you and all about your time period. This is the exact same thinking that makes you convinced that you are the last generation on Earth before Jesus returns. (Oh sure, every other generation before you thought that, but well, they were just wrong and we are right this time!)

Jeremiah is talking about what’s going on in his own time. idolatry was a problem and wood was a great resource for making an idol. Today, a Christian is not engaging in idolatry unless they are bowing down in active worship to their Christmas tree and offering sacrifices to it and proclaiming that it is their god.

This Christmas, my family on my wife’s side and my side will be celebrating Christmas. We have no problem with it. We know we’re coming together in honor of the birth of the Messiah. If you want to oppose that celebration, go ahead, but I will be here to argue with you about it. I don’t want to see any more young Christians led astray by this and being more prone to bad thinking. We Christians need to be the most informed people on the planet. It doesn’t help our cause when our loudest voices are often some of the most uninformed.

Merry Christmas everyone.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

My Annual Halloween Post

What are my thoughts on Halloween? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You have to love it when the holiday season comes around. We get all the regular crowd coming out and condemning Christians for following pagan festivals. How do we know they’re pagan? Well, we read it on the internet and we know it is. Either that or we heard it from a preacher and we know it is. Unfortunately, many such people have not done their own research at all. So what do I think of the matter?

Having seen so many of these claims show up bogus, I just don’t take them seriously anymore, but I’ll go further than that. I’ll go further and say it doesn’t even really matter. If you go out on Halloween and dressed up in a costume or your kids are dressed up and you’re getting candy, you are not preparing their souls to be possessed by demons. In fact, if you think going out and getting candy is enough to send your children flying into the arms of satan, then I think you have worse problems, such as what kind of flimsy faith are you passing on to your children?

One illustration I like to use is a wedding ring. Let’s suppose you could convince me beyond a shadow of a doubt that wedding rings are really pagan in origin. Am I taking mine off? Not a chance whatsoever. I know why I put on that ring, to begin with. I didn’t do it to honor a pagan deity. I did it to honor God and my wife. No pagan deity is involved. What I did I did in service to God because the pagan deities aren’t real.

In fact, it’s sad to me that so many Christians are concerned about their children falling into the arms of the devil, but have done nothing to equip their children with good Christian apologetics to overcome the lies of the culture around them. Even if not that, what other threats are out there? Are you preparing your children with good sexual ethics and a worldview that has a place for sex for when that temptation comes up? Are you preparing them to answer questions they’ll get from an atheist professor in a classroom someday about their faith? Are you preparing them to not fall in love with their possessions or other addictions out there? I guarantee you we are losing more young people to a culture of wanton sexuality, atheism, and materialism than we are to Halloween.

I don’t doubt that many of you do want to be God-honoring in this, and that’s great, but also try to realize that your fellow Christian can celebrate Halloween and do so with a clear conscience. Too many Christians don’t do that and then think that they are more righteous for their neighbor for doing such. In that case, then they have fallen into pride. Now, of course, you can give your reasons why you don’t, but listen to what your neighbor says. Maybe something you’ve believed is wrong.

If you hear a preacher or someone else say something about Halloween, by all means, look it up. To use an example, I had some friends getting into Jim Staley’s material on Christmas once. I emailed Staley’s organization and asked for references to Mithras being born on December 25th. The references I received had nothing specific and were quite outdated. I pointed this out to them and asked them for something more.

That was over a year ago. I’m still waiting to hear back.

You might say that this is common knowledge, but common knowledge is commonly wrong. I have seen so many claims disproven such as people used to think the Earth was flat that I have learned to question all these claims. Unfortunately, this time of year Christians fail at that.

If you showed up on our door this evening, you’d find candy waiting there for you. We would love to have you. By the way, we’re also not giving out tracts. I’m all for sharing the Gospel, but make your house one a child will be happy to come to and one they don’t think they’re being preached at. Give the best candy on the block. Show them that you’re a house they are welcome at. This is one day that you have little children coming to your door. Welcome them.

