Jehovah`s Witness/A hypothetical question
I have just been reading some of the debate about chrstmans and I
would like to ask you a completely hypothetical
question. This is a hypothetical question about YOUR church. (I am not speaking from my point of view) Based on some of the information in your replies, I am curious as to how YOU would respond in the following scenario
Your church sends a group of missionaries to a country (in the northern hemisphere) where they have no idea about the Bible. The people in the foreign country have many many, different religious ideas. Now in this culture one of their ideologies is that they worship the sun as a god, and every year at height of summer (around June) when the sun is highest in the sky, they have a festival to their sun god. As part of that festival the people make big bright colourful paintings and head dresses depicting in some way, the power, or benefits of the sun. One custom they have is that they put the head dress in their homes at the height of the festival and put sacrificial gifts around it to please the god.
Now the missionaries are having difficulty in converting the people as they want to hang on to their religious ideas, and in particular, the sun worship festival, its a great time of the year full of fun. So, some one suggests that, seeing these people have a god with no mane, lets tell them that this powerful god represents Jesus. It is also suggested to let them use their paintings of their sun god as a symbol of Christian identity and let them decorate their home of it with representations, not in June, but, in December when we celebrate the birth of the Jesus and instead of sacrificial gifts let them put ordinary gifts to one another around the picture or head dress that they have made.
The reason that this is decided on, is so the people would not have to give up so much of their culture – lets convert them but let them keep some of their personal identity. Those that do not join your church carry on having their sun god festival in June, and those that do join your church no longer feel left out of the community, because they are doing what every one else is doing but just at a different time of the year, now the activity is at about the time of the winter solstice in stead of the summer solstice, its not quite the same thing but a compromise has been made to make our Christian way of life more acceptable to the general public and, in time more may join our church.
Please may I ask you to answer these questions.
What do you think that would do to the missionary group? Would it unit them or divide them?
Would you go along with this idea or would you not? What Biblical reasons would you give as to your decision of - Why or why not?
Do you think the decision would be reached at the first time it was suggested or do you think that it would take some time for it to be accepted?
If you did not agree with the decision what would you think of those missionaries that did, or if you did agree what you you think of those missionaries who did not? Would you threaten those that did not comply with death or banishment?
Hello, Mr. Hepburn, and thank you for writing with your questions, and your "hypothetical" scenario. Being an Independent Baptist, which is a very missions-minded group, I am sure that our missionaries have had to possibly deal with a scenario such as the one you have created here. Not ever having been to the mission field myself, I am not familiar with how they would handle it. I do know that we try to speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.
What I think you are wanting to do, is to make a connection between people worshipping the sun and making paintings/head dresses, and decorating a Christmas tree. You see these as parallel practices, while I see some very key differences. Also, I think you are asking me if we simply let them keep the same "god", but just change its name. Unfortunately for the point you are trying to make, this is not what happened in the celebration of Christmas. While it is possible, and likely, that December 25th was chosen because it coincided with the pagan feast of Saturnalia (although this is not a certainty), it does NOT mean that your scenario was correct. More on that in a moment.
I want to list 2 possible reasons for the selection of December 25th, as the day of Christ's birth. I am fully aware in doing so, that your fellow JW Rando will likely take a quote from the article I am about to post, and attribute the quote to me, as he has done many times in the past. His dishonesty notwithstanding, I am going to give both sides here. What really bothers me, is that JWs seem to take ONLY the theory that agrees with their belief, and then tell everyone this is the way it was, while completely ignoring any other theory that might have merit, as well. I say this, because the common reason given for December 25th, is that this is supposedly to coincide with the pagan festival of Saturnalia. I tend to agree with this, however, there is also another theory that I will now mention.
THE 2 THEORIES REGARDING THE SELECTION OF DECEMBER 25:
1. That this date was selected, because the pagans were observing Saturnalia from December 17-23, so the Christians decide to have their own festival to SUPPLANT the pagan one, and do something to give honor to Jesus Christ. This is very different from the scenario you try to portray, and what most JWs try to portray.
2. That this date was selected for CHRISTIAN reasons, having to do with a belief that Jesus was crucified on March 25th, and that early Christians believed that a person died on the day they were conceived, which in Christ's case, would have been exactly 9 months before December 25th.
I will enclose the following link for the readers to consider both sides....
Now that being said, I hold personally to reason #1....I believe that the Christians used this date, to SUPPLANT a pagan festival going on around them. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. Just because pagans do something on a certain day or season, does not mean that Christians have to avoid doing anything at all.
