Jehovah`s Witness/Discussion with Mr Holland
I have just read the discussion between you and Mr Holland, it is quite interesting in how different people see matters from different angles. I tried to follow the discussion from your fist post called “A hypothetical question”. I can see from what you said in your second post what the idea of the hypothetical situation was trying to get across. Your point was made when you said.
Mr Hepburn …. The point of my “hypothetical question” is, that what I presented is what history shows actually happened. It was a gradual introduction of “pagan” ideas” over a period of time. That at some time both the pagan and the so called "Christianized” adoption of the pagan ideas ran hand in hand. There was a lot of divisive influences happening and that is possibly the main reason Constantine called the council of Nicaea, to unit his divided realm
Your scriptural references and explanations as to how the Jews and the first century Christians would have viewed pagan ideas was clear and understandable. I can see from what you are saying that after the Bible writers died some Christian started letting the pagan ideas influence them. I considered all the web links that you and Mr Holland supplied and the conclusion that any rational person could come to is that the Christmas celebration is adopted from pagan rituals, I found Mr Hollands reply hard to follow as he seems to have have personal issues with some of your people that seems to get in the way of concentrating on answering your comments. He also got hung up on the tree didn't he and not the overall idea of your hypothetical situation. I found it hard to comprehend why he did not understand what you saying when you asked “is it wrong to take a pagan symbol used in religious worship and use it in a what many call a Christian celebration.” For me his answer showed no understanding of what you said. His reply
Mr Holland …. That’s just the point, Mr. Hepburn….There is no need to “Christianize” a tree, because it was never “UN-Christianized”. As I stated before, pagans misusing a legitimate creation of God, does not taint the creation itself, or mean that Christians cannot use it.
You were not talking about just the tree as you had already said that there is nothing wrong with a tree but because it was used for a specific pagan religious celebration that Christians adopted. I could see how you were asking a question as to if it would be seen in a good light by God if we used pagan ideas in any of our worship.
Now personally I do believe that that Christmas has been adopted from Pagan ideas. I reckon deep down that Mr Holland believes that as well but he want admit it but like him I believe many of us truly believe that it is OK to celebrate Christmas as a way to remember the birth of our Lord after all what salvation could we have if he was not born. But your hypothetical question goes much further than that in suggesting that many of our cor Christian beliefs have been assimilated into Christian teachings as well. And it is those that worry me more, but I will ask separate questions on those.
What I want to ask you about are some things that Mr Holland said as well as some things on the web links that Mr Holland gave. He gives examples that seem to show that it is OK and proper to accept some pagan practices.
Mr Holland asked you twice in two different responses this question
Mr Holland …. 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?”
That seems to suggest that it was OK to follow other traditions. You also said the following
Mr Hepburn …. “That was the whole point of my hypothetical question, is it wrong for a follower of Christ who wants to develop the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16 “But we have the mind of Christ”)to accept pagan teachings as part of of own culture.”
To which Mr Holland replied
Mr Holland …. Pagan TEACHINGS, or legitimate practices that some pagans abused, Mr. Hepburn? Please be a little more clear on what you are asking.
In support of that Mr Holland says that you are being inconsistent in that you people participate in wedding ceremonies and rings and wedding cakes and a lot of other examples of what most of us consider normal in our every day lives that evidently have pagan origins. He gives the example of eating meat from a temple and quotes a text that shows that some thought it was OK and others thought it note so it was a conscience matter. Now that was a very good point that I have been thinking about
So why if a Christian wants to celebrate Christmas is that not also a conscience matter? I will leave it there for now.
Thank you for your question.
It is nice to know that some discussions on this forum are read with interest and arouses people to ask further questions. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to reason some more on this.
I understand that for the may Christians, Christmas is more that just a holiday. It it also a sad fact that so many who do celebrate this occasion give no thought to the “intent” of the occasion. It is always refreshing to find people who say that they do see it as a “sacred” occasion. I can understand the confusion when we accept such customs as is associated with weddings as you and Derrick mentioned. I will just been wanting to present information that shows why we believe that to celebrate Christmas is dishonouring to both Jesus and his father, and that if we truly want to be a follower of the Christ to ask our selves the question if participation in this ritual is dishonouring should we be doing it – would our worship of God be acceptable to him
if we practice what HE
disproves of. That is a question you and Derrick and every other person has to answer for themselves. As for us we firmly believe that we have to not participate in pagan religious rituals no matter how long so called Christians have been celebrating them.
The difference between celebrations such as Easter and Christmas with weddings etc. is how that celebration is viewed in the local community
. Many of the traditions around Christmas are untrue. For example He has not born on December 25 to start with. We do not know the day but we can determine that it was late September to early October. There are three different Biblical accounts that pinpoint that period. One has to do with prophecy, and the other two relate to events surrounding the life of Jesus. The prophecy also backs up these events.