When Jesus came to this Earth, He didn’t come just to redeem sinners. He came to redeem the world. This planet is not an accident. He means to reclaim it for the Father. That means every day belongs to Jesus. Halloween does too. Could some occultists and others misuse the day? Sure. They can do that with any day. That does not mean fear of them dominates us. We’re Kingdom people. Let’s live like it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Merry Christmas Huffington Post

Is Christmas based on paganism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ah yes. Christmastime. A time for love and joy and celebration and for people to come out and suddenly start taking an interest in history by declaring that everything is pagan once again. Yeah. The pagan copycat thesis died a long time ago for Jesus, and that doesn’t stop many from writing about that on the internet, but many still like to say it for Christmas. Many Christians in fact like to say that Christmas is based on pagan traditions that we just happened to steal and use for ourselves. It’s understandable. It’s also in much of pop culture. My wife and I enjoy watching The Big Bang Theory (A show about four ordinary normal guys), yet as much as I can delight in the antics of Sheldon Cooper, he’s just wrong on this count.

The article today I plan to respond to is written by Philip Greywolf Shallcrass. Let’s see what he has to say.

Pagans have deeper links with the season though. Virtually every part of Christmas has its origin in Pagan celebrations of Midwinter. Christmas Day is on December 25th because that’s when pre-Christian folk throughout the Roman Empire celebrated the birth of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. In 274 CE, Emperor Aurelian promoted Sol Invictus as a god that all citizens of the Empire could worship alongside their own deities. He combines aspects of other pagan gods, including Mithras, a Middle Eastern deity born to a virgin mother on December 25th. The birth of Christ was first celebrated on this day in 336 CE.

Okay. Sol Invictus. Lets’s start it out. Is any primary source given that says Sol Invictus was celebrated on this day? Nope. Not a one. There’s a reason for that. You won’t find one. In fact, this kind of thing is so ludicrous even Cracked has an article on this. Last I checked, they’re not hardline defenders of evangelical Christianity. They refer to this article in fact. The point is rightly made that Saturnalia lasted from December 17th to the 23rd and that there would not be another holiday celebrated since most people would still be hungover and then preparing for the New Year. In fact, they contend that Aurelian, who was not a fan of Christianity, set up the date to challenge the birth of Christ.

Now does this mean that Jesus was born on December 25th? Not really, though we can be open to the date and I would say there is more evidence for that than for the other figures in history. At least with the case of Jesus you have people from the past actually making such claims.

Also, Shallcrass claims Mithras was a Middle Eastern deity born to a virgin mother. Again, what is the source of this claim? Good luck finding one. We have no Mithraic writings out there and most of what we know of Mithras comes from artwork and in fact from the early church fathers. The viewpoint now is that in fact Mithras was born out of a rock carrying a dagger and wearing a cap. I suppose you could try to make a case that the rock was female and I’m pretty sure that rocks don’t have sex so the rock would be a virgin, but other than that, there really isn’t a case there. Shallcrass may be an authority on modern pagan rituals, but that does not equate to ancient pagan rituals.

The original significance of the date is that, in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the first day on which the sun’s rising position on the horizon begins to move northward following the winter solstice. Our ancestors took the sun’s renewed movement as a welcome sign that there would be an end to winter and a return of warmth and growth. Hence they celebrated the rebirth of light, personified as a divine child.

Did they? Well it would be nice to see some evidence of that. It’s also important to note that if that was the case, it should be known that December 25th does not fall in the winter solstice. Now surely if the Christians were co-opting a date to show the birth of their divine child, they would know enough to put it on the right date back then. To put it on the wrong date would just be more embarrassing for the Christians. (And no Shallcrass, a link to wikipedia does not convince me you’ve done real historical research.)

Midwinter celebrations represented a metaphorical shaft of light in the depths of winter, when sources of food were limited and when cold, snow and frost ended many lives, particularly those of the frail, elderly and very young. Celebration lifted the spirits, and feasting was a reminder of good times promised by the sun’s return, as were the exchange of gifts and the decorating of homes and temples with evergreen foliage.

Okay. Any primary sources for this? No. Again, I’ll gladly state that Shallcrass would know more about modern pagan rituals than I do, but why should I think he has a clue on ancient pagan rituals? That would be like claiming your average churchgoer must know more about the church fathers than Bart Ehrman simply by the fact of the churchgoer being a Christian. Unfortunately today, most Christians don’t have a clue about the early church fathers. You’d frankly be lucky to find many who know history past the Reformation. Many of our ideas of church history would go more like this:

Sally Church History

Let’s consider something however. What about evergreen foliage being used? Well there’s a simple reason for that. If you want to decorate your home in the winter and you want to use something that’s a plant, you pretty much have one choice. You have to go with an evergreen because nothing else is really alive at that time of year. This kind of idea did not really catch on until around the time of the Reformation so if the church was copying something, it’s ludicrous to think they would go back 1,000+ years and get an idea. While we do not know for sure the origins of the Christmas tree, it’s a stretch to think people reach back 1,000 years for a tradition.

