Thursday, December 25, 2014

Why Do Cults Shun Christmas?

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen
Edited 10-23-2015

Most Christians (and many non-Christians) celebrate Christmas. There are some Christians who choose to avoid it. Unfortunately, there are also legalistic, judgmental Christians who scorn those of us who choose to celebrate, but this is based on a misunderstanding of Scripture and history (and maybe a prideful desire to feel "better" than others). Some of those people are influenced by atheistic dishonesty and cult propaganda. I've seen cults actually start with a foundation of blatant lies, and then build an "argument" against Christmas with "logic" that is cringe-worthy.


Most Christians and many non-Christians celebrate Christmas. Why do legalists and cultists strive to keep their people away from it?

Some legalistic Christians (as well as the Jehovah's Witnesses) proudly assert that everyone else is wrong and they are right in avoiding Christmas. They assert alleged pagan associations with the holiday, and even torture the text of Jeremiah 10:1-16 to get it to confess that Christmas trees are evil. Except that their use is amazingly out of biblical, historical, and cultural contexts. Consider that Jeremiah was written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, and that Christmas trees in homes were not common until even later, so associating those verses with Christmas trees seems to be an act of desperation.

Sometimes people will say, "We were never commanded to celebrate the birth of Jesus!" So? We do many things that we were never commanded to do. Here's a gold nugged I panned up for you: Jesus celebrate Hanukkah. Or, as it was known in his day, the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-23). Although it was not one of the feasts commanded by God, he went.

Before we ride further down the trail toward cult things, let's stop a moment. "Cult" is a common and useful term, but can bring up images of dancing among torches and waving snakes on a tropical island, or the atheist Jim Jones and Jonestown. Sure, those are cults. But generally, Christians mean that something is a cult when it denies the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, such as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and so on. Some religious groups have doctrines that are heterodox (such as annihilationism, soul sleep, infant baptism, and others), but those views do not define the groups as cults. But when someone holds to heterodox views, be on the alert and check further for unorthodox or cult beliefs.

Although cults pretend to be the One True Church™, they deny the essentials of the Christian faith. Groups like the Sacred Name, Jehovah's Witnesses, the old Worldwide Church of God (and its splinter groups), and others will rabidly deny the celebrations of Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and many holidays. (It's interesting that the henotheistic Mormons do not seem to forbid celebrating Christmas, but their Jesus is not the real Jesus; their Jesus is a spirit brother of Lucifer.) Be careful — just because someone rejects Christmas does not guarantee that he or she is a cultist, nor is celebrating Christmas a guarantee that someone is not involved in a cult.

Some characteristics of cults include their claim to be the only ones who are right (like I just mentioned), a persecution complex (try to talk reason with some, and they want to draw down on you like it's the gunfight at the O.K. Corral on a spiritual level), and isolation. Isolation helps cult leaders control their people and keeps them from examining the Bible for themselves. (Atheists tend to do the same kind of thing, telling people what Christians and creationists believe and think instead of sending them to Christians and creationists for first-hand information.) No need to think when the Watchtower or the Yahuwshuwa stormtroopers will tell you what to think.

But again, why do cults shun Christmas?

If cults let their members freely mix with Christians, they would be more likely to read the Bible with an open mind and see that the cult's doctrines are not supported. In fact, people might see that their leaders have been lying to them about what Christians really believe and what the Bible actually teaches. Can you imagine a member of one of those outfits joining in and singing such terrible words, or hearing them on the radio?

  • Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity!
  • Mary, did you know...you kissed the face of God?
  • Emmanuel...Wonderful Counselor...Mighty God, Holy One...
  • By Thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone 
  • Behold, the great Creator makes himself a house of clay
That last one gets the attention of this creationist. For that matter, in church last week we sang "Joy to the World", and did a verse that is often missed: "No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found...", referring back to Genesis 3:17-19 NIV, and forward to Revelation 22:3 NASB. Yes, the Creator became flesh (Phil. 2:6-7, John 1:3, John 1:18, Co. 1.16). That information could be bad for cult coffers when people learn the truth and leave for a Bible-believing church.

As for me, I'm going to celebrate Christmas (as I discussed in "Christmas and Creationists"). It's sure a great time to share the gospel of the Creator becoming a man, his crucifixion, and bodily resurrection from the dead so we can become children of the living God! Cults and God-deniers do not have this great hope, the promise of life!

 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cats, Computers, and God

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

What could the three subjects in the title possibly have in common? Not much, really. But there are two things from the Unusual Analogies Department that you may find interesting. 

Also, just for fun, this is scheduled to publish at 10:11 AM Eastern Time on December 13, 2014. Yup: 10:11, 12-13-14. It won't happen again.


Cats
What do cats, computers, and God have in common? You may be surprised at the answer.
"Going to check my mail now". Basement Cat "using" my wife's computer.
How we got our Basement Cat is a long story. But there was a time that we didn't get along, and I didn't want the beast in the apartment. Now we're quite close. I prefer the names that I put on her instead of her "real" name, but never mind about that now.

