Archive for the 'Christmas' Category

How to Cut Christ out of Christmas

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

https://charlespaolino.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/manger.jpg?resize=492%2C369

(Nativity scene, courtesy Charles Paolino, public domain)

 By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you wanted to pollute Christmas and distort its true meaning, how would you do it? It has been done all around the world for centuries with the Santa Claus commercial phenomenon.

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(courtesy www.marines.mil)

How did the legend of Santa Claus begin? According to history.com,

the legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick….

St. Nicholas made his first inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death.

The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas) (www.history.com 2016. S v Santa Claus).

A.  A special Christmas attraction

Here is how a local business in northern Brisbane, Qld., Australia, took the Christ out of Christmas – for commercial reasons. This is one way that this shopping centre advertised the season and how to support its enterprise.[1] The event had been promoted by this shopping centre, MarketPlace, at Warner Qld, for a couple of months. It was advertising that on December 15, 2015, the ‘Car-istmas Giveaway closes on Friday at 5pm! Zoom zoom in for your remaining chances to enter’. It was giving away ‘a Mazda 3 Maxx’, supplied by a local Mazda dealer. It promoted, ‘Or 1 of 20, $100 MarketPlace Gift Cards. Simply spend $15 or more in any’ store there or $50 in Aldi or Woolworths. It advertised some ‘Car-istmas give away conditions of entry’.[2]

B. What had this business done with Christmas?

I was concerned with how the ‘Christ’ in Christmas had been replaced by ‘Car-ist’, so I wrote this email to the management of MarketPlace Warner on 17 November 2015, with the subject heading, ‘Your sacrilegious attack on Christ’:

Centre Management
MarketPlace Warner

Dear management members,

Since I live in North Lakes, I read your full-page advertisement in the North Lakes Times, November 12, 2015, p. 12. As a marketing ploy, the advertisement had the heading, ‘CAR-ISTMAS Giveaway’. I have now seen your link online at: http://www.marketplacewarner.com.au/car-ristmas-giveaway-second-draw/

I write to object strongly to the way you have desecrated the name of Christ for commercial purposes. You may have thought ‘CAR-ISTMAS’ was an attention-seeking headline, but I as a Christian am offended by what you have done to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is a special season of the year for the Christian community for the celebration of Christ’s birth, not for a marketing grab to eliminate Christ from the season, which is what your MarketPlace advertisement has done.

I urge you to quit this sacrilege immediately. If you tried that approach with Muhammad at the time of Ramadan, could you imagine the response?

I added this P.S.: Sacrilege is ‘an act of treating a holy thing or place without respect’ (Oxford dictionaries 2015. S v sacrilege). I also included my home phone number.

C. Response: ‘We are all Christians here’

The next morning (18 November 2015), I received a courteous phone call from a woman in the office of MarketPlace Warner, saying, ‘We are all Christians here’. Interesting that she included, ‘all’. I took this to mean ‘all in management’. I urged her to get the management to remove the emphasis of this advertising immediately. She did not respond to my gentle request. However, the advertising in the North Lakes Times continued the following week with ‘Car-istmas’ on 19 November 2015 (p. 8):

On 18 November after the phone call, I sent this email to MarketPlace Warner:

Dear management staff,

Thank you for the phone call I received this morning about my email from yesterday regarding the sacrilege of your use of CAR-ISTMAS Giveaway in promotion of MarketPlace.

However, my disappointment with the phone call is that no attempt was made to admit that you got it wrong and that CAR-ISTMAS takes the CHRIST out of CHRISTMAS and you will eliminate such a sacrilegious statement from your present advertising.

I commend MarketPlace for its nativity scene at a time when such are disappearing from shopping centres.

This is how MarketPlace Warner advertised on its homepage at Christmas 2015:[3]

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Notice the emphasis. The ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting (online) is with Santa and not with the nativity scene. So much for ‘we are all Christians here’! If they were, Christ should have received a more prominent place.

The woman who phoned told me that MarketPlace Warner has a large nativity scene at the centre, which she said was more than I would find at most other centres. As a result of this conversation, I checked on what was displayed at my local Westfield Shopping Centre, North Lakes, and found a very small nativity scene (near the NAB Bank entrance to the mall), but there was no wording to say what it represented. Instead, Santa was large as life near the food court and he had children lined up with parents for the children to be photographed with Santa.

