23 November, 2006

Christmas: Much Ado About Nothing

It's getting close to that wonderful time of year again when Christians around the world gather together for merriment and festivities in honour of the birth of Christ. It's a shame these same people are absolutely ignorant as to the real history of Christmas. There's no proof whatsoever that Jesus was born on December 25th so let's just all relax, forget the mangers and wise men statues and simply enjoy the day for what it is: time off from work.

Food for thought from Wikipedia:

Pre-Christian origins of holiday
Christmas has its origins in several pagan holidays. The celebration known as Saturnalia included the making and giving of small presents (saturnalia et sigillaricia). This holiday was observed over a series of days beginning on December 17 (the birthday of Saturn) and ending on December 25 (the birthday of Sol Invictus, the "unconquered sun"). The combined festivals resulted in an extended winter holiday season. Business was postponed and even slaves feasted. There was drinking, gambling, and singing, and nudity was relatively common. It was the "best of days," according to the poet Catullus.
During the time in which Christianity was spreading throughout the Roman Empire, another similar religion known as Mithraism was also gaining widespread acceptance. The followers of Mithraism worshipped Mithras, a god of Persian origin, who was identified with Sol Invictus. [citation needed] The followers of Mithraism, consequently, adopted the birthday of Sol Invictus as the birthday of Mithras. In 274 AD, due to the popularity of Mithraism, Emperor Aurelian designated December 25 as the festival of Sol Invictus.

Christian origins of holiday
Around 220 AD, the theologian Tertullian declared that Jesus died on March 25, 29, but was resurrected three days later. Although this is not a plausible date for the crucifixion, it does suggest that March 25, nine months before December 25th, had significance for the church even before it was used as a basis to calculate Christmas. Modern scholars favor a crucifixion date of April 3, 33, which was also the date of a partial lunar eclipse. By 240 AD, a list of significant events was being assigned to March 25, partly because it was believed to be the date of the vernal equinox. These events include creation, The Fall of Adam and Eve, and, most relevantly, the Incarnation. The view that the Incarnation occurred on the same date as crucifixion is consistent with a Jewish belief that prophets died at an "integral age," either an anniversary of their birth or of their conception.

The idea that December 25 is Jesus' birthday was popularized by Sextus Julius Africanus in Chronographiai (221 AD), an early reference book for Christians. This identification did not at first inspire feasting or celebration. In 245 AD, the theologian Origen denounced the idea of celebrating the birthday of Jesus "as if he were a king pharaoh." Only sinners, not saints, celebrate their birthdays, Origen contended.

As Constantine ended the Christian persecution and began the persecution of non-Christians, Christians began to debate the nature of Christ. The Alexandrian school argued that he was the divine word made flesh (see John 1:14), while the Antioch school held that he was born human and infused with the Holy Spirit at the time of his baptism (see Mark 1:9-11). A feast celebrating Christ's birth gave the church an opportunity to promote the intermediate view that Christ was divine from the time of his incarnation. Mary, a minor figure for early Christians, gained prominence as the theotokos, or god-bearer. There were Christmas celebrations in Rome as early as 336 AD. December 25 was added to the calendar as a feast day in 350 AD.

Food for thought from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the "birthdays" of the gods.

Alexandria. The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I, xxi in P.G., VIII, 888) says that certain Egyptian theologians "over curiously" assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ's birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. [Ideler (Chron., II, 397, n.) thought they did this believing that the ninth month, in which Christ was born, was the ninth of their own calendar.] Others reached the date of 24 or 25 Pharmuthi (19 or 20 April). With Clement's evidence may be mentioned the "De paschæ computus", written in 243 and falsely ascribed to Cyprian (P.L., IV, 963 sqq.), which places Christ's birth on 28 March, because on that day the material sun was created. But Lupi has shown (Zaccaria, Dissertazioni ecc. del p. A.M. Lupi, Faenza, 1785, p. 219) that there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ's birth.

There's no religious significance attached to December 25th. How about using Christmas a time to be thankful for what God has given us instead of honouring a birth that didn't even happen on that day?

08 November, 2006

Christianity and Politics

With every Christian cheering and booing the latest election results in the U.S., it's as good a time as any to step back and really think about whether or not we should be involved in politics.

The first and most obvious point to make is this: We don't know the big picture. God sets governments up and He takes governments down. The obvious danger in voting is we could very well be voting against the will of God. For example, John Smith is running for President of the U.S.. John Smith, though, is pro-abortion. Every Christian in the country puts aside their religious differences, bands together and votes for the other guy on the grounds that John Smith is anti-God. What we don't know however is that three years down the road, God will move John Smith to delare war on North Korea which in turn sends hostile armies into Israel, thus fulfilling prophecy. By voting against John Smith, we're proudly telling God that we know best.

The implications are worrisome to say the least.

