Atheists, Santa Claus, and CHRIST-mas?

The American Humanist Association has once again embarked on a campaign to place ads in strategic locations for the holidays. This time around, they have two themes, one of which shows Santa Claus checking his list for naughty and nice with a message that reads "Bias Against Atheists Is Naughty, Not Nice."

Here is the reasoning behind the billboards, according to the AHA:
"Humanists get their knowledge from science rather than ancient texts and divine revelations," Speckhardt said. "This is the first time we've called out those prejudiced against us to rethink that prejudice. I hope people take them to heart and treat everyone as equally as they can this holiday season."  
Now, while the AHA claims they are not undertaking this campaign to offend anyone or spoil "holiday" cheer, I do have my suspicions... especially if they are going to accuse Christians of simply believing "ancient texts and divine revelations" which supposedly have NOTHING to do with science. (That is sarcasm on my part, by the way... In fact, as a Christian, I am not against science; I am also a creationist, and I believe the Bible actually supports science, with the exception of evolution. But on with the point at hand...)

An article in the Examiner also thinks that this is a “naughty” thing for the AHA to do:
"It should be noted that neither of these billboards are an attack on religion and should not be offensive to any religious believers and yet this Examiner is reasonably sure that controversy will ensue anyway."
While I can say that Christians should not be easily offended over disagreements concerning their beliefs and that of others (it is possible to "agree to disagree" or discreetly disagree), I do find several problems with this billboard.

Firstly, the "naughty, not nice" billboard is going to be placed in several locations which have seen recent attacks on atheism. I'm not so sure this is a good move on the part of the AHA; it's a sure way to stoke the flames even more... which is not what we want to do, especially at Christmas time when we are supposed to be focusing on "peace on earth, goodwill toward men."

Secondly, while the ad claims that Christians are being biased against atheists, it subtly (or not) implies the atheists' bias against Christians. If you think about it, the same could be said of atheists -- many of them do have a bias against Christians; there have been plenty of instances of that.
“For example, the AHA placed an ad in the Cranston Herald newspaper because a high school student, Jessica Ahlquist, endured harassment and threats - one even called her a “stupid atheist” - for objecting to the display of a religious prayer banner hanging in her public high school auditorium.
This is just one example. While I do not condone calling atheists "stupid," I find a flaw in the AHA's reasoning: They make it sound like everyone is against them, when in reality, they have had several major victories in past years, successfully removing prayer from schools, silencing Christians and Christian symbols in public places, etc. So my question is, “What about all the instances where prayer banners and other religious symbols have been removed from public places precisely because of atheistic efforts?” Christians could just as equally call that "Bias against Christians,” because these are the kinds of values we believe in (prayer, Bible reading, etc.). That is "naughty, not nice," if you ask me. So while atheists may claim that Christians are being biased against them, the atheists are really showing a bias against Christians with this ad campaign -- whether they realize it or not. My point is that it seems we need to play fair here. (By the way, how does Santa determine what “fair” is in relation to “naughty and nice” anyway? Doesn't he look at both sides of the equation, not just one… and shouldn't we?)

Thirdly, some atheists (though certainly not all) would call Christianity's God a Santa Claus; that is, they say that God is just like a Santa Claus: a mythical figure that gives you a good feeling and gives you things when you want them. Then, they can say that because Santa Claus doesn't exist, neither does God. But by applying that logic to these billboards, if Santa Claus doesn't exist, then why use him as a "poster-boy" for your ad campaign? If he doesn't exist, there is no "naughty or nice list" and the whole bias question goes out the door.

But the atheists aren’t the only ones who come to the conclusion (as false as it may be) that because Santa Claus doesn’t exist, neither does God; sadly, many young children also conclude this. I won't go into the pagan roots, but suffice it to say that at some point in your life, you have probably had your parents sit you down and tell you that THEY played Santa Claus. Many children are heartbroken over being lied to by their parents; they think that since Santa Claus isn't real -- and he gets me what I want for Christmas -- then God, whom the Bible describes as giving us "all good things to enjoy," must not be real either. They have reached the same conclusion that many atheists have.

But if God does not exist, then neither does the Jesus we celebrate at Christmas time (which, incidentally, is also why last year, the AHA's billboards called the Nativity a "myth"). Now, most atheists do not believe that Jesus is God, but no scholar disputes that He did exist. To demonstrate that Jesus is God, let's examine a few ancient texts of Scripture. And I do realize that many atheists do not "believe in" the Bible, but let's put that aside for a moment and also consider that these were prophecies written many years before Jesus was even born demonstrating that He is God -- After all, one would be hard-pressed to come up with just ONE man who could purposefully fulfill some 300 prophecies in his lifetime!

The Virgin Birth 

First up is Isaiah 9:6-7, which reads:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."
This passage was written by Isaiah nearly 700 years before Jesus was even born! Notice that Jesus is called "Mighty God, The Everlasting Father." Jesus constantly said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30); not just anyone could claim that...

Now let's look at Isaiah 7:14:
"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." 
This refers to the virgin birth of Christ And in Matthew 1:23 it is realized as a fulfillment of prophecy:
"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." 
In Luke 2, the angels told the Shepherds,
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." 
He was called "God with us, Christ the Lord."