D. Newspaper letter’s censorship

I adapted the letter sent to MarketPlace Warner in a letter-to-the-editor, North Lakes Times. My letter, sent on 17 November 2015, with the heading, ‘Sacrilege at Christmas’, read:

I read the full-page advertisement for MarketPlace Warner, with the heading, ‘CAR-ISTMAS Giveaway’ (North Lakes Times, Nov 12, page 12).
I object strongly to the way MarketPlace has desecrated the name of Christ for commercial purposes. It may have thought ‘CAR-ISTMAS’ was an attention-seeking headline.
I as a Christian am offended by what this business has done to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is a special season of the year for the Christian community for the celebration of Christ’s birth, not for a marketing grab to eliminate Christ from the season.
I urge MarketPlace Warner to quit this sacrilege immediately. If it tried that approach with Muhammad at the time of Ramadan, could you imagine the response?

How do you think the North Lakes Times published this letter? Here is a Print Screen copy that appeared in the North Lakes Times, 26 Nov 2015, ‘Conversations’, p. 8, with the changed heading, ‘Reason for the season’:

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1. The nature of the editing

Notice what the North Lakes Times did with my letter. It censored the last paragraph which read, ‘I urge MarketPlace Warner to quit this sacrilege immediately. If it tried that approach with Muhammad at the time of Ramadan, could you imagine the response?’

2. Is this an important issue?

Is this a trifling issue? Have I made a mountain out of a mole hill? I don’t think so, for this primary reason. Jesus told Christians:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt 5:13-16 NIV).

a. Salt and light are indispensable

SaltIn the world of the first century and extending to the twenty-first century, salt has the qualities of a sharp taste and preservative power. It is this latter quality, ‘the potency of salt as an antiseptic, a substance that prevents and retards decay, upon which the emphasis falls here, though the subsidiary function of imparting flavor must obviously not be excluded (see Lev. 2:13; Job 6:6; Col 4:6)’. The negative function of salt is seen in how it combats deterioration. Christians should be in seen in action against moral and spiritual decay (Hendriksen 1973:282). Why would a woman in the office at a reasonable sized shopping centre own up to, ‘We are all Christians here’, if it were not for my challenge to that centre? As of 2 January 2016, there had not been one letter of opposition published by the newspaper to the content of my letter.

The qualities of light should be self evident in exposing the darkness. In Scripture, we see light associated with true knowledge of God (Ps 36:9, Sun Rays 4cf Matt 6:22-23), goodness, righteousness and truthfulness (Eph 5:8-9); joy, gladness, true happiness (Ps 97:11; Isa 9:1-7). From Eph 5:8 we know that Christians are ‘a light in the Lord’. Believers are reflections of Christ who is the true light (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46). Jesus’ words were, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12 ESV).[4]

I consider I was being salt and light in action in exposing the censorship of Christ at Christmas, all in the name of commercialism. This is engaging in the ministry of cultural apologetics. The Colson Center for Christian Worldview has stated that cultural apologetics involves the ‘working to transform the rhythms and practices of our culture – including the culture of our Christian communities – to reflect the beauty and desirability of Christ’ (‘Cultural Apologetics’).

E. Conclusion

What lengths will a significant sized business go to promote the commercialism of Christmas and take Christ out of Christmas?

MarketPlace Warner decided to attract customers to its shopping centre for Christmas 2015 by engaging with a local Mazda car dealership to put customers in the draw to win a motor vehicle if customers would make a certain amount of purchases. Of course, there was advertising chosen to promote this commercial venture that was designed to attract people to that shopping centre.

In doing this, MarketPlace Warner deliberately downgraded the Christ of Christmas to replace him with the Car of Christmas. This is sacrilegious marketing, in my view. In spite of the claim by an administrative staff member that ‘we are all Christians here’, I wouldn’t know that from the nature of the Christmas advertising in the full-page advertisements in the North Lakes Times (Nov 12, 2015, pp 12-14 and Nov 19, 2015, pp 8-9). There were half-page advertisements that I noticed on 10 Dec, 2015, p. 8 and 17 Dec, 2015, p. 2.

When I submitted a letter to the editor of the North Lakes Times, it was published, but the newspaper censored the portion when I compared it with what would happen if it did a similar thing to Muhammad at Ramadan.