Some people dislike cats because of their independent spirit, call them "sneaky", are annoyed because cats are cats and not dogs, or other reasons. When I was much younger, I complained to my mother about our cat and made a stupid accusation like "sneaky" or something. My mother looked at me in amazement and said, "She's an animal!" What neither of us realized then was that I was anthropomorphizing, and irrationally expecting the cat to act in a way that I preferred.


Having watched television shows and read material about animals, I learned that people have to learn about the traits of the animals (cats do show affection, but you have to learn to read their signs), especially when you learn some of the physiology (I like observing what I call the "feline machine"). They have their own stimuli, responses, instincts, and so on. "Domesticated"? I'm not so sure...

Also, I just have to go on about this side note. When you get a pet, you're doing more than just having something to poke at when you're bored. You're taking on a responsibility. Their lives are in our hands, sometimes literally. See that cat in the picture? She lays on her back in a sign of trust, or lets me pet under her chin. Very vulnerable and trusting; I actually get a bit emotional about that trust, which I never want to betray. In addition, God wants us to care for creatures (Proverbs 12:10).

What it comes down to is that if you want a relationship with a cat, you have to learn how to come to it on its own terms and not expect it to conform to your expectations. Same with any other beast.


Computers

Have you ever heard of GIGO? It's an axiom of computer programmers, and many users have learned it: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Computers are exceptionally literal things, and do only what they're told to do. Yes/no, on/off, one/zero. 

Did it stop you from going to a certain site? Check your browser settings, firewall, anti-virus, your typing, maybe someone's bad link, or something else — but that box of electric hardware didn't make a decision to stop you. When we get angry, we may (big word again) anthropomorphize and claim that "it's cheating me", or doing something "on purpose". (I'm suspicioning that some games have things built in to keep you from winning too much too soon, but I reckon I can't prove that.) Artificial intelligence isn't here yet, and there's no reason to pay attention to Stephen Hawking's predictions of doom.

We have to learn to use computers and the programs inside them. They not only do what they're told, but they do not think for themselves (though bad software may cause unexpected results that appear like the computer is making its own malicious choices). Sure, many of us will say things like, "It wants to run a program on its own" (probably something in the registry causing that activity), or, "It doesn't want to connect" (it doesn't want anything, really, so check the software, wires, and so on). We have to learn how to work with computers and, essentially, come to them on their terms. (See what I did there? Computers and cats don't have "terms" to come to them on, but you know what I mean.) Nor can you expect a computer to conform to your expectations.

God

Someone may be upset that I'm "comparing God to cats and computers", but read on, old son, because I'm only showing two things that all three have in common, and not "comparing" them.

I have an online creation science ministry called "The Question Evolution Project" on Facebook and on Google Plus. In these and other places on the Web, I'll have atheists make demands of God, saying things like, "I don't believe he exists. He needs to prove it by doing special signs, or speaking directly to me!" 

First of all, people like that usually find some kind of an excuse to reject every evidence presented, and try to replace God with evolution. In fact, some people had the best evidence in the world for seeing the resurrected Jesus: They saw him with their own eyes, and still doubted (Matthew 28:16-17). My other reaction is, "What makes you so special?" God has already shown that he exists (Romans 1:20-22, Psalm 53:1-4, Proverbs 1:7), Jesus has explained God (John 1.18), and has given us his written Word (2 Peter 1:19) — we can trust and believe the Bible

We cannot make demands of the Creator of the universe to come to us on our terms (Romans 9:20, 1 Peter 5: 5-6). He is the one who makes the rules, and we, the created, must come to him on his terms, not ours. What many people detest is that God does not care about what we call "wisdom". Our position, knowledge, philosophies, wealth — none of those matter (Philippians 3:7-11). We must come to God in humility because we are unable to save ourselves — all of it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), and we cannot require God to conform to our expectations. God requires humility and repentance. It's best to do it now, because you may not have tomorrow (2 Corinthians 6:2). Are you going to spend eternity with God and his people? Are you sure?

One other thing. Christians, especially those in various kinds of ministry, can get caught up in pride. Like the atheists described above, some Christians disregard the authority of Scripture. It's been rightly said that people headed for a fall often have an attitude, "God sure must be glad that he's got me on his side!" Better check yourselves, and quickly! We are to be obedient to God's will, and seeking it (Ephesians 2:10, Titus 2:14, Hebrews 3:4, Isaiah 43:7, Psalm 100:3). Personally, I recommend "checkpoints" where we get with mature Christians and leaders. Also, pray. Seek to glorify God, not to show off your good works or your intellectual prowess.


Conclusion


When dealing with cats and critters, we can't expect them to act in a way we want them to. We have to learn what makes them tick and come to them on their terms. 

Computers are literal machines, doing what they're told, and doing what we want them to through their own decision-making processes, which are nonexistent. To have good use out of them, we need to learn how to run the software; computers are not making decisions, so we come to them on their own terms. 

Most importantly, God is our maker. He makes the rules, and we cannot make demands on him. He has mercifully shown us how to come to him on his terms, not our own. We must humbly seek his salvation, forgiveness and will for our lives.


Unimportant Addendum: Right on time.