Monday, December 26, 2005

Is Christmas Too Commercial?

In watching the excitement of my children again this year, I was reminded just how great was the joy of those who went to see the Christ-child. Christmas is the most joyous and celebrative time of the year and rightly so. The events surrounding the coming of Christ demonstrate this truth. However, recently Gene Veith has suggested that even the commercialization of Christmas in our culture is a good testimony to the glories that are God's in the coming of the Christ-child. He would not only have us celebrate Christmas, but also find the commercialism rather celebratory as well. Read this article and let me know what you think?


curtlove said...

First giving a gift is not a sign of the Gospel, but a changed heart, a love for God and bearing fruits are a sign of the Gospel.

Secondly if non believers could make tribute to Christ whether it is on purpose or on accident then, we cannot argue that man is Totally Depraved unable to do anything that pleases God. Thus giving room for one to have something in themselves that will bring about Gods favor, whether in salvation or otherwise.

Thirdly to hold the Creation, Incarnation, Sacraments and the Resurrection in comparison to our material vices in giving gifts is out right foolishness. In that this point either belittles these aforementioned things or it elevates our materialism to a realm that it does not belong.

Lastly to say for eample that if I were to receive an Xbox 360 for Christmas would put me in the correct mindset to hear of Christ's life and ministry is utter foolishness, My understanding was that Holy Spirit was the One who puts a person in the correct mindset and heart set in order to hear the gospel. I believe that the author has tried to make Salvation to close to what is known as gift giving today. While I agree that salvation is a gift from God (Eph 2) However we must understand that God is infinitely perfect and there is no impure pride or other impure feelings as to why he gave us this gift. He also is the only One who can give such a gift. As well as it is not necessary for God to set aside one day each year where he will change the hearts of men. His love is never ending and He is always everyday changing the hearts of men. While us on the other hand we give at times to be thought of as a "tight" gift giver, we give with the expectation of getting something in return of equal or greater value then what we received, We give gifts that are there for the taking any one at any time can go, either to get it themselves or to get it and give it before we can, and we, if it is not Christmas have the mindset of "don't make a list or ask for anything"

LouLove said...

Mr. Veith would be helped if he did a little more study on Gnosticism. He takes a little information on that heresy and comes very close to inventing one himself. The application of Phil. 2:10-11 to Christmas celebrating by non-believers is a huge stretch even for Rick Warren. If properly interpreted Phil. 2:10-11 is a celebratory passage for believers and a judgment passage for non-believers, then let that stand and apply the passage within those interpetive boundaries. I could go on about some other positions that Mr. Veith took that should raise the theological eyebrows of many, but I don't have time. However there is one last thing that needs to be made clear. There is a huge difference between "material" and "materialis(tic)(ism)" and Mr. Veith obviously needs to be reminded of this. What a blatant missue of words, meanings, and concepts. So my conclusion is that Mr. Veith either does not really understand the Gnostic heresy or he is purposely misrepresenting it in order to justify his own values. In either case his argument is dangerous.

Matthew Wireman said...

I liked it. The comments section was helpful in understanding what exactly he was hitting on. He wanted to just perk the interest that there are foretastes of glory divine here on earth. Christians can be so reactionary. I wonder if a lot of our vehemency is rooted in fear. We are afraid the secularists will take over. Why are we so afraid? It boggles my mind that we think we should have the US be a Christian nation. The Puritans were not so keen on keeping Christmas. They recognized that it was replete with pagan activity and wanted to do away with it.

Veith hits something when he says that a gift is a sign of the Gospel. I disagree with curtlove on this one. I think Veith wants to show that rather than write off the materialistic side of Christmas, we delight in the fact that there are redeemable qualities in it. When we share the Gosple with someone, their pump will be primed because they know what it means to give and receive - reminiscent of O'Henry's story.

Yes man is totally depraved, but he is still made in the image of God. There are redeemable qualities found in the most pagan of men.