The end result is that this message was nowhere to be found in the promotion of Christmas by MarketPlace Warner on its website or in the commercial (full page advertisements) in the North Lakes Times. This kind of proclamation was excluded, ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!’ (Luke 2:10-11 NLT).

You may say, of course it would be eliminated because that is not a viable message to sell goods at Christmastime. That’s my very point. Christmas is not a time for commercialism but for declaring Messiah’s coming into the world, becoming flesh, and this led to the provision of salvation to come through his sacrificial death on the cross (Matt 26:28), available to those who put their faith in Jesus.

Works consulted

Hendriksen, W 1973. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Notes


[1] Facebook. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/marketplacewarner/posts/534421553374133?fref=nf (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[2] MarketPlace Warner 2015. Available at: http://www.marketplacewarner.com.au/file/2015/11/MPW-CARISTMAS-GIVEAWAY-2015-TERMS-CONDITIONS.pdf (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[3] Available at: http://www.marketplacewarner.com.au/merry-christmas-from-the-team-at-marketplace-warner/ (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[4] These Scriptures and emphases were supplied by Hendriksen (1973:284).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 January 2016.

At Christmas do we celebrate the birth of God?

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Sydney StAndrewCathedral.JPG

(St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. Courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

I’m an orthodox evangelical believer. I watched the Christmas Eve service 2011 which the Dean of the Cathedral, Phillip Jensen, led from St. Andrews Cathedral, Sydney, telecast on ABC1 TV in Australia. It was a magnificent Christ-centred service led by Phillip. I know that his church is a member of the evangelical Anglican diocese of Sydney and he has been  an orthodox stalwart in the midst of an Anglican church in Australia that has become theologically liberal in many states.

What is happening to the liberal Anglicans in Australia? See: “Anglican Synod 2004: Are liberal Anglicanism’s days numbered?“; “Church needs new vision, says Jensen[1]”; and “The Anglican Debacle: Roots and Patterns“.

The Sydney Anglicans news’ release about this event stated:

For the first time in many years, ABC Television is screening an evangelical service on Christmas Eve [2011]. St Andrew’s Cathedral has been chosen to host the annual carols telecast on ABC television at 6pm on the night before Christmas.

The National broadcast on ABC 1 will feature Dean Phillip Jensen and the Cathedral choir, along with guest musicians and orchestra. The Dean said “This broadcast provides a great opportunity to express the message of the birth of our Lord in a genuinely modern and Australian fashion”.[2]

However, one phrase caught my attention, and he said it several times in the telecast, as he spoke about Christmas celebrating “the birth of God”. Could this kind of language give the wrong impression? He has a brief article online that is titled, “Celebrate the Birth of God” (published 2 December 2005). In it he talks about Christmas as a time to “celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus, who is God in the flesh” and “give thanks to God for the great privilege of celebrating the birth of our Mighty God in this way”.

He seems to be trying to communicate that Jesus is both God and man, but does the language, “the birth of God” have potential problems? These are my questions:

  1. Is it misleading to speak of the birth of God when God the Son has always existed and has had no birth?
  2. Could it be better to say that the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, became flesh (a man) and we celebrate His birth at Christmas time?
  3. Many do not understand how a virgin could conceive and give birth to the Son of God as flesh, without the insemination of a male. Does the language of “the birth of God” convey orthodox theology, or is it meant to get the attention of secular people who celebrate Christmas for materialistic and holiday reasons?

The prophecy of Christ’s birth in Isaiah 9:6  states,  For to us a child is BORN, to us a son is GIVEN” (ESV). For this one event of the incarnation, there are two distinct matters.

(1) A CHILD is born – this is the human Jesus, and

(2) A SON is given. The Son was not born; Jesus the Son was GIVEN. He was from eternity.

I am not sure that he made this distinction as he should have. I consider that he should have made it clear about the humanity of Jesus (a child is born) and the deity of Jesus (the eternal Son is given). God was not born on the first Christmas Day. God the Son has always existed as God and he became a human being on that first Christmas Day but there was no “birth of God” as such.

