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Monthly Archives: December 2016

(Repost For Christmas. Originally here)

In our place we don’t do Santa.

We have informed the children that Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’s birthday and that Santa is a way people have of remembering the very nice man St Nicholas of Patara who would give presents to poor children for Jesus’s birthday because they had no one to give them presents.

Just The Facts

Objectively this is a factually historically sound precis of the identities of the major personages associated with Christmas and far closer to the truth than the western secular culturally approved Christmas story which is that Christmas is a day when the entirely mythical Santa Claus pilots a team of magic reindeer around the planet and distributes presents to children on the basis of good behaviour, completing his global mission in one night assisted by a team of magical elves.

So on a factual basis my family explanation of ‘Why Christmas?’ beats the objectivity index of the major alternative explanation by about 100-NIL.

Even if you think that Jesus Himself is a myth it is nevertheless true that Christmas Day came into being a celebration of Jesus’s birthday. Yes, yes I know, the actual day was appropriated from a pagan midwinter festival but it wasn’t called Christmas then.

Name That Stereotype

Now if you’re a hard core atheist you despise myths of all kinds so you wouldn’t be wanting to be feeding the children’s minds up with Santa nonsense. You’ll be telling them that Christmas (without the deliberate mis-spelling with ‘X’) is a celebration of the birthday of a mythical person called Jesus ’cause that’s factual, but that in your family Christmas is just about whatever you want to do at Christmas.

And if you’re an agnostic you’ll have no objection to Jesus as a putative historical personage or even as God, so you would have at least no objection to be going with the basic facts about ‘Why Christmas?‘, but you might decide to go with the Santa story because its fun for kids to play make-believe.

I guess the ‘Christmas is about Santa’ story would also be adopted to easy-going or less dogmatic atheists like Julia Gillard, Prime Minister Of Australia, who don’t believe in God but who don’t share the relentless atheist insistence on eliminating Jesus from public consciousness associated with, say, Richard Dawkins, and just like to see the kids get entranced in ‘the magic of Christmas’.

And from personal observation it would also apply to the general Australian public for whom neither Jesus nor atheism nor agnosticism registers at any meaningful resonance.

As far those who believe Jesus is God, such as myself, we obviously want to emphasize that Christmas is about Jesus’s birthday. Some Christian families also integrate Santa into their Christmas Family narrative but in my opinion this makes Christmas worse, not better.

Why Santa makes Christmas Worse

When our kids get a Christmas present they know that Mummy and Daddy have bought it for them, not Santa. So this is tangible evidence that M&D love giving them great stuff, and the greatest stuff that kids get, materially speaking, comes on Christmas Day. Pooh-pooh it if you like but gift-giving is a practical demonstration of love. Why should my kids think that Santa loves them more than M&D ? I think that its a positive for the children that they know that M&D bought them the big shiny bike or the Hot Wheels Trick Tracks Mega-Dino Challenge or the Dora The Explorer magnetic toothbrush with built in compass.

Secondly, the kids express their joy for the gift directly back to M&D and it goes like this WOW! THANKS DAD! THAT IS AWESOOOOMMME! Sorry Santa, you don’t deserve that gratitude since you don’t even exist anyway and I’m sure as eggs not letting you have it. So the M&D’s get to express the full volume of their children’s delight at the Christmas gifts, instead of vicariously filtered via Santa.

Third, we as M&D give Christmas presents to our children because we love them, not on the basis of whether or not they have been good. Our children get validated for who they are, not on the basis of their transitory behaviour. Our children know they do not have to earn the love of M&D unlike that fickle impostor Santa whose favour can at any time evaporate like summer mist.

Fourth, the children get facts not fiction. No matter how you slice it, Santa is made up. A truthful explanation of Why Do We Give Presents At Christmas must include some reference to Jesus, even if He is relegated to myth. Face it, Santa entered the Christmas narrative at some point many centuries after Jesus and doubly so the magic reindeer and elves.

Much as many hate it Jesus IS the ORIGINAL reason for the season and the reason why Christmas exists. Here’s a theoretical question your child may ask:

Child: ‘Mummy, Why DO people go around saying ‘Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill to all men’ ?
Incorrect Answer A: Because Christmas is a time when we get together as a family.
Correct Answer B: Its because that’s what the Angels said to the shepherds on Jesus’s birthday.

Quite simply, an integrated understanding of Christmas requires reference to Jesus.

Fifth, for those who are Jesus-friendly, awarding Christmas to Santa robs Jesus of richly deserved recognition. Americans have a thing called Martin Luther King Day. Contrary to current popular preferential meaning, this does not commemorate the day when Santa led a Freedom march on Washington DC to eloquently demand equal rights for African-Americans assisted by a team of magical elves. I think you get what I mean. Even if you think Jesus is just a man or even just a myth, why not let the kids admire and learn from His example ?

