Mastodon CounterSocial December 2005 - Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

Articles from December 2005

Hell and the Nature of God

I’m trying to get the bulk of my information here from official, Orthodox Church-run sites, and avoid using “River of Fire” by Alexandre Kalomiros as a resource, because many charge that he was anti-West and part of a schismatic, non-Orthodox group.  Nevertheless, I find many of his claims to be echoed on official Orthodox Church websites, such as the one for the Orthodox Church of America.

In fact, I checked with the Very Reverend John Matusiak, who answers questions in the Q&A section of the OCA website, and he said that yes indeed, the Orthodox idea of Hell is of a place which is beyond time and space, not physical but in God’s presence, with metaphorical fire.

He says that apparent differences between websites and other sources are really just different ways of explaining the same truth.  Also, there are many websites, especially those which are not official Church websites, which have incorrect information and theological opinion which does not match Church teachings.

However, I cannot just discount “River of Fire.”  It is controversial, yes, especially because of the polemics against the West.  It’s also accused of bad theology.  However, it also has fervent backers among the canonical Orthodox, including priests, monks and archimandrites.  Some find it too harsh against the West; some find it to be full of beauty and light, bringing them ever closer to God.

It was the first Orthodox book or article to start me down the path of investigating Orthodoxy’s claims.  After I first read through it late one night, I felt as if I truly loved God for the first time ever–before was just infatuation.  Not only did it discuss Hell, but the nature of God and the atonement.

A good friend, who was recommended the book by an archimandrite (unmarried priest or head of a monastery), requested me to put “River of Fire” back on my site.

He says that whether something comes from an Old Calendrist (very conservative Orthodox, no longer in communion with the official Orthodox churches), or from a New Calendrist (official Orthodox), makes no difference: You can tell if it’s of God.  So here is “River of Fire” by Alexandre Kalomiros.

My research is pulling up an Orthodox vision of Hell which contrasts sharply with the famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards.

In essence, this “Hell” is not necessarily a physical place.  Many say it is within the heart.  God will not separate anyone from him; he will bathe every single soul with love.  But this is not “universalism”: Even in God’s presence, some will resist his love, while others bask in it.

For those who accept the consuming fires of his love, which burn away all impurities, this love will be bliss.  For those who resist them, this love will be Hell.

Is it eternal, or never-ending?  Some Church Fathers disagree, but there seems to be a consensus that it will never end, that after the Resurrection when all souls are given eternal bodies, that eternal nature means we can no longer change or repent.

The Fathers who disagree say it’s possible for the soul in Hell to repent; it’s also possible to never repent, but become so full of despair that you enter an existential void from which you never escape.  (A friend’s priest told him that the meaning of “eternal” has never officially been fixed.)  So whether you’re dealing with physical flames or metaphorical flames, Hell still should be avoided.

Also, demons will not torture the condemned, because they and Satan will also be condemned–their own fault.  God is not raging at them; he loves them and wishes they had chosen another route.  But they could not be allowed to continue in wickedness.

St. John Damascene wrote in Book IV Chapter XXVII of An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith:

Again the divine apostle says, For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

And again: It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power: it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory: it is sown a natural body (that is to say, crass and mortal), it is raised a spiritual body, such as was our Lord’s body after the resurrection which passed through closed doors, was unwearying, had no need of food, or sleep, or drink.

For they will be, saith the Lord, as the angels of God: there will no longer be marriage nor procreation of children.

The divine apostle, in truth, says, For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus, Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body: not meaning change into another form (God forbid!), but rather the change from corruption into incorruption….

We shall therefore rise again, our souls being once more united with our bodies, now made incorruptible and having put off corruption, and we shall stand beside the awful judgment-seat of Christ:

and the devil and his demons and the man that is his, that is the Antichrist and the impious and the sinful, will be given over to everlasting fire: not material fire like our fire, but such fire as God would know.

But those who have done good will shine forth as the sun with the angels into life eternal, with our Lord Jesus Christ, ever seeing Him and being in His sight and deriving unceasing joy from Him, praising Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit throughout the limitless ages of ages. Amen.

