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Things Pagans Started
Things Pagans Started
For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do-- living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (1 Pet 4:3 NIV)
We are approaching the holiday time of year. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is already in the merchandise aisles of some stores. It may be pointed out that the traditions associated with these holidays, or any holidays or anniversary celebrations, do not originate in the New Testament but rather are of pagan, or Catholic origin.
It is a fact, easily verified, that our holidays are by and large adaptations of popular pagan celebrations. However, before reacting to that, we should perhaps at least consider that many of our readily accepted ceremonies and practices originate in paganism. Realistically, how could public ceremony exist at all apart from non-Biblical origins, since the Bible doesn’t define or prescribe any public ceremonies to speak of (excepting perhaps the Lord’s Supper and baptism. The traditions of Thanksgiving are associated with a pagan (native American) harvest celebration and Puritanism. The traditions of Christmas are associated with a pagan (European) winter celebration and Catholicism. Neither have a legitimate religious role or any obligation associated with them, but neither "as a modern holiday" has much to do with its roots either. They are not associated with debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry, in the context of family celebrations, feasting, decorating, or gift giving. (1 Peter 4:3)
Every day each of us accepts the relics of pagan tradition when we use the calendar. The names of the months, the names of the days of the week, the length of the months and of the year, can all be shown to have origins in paganism and idolatry. We see the names of Greek, Roman, and Norse Gods in most of the calendar names, and yet we use these traditional names without thought as to their origin, and with no idolatrous intent or consequences. And we should.
When we celebrate marriage, we celebrate an event that is Biblical in origin, certainly, but the traditions of the wedding are almost totally pagan--because the Bible doesn’t define any such traditions. The traditional placement of the bride on the groom’s left, the use of a bridal veil, the wedding ring, the ring finger, the throwing of grain, the candles, the wedding cake, and so forth all originate in paganism and superstition. It is a mistake to attribute any of these traditions of celebration with Biblical mandate or shroud them with a patina of inspired holiness, but such traditions are not bad nor are they anti-Christian, any more than the names on the calendar are or wearing black to a funeral or using spoons and forks at dinner. These things have had, and in some contexts may still have, religious implications. Each and all of these things have to be viewed in their current cultural context--what does it mean to us, and the people around us?
This is of course the very criteria that Paul prescribed for being tolerant of holiday traditions, but not carried away by them, in Romans 14:5-6, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” and Colossians 2:16, which says, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.” Holidays are neither, inherently good or bad, but our attitude about them may be. Don’t forget that Christ is our head, our hope, and our salvation. Observing a holiday tradition (without the pagan behaviors of debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry of course) or ignoring one, is of no great consequence, so long as we do so giving honor and thanks to the Lord.
It is impossible to eliminate all things from our lives that have pagan origins, nor are Christians called upon to do historical searches in order to know what to accept or how to live. It is unreasonable to selectively designate certain things (holidays, for example) that have pagan origins as unacceptable, while casually accepting others (wedding ceremonies and calendars, for example). Instead, all things must be tested and then handled appropriately.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through; may your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Thessalonians 5:16-23 NIV)
When we observe holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or whatever, just make sure they have no religious significance. Many people say that Halloween is of the occult. Can you see anything wrong with small children going from house to house for candy, fruit, or other such treats? Remember it is the attitude of the heart with which it is viewed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with family and friends celebrating Thanksgiving with a common meal, remembering there is no religious significance involved, but as with all things giving thanks to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon us. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Christmas decorations, exchanging of gifts, a Christmas meal with family and friends, and the fellowship we enjoy with each other, remembering that this has no religious significance because the Bible does not tell us when Christ was born. Just exercise good sense and sound judgment.
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