Paul the apostle is very clear about this in Romans 1:3-4:

concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh  and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (ESV),

The eternal generation of the son is orthodox doctrine. Or, is he moving away from the teaching on the eternal generation of the Son. See, “The Eternal Generation of the Son: A Biblical Perspective”. The Nicene Creed states in part:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

The Scriptures state that the child was born at the first Christmas, but the Son was given. The eternal Son of God was not born at the first Christmas. He was from eternity the Son.

What about Galatians 4:4?

A person on Christian Forums objected to my view, stating that I “ignore Gal. 4:4”.[3]

Gal. 4:4 reads: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law (ESV).

There is nothing here to state or insinuate that the incarnation was “the birth of God”. What does Gal. 4:4 mean? The late Herman Ridderbos, professor of NT at Kampen Theological Seminary, Kampen, The Netherlands, wrote:

The word translated sent forth [exapostellw] comprises two thoughts: the going forth of the Son from a place at which He was before; and His being invested with divine authority. By this the profound and glorious significance of Christ’s coming in the world is indicated. He was the Son of the Father, who stood by His Father’s side already before the sending (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 8:9, Phil. 2:6, and Col. 1:15). The Sonship designates not merely an official but also an ontological relationship (cf. Phil. 2:6). The words, born of a woman, do not refer to the beginning of his existence as Son, but as the child of a woman. The expression serves to suggest the weak, the human, the condescending. The woman was not only the medium of His coming into the flesh, but from her He took all that belongs to the human [hence ek , not dia]. She was in the full sense His mother. That Paul in these words is also reflecting on the virgin birth is, as we see it, highly doubtful. For, as is evident from the absence of the article in the Greek, Paul is not putting the emphasis on His being born of Mary. Besides, the expression elsewhere is used to designate the human and nothing besides (cf. Job 14:1 and Matt. 11:11)”.[4]

Ridderbos is affirming what I have stated that the child was born of a woman but was the Son of the Father God before Jesus was sent into the world, becoming a human baby.

J. B. Lightfoot agrees, stating that “sent forth … assumes the pre-existence of the Son” and “born of woman” means “taking upon Himself our human nature (cf. Job 14:1, Matt 11:11). These passages show that the expression must not be taken as referring to the miraculous incarnation”.[5]

R. C. H. Lenski explained:

“His Son—out of a woman” pointedly omit mention of a human father. Why? Because this is God’s Son who is co-eternal with the Father. He became man by way of “a woman” alone. Incomprehensible? Absolutely so! A miracle in the highest degree? Beyond question![6]

It is not Lenski’s view that this refers to the pre-existence of Jesus, but he does state that when Gal. 4:4 stated that God “commissioned forth his Son”, the vivid verb is associated with the preposition, ek[7], and not the usual preposition, apo. “This means that the Son went out on his commission not only ‘from’ God but ‘out from’ God. John says that he was ‘with’ (pros) God (John 1:1) and was God and that he became flesh (v. 14)”.[8] Lenski does believe in the eternal pre-existence of the Son, but he does not believe it is taught in Gal. 4:4. However, he does believe that this Scripture refers to the virgin birth:

“The Son of God” is the second person of the Godhead; he “became out of a woman” in executing his mission. This is the Incarnation, the miraculous conception, the virgin birth. God’s Son became man, the God-man.

The phrase that begins with ek denotes more than the separation from the womb, it includes the entire human nature of the Son as this was derived from his human mother. The word genomenon is exactly the proper word to express this thought, even the tense is very accurate. The Son’s going out from God on his mission is seen in his becoming man. He did not cease to be the Son of God when he became man. He did not drop his deity, which is an impossible thought. He remained what he was and added what he had not had, namely a human nature, derived out of a woman, a human mother. He became the God-man.[9]

I have been warned not to be another Nestorius

Since I see that Christmas celebrates the birth of the humanity of Jesus, the God-man, some have written to me warning that my view could sound like the false teaching of Nestorius. Most Christians would not know of Nestorius and his teaching.

The Nestorian controversy came to a head at the Council of Ephesus in 431. This Nestorian website gives a summary of the Christological controversies surrounding the teaching of Nestorius:

1. Nestorius became bishop of Constantinople in 428. He came from the Antioch school and was taught theology there by Theodore of Mopsuestia. He opposed a relatively new theological and devotional slogan Theotokos – affirming that Mary was the “God-bearer” or “Mother of God.” Nestorius was concerned with the thought that God might be seen to have had a new beginning of some kind, or that he suffered or died. None of these things could happen to the infinite God. Therefore, instead of a God-man, he taught that there was the Logos and the “man who was assumed.” He favored the term “Christ-bearer” (Christotokos) as a summary of Mary’s role, or perhaps that she should be called both “God-bearer” and “Man-bearer” to emphasize Christ’s dual natures. He was accused of teaching a double personality of Christ. Two natures, and two persons. He denied the charge, but the term Nestorianism has always been linked with such a teaching.