As is written on the website for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America:

The resurrection of the dead is a miracle that will happen at the second coming of the Lord. According to the Creed: “I await the resurrection of the dead.”

This resurrection will be a new creation. However, our physical bodies as we know them now will be restored, in a spiritualized existence like that of the Lord after His Resurrection.

The final judgment will follow the resurrection of all. Some will rise to the resurrection of life, and some to the resurrection of judgment and condemnation. Christ will be our Judge on the basis of our deeds, our works of love or our acts of wickedness.

The end-time will follow, with a permanent separation between good and evil, between those who will be awarded eternal life of happiness and bliss in heaven, and those who will be condemned to the fire of eternal damnation, to the eternal remorse of their conscience for having rejected God and authentic life in Him and having joined the inauthentic life invented by the devil and his servants.

A new heaven and new earth will be established, inhabited by righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). The Kingdom of God will be fully established; the Church will cease to exist. Finally, the Son of God will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, “that God may be everything to everyone” (1 Cor. 15:28).

 

Spirits first go to Hades, or Sheol; this is also where Christ went between his death and resurrection.  He set free the captives there, the Harrowing of Hades (also known as the Harrowing of Hell).  (Though some say this is a misreading of 1 Peter 3:18-19, my research shows that this is how the Early Church understood it.  The Orthodox Church still understands it this way.  See The Communion of Saints by Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Jr. and Christ the Conqueror of Hell by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev.)

Some theologians of different denominations say that the blessed dead go to Paradise (not Heaven, but a holding tank for the righteous) and the wicked dead go to Hades (not Hell, but a holding tank for the condemned).  Some say that before Christ, there was no Paradise, only Hades; some say that before Christ, there was Paradise and Hades.

At the Resurrection and Judgment, we will go to either Heaven or Hell, which are eternal and unchanging, unlike Hades.  An Orthodox catechism put out by the Russian Orthodox Church says that the spirits of sinners in Hades could potentially be saved–until the Resurrection and Judgment.  After the Judgment, there is no more salvation.   (It’s hard to tell if this is official church doctrine or just one school of thought.)

During a Lenten or Holy Week sermon, possibly on Holy Friday, in I believe 2011 or 2012, my priest spoke of the time of Christ speaking to the spirits in Hades as ever-present.

My priest often speaks of events in the past being ever-present: When the Divine Liturgy and Eucharist are celebrated, he says, it does not just represent Christ’s crucifixion, but we are actually there at the crucifixion.  When during Holy Week we go through the services, and especially on Holy Thursday as Christ suffered his Passion, we are there with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane; when we don’t attend services, we desert him.  The preaching in Hades follows the same concept.

It is a difficult concept to understand, but fits with the mystical heritage of Orthodox theology.  My priest said that our relatives, when they die, will all go to that point when Christ spoke to the spirits in Hades.  Basically, this means everyone gets the chance to accept or reject Christ: neither universalism nor unfair.  The following passage by Bishop Hilarion might clarify:

Has this anything to do with those who died outside Christian faith after the descent of Christ into Hades?

No, if we accept the Western teaching that the descent into Hades was a ‘one-time’ event and that the recollection of Christ did not survive in hell.

Yes, if we proceed from the assumption that after Christ hell was no longer like the Old Testament sheol, but it became a place of the divine presence.

In addition, as Archpriest Serge Bulgakov writes, ‘all events in the life of Christ, which happen in time, have timeless, abiding significance.

Therefore, the so-called ‘preaching in hell’, which is the faith of the Church, is a revelation of Christ to those who in their earthly life could not see or know Christ. There are no grounds for limiting this event … to the Old Testament saints alone, as Catholic theology does.

Rather, the power of this preaching should be extended to all time for those who during their life on earth did not and could not know Christ but meet Him in the afterlife[73].

According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, all the dead, whether believers or non-believers, appear before God. Therefore, even for those who did not believe during their lifetime, there is hope that they will recognize God as their Saviour and Redeemer if their previous life on earth led them to this recognition.

…Is it possible at all that the fate of a person can be changed after his death? Is death that border beyond which some unchangeable static existence comes? Does the development of the human person not stop after death?

