Sunday, December 23, 2018

3 Reasons Why I Stopped Keeping Christmas Part 2

Hi there honored guests! It’s the Christmas Season now and I seem to have made writing a blog post about Christmas to be a tradition and after so many years of doing this I just can’t seem to go without it.

I feel today’s post is worth writing because it illustrates so well what we have been saying for so many years – people refuse to research. Is it that they don’t know how? I don’t think so. I’ve been at this long enough to say that people are plenty capable of research they just refuse to. If someone genuinely doesn't know how to research then they shouldn't be writing articles for a church, or maybe at all. And so, here we are to test and to try, to prove through the fire if I may, the things that they have said. At the end, will they have gold and precious jewels or stubble and ash?

You might be curious where Part 1 of this post has gotten off to. I enjoy irony and clever little turns, and making this post into Part 2 is all this is. You will find Part 1 on the Church of God - A Worldwide Association (COGWA) Life Hope & Truth website under the title “3 Reasons Why I Stopped Keeping Christmas” by one Mr. Eddie Johnson (2016). My post for you today is a rebuttal. If only Mr. Johnson had known in 2016 what we are going to review now, perhaps he would have changed his outlook.

So Mr. Johnson starts by telling us how he was once an observer of Christmas and had since converted. Why would anyone make such a switch? He tells us in his 3 points. In a nutshell his three points are: 1. We don’t know when Jesus was born, 2.Christmas was celebrated in pagan Rome, and 3. Jesus warned about human traditions.
Standard fare in Armstrongism. Nothing new. Nothing exciting. He could have taken those from any Plain Truth magazine from the 1950’s. Here is where I begin to wonder if these are his three extra most bestest points, or just three points chosen at random. Keep in mind that he is explaining why he stopped observing Christmas. I would really think that a person would give their best for this. Also, keep in mind that I write this is 2018 and Mr. Johnson wrote his article in 2016, so what I read online is a re-post. COGWA thought so highly of this article that it warranted a re-post. If roles were switched, I would think my three points to be really something if I were going to re-post it. Yet I can't help but find these points to be so standard and vanilla. No offense meant. That's just my opinion.

Enough chit chat. Let’s get this ball rolling.

We Don’t Know When Jesus Was Born

I will start off with this – Mr. Johnson is correct in this statement. By now it is extremely close to exactly 1,900 years of trying, yet no one has been able to prove when Jesus was born. We in fact do not know exactly when Jesus was born.

This is becoming the primary argument from the anti-Christmas group these days. Yet, I find it so insignificant a point. I wouldn’t even consider this one worth mentioning. If it stood by itself, I wouldn’t waste my time with it. Think about it. The incarnation of God is arguably the second most amazing miracle in the history of creation. Nothing, not even the creation of the universe and mankind, can compare to it – except for the death and resurrection, which is the single most important and glorious thing to ever occur in the physical universe. Ponder it. From time immemorial, God planned and waited for the "fullness of time" to make a move so unexpected it catches even the most wise beings that exist off guard. Infinite God laid down His glory and took on the flesh of a lowly human baby. How does that even work? Why should that even be? Born in a barn and laid where the sheep eat so that He could die for us. This is ALMIGHTY GOD we’re talking about here. My mind can’t even grasp it all. Yet there the COGWA is, ignoring it and telling us to ignore it simply because we don’t know on what day it occurred. Seriously? Could there be an argument more weak and beggarly than this? So devoid of substance. So vacuous. So desperate. It takes the least important thing (the date) and makes it the most important thing (don't honor because of the date). There could be no death and resurrection without the birth. The birth is secondary, no doubt, but nevertheless mandatory. So they tell us it’s a sin to honor it because we don’t know the date? "If God wanted you to honor it, He would have told you when it was," they say. Heavenly hosts honored it! But the date is not important to the glory of what happened. We say if God didn't want us to honor it, He wouldn't have told us so very much about it. He spent a great deal of time and prophecy and ink and genetics and foreshadowing to coordinate something that COGWA wants us to ignore. God really worked on this. He lined up the stars just so the Magi would head to Bethlehem for crying out loud. One gets the sense that God purposefully arranged it so the Magi would have a traditional knowledge of stellar signs in order that they would some day make this journey. That had to be hundreds of years in preparation. You think that's nothing just because we don't know on what exact day these things happened? I couldn't disagree more. So I might honor it on the wrong day (or I might honor it on the right day - as you can't prove it's the wrong one any more than I can prove it's the right one). You know what? I'll take my chances.