The other major part of the nativity “story” that is told, is that there were three wise men or kings that visited the family on the night he was born. Although this is loosely based on what the Bible says, the facts are, we have no idea how many of these men showed up, it is only speculated because there were three different types of gifts mentioned. The general nativity story shows them showing up on the night Jesus was born. The fact is they did not show up on the night of his birth but some time after the eight day, just when we do not know. It is also widely claimed that the star that they followed was a sign form God. That to is non biblical, as God detests astrology, and these men were astrologists from the east. So why would God who does not lie suddenly allow people that and a practice that was punishable by death under his law herald the occasion as the birth of the most important man that ever walked the earth?
Does it matter if those details are not correct? Well most people view Jesus as being a part of the god-head so they honour him as such. But notice this text at John 4:23, 24
where we are told what sort of person the Father is looking
for to worship him... “23 Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship
the Father with spirit and truth
, for, indeed, the Father is looking
for suchlike ones to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with
spirit and truth
We ask ourselves, if God says we MUST worship
(serve) him with truth, how would he fell about an annual occasion the celebrates a lie??? Each of us must answer that for ourselves, but our life depends on the answer we give
There are two scriptural principles I would like to point out at this time.
Even though the Birth of Jesus was a very happy occasion and in fact some angels rejoiced at the birth, the birth of a person is not as important as their death. This is seen from Ecclesiastes 7:1
”A name is better than good oil, and the day of death than the day of one’s being born. ”
At the time of his birth Jesus had accomplished nothing. He had his whole 33 year of life ahead of him to prove himself faithful to the assignment that was set before him. It was his death as a faithful witness to God that marked the most important occasion for all mankind. It was that occasion that he asked us to memorialise. We will do that this year after sundown on April 14.
Birthdays in the time of the Bible were ways or bringing glory and honour to an individual. There are only 2 mentioned in the Bible and these were of “pagan” Kings. (some people will claim that Jobs children celebrated birthdays but that is not the case.)
So what is the best way to honor Jesus? John 14:15
YOU love me, YOU will observe
my commandments“ By following what Jesus did and preached, we show him the greatest honour nut by honouring the day he was born. (See John 4:23, 24
Now most Christian religions will put Jesus on the same level of authority as his Father and put Jesus as a part of the Godhead. IF that is so than, showing honour to Jesus in such a religious way would probably not be out of the question. HOWEVER ...
if Jesus is a creature, an inferior person to the Almighty, it then becomes wrong to honour him in such a religious way. That is where a big discussion arises … Is Jesus a created being thus subordinate to the Father? The Bible teaches that to be the case. Jesus is not God or a part of a godhead. That is one of the aspects that are covered in the hypothetical question I posed. It is something that developed over a period of time with much controversy. The Almighty God if the universe, the Father of Jesus, the one that Jesus bows and submits to does not share any religious worship with ANYONE or anything.
Weddings are different to the religious celebrations of Christmas and Easter. In most countries there is a legal obligation to register a marriage. The very first marriage was preformed by God Matthew 19:4-6
“ 4. . .“Did YOU not read that he who created them from [the] beginning made them male and female 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? 6 So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.”
But what about wedding customs. Some of them evidently come from pagan rituals. One of the the differences is that weddings are not centred around a lie. They are centred around the God given privilege. It is true that many customs have various countries over the many centuries have introduced some pagan elements just as there are many pagan elements introduced into Christmas. Those pagan customs are generally seen acts of worship to someone they believe to be “God”
I am going to cut and paste from an article directed at JWs in one of our publications that covers many wedding customs. Notice that what is acceptable in one locality may not be acceptable in another defending on how that custom is viewed in that location. There are no rules set here but reasonableness is stressed along with the way locals view a custom
*** w69 1/15 pp. 57-61 Christian Weddings Should Reflect Reasonableness ***
True Christians know that when they marry, the ceremony must fulfill the requirements of the secular law, whether that be in a religious service or a civil one such as at a courthouse or registration office. (Luke 20:25) Throughout the earth Jehovah’s witnesses recognize this and so fulfill local requirements. Yet questions remain as to certain customs followed at the wedding ceremony. Just what should Christians do?
A key quality needed to gain the proper view of this subject is reasonableness. This is something that Christians should display in all their activities, but it is especially needed in connection with social functions involving so many people and traditions. Under inspiration the apostle Paul wrote fine counsel to Christians in his day, and remember, they also got married and had wedding celebrations. He counseled: “Let your reasonableness
become known to all men.” (Phil. 4:5) Emphasizing this, the disciple James said that wisdom from Jehovah is “reasonable.”—Jas. 3:17.
Christians who are spiritually mature and who appreciate the importance of applying Scriptural principles evidence this by manifesting reasonableness
. Without needing a long list of specific rules, they exercise care
that the spiritual aspects of the wedding are not overshadowed by mere ceremonial matters.