2. He was an adherent of the Antiochene “school” and he wished to emphasize a distinction between Christ as man and Christ as God.

a. He did not deny that Christ was God.

b. He said, however, that people should not call Mary thetokos, the “mother of God,” because she was only the mother of the human aspect of Christ.

c. Great opposition developed against Nestorius’ teaching and his opponents charged that he taught “two sons” and that he “divided the invisible.”

d. Nestorius denied the charge, but the term Nestorianism has always been linked with such a teaching.

e. The leader of the opposition to Nestorius was Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, a man who was one of the most ruthless and uncontrolled of the major early bishops.

The possible danger in my discussing the birth of the humanity of Jesus at Christmas, which is true, and rejecting anything to do with the birth of God (as the eternal God cannot be born), is that when I speak of the God-man Jesus, that I try to attribute some of Jesus’ actions to his humanity and some to his divinity. That is not what I’m saying or teaching, but I want to make it clear that God cannot be born, either as ‘Mary the mother of God’, or the celebration of ‘the birth of God’ (Phil Jensen) at Christmas.

Conclusion

The language that “God was born” at Christmas does not provide biblical warrant. God, the Son, the second person of the Trinity, has existed eternally. At that first Christmas, the Son obtained his humanity through being born to a virgin. This inaugurated the God-man nature of Jesus, but the Son never ceased being God from eternity. That the first Christmas celebrates the “birth of God” in Jesus, is false theologically. It was the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) at which God the Son became the God-man.

I would like to understand why Phillip Jensen is defining the incarnation as meaning the “birth of God” in his Christmas Eve service, 24 December 2011, at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, and telecast on Australian ABC1 television. I have emailed him to get his views, with much of the information above. To date, I have not received a reply.

Appendix A

I had a further discussion on this topic with a person on Christian Fellowship Forum.[10] My engagement went like this:

Jesus did not always exist. The divine person who became Jesus always existed. Do we disagree?[11]

Jesus, the Son, who is also called “the Word”, always existed and continues to exist as God. We know this from…

John 1:1-2 states:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. (ESV).

But this same Word (Jesus) entered our humanity, although he is God and existed in the beginning with God, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV).

But it was the humanity of the eternal Son of the Father that began in Mary’s womb. The divine person of the Son always was, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Maybe we do agree after all. Were you just in a disagreeable mood when you wrote?[12]

I’m never in a disagreeable mood when I come on this forum, but I agree with the statement that you made in this quote, except the disagreeable stuff. Please remember that I wrote to you to state that Mary as the mother of God[13], was not a biblical doctrine.

Who was born? A person. Who was that person? The eternal Son of the Father. God. God was born.[14]

False! God cannot be born. That’s an oxymoron. God is from eternity and is always eternally God so there can be no “birth of God” or “God was born”.

What does that mean? That God had a physical biological body for the first time at His conception. That at His birth, God the eternal Son of the Father breathed air, got hungry, felt His own mother’s warmth, slept, and grew physically. Who was born? The eternal Son of the Father? Was He true God?[15]

At the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity, the Son, became the God-man. It was the virgin conception of the humanity of Jesus. It was NOT the birth of God.

<<Your statement implies that Mary was only the mother of the biological body of Jesus. >>

And that was what she was. She was NOT the mother of God – NOT the mother of divinity. Then you state:

She was the mother who enabled Jesus to become the God-man and NOT the mother of God.[16]

I agree with this statement, but Mary is the mother of the humanity of Jesus. I’m indeed pleased that you admit that the RCC doctrine of Mary being the mother of God is false as you state that Mary was “NOT the mother of God”.