About this dating point, I remind you dear reader that the COGWA and other splinter groups in Armstrongism can’t agree on the date of Passover. In the years when Passover happens on a Saturday, they have competing ways to handle it. Two splinters will observe their Passover on different days. If they can’t agree on the date of Passover then they can’t agree on the date of Pentecost. They don’t know when to keep Passover and Pentecost yet they do it. They don’t know when Passover and Pentecost are, but they never once say “we shouldn’t be keeping these things simply because we don’t really know the right date.” No, they pick a date and go with that. Oh, but that very same thing is argued against where honoring the birth of Christ is involved.

Mr. Johnson goes beyond just the simplicity of not knowing the date and provides us with a quote from Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, where Schaff argues that winter is eliminated as an option due to the sheep in the fields.

I will give Mr. Johnson credit here where it is due - he quoted a source. He picked a scholarly resource and that is to be commended. I won’t begrudge him this. He could have also quoted Adam Clarke who pretty much says the same thing. However, I don’t call this “research” since anyone with an ounce of determination will have dug down and not given up so easily until the truth, God’s truth, was tightly in hand. Just picking a resource that agrees with you and going with that is not research. It just isn’t. Research involves looking at sources that disagree with your position and carefully weighing why one side has a better argument than the other. You shouldn’t just pretend the other side doesn’t exist and ignore it. I’m not ignoring the other side here. In this day and time, it has been demonstrated so frequently that there absolutely could have been and likely were shepherds in the fields in winter, and especially in the area of Bethlehem, that to claim winter is eliminated is wholly premature.

I want to quote from an exceedingly well-written study written by J. Hampton Keathley, III on, titled “Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?” In the section “Argument Number 5: Uncertainty of the Date of Christ’s Birth“, Mr. Keathley writes about the shepherds:
“One of the main objections has been that sheep were usually taken into enclosures from November through March and were not out in the fields at night. However, this is not as conclusive as it sounds for the following reasons: (a) It could have been a mild winter. (b) It is not at all certain that sheep were always brought into enclosures during the winter months. (c) It is true that during the winter months sheep were brought in from the wilderness, but remember, Luke tells us the shepherds were near Bethlehem rather than in the wilderness. This indicates, if anything, the nativity was in the winter months. (d) The Mishnah tells us the shepherds around Bethlehem were outside all year and those worthy of the Passover were nearby in the fields at least 30 days before the feast which could be as early as February (one of the coldest, rainiest months of the year). So December is a very reasonable date."
James Kelso, an archaeologist who spent a number of years living in Palestine and who has done extensive research there says this:
“The best season for the shepherds of Bethlehem is the winter when heavy rains bring up a luscious crop of new grass. After the rains the once-barren, brown desert earth is suddenly a field of brilliant green. One year when excavating at New Testament Jericho, I lived in Jerusalem and drove through this area twice every day. At one single point along the road, I could see at times as many as five shepherds with their flocks on one hillside. One shepherd stayed with his flock at the same point for three weeks, so lush was the grass. But as soon as the rains stopped in the spring, the land quickly took on its normal desert look once again.
Since there seem to have been a number of shepherds who came to see the Christ child, December or January would be the most likely months."
-James Kelso, An Archaeologist Looks At The Gospels, p. 23-24
Well, well. This argument isn’t rock-solid after all. It could have been either way. There are solid, valid reasons to believe December 25th is not ruled out because of shepherds in the fields. We have several articles about this and links to other articles besides.

I repeat - winter is not ruled out because of shepherds in the fields. These resources existed in 2016. We had them. But you won’t hear that from COGWA. It’s not part of the narrative.

Now what do we have? Three, presumably top notch, reasons why this person upended his life, and here the first one is seriously in doubt.