However, not too long ago a wedding in Brazil turned out to be an extremely elaborate affair in view of the financial means of those being married, and unusually opulent for the modest Kingdom Hall where the Bible talk was given. For many there, the excessiveness of the arrangements, the luxurious gown, the abundance of bridesmaids and attendants and other details, drew so much attention that those things eclipsed the fine counsel being offered from the Scriptures. Truly, when reasonableness is lost, other things are lost by many persons, including the bride and groom.
Since there are so many traditional practices, should a Christian try to avoid all the wedding customs of his area? Not necessarily. He can be selective. Sometimes marriage customs have a practical basis, such as marrying on the day when most people are off from secular work, or in the cooler part of the day, after “siesta.” Or a tradition may be a touch of local color; one would hardly expect that persons in their hometown in Korea would dress as do natives of Lebanon, Finland or Fiji.
Of course, some custom are unscriptural and so they are objectionable to Christians
. In many lands odd customs are followed so that the bride and groom or their guests will have “good luck.” Jehovah’s witnesses do not worship the god of Good Luck. (Isa. 65:11) Nor do they follow traditions that would lead observers to think that they do
. Other customs are plainly acts of false worship. So one planning a wedding does well to examine practices common in his area and analyze how people view them locally
. If it is acknowledged that a custom is connected with false religion or “good luck,” then the Christian will shun it.—2 Cor. 6:14-18.
Other traditions are unreasonable or unloving. In many lands it is common to throw rice at the bride and groom. What is the point of the custom? “Some peoples believe the rice is food to keep evil influences away from the bride and groom. Some say it assures the couple fertility.” (Science News Letter, June 8, 1963, p. 357) This illustrates that there are often a number of opinions as to the origin of a certain custom. But whatever the background of this one, do Christians normally take food and throw it at their friends, dirtying up the street in the process? Also, consider the matter of loving your neighbor as yourself. Would Christian love move one to play “practical jokes” to the embarrassment of a bride and groom? Jesus said: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.”—Luke 6:31; 10:27.
Then there is the tradition of the wedding ring. A study of the subject would likely leave you confused as to the origin and meaning of the wedding ring; the claims are many, the facts muddled. Even if the Bible does not directly mention wedding rings, it is plain that Jehovah’s servants could wear rings
. (Job 42:11, 12; Luke 15:22) But what if people in one’s land believe that a wedding ring symbolizes a couple’s unbroken faith, love and devotion? Christians do not attach any symbolic meaning to a wedding ring, even though they cultivate these qualities in marriage, and even if many in the world are hypocritical in claiming to manifest such. A wedding ring ensures nothing. It merely serves public notice of married estate
. It is not improper for a Christian to give evidence of his or her married status by wearing a wedding ring, be it on the right hand, as in Germany, or on the left. Yet this is not a necessity where it is not a legal requirement
. So the couple can decide what to do in accord with their financial situation and personal preferences.
Hence, in regard to wedding customs one can be selective, asking oneself: What is the significance of the custom in this locality at present? Will it offend others? Is it loving? Is it reasonable?
One decision that the couple will have to make before the wedding is what to wear. One’s wedding is a special occasion, so attention is ordinarily given to looking joyful and attractive. Yet this does not mean that one must wear a certain type of gown or suit. One does well to consider local styles, expense and personal tastes.
In Bible times the bride and groom often wore very fine garments. (Ps. 45:13, 14; Jer. 2:32) Even the holy city, New Jerusalem, is described as “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2) Thus elegant marriage costumes are not unscriptural. Yet, they are not necessary for a happy wedding. Spiritual apparel is more important.—1 Pet. 3:3, 4.
If an engaged couple wanted to purchase a special gown, for example, and the circumstances allowed for that, it would be for them to decide. Would it be reasonable
, though, to buy such an expensive costume as to cause a financial burden for themselves or others? One Christian in northern Europe relinquished the treasure of serving as a special full-time minister to do secular work so as to get a fancy wedding dress. Which do you believe would have been of more lasting value to her? And what about those in the bridal party, if there is one? Will they feel obligated to buy expensive clothing because of the richness of the bride’s dress?
The matter of apparel can be handled in various ways. While many have bought or rented “wedding” garments, some brides have enjoyed using the gown of a dear friend or relative. Others have received great satisfaction from making their own bridal outfit, possibly in that way being able to have a garment that could be used on other occasions in the future.—Prov. 31:13, 22.
And it is perfectly proper for a couple to wed in their most attractive regular clothing, having it neat and clean for the occasion. Some have done this so as to be able to use the money saved to help them to enter the pioneer ministry or to continue in it. Others who might be in position to have an elaborate wedding may personally desire to have a “quiet wedding” because of the criticalness of the times, “keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.”—2 Pet. 3:12.