On the one hand, it is impossible for one to actively repent in hell; it is impossible to rectify the evil deeds one committed by appropriate good works. However, it may be possible for one to repent through a ‘change of heart’, a review of one’s values.

One of the testimonies to this is the rich man of the Gospel we have already mentioned. He realized the gravity of his situation as soon as found himself in hell. Indeed, if in his lifetime he was focused on earthly pursuits and forgot God, once in hell he realized that his only hope for salvation was God[76] .

Besides, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, the fate of a person after death can be changed through the prayer of the Church. Thus, existence after death has its own dynamics.

On the basis of what has been said above, we may say that after death the development of the human person does not cease, for existence after death is not a transfer from a dynamic into a static being, but rather continuation on a new level of that road which a person followed in his lifetime. —Christ the Conqueror of Hell

In On the Soul and the Resurrection, St. Gregory of Nyssa argued that, since spirits were in Hades without their bodies, it could not be a physical place, the gulf separating the blessed and the wicked could not have been physical, and the fires torturing the wicked could not have been physical.  I’m not sure what he said about after the Resurrection.

St. John Damascene, as we have just seen, also said that the fires after the Resurrection of mankind are not material.

The Greek Orthodox Church seems to agree with the Russian Orthodox Church that change is possible after death until the Resurrection, though I’m not sure if they’re referring just to the saved or to everyone:

A partial judgment is instituted immediately after our physical death, which places us in an intermediate condition of partial blessedness (for the righteous), or partial suffering (for the unrighteous).

Disavowing a belief in the Western “Purgatory,” our Church believes that a change is possible during this intermediate state and stage.  The Church, militant and triumphant, is still one, which means that we can still influence one another with our prayers and our saintly (or ungodly) life.

This is the reason why we pray for our dead. Also, almsgiving on behalf of the dead may be of some help to them, without implying, of course, that those who provide the alms are in some fashion “buying” anybody’s salvation. —“Orthodox Eschatology” section, The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church by His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh

According to the Orthodox Church in America, at the end of the ages the Earth will be renewed and we, in our resurrected bodies, will all live here in God’s presence and love.  For those who love God, it will be bliss (Heaven); for those who hate God, it will be torment (Hell): Eternal Life, from Vol. 1 of the Rainbow Series

Heaven and Hell from Vol. 4 of the Rainbow Series

So when you hear people say, “This Earth is not my home,” they are wrong: It is our eternal home, though then it will be in a perfect condition.

On another page, we see that this inner Hell is worse than the Dante-ish external Hell, so it still must be avoided.  This is also proclaimed to be the teaching of the Church Fathers: Judgment from Vol. 1 of the Rainbow Series

In a book commonly used to introduce people to the Orthodox faith, The Orthodox Church, Bishop Kallistos Ware writes that God does not imprison man: Man imprisons himself.  Man experiences God’s love as suffering because of his own free will.

…Yet, though Hell is viewed as eternal, several Church Fathers have believed in universalism, or that all will be saved.

…It is perfectly all right to hope that universalism is correct (even though it is not church doctrine), and we must pray for the salvation of all.  St. Gregory of Nyssa even said we could hope for the salvation of Satan. —Excerpts from The Orthodox Church

Check out how Wikipedia describes the Eastern Orthodox view of Hell, and what it says (in the “Judaism” section) Jews considered Gehenna to be.  Though the “Images of Hell” section under Eastern Orthodoxy, contradicts the claim that Orthodoxy does NOT believe in a material Hell.  ARGH!

The Orthodox also reject the Catholic view of Purgatory.  Some, Orthodox and Catholic, have argued that the Orthodox view of metaphorical purifying fires is the same as Purgatory.  However, these purifying fires lead to bliss, not pain, and they are eternally part of Heaven, not a temporary place of punishment.  Since these views are not officially from the Orthodox Church, they could be inaccurate.  For these views, see: The Orthodox Response to the Latin Doctrine of Purgatory

Here, Wikipedia quotes from the Greek Orthodox website, contradicting both the earlier quote from the same website that change after death is possible, and the Russian Orthodox catechism, saying that the Orthodox Church has always taught it’s not possible to repent after death.