I really like the emphasis on the fact that men are inadvertently praising God for his Gift of Christ. They will one day consciously acknowledge Christ as Lord. The here and now are shadows of what is to come. When people date their calendars, they do so to the glory of God who split BC and AD. When pagan fathers seek to give their children good gifts, they will then be able to see the unsurpassible gift of Jesus (Matt 7.11).

curtlove said...

Say, Matt
If you could explain what you mean by the most pagan of mean have redeemable qualities, and at the same time be totally depraved, it seems at first glance to be a contradiction. However I do not want to assume what your point is when it could be something else.

Matthew Wireman said...

Man is made in the image of God. The Fall did not distort every aspect of the imago Dei of man. He is God's vice-regent here on earth. Thus, when I say even the most pagan of men, I ma referring to sinful lifestyles even have some vestige of goodness in them.

For example, even a man on death row can feel remorse for some things (even if not for committing murder).He can evem show compassion, say to his child who comes and visits him. I don't think there is warrant to throw aside an understanding that total depravity does not mean utterly evil or not having any goodness. Rather, total depravity refers to the bonds of sin that keep men enslaved to sin. Every aspect of man has been tainted with sin, tainted does not mean destroyed. Total depravity affirms the fact that men are unable not to sin. However, there are bits of goodness found in the human race.

I would just contend that merely because a civic group has a soup kitchen, this is not enough to please God for salvation. I think it would be amiss to say that feeding the hungry has no goodness in it, despite the motive.

curtlove said...

Maybe your understanding surpasses mine but It sounds like contradiction to me. Please supply me with some Scripture references if you have time of course

Matthew Wireman said...

I am not sure exactly what is a contradiction. What do you see at odds?

What I fail to understand is your definition of total depravity. Could you define it?

As for Scripture references, Cornelius was not a Christian and yet he is said to have been a God-fearer (Acts 10.22), he even worshipped at Peter's feet - obviously not Christian, nor righteous to do so (v. 24). Gen 1.24-26 says that man is made in the image of God. This includes reason, personality, relaitonship...How do you understand the effect of the Fall?

Do you disagree with the fact that un-believes can do "good" things - by this I am not equating it with God's good, there is only one who is good (Mk 10.18)? There is within the human a redeemable quality. Before one is a Christian, would you say that they are the worse they can be? Total depravity does not hit at the levels of depraved, it speaks of the extent of the depravity. That is, we are totally infected by sin, but we are not the worst that we could possibly be. God's common grace keeps this from being so. More so, the image of God within each person helps even the un-believer to know what is right and wrong - commonly called the conscience.

I hope that helps. I would like for you to flesh out your definition of Total Depravity with the questions I asked in this comment. I think I know what you're getting at, but I think you may be going a little further and deeper than the doctrine allows you to do. Does this explanation help? Does it make sense? Do you still see a contradiction? Where? Thanks for your time in helping me clarify...I do appreicate it.

curtlove said...

Total Depravity:
"As a consequence of the Fall, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of Sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart,mind,or strenght, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God.Thus, all people by their own faculties are unable to choose to follow God and be saved."

To say that since we are not as bad as we could be is a weak argument for man having some form of good left ater the fall. For example "this sandwhich is nasty, yet since it is not as nasty as it could be it actually tastes good"
Also in reference to Acts 10 the story about Cornelius, I say devoutness and works of righteousness and religious sincerity does not solve the problem of sin. The bible elswhere calls "devout Jews" to repent does this mean they had some sort of good in and of themselves.
Cornelius was practicing the best way he knew how,what his understanding of good was.
Also if redemption is based on God's sovereign election then to even use the term "redeemable qualities" is a contradiction in itself.
Futhermore opening the door for self boasting and pride. (not accusing you of this).

curtlove said...

Let me say this I do beleive that men can do things that are not evil i.e. give to charity or what have you even though their intentions might be wrong. However when it comes to salvation, when it comes to glorifying God there is nothing in man prior to redemption that is good to this effect.

curtlove said...

After reading some sermons on Natural Depravity by John Piper I would like to recant my last post. Where I said that man can do some things that are not evil. To understand why I would recant and say that nothing a man does in the unregenerate state is good. if you are desiring to read Piper's sermon