While well-intentioned friends and relatives may have ideas as to how they would arrange the wedding, and some of the suggestions based on experience can be helpful, the couple getting married should let their wedding reflect their own preferences and plans for the future. And if there are small differences in ideas, the bride and groom can resolve them in a loving way. That should be the case with matters after the wedding, both recognizing God’s arrangement of headship in the family
. So this would be an opportunity for them to show their ability to work together in love and according to godly principles.—Eph. 5:22-33.
‘But what about wearing white, and having a veil?’ some have wondered. As with other traditions, ideas about the meaning of these vary greatly. To some in Germany, a white gown signifies virginity. Others there believe that it prevents evil spirits from recognizing the bride. In Japan some view the white gown as a symbol of mourning; the bride ‘dies’ to her parents and remains with her husband until death. However, to many persons throughout the earth, the white dress is simply a quaint tradition with no particular meaning. A Christian bride need not think that a white gown is essential, nor that it is universally forbidden.
A veil may be viewed similarly. The Scriptures do not disapprove of a woman’s wearing a head covering in the presence of her husband-to-be. (Gen. 24:63-67) So there is no objection to wearing a bridal veil as an attractive article of clothing. However, if there is considerable local feeling as to a false religious or superstitious significance of a bridal veil, the couple should consider that
There is no need to discuss other examples involving wedding garments. The point to keep in mind about wedding apparel, whether it be luxurious or simple, is that it is not the most important thing! It should not be allowed to be a source of stumbling or unhappiness. (1 Cor. 8:13) It will soon dim in one’s memory, but the happiness of a reasonable Christian wedding will endure as husband and wife apply the Scriptural counsel received.
THE CEREMONY ITSELF
This mature emphasizing of the rewarding spiritual aspects of the wedding applies especially to the ceremony itself. There is no special form of ceremony necessary
, beyond what the law of the land might require. So most details can be worked out on a personal basis. This includes questions such as whether the wedding party will enter the hall in a certain way, whether anyone will “give away” the bride, whether there will be a bridesmaid and friend of the groom (“best man”) or others sharing in the ceremony, and other such matters that are actually just minor technicalities. (Ps. 45:14; John 3:29) If any one of them would, if added, rob the occasion of its proper joy, why include it?
Before a wedding takes place at a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses, the Christian couple should have the approval of the ministers responsible for the hall as to the arrangements. These mature men do not desire to impose their personal tastes on the wedding. But they are concerned that nothing be done in connection with the Kingdom Hall that would interfere with the meetings held there or that would stumble or disturb those in the congregation or community. They keep in mind the counsel: “Make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others
.”—Phil. 1:10; Ps. 133:1.
But this should create no difficulty, since the Christian couple getting married endeavor to apply that same Bible counsel. For instance, the bride and groom can show their principled love and consideration for those attending the wedding by setting a time for the ceremony and then striving to be on time. This punctuality, as recommended in Jesus’ illustration of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:10-12), will mark the Christian wedding as different from many in the world, where disregard for others and idolizing of womanhood are often displayed by the bride’s purposely being late.
If this is the first time worldly relatives of the couple attend the Kingdom Hall, they may well be impressed by such differences. They may note that if music is used it is based on Scriptural themes, taken from the songbook used by Jehovah’s witnesses, and not the traditional marches involving secular music. And especially should they be impressed by the beneficial marriage talk based on God’s inspired Word.
Yes, Jehovah’s witnesses are willing to be different from the world in many avenues of life, so they do not feel compelled to study books outlining how weddings “must” be performed. They realize that the worldly weddings described often turn out to be extravaganzas, prestigious affairs that leave those involved exhausted, disappointed and debt-ridden. And at such a wedding so much time and attention are taken up by material things and formalities that the deep spiritual significance of the wedding is lost. In contrast, at weddings, as elsewhere, mature Christians manifest the balance and reasonableness they obtain from studying God’s Word by being moderate, thoughtful and loving. Thus, they let their “reasonableness become known to all men.”—Phil. 4:5.
I know that was quite lengthy, and I hope I did not go of track to much. I also hope that I have shown that the difference between excepting Christmas with its pagan ideas and some wedding customs that may have old pagan ideas attached, is in the way that the local population see them. Christmas, in general, is viewd by those that hold it sacred as giving honour and worship to a creature that they believe to be God or part of the god-head in stead of direction such admiration to the actual God of the one that was born and that pagan ideas that have been incorporated are used in this religious worship of a creature.
Where wedding customs hold some religious significance if it be pagan or not we do not engage in those customs. Otherwise the ideas that may have come form pagan thinking at some time in the past now have no religious significance at all, and these customs are not involved in worshiping anyone. And some pagan customs are an adaption of what God had allowed first.