So you see why it’s so frickin’ hard for inquirers to figure out what exactly the Orthodox Church believes.

Here is an online catechism from the Russian Orthodox church, which includes an explanation of Hell and Christ’s visit to Hades/Hell.  See Death & Resurrection, which says there’s a possibility of the soul being released from Hell before the final Judgment.  See The Last Judgment, which talks about what happens to non-Christians.  See What is Hell and A New Heaven & a New Earth.

Check this out:

In a remarkable instance of freedom from biblical literalism, St. Isaac the Syrian, arguably the greatest mystic in the tradition of Eastern Christianity, intentionally demythologizes the image of hellfire.

Although he by no means rejects the reality of hell, he reinterprets it as a separation from and inability to participate in God’s eternal love, a separation more painful according to him than any physical hell.

For St. Isaac, hell did not exist prior to sin and its ultimate end is unknown. Hell is not a place of punishment created by God, but a spiritual mode of anguished suffering created by sinful creatures willfully separated from God.

According to Isaac, sinners in this hell are not deprived of the love of God; only they suffer in the profound realization of having offended against love and of being unable to participate in it.

Hell is none other than this bitter awareness of separation and regret, what St. Isaac calls the ‘scourge of love.’ Thus, the same divine love radiating towards all is bliss to the righteous but torment to sinners.

Certainly the patristic tradition, known for its spiritual exegesis, cannot be charged with slavish literalism to an absolute holy word. In the end, as H. Chadwick has observed, the Church fathers knew that Christianity is not a religion of a book but of a Person. —The New Testament, An Orthodox Perspective–Theodore G. Stylianopoulos

Here’s another quote from an Orthodox Catechism by the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto:

Let us be careful here. All that the Holy Scriptures say regarding hell should not be understood physically, as we know these things today.

We should always keep in mind that with the Second Coming of Christ and the final judgement everything will change. Everything will become ‘new.’ The whole universe.

The Fathers of the Church explain this very well, particularly, St. Gregory of Nyssa, who writes the following:

‘Because you learned to understand something different from what exists in reality, when you hear the words fire or worm, you should not think of the earthly fire or insect.’

In other words, when you hear of fire and worms do not understand it as the fire and worms that you know of here.

St. John Damascene also writes the following: ‘eternal fire is not a material thing such as we are familiar with; rather it is something that only God comprehends.’ In other words, the fire of hell is not physical as we know it, but will be fire as God knows it. —Eternal-life-and-eternal-hell

Also see Eschatology and Purgatory by Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Jr.

Here is the view of the Orthodox Church of America:

Judgment

Eternal Life

Heaven and Hell

The Kingdom of Heaven

Also see:

The Uncreated Energies: The Light and Fire of God by Peter Chopelas  (also here)

Apocatastasis: The Heresy That Never Was on Eclectic Orthodoxy, argues that universalism was never actually condemned by the Church, but that this is a misinterpretation passed down as fact for hundreds of years.

This is a testimony of a convert from the Baptist to the Orthodox church.  I see some similarities with him: disenchantment with evangelical Christianity, a discovery that Hell is not fire-and-brimstone but an inner reaction to God’s love, a discovery that relying on individual interpretations of the Bible (as opposed to examining doctrines of our forefathers) can be a trap.  (I’ve read that even Luther did not mean “scripture alone” as “ignore tradition.”) : From First Baptist to the First Century by Clark Carlton

What does my priest say about “River of Fire”?  He found it very hard to get through, with too many negatives about other faiths and not enough positives about the Orthodox faith.

But he said that Hell is not physical or material as we are: Everything will be transformed at the Resurrection, no longer material as we know it now.  Pictures of Hell are made material so we understand the devastation of it.  We can burn inside without being materially affected.