Is my response to point #1 a slam dunk? No. But I don’t claim that we know for a fact that Jesus was born on December 25th. Other people make that claim, but not me. Not ABD. We claim that December 25th is possible, and sometimes we even sound as if it is likely, but we never say that it absolutely is correct. We agree with Mr. Johnson that no human knows the right day. What I do have as a slam dunk is that December is not eliminated as a possibility. Mr. Johnson's primary support is that December is eliminated, yet we know for a fact that it is not. Implied in his first point is that since we don't know the day therefore we shouldn't honor Jesus' birth. In response we have given you a reason why we should honor the incarnation regardless of whether or not it’s the right day.

Point number one as given by COGWA is simply not able to hold water. How about point number two?

It Was Celebrated In Pagan Rome

Here is where Mr. Johnson takes the train right off the bridge.

He says, “Dec. 25 was part of Saturnalia celebrations held in pre-Christian Rome.” Why is that taking the train off the track? Because it’s literally, factually, genuinely false. Saturnalia was never on December 25th at any point.

I invite Mr. Johnson and everyone else besides to read our post The Plain truth About December 25 where we prove this. I don’t say “prove” lightly. We prove it!

Anciently, Saturnalia was on December 17th. When Julius Caesar revamped the calendar he added two days to the end of December, this puts Saturnalia on December 19th. We can demonstrate these dates from the Philocalian Calendar. Now that Saturnalia was moved some people kept it on the original date and some on the new. It unofficially grew to 7 days but Augustus Caesar declared it to be a three day festival so that it wouldn't interrupt the courts. Later, Caligula set it to five days. Some time after this the fifth day was abolished, but it was restored again by Emperor Claudius because he knew the Romans were superstitious (see Claudius Dio's Rome, Volume 4).
What can we see from this? At its longest point, and only very briefly, Saturnalia was from the 17th to the 23rd of December. Saturnalia was never on December 24th or 25th. Not once. Most ancient Romans in the Christian era would have known the actual date of the Saturnalia as the 17th, but their celebration would have been from the 17th to the 21st.

Bear in mind here, when I show you that Saturnalia was a multiple-day festival, that only means the celebration lasted on for a while - it does not mean Saturnalia was on all of those days. Saturnalia was on the 17th originally and the 19th after Julius Caesar reformed the calendar. The official date was the 17th. How do we know this? We check calendars. They say when Saturnalia was. The Catholics have 12 days of Christmas, yet Christmas is only on the 25th of December. Protestants celebrate Christmas practically for an entire month, yet Christmas is only on the 25th of December. I say again, Saturnalia was on the 17th. Period. Saturnalia was never on December 24th or 25th.

Where does Mr. Johnson get his claim then? Where does he get his blatantly false claim? Once again he cites a source. He links us to an article titled “The History of Christmas” by Lawrence Kelemen (written at some point around 2004) on Judaism Online (aka SimpleToRemember). I can appreciate a person who honestly cites a source, even if I don’t agree with that source’s material. At the very least I can see how they came to their conclusions.

I know Mr. Johnson actually read that article. How do I know? Because point #2 is basically him quoting that article. He found an article that said what he liked, he assumed they did the homework, and he just lets them talk for him. Unfortunately this is a prime example of why simply picking a source that agrees with what you already want to find is neither wise nor "doing research." Mr. Johnson quoted a source, a tertiary source, who got it completely wrong. The SimpleToRemember article cites sources for some of their other claims, but not for this particular selection. I am only interested in this particular section because this is what Mr. Johnson stands on, so I’ll leave the rest of their article alone. But it's not hard to see why there was no source cited …because there wasn’t a good source to cite. Because it’s wrong!

Allow me to point out one more thing here. Mr. Johnson’s claim is that Christmas was celebrated in pagan Rome, but all he gave us is a factually erroneous message about Saturnalia. He hasn’t proven his point in any way. Not even slightly. He played switcheroo on us is all. Saturnalia is not Christmas any more than Saturnalia is COGWA's Family Fun Weekend. We here at ABD have investigated, deeply investigated, for years now whether or not Christmas is pagan. Read our articles, we beg you!