Santa Is Not All Bad

Ejecting Santa from Christmas is not without cost. My kids do miss out on the awestruck wonder of waiting for Santa to visit and some really great make-believe. And yes, my kids are almost the only ones at school who don’t think Santa is real, which can make them seem like Alien Life-Forms to the others who have been fed the 100% guaranteed Santa myth. Ironic that, but it doesn’t seem to lead to teasing.

But even without Jesus, Christmas is better without Santa (see reasons one, two and three above). Of course WITH Jesus there is another kind of awestuck wonder which happens to be based in historical truth, but even if you really wish to persist with Jesus is A Myth, at least you can tell tell the myth that is related to the actual origins of Christmas rather than the one that originated with Coca-Cola Inc.

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Hindus say: The Truth is One, but the sages speak of it in many different ways.

Buddha said: Follow my eight-fold path and you will discover The Truth.

Mohammed said: The Truth has been revealed to me.

Jesus said: I am The Truth

 

I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  

No one comes to the Father except through me.

(Jesus, John 14:6)

Acknowledgement – I first saw this schema of Comparative Religion in a book I read when I was in my early 20’s when I was trying to figure out if Jesus Is God. The book was published by an Anglican publishing house but I can’t remember the name of the book or who the authors are.

My Muslim friends often challenge me to prove that Jesus said that He Is God. Specifically they want me to find a place in The Bible where Jesus Himself said the exact words ‘I am God. Worship me.’ Just Google this Where did Jesus say I am God Worship Me’ for dozens of examples of Muslims issuing this challenge.

My Muslim friends will not accept as proof anyone else in The Bible saying that Jesus is God, or anyone worshiping Jesus who was not explicitly commanded by Jesus to worship Him, or Jesus saying any other words or doing any other actions (such as forgiving sins which Jesus did and which only God can do) that indicate that Jesus is God. They demand that I show them in The Bible only Jesus Himself saying these exact words ‘I am God. Worship me’.

If these exact words do not exist in The Bible from Jesus own mouth, my Muslim friends say, then Jesus never claimed to be God and therefore Christians are not justified in saying that Jesus is God and therefore Jesus must be only a man.

Muslims insist on being shown one specific type of proof of Deity expressed in only one exact and specific formulation. Nothing else is acceptable.

Jesus Never Said ‘I am a Man. Do Not Worship Me.’

Well, where in The Bible does Jesus say the exact words ‘I am a man. Don’t worship me.’.

By the standard of proof demanded by Muslims If Jesus didn’t say the exact words I am a man. Don’t worship me. then Muslims are not justified in saying that Jesus is a man and therefore Jesus must be God.

Could Muslim readers please provide their proof from The Bible that Jesus said ‘I am a man. Don’t worship me’.

I will only accept these exact words as proof. I will not accept anyone else calling Jesus a man as proof that Jesus is a man, nor will I accept Jesus saying other words indicating that He is a man, nor will I accept Jesus performing actions indicating that He is a man (such as eating or sleeping) and I will not accept as proof anyone not worshiping Jesus except if they have been explicitly commanded by Jesus to not worship Him.

The only acceptable proof is Jesus saying these exact words: ‘I am a man. Don’t worship me.’.

I insist on being shown one specific type of proof of humanity expressed in only one exact and specific formulation. Nothing else is acceptable.

Thanks.

How Muslims Prove That Jesus Is Not God

Of course Muslims do not rely on finding the exact words I am a man. Do not worship me. stated by Jesus in order to prove that Jesus Is Not God. Muslims prove that Jesus is not God by finding equivalent words said by Jesus, or by finding Jesus doing things that humans need to do, such as eat and sleep, in order to make their proof.

Here is the well-known Islamic polemecist Zakir Naik proving that Jesus is human and not God by showing that Jesus needed to eat in order to stay alive

Human beings require to eat – God does not require to eat, to survive – They are not the same…And this is testified by Jesus Christ… in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter No. 24, Verse No. 36 to 39…­­­­­­And he said that… ‘Do you have any meat to eat ?’­­­­­­And they gave him broiled fish and a piece of honeycomb – And he ate.

In the same article Zakir Naik proves that Jesus is not God by finding words said by Jesus which are equivalent to Jesus saying I am a man. Do not worship me. Naik quotes Jesus from Matthew 12:28 where Jesus says…‘I cast out devils with the spirit of God’. Naik finds here (though I do not) that Jesus makes Himself distinct from God by this statement and therefore Jesus is simply a human being.

So Muslims do not limit themselves to finding Jesus saying one exact statement in order prove that Jesus is human. Nor should they. Inferential proofs that demonstrate humanity are indeed proof of humanity and need to be accepted by reasonable persons that Jesus was indeed human. And on the other hand, nor should Muslims or any person limit themselves to finding Jesus saying one exact statement in order prove that Jesus is Divine. Inferential proofs of Jesus’ Divinity need to be accepted just as readily as inferential proofs of Jesus humanity.

