I just read some of this article, CHRISTIANIZING SECULAR CUSTOMS
A Biblical look at Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, and I would like to make some obvious notations. This author would like you to feel good about disobeying God as a practice.
Deuteronomy 12:28-32 (KJV)
28 Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the Lord thy God.
29 When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land;
30 Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.
31 Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.
32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
Not only does the article want to sear men’s consciences concerning obedience to God but they subtly demonize those of us who do obey God’s Word. We’re being pharisaical and legalists (a well used tactic of guilt-tripping the Christian who sincerely wants to know the truth). They also do some word-play, too, like using the word “secular” instead of “pagan” in their title. It reminds me of a “politically correct” ploy-to make evil less evil, so to speak. I won’t go through the whole article-I will leave off Halloween altogether-so as not to make this too long of a read for you. The problem that is most pronounced in the author’s take on Christian liberty is that he does not distinguish between God’s creation and man’s creation. For instance, he says:
- Most American Christians are ignorant of any pagan connections to these holidays, so freely participate, believing they are doing so to the glory of God. Those who do understand the pagan origins believe that the customs are non-moral and harmless in themselves, and therefore, view participation as expressions of Christian liberty that are inconsequential to God. They recognize that for some it is about evil or materialism, but for them and their families it is about edification or innocent fun.
Rom 14:5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
It is a moral matter and it does matter to God. He calls it spiritual adultery, for one thing. Nothing is inconsequential to God when it comes to His worship and glory. See this post on why Romans 14:5-6 does not fit the reasoning used here.
- They view these customs, with their pagan connections, to be exactly like eating meat offered to idols, therefore, permissible. Paul instructed early believers that just because meat had been dedicated by a pagan butcher to an idol (had pagan origins), there was no direct harm in eating the meat. Meat was just meat and could be eaten without fear of offending God or becoming spiritually corrupted. (On our freedom to eat meat offered to idols read 1 Cor 10:14-33 & Rom 14:1-15:7.)
Rom 14:14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.
1 Cor 10:25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
- The days of the week are named after pagan gods: Sunday is named after the sun god, Monday after the moon god, Thursday after Thor, Saturday after Saturn, etc.
- The names of the months are based on pagan gods and festivities: January is named after Janus – the Roman god of gates and doorways, February is named after Februa — the Roman festival of purification, etc.
By comparing apples to oranges, a false teaching is created. God created the meats (both the clean and unclean-which means that Paul is talking about Jewish law not pagan rites) and the days of the week, which are both good despite what man does with them. These pagans worship a created false messiah using God’s creation for their abominations before Him. And, yes, that is in the present tense, though it does not matter. God doesn’t tell us it is fine with Him if we resurrect old man-made pagan religious practices. Jesus did not redeem any of it on the cross.
The article goes on to state that there is justification for us to “christianize” these pagan “holy” days because, after all:
- They view these customs as opportunities to connect with society and advance the kingdom of God. For them – what was originally meant for evil God is using for good.
Gen 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Rom 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Did your jaw just drop?
How does doing as the world does advance the Kingdom of God? It doesn’t. It actually blurs the distinction that God says we are to have, to be holy (set apart) as He is holy. We must be careful not to be like the world or we shall become at enmity with our merciful God. What many Christians don’t realize is that worshiping God using pagan means is lowering Christ Jesus down to the same level as the pagan gods! Instead of being the only true God, Who is God above all gods, He becomes just one of many in the eyes of the world. Besides, disobeying God’s Word is not one of His means of evangelism…
Can we find anywhere in Scriptures where Israel’s idolatry was turned around for their own good, like in the cited Scriptures that the author unlawfully used to make his point? Please do let me know! God used their idolatry as a means of judgement! I paraphrase the biblical text: “Go into those nations as captives and let those gods you love so much deliver you!” Israel incorporated the idol worship of the nations around them to worship God with, just as many Christians do today with their trees and eggs, nativities and sunrise services.
The modern church has many customs that were borrowed from the world, but which give opportunity for believers to advance the kingdom of God, ie:
> The custom of churches meeting in church buildings, rather than homes, was adopted from the pagan religious traditions of Rome. In the 4th when Christianity was declared the only acceptable religion in the Roman Empire, pagan temples were converted into “churches.”
> The practice of sitting in chairs or pews lined up to face the front was adopted directly from pagan temples in 326 AD.
> Martin Luther wrote many hymns, such as “A Mighty Fortress” and took their melodies from beer drinking songs of his day, because the common people were familiar with them. Since then, many other secular tunes have been borrowed for hymns.
> Contemporary or rock style of music has been adapted and christianized. In the words of Larry Norman, “Why should the devil have all the good music?’
> The idea of segregating children from adults for church gatherings was an idea taken not from Jesus (Mat 19:13-14), but from 19th century American education leader, Horace Mann.