An interesting aside on Isaiah 66:24, which is about the continual burning of the bodies of the wicked, and the righteous looking upon them, after all wickedness is finally defeated:

The Talmudists (t) observe from hence, that the wicked, even at the gate of hell, return not by repentance; for it is not said, that “have transgressed”, but “that transgress”;

for they transgress, and go on for ever; and so indeed the word may be rendered, “that transgress”, or “are transgressing” (u); for they interpret it of the damned in hell, as many do; and of whom the following clauses may be understood:

for their worm shall not die; with which their carcasses shall be covered, they lying rotting above ground; or figuratively their consciences, and the horrors and terrors that shall seize them, which they will never get rid of. The Targum is,

“their souls shall not die;”

as they will not, though their bodies may; but will remain to suffer the wrath of God to all eternity: neither shall their fire be quenched; in hell, as Jarchi interprets it;

those wicked men, the followers and worshippers of antichrist, will be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone; they will for ever suffer the vengeance of eternal fire; and the smoke of their torment shall ascend for ever and ever, Revelation 14:10,

and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh; the true worshippers of God, Isaiah 66:23 to whom their carcasses will be loathsome, when they look upon them; and their souls abominable, because of their wicked actions;

and who cannot but applaud the justice of God in their condemnation; and admire distinguishing grace and mercy, that has preserved them from the like ruin and destruction. The Targum is,

“and the ungodly shall be judged in hell, till the righteous shall say concerning them, we have seen enough;”Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

From what I understand, the Targum was an oral explanation of the Torah given by rabbis in ancient times, to help the people understand the Torah better.  So–according to the Targum, the punishment goes on because the wicked never stop sinning, yet this eternal punishment only lasts until the righteous ask for it to end?

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

 

Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday?

Some have charged in recent years that Easter and Christmas have been “stolen” from pagans and Christianized, or that they’re not really Christian holidays, or that we’re ignorant to speak of “the reason for the season” being Christ.

It has become yet another excuse for scoffers to poke fun at Christians and say their own religion (or lack of) is superior.  Or even for Christians themselves to scorn Christmas or Easter, refusing to celebrate them.

In truth, Christ is the reason for the season for Christians.  Whatever the reasons others celebrate them, wherever many of the customs come from (whether Christian or pagan), for centuries, Christians have celebrated the birth and death/resurrection of Christ on Christmas and Easter.

The entire year in the Orthodox Church is full of various feast and fast days based on the life and death of Christ; Christmas and Easter (Pascha) form a large part on which the chronology of the rest of the year is based.

The source of the idea of Christmas being a pagan holiday, and that everyone who celebrates it is offending God by worshipping Mithras, appears to go back to the Catholic vs. Protestant wars and conflicts several centuries ago.  This led to Puritans forbidding it and, for a time, England outlawing Christmas.

Such conflicts can hardly be expected to produce reliable facts about the Other.  And in recent times, these urban legends have turned up again with a new vengeance, in the Internet religious “wars” of Christians vs. atheists/Pagans, or some Christian sects vs. a supposedly pagan-infused Catholic Church (aka The Whore of Babylon).

But they are no more reliable than those stories of Wiccans worshipping Satan or Satanic Ritual Abuse.

And no, this idea of people scoffing at Christians and invalidating all our holidays as “fake,” “pagan” and “stolen” is not just some Christian persecution complex.  Someone who is NOT a Christian–who is, in fact, a Wiccan–addresses these very accusations with the truth about Christian holidays here, here and here.

Cassie Noble Beyer is not a Christian apologist, or defensive about Christianity, by any means.  She simply wants to debunk myths and encourage people of alternative religions to be kind and truthful rather than militant and offensive.  She writes,

Three times a year – Easter, Halloween, and Christmas – I find myself assaulted by claims of how Christian practices and beliefs were entirely cobbled together from pagan sources. There are filters I put on certain searches in order to limit my annoyance, but I still run into them.

First, they are generally written with a tone of superiority and contempt. They aren’t neutrally providing information but instead putting forth arguments meant to ridicule and demean. OK, Christianity isn’t your thing. Why try ruining it for those who believe?

Second, is the fact that most of the arguments you find out there are simply wrong. Not only are they factually wrong, but some don’t even make much sense if you think about them.

Third – and this is my favorite – at least half the time when I attempt to object, I am accused of being overly defensive about my faith by people who don’t know my faith, which becomes comical as Christianity isn’t my thing either.

People just presume, because heaven forbid someone would actually be interested in facts. I just don’t like people being mean-spirited about dumb things.

