This post is the second in a 3-part series in defense of Christians celebrating Christmas. In part 1, we began by looking into the arguments against Christians celebrating Christmas. To read part 1, please go here. We now resume the defense by continuing to look at other arguments against celebrating the holiday before we go into arguments for celebrating Christmas.
2. The Bible Specifically Forbids Christmas Trees.
Besides the date itself, the most cited pagan element associated with Christmas is the decorating of a tree during the celebration. Those who believe Christians should avoid Christmastime celebrations often cite a passage in Jeremiah as a clear association of Christmas trees with paganism in the Bible:
Jeremiah 10:1-4: “Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: ‘Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers, So that it will not topple.’”
Certainly the passage seems to be discussing decorating a tree with gold and silver and how the pagans do this as part of their practices, but if you read the entire passage in context, it has no relation to a Christmas tree. Here are the following verses which clarify the meaning:
“’They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.’ Inasmuch as there is none like You, O Lord (You are great, and your name is great in might), who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations, And in all their kingdoms, there is none like You. But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; a wooden idol is a worthless doctrine.”
There is absolutely no confusion in context that this is referring to the pagans who take a tree, carve it up and decorate it into an idol, not someone who takes a tree and uses it in a symbolic way to celebrate a holiday. In the passage, the tree is not left as a tree, it’s carved and chopped and shaped into an idol – there is no connection to Christmas trees. The entire point is these wooden idols are not real, they have no power, they are not like the living God. They are dead, weak, foolish, and worthless. Even if the passage did refer to Christmas trees, the command to Israel to not do the same thing is not because there is an inherent evil in Christmas trees and decorating trees, it would be because the pagans do it and God’s people (Israel) are not to be confused with the pagan nations surrounding them. Actually, many prohibitions in the Old Testament (cultural) are simply to keep Israel distinct from the pagan nations, such as the type of clothing they wear. But Christians today wear jeans without fear of their connection to pagan practices thousands of years ago (mixed fabrics), because jeans are not associated with paganism in the minds of those to whom we are trying to shine the light of Christ toward.
Now, you may say, “The Christmas tree originates in pagan practice even if Jeremiah isn’t speaking of a Christmas tree,” and you may be correct. Many cultures used the evergreen tree in different celebrations and festivals, but again, that doesn’t mean they have copyright on the tree. Actually, the Christmas tree wasn’t popular for most of church history; it was a later element in the Christmas tradition and quickly became part of it, even if it originated in non-Christian festivals throughout history. Again, the only biblical principle applicable to this topic is to avoid the appearance of evil and not confuse the world into thinking Christians and the pagans are no different. But one can convincingly argue that Christmas doesn’t do that today.
One doesn’t need to look far in Scripture to find symbols which were originally used to symbolize evil but are now used to symbolize good. The cross itself began hundreds of years prior to crucifixion of Jesus. It was a symbol of death, disgrace, and humiliation, yet the symbol has been adopted by Christianity to be a sign of salvation, life, and hope in Jesus Christ. Christmas trees, in the mind of our culture, is not a pagan symbol. Instead it’s a Christian symbol that reminds us of God becoming flesh and dwelling among mankind.
3. Other Aspects Originate in Paganism
As a side note, there are other aspects of Christmas that people claim originate in pagan culture, such as Santa Clause, candy canes, etc. Here is my approach to dealing with these topics and choosing which is appropriate and which are not. First, is the practice, object, or tradition associated with paganism in the minds of people today? Second, is it associated with Christianity in the minds of our culture and does it point people to the Christian message of God becoming flesh? If it’s associated with paganism, don’t do it. If it’s associated with Christianity, there is no issue with doing it, but every believer has the freedom to choose if they want to observe these days or not (Romans 14).
Santa Clause would be one example of something that doesn’t match either criteria mentioned above in the minds of our culture, though there is an interesting (and possibly correct) argument that the character originates in paganism. I choose not to include Santa Clause in our celebration of Christmas because it detracts from the true message, and also feeds false ideas that tend to deceive rather than promote imagination. (Another topic for another paper.)
