Are Christmas Trees Idols?

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One of the arguments presented by Christians who oppose Christmas celebration is that Christmas trees are idols.

I think the first material where I encountered this teaching was one of the Alberto series titled “The Force” published by Jack Chick. In it, Alberto Rivera, a self-acclaimed ex-Jesuit priest, said without a shred of documentation:

“As time passed, all over the world on the 25th of December, the sun was worshipped by these various names: Tammuz, Horus, Osiris, Sol, etc. It was a time for orgies, sacrificing of babies to Baal, drunkenness, and merriment. Semiramis ordered trees to be decorated with little balls representing the sun. God fought this evil holiday by forbidding the Jews to decorate trees as the heathens were doing (Jer. 10:1-4).” (The Force, The Crusaders Vol. 15 by Jack T. Chick, 1983, p. 26).

You don’t have to be a scholar to see how groundless these statements are. All you have to do is enter the names of these idols into a search engine and you will realize that there were no specific fixed dates on which they were worshipped, much less on December 25th.

The hackneyed tale of Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz often tied to Christmas by some religious groups is not my issue here. I’ve addressed that hypothesis in my article, The Mirror Image Syndrome.

Also, if you need more info on the yak milk and powdered sparrow eggs being put out by Chick Publications, you can read this. My main concern here is that Bible passage often trotted out, Jeremiah 10:1-5 (KJV):

“For one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. 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…”

Using the principles of sound Biblical interpretation, here are reasons why these Bible verses do not refer to Christmas trees:

1. One of the ways to properly interpret the Bible is to cross reference, to examine parallel passages. It’s dicey to build a doctrine on just one verse of the Bible, especially when other passages go in an opposite direction.

For instance, the passage says, “One cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman.”

Reading this, one would picture a lumberjack going into the forest to cut down a Christmas tree, but this is not the intended meaning.

When you read the entire chapter, you will see that this “workman” was one who took material—in this case the wood from a tree—and formed it into an idol.

Later in this passage, the “workman” is portrayed as plating an idol with silver and gold. He was clearly not a lumberjack; he was fashioning a “graven image… they are all the works of cunning men” and they are “the gods that have not made the heavens and the earth” (vv. 9-14)

In a parallel passage, we read, “The workman melteth a graven image…”

Then he makes an idol with wood from a tree:

“He… chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image…” (Isa. 40:19, 20).

Therefore, the “workman” was an idol carver. The Hebrew word is “charash” meaning “an engraver” or “artificer.” And we all know images of idols were fashioned out of wood, gold, silver, brass or adorned with them.

2. One of the ways to have a good understanding of the Bible is to read it in a clearer and more accurate modern translation.

For instance, the tool the workman uses is called an “ax.” Though the word ax (or axes) appears 18 times in the King James Version, the Hebrew word here (maatzad) translated ax is a different word.

It is not the ax that a lumberjack would use to cut down a tree, but is a carving tool or tong. The workman would use this tool to form an idol from the tree already cut down.

Some translations, more correctly, use the word chisel: “…they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel” (NIV).

3. Just quoting a Bible passage isn’t enough, we must look to see if the passage actually describes what we are saying. Otherwise, we are unfairly reading our preconceived notions into it.

The idol described in Jeremiah 10, was carved from the “stock” of a tree (margin: “wooden idol,” vs. 8). Positioned “upright as a palm tree,” it was fastened with “nails and hammers” so it would not fall over (vv. 4, 5).

While this could be true of a Christmas tree, what is described here is a wooden idol in a standing position. Being lifeless, it cannot stand on its own, and must be fastened down to avoid falling over.

4. Reading the preceding and proceeding verses of a passage is vital to Bible interpretation.

When we take a look at the whole of Jeremiah 10, it’s contrasting the Living God who made the heavens and the earth to man-made idols that “cannot speak…have to be carried, for they cannot walk.”

It speaks of “the living God and the everlasting King” and derides man’s idols “for his images are false, and there is no breath in them” (vv. 5, 10, 14 RSV).

The prophets commonly pointed out the foolishness of believing in “idols…the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not: they have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not” (Psalms 115:4-7).

The idols Jeremiah described, “speak not”— implies a mouth, but no speech. This would make no sense if Jeremiah was speaking of a Christmas tree— after all, no one expects a Christmas tree to talk!

These idols apparently had legs, yet could not walk. They must be carried, “because they cannot go” (Jer. 10:5).

Had Jeremiah’s subject been a Christmas tree, his whole argument would break down at this point since everyone knows a Christmas tree must be carried—no one expects a Christmas tree to walk.

5. The idols that Jeremiah was describing were dressed in clothing: “…blue and purple is their clothing” (Jer. 10:9).

A Christmas tree may be decorated, but no one puts clothing on it—not blue, purple, red or any other colour of clothing.

The fact that he even uses the term “graven [carved] image” (v. 14) to describe them is proof that he was not referring to a Christmas tree but an idol carved in the likeness of a man.

Isaiah described the same thing (Isa. 44:9-15). Though the wood from a tree can be carved into the shape of an idol resembling a man, it is merely a lifeless idol. “There is no breath in them” (Jer.10:14).

Again, the subject could not be a Christmas tree – no one supposes a Christmas tree has breath! (cf. Hab. 2:18, 19).

It has been documented that the custom of decorating with a Christmas tree, as we know it, extends back 500 years to Europe, especially Germany. But the custom originated among Christians.

They were not apostates trying to inject paganism into the church. Fruit or round decorations placed on the tree, to them, spoke of the fruit on the Tree of Life in Scripture. The traditional star at the top represented the star that guided the wise men to the place of Jesus’ birth.

While the Bible condemns worship of trees and fertility deities (such as Baal and Asherah) under green trees, it also shows us that trees were created by God. There were trees in the garden of Eden and even trees in the New Heaven.

Yes, we need to guard against pagan influxes, but at the same time, we also need to guard against extreme and fanatical teachings that see paganism behind every wall, shadow and everything God has created. That mindset is not typifying freedom but spiritual bondage.

That a Christian decorates a tree doesn’t imply idolatry unless he/she is worshipping or praying to it. That I have pictures of a dozen birds in my room doesn’t mean I worship birds or I’m a sorcerer.

I don’t know of any Christian that bows to Christmas trees or looks up to them as a conduit of sympathetic magic, so what is this false accusation based on?

Come to think of it, if Christians regarded these decorations as deities would they be throwing them out in the trash after a while?

The true Christian conduct is to avoid passing judgement on issues that are disputable. If you believe Christmas trees defile your faith, fine, don’t buy one, but then, don’t judge others doing so as idolaters.

God’s Kingdom Society: A Watchtower Surrogate

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My friend, Dexter, sent me an audio clip of a monthly radio program sponsored by the friends of God’s Kingdom Society.

The station minister, Emmanuel Oriaku, was on air to disseminate their teachings and the line was opened for listeners to call in at the end of the program.

Before I proceed to respond to some of the things he said, I need to give a brief history of this religious group.

The God’s Kingdom Society (GKS) is a sect that broke away from the Jehovah’s Witness religion. It was founded in 1934 in Nigeria by Gideon M. Urhobo (1903-1952) a former Jehovah’s Witness (JW).

GKS has become one of the larger offshoots from JWs with followers in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Benin, North America and England.

Urhobo claimed to receive a vision from Jesus in 1933 “to proclaim the good news of God’s Kingdom to all nations as the only remedy for all human sufferings and woes…and to expose all the false doctrines which Satan had used to deceive the people.”

Thereafter, he became a Jehovah’s Witness and a Watchtower Society representative in Nigeria.

He soon disagreed with their teachings regarding marriage, the Memorial celebration, the 144,000 heavenly class, their failed predictions and their name “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” and broke away in 1934 to form his own sect.

When we have surrogate sects that have splintered from a pre-existing curious sect, they usually contain a derivative and successive theological, Christological, soteriological and eschatological views.

Therefore, once you have understood the falsehoods inherent in Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrines and their method of eisegesis (flawed Bible interpretation), you won’t be swayed by the teachings espoused by the God’s Kingdom Society.

Now, back to the audio clip, the words of Emmanuel Oriaku will be in blue:

[Quotes from John 14:1-3]

“This promise is not meant for a Christians. There are two classes of Christians. This is where all the churches get it wrong when they interpret the Scriptures. We have the apostles and the disciples class. Christ himself gave that distinction.”

First of all, nowhere does the New Testament teaches that Christians are in two classes. There is no elitism in the Body of Christ.

It’s quite difficult for a brainwashed mind to admit that his interpretative grid is cut out of the badly smoked, deluded lenses of Mr. Urhobo – a man in the 20th century who supposedly had a better grasp of the Scriptures than all other Christians in the last 2000 years!

One of the first things a cult leader tells his followers is that all others are lying.

To infer that the Bible classifies all believers into “apostles” and “disciples” is ludicrous, because the word “apostle” is used in two senses: as an office and as a gift (implying “one who is sent from”).

In Matthew 10:1-2, the “twelve disciples” were also called “twelve apostles.” The terms were used interchangeably, even though they were quite different.

Jesus originally called disciples. The meaning of the word disciple is “a follower.” These were the people who followed Jesus and learned from Him.

It was out of all His disciples that Jesus chose certain ones who were to be apostles. The word apostle means “sent one.”

In Acts 1:16-26, Peter said the criteria for being in the office of an apostle is that he must have followed Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry and been a witness of the Resurrection.

Mr Oriaku quoted Luke 6:12-13 but it fails to support his preconceived beliefs. The text fails to uphold the idea of a two-tier Christianity.

Christ told the apostles to make disciples through preaching the gospel. He added that each person who believed the gospel was to be taught to obey everything that He had taught the original twelve:

“Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).

This statement can’t be applied exclusively to a special class of “elite” Christians or leadership hierarchy.

Whatever commands, promises and empowerment the apostles received from Christ were passed on to all who believed the gospel (e.g., their own disciples), who in turn passed on the same to their own converts, and down on to the present time.

All believers are recipients of the blessings of the New Covenant – forgiveness of sin, regeneration of the Holy Spirit, baptism of the Holy Spirit and eternal life.

No one has the right to restrict these blessings to a “special class.”

“Is it only 12 that make up the apostles? No. The 12 apostles were the foundation members of the class of Christians known as 144,000 chosen and anointed Christians according to Revelation 14:1-5 and 7:1-7. They are known as the “little flock” Luke 12:32.”

Now the Trojan horse has been fully unearthed. These are the same errors adhered to by Jehovah’s Witnesses, except that they don’t designate their two classes as “apostles” and “disciples.”

This has been addressed in two posts, The 144,000 and the Great Crowd and Who mediates for the Great Crowd?

Indeed, the title “apostle” was not limited to the Twelve, for Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Paul (Acts 9:1-31; 22:5) and James the Lord’s brother were also apostles (Gal. 1:19; 1 Cor. 15:7). But they didn’t leave behind a dynasty of apostolic succession as Romanism or Mormonism teaches.

When you open to Revelation 14:1-5 and 7:1-7 and read, you will find out that these people are literal Jews from the tribes of Israel, not anointed Christians.

Again, when you read Luke 12 from verse 22, you find that Jesus was directly saying these things to His disciples.

So, even if we assume that the term “little flock” indicates the number of those who would be in heaven, it also shows that disciples will be in heaven!

Those who subscribe to these absurd GKS teachings need to learn that the promise of believers agreeing together in prayer (Matt. 18:19) and receiving whatever they ask in the name of Jesus (Jn. 16:23) was originally given to Christ’s inner circle of twelve. So why do they follow it today?

The command given at the Last Supper for believers to do this “in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19) was given to the inner circle of 12 disciples, so why do they follow it?

Approaching the Bible with a two-tier lens makes the Bible quite confusing and contradictory.

Finally, Mr. Oriaku drops the bombshell:

And there is no woman among those that are going to heaven. No woman will go to heaven. Some of the women may be surprised to hear this. (The interviewer cuts in, “The women on earth?”). Yes. No woman on earth would go to heaven. We have it in the Scriptures … I am not here to patch the words, I’m just here to tell the truth as contained in the Holy Bible. (The interviewer asks, “So where will women go?”). They will be blessed, once they are faithful in God’s kingdom here on earth.”

If there’s a proof that this is a false religious group, this one extinguishes all the doubts.

If the Bible is clear that “there is neither Jew not Greek…slave nor free, … male nor female; for you are all one in Christ” then our position as recipients of Christ’s blessings is not premised on race, social class or gender. It’s based on faith in the perfect work of Christ at Calvary (Gal. 3:26).

One excited caller on the program (who has been soaking in these heresies) said he taught in his church during the youth week, that we would not go to heaven and his pastor corrected him that if he doesn’t want to go to heaven, he, his pastor wants to. I hope that guy was corrected and re-taught from the Bible.

We are living in an age where Christians need to be grounded doctrinally in the truths of Scripture otherwise we will be blown here and there by different winds of false doctrines.