She also writes,

Bad history is bad.  It misdirects, misinforms, and makes its champions (and sometimes the community in which they are members) look ignorant and hateful.

Theologically, Wicca and Christianity are most certainly at odds, as previously discussed about Christian Wicca.  But that doesn’t mean Wiccans and Christians have to be at odds.  Nothing in either religion says members have to be awful to one another.

But a lot of Wiccans are former Christians, and Christianity is the majority religion in the US, so when a Wiccan is angry at a religion or religions in general, Christianity often bears the brunt of it.

Why?  Partially because of bad historyThe Christian Church gets blamed for all sorts of things that happened hundreds of years ago, didn’t happen at all, or happened in a context quite different from modern Western society.

Bad history matters.

(This, by the way, is also why I do not consider Wiccans to be Satan-worshippers, or Muslims to be warmongers.  I prefer to let members of a religion define themselves and their rites, because–after all these myths I’ve encountered about my own religion–I know what it feels like.)

She also writes,

Studying both history and religion, I cross paths with a fair number of people angry and jaded about both specific religions and religion in general, and they support their position with history.

Rather than simply being non-religious, these individuals are actively against it, calling it manipulative, fraudulent, and/or violent. Sometimes specific examples get conflated into tremendous generalized accusations.  Other times, the information is just wrong.

Christianity, being the majority religion in the U.S., bears the brunt of ill-informed objections.

It’s one thing to simply disbelieve in another religion’s teachings.  We all disbelieve in something, because our own beliefs are not compatible with every other belief.

But there’s a considerable number of erroneous facts commonly put forth to paint Christianity (and other religions) as not merely wrong but fraudulent, an actively constructed lie made for the benefit of a few.

So you see, Christians are not just imagining this.  Heck, I have actually encountered a man who not only got up on his soapbox haranguing against Christians every time I saw him, but who said he was on a campaign to stamp out Christianity.  Then, after all his moralizing, was put in jail for snapping dirty pictures of underage girls.

And no, we don’t have to just bend over and accept the accusations as true lest we be “overly defensive” and “resistant to facts.”  The supposed “facts” we’re countering are not actually “facts.”  How is it “too defensive” to counter myth with fact?

I have run into complaints about using Christian sources.  Christian sources generally seem to be the ones interested in debunking myths about their holidays.  But anyway, here you go, a Pagan source which says the same things as the Christian ones.  AND she has credentials as a professor of Humanities.

She also writes, referring to the use of December 25 and various customs which may have pagan roots themselves,

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, whenever that birth might have been. Having to choose a day, they decided to have it coincide with a known holiday rather than just throwing a dart at a calendar.

December 25 is not, however, the birth of either Horus or Mithras, which are common claims. Neither of them have a celebrated birthday.

…The Saturnalia was a period of time starting on December 17 and extending several days, although length varies throughout the Roman period. People connect it with Christmas for a couple big reasons.

The first is the giving of presents. Really, only one culture can decide giving presents is a nice thing to do, and then the practice is tainted for anyone else?

The second is the idea of role-reversals, where masters served a meal to slaves, commoners could speak out against betters, and so on. This became quite a medieval practice as well. …

Furthermore, how does that in any way invalidate the story of Christmas? Yes, it was probably borrowed from a pagan culture, but it doesn’t speak at all to the meaning of Christmas or any of the religious practices associated with it. People decided they liked continuing to have an excuse to misbehave.

…Besides all this, purpose is important. If you are celebrating the birth of Christ, then you’re celebrating the birth of Christ. Your celebration doesn’t magically redirect to some pagan god.

So, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what day you do it. Christians just standardized it by placing it on December 25.

Also, Collier’s Encyclopedia backs up the Catholic Encyclopedia, both of which have articles on Christmas.  Both give the dominant theory (which is not depicted as confirmed fact) that Christmas was given the December 25 date in the 4th century to go along with a pagan festival.

Collier’s gives potential pagan roots for many customsBut both also say that Christmas was already being celebrated in various places at various times long before this happened.

That is, and has always been, my basic point, ever since I first encountered the “haters” around 1996, and in the 20 years following. 

I knew for some time–including from a Christian newsletter from Focus on the Family–that Christmas and Easter included customs with possibly pagan sources.  This did not bother me.