I should note here, the above is the reason why I celebrate Christmas, but not Halloween in any traditional sense. The things associated with Halloween (death, ghosts, candy, blood, costumes, etc.) remain pagan in their appearance and in the mind of our culture. And so, while I can make a biblical argument for providing alternatives and using Halloween as an opportunity to reach out and share the gospel, I cannot celebrate the holiday along with our culture and in the same way. (Again, another topic for another paper. I simply wanted to include this as a side note.)
Finally, I am not here to defend every aspect of Christmas in the eyes of our culture. Commercial companies use Christmas as an opportunity to sell their wares, and the commercialization of Christmas can be rightfully disliked by Christians. However, the only reason to dislike the commercialization of the holiday is if it’s a distraction from the appropriate reason for celebrating the holiday: The birth of Jesus.
Please join us next time for part 3 as we look into arguments for why Christians may celebrate Christmas.
While the Trinity is an essential Christian doctrine, it can be taken for granted at times. We just believe it, but we never examine why and most of us probably don’t spend much time defending it. There are more than a few religions that claim the title of Christian yet do not believe in a triune God. For this reason, it is imperative that we learn what the Bible has to say about the Trinity and how to respond to skeptics.Continue reading
‘Tis the Season for people to ask questions about why the church has put up Christmas trees, why we decorate with lights, and why we celebrate Christmas if it originated in paganism. The questions are fair, and those asking them are often diligent believers searching to honor God in their lives by not associating with evil. I once held the view that much of Christmas was anti-Christian, such as trees, Santa, lights, candy canes, and the date itself, and wondered why we celebrated it as believers. Asking these questions, and not just assuming things are true or fine because we’re told that as a church culture, is a good thing. Even in Scripture, when Paul came to the church at Berea they did not accept his teachings until they studied and were convinced by Scripture his message was true. Paul commends them for not simply accepting the message, but instead digging deeper to test all things by God’s Word: Acts 17:11: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”
Scripture should be the authority on how we interpret and answer questions such as, “Should Christians celebrate Christmas?” While at one time I leaned toward the “No” end of the spectrum, additional study and biblical argumentation has pulled me toward the “Yes” end of the spectrum, with many arguments you often don’t hear when listening to those who simply explain the pagan origins. My goal here is not to argue that aspects of Christmas did not come out of paganism thousands of years ago, but instead to ask if those aspects should prevent us from celebrating Christmas in an appropriate way today. I will begin by addressing three arguments against Christians celebrating Christmas, and then give a series of arguments for Christians celebrating Christmas.
- The Date of Christmas is Associated with Paganism
Biblical scholars tend not to argue for December 25th being the actual birthday of Jesus Christ. Personally (without going into details here), I believe September is the best argument from Scripture at this point. December 25th seems to clearly originate in paganism as the birthday of the sun god, as the days go from being short to being long again with the winter solstice. After a few hundred years, the church chose to adopt this day as a celebration of the Son of God being born, as opposed to the sun (which was worshiped by pagans) being born again each year. If the date originates in paganism, does that mean Christians should avoid it? Not necessarily. Here are a few things to consider:
- Scripture makes statements about observing holidays and the freedom of Christians in regard to special days:
Romans 14:5-6: “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.”
Christians have liberty in Christ to make decisions about celebrating certain days, as long as they do it in a way that is honoring to God. John MacArthur, who is in favor of Christians using Christmas as a platform for the truth, says the following about Rom. 14:5-6: “According to these verses, a Christian can rightfully set aside any day–including Christmas–as a day for the Lord.” MacArthur claims celebrating Christmas isn’t a matter of right or wrong, because Christ has given us liberty to choose which days to celebrate if done in an appropriate way.
However, Romans 14 isn’t the only passage which is applicable to this question; other passages speak of things which were originally used for pagan purposes that Christians can now partake in, such as meat sacrifices to idols. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 that Christians have the freedom to eat meat sacrificed to idols, as long as it won’t cause another brother to stumble. Even when an animal is sacrificed to false gods it doesn’t make the animal somehow demonic and evil for a Christian to eat as food. Why? Because the false gods don’t exist. They have no power and the meat isn’t demonic because they used it in the wrong way. It also seems strange to say a false god has claim to a day and Christians should respect and not interfere with the day. Christians are not called to avoid the culture, or go along with the culture, they are called to bring change and transformation to the culture. If the devil tries to claim a day for a false god, what is biblically wrong with Christians taking the day, redeeming the day, and using it for the glory of God instead of a false idol?