Mr. Hepburn, where you and I differ, is that you believe that if pagans have a certain practice, then the practice automatically becomes "tainted" even if the act itself isn't wrong. You also seem to think that a particular day becomes "tainted", if pagans have a bad celebration on that day. I believe that every day is "the day that the LORD hath made", and Christians can "rejoice and be glad in it"(Psalm 118:24). I do not believe that pagans can taint what God has made. Their practices MAY be tainted, and their worship of a false "god" is definitely tainted. But I don't believe they have the power to taint a day, or a creation of God, such as a tree.
Let me tell you about a conversation I had on Christmas Eve, with a man who used to frequent this board for the sole purpose of debating me. He was a JW, and Rando even quotes my debates with the man to this day, to illustrate how "mean" and "full of hate" I am. What Rando doesn't know, is that this man and I, are now friends. He is no longer a JW, although he does still hold to many JW teachings. He has also rejected some of them, as well. But we still correspond on Facebook, and we had an interesting discussion about the Christmas tree. He is against it, and I obviously, don't agree with him.
I asked him the following question, and I had a reason for asking it...."Do you believe that it would be okay to put up a decorated tree in your home for decorative purposes ONLY, IF the pagans had never done it? Or, do you believe the act of decorating your home with a tree is inherently wrong, in and of itself?"
He replied with "God said not to do it"
(He was referring to Jeremiah 10:2-5).
I replied back to him that "God only said that, because the pagans were doing it. Had the pagans never been doing such a practice, then that command would not exist. So again, IF NO PAGANS HAD EVER DONE THIS, then the command not to, would not exist....would it still be wrong?"
Mr. Hepburn, he did not want to answer that question. Perhaps you can. In fact, after I showed him some other Scripture, he was at least HONEST enough to say that he was conceding that Jeremiah 10 was not talking about a Christmas tree, after all.
Brenton, I believe you are more intelligent than your JW counterparts on here. Please tell me that you are Scripturally knowledgeable enough to know, that Jeremiah 10:2-5 is NOT speaking of anything that even resembled a Christmas tree.
There is a reason this question bothered him. Because it implies that the very act of decoration a tree itself, is sinful. And it isn't. Jeremiah 10 gives us several things that the heathen did...Which of them are inherently wrong?
Is cutting a tree out of the forest, wrong in and of itself? Of course not. What about people who heat their homes with wood? Or what about the early pioneers, who made their homes from trees cut out of the forest? Were they committing pagan acts? Or was it a pagan act BECAUSE of the REASON they were cutting it? Please answer, Mr. Hepburn....Was the act wrong by its inherent nature, or because of the reason it was being done?
What about decking it with silver and gold? Is the act of decorating a tree wrong? Putting it in a nice pot, maybe tying a ribbon on it, or hanging pretty ornaments on it? Of course not. Again, it is the REASON it is being done, that makes it wrong.
If it IS wrong, then why not be consistent? I read your reply regarding the wedding ring, and I honestly don't think you realized that everything you said, paralleled perfectly to the Christmas tree, and proved our side of it. If you are going to condemn the tree, then you have to condemn the wedding ring.
You also have to condemn owning a cat. Yes, that is correct. For the goddess "Bastet", was a cat goddess. In fact, pagan Egyptians revered and worshipped cats, and even had entire cults revolving around their worship. Gold/silver statues were made in honor of cats. In fact, sculptures of cats were even made, and women bought them, thinking that owning these sculptures would cure barrenness. I guess that makes it wrong to purchase a little toy cat from the store, or own a cat calendar...because pagans had images of cats, also.
In addition, some cats were dressed up/decorated. Therefore, in our desire to keep our worship pure and undefiled, and making sure we abstain from any vestiges of the pagan practice of decorating cats, then true Christians must refrain from cat ownership, and certainly cannot place a little silver-colored colored bell on Fluffy's collar.
But that isn't the same thing, because a cat is a legitimate creation....Yes, but so is a tree.
Some may say...."But when we dress up our kitty and put a collar on him, we are not thinking about what Egyptians did, and it has no bearing on why we are doing it"
Precisely the point....And neither are Christians giving even a moment's thought to Saturnalia, or what pagans may or may not have done, when they decorate a beautiful tree and brighten their home during the Christmas season.
But back to your question....Obviously, they cannot be a Christian, and continue to worship the sun, or honor a "sun god" in any way, shape, or form. Now, does that make it a sin to wear a head dress? I hope not...I used to buy them as a child, every time I went to the Indian Reservation near my home, as a souvenir. But again, its WHY you are doing it.