As a side note, Judaism Online mentions that an unwilling human victim was regularly sacrificed as part of Saturnalia festivities. This is ridiculous on its face since human sacrifice was illegal in Rome. I have never read anything from a trustworthy source that proves this. What they are relaying to you are hypotheticals from the most ancient Roman times, not from the period of the Roman Republic or the Empire. In the period of the Roman kings, several cultures in the region did practice human sacrifice, but it was never very popular in Rome, and no document I have ever seen specifically associated with Saturnalia. To paint Saturnalia as a time of ritual human sacrifice is disingenuous.

So now two legs of this chair are not sturdy. On to the last.

Jesus Warned About Human Traditions

Yes, He did! Didn’t He??

Mr. Johnson quotes Matthew here for support. Let’s do that too:

(MAT. 15: 6b-9) 6[b] Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 9 and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

See? He did say it!
Or did He?

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, what is one of the most important lessons we’ve learned here at ABD? It is: context, context, context! Never proof text.

To whom was Jesus speaking? To all Jews? No, to the Pharisees specifically. About what was Jesus citing Isaiah? To protest only holiday traditions? No. Martha wrote a spectacular article on this point titled Established and Imposed. Was what Jesus doing then? Jesus was speaking about the Pharisees taking the clear commandment to be charitable and to honor your father and mother, and negating it entirely with their own commandments. Jesus is very specific here.

Notice that Mr. Johnson, following many before him, breaks into verse 6 and absconds with 3 ½ verses completely out of their context, then veneers an entirely new meaning onto the verses that simply is not there on its own.

I put "6[b]" in my quote of Matthew on purpose, to emphasize that Mr. Johnson didn’t quote all of verse 6. He left half of it out. Let’s investigate the context here by quoting the previous verses and leaving nothing out.

(MAT. 15: 3-6) 3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

That first half of verse 6 is quite telling. Jesus is very specifically talking about the traditions of the Pharisees that have destroyed charity.

Jesus didn’t pick this fight; the Pharisees did. They came to Him asking Him why He abandoned their traditions. So, He tore into them for abandoning His. This has nothing to do with all human traditions. This has nothing to do with all Pharisaical traditions. This has nothing to do with holidays. It doesn’t even have anything to do with hand washing – which is a tradition. Did Jesus ever say that hand washing was bad? No. Was He angry at hand washing? No. He couldn’t care less about hand washing. He continues on, all the way to verse 20, giving a lesson about how hand washing and food and etc neither here nor there, but what proceeds out of the heart is what matters. He wanted the hand washing to be in its proper perspective. Did He command them to stop washing their hands? No! He just put things into their proper priority.

I want to repeat this for emphasis: WHAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE HEART IS WHAT MATTERS.

As Jesus cuts like a sword to the marrow of the matter, Armstrongism tries to distract the discussion back to a superficial point about holiday traditions that isn't even there in the context. Jesus never mentioned holidays. No one there did. He warned about their uncharitable, selfish, greedy hearts.

So, did Jesus warn us about all traditions as Mr. Johnson claims? No.
Does Mr. Johnson really believe this is about traditions? No. How can I say this so boldly? Because if he did, his article would condemn the COGWA Winter Family Weekend, too. <<<Human tradition!

No, upon closer examination we find that Jesus did not warn us about traditions at all, except to say that we must not let our traditions excuse us from our responsibilities to the the weightier matters of faith and love. Mr. Johnson, as he was taught, tries to get us to think that Jesus is prohibiting "man-made traditions." But that's not what's going on here. Not at all. Jesus warned about what comes out of our hearts, not superficial acts of celebration and decoration. If Christmas really taught us to abandon Jesus, or told us to be uncharitable, then certainly it would apply, because in that case those things from our traditions would be evil. But that is the opposite of Christmas’ lessons. Jesus and charity are primary in the proper and Christian (and I stress Christian as opposed to secular) observance of Christmas. Giving - it’s what Christmas genuinely is all about.

What does COGWA do? They turn this right around and say, no, defilement comes from the outside, from external and superficial things. Should we not be the ones encouraging them to heed Matthew 15?

