After this discussion today, I’ve even more convinced of it: some professing Christians, if they end up in Heaven and then the New Earth, may just become bored to tears. Why? Because there’s no one to fight.
Doctrine disclaimer: of course no one in Christ’s after-world will truly be disappointed. That’s clear from Scripture. But when some seem to have confused the means for the end — fight those unbelievers and (supposedly) compromising Christians! — I’m at least certain that when some believers enter Heaven, there will be plenty of D’ohs, wide eyes and slapped foreheads.
If today you have even the slightest dread that Heaven, free of all causes save Himself, poor people to feed or villains to fight, would be boring — you might want to re-evaluate.
That relates to how we perceive Christmas and various tenets thereof. I can’t help wondering, and wishing I could ask others, on the basis of existing relationships and Christlike love: does the concept of “fun” automatically sound suspicious? Do reflexive “we’re to be different” lines jump to your mind in favor of spiritual-sounding seclusion, and against enjoying God’s good gifts — including celebrating holidays and feasting, which Scripture is not dead set against? Do you feel even the slightest sense of offense when Answers in Genesis (an organization I greatly respect) publishes a list of Miscellaneous Misconceptions about Christmas, but can’t really say why AiG’s Biblical bases are wrong, and instead lapse into generic “avoid the world!” slogans?
Some quick reminders, perhaps for anyone else (or myself) to repeat later against such slogans. I’ve heard similar things said as well against fiction, epic storytelling and visionary novels:
“We are to be a called out people, not resembling the world.”
Chris (and others), I hear this a lot, but to conclude from this that therefore Christians shouldn’t celebrate Christmas (or enjoy a decoration, etc.) is both selective and inconsistent. I could just as easily argue that to use Facebook is to “resemble the world” and therefore you should get off now. Or I could say electronic devices altogether, or using English, or breathing, is to be “like the world.”
To say that “being called out” must mean avoiding a select series of Things is to use a logical belief System that may be internally consistent, but not consistent with the Bible — the same Word in which Paul gives much more complex advice about issues like “meat sacrificed to idols” than simply “avoid whatever is in the world.”
I’m still waiting for good answers about why Christians should supposedly hang back and wait for pagans to “take over” a Thing, and then simply accept the pagan’s word that the Thing is now evil and corrupt. Isn’t this a far worse compromise with pagan beliefs?
To act as though Things can be inherently corrupt is not a Christian belief. It’s closer to a form of Gnosticism that portrays only “spiritual” things as Godly, and [the material world] as given over to the Devil.
But along with warnings to discern rightly and put Him first in all that we do, God promises that when He makes a New Heavens and a New Earth, He will remove all things that fail to give Him glory and bring in, to His eternal Kingdom, Things that do glorify Him:
“… And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” (Haggai 2: 7-9)
If you can’t put up a Christmas tree or celebrate Christmas without worshiping the gifts more than the Giver, then don’t. But if you’re saying that certain Things inevitably lead to sin and therefore all Christians should behave as you do, and avoid the Things, that is not Biblically based discernment, but man-made tradition.
Now for some suggested applications. I still hoped to write about Santa Claus while Christmas is still technically in season, and with an extra column slot I get to do that.
My main question: if it’s true that the popular Santa storylines detract from Jesus and make Christmas “secular,” about getting gifts rather than glorifying the Giver, why should we feel forced to accept or reject the whole Santa concept based on what the “bad guys” claim?
I appreciate much of Mark Driscoll’s take on what Christians can tell their children about Santa:
When it comes to cultural issues like Santa, Christians have three options: (1) we can reject it, (2) we can receive it, or (3) we can redeem it.
[…] We tell our kids that he was a real person who did live a long time ago. We also explain how people dress up as Santa and pretend to be him for fun, kind of like how young children like to dress up as pirates, princesses, superheroes, and a host of other people, real and imaginary. We explain how, in addition to the actual story of Santa, a lot of other stories have been added (e.g., flying reindeer, living in the North Pole, delivering presents to every child in one night) so that Santa is a combination of true and make-believe stories.
We do not, however, demonize Santa. Dressing up, having fun, and using the imagination God gave can be an act of holy worship and is something that, frankly, a lot of adults need to learn from children.
Ultimately Driscoll does comes down on the safer “St. Nicholas was a real person” option. That I also appreciate — and will not judge as legalistic or licentious — but I also wonder: might we go further than this? While perhaps not lying to children (a whole other debate, that), might we redeem more of the popular Santa story? Yes, North Pole, elves, magic sleigh, reindeer and all?
As some may guess, I would intensely dislike the whole legalistic “naughty or nice list” concept. Why not instead think of Santa in terms of Biblical “common grace” (as in Matt. 5:45), someone who relays good gifts from God, even to those who reject Him? What lessons could Christian children learn about God’s forgiveness, when they know (as most know anyway) that despite how naughty they are, their parents love and want to care for them? Could Santa perhaps even join the ranks of Aslan, Gandalf and other imaginary characters who imitate Christ Himself?
Just something to consider and discuss. But even if you disagree, I don’t mind — just please consider the Biblical truths in Colossians 2:16 and Romans 14:5–6, encouraging Christians not to judge one another, un-Biblically, over how they celebrate holidays. Our imaginations, like our celebrations, can ignore God or give glory to Him. Either way, it’s about what’s in our hearts.