From here, Shallcrass has some writings on how pagans celebrated the solstice that really have as much to do with Christmas as the price of tea in China. Even still, it looks like Shallcrass did all of his research online entirely. Where are the books on the topic?

You won’t find any.

While the ending might be interesting, this is not at all a true historical investigation. Shallcrass has just made some assertions and then linked to wikipedia and then said he should be considered an authority on the topic. Well he’s not.

Does this mean Jesus was born on December 25th? No. Could a case be made, yes. It’s inconsequential however. Just celebrate the birth of Jesus. Don’t let the ones who oppose it steal your joy. If you know you are not worshiping pagan deities and not honoring pagan deities at all, you have nothing to worry about.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Including you Mr. Shallcrass.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

Is this the season to be jolly or is it the season to avoid? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I had originally set a post on this to be published today, but something seems to have gone wrong. If a similar post shows up again, I will deal with it and go with this one. Also, for those wondering where I’ve been, my wife and I both have had the stomach bug and so it had been a hard week. Today, we are resuming our regular schedule and it’s starting with a topic that came up with some friends.

You see, around the time of Christmas, one thing I can always predict on the internet is that there is a strong anti-Christmas crowd. Now these people don’t want to celebrate Christmas on their own. If that’s your choice, well I disagree and we can discuss it, but that’s your choice. An anti-Christmas person however is worse and no, my friends are not like this. These are the people who are not only convinced the day is pagan, but that if you are celebrating it, you are endorsing a pagan holiday. You are less Christian if you celebrate Christmas.

Look. If you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, that’s fine. We can talk about that. But if you want to go after others who do for not being as “Christian” as you are, I think that is in fact decidedly anti-Christian and not a biblical stance at all.

Most of us aren’t like that. Instead, many of us have simple questions. So I think of my friends who had the concerns many of us often have. Isn’t Christmas based on a pagan holiday such as Saturnalia? Doesn’t the book of Jeremiah condemn Christmas trees? Aren’t we caught up in a gross materialism this kind of year when it comes to the buying of and exchanging of gifts? What should we do about Santa Claus?

Let’s start with the first. Is it based on Saturnalia? Well, no. Consider this from the Commentary on Daniel from Hippolytus of Rome who lived from the late second to early third century.

For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, eight days before the kalends of January [December 25th], the 4th day of the week [Wednesday], while Augustus was in his forty-second year, [2 or 3BC] but from Adam five thousand and five hundred years.  He suffered in the thirty third year, 8 days before the kalends of April [March 25th], the Day of Preparation, the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar [29 or 30 AD], while Rufus and Roubellion and Gaius Caesar, for the 4th time, and Gaius Cestius Saturninus were Consuls.

The text at this can be spurious, but my source is actually the excellent work of Roger Pearse and he defends it and shows it to be reliable. This would be an early Christian testimony to Jesus being born on December 25th. More on this can be found here.

Those wanting to say Christians did this based on Saturnalia will need to provide documentation on when the ancients celebrated Saturnalia and that the Christians either stole this or set up something in competition. The main sources I know touting this are those who already hold the position and just cite one another instead of pointing to an external source. The reality is Christians were extremely resistant to paganism. There was only one exception. Artwork. They would use the artwork, but that’s because that was reclaiming it for Christ as God is the original artist through creation.

It’s also worth pointing out that many people will claim Mithras, Dionysus, Horus, and other pagan deities were born on December 25th. As always, be suspicious of these claims. When they are given, do not ask for just a web site, but ask for primary sources. If you are given a web site, look and see if the site itself provides any primary sources for the claim. So far, the evidence for these claims has been negative.

Those wanting more on this are invited to read the excellent book of my ministry partner here.

Okay. But don’t we have pagan practices today? What about Christmas trees? I mean, look at the text in Jeremiah!

This is what the Lord says:

“Do not learn the ways of the nations
    or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
    though the nations are terrified by them.
For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
    they cut a tree out of the forest,
    and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
They adorn it with silver and gold;
    they fasten it with hammer and nails
    so it will not totter.