- Broad principles reject an “avoid” mentality and instead embrace a “transform” and redemptive mentality.
Jesus wasn’t in the ministry of avoiding things which were unclean, He was in the ministry of taking that which was unclean and broken and transforming it. Matt Slick, of the Christian Apologetic Research Ministry (CARM), brings out a principle from the work that God does and applies it to Christians using a pagan date to celebrate Christmas. “The Lord, through His sacrifice, has cleansed us of our sins. He sanctifies what he touches. When we came in contact with Him, it is we who were cleansed. It is not Him who is defiled. The woman with the issue of blood who touched Jesus (Mark 5:25-34) was made clean. It was not Jesus who was defiled. Likewise, Jesus touched the unclean lepers and cleansed them (Matt. 8:3). Jesus came in contact with many people, and it was never He who was defiled. It was they who were cleansed.”
What if we saw December 25th as a day, created by God, that has been defiled by the paganism of the world, but Christians have the chance to redeem and refocus the day on the true God? Many claim nothing in Scripture says to celebrate the birth of Christ on a specific day, which is true. But setting aside days for remembering important events (such as Passover) is biblical, and while Christians should remember the virgin birth of the Son of God every day, having a seasonal platform from which to preach that message to the world is a golden opportunity.
Yes, December 25th originated at a pagan festival to a false god, and Christians chose to take that pagan day and use it as a platform to proclaim that the true God became flesh to save us. Nothing in Scripture prohibits this type of action on the part of the church. Many principles, in fact, support redeeming these types of days.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog, where we’ll continue to investigate arguments against Christians celebrating Christmas, and part 3, where we’ll look into arguments for the celebration.
“Who has bewitched you?” Paul was seriously concerned that someone was leading the Galatians away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was pointedly questioning them, and strongly warning them to beware.
Beware being bewitched, Paul warned – understanding that there is not another gospel to be drawn away to, even if it appears that angels from heaven are presenting it. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn out of position in Christ. Don’t be misled by charm into evil doctrines. Don’t be fascinated, and deceived, by false representations claiming to be truth.
What is offered to bewitch the saints? What is offered to pervert the gospel? Emptiness. Things that beguile through enticing words. That cause us to question God and His goodness and His precious plan of salvation:
- Appealing to the flesh rather than the Holy Spirit
- Pleasing man rather than God
- Appealing to works rather than faith in Christ’s sacrifice for sins
- Back into bondage rather than freedom in Christ
- Glorying in the flesh instead of the cross
- Traditions of men rather than the truth of God
- Trusting in self rather than the Saviour
- The law rather than grace
Paul so strongly opposed false prophets, he put a curse on them! Read it yourself in Galatians chapter 1. Perverting the gospel is a serious crime in the kingdom of Christ. Those who attempt to bewitch followers of Christ anger God Himself. Jesus flatly stated that those who cause others to stumble in the faith would be better off drowned. Those who trouble the saints will bear their judgment, Paul wrote.
Paul warned the Galatians to not be otherwise minded. One of the Greek definitions of bewitched is to be put out of our wits. When someone is tempted to not obey the truth through false representations, they’re being pulled off the mark. And if we miss the mark, we also miss the prize. If we miss the mark by being bewitched, we risk tearing down the hedge of spiritual protection around our children, confusing and endangering them along with ourselves. What we reap, we sow. Beware being bewitched. And warn others with sincerity and humility to avoid the same trap.
If any within the Church are pulled off base by being bewitched, we are to lovingly restore them to the right path with meekness, exhorting them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free in order to escape being entangled with bondage. Jesus warned that if, having put our hand to the plow, we look back, we endanger our souls. Let’s watch out for ourselves and others lest the enemy devour any of us. Beware being bewitched.