And before you go off and tell me that any woman could have had a child and pretended to fulfill prophecy, you need to understand that a virgin is a woman who has never been married, who has never had sexual intercourse. Any birth has the father's DNA (which disqualifies the baby from being "born of a virgin"); but Mary was "with child by the Holy Spirit." This is not something that she could make up... otherwise, a simple DNA test (if it could have been performed in ancient times) would have dispelled the lie.

Going back even further to Genesis 3:15 which references the "Seed of the woman," John Walvoord, whom Josh McDowell labels as "one of America's long-time leading evangelical biblical theologians,” states:
The reference to the seed of the woman is a prophecy of the birth of the Son of God. This is the point of Luke's genealogy... The coming Savior was to be the seed of the woman -- human; and yet in the fact that he is not called the seed of man, we have the foreshadowing of the virgin birth..."
So you see, God did not say that it would be "the seed of man," as it would be in any other normal birth (where both father and mother are included), but rather, "the seed of the woman" -- indicating a virgin birth.
"That there is a reference to Christ, however, is not to be rejected. Nevertheless, it is also true that the way in which man will vanquish Satan is that there will be born of woman One, even Jesus Christ who will obtain the victory. It is the seed of the woman as comprehended in the Redeemer that will deliver the fatal blow." ~ Edward Young, OT scholar
And the context of Genesis 3:15 is quite plain that this is referring to Christ, because God says to the serpent, "He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel"; Romans 16:20 states, "And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly." Interestingly, this brings us back to Isaiah 9 where Jesus is called "...Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

The Wise Men

In Isaiah 49:7 we read,
"Thus says the LORD, The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One, To Him whom man despises, To Him whom the nation abhors, To the Servant of rulers: 'Kings shall see and arise, Princes also shall worship, Because of the LORD who is faithful, The Holy One of Israel; And He has chosen You.'"
The immediate connection to the Nativity can be seen clearly here, where the wise men (i.e kings and princes) come and worship Christ:
"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him'" (Matthew 2:1-2).
Incidentally, it is worth mentioning that Christ could not have fulfilled this prophecy on his own, as some would like to claim of all prophetic passages about Him; because the wise men came of there own accord, and they had to ask where Jesus was. If someone were trying to set this up, they would have it all coordinated previously so that the wise men would know exactly where to go without asking questions.

But it is noteworthy that when the wise men asked, the Jews actually knew the answer... how did they know? From the prophecies! So even they understood that this referred to the Messiah, though they chose to reject Him.

Additionally, Isaiah says that the LORD is "The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One, To Him whom man despises, To Him whom the nation abhors, To the Servant of rulers..." This is significant because Jesus is called the Redeemer elsewhere in Scripture:
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:13-14). 
And of course, the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53 states (vs. 3),
"He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." 
Chapter 60:9 makes a similar comparison to chapter 49:
"Surely the coastlands shall wait for Me; And the ships of Tarshish will come first, To bring your sons from afar, Their silver and their gold with them, To the name of the LORD your God, And to the Holy One of Israel, Because He has glorified you." 
The reference to the "silver and gold" could refer to the wise men's gift. We also see the mention of "The Holy One of Israel" again, and it's clear that this is referring to Christ because of the reference to the coastlands; Matthew 4 says,
"And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 'The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.'" 
It's quite easy to see from this that Jesus is God.

The Place
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting" (Micah 5:2).
It is quite obvious how this one was fulfilled:
Matthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,
 2 saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
 5 So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
 6 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"
Notice the reference to "a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel," instead of "The One to be Ruler in Israel"; the "Ruler" sentiment is there, but what's with the reference to a "shepherd"? Well, ruling was often referred to as "shepherding" throughout Scripture, but there is also a deeper meaning here:

Jesus once said,
"... And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers..... I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.... I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd" (John 10:4-5, 11, 14-15).
 How interesting then, that the angels should appear to shepherds of all people with the message of "peace on earth, goodwill towards men"!

Now, let's pick up where Matthew's quote left off: "Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting." When the wise men referred to Jesus as "the King of the Jews," it was clear that Herod was the king at that time (hence, his anger at hearing of another "king of the Jews"). However, I think there is a deeper meaning to this phrase as well.

Look at John 18:33-37:
"Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered him, "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?" Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."
Jesus' kingdom was an everlasting kingdom; just as the angel told Mary that "of His kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:33). And more importantly, this is just one more step in the story, indicating that Jesus is God: He is the "Mighty God, the Everlasting Father." And this brings us full circle to the passage in Isaiah 9 that we began with:
"Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever."
Santa Claus may come and go with his “naughty and nice” list, but the Word of God –Jesus Christ -- endures forever (John 1:1)!

And people may doubt whether the mystical Santa Claus exists (though there was a man named St. Nicholas in history), but there are over 300 fulfilled prophecies concerning Jesus which, along with historical documents (in addition to the New Testament) demonstrate that He did exist.

Since no historian doubts that Jesus existed, and we have demonstrated that Jesus is God (albeit, maybe not so convincingly to those atheists who do not believe the Bible), then there is the possibility (and I believe, certainty) that God exists -- a God who had a perfect plan from the beginning to save a fallen world with His Son, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas from the DCFblog!


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