On the face of it, this can seem convincing. However, one problem with reading a text is that we often read modern notions and usages into the text. What we have to ask is “What was Jeremiah specifically talking about?

In the passage, he is talking about idolatry. Why would you cut down a tree? Because many people made idols from trees. Wood was easy, cheap, and renewable. Working with metal cost more and required special skill. Now of course adorning with silver and gold would cost something if you did that, but it was still far easier. They would also fasten it with hammer and nails because they didn’t have the same precision tools we have today necessarily. (Although they were quite good with those pyramids and the temple and other ancient works)

But Jeremiah was NOT talking about Christmas trees. If you are concerned that this is what is being talked about, well here are some criteria to follow.

If you bring us a Christmas tree into your house, you may not bow down to it to worship it. (Bending down to put gifts under a tree is not an act of worship and more than bending down to turn on an electric blanket by your bed or plug in your IPhone is an act of worship.) If you do this, you may not burn a sacrifice to it. You are to treat it as a tree and not hold any rituals of pagan worship around it. Avoid this and you should be fine.

But when Christmas trees were started, didn’t that come from pagans?

No. The pagans had long since been dead by then. Why Christmas trees? Picture yourself living in say the 16th or 17th century in Europe. It’s the time to celebrate the birth of Christ. You want to decorate your house some. How about a tree? Okay. What will you bring in. You have to use an evergreen! Every other tree is dead at the time. So to add a touch of beauty to your house, you bring in a tree. Does that sound odd? If it does, why do so many of us bring in plants to our own homes throughout the year for a touch of beauty? Why do so many of our wives like it when we bring home flowers to them?

Okay. What about the materialism?

Okay. Gifts can distract children at Christmas. I get this. However, let’s also remember children learn on a graded scale. If I want to raise my children to be Christians, I’m not going to start by reading them Aquinas’s Summa Theologica when they’re five years old. They have to work their way there. When we start teaching children right from wrong, we don’t give them a moral dissertation. We instead give them rewards, such as cookies when they do good, and punish them when they do wrong, such as going to bed early without TV. As they get older, we expect that with maturity, they will grow into a state where such rewards and punishments are not needed and even if they are, the rewards and punishments disagree. Sorry, but your 16 year-old will not be as happy at the prospect of getting a cookie as will your 6 year-old.

I have no problem then with you letting your children see this as a happy time of year by getting them gifts. In fact, there is a danger that if this is not done, they will come to see this as an unhappy time of year. They could see religion as something that is meant to keep them from other things and when they get old enough, they will be more than happy to break away from that religion. Do they have an incorrect view of religion? They sure do, but it is hard to get past the first impressions.

I was one who grew up looking forward to the gifts, but you know what happened? Now I still like the gifts. When you put a gift in my hands on Christmas day, I enjoy opening it and seeing what I’ve got, but that just doesn’t matter as much. In fact, aside from books, it is harder and harder to think of things that i want for Christmas. How did that come about? Because as I matured, I came to appreciate my Christian worldview even more on my own. No one had to tell me the gifts weren’t the focus. I just learned it.

Okay. So what about Santa Claus?

Now this one I understand can be a bit more difficult. We want to be honest with our children, and we want them to still have some magic about Christmas. My personal recommendation is that if you do the Santa Claus, then be sure to tell them also about the original Saint Nicholas. This was someone who was even said to have been at the Council of Nicea on the side of orthodoxy and according to legend, punched the arch-heretic Arius in the face.

puncharius ariusduck Santaclauspunch

In fact, you can have some fun by looking at Christmas traditions all around the world. Not every place has Santa Claus for instance. Some have a woman who gives gifts. Some have an animal. It can differ and looking into each of these can give insights into how different cultures celebrate Christmas. One culture even for awhile had a creature called Krampus, a devilish looking beast who was meant to be a sort of anti-Santa. He certainly was not worshiped and/or respected.

This can also bring us to another point. Christmas is celebrated all the world around. That makes Christmas an excellent time for the spread of the Gospel. It’s easier to talk about Jesus. You don’t just talk about God in a generic sense. You talk about Jesus specifically. This would be a great time to educate yourself some on the reality of the Christmas faith.

