Category Archives: Response

Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25?

Early Christians celebrated the Passion of Christ on April 6 (the solar equivalent of 14 Nisan). This Passion included the themes of the incarnation, atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures indicate that the incarnation of Christ began with his conception (Luke 1:35). Therefore, Christ’s death coincides with his conception. If you accept the date of April 6 for the conception and add 38 weeks for a typical human gestation period and you will conclude with a hypothetical birth date for the week of December 25.

“Therefore, our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March, which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on the day that he was conceived on the same he suffered.” (translation from De solstitia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis domini nostri iesu christi et iohannis baptistae, a tract circulated among early churches)

In A.D. 243, the date of December 25 was proposed for the celebration of the nativity in De pascha computus. The Donatist schism took place in A.D. 311, and one point of contention regarded the date of December 25 for the nativity. This disagreement about that date documents the fact that such a date was well accepted by A.D. 300. In a document entitled the Chronograph of 354, December 25 is listed as “VIII kal. Ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudee.”

In A.D. 274, the Roman emperor Aurelian established December 25 as the date for the Natalis solis invicti, the Roman festival of the winter solstice. He chose this specific date to advance his own religious agenda: merging the revived cult of Sol into the Christian monotheistic faith that was spreading throughout his empire, threatening to eclipse the old Roman religions.

[based upon Thomas J. Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year,  Liturgical Press; 2nd edition|January 1986]

Select Quotations While Reading John Lennox

“Even if they cannot be herded, cats in sufficient number can make a lot of noise and they cannot be ignored.” [Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p.27]

“Those considering atheism as a new doctrinal commitment, however, will not find plausible the alleviation of anxiety it is said to afford. If the great concern occasioned by atheism is God’s indignation, then given the very tentative way in which his inexistence has been affirmed, it might seem that atheists have drawn their worries prematurely to an end. Whatever its other benefits, atheism is not generally counted a position calculated to assuage the worst fears of mankind; and as the work of prominent atheists indicates, those who have stopped worrying have done so only because they have stopped thinking.” [David Berlinski, Fixed-Point Foundation, http://fixed-point.org]

“I have stepped into the public arena in order to add my voice to those who are convinced that the New Atheism is not the automatic default position for all thinking people who hold science in high regard. [p.15]

“I am not an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief is positively harmful.” [Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian]

“Religion poisons everything.” [Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great, p.13]

“I think religion should be treated with ridicule, hatred, and contempt, and I claim that right.” [Christopher Hitchens, A Bitter Rift Divides Atheists, 2001 NPR Broadcast,http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113889251]

“The world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religion… Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization.” [Steven Weinberg, remarks at Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival, 2006, http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Steven_Weinberg]

“…the objective of the New Atheists is not simply to complete the process of secularization by banishing God from the universe; but it is to put something in place of God. And it is not simply that society should replace God with something else; it is that science should do so. Apparently no area of human thought or activity other than science is qualified to contribute anything useful. Science is king.” (p. 20)

“A fiction does not die, an illusion never passes away, a fairy tale does not refute itself… You cannot kill a breeze, a wind, a fragrance; you cannot kill a dream or an ambition. God, manufactured by mortals in their own quintessential image, exists only to make daily life bearable despite the path that every one of us treads toward extinction… We cannot assassinate or kill an illusion. In fact illusion is more likely to kill us – for God puts to death everything that stands up to him, beginning with reason, intelligence and the critical mind. All the rest follows in a chain reaction.” [Michel Onfray, In Defense of Atheism, pp. 12,13]

“…God is not to be regarded as an enemy of reason. After all, as Creator he is responsible for the very existence of the human mind; the biblical view is that human beings are the pinnacle of creation. They alone are created as rational beings in the image of God, capable of a relationship with God and given by him the capacity to understand the universe in which they live.

“Consistent with this, far from being anti-scientific, the Bible positively encourages science. It could be said that it gave science its initial mandate… According to Genesis, in the biological field it was God who initiated this process by telling humans to name the animals. Taxonomy thus got underway.” (p. 28)

“Again it was a theist, not an atheist, who had the idea that led to the current widely accepted Big Bang model of the origin of the universe. Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966), a Belgian priest and astronomer challenged the theory of an eternal universe that had held sway for centuries, and which even Einstein held at the time…” (p. 29)

“It is rather ironical that in the sixteenth century some people resisted advance in science because it seemed to threaten belief in God; whereas in the twentieth century scientific models of a beginning were resisted because they might increase the plausibility of belief in God.” (p. 30)

“In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life-satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes toward suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout religious belief and practice probably outweigh the risks” (p. 77) [Professor Andrew Sims citing the American Journal of Public Health‘s analysis of epidemiological studies on the psychological effects of religious belief. From Is Faith Delusion?: Why Religion is Good For Your Health, 2009]

How to Find God

God encourages open investigation:

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

Jesus Christ provides salvation:

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
Acts 4:12

Jesus Christ claims to be the exclusive way to God:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6

If life is a wager, it is better to believe than not:

If God does not exist,
one will lose nothing by believing in him,
while if he does exist,
one will lose everything by not believing.
Blaise Pascal

Ockham’s razor points toward the simple explanation of God as the Source of all things:

Plurality should not be posited without necessity…
No plurality should be assumed unless it can be proved by reason, or
by experience, or by some infallible authority.”
Franciscan monk William of Ockham, THEIST, circ 1285-1349

The Bible is God’s Word and revelation of Himself to us:

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:19-21

The True Living God can be known:

And there you will serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, whic  neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice.
Deuteronomy 4:28-30

God allows us to choose to follow Him:

“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.
1 Chronicles 28:9

Why is Space So Big?

“The universe is a pretty big space. It’s bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So, if it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space, right?” Carl Sagan (Ellie Arroway)*

cookingDid Carl Sagan really believe that there is an objective or purpose or intention to the amount of space that exists? Was he pointing to a Higher Intelligence that values the conservation of matter?

I think he unintentionally did what is natural. We look at the universe and wonder, “Why?” Unfortunately, science is not designed to answer questions of faith. We will need to look to some other discipline for those questions.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭19:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

solar system

*The movie Contact, Eleanor Arroway quotes

(In Contact, based upon Sagan’s novel, the science vs. faith struggle is presented in an interesting way by Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. The movie gives Foster’s character, Ellie, a reasonable anger toward God and faith, then places her in a place where her own personal subjective experiential observation contradicts her scientific opinion. Sagan mistakenly equates experience and revelation. However, it is an entertaining and thought-provoking film.)

contact