Indeed it would be frankly hypocritical of Muslims to accept inferential proofs of Jesus humanity and not to accept inferential proofs of Jesus’ Deity.

Proofs Of Jesus Deity

As stated above Muslims use the fact that Jesus needed to do what humans do in order to prove that Jesus is a human. By the same logic, if Jesus does what only God can do then Jesus is Divine. First, then, here is Jesus performing a Divine action, forgiving sins, which only God can do. See Mark 2:5-10

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things… 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”…

Secondly, here is Jesus claiming to be God by saying He is the same person as God. Jesus does this by taking the name of God ‘I AM’ and applying it to Himself. Here is John 8:51-58

51 [Jesus said] Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”…[The Jews replied] Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied…. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Jesus claims to be greater than Abraham and all prophets, to have existed prior to Abraham and to have an eternal existence. The phrase ‘I AM’ is the name of God by which God revealed to Moses and which God says is His name forever and the name by which He, God, is to be called by His people. Jesus gives this name I AM as the answer to the question of the Jews ‘Who do you think you are ?’.

Jesus thus to claims to have the same name as God and is therefore claiming to be God. This is shown by the Jews who were listening to Jesus who picked up stones to stone Him for Blasphemy.

Jesus says His own name is the name of God. This infers that Jesus is God. This is what his listeners understood to be Jesus’ meaning.

Notice that Jesus does not correct the Jews for having a wrong understanding. Imagine if someone tried to stone Mohammed for Blasphemy because Mohammed said his name was Allah. Mohammed would immediately stop and correct that person and clear up the misunderstanding. Mohammed would never allow anyone to think that he was calling himself by God’s name.

But Jesus does. Jesus allows his listeners to go on thinking that He, Jesus, had used God’s name as His own name. This means that Jesus validates the understanding that He is God as a correct understanding.

Jesus has claimed to be God. His listeners heard and understood that claim and tried to stone Jesus for blasphemy. Jesus did not correct their understanding.

Notice that Jesus also allowed people to think He, Jesus is God, when he healed the paralysed man in Mark 2, recounted above. Jesus knew what the Jews were thinking that He, Jesus, was committing blasphemy by forgiving sins which only God can do. Jesus does not try and correct their understanding. In fact, Jesus does the opposite. Jesus confirms their understanding that He, Jesus, claimsto be God, by specifically saying that He, Jesus, has authority to forgive sins.

Again, imagine if Mohammed had said to someone ‘I have the authority to forgive sins’. Of course Mohammed would never do so, because Mohammed is not God.

But Jesus is God.

So Jesus does what only God can do and forgives people their sins.

Jesus Many Times Accused Of Blasphemy And Accepted Worship

Jesus was many times accused of blasphemy. This shows that he was repeatedly telling people that He was God. He never said to people ‘Stop. You misunderstand me. I am not claiming to be God.’ Surely as an honourable man Jesus would have corrected any person who had such amazing ideas about Him. But instead Jesus allowed people to believe that He, Jesus, was claiming to be God.

Imagine if people said to Mohammed You are committing blasphemy! Mohammed would immediately correct the wrong understanding of that person. There is no way that Mohammed would allow anyone to think that he was claiming to be God. If anyone did think that way, Mohammed would certainly correct them.

But Jesus never stopped anyone believing He is God. On the contrary, Jesus accepted worship and commended people for worshiping Him.

Jesus Directly Claimed To Be God

I stated above that inferential proofs must be accepted just as readily as direct proofs. But in reality Jesus directly claimed to be God. Jesus did this by performing actions which only God can do, such as forgiving sins, and by claiming God’s name as His own name.

Jesus listeners understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. Jesus never corrected them, but instead repeatedly confirmed their understanding. See John 10:33-39

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

 We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” 

Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

Summary

  • Muslims will only accept Jesus saying the exact words ‘I am God. Worship Me.’ as proof that Jesus claimed to be God
  • But Muslims do not limit themselves to Jesus saying the exact words  ‘I am man. Do not Worship Me.’ when attempting to prove that Jesus is simply a human
  • Muslims therefore utilise a hypocritical double-standard of proofs
  • Muslims use inferential proofs to say that Jesus is human
  • This is reasonable and fair. Inferential proofs are just as valid as direct proofs.
  • There are many inferential and direct proofs that Jesus claimed to be God
  • Muslims must accept inferential proofs of Deity just as they accept inferential proofs of humanity
  • Thus we can see that The Bible contains two sets of proofs: Proof that Jesus is human and proof that Jesus is God
  • This is exactly what one would expect if God entered the world as a human being. He would retain His divinity and yet also exhibit humanity.
  • This is who Jesus is: God incarnate as a human being.

 

Appendix: God’s Name Is I AM As Revealed To Moses And Used By Jesus

See Exodus 3:13-15

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[b] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[c] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation.

John 8:53-58

53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? …Who do you think you are?”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, before Abraham was born, I AM!