Friday, February 23, 2018

Santa and the god of Mainstream Christianity

In my previous post "A Christmas Reflection", I made a plea for Christians to restore Jesus to his rightful place in their Christmas celebrations.
Today, I am going to be bold and show how closely Santa resembles the diminished god of mainstream Christianity (dimGod) which gives a false understanding of the God of the Bible.

Consider these two parallels ...
Firstly, both Santa and the dimGod are mysterious characters from a long way away who make occasional, but regular, visits.
Santa arrives on a date we have chosen each year, and the dimGod arrives when invited, often on a Sunday morning and occasionally when we need help.

Not sure about that?
How often do church leaders ask dimGod (usually the Holy Spirit) in their opening prayers to join them for worship on Sunday mornings giving the strong impression that he only visits when invited rather than being present with us at all times?

How often do church-goers ask dimGod to be with them in a trying or dangerous situation or to provide for them when in need, again indicating he only walks with them when invited and withholds his presence or help unless specifically asked to be involved?

Even King David of Old Testament times knew God was with him regardless of his circumstances ...

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
[Psalm 23 : 4]

So how much more should New Testament followers of Jesus know that He is always with them, no matter where they are or what they are doing.
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means, "God with us". [Matthew 1 : 23 quoting Isaiah 7 : 14 written about 700 years earlier.]

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? [1 Corinthians 3 : 16]

The God of the Bible is a totally different person to the dimGod. We should be continually thanking Him for being with us rather than inviting Him to be with us. This gives us a better attitude toward Him and His promises, and gives us a far better understanding of being in the kingdom and always in the presence of the king.

  The second parallel, as mentioned in the previous post, Santa and dimGod keep lists of our good and bad deeds and then deliver appropriate consequences.

A more complete quote from "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" shows us

You better watch out, you better not cry,
You better not pout, I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.
He’s making a list and checking it twice,
He’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.
He sees you when you’re sleepin’,
He knows when you’re awake,
He knows if you’ve been bad or good:
So be good for goodness sake.
You better watch out, you better not cry,
You better not pout, I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.
KIds look forward to Santa's arrival, although with some trepidation. Eager for the presents he might bring on the one hand, but fearful of the possible judgement on their behaviour on the other.

How similar is this to the reputation of the dimGod?
It is almost universally thought, both in mainstream Christianity and the world in general, that dimGod does much the same as Santa. dimGod keeps a list of each person's deeds, indeed each person's thoughts, to assess their future rewards. The good go to heaven: the bad miss out on that reward and go to eternal torment in a place they call "hell" instead.

And of course the big question on each person's mind in both settings is, "How do I know if I have been good enough?"

The God of the Bible again is totally different to the dimGod. He is the Saviour of everyone, whether they have been good or not; whether they believe it or not. However believers of this good news have the joy and security of appreciating and experiencing its realisation in the present.

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. [1 Timothy 4 : 10 ESV]
And another thought.
Because the concept of Santa is usually introduced to children before they encounter the concept of God, the mysterious, white-bearded, occasionally-visiting, gift-bearing, judgemental Santa can easily become a template for a child's first impressions of God, especially when those impressions are reinforced by the image of the dimGod they eventually meet in church or Sunday School.

We need to get a good grasp of God's nature as love, God's role as the Saviour of the world, and Jesus' work on the cross as completely reversing the work of Adam so that we can correctly convey the really good news of salvation to our children. 
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for al people. [Romans 5 : 18 NIV]
Blessings, Barry

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