Obviously, these new converts to Christianity should not continue to have any sort of festival to their previous false "god". If they want to do something each year to honor the true God, provided it doesn't entail committing sinful acts or honoring anything false, then I would like to see your Scriptural injunction against such a thing.
Now, I think we all agree that worshipping the sun is a wrong, and a pagan practice. But does that mean that these people cannot ENJOY the beauty of the sun, or the warmth it provides? Are we sinning, if we stand in awe of a gorgeous sunset/sunrise? If we enjoy being out in it, and taking advantage of its light and warmth? Is that wrong, merely because pagans took it a bit too far, and violated Scripture by worshipping the creation, instead of the Creator?
By the way, Mr. Hepburn....When Jews in Bible times converted to Christianity, were they COMMANDED to refrain from any and all of their former observances, or customs? Or were they simply to not try and impose those practices on the Gentiles?
You also asked...."Now the missionaries are having difficulty in converting the people as they want to hang on to their religious ideas, and in particular, the sun worship festival, its a great time of the year full of fun. So, some one suggests that, seeing these people have a god with no mane, lets tell them that this powerful god represents Jesus. It is also suggested to let them use their paintings of their sun god as a symbol of Christian identity and let them decorate their home of it with representations, not in June, but, in December when we celebrate the birth of the Jesus and instead of sacrificial gifts let them put ordinary gifts to one another around the picture or head dress that they have made."
You know, we actually have a Biblical precedent for something similar to this. It is found in Paul's experience on Mars Hill, in Greece. You know the story....Paul was walking around observing the idols in honor of various "gods" and "goddesses", and he came across one dedicated "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD"
. He saw the gross idolatry, and was stirred up within himself.
What did Paul do, Mr. Hepburn? Did he start right in, calling them "idolaters", and telling them how angry God was with them? Or, did he find a common ground, and take advantage of the situation as it existed, as an opening to present to them the Gospel?
I think the answer is plain....
Acts 17:23-24- "For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;"
Seems to me that Paul had great wisdom, and simply used their idol to an "unknown God", to make them KNOW the one true God. Now, obviously Paul did not tell them that their idol to the "unknown God" was actually the true God, but He did use this opportunity to tell them that the one they worship ignorantly, is the one that "I declare unto you".
So, I would like to think our missionaries would follow a similar pattern....Using whatever opportunity that presented itself, to proclaim to them the true God and Savior of the world. And of course, if we continue reading on down to verse 30, we do see that Paul told them of their need to repent, and turn to the true and living God. So obviously, new converts to Christianity cannot still continue holding onto to false idols that they previously worshipped. But this has nothing to do with decorating our homes with something that God created.
This is why some JWs choose to lie, and claim that we worship Christmas trees. You know better than that, Mr. Hepburn. You would never make such a false claim as that. No Christian that I know of, believes their tree has any power to do anything, but make the home a little more decorative. And again, there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits decorating a tree. The Bible DOES prohibit cutting down a tree, and making an idol out of it, by carving it into a statue and decking it with silver/gold, either by plating it, or by making jewelry and putting on it.
If decorating a tree is wrong, Sir, then so is having any type of greenery in the house....a ficus tree, potted plant, etc. We can't just pick and choose.
So, to answer your question....Obviously, they should cease any and all pagan observances, regardless of how "fun" they are. However, there is nothing wrong with having a Christian observance, with no ties to anything sinful or pagan, that can also be "fun" or honoring to Christ.
Again, I believe you have painted a false scenario...Namely, that the early Christians tried to mesh pagan practices in order to make the Gospel more appealing. You are simply mistaken on that. The date of December 25th, was chosen to SUPPLANT the pagan festival, not incorporate it. And again, decorating a tree does not become sinful, just because pagans did it. Doing it for the same REASON that pagans did it, IS sinful. If I put ornaments on my tree that had roots in paganism, that would be wrong. But putting snowflakes, ribbons, pine cones, and snowmen on it....Seriously? That is pagan worship?
And by the way, do you really want to claim that gift giving is pagan? Were gifts not given in the Bible, as well? Doesn't gift giving, if done with the right motive, actually honor the Biblical principle of generosity and sharing?
By the way, Mr. Hepburn, I am yet to see a single JW turn down their "Christmas bonus" from their workplace....Just saying.
If gift-giving is wrong, then why are JWs permitted to do it OTHER times of the year? Why do they brag about getting gifts all year long, and not on Christmas, if the practice itself is rooted in paganism? And why is it wrong for a JW to give gifts and make a cake on someone's birthday, because it is "giving too much honor to the creature", but it is perfectly fine to give gifts and a cake to someone for a graduation, or "going away" party? Why isn't that also "giving too much honor to the creature"?
