Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two Views on Christmas: Brian Abshire and Brian Schwertley

In this post we include two thought provoking views on Christmas by Brian Abshire and Brian Schwertley.

The first is a piece by Brian Abshire, titled "Rethinking the Pagan Origins of Christmas." In this piece Abshire holds that there is a place for Christmas (while not condoning certain unlawful worship practices churches engage in in the name of Christmas).

The second is a two-part sermon critique of Abshire's piece titled "Brian Abshire's Justifications of Christmas Refuted." Schwertley's position is that Christmas is unlawful in any circumstance. 

[Note: it is our view that, whether or not there is a limited place for celebrating Christmas, no man-made holiday is to be considered holy, and no man-made holiday is to be celebrated in the context of worship or on the Sabbath (see our arguments against Easter). This last point is especially important, given that this year Christmas is celebrated on the Sabbath.]

Rethinking the Pagan Origins of Christmas
by Brian Abshire

Reformed believers have never liked Christmas. The Regulative Principle states that what God has not commanded in worship, is forbidden; since there is no command to celebrate Christmas, many Reformed folks think Christians shouldn’t either. The more historically minded will cite the Puritans and Presbyterians who denounced Christmas and banned it when they could. Some will even insist that Christmas is really a Popish plot to seduce Protestants back into Romanism.

Furthermore, they often point out that most of our Christmas traditions derive from pagan sources and surely, no right-thinking Christian would want to participate in an essentially, idolatrous celebration, would they?

Yet many other Christians, without a particular theological axe to grind, are also very uncomfortable with celebrating Christmas. Every year I get at least one email or letter from some concerned reader quoting those verses in Jeremiah about the foolish idolater who cuts down a tree and worships it. And I am not above criticism here; a number of years ago I wrote an article for a national magazine explaining how most of our Christmas traditions actually arose out of Roman and Celtic nature worship.

When I first began my campaign to “expose” the “pagan origins” of Christmas back in the seventies, I rather enjoyed debunking this most sentimental of holidays to smug, self-satisfied Christians who never thought about WHY they were doing, what they were doing. The Apostle Paul warned about those who thought they knew something (1 Cor 8:1) because a little knowledge can make a man arrogant. And, to be honest, there was more than a little arrogance on my part over the years when I would sit down with someone and take an unholy delight in telling them that all their holiday traditions were little more than demonic inspired pagan rituals baptized with the thinnest veneer of “Popish” Christianity.

However, as I have had a chance to read more, think more and reconsider whether the dubious pleasures of being a cynical, condescending, self-righteous jerk is worth the cost of God’s eternal judgment (it isn’t): eventually I concluded that I needed to re-think these issues from the bottom up. First, there IS a legitimate theological question on whether or not it is ethically appropriate for Christians to celebrate Christmas, since we have no explicit command to do so. But as I am going to try and demonstrate in this essay, in reality, MOST of the reasons given against Christmas are misinformed at best; and sometimes are mere rationalizations to justify something a bit unsavory in our characters. So if you think you already KNOW all about “Christmas” and its “Pagan past” maybe I can help you to rethink some things.

continue reading

Brian Abshire's Justifications of Christmas Refuted 
by Brian Schwertley

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