Time after time after tedious time, what do we see going on? Proof texting! Mr. Johnson as he was taught to do (because this is nothing new) takes a verse completely out of context and uses it to an end for which it was never intended. He didn't get a warning about holidays from Matthew 15, he put it in there himself.

I can hear someone out there saying that God never commanded us to keep Christmas. We do recommend to you that you read Martha’s post “Established and Imposed”. It answers this concern from a Biblical perspective.

So now we have three prime reasons why Mr. Johnson changed his entire life. We have his top three reasons out of no doubt many more that he didn’t mention. The third one is hollow.

Please, most patient and understanding reader, permit me a brief sidebar. God bless you for your kindness!

I can completely understand that in the doctrinal tradition of Armstrongism (COGWA is an Armstrongist church, a splinter from Herbert W Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God) this third point is much bigger than just Matthew 15. Armstrongism is against Christmas. Armstrongism teaches that the New Covenant is practically identical to the Old Covenant, and thus the Old Covenant holy days are the appropriate holidays, and Christmas is not among them, and so Christmas has no place. l recognize and fully concede that this debate over point #3 is much bigger than what either Mr. Johnson or I have discussed in either article. But this is a review of Mr. Johnson’s article, and this is what Mr. Johnson put in his article, so this is all that I am addressing here.  I invite you to read every article we have because they are collectively our responses to the larger debate. I personally feel that we have answered the larger debate and can give a strong argument why it is also off course. So I leave you with this sidebar.

Moving on to my conclusion.


Mr. Johnson’s three points were that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, that December 25th is pagan, and that Jesus warned against Christmas.

He said Jesus couldn’t be born in the winter because sheep wouldn’t have been in the fields. What did we see? Yes, they most certainly could have been in the fields in the winter, most especially near Bethlehem.

He said Saturnalia was on December 25th. What did we see? No it absolutely was not. Not at any time. Saturnalia wasn’t even on the 24th. Sarurnalia was originally on the 17th and later the 19th. And if you read our material you will see much more evidence than just this.

He said Jesus warned against Christmas. What did we see? Jesus wasn’t talking about holidays, or even traditions for traditions’ sake; He was talking about things that violate the law of love. He was talking about what flows out of the heart. Matthew 15 isn’t about holidays. Matthew 15 isn’t a blanket condemnation of man-made traditions. It is not. Mr. Johnson proof texted material, extracted it from its proper context, and implanted into it a new and wholly inappropriate meaning.

Three legs of a chair that are all about to come off. Excuse me if I choose not to sit in it with him.
And this was considered such a good article that COGWA re-posted it. You can't see it, but I am cringing.

Probably the saddest thing about this article is that Mr. Johnson, who I can only assume is a fine person and means well and is doing the best he can with what he believes to be true, changed the entire course of his life upon evidences such as these. I can relate because I did this same thing for these same reasons.
The final twist in my clever title is these three reasons were my three reasons, too. I stopped keeping Christmas for these same things, and others. But then I double-checked my work. This is my part 2! The part 2 of my life.

I would love to let Mr. Johnson know that there is still time to reconsider. We here at ABD did. Ask the tough questions once more. The truth can handle itself. Perhaps this can be his part 2. I pray it can be yours.

Thank you for hearing us out. What say you? Ash and stubble, or gold and gems? Whether you side with us or Mr. Johnson, God's blessings to you! At this time of the year and beyond.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


Anonymous said...

When I came across that website from the COGAWA and they were addressing these very issues that have been circulated through ABD, I seriously couldn't HELP but think ABD had something to do with it. The COG's NEVER addressed Purim! EVER! There is so much information being circulated now about Jesus' birth LIKELY being in December, I'm sure these retards are scrambling around, having emergency sessions trying to figure out how they are going to keep the flocks in line whenever they bring up these objections. Boy, would I love to be a fly on THAT wall!

Child Survivor and dear friend to ExHWA

Anonymous said...