But I also knew that Santa, while fiction (sorry to break it to you), was based on a real person, St. Nicholas, and that St. Nick originally had his own feast day separate from Christmas (still celebrated in many places).

He was not invented to baptize a pagan tradition, either, but already existed as a real person, no matter where all the Santa customs came from.  His feast day was set so long ago (sixth century) that both Western and Eastern churches celebrate it.

As immigrants from the Germanic and Nordic lands settled in the United States the image of St. Nicholas, or “Sinterklaas,” as he is known among the Dutch, slowly changed to that of “Santa Claus” with little tie to the spirituality of Christianity. —OrthodoxWiki

Note that German and Nordic lands weren’t Christianized until much later than his feast day was set.  See here and here.  So while the Santa customs of much later times may have been from pagan sources, the name “Santa Claus” is a corruption of “Sinterklaas,” which means “St. Nicholas.”  And St. Nicholas is not pagan at all.

This page gives an interesting history of Russian celebrations of St. Nicholas, and how they were banned and transformed into general “Grandfather Frost” customs during communism.

I also knew that December 25 was likely an erroneous date for Christ’s actual birth.

1996 is the first time I heard–from my ex-boyfriend Peter, once a Christian, who turned atheist then Pagan–that the roots of Christmas and Easter themselves were pagan.  That we stole the holidays.  That Santa was based on some pagan elf rather than St. Nicholas.  That paganism is the reason we celebrate.

No, the roots of Christmas and Easter are the birth and death of Christ!  If not for the birth and death of Christ, we would not celebrate the birth and death of Christ!  We would celebrate something else, or nothing at all.

I looked in my Collier’s Encyclopedia, which contradicted what he told me, saying that the celebration of Christmas already existed prior to setting the date with some pagan festival.  The date, really, is inconsequential.  (I forget what I said about Easter, and don’t want to go dig up the e-mails to find out.)

Then over the following years–on Internet forums, in real life, on Facebook, even from Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory (who was snipping about his mother’s Christian beliefs)–I heard/read that Christmas is really a pagan holiday and we Christians are idiots to think we’re celebrating the birth of Christ.  Or that Easter is really celebrating some spring fertility goddess.

And whether it was about Christmas/Easter or about Christianity in general, I’d hear the snips at every SCA event, and on SCA newsgroups.

One entire SCA event was ruined by a guy (mentioned above, the sex offender) who peppered my husband and me with all sorts of criticisms of how our religion is so fake and horrible.  He then turned around and tried to make our shire website into an anti-Christian diatribe.

The ridicule even where everyone was supposedly “chivalrous” was one of the main reasons why I stepped away from the SCA for many years.

Recently, someone even wrote a letter to the local newspaper saying that Christmas is really a pagan holiday–and that Christmas trees are forbidden in the Bible.  (The Bible says nothing about Christmas trees, which did not exist back then.)

I also encountered it around 1998 or 1999 when I was sent the Heirophant’s Questionnaire (more on this below).  Question #49 reads,

Why are so many Christian holidays on the same day as Pagan holidays?  Couldn’t the early Church fathers have converted pagans only by appealing to their reason and/or faith if Christianity really is the true religion?

So right there is solid evidence for you that people are using this to ridicule Christians, rather than simply presenting a history lesson.

But back to my sources:

Another of my sources is a biblical historian who gives his sources, on an award-winning website of biblical archaeology.  This website and its corresponding magazine are highly respected, not just by Christians but by a wide range of institutions or magazines/newspapers including Time, Harvard, the New York Times and the Smithsonian.  So hardly some hack on the Internet.

Also, one of my sources is William J. Tighe, an associate professor of history at Muhlenberg College, so hardly some hack on the Internet.  As he writes,

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival.

Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival.

So apparently the only ones making this into an “issue” for which to harass and mock Christians, are people with axes to grind against Christianity.  And there are plenty of them, and they are loud and obnoxious.

However, the basis for their harassment and mocking–which they consider to be the “facts” we Christians are “too defensive” about–is actually not true at all.  And Tighe has the credentials to say so.

The Santa Claus traditions have many