So what do you do in the end? Well if you choose to not celebrate. That’s your call. Don’t think yourself better than those who do and don’t consider them as if they’re giving into pagan celebrations. If these people are fully justified in their own minds, let them be. Again, by all means have discussions on the nature of Christmas and why you celebrate it. Even if you disagree, you could have a wonderful chance to learn why someone believes and practices the way they do.

If you do celebrate, don’t look down on those who don’t. Let them be fully convinced in their own mind. This is like the case of meat offered to idols in 1 Cor. 8-10 and in Romans 14.

But just like any other day, when December 25th comes, whether you have a tree or not, whether you give gifts or not, and whether you have visits from Santa Claus or not, do whatever you do to the Lord and for His glory.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Christian Who Cried Pagan

Are some Christians overplaying the danger in a field? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf there is a little boy tending the flocks and he gets bored so he cries out that there’s a wolf coming. Twice the people of the town come out to help him deal with the wolf, and twice they find out that he was making it up. The third time he cries, he does so because there really is a wolf, and no one heeds the call, and the boy has to take responsibility for a destroyed flock.

A lot of Christians are like that boy, especially as we get closer to Halloween, although to be fair, most are certainly not intentionally or even unintentionally pulling a prank. What they are often doing is getting it so people will either not listen at all or will listen too much.

Let’s start with the danger of listening too much. How is that possible? What happens is often a pagan paranoia is developed where it is seen that most everything is pagan and we must avoid any mixture of Christianity with paganism. Now of course, I’m not for combining Christianity with pagan beliefs, but let’s make sure that’s what is really being done.

When it is said too often, a Christian unprepared will see paganism in everything around him and especially think that the Christians stole ideas from the pagans. What about Christmas? It was pagan! What about Easter? It was pagan! All this is believed usually on someone else’s say so. Halloween can easily fall into that category. What’s a possible end result?

Ever heard of Mithras?

If you go this route, then what is going to happen when Christians meet internet atheists who will be more than happy to tell them that Jesus is based on pagan myths of the time like the story of Mithras? They’ve believed you on Christians copying from the pagans in every other area so why not believe you on this one? The constant cry of pagan has led them to believe that indeed, everything is pagan.

Now what about the other end? I don’t deny there are some real dangers out there with people really trying to contact other spirits, like the usage of the Ouija Board, but the danger in this one is it does become a boy crying wolf and after awhile, people just don’t really listen. There are many things in my life that I assure you many well-meaning Christians have told me are pagan/demonic/etc. It has reached the point where it gets so bizarre I don’t even really listen any more.

That’s not as much to worry about if you think the person has discernment, but if they don’t, then when you make claims they are sure are absolutely ridiculous, they will be less prone to hear you on other claims. “Yeah. I know that person said that Transcendental Meditation is dangerous, but they also told me that watching that Disney movie was dangerous as well. They’re just scared of everything.”

The reality is that we are to be careful, but we are not to live in fear. Jesus is Lord of all and is claiming the world for Himself. That includes the days of the year. (By the way, those days of the week are named after pagans but I don’t see these Christians making a loud cry to change the names of the days of the calendar.) The main question I want to ask you is about your intent. Who do you want to serve?

For instance, let’s suppose you told me and convinced me that wedding rings were really pagan in origin. Let’s suppose you told me they were used to commemorate a pagan deity in a covenant.

Okay. That’s nice.

I’m still wearing mine.

Why? Because I know why I wear it. I wear it to honor my wife and to proclaim to the world that we are married. I didn’t make a covenant before a pagan god. I made it before the God of Scripture and fellow believers. I say the same for Halloween. If today on Halloween what we do is dress up in costumes and get candy, I think any pagan deities would be insulted. Here a day meant to worship them has turned into getting candy in costumes?

Sounds like if that were the case (And I’m not saying Halloween is a pagan holiday. I doubt that very much in fact.) then we’ve made a spectacle.

If you want to say something is pagan, make sure you have some real solid evidences for that. It can’t just be speculation. We’re to be people of truth, that includes not just representing ourselves, but representing others. To claim something is pagan when it is not is in fact to bear false witness and can only lead to more trouble.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/16/2014: Joe Mulvihill

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Imagine being a Christian and being told this by a stranger. “Have you ever heard of this man who lived around 2,000 years ago? He was born of a virgin, did miracles, had 12 disciples, was a good shepherd, had a final meal with his disciples, died, rose again, and was proclaimed as savior of the world?”

