Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

Seeing as I am not one to shy away from controversy I thought it would fun to look at an anti-Christmas statement by the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland and to hear some responses from the blogosphere.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?


For many people Christmas is the most important social event of the year. They spend lots of time, energy and money on their preparations for the festive season. At no other time of the year are there so many parties, dinners and social events. Family visits are arranged and the children look forward to it with great anticipation. Christmas images abound: snowy, Victorian scenes, camels crossing deserts and the inevitable Father Christmas. With its colour, warmth and cheer Christmas is, for many, the high point of the festive calendar.
Christmas, of course, has a religious dimension. Amidst all the tinsel, shopping trips and coloured lights, is the idea that the birth of Jesus is being celebrated. Christmas carols sound out on street corners and in department stores. Images of mother and child, angels, shepherds and stable scenes add to the displays in shops and churches. Many go to church or sing carols. All this contributes to the unmistakable and unique atmosphere at Christmas time. Because of its cultural importance and the assumption that our country is largely a Christian country, the thought of a Christian not celebrating Christmas may seem strange. But there are firm reasons why Christians who take a serious interest in the Bible withdraw from the festive season entirely. The risk of being thought of as unsociable or overly strict is outweighed in their consciences by a number of facts about Christmas and their understanding of the teaching of the Bible.

The Origins of Christmas
Many people are aware that the origins of Christmas lie in the pre-Christian pagan observance of the winter solstice. Neither: Christ, nor the apostles, nor any of the early Christians celebrated anything that could be described as Christmas. It was: only in the 4th century AD that the Church of Rome introduced the idea of a mid-winter ceremony, the Christ-Mass, as a way of making Christianity more attractive, to pagans. The retention of Christmas in the Protestant Church depended upon the extent to which the principles and practises of Rome were deemed acceptable. Where, these were repudiated as unbiblical, Christmas was also repudiated. So that until recently, the recognition of Christmas was unheard of in many churches

The Lies of Christmas
The actual date of Christ’s birth is disputed. It is wrong, therefore, to invent a date. Christ never intended the wondrous event of his birth to be associated with pagan rituals or transformed into an annual festivity. As with the date of the Saviour’s birth, much of what people associate with Christmas is simply untrue. Christianity, however, is concerned with the truth above everything else. The Bible is the true Word of God. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (1) There is simply no place in the faith and life of a Christian for deliberate falsehood. He is forbidden by the Ten Commandments from lying (2) and therefore cannot go along with lies in an shape or form. He must not pretend that 25th December is Jesus’ birthday. He may not sing the carol which says that Christ was born on Christmas Day. He does not accept the myth of Santa Claus. The Bible identifies the devil as a liar (3) and therefore the Christian can have nothing to do with whatever he knows to be a lie, however “harmless” others might consider it to be.

True Christian Worship
The Christian is concerned with how he worships God. His guide in this matter is the Bible. The Scriptures state that God is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. (4) No place is to be given to images or idols or anything that could be mistaken for them (pictures of Mary, Jesus, angels, etc.). The second commandment begins: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above” (5) . The nativity scenes that abound in homes, schools and even churches, are a flagrant breach of this commandment. The all too common depiction of the Son of God in the form of a plastic doll is therefore nothing short of blasphemous.

God’s Holy Day
While many see Christmas as a holy day it is not seen as such by God. The day appointed by God to be kept holy is the first day of the week, the Christian Sabbath. This is the day He has commanded all people to keep holy and to rest from worldly work and recreations. (6) The Lord Jesus Christ said that the Sabbath was made for man,(7) which means that in appointing one day in seven to be a day of rest and worship, God had the well-being of people at heart. The Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day is also given to us to focus on the great theme of redemption, central to which is Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week. (8)

The True Christ
Jesus Christ is described in the Scriptures as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”. (9) He was the Son of Man who had nowhere to lay his head. (10) He was nailed to a cross to die for the sins and iniquities of others. The quasi-religious aspects of Christmas are things which only take people further away from the truth of the gospel which Jesus came to declare. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.(11) Rather than join with the world in Christmas pleasures, true followers of Christ should listen to His voice, as found in the Bible, and seek to serve Him in the Ways that He prescribes there.