This is the thirteen-hundredth (1,300) anniversary of the year of King Pelagius of Spain’s most famous battle; one which changed the course of European history. Because of his belief in the teachings of the Bible, he and a small band of Spanish Christians were able to demonstrate that a seemingly invincible enemy could be defeated. Without his courage and heroism, Spain may never have become a strong Christian nation since his time.
Beginning in 718 AD, an army of Africans and Arabs, under the banner of Islam, began their invasion of Spain. This army of Muslims had been conquering countries throughout Africa and the Near East since they began their “jihad” in the late 600s AD. They came across the Mediterranean Sea from Africa into southern Spain and were an unstoppable force that destroyed cities and towns wherever they went. A historian in 754 AD wrote that the Muslims “ruined beautiful cities, burning them with fire, condemning lords and powerful men to the cross; and butchered youths and infants with the sword.”
The objective of the invaders was to sow terror among the Christians so that they would either surrender without fighting or flee. The invaders slaughtered, cooked, and pretended to eat Christian captives, while releasing others who, horrified, fled and informed the people in Northern Spain that the Muslims were eating human flesh. In the face of such a fierce army the Christians had only two choices: acquiesce to Muslim rule or flee to the mountains, where they risked hunger and various forms of death.
Among the Christians that fled to the mountains was Pelagius (better known as Pelayo). He was born in 685 AD and died in 737 AD. He had survived that battle for the city of Guadalete. In Northern Spain the hold on the population by the Muslims was less than in Southern Spain, so there was less threat of attacks in that part of the country. Pelagius became the leader of a small Christian community at the foothills of the Asturian Mountains and was forced to pay tribute to the Muslim warlord in the area. Because the Muslim warlord chose to “marry” Pelagius’ sister, against his wishes (and those of his sister), Pelagius stopped paying tribute to the warlord. This resulted in the warlord sending troops to extract the tribute and to punish Pelagius.
Pelagius fled deep into the mountains with a band of Christians and set up a kingdom called Asturias in 718 AD. The Muslims were not willing to let this group of Christians survive, so they assembled an army of 180,000 men and surrounded the mountain stronghold of Pelagius. The Muslims chose a bishop who had acquiesced to Muslim rule to convince Pelagius that his cause was hopeless.
Pelagius replied to the bishop’s pleadings with the following words:
“I will not associate with the Arabs in friendship nor will I submit to their authority.” Then he made a prophecy (which was fulfilled over the next 8 centuries). “Have you not read in the divine scriptures that the church of God is compared to a mustard seed and that it will be raised up again through divine mercy?”
Pelagius and his fellow Christians held out in the mountain stronghold for four years suffering cold and hunger, but never giving up. Eventually the Muslims attacked the stronghold which was a small valley in the mountains. The Christians were able to surprise the Muslims by hiding in a cave at the rear of the Muslim army and were able to defeat them in this deceive battle. A second battle was launched a month later and again the Muslims were defeated. At this point they chose to leave the Christians alone. It was, as mentioned above, the first time the Muslims had been defeated and it stopped the spread of Islam from expanding into northern Spain and further into Europe and gave the Christians hope of taking back their country.
Because of the success of Pelagius, over the next 800 years (until 1492) the Christians were able to gradually push the Muslims further and further south until eventually they retreated back across the Mediterranean Sea and back to Africa.
If you went to church as a child, you’ve probably heard the traditional Sunday School version of David and Goliath. If not, it goes something like this…
The Israelite army was being challenged by a giant named Goliath. All of the soldiers were terrified of Goliath and no one would step up to fight him. Then, David, a young boy around 12 years old came to visit his brothers, heard about Goliath and got mad! David volunteered to fight the giant and everyone thought he was crazy! Saul finally agreed and offered David his armor, which was much too big for the boy. David looked like a little boy wearing his Dad’s t-shirt. So, he took the armor off and went to face the giant with his little slingshot and miraculously hit Goliath between his eyes and killed him. The moral of the story? You are never too small to be used by God!
It’s a great story, but is it really what the Bible describes? Well, not quite. Unfortunately, the Sunday School version, as well as the story that is portrayed on many children’s cartoons, takes a lot of poetic license.