The only orthodox teaching is that Jesus was, from the moment of conception, fully man and fully God. Now maybe you don’t believe that. But if you do, then the person born on the first Christmas day was God the Son, and Mary was the mother of God the Son. Who else would she be the mother of? A plain human person? Or a mere human nature devoid of personhood?[17]

I agree with and practise the orthodoxy you stated that Jesus was from the moment of conception, fully God and became fully man. He is the God-man. But that does not make Mary the mother of God. She was the mother of Jesus, the human being. I have never ever suggested that Jesus, the human being was devoid of personhood. That’s your invention against me.

You might not give a hoot about all that old stuff.[18]

That is rubbish! I spend a lot of time in studying historical theology. That’s why I’m having this discussion with you. If I didn’t give a hoot about the theology of the past, I would not have started this thread.

Here’s an instance where Calvin has it all over you. In agreement with Zwingli and Luther, he held that Mary was the mother of God. It’s in the Heidelberg Confession as well as the Augsburg Confession.[19]

Richard supporting the Reformers. The day of miracles is not over! You know that there are issues with Calvin that I have opposed on this Forum, but since some Reformers believed that Mary was the “mother of God”, I have to disagree on biblical grounds. She was the mother of the full personhood, the humanity of Jesus.

You need to think clearly and regain your heritage. I’m not trying to start a feud here, but I do think you have a knee-jerk opposition to the idea of Mary being the mother of God. It could be overcome with some calm consideration.[20]

This is your over-reaction. It is no knee-jerk reaction by me, but a considered post about the content of the God-man Christology.

We celebrate the birth of God, the incarnation, when God from before all ages became man and dwelt among us, Emanuel. We remember that God became a human being in time, with a real human mother, and that from His conception in Mary’s womb he was a unified being with both a human and a divine nature. No, we are not talking about the genesis of God, who has no beginning and has no end. Some people will never understand that, and I can’t help them.[21]

I agree with this statement.

Notes:


[1] This Jensen is Peter Jensen, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, and brother to Phillip Jensen.

[2] Russell Powell, 11 December 2011, “Cathedral Christmas screening on ABCTV, available at: http://sydneyanglicans.net/news/stories/cathedral-christmas-screening-on-abctv (Accessed 26 December 2011).

[3] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘The birth of God’ (a thread I started at OzSpen), ebia #10, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7618703/ (Accessed 26 December 2011).

[4] Herman N. Ridderbos 1953. The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., pp. 155-156.

[5] J. B. Lightfoot 1865 (Zondervan printing 1976). The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 168.

[6] R. C. H. Lenski 1937, 1961. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, and to the Philippians. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, p. 200.

[7] I have translated the Greek characters that Lenski used throughout these passages I have quoted from him.

[8] Lenski, p. 198.

[9] Ibid., p. 199.

[10] He was Richard, Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, “The Birth of God”, #7. My response, ozspen, is #12. available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=2&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=120946 (Accessed 27 December 2011).

[11] Richard.

[12] Ibid.

[13] I had written to Richard in #5 and stated:

Jesus was God from eternity. His humanity began when he was conceived in Mary’s womb. The God-man began at that conception, but Christmas being the birth of God contradicts the Nicene Creed.
As for Mary being the mother of God, I consider that is as erroneous as saying that Christmas celebrates the birth of God. Mary was the human mother of Jesus’ humanity. She was not the mother of divinity. She was the mother who enabled Jesus to become the God-man and NOT the mother of God.

[14] Richard #7.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

 

Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.

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Christmas, Torture and Church Growth

Friday, January 1st, 2010

The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883) [courtesy Wikipedia]

By Spencer D Gear

To serve Jesus Christ openly in your community today in the Western world may come with flack, resistance and even discrimination in the workplace. But it is not a patch on what is happening worldwide to the Christians who are being tortured, even murdered, for their faith.

Why is it that followers of Messiah, the “Prince of Peace,” attract so much resistance? Jesus gave a clue when he addressed his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

Christian peace is based on a relationship with the King of Kings and is not related to external circumstances. Then add the fact that to be a Christian means submission to the Master’s will. This is not a popular notion. Nor is it politically correct.

As we move into a new year, it is right that we reflect on what is happening to persecuted Christians worldwide.

