Have you wondered why Christ has been banned from the holiday which bears His name, Christmas? Or why Christianity alone is banned in a country which bears the insignia, “In God we trust?” Never mind the fatal inconsistency that in America everything is tolerated except what can’t be tolerated. And what can’t be tolerated? Anything that disagrees with what is tolerated.
How did we get here? A generation ago we were talking about a post-modern, post-Christian culture that was creeping into our society. Well, as Jude says, it has crept in unawares. We are now experiencing what a few years ago we were merely speculating about, and it is impacting our society with a vengeance. My hard files and electronic files are packed with evaluations which were made in the 1990s and beyond. At the time it was interesting, even intriguing, to think that America could lose its Christian identity in our own life time. It was In 1984 that Francis Schaeffer wrote, “Finally, we must not forget that the world is on fire. We are not only losing the church, but our entire culture as well. We live in the post-Christian world which is under the judgment of God.”1
Soon afterward books began to appear that linked Schaeffer’s expression with the term “postmodern” derived especially from the French deconstructionist Jacques Derrida (1930-2004). By1990 other Christian writers were flooding the book stores with warnings about this coming phenomenon. One specific factor of which Christians warned was that there would be no absolute truth in a postmodern culture (a view they insisted was absolute). To insist on one’s belief being true would make another’s false, and this would be bigoted and even hateful.
While living and pastoring in Ft. Collins, CO, the local paper printed an article by a liberal Rabbi which read, “‘It is not sinful to be a gay and lesbian,’ said Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, ‘It is sinful to have these prejudices and act out on them.’”2 About the same time Dan Story had written,
This post-Christian and postmodern world holds to the premise that there are no absolute truths that apply to everyone equally. Christianity and Christian ethics are no longer relevant. In fact, orthodox Christians are seen as bigoted, narrow-minded, and anti-intellectual because we refuse to accept other religions as ‘paths to God’ or to consider homosexuality, pornography, or abortion as permissible in a moral society.3
Consider just a few other warnings sounded by prominent Christian writers at the time. John MacArthur wrote:
Think about it: pronouncing anything ‘true’ and calling its antithesis ‘error’ is a breach of postmodernism’s one last impregnable dogma. That is why to a postmodernist nothing is more uncouth than voicing strong opinions on spiritual, moral, or ethical matters.4
Alister McGrath wrote:
In a postmodern context, questions are likely to be raised about the New Testament’s emphasis on Jesus Christ being the only way to salvation (which is held to be inconsistent with postmodernism’s positive appraisal of diversity).5
Alan Wolfe, writing in the Atlantic Monthly wrote:
Postmodernism exercises such a fascination over the evangelical mind, I believe, because of the never-ending legacy of fundamentalism. In one sense evangelical scholars have moved away from Billy Sunday and in the direction of French poststructuralism: they cast their lot with those who question any truths rather than those who insist on the literal truth of God’s word.6
The result of all of this has been a new century where Christianity is feared because of its grand narrative of redemption exclusively through Jesus Christ and its commitment to the absolute truth of a written document, the Bible. Because of these, Christianity must not be allowed to speak in the public arena because these views are hateful by proclaiming other views false (that is, they came to wrong conclusions which is to say they were less intelligent, and that is a hateful thing to say). The Christmas holiday must only be allowed to display folk tales and seasonal things, in an effort to bring it down to the level of all other religious days. To speak of the unique Son of God becoming incarnate to provide the only way to God is, in a postmodern world, bigoted and hateful.
The postmodern view of the world, however, is unrealistic and false. In fact, it is itself unloving and uncaring. It substitutes obvious reality with destructive word games like deconstructionism, finding an evil intent behind all history; semiology, changing the usage of simple words into unintended meaning; and social constructivism, turning each person’s version of reality into their own reality.7 This is seen so clearly in today’s view of gender identity which dreams up a false identity for oneself, when, in fact, nothing could be more clear than that God made us male and female and in His own image.
The Reality of Christmas
First, a few facts need to be faced. The word “hate” is an easy tool to use against someone with whom you disagree. We like to attach “phobic” to anything opposed to cultural mores. If you disagree with homosexuality you are homophobic. If you disagree with another culture you are xenophobic. Postmodernism extends this supposed “fear” to “hatred” and then to “racism” (because everything from gender identity to sexual preference is now a “race”). These have become the worst crimes for humans to commit. Christians (and Christmas) are accused of these simply because they disagree.
But disagreement is not fear, hatred, nor racist. Disagreement is one’s assessment of right and wrong, something all of us do throughout each day of our lives. I disagree with eating dirt and I disagree with murder and for correct reasons. Historically, it can be shown, disagreement more often becomes a catalyst to discovery of the truth, not to hatred or fear. But when the truth is not allowed because it limits, forbids, or labels something as wrong, that is social totalitarianism, not freedom.
God labels many things wrong and, of course, He is right and has every right to say so. God made us in His image and that is our true identity regardless of how we may want to identify ourselves. It is for this reason that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). God doesn’t tell us what is right and wrong because He hates us but because, loving us, He explains to us what is good and bad for us.