> The idea of separating out teens for “youth groups” never existed until the 1930’s, and developed from the philosophies of sociologist, G. Stanley Hall, who based his ideas on Darwinism.
> The radical idea of putting an Art Gallery or a coffee shop inside a building where a church gathers is offensive to many believers, but for those who do it, it is a valid outreach to the world.
> Selling books and tapes in the fellowship is an efficient way to provide believers materials, but might be equated by some with allowing moneychangers in the temple.
> Pictures of Jesus in children’s Sunday school materials have proven to be effective in communicating the gospel, but offend some who construe them to be graven images.
Etc, etc, etc…
Now the author goes on to state that the church has adopted many customs of the world in their churches. Meeting in a building comes from the Roman pagans. Really? Perhaps it comes from Jewish temples and synagogues. Or both. There was a church built in Dura that precedes the Church of Rome’s takeover of pagan temples. Either way, these customs, some good and some bad, do not represent the true (or false) Messiah. They are not religious in and of themselves. However, for an example of a custom which does point to the false messiah, Tammuz, the decorated tree in the house was symbolic of Nimrod’s genitalia. Now, Christians have changed it into meaning a symbol of eternal life, pointing to our Savior Jesus Christ. For Christians to use such a symbolic custom though changed in meaning, we would have to have God’s Word on it. Where is it? Acts 19:19 would be a good place for God, through His disciples, to say, “Don’t burn your books! I command them to be used for My glory! Just replace the names and meanings of those pagan religious rites and incantations with godly ones! So you will be better able tell the world about the Gospel!”
I want to point out that the author makes a ridiculous statement when he says, “The practice of sitting in chairs or pews lined up to face the front was adopted directly from pagan temples in 326 AD.” As if he could cover up his embellishment with a date. Like I said before, couldn’t this practice come from synagogues and temples, aka, schools of Jewish learning? Or even before that! How else would one sit when there is a teaching going on, be it secular or religious or even within families?
As far as the music goes, using it to excuse the “christianizing” of pagan traditions is worse than a non sequitur. If I were trying to convince people that God is pleased with our Christ Masses and Easters I would steer clear of this argument since it would tend to make some discerning Christians rethink their “holy” days’ practices. Jus’ sayin’ 😕
I hope what little I’ve pointed out in this article will help the reader to look a bit closer to the arguments that many Christians use when defending X Mass and Easter celebrations. Ask: Is this of man’s wisdom and desires or of God’s? It has to begin on the foundation of God’s Word rightly divided. In this case, the foundation of God’s Word concerning the worship of Him and Christian liberty has to be predicated on what God has already said about the manner of worship acceptable to Him and what the apostles knew of Israel’s history of judgement from God for their syncretism with idolatry. There is NO conceivable way they would ever give Christians permission to use pagan rites and traditions knowing the severe punishment on Israel for doing the same. Disobedience never brings glory to God.
One bit of agreement with the author I must point out as a warning to those of us who know why we shouldn’t celebrate Christo-pagan “holy” days:
One of the reasons people are motivated to abstain from pagan-based customs is that participation would seem to show dishonor to God. (my note on the word-play use of “seem”: no, it doesn’t “seem” to show disrespect-it actually does show it!) Parents must make choices for themselves and their children regarding demonstrations of honor for God – abstaining from certain holidays may be one of those choices. However, we must be careful if we are preoccupied with identifying and then avoiding everything in our culture that might possibly hint at what we think is dishonor for God, although not directly mentioned in Scripture… Some find it easy, once they start identifying the pagan or evil roots of cultural customs, to become consumed with trying to show God respect by avoiding every questionable custom. (me again: yes, I’ve seen this and it makes it very hard to get the truth out when some have zeal without knowledge)
For example, if one discovers that each of the days of the week is named after a pagan god, must we then stop using those names? Does God truly feel dishonored because we call Sunday “Sunday” or call Monday “Monday,” etc? Should we begin to chastise our children for using exclamations like “gee whiz”, “golly” or “oh my” even though their motives are innocent? This path is never-ending. Once we start trying to avoid everything with historical roots that probably might dishonor God, the journey becomes consuming. Ask yourself, do you really think God feels dishonored because a new believer tries to clean up his language and exclaims “Oh, my!” instead of uttering something profane?
I have seen many groups prune their ministries of holidays such as Christmas and Easter, as well as, each of the items on the foregoing list, including saying “gee wiz” and “golly.” When they started meeting in homes, got completely rid of these things, and the dust settled, they were no godlier than when they started. In fact, most of the groups were more self-righteous and judgmental. (again, me: I’m not sure that I buy what he is saying here about home church members but it is a good warning to everyone who has obeyed God’s Word concerning not worshiping Him in the same manner as the pagans do for their gods. I do hope this statement by the author is not an attempt at demonizing conscientious Christians)