Here is the plain teaching of the Bible:
"...he removeth kings and setteth up kings" (Daniel 2:20,21)
"The most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men" (Daniel 4:17).

So, quickly then:

Q. Should a Christian help others to gain political positions by voting in elections?
A. No. By voting a man shows that he is interested in politics, and a Christian should not be interested in politics. A Christian should accept whatever rulers God allows to be appointed, and pray that God will help them rule wisely.
See Daniel 4:25; Proverbs 21:1; 1 Timothy 2:1,2.

Q. Should a Christian take an active part in politics in order to help improve his country?
A. No. The Lord Jesus made no attempt to help rule his country. He resisted attempts to make him a ruler, and refused any position of power over others. The Lord knew that his Kingdom was "not of this world", and that his first duty was to preach the gospel. A Christian should carefully avoid becoming mixed up with the affairs of the world. Sometimes governments may do things that Christians cannot support - for example, going to war, or promoting gambling. As far as possible, a Christian should keep himself out of public affairs, and devote his energy to preaching the gospel and doing good to those in need; this was the example given by the Lord Jesus.
See John 6:15; Luke 12:14; John 18:36; 2 Timothy 2:4.

Anything else?

Matthew 26:52. "Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."

Romans 12:2. "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

II Timothy 2:4. "No man that warreth, entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."

God is in Control
We might have assumed that the only way in which things can be put right is by political or social means, or even by believing that good morals will finally conquer the bad. But such is not Bible teaching. There is a much more far-reaching principle revealed in the pages of Scripture. Despite appearances, God is in control and is active in the affairs of men and nations.

The governments and rulers of men are appointed by God, whether these prove to be good or bad. God is working out His righteous and ultimate purpose using the materials to hand among sinful men. Nothing is beyond or out of His control. It might be objected that this is Old Testament teaching and is purely Jewish and altogether out-moded. It is certainly Old Testament teaching but it is repeated even more emphatically in the New.

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation" (Romans 13:1,2).

These words were written to believers in the city of Rome in a pagan empire. The Christian was not to seek to change the government. Protest, agitation and subversion were out of the question. To resist the government is to resist God's appointment. Let it be noted that it is not a question of whether the government is good or bad. Because God is in control, we should not resist His ordinance.

This is even more telling when we remember that it is almost certain that the apostle Paul was executed by the Roman emperor Nero. He lived and died believing that human governments are in God's hand. This is the only note of hope in our violent and perplexed world. If God is not in control, then man is: if man is in control there is no hope.

06 November, 2006

Mary and Math

Amongst the many false beliefs regarding the divinity of Mary is one that still continues to baffle. I have yet to find a solution to the problem and worst of all, millions of Christians continue to blindly follow the teachings of their Church without giving any regard to common sense.

Mary's Assumption and her Immaculate Conception cannot be found in Scripture. About the former, the Catholic Encyclopdia says "Regarding the day, year, and manner of Our Lady's death, nothing certain is known." About the latter, "No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture..." In other words, no evidence of either is found in Scripture. The discussion inevitably then turns to the authority of the Church and her traditions. Sub-Scripture written after the fact. Revelation 2:2 seems rather fitting: "I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:"

But I digress.

Wrong as they may be, at least there's wiggle room for discussion. Not so though when we come to examining the concept of Mary 'the Mediatrix', a belief that defies all God-given sense of logic and common sense and flies in the face of simple Scriptural evidence.

First off, what does the Church say.
Catechism: 969 This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation .... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix."

What does the dictionary say.
Mediatress \Me`di*a"tress\, Mediatrix \Me`di*a*"trix\, n. [L.
mediatrix, f. of mediator: cf. F. m['e]diatrice.]
A female mediator.

(Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913)

Therefore, according to the Church and millions of Christians worldwide, Mary is a mediator. At first glance, ignoring the host of problems and contradictions that go along with elevating Mary to such a status, there isn't a problem. And this is exactly why Christianity is rife with false doctrine, no one bothers taking a second glance. Absolute blind faith in the Church and an unwillingness to stomach the notion that church leaders could be wrong, the good Christian doesn't stand a chance.

However, there is a solution. The Bible. Any claim that Mary is a mediator should naturally take one to Scripture, God's written Word. Ignoring that Christ is referred to as our "high priest", ignoring that the role of high priests in the OT were to make intercession for the people, ignoring that high priests were always men, the answer is one most clear:

1 Timothy 2:5-6 “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus:"

The only way for Mary to be a mediator between God and man is to ignore one of the most basic, simplistic mathametical formulas ever known to mankind:

1 = 1

In other words:

1 mediator = 1 Jesus Christ

Unless the Church has managed, through divine instruction of course, to alter mathmatical logic, it is impossible, literally impossible, for Mary to be our mediator. No need for an exegesis, no need for hundred-page discourses, no need for long-winded exposés: One mediator does not allow for the existence of two mediators. To argue otherwise is to argue the sum of 1.