A difficult reality
God has told us something that is very difficult to accept but is absolutely necessary for us to know for our own good. That is that all human beings, though each one is made in God’s image, have sinned in Adam and are themselves sinners. The reality of our sinful nature is so obvious that it takes the sleight of postmodernism to deny. Why do we have to teach children to do right? Why do we have a rule of law in every society? Why does every person have a conscience? All of these things exist, and must exist, because of the reality of our fallen nature.
It does no good at this point to blame God for our sinfulness. As they say, “it is what it is.” God made us with a choice and holds us accountable for it. Sin is real and God is still holy.
An even more difficult reality
There is an everlasting punishment for sins called hell, and for two very good reasons. The first reason is that God Himself is absolutely holy and good and will deal with anything contrary to Himself. This doesn’t mean that He deals with it immediately. In fact, God is very longsuffering with us so that we have time to respond to Him (2 Peter 3:9). The second reason is that unrepentant sin will be dealt with in a very harsh way, a way that equals God’s goodness and holiness. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). It’s not that the holy God knew this and did not care, for even that would be uncharacteristic of holiness. Rather, the holy and good God has not only revealed the truth about this, but has done something magnificent to remedy the situation.
A divine moral dilemma
That may not sound right since whatever is truly divine is never caught in any moral compromise, but the apostle Paul, in the third chapter of Romans (verses 21-31), presents it as if it were. There is no way for fallen human beings to become right with God again on their own. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (3:10); “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (3:23). God cannot simply place a waiver on sin. For to ignore sin and leave it unaddressed would make Him guilty, less than holy. Something must be done that does not impugn God’s holiness in this way.
You may have noticed that Christmas carols are also avoided in public. One reason is that they also display this difficult reality and moral dilemma. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.” “No more let sins and sorrows grow,” the Christmas carols record. Yet right here is the postmodern dilemma also. The reason for the Christian’s Christmas message is because we have found ourselves helpless and sinful and in need of divine deliverance. God has said that we are wrong! He has said that He disagrees with us! By postmodern creed He would be hateful to say such a thing to us. You may try to find your way out of the dilemma by going that way, or you may, in humility, see God’s way out.
Joy to the World
The righteousness which we all need has come from God Himself, and from Him alone. If just one man could live righteously before God, God could be satisfied in him, but none can. So God, being Himself Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, sent His only Son into the world to be that perfect man. But will He save only Himself, and let all the world perish? No, rather He will give Himself to die in their place and then let whosoever will accept Him as their substitute. Then salvation is by grace, that is, we are not saved by our works, but by the righteousness of the One Who lived without sin and died in our place. “To declare,” Paul says, “I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). Dilemma solved!
No more let sins and sorrows grow;
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings known
Far as the curse is found, far as the course is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
O Holy Night
Now we see why Christmas is so loved by the humble and so hated by the proud. That miracle, that divine moment, God became a man to do for man what man could not do for himself. The condemnation of eternal hell was upon all of us. We were without hope and without God in a sinful world. But at that moment of incarnation, when the angels sang and the heavens rang, the only possible hope for all mankind was born. “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4).
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth,
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn,
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices,
O night divine, of night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
O Come All Ye Faithful
The Christian’s Christmas message is both narrow and broad. It is narrow in that God declares loudly that it is the only way to Him. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “There is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In this day of multi-everything, this road is too narrow, too exclusive. In the world’s terms it is “bigoted” to exclaim that one has the only truth. But God’s Word (and therefore the Christian’s Christmas) says it!
But it is also very broad. “Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The real blessing of Christmas, the real joy to the whole world is that salvation is made possible for every man, woman, boy and girl. This is God’s Christmas gift to the world. The only condition, as with any gift, is to receive it. So it is good news that we can’t earn it or pay for it. The whole world is in the same lost condition so God solved the universal problem with a gift. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Only the giver of a gift had to pay the price and Jesus did when He died for us. The receiver is only the recipient.
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem!
Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels!
O come, let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!
And So . . .
Is Christmas hateful? Is God hateful? To many this seems to be the case. They cannot find it within themselves to admit their need of a Savior. They will not accept a gift (and the love of God!) that is given because of the incapacity of the receiver. Such would make a person humble, it would make him necessarily thankful, and this the prideful human heart is averse to admitting.
But you may this very moment. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). It is a promise from the Giver. When you do, the light of heaven will open to you and Christmas will be Christmas again.
- Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1992, copyright 1984) 90.
- “Reform Rabbis Get OK to Sanction Same-Sex Unions,” Ft. Collins Coloradoan, 3-30-00.
- Dan Story, Engaging The Closed Mind (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999) 9.
- John MacArthur, The Truth War (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007) 189.
- Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012) 158.
- Alan Wolfe, “The Opening of the Evangelical Mind,” The Atlantic Monthly, October, 2000, p. 73.
- These terms taken from my seminar notes on Postmodernism.