Anointed to be King
The first time David enters Israel’s story is in 1 Samuel 16. In this chapter, the prophet Samuel has followed God’s instructions and traveled to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king. God told Samuel to set up a sacrifice so that he would not have to tell the people the primary reason for his visit. Jesse and his sons are consecrated and invited to attend the sacrifice and, upon their arrival, Samuel assumes that David’s oldest brother is God’s chosen one. He is rebuked by God for looking only at Eliab’s appearance. One by one, Jesse’s sons pass by Samuel and one by one, God says, “No.” This is where we pick the story up.
Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”
And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:10-13)
Many people point to God’s words regarding Eliab, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature…” along with the fact that David was the youngest and was not called to join them with the prophet and assume that David must have been a young boy – too young to be considered. That, however, is just not in this text. There could have been a reason why David may have had to remain with the sheep or David might have been a bit neglected by his family and forgotten about. Similarly, Eliab’s stature does not imply that David – or any of his other brothers – was small. Eliab may have just been the tallest and most impressive of the brothers, the golden child so to speak.
Mighty Man of Valor, A Man of War
Right after this event, the Bible tells us that the Spirit of the Lord left King Saul and that a distressing spirit troubled him. Saul’s servants wanted to help and offered a suggestion…
Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.” So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.” Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him. (1 Samuel 16:16-18)
Saul’s servants referred to David as a “mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person.” These are hardly words that would be used to describe a child, or even a young teenage boy. Some respond to this by saying that the events were not written in chronological order and that this really happened after David fought Goliath. However, there is not only a lack of evidence for this argument, there are some indications that it could not be true. Tim Chaffey explains…
First and foremost, 1 Samuel 17:15 states, “But David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.” So David regularly served Saul before his encounter with Goliath. Also, 1 Samuel 18:2, which immediately followed the battle with Goliath, states, “Saul took him [David] that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore.” Finally, chapter 16 shows that Saul and David were introduced to each other and that David became his armor bearer (v. 21), whereas chapter 17 shows no such introduction, indicating they knew already knew each other.
David Leaves Home
Subsequently, King Saul sent for David and, “… David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer. Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.” And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.” (1 Samuel 16:21-23) We know 2 things from this passage. (1) David became Saul’s armorbearer. (2) Whenever the distressing spirit came upon Saul, David would take a harp and play it. Both bring us to an easy conclusion that David moved into the palace and was required to be in the presence of Saul at all times. 1 Samuel 17:15 confirms that, “… David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.”
Too Young to Fight?
Next, we come to the story of David and Goliath. Israel’s army is gathered in the Valley of Elah, terrified by the Philistine giant, who twice a day issued this challenge…
Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us … I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. (1 Samuel 17:8b-10)
This had gone on for 40 days when David entered the camp to bring his brothers provisions from their elderly father. Here is where we find one of the most common misconceptions about David. Because only the 3 oldest brothers were with Saul, it is assumed that the other 5 brothers, including David, were all under the age of 20 (the age that men in Israel were required to enter military service). This theory makes sense until you look at all of the exemptions to military service that are provided in the Torah. Deuteronomy 20 lists the following reasons why a man who was over the age of 20 would be allowed to stay home from battle.
- He bought a new house and had not dedicated it.
- He planted a vineyard and had not eaten from it.
- He was betrothed to a woman and not yet married.
- He was fearful and fainthearted.
Deuteronomy 24:5 also instructs Israel that a man is exempt from service for 1 year following his wedding. It is apparent that David did not qualify for any of these exemptions, so it is safe to say that he was almost certainly under the age of 20. However, we should not read more into the text than what is written. We have no reason to presume that the rest of David’s brothers were too young to be at war. One or all could have simply been fearful or fainthearted. They were, after all, facing a giant that was terrorizing them. It is also quite likely when you are talking about a group of young men that at least 1 would have just built a new house that was not yet dedicated, planted a vineyard that he had not eaten of or become betrothed or recently married. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that David could have been as old as 19 years old – even right up to the day before his 20th birthday, which would better fit the description of David in 1 Samuel 16.