YOU: "The reason that this is decided on, is so the people would not have to give up so much of their culture – lets convert them but let them keep some of their personal identity. Those that do not join your church carry on having their sun god festival in June, and those that do join your church no longer feel left out of the community, because they are doing what every one else is doing but just at a different time of the year, now the activity is at about the time of the winter solstice in stead of the summer solstice, its not quite the same thing but a compromise has been made to make our Christian way of life more acceptable to the general public and, in time more may join our church."
Again Sir, it depends on what they are doing, and why. Obviously, if sexual orgies are part of the ritual, then they would have to stop that altogether. If merely decorating a home was done, then please tell me why they cannot decorate their homes with Christ-honoring, or non-religious decorations, once becoming Christians. I would like to see your Scriptural evidence of this.
Do you think the time of the winter solstice is somehow automatically cursed? You do realze, don't you, that the winter/summer solstices are actually scientific facts, which denote the shortest and the longest days of the year? In and of itself, that is not bad. It is worshipping the sun, moon, or whatever, that causes the problem. I too, like to see the days get shorter in winter, and longer in summer. That doesn't mean I am worshipping it....It just means that it happens. The solstice itself, is not cursed, Mr. Hepburn.
"What do you think that would do to the missionary group? Would it unit them or divide them?"
First off, its a false scenario. We are not supposed to do things, with the motive of "making the Christian life more acceptable". It is what it is. When we come to Christ, we are to follow Him unconditionally. Our missionaries would not say anything less than that.
Nor would we try to set rules and regulations, which go beyond the things written, either. When people come to Jesus Christ, it is not necessary, nor within our authority, to attempt to control their every move, nor tell them what they can and cannot do in their homes. We would instruct them refraining from their previous false worship, and make sure they knew that their false "gods" did not exist, and are not to be worshipped.
I doubt very seriously we would be telling them that it is a sin to enjoy one of God's creations decorating their home. We would tell them it is a sin to honor or worship that creation, but not to merely enjoy it, and give God the glory for it.
THAT, my friend, is the difference between keeping worship pure, and seeking to bind and control the conscience of other men, by putting a yoke upon them that the Bible does not authorize us to put.
So, if every one in the missionary group was attempting to be Scriptural, and not go beyond what the Bible says, then there should be no reason for division.
Now, let's be honest for a moment....As I said before, I am an Independent Baptist. There are many within my group, that share the JW belief about Christmas. They have the same misunderstanding of Jeremiah 10, that less-studied JWs have....that it is speaking of a Christmas tree. In fact, my FB wall has been bombarded these past 2 weeks from my "Liked" Independent Baptist pages, that spout the same nonsense that some JWs here have been spouting about Christmas. So, its not just a JW thing....Others haven't done their homework, either.
But the difference is, I can take the Bible and weigh the evidence for myself, without fear of saying that my group doesn't have it all quite right, either. Doctrinally, yes, for the most part. On this issue of Christmas, many are way off base.
YOU: "Would you go along with this idea or would you not? What Biblical reasons would you give as to your decision of Why or why not?"
As I said before, I would go along with no decision that tried to "make the Christian life more acceptable". Its already acceptable enough, to a true Christian. As for them continuing to worship their "gods", or honor them in any way, absolutely not. My Scripture would be 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
On the other hand, no, I would not presume to tell people how to decorate their homes with God's creation, as long as they recognized it as just that....the creation, and not the Creator.
YOU: "Do you think the decision would be reached at the first time it was suggested or do you think that it would take some time for it to be accepted?"
I don't even see a counsel convening on this issue, of telling people how to decorate for a Christian observance. I think we would be more concerned with making sure they knew their previous form of worship was false, and that their "gods" were not real.
With all of our missionaries, I have just never seen where this has been a problem, for when people get saved, they normally don't want to worship falsely anymore. However, I don't believe we would tell them the could not observe the birth of Jesus Christ, in a way that honors Him.
But again, its hard to answer this question, because I believe it is based upon a false scenario as its foundation.
YOU: "If you did not agree with the decision what would you think of those missionaries that did, or if you did agree what you you think of those missionaries who did not? Would you threaten those that did not comply with death or banishment?"
I have never, and would never, threaten a brother or sister in Christ, with "death or banishment". What kind of a question is that?
If I did or didn't agree on something that the Bible doesn't speak clearly about, then I would let Romans 14:4-6, be my guide. It doesn't matter what I think....It only matters that they are not going against the Scripture.
