* We Think God Likes the Christmas Tree. Here's Why: Some Christians have been taught that because there are pagan symbols and origins for various Christmas and Easter traditions, therefore believers should not celebrate such religious feast days, should not use pagan terminology, and should certainly not partake in any custom that has pagan roots.
Hear Bob Enyart discuss this on air at kgov.com/christmas-tree.
* Seven Lines of Evidence: Pastor Bob Enyart of Denver Bible Church looks at seven lines of evidence from Scripture showing that it is not inherently sinful to use pagan terms. Further, rather than being necessarily dishonored by such, God actively permits and He even employs, along with His people, the use of pagan terms. Finally, the Lord even permits His people to engage in certain superficial pagan practices. Of course God NEVER condones immorality. God would never regulate sin, because He is not double-minded, and because He would never send such mixed messages, and because God would never agree to His people hurting themselves. But then, how could a Christian use various symbolic pagan terms and practices, and yet sin not? Consider:
1. Pagan names for months of the year used in Scripture Neh. 2:1, and all Christians use pagan week day names
2. The Bible uses pagan names for Daniel’s associates. The Book of Daniel
3. Jesus went to Jerusalem for the apocryphal Maccabees’ Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah. John 10:22
4. Pagan philosophical terms co-opted. Hebrews: shadow, types, substance; John: logos
5. God allows us in the Body of Christ to eat meat sacrificed to idols. 1 Cor. 8:4
6. Those who are more mature can even go to, and eat in, an idol’s temple. 1 Cor. 8:10
7. Extra-biblical regulations may have a superficial appearance of wisdom but do not help. Colossians 2:20-23
1. Biblical Calendar, Hebrew Month Names: Scripture uses the Hebrew names of the months eight times. Ex. 13:4 (Abib, the first month); 23:15; 34:18; Deut. 16:1; 1 Ki. 6:1 (Ziv), 37, 38 (Bul), 8:2 (Ethanim, the seventh month)
Babylonian calendar, pagan names: used in Scripture 16 times. Neh. 1:1 (Chislev); 2:1 (Nisan, the first month); Est. 2:16 (Tebeth); 3:7 2x (Adar, the 12th month), 13; 8:9 (Sivan), 12; 9:1, 15, 17, 19, 21; Ezra 6:15; Zech. 1:7; 7:1
European and Roman Pagan Names: Sun-day, Moon-day, Thor’s-day; Saturn-day, etc.
2. Daniel 1:6-7: "Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel (75x) the name Belteshazzar (10x; see Dan. 10:1); to Hananiah (5x), Shadrach (15x); to Mishael (5x), Meshach (15x;) and to Azariah (5x), Abed-Nego (15x)." For example, Daniel 2:49 says, "…Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon…" (King Josiah named one of his sons Eliakim yet Pharaoh Necho changed it to Jehoiakim, the name then used in Scripture; 2 Ki. 23:34-35; etc.) So the Babylonians took the language that God gave them, and perverted it with symbolism and pagan meaning, not unlike homosexuals taking the color pink, and even, being selfish, taking the entire rainbow, so that now pink symbolizes homosexuality, as does the rainbow itself. But we can take back the rainbow. And we can take back the color pink. So the names of Daniel's associates had pagan origins, and pagan meanings, but regardless, the Holy Spirit inspired Daniel to use those pagan names, because God is holy, but He's not uptight!
3. Jesus went to Jerusalem for the apocryphal feast of Hanukkah: The apocrypha at 1st Maccabees 4:56–59 states: “For eight days they celebrated the rededication of the altar. Then Judah and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the rededication... should be observed... every year... for eight days.” Jesus was a Galilean (Mark 14:70, Luke 23:6; etc. of Nazareth (northern Israel) with His base in Capernaum [Luke 4:23; etc. 16x]) and He would go to Jerusalem to minister for the feasts (John 2:13; etc.). Yet the Gospel of John says that Jesus also went to Jerusalem and even the temple during for the apocryphal feast which the Jews celebrate around Christmas time with the Menorah, the candlestick with nine branches. “Now it was the Feast of Dedication [Greek: renewal; inauguration] in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked into the temple…” (John 10:22-23). Some may criticize a Christian for even attending a religious festival other than an explicitly biblical one, whereas Jesus made it His custom to go to Jerusalem, for ministry purposes, during the Feasts, and He also went for this apocryphal feast.
4. Pagan Philosophical Terms Co-opted by God: Shadow, type, substance, logos (Heb. 8:5; 10:1; Rom. 5:14; John 1:1, 14; etc.) (See also Bob Enyart's Bible Studies and Bible Tours!)
5. Acceptable for Christians to Knowingly Eat Meat Sacrificed to Idols: 1 Cor. 8:4
6. Acceptable for Christians to Eat in an Idol's Temple: Members of the Body of Christ may even go into an idol's temple and eat a meal there, paying our money to pagan priests, of Corinth, etc., even though they use our money to promote the worship of false gods like Apollo, etc. (1 Cor. 8:10). As an aside, some Christians believe that all such idols represent actual living demonic beings. Of course there is, even today, Satan worship, and so through history some idolaters will worship him, or perhaps even by happenstance, one of the fallen angels. But that is not the overwhelming use of the concept in Scripture. Rather, as Paul writes, "we know that an idol is nothing in the world" (1 Cor. 8:4). That is based on what God said to Judah in the Old Testament, "Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods" (Jer. 2:11). In other words, the pagan nations worship idols, have fake gods, that are not even gods. They're just blocks of wood and stone (Isa. 37:19). Yet they are not unfaithful to their fake gods. They don't prostitute themselves toward other gods. Only "My own people", God would say, are unfaithful to their God, even though He is the only actual true and living God. But back to the point. The Bible teaches that God allows those Christians in Corinth (and obviously, us today) who were discerning and even more spiritually mature than others to go into, and eat in, an idol’s temple, including obviously, eating the food that had just been offered to a false (i.e., non-existent) god in that very temple.
7. Therefore, If You Died With Christ: from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations; "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using; according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh (Col. 2:20-23). Thus, extra-biblical regulations may have a superficial appearance of wisdom, but they are counterproductive, and the sin of the flesh that they cater to does more harm and is more spiritually destructive than the alleged dangers that they are designed to prevent.
-Pastor Bob Enyart
Denver Bible Church
See also: KGOV.com/halloween#trick-or-treat, a TheologyOnline.com post about this BEL article on Jeremiah 10, and Bob Enyart's lengthier discussion of Holidays, Holiness, and the Christmas Tree: Part I and Part II. And only because we mentioned the apocrypha above, we'll also remind our audience that a BEL friend and opponent of the Documentary Hypothesis, Dr. Peter Gentry, has given a great, if somewhat scholarly, presentation about the Book of Enoch: