Friday, December 16, 2011

Santa Pause:A Biblical Perspective by Rev. Justin Peters

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Santa Pause: A Biblical Perspective by Rev. Justin Peters

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The truth of Santa's history is hard to know for certain, but there certainly seems to be enough evidence to make plausible the theory that his origins are not quite as genteel as popularly imagined. Though Santa's origins may be of interest to some, for the vast majority of people, Santa is about as far from ominous as one could get. He is a gentle, roly-poly, grandfatherly figure who gives good gifts to children once a year. What could possibly be the harm? Right?

Characteristics and Attributes

We now get to the meat of the matter. This is where I must ask you as much as possible to put aside personal preferences, majority opinion, tradition and preconceived notions in general dealing with Santa Claus. Here is where I ask that you consider the following information from a purely biblical point of view. In this section we will examine who Santa is and Who God is. We will look at his characteristics and attributes and compare them to God's characteristics and attributes. Until this past year I had never given this much thought at all. In fact, just a little over a year ago I was in much more need of reading an article such as this, not writing it. I invite you now, though, to join me as we "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5) and consider if there is biblical warrant for us to give Santa, pause.

Eternal – Santa is often portrayed as having a wife, but never a mother or father. He seems to have no real beginning and certainly no end. He's just always been around and always will be. Eternality is one of God's attributes. As with all of His attributes, eternality is uniquely His. He is the great I AM. He has always been and always will be (Ex. 3:15; Is. 41:4; 43:13; Ps. 90:1-2; Col. 1:16-17; Rev. 1:8).

Immutable – Closely related to his eternality, Santa is also, apparently, immutable. In other words, he does not change. Year after year after year on December 24th he boards his sleigh and makes his appointed rounds with just as much energy, enthusiasm and strength as he has in years past. Time seems to stand still for Santa. Unlike all of the other created plants, animals and we humans who grow old and undergo decay, Santa appears immune from the passage of time and the curse of the Fall. He never gets sick, never tires, and never seems to age. God is also immutable (Mal. 3:6; Hebrews 6:17; 13:8; James 1:17).

Omnipresent – Santa is, in effect, everywhere at the same time. True, he does go from one house to another to another but he visits every child's house in the world all in one night. In my research I came across a rather humorous engineering analysis of Santa's feat of flying. Assuming that Santa does not visit Buddhist, Hindu, or Islamic children, etc. he still manages to visit some 91.8 million homes in one night. Just to be generous, this author[5] allowed Santa a full 24 hours with an additional 6 provided by different time zones with the assumption of east to west travel. According to this author, Santa must visit 822.6 homes per second so, for all intents and purposes, we can say that he is omnipresent. Humor aside, omnipresence is one of God's attributes. He is limited neither by space nor time and is everywhere present in His fullness (Deut. 4:39; 1 Kgs. 8:27; Ps. 139:8; Jer. 23:23-24; Eph. 1:23).

Omniscient – This is one of Santa's creepier attributes. He seemingly knows everything. Consider the words of John Coots and Haven Gillespie's 1934 song "Santa Clause is Coming to Town:" He knows if you've been sleeping, he knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake. From his home at the North Pole Santa possesses the ability to know when each and every child (and presumably adult) on earth is sleeping and awake. Compare Santa's power with that of God: Proverbs 15:3, "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good." Eerily similar, is it not? Santa knows our behavior and is apparently qualified to make judgments as to its meritorious value. He sees all and knows all. Omniscience is also one of God's unique attributes (Job 21:22; Ps. 33:13-15; 139:1-4; Mat. 6:4).

Goodness – Santa is portrayed as kind, gentle, jovial and good via his authority to determine which children have been "bad or good." "Good" is a word that we often use to describe everything from people to some desired outcome or to fried chicken. Some will undoubtedly think I am stretching here, but describing Santa as "good" is problematic when coupled with all of the other divine attributes ascribed to him. God's standard of goodness is moral perfection and complete obedience as measured by the Ten Commandments. None of us measure up to that standard. We have all sinned (Rom. 3:23) and all of us have hearts that are "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9). The Apostle Paul knew that "nothing good dwells" in us (Rom. 7:18) and that there are "none good, no not one" (Rom 3:10-11). Except Santa. Santa is good by his nature. This, too, is in direct opposition to Scripture. In a statement affirming His own deity, Jesus told the rich young ruler plainly, "No one is good except God alone" (Mark 10:18). God's goodness (His omnibenevolence) is original to Him and is not possessed by any of the fallen created order (Ps. 52:1; 107:8; 119:68; 1 Jn. 1:5). Santa's "goodness" separates him from every other created thing and puts him in the class of God.

Gift Giver – That Santa gives gifts to good children and leaves lumps of coal for the bad is inextricably tied to his goodness. Only One who is intrinsically good by character and nature is truly qualified to make judgments about good and bad behavior and render the appropriate rewards and punishments. Aside from this, though, Santa's activity all year is for him and his elves (ponder that Santa has elves and God has angels) to create toys for worldwide distribution. He is a gift giver and gives with no expectation of anything in return (save for the milk and cookies dutifully left by children). In this aspect, too, Santa looks just like God. God is the only true gift giver because only He gives with truly pure motives. He gives light (Gen 1:3), He gives man the fruit of his labor (Ecc. 3:13), He gives individual personal abilities (1 Cor. 7:7), He gives love (2 Tim. 1:6-7), He gives spiritual gifts (Rom. 11:29), He gives faith and repentance (Heb. 12:2 and Acts 5:30,31; 11:17; 2 Tim. 2:24-26 respectively) for the gift of salvation (Eph. 2:8-9) in the Gift of His Son, Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:16). God is not only the ultimate gift giver, but it also the only true gift giver for "every good thing and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).

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