But, doesn’t the Bible say that Saul’s armor much too big for David? This is really just another unfortunate myth portrayed in many Sunday school lessons. Let’s look at the relevant verses in 1 Samuel 17:38-39.
So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off.
David simply stated that he could not walk with the armor because he had not tested it. In the KJV, David’s words are translated this way, “I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them.” Testing or proving armor means to test it for defensive ability. David’s statement could actually indicate that he had some experience in battle.
Not a Boy
A second misunderstanding of this conversation comes from Saul’s words of caution to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” Some versions of the Bible use the word “boy” in Saul’s description of David, but that is not an accurate translation and creates even more confusion. The Hebrew word that is translated “youth” here can also be translated servant and can be used to describe a child, teenager or even a younger adult man, as was the case when it was used to describe Absalom in 2 Samuel 18:29 right after he was killed for attempting to take the throne from his father, David. At the time of Absalom’s death, most scholars believe that he was somewhere around 30 years old, give or take a couple of years.
In our day, slingshots are commonly marketed as children’s toys and that is how most in America view them. However, that was not always the case. In ancient times, slingers were skilled, deadly warriors who were employed by the Roman, Assyrian, Egyptian and Israelite armies (among others). Stones flung from their slings rivaled the velocity and precision of a handgun today. Most had been trained since childhood and had finely tuned their skill. In his book, Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization, Paul Kriwaczek explains how and why a sling worked so well. (emphasis added)
A sling works by increasing the effective length of a stone-thrower’s arm. Modern cricket bowlers or baseball pitchers can achieve maximum ball velocities of over 150 kilometres per hour. A slingshot as long again as the thrower’s arm will double the projectile’s speed, making the velocity of the bullet when it leaves the sling nearly 100 metres per second. This is already considerably greater than that of a longbow arrow, at only about 60 mps. Intensively trained from childhood onward, there is no reason to believe that a professional slinger could not beat 100 mps (meters per second) fairly easily and perhaps even begin to approach the muzzle velocity of a .45 calibre pistol round: about 150 mps. What is more, a smooth slingshot projectile has a far greater range than an arrow, as much as half a kilometre, because an arrow’s flight feather’s produce so much drag. The modern world-record distance for a stone cast with a sling was achieved by Larry Bray in 1981, who managed 437 metres, and thought in retrospect that he could surpass the 600-metre mark with a better sling and lead projectiles.
Without the myths, David’s victory over Goliath is a powerful testimony of God’s hand in Israel’s history. While faith is our primary goal when reading Scripture, we should not shy away from reason, logic and historical context. David was a mighty man of valor who had likely been trained in the use of a sling from the time he was a child. By faith, David surrendered his skills to God and was used mightily to defeat a man whose intention was to thwart God’s plan for Israel.
* All scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess I struggle to open jars. If Ben isn’t home to open it for me, the jar sits on the counter, mocking me. So I sincerely ask for the Lord’s help: “You know I can’t do this alone,” wrestle it under hot water, whack it around the rim with a knife handle, use my blue rubbery piece to twist on the lid with all my might until I hear that satisfying pop and hiss of released pressure. Then I sing my victory song, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done!” All this, by the way, is true.
Reading the Bible a few mornings ago, I read a verse that shook my spirit to the core: “…they repented not to give Him glory” (Revelation 16:9). Under the severe wrath of God during end times, wicked men were suffering intensely, yet they refused to repent, choosing to blaspheme rather than call on His name for forgiveness. “They repented not to give Him glory.” Whoa. Immediately another verse came to mind: “…they knew God, yet they glorified Him not as God” (Romans 1:21).
I sat on the porch swing trying to absorb what God was working into my mind and spirit. Are we to understand that when we confess and repent, we give Him glory? that we recognize His honor, splendor, majesty, authority, worth, and preeminence, evoking amazement in our minds to confess Him as God?
Of course! “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He alone can forgive sin. It’s His glory to forgive us our sins when we humble ourselves, confess, and ask His forgiveness. It’s the hope within us! Jesus saves! To God be the glory, great things He hath done! The way is made, is well marked, and is open to all who will come and confess.