Hello ABD,

I'm new to this site and I've been reading some of your blogs mostly because I'm worried about what some people are saying about the holidays Christians celebrate. I understand many holidays aren't considered pagan due to the blogs I have read, but there's a few other holidays I'm questioning. After reading about Christmas not being pagan I'm still questioning because people consider celebrating birthdays as pagan in origin. I wanted to know if you researched this because I haven't seen a blog from you about it yet. If birthdays are considered pagan then Christmas may be considered pagan because we celebrate Jesus' birth (my logic may be flawed but please correct me if I'm wrong).

People considered birthdays pagan for several reasons like how wishes, noise, etc. are to keep the birthday person from evil spirits. There's pagan origins for candles and other birthday items too. The modern calendar we have corresponds to zodiac/astrology and others say we are worshipping those signs or gods of those signs. They also say that our birthdays couldn't be on the same day every year according to the lunar-solar calendar. It is also considered prideful to celebrate your birth and the Bible puts birthdays in a negative light (Herod's and Pharoah's). There's mentions of it in Job as well. They say no ancient Christians celebrated their births nor the births of others due to these very reasons.

Of course, I know that Jesus deserves all our praise so some of the reasons birthdays are pagan don't apply to Him (like pride) and we don't use birthday cakes or anything on Christmas. However, the Bible puts birthdays in a negative light a lot and there are still other parts of birthdays considered pagan. I haven't fully researched so I don't know if ancient Christians celebrated their birthdays, but if they didn't there may be good reason. Maybe you could help research some of these things? It would be very beneficial for everyone to know more about other holidays and if they are really "pagan" according to what some believe. If there is truly a pagan holiday out there then I'll give it up for God. No pagan holiday is worth participating in if it risks our relationship with God.

If you are up for adding a few more holiday blogs when you have a chance that will be greatly appreciated. I'd like to see Mother's day, Saint Patrick's day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, etc. Yes others say the holidays stated are pagan. Perhaps you aren't American but I'd like to see your input on the patriotic days if you are willing. Some even believe the founding fathers weren't always talking about the Christian God, but those aren't the main reasons they believe Thanksgiving and Fourth of July is pagan. I understand though if you are too busy to work on this. You don't have to do every single holiday but I'd like to see a few more posts about these other days besides the ones you already talked about. Thank you for your time.

xHWA said...

Hello Anonymous 4/29/19. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

You seem to be a person who loves your Lord and Savior and wants to do your best. I can't say anything negative about that! God bless you.
But one thing I can say something negative about is scruples. I can promise you that once you start down that road to scrupulosity there is virtually no end to that road. There is practically no limit to the things a person can question and worry about. You can become a slave to it. Trust me on this one, I have seen some seriously enslaved people who worry about the smallest little things and constantly need reassurance. Their lives are beset by it.
You might say, "I'm not scrupulous," and that's a good thing. I'm just offering you a warning about it.

Not only will scrupulosity rule your life, but there are people out there who make a living off of exploiting people with ideas like this or that or the other thing is pagan. They want you to worry about it. They know that if they can get you to fear paganism around every corner, then they can separate you from others. Same as a wolf separates a sheep from the flock in order to devour it. There are whole churches out there built on this. The people pay, pray, and stay, while the leadership gets fat and rich from the fear money.
Maybe that doesn't apply to you either. I'd be glad of it! Just offering a warning.

Now, I mention both of these things in order to ask where you are getting your information and why are you so worried about paganism? If you are getting your information about pagan origins from the same people who were wrong about Easter and Christmas then you might want to stop listening to those people. Stop giving them the benefit of the doubt.

xHWA said...

You said, "If birthdays are considered pagan then Christmas may be considered pagan because we celebrate Jesus' birth". I disagree. The beginnings of Christmas weren't in a simple desire to celebrate a birthday. The beginnings of Christmas were in the fight against the many Gnostics who were saying that Jesus was not really a human and that He only appeared to die. There were several heresies like this back in those days. The Christians wanted to know more about Jesus' birth, and to celebrate it, because the birth is critical to His humanity and thus His literal death on the cross and thus our redemption in His literal death and salvation in His literal return to life. Don't ever forget that there was quite a bit of celebrating at Jesus' birth. That's not pagan.