Bible References:
1. John 14:6
2. Exodus 20:16
3. John 8:44
4. John 4:24
5. Exodus 20:4
6. Exodus 20:8
7. Mark 2:27
8. Luke 24:1/Acts 20:7
9. Isaiah 53:3
10. Luke 9:58
11. 1 Timothy 1:15

Can a Christian Deny the Virgin Birth?

Here is an article by Al Mohler on a subject that recently came up on Toby’s Classical Presbyterian blog:

Can a Christian Deny the Virgin Birth?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth? This question would perplex the vast majority of Christians throughout the centuries, but modern denials of biblical truth make the question tragically significant. Of all biblical doctrines, the doctrine of Christ’s virginal conception has often been the specific target of modern denial and attack.

Attacks upon the virgin birth emerged in the aftermath of the Enlightenment, with some theologians attempting to harmonize the anti-supernaturalism of the modern mind with the church’s teaching about Christ. The great quest of liberal theology has been to invent a Jesus who is stripped of all supernatural power, deity, and authority.

The fountainhead of this quest includes figures such as Albert Schweitzer and Rudolf Bultmann. Often considered the most influential New Testament scholar of the twentieth century, Bultmann argued that the New Testament presents a mythological worldview that modern men and women simply cannot accept as real. The virgin birth is simply a part of this mythological structure and Bultmann urged his program of “demythologization” in order to construct a faith liberated from miracles and all vestiges of the supernatural. Jesus was reduced to an enlightened teacher and existentialist model.

In America, the public denial of the virgin birth can be traced to the emergence of Protestant liberalism in the early 20th century. In his famous sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?,” Harry Emerson Fosdick–an unabashed liberal–aimed his attention at “the vexed and mooted question of the virgin birth.” Fosdick, preaching from the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in New York City, allowed that Christians may hold “quite different points of view about a matter like the virgin birth.” He accepted the fact that many Christians believed the virgin birth to be historically true and theologically significant. Fosdick likened this belief to trust in “a special biological miracle.” Nevertheless, Fosdick insisted that others, equally Christian, could disagree with those who believe the virgin birth to be historically true: “But, side by side with them in the evangelical churches is a group of equally loyal and reverent people who would say that the virgin birth is not to be accepted as an historic fact. To believe in the virgin birth as an explanation of great personality is one of the familiar ways in which the ancient world was accustomed to account for unusual superiority.”

Fosdick explained that those who deny the virgin birth hold to a specific pattern of reasoning. As he explained, “those first disciples adored Jesus–as we do; when they thought about his coming they were sure that he came specially from God–as we are; this adoration and conviction they associated with God’s special influence and intention in his birth–as we do; but they phrased it in terms of a biological miracle that our modern minds cannot use.”

Thus, Fosdick divided the church into two camps. Those he labeled as “fundamentalists” believe the virgin birth to be historical fact. The other camp, comprised of “enlightened” Christians who no longer obligate themselves to believe the Bible to be true, discard this “biological” miracle but still consider themselves to be Christians.

More contemporary attacks on the virgin birth of Christ have emerged from figures such as retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong and German New Testament scholar Gerd Luedemann. Luedemann acknowledges that “most Christians in all the churches in the world confess as they recite the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. Now…modern Christians completely discount the historicity of the virgin birth and understand it in a figurative sense.” Obviously, the “modern Christians” Luedemann identifies are those who allow the modern secular worldview to establish the frame for reality into which the claims of the Bible must be fitted. Those doctrines that do not fit easily within the secular frame must be automatically discarded. As might be expected, Luedemann’s denial of biblical truth is not limited to the virgin birth. He denies virtually everything the Bible reveals about Jesus Christ. In summarizing his argument, Luedemann states: “The tomb was full and the manger empty.” That is to say, Luedemann believes that Jesus was not born of a virgin and that He was not raised from the dead.