Ma Yuqin is a Chinese woman who was interrogated by the Chinese police but she would not be tortured to confess. “She never broke when she was tortured with beatings and electrical shocks. Even when she was close to death, she refused to disclose the names of members of her congregation or sign a statement renouncing her Christian faith,” wrote Nicholas Kristof in his column in The New York Times.[1]

The physical torture almost killed her but it was the mental anguish that was worse. She could hear the sounds of her son being tortured in the room next door. Both could hear each other’s screams. There were incentives for them to betray their friends and their faith. “It broke my heart to hear my son’s cries,” said Ma, but it did not break her faith in Christ.

Chinese citizens are burned with cigarettes, beaten with clubs, and some lose their lives. Why? They are Christian worshippers of God.

Instead of turning people away from Christianity, the result has been the growth of the church. Tens of millions of Chinese have embraced Christ and the church. It is just as predicted by church leader of the second century, Tertullian, “Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you; it is rather a temptation to us. The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.[2]

The Christian organisation, Open Doors, that ministers to the persecuted, assesses the level of persecution of Christians around the world. Top of the list is North Korea. Keston Institute, a British-based human rights group, says that people found with a Bible in North Korea are “detained, tortured, sent to a re-education camp, or summarily executed.”[3] Number two on the list is Saudi Arabia where arrests, torture, and prison are common. To convert from Islam to another religion in Saudi can bring the death penalty.

Numbers three and four on the list of persecutors are the Marxist countries of Laos and Vietnam. The Keston Institute was watching Russia, Belarus and Uzbekistan with concern.

People today are cynical about zealots who die for their faith. However, these persecuted Christians are not dying to kill the unbelievers, as with suicide bombers, but die in service of “the Prince of Peace,” Jesus Christ. These martyrs die not to slaughter others, but so that others might be saved.

The sufferings of the church in China and the Sudan rival that of those who died under Nero in Rome, in Hitler’s Germany, and in Russia under Stalin. Missions’ strategist, David Barrett, estimates that there have been as many Christian martyrs in the 20th century as in all of the previous 19 centuries combined. This article was more sceptical. It stated:

World Christian Encyclopedia, produced by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary outside Boston. It declares there have been some 70 million Christian martyrs in history, and more than 45 million in the 20th century. In evangelical circles one often hears the claim that there were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined.[4]

How should we respond? As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who died to save us, we should pray for Ma Yuqin in China and the many others worldwide who are suffering for their faith. The Scriptures exhort us: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).

Notes:


[1] “God and China,” 26 November 2002, available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/26/opinion/god-and-china.html?pagewanted=1 [Accessed 1 January 2010].

[2] Tertullian, Apologeticus (or Apologeticum) Adversus Gentes Pro Christianis, Chapter 50, available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.iii.l.html [Accessed 1 January 2010].

[3]Charles Colson, Breakpoint, 8 November 2002, “Remembering the Mistreated: Prayer for Persecuted Beliebvers,” available at: http://www.thechristiannews.com/breakpoint/bp11-8-02.html [Accessed 1 January 2010].

[4] Jason Myassee, Christian Century 29 July 2008, “How martyrs are made: Stories of the faithful,” available at: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_15_125/ai_n27982019/ [Accessed 1 January 2010].

 

Copyright © 2010 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.

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Whytehouse designs

The solar eclipse & the baby in the manger[1]

Friday, January 1st, 2010


solar eclipse (Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

On Wednesday, 4th December 2002, a total eclipse of the sun was visible from within a narrow corridor across the Southern Hemisphere. The path of the moon’s shadow began in the South Atlantic ocean and crossed southern Africa. After moving across the southern Indian Ocean, the path sweeps through southern Australia where the eclipse ended at sunset.[2]

A shadow passed over the South Australian town of Ceduna[3] and other parts of inland Australia. For just 31 seconds, the sun’s raw glare disappeared for 31 seconds. The cause was the moon as it passed between the sun and earth. It was a total solar eclipse.[4]

The next solar eclipse to be viewed over Australia will be on November 13, 2012, viewed from Darwin and Cairns.[5]

The first Christmas day just over 2002 years ago and the total eclipse have a remarkable connection. You read correctly!

The Lord Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God, created all things “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (The Bible’s Book of Colossians 1:16-17).

Jesus Christ’s involvement with the remarkable events of a total eclipse came about because that first Christmas day was not the first day that Jesus existed. The Person in the manger has always existed. All things today “hold together” in the universe because of Christ’s sustaining power.

Christ is not a part of creation. He is not a created being. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things in the universe.