Now, I trust that this has covered all of the questions.
I do want to deviate here just a bit, and ask you again, if you think Jeremiah chapter 10, has reference to a modern day Christmas tree?
Let's look at the passage in question....
Jeremiah 10:2-5- "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
The truth is, I laugh on the inside when I see or hear someone reference this verse, as having to do with a Christmas tree. It displays an extreme ignorance of the Scriptures, to do so. It is a classic case of trying to MAKE the Bible teach what we already believe is wrong, and grasping for any similarity in Scripture that we can find, rather than simply READING the passage and figuring out what it really means. It also shows the person has not bothered to do a study on the topic of discussion here, and compared Scripture with Scripture.
For one thing, even if this Scripture is all we had on the topic, it is OBVIOUS that it is talking about carving the tree INTO AN IDOL, rather than making it into a Christmas tree. The "silver and gold" spoken of, is not garland, ball ornaments, etc. It refers to making the tree into a statue in HUMAN form, and adorning it with jewelry, or plating it with gold/silver. When the idol in Jeremiah was completed, it did not even bear a remote resemblance to a modern-day Christmas tree....None.
But hey, don't take my word for it. Just take some time to actually READ the Scriptures, instead of just picking one out of context, to bind other people's consciences. In fact, the Book of Isaiah gives us a VERY detailed description of this process of making the tree into an idol, and makes it quite clear that it was not left in the form of a tree, but carved into a statue of human likeness.
Isaiah 41:7- "So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved."
Notice that there is a reference to "sodering" (using metals such as gold and silver, as in Jeremiah 10:4). Also, the parallel in both verses, with it being "fastened with nails", so that it doesn't move. I don't think anyone "soders" a Christmas tree...But you DO "soder" statues.
Isaiah 44:10-19- "Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?
We are told right off, that this is speaking of forming a "god", or a graven image...Not left in the form of a tree.
Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.
The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.
Describing the process of making the tree into a statue, proving it is not left in the shape of a tree.
The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.
"He maketh it after the FIGURE OF A MAN", proving once again, this is talking about making the tree into a wooden STATUE, not a Christmas tree.
He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.
If there was any doubt this passage is speaking of the same practice in Jeremiah chapter 10, of "cutting a tree from the forest", and it being "the work of the hands of the workman", then this verse removes all doubt. It clearly says that this statue comes from cedars, cypress, and oak, which have been "hewn down".
Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.
This tree "cut out of the forest", is used for various things. Some legitimate....Firewood, and to heat his cook stove.
But then, there is a WRONG use of the tree....to make a "god", a graven image, and to fall down and worship it. Same process spoken of in Jeremiah chapter 10.
He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:
And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.
After using most of the tree for legitimate purposes, he then uses the residue to make an idol, to fall down to, worship, pray to, and trust in for deliverance. I think its quite obvious that THIS is what the Bible forbids...not legitimately using a tree for some reasonable or enjoyable purpose.
They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?"
Again, we are told that this statue is from a tree. To say after reading this passage, that Jeremiah chapter 10 is referring to a Christmas tree, is willful ignorance of the Scripture. I am not saying you believe that, Mr. Hepburn, but far too many of your brethren do. And to be honest, it is very irresponsible handling of the Scriptures, to twist the passage in that manner.
Suffice it to say, there is no passage in the Bible, that remotely references a Christmas tree.
Brenton, in closing, I want to say something to you with all due respect. Your profile contains "warnings" about non-Witnesses here, and a very watered-down "warning" about impolite Witnesses. We all know who you are making reference to.
Also, you are a smart person, and you see what goes on. The other week you were approached by a questioner, and asked what you thought of the conduct of certain Witnesses here.
You obviously did not want to receive or answer the question, but your feelings still came through enough to see that you are embarrassed by certain ones here.
Now, my suggestion would be this....You see something on this board occurring every week, that is clearly defined in the Scriptures as "sin"....and that is the LYING that takes place here. There are plenty of Scriptures on that one, so that there is no doubt as to the Scriptural teaching. What would be nice, is if you would not be so concerned with my saying that a Christian can decorate their home with a tree, as if that is the sin of the ages, and instead, maybe address some of your own brethren out of concern for their very lives, about their continued, willful, and intentional dishonesty. It seems that lying is a much bigger issue, than whether someone remembers Christ's birth on December 25th, or puts up a tree, with no thoughts of Saturnalia or any other pagan festival. Wouldn't you agree, Brenton?
In closing, I hope you are well, and that you are in good health. Take care, and have a good day. And thank you for writing with your questions. Its always good talking to you.