Another angle of attack on the virgin birth has come from the group of radical scholars who organize themselves into what is called the “Jesus Seminar.” These liberal scholars apply a radical form of interpretation and deny that the New Testament is in any way reliable as a source of knowledge about Jesus. Roman Catholic scholar John Dominic Crossan, a member of the Jesus Seminar, discounts the biblical narratives about the virgin birth as invented theology. He acknowledges that Matthew explicitly traces the virgin birth to Isaiah 7:14. Crossan explains that the author of Matthew simply made this up: “Clearly, somebody went seeking in the Old Testament for a text that could be interpreted as prophesying a virginal conception, even if such was never its original meaning. Somebody had already decided on the transcendental importance of the adult Jesus and sought to retroject that significance on to the conception and birth itself.”

Crossan denies that Matthew and Luke can be taken with any historical seriousness, and he understands the biblical doctrine of the virgin birth to be an insurmountable obstacle to modern people as they encounter the New Testament. As with Luedemann, Crossan’s denial of the virgin birth is only a hint of what is to come. In Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, Crossan presents an account of Jesus that would offend no secularist or atheist. Obviously, Crossan’s vision also bears no resemblance to the New Testament.

For others, the rejection of the birth is tied to a specific ideology. In The Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of the Infancy Narratives, Jane Schaberg accuses the church of inventing the doctrine of the virgin birth in order to subordinate women. As she summarizes: “The charge of contemporary feminists, then, is not that the image of the Virgin Mary is unimportant or irrelevant, but that it contributes to and is integral to the oppression of women.” Schaberg states that the conception of Jesus was most likely the result of extra-marital sex or rape. She chooses to emphasize the latter possibility and turns this into a feminist fantasy in which Mary is the heroine who overcomes. Schaberg offers a tragic, but instructive model of what happens when ideology trumps trust in the biblical text. Her most basic agenda is not even concerned with the question of the virgin birth of Christ, but with turning this biblical account into service for the feminist agenda.

Bishop Joseph Sprague of the United Methodist Church offers further evidence of modern heresy. In an address he presented on June 25, 2002 at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, this bishop denied the faith wholesale. Sprague, who serves as Presiding Bishop of the United Methodist Church in northern Illinois, has been called “the most vocally prominent active liberal bishop in Protestantism today.” Sprague is proud of this designation and takes it as a compliment: “I really make no apology for that. I don’t consider myself a liberal. I consider myself a radical.” Sprague lives up to his self-designation.

In his Illiff address, Bishop Sprague claimed that the “myth” of the virgin birth “was not intended as historical fact, but was employed by Matthew and Luke in different ways to appoint poetically the truth about Jesus as experienced in the emerging church.” Sprague defined a theological myth as “not false presentation but a valid and quite persuasive literary device employed to point to ultimate truth that can only be insinuated symbolically and never depicted exhaustively.” Jesus, Sprague insists, was born to human parents and did not possess “trans-human, supernatural powers.”

Thus, Sprague dismisses the miracles, the exclusivity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection as well as the virgin birth. His Christology is explicitly heretical: “Jesus was not born the Christ, rather by the confluence of grace with faith, he became the Christ, God’s beloved in whom God was well pleased.”

Bishop Sprague was charged with heresy but has twice been cleared of the charge–a clear sign that the mainline Protestant denominations are unwilling to identify as heretics even those who openly teach heresy. The presence of theologians and pastors who deny the virgin birth in the theological seminaries and pulpits of the land is evidence of the sweeping tide of unbelief that marks so many institutions and churches in our time.

Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth? The answer to that question must be a decisive No. Those who deny the virgin birth reject the authority of Scripture, deny the supernatural birth of the Savior, undermine the very foundations of the Gospel, and have no way of explaining the deity of Christ.

Anyone who claims that the virgin birth can be discarded even as the deity of Christ is affirmed is either intellectually dishonest or theological incompetent.

Several years ago, Cecil Sherman–then a Southern Baptist, but later the first coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship–stated: “A teacher who might also be led by the Scripture not to believe in the Virgin Birth should not be fired.” Consider the logic of that statement. A Christian can be led by the Bible to deny what the Bible teaches? This kind of logic is what has allowed those who deny the virgin birth to sit comfortably in liberal theological seminaries and to preach their reductionistic Christ from major pulpits.

Christians must face the fact that a denial of the virgin birth is a denial of Jesus as the Christ. The Savior who died for our sins was none other than the baby who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin. The virgin birth does not stand alone as a biblical doctrine, it is an irreducible part of the biblical revelation about the person and work of Jesus Christ. With it, the Gospel stands or falls.