The Bible’s Book of Hebrews 1:2 speaks of Jesus, the Son, “through whom he made the universe.”

Think of what this means. The baby in the manger is the one who created this immense universe with the ability for a solar eclipse.

Think with me on the enormity of the universe. It causes me to bow before the living Lord, the truly a majestic, all-powerful God.

It has been explained this way: A hollow ball the size of our sun would, for example, hold 1,200,000 planets the size of the earth–with room for 4,300,000 more

globes the size of our moon! The nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is five times larger than the sun. One of the stars visible in the constellation Orion is Betelguese. It is 248 times larger than the sun. Arcturus is ten times larger than that!

No wonder Job expressed his awe of God this way: ‘How should man be just with God? If he will contend with him . . . which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades’ (Job 9:1-2, 9, King James Version).

A ray of light travels at approximately 300,000 km per second, so a beam of light from earth will reach the moon in a second and a half. Mercury could be reached in 4.5 minutes. It would take about 35 minutes to reach Jupiter, about an hour to get to Saturn, but it would take 4 years and 4 months to get to the nearest star.

For light to travel only to the edge of the galaxy, the Milky Way, would take about 100,000 years. Count the stars as you travel and you would find about a hundred billion in the Milky Way alone. If you wanted to explore other galaxies, you would have literally billions to choose from. The size of the universe is incomprehensible.[6]

Who made all of this? Scientists want us to believe it came about by a naturalistic Big Bang explosion that eventually formed a primordial swamp, etc.

This doesn’t explain it satisfactorily to me. God created it. Every last corner of it. Who? The One who became the baby in Bethlehem. He made everything.

More than that. The Bible’s Book of Hebrews 1: 3 confirms that He is “sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

Without the real God-man, Jesus, this whole world would fall apart. The solar eclipse would not be possible. He is actively involved in sustaining this world. Your next breath cannot be guaranteed without the sustaining power of Jesus.

Yet, how do we treat Him? With a tip of the hat at Christmas time, maybe! But really, Santa, reindeer, snow, tinsel and materialistic things take pride of place. The Saviour, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Jesus himself, is an embarrassment to a world that needs a reason for a public holiday.

This solar eclipse should be enough to bring us to our senses at this Christmas season. The baby in the manger is God in human flesh.

What child is this? This has been poignantly expressed by the poet:

Some say He was just a good teacher,

but good teachers don’t claim to be God.

Some say He was merely a good example,

but good examples don’t mingle with prostitutes and sinners.

Some say He was a madman,

but madmen don’t speak the way He spoke.

Some say He was a crazed fanatic,

but crazed fanatics don’t draw children to themselves or attract men of intellect like Paul or Luke to be their followers.

Some say He was a religious phoney,

but phonies don’t rise from the dead.

Some say He was a phantom,

but phantoms can’t give their flesh and blood to be crucified.

Some say He was only a myth,

but myths don’t set the calendar for history.”[7]

This Jesus of eternity, Bethlehem and the cross of Golgotha has been called: the ideal man, an example of religion, the foremost pattern of virtue, the greatest of all men, the finest teacher who ever lived.

These descriptions give some idea of his character, but they don’t approach the full truth. I think the apostle Thomas stated it beautifully when he saw Jesus after the resurrection and exclaimed the truth: “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28).

Notes


[1] This was a Christmas devotional that I, Spencer Gear, presented to the Bundaberg Ministers’ Association (Bundaberg, Qld., Australia) for its December 2002 meeting.

[2] NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, “Eclipse Home Page: Total Solar Eclipse of 2002 December 04”, available at:: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEmono/TSE2002/TSE2002.html [Accessed 1 January 2010].

[3] See the “Ceduna Total Eclipse Report” [Accessed 1 January 2010].

[4] “Total solar eclipse 2002: Eclipse science,” http://www.csiro.au/helix/eclipse/solar/index.html [Accessed 4 December 2002]. However, on 1 January 2010 this URL was not available.

[5] Ibid., also http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/SEpath/SEpath2001/SE2012Nov13T.html. [Accessed 4 December 2002]. However, on 1 January 2010 this URL was not available.

[6]John F. MacArthur Jr. 1989, God with Us: The Miracle of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Books, p. 93.

[7]Ibid.,, p. 83.

 

Copyright © 2010 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.