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Romans 10:10). This verse does not promote “easy believism” but offers God’s radical call to salvation. The word confess here means to gladly acknowledge and agree fully, publicly, openly by giving praise that God raised Jesus from the dead with a deep conviction of the facts; confessing allegiance to Christ as Lord and Master. Remember that Paul is writing this to those in Rome who responded in answer to the preaching of the Gospel for salvation in Jesus. Did you understand “death sentence” as you read that? Which is what they faced for confessing publicly that Jesus is Lord instead of Caesar being deity. And they faced mockings, loss of business, and loss of family if they professed to believe that anyone was raised to life after suffering Roman crucifixion. No, not easy. Rather, persecution for confessing this new life in Christ. And they gladly confessed.
“What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” We will only be able to enjoy God when we confess our sins to His glory. Then we can sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest!”
What if we as Christians took this personally, as Daniel did when he prayed, confessing Israel’s sins to God’s glory? (Daniel 9) “If My people, who are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). What if we took Him at His Word, called on His Name, confessed the sins of our nation, seeking His mercy, love, and grace as we pled His forgiveness for the lost and the healing of our land? And presented our repentance for our own lukewarmness within the Church? For His glory. To God be the glory. We know He can do great things when His people seek His face for His glory. And our victory song, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done!” will be a powerful and good confession!
Many Christians today believe that there truly is a “wall of separation between Church and State” and that the Church should not get involved in any kind of “political” activity, but should instead leave that to secular organizations. Their belief is based both on Scripture and what they have been taught in the school system and general society.
The Scripture that is often cited for this belief is Matthew 22:21, which states, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” Also there is Romans 13:1, which states, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are chosen by God.”
Additionally, since the early 1960s, the Supreme Court has been restricting the role that religion plays in the “public square”, based mainly on the concept of “Separation of Church and State” (which does not appear in the Constitution). This separation idea has led many churches to shy away from anything that even appears to be political, and the vast majority of the Christian community is comfortable with this stance. It is fortunate for us that this has not always been the case. We need only look at the history of early America and the mid-to late-1700s to see how different the position of the Christian community was, and the critical difference this made to the founding of our country.
After a couple of generations were born in America, there was a decline in regular church attendance. Keep in mind that 99% of America’s population was Bible-believing Christians. There were various reasons for this decline, which we won’t go into here. God, however, had a plan, and He inspired evangelists to begin what would become the greatest revival the country has ever experienced.
Once the revival had succeeded, regular church attendance again exceeded 90%, and Americans were not willing to go to war against “God’s-appointed” ruler (King George III) without clear Scriptural basis. Fortunately, God’s Word was there to help the country. Because the Protestant Reformers in the 1500s had faced similar problems going against the civil authorities in many countries who were aligned, there were many writings covering this very issue.
In the Bible there are numerous recorded instances of Christians and Jews defying government authority, when and only when that authority is not acting within God’s Law. The instances include: the Hebrew midwives defying Pharaoh when he ordered them to kill the male children, Daniel and his companions in Babylon defying the Chaldean King who ordered them to worship him as a god and, in the New Testament, Peter and James, after the day of Pentecost, defying the Jewish Leaders and continuing to preach on the Temple grounds. All of these instances had in common that God’s Law had been violated and Christians and Jews chose to follow God’s Law instead of man’s.
American congregations were advised that in order to justify a “revolution”, they must be sure that the King and Parliament were, in fact, violating God’s Law. Such justification was found in the actions of the King who had chosen to not only be the executor of laws, but gave himself veto power over any law the colonial assemblies passed. Further, he also required all Royal Judges to swear loyalty to him and to follow his decrees and not those of the colonial assemblies. He became a dictator, and therefore was acting against the will of the Americans and violating God’s Law.
The Americans had tried numerous times to reach a compromise with the King, but he refused, stating the he “was born to rule and that the colonists were born to be ruled over.” (Which is a clear violation of God’s Law.)
The Americans stated clearly in the Declaration of Independence that the King had violated God’s Law and spelled out the long train of abuses that the king had perpetrated against the Americans. The Preamble reads, in part, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (emphasis mine).