“Everyone admits that the Bible represents Jesus as having been conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. The only question is whether in making that representation the Bible is true or false.” So declared J. Gresham Machen in his great work, The Virgin Birth of Christ. As Machen went on to argue, “if the Bible is regarded as being wrong in what it says about the birth of Christ, then obviously the authority of the Bible in any high sense, is gone.”

The authority of the Bible is almost completely gone where liberal theology holds its sway. The authority of the Bible is replaced with the secular worldview of the modern age and the postmodern denial of truth itself. The true church stands without apology upon the authority of the Bible and declares that Jesus was indeed “born of a virgin.” Though the denial of this doctrine is now tragically common, the historical truth of Christ’s birth remains inviolate. No true Christian can deny the virgin birth.

This article was originally published on December 13, 2003. It is republished here by request.

As Al Mohler rightly says, of course one cannot deny the virgin birth and be a Christian. It is false doctrine to believe otherwise.

The Magnificat


Primarily due to the overwhelming excesses of the Roman Catholic Church Mary has been kind of left by the wayside. Protestants like to point out Christ’s discussion of who his family is in Matthew 12 to downplay the veneration of the mother of Christ. However I’d like to take the time in this third installment of our discussion of the Gospel of Luke to have a Protestant look that while falling short of veneration still gives Mary a fair hearing.

Protestants have a tendency to forget about what Elizabeth says about Mary when she visits in Luke Chapter 1 and Elizabeth has this to say about her:

46 And Mary said:
“(My soul exalts the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
50 “AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION
TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
53 “HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
54 “He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
55 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.

How are we to take this? I’d like to hear some thoughts from the blogosphere…

The Birth of John the Baptist

As I stated in the beginning of this blog series Luke intends his gospel to be a historical recording of the events leading to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We do a great disservice to the writer of Luke’s gospel if we do not come to this work with the mindset of the intent of the author. (This would be a good idea for someone to blog about but we must understand that their is a great intellectual arrogance and cynicism in our current age that tends to make us look at the writers of the Old and New Testament as slightly naive and ignorant people. We feel almost the need to see them almost as children, simply products of their age, in a very paternalistic way and that they were not able to “see” the reality that surrounded them.) In keeping with the chronological focus that Luke takes after introducing his Gospel in chapter 1:1-4, he foretells the birth of John the Baptist, fulfilling Malachi 4:5. This shall be what I focus on in this post.

The entire backstory of the birth of John the Baptist is full of so many intricacies and intertextual echoes that it would take a book to flush them all out. Most interesting is in verse 17 where Luke makes it perfectly clear that the reason for the birth of John the Baptist is that he is fulfilling the promise of the prophet Malachi that Elijah would come again. Malachi says in chapter 4, verses 5 and 6:

Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.

Now why is it important that Elijah be the one Malachi prophecies will come again and why is it that Luke makes sure we recognize the link between John the Baptist and Elijah? Calvin says in his commentary that:

17. And he shall go before him By these words he points out what would be John’s office, and distinguishes him by this mark from the other prophets, who received a certain and peculiar commission, while John was sent for the sole object of going before Christ, as a herald before a king. Thus also the Lord speaks by Malachi,

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me,”
(Malachi 3:1.)

In short, the calling of John had no other design than to secure for Christ a willing ear, and to prepare for him disciples. As to the angel making no express mention of Christ in this passage, but declaring John to be the usher or standard-bearer of the eternal God, we learn from it the eternal divinity of Christ. With the spirit and power of Elijah By the words spirit and power, I understand the power or excellency of the Spirit, with which Elijah was endued; for we must not here indulge in a dream like that of Pythagoras, that the soul of the prophet passed into the body of John, but the same Spirit of God, who had acted efficaciously in Elijah, afterwards exerted a similar power and efficacy in the Baptist. The latter term, power, is added, by way of exposition, to denote the kind of grace which was the loftiest distinction of Elijah, that, furnished with heavenly power, he restored in a wonderful manner the decayed worship of God; for such a restoration was beyond human ability. What John undertook was not less astonishing; and, therefore, we ought not to wonder if it was necessary for him to enjoy the same gift.