“Why yes I have! That’s Jesus Christ!”

“Nope. That’s Mithras.”

Many Christians are caught flat-footed at such a response as few have ever even heard of Mithras. What’s worse, it’s not just Mithras. There’s also Horus, Osiris, Dionysus, Attis, Krishna, Buddha, Zalmoxis, and others.

What’s a Christian to do?

How about talk to an authority on the subject? That’s why I’ve asked Joe Mulvihill to be my guest. Who is he? According to his bio:

JoeMulvihill

JOE MULVIHILL

Christian Philosopher/Professor Dr. William Lane Craig (Ph.D., University of Birmingham, & Ph.D., University of Munich) on his assistant, Joe Mulvihill – “I hope those in authority understand what a blessing Joe Mulvihill is to any institution to which he renders his services, a great scholar and friend…” (Focus on the Family “True U” Atlanta filming/production)

“I asked Joe to assist me based on an number of factors including but not limited to; his professional vocation as a teacher of theology, logic and  history at a local Christian academy, his thorough familiarity with my published work and thought, and his wide grasp of apologetical and theological issues and figures. I also had the pleasure of attending a few of Joe’s teaching sessions and was duly impressed with his evident preparation, clear articulation of the issues, enthusiasm, and ability to connect with an audience of mature Christians given to critical inquiry. I have been more than pleased with Joe’s performance to date and wholeheartedly trust him with my class. People in the class have been consistently satisfied with Joe’s theological and apologetical acumen and have requested repeatedly for him to teach on various occasions.” (Official Higher Ed. Recommendation from Talbot School of Theology)

Terry Cross, Dean, School of Religion, Lee University (Ph.D., Princeton) – “Joseph possesses a keen mind. He is quick to assess a reading and even quicker to note flaws in argumentation. He has read extensively in philosophy of religion, contemporary theology, biblical studies and patristic literature. Using his background, he is able to make connections between writers and ideas he has previously to those he is reading presently. His analysis and evaluation of other students work was also well informed and constructive in its critique. Over my years of teaching graduate seminars, I cannot think of a more engaging student than Joe Mulvihill…Joe possess a character and personality that is winsome…he has a personality that readily connects with people…I consider Joe to be one of our great successes…Joe is one of the top two or three students that have graduated from our M.A. program in Theology.” (Official Higher Ed. Recommendation from Lee University)

David Tilley, Headmaster, Mount Paran Christian School (Ph.D., University of Tennessee) – “Find one of the most articulate and brightest guys you know with a graduate degree in theology who has a tremendous amount of passion for his calling, and you have Joe Mulvihill.  Add to that a guy who doesn’t have formal training in pedagogical methodology and ask him to teach Bible to high school students.  Is it a fit?  I wasn’t quite sure the answer to that question when I hired Joe last year to teach Bible at Mount Paran Christian School. It only took about two weeks after visiting his classroom and listening to students that I realized that Joe’s passion and intellectual acumen were serving his students well.  He was the talk of the high school.  Joe was connecting with his students in a way that could never have been taught him.  He challenged them at their uninformed core and motivated them to find the reason for their calling and the true defense of the gospel they loved but did not understand. The students can not intellectually nor spiritually fall asleep in his class – his style and energy will not permit it. A truly gifted teacher . . . a high school/college teacher . . . a teacher of God’s truth was born in room 3106 at Mount Paran Christian School.” (Recommendation for Graduate Student Award at Alma Mater)

 

Masters of Arts in Theological Studies (Magna Cum Laude) Lee University – invited back to give address at 200th Centennial Celebration     

Currently in Ph.D. program in New Testament Studies at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands (scholarship winner)

Spoken on various topics at Ga. Tech (2), Kennesaw State University, Lee University, GA State University.

Spoken on various topics at dozens of churches over the last decade

Ten years teaching experience – two at Lee University, and eight with Juniors and seniors at Mount Paran Christian School – Eagle Award Winner / Excellence in Teaching Award – Interim Department Chair of Bible and Theology

Extensive travel, world experience (10 years)

Wife: Jill Mulvihill

Children: Ethan, Ella, Anna, Magnus

 

With Joe as my guests, we’ll be going through the pagan copycat theory and discussing the people on the internet who share it the most, such as Acharya S and others. Is there really any credibility to these claims? Listen in and find out!

In Christ,

Nick Peters