The problem with the pseudo-historians who are saying that birthdays are pagan is that they aren't doing a whole lot of thinking.
First, birthdays aren't a religious observance. There's nothing religious in them to be pagan. To be "pagan" means to practice paganism. To "practice paganism" means to abandon Jesus for some other god. There is no other god or anything like that in birthdays. There's nothing like that in the Fourth of July either!
Second, just because the Jews didn't celebrate their birthdays doesn't mean anything so far as practicing paganism goes. It just means they didn't have that tradition. But there are several traditions they didn't have that we do, and that they did have which we don't. They did keep Hanukkah and Purim (and so did Jesus, best as we can tell because He was a Jew) but we don't. They didn't have President's Day, but Americans do. Fact is it doesn't matter either way.
Third, nothing in the Bible says you have to be a Jew to be a Christian, or even imitate the Jews. There are a lot of people who want us to be Jews. Problem is, the Bible never says to do that. In fact Acts 15 is against that very notion.
Fourth, if everything that isn't mentioned in the Bible is "pagan" then we're ALL pagans. There are a ton of things that we do that weren't from the Bible. Wedding rings, cars, pants, all modern music, pizza, water balloons, tooth brushes, alarm clocks, the Internet, movies... I could go on and on. (Remember what I said earlier about scruples!) What's more, if I listed for you the things that originated in paganism that were adopted into Judaism and thus Christianity you would probably be shocked. I'll give you one example - the Sabbath. Yep. Pagan origin. Adopted by none other than God. Ergo, pagan origin doesn't necessarily mean anything.
Fifth, you are allowed to have holidays. The Jews invented Purim. But there it is, right in the book of Esther. Martha wrote a fabulous article on this called Established and Imposed. It's OK to have a Thanksgiving, or a St. Patric's Day, or a Fourth of July. There is nothing wrong with it! This comes straight from the example of the Old Testament, where if something were pagan and forbidden we should see it in there for sure. Yet the Jews not only invented a holiday but that day was clearly sanctioned by God by being included in the Bible, and they observe it to this very day.

So, in the end of all my long rambling, I circle back to the start -- scruples. Whoever it is that is causing you distress in your spirit about this or that simple thing being pagan, those people are not doing you a service.
Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior? Yes. Is your faith in Him? Yes. Do you observe your birthday to Odin? No. Does the Fourth of July cause you to renounce the Holy Spirit? No. So you are in fact NOT a pagan. You are a Christian. Not a pagan.

Anonymous said...

What about alternative medicine, meditation, yoga, acupuncture etc. Nearly everything is pagan, but where do we draw the line and why? What's the difference between celebrating some pagan holidays (I understand some aren't pagan but there are a few considered pagan still) and practicing new age techniques? Just wanted to know your opinion on those things because there's either a complete rejection of or complete acceptance of all things pagan in Christianity. There's gotta be a line drawn somewhere.

xHWA said...

I agree that there has to be a line drawn somewhere. If you are curious where I draw my line, it's at things that make me feel guilty, and at things that actually claim to honor a god other than God (which would make me feel guilty).

There is no clear line. There is no single line either; everyone has to find their own line.

The series of articles here on As Bereans Did are geared towards confronting the false accusations of paganism. You confront a false accusation with the truth. That's what we've tried to do. Many people have felt terrible guilt for missing out on participating with their families in harmless, Christian holiday activities because they have been lied to so badly for so often. They are afraid God will be angry with them for accidentally becoming a pagan. Well, it's not like that. You cannot accidentally become a pagan. That's not how it works. You don't become a pagan just because you have an evergreen swag then find out Romans also decorated with greenery. That's not how it works. And we here feel that such lies are abominable, destructive, and need to be countered. People need to know they don't have to be held captive like that. Slave to a lie.

But what we haven't done is tried to get people to observe a holiday they aren't comfortable with or violate their consciences. That would also be wrong. Paul was pretty clear about that.

So, I guess that circles back to the beginning. I draw the line at conscience and at things that actually try to replace Jesus as my lord and savior.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if your getting my messages, but do you have another way I could privately talk to you? I don't want to flood the blog with my comments.

xHWA said...

Perhaps not. My email is posted towards the top of the page. You've tried emailing me?