So in the words of John Calvin the reason for the Elijah reference is for what reason? It is not because John the Baptist is Elijah but because John is to be set apart from the other Old Testament prophets (for those of you wondering John the Baptist is the last of the OT prophets) because of his call and vocation.

Off-Topic—– The Steroid List

Chad Allen
Mike Bell
Gary Bennett
Larry Bigbie
Kevin Brown
Alex Cabrera
Mark Carreon
Jason Christiansen
Howie Clark
Roger Clemens
Jack Cust
Brendan Donnelly
Chris Donnels
Matt Franco
Eric Gagne
Matt Herges
Phil Hiatt
Glenallen Hill
Todd Hundley
Mike Judd
David Justice
Chuck Knoblauch
Tim Laker
Mike Lansing
Paul Lo Duca
Nook Logan
Josias Manzanillo
Cody McKay
Kent Mercker
Bart Miadich
Hal Morris
Daniel Naulty
Denny Neagle
Jim Parque
Andy Pettitte
Adam Piatt
Todd Pratt
Stephen Randolph
Adam Riggs
Armando Rios
Brian Roberts
F.P. Santangelo
Mike Stanton
Ricky Stone
Miguel Tejada
Ismael Valdez
Mo Vaughn
Ron Villone
Fernando Vina
Rondell White
Jeff Williams
Todd Williams
Steve Woodard
Kevin Young
Gregg Zaun
Manny Alexander
Rick Ankiel
David Bell
Marvin Benard
Barry Bonds
Ricky Bones
Paul Byrd
Jose Canseco
Paxton Crawford
Lenny Dykstra
Bobby Estalella
Ryan Franklin
Jason Giambi
Jeremy Giambi
Jay Gibbons
Troy Glaus
Juan Gonzalez
Jason Grimsley
Jose Guillen
Jerry Hairston Jr.
Darren Holmes
Ryan Jorgensen
Gary Matthews Jr.
Rafael Palmeiro
John Rocker
Benito Santiago
Scott Schoeneweis
David Segui
Gary Sheffield
Randy Velarde
Matt Williams

The Historian’s Gospel

I would like during this Advent season to look closely at the Physician’s account of the birth of Christ. The first thing I will examine is the introduction of Luke’s Gospel.

Though before that I would like to say that for many reasons the Gospel of Luke has always been the gospel that has resonated most closely with me. I believe that more than likely includes the fact Luke pens his Gospel with these opening words to Theophilus:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

While a linguist may look at the textual variance and the direction of the verbs and nouns, the Historian looks first (at least as how they are trained in today’s academy) at the events and developments that surround the context of the text. So the mere fact Luke begins his gospel much like Strabo or Tacitus do their particular historical narratives presents for us an interesting way to look at the Physician’s gospel that makes it somewhat different than the other synoptic and the Johanine gospel. I am trained as a Historian and I think often with a Historian’s mind first. When I was a child I gravitated towards historical encyclopedias, which I give full credit for directing the manner of my education ever since and it is with this reasoning why Luke’s gospel has always been my favorite.

I have found that the beginning of Luke’s gospel has found pretty short shrift among readers of the New Testament but there are many vital and necessary clues given by Luke in the preface that set the stage for the rest of Luke’s account. He says that he has interviewed eyewitnesses and researched all that he could so that he could present an unvarnished account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. For those of you that have been schooled in the Markan priority and the idea that Luke uses Mark and “Q” for his main sources, it is plausible that Luke did use what he knew of Mark to compose his Gospel. There is nothing in the text that prohibits this. However it would be false to say that Luke was written post AD70.

Speaking of the date of Luke’s gospel if one agrees with the vast majority of biblical scholars that Luke wrote Acts then one would logically have to believe that Luke was written prior to Acts. This may be a little aside but if this is true then one cannot accept a post-70AD date for Luke since, A) Acts does not record Paul’s execution and B) Luke does not mention (either in his gospel or in Acts) the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy concerning the destruction of the Temple. Surely if Luke was constructing a historical account he would have mentioned the fact of Jesus being correct in his prophecy.

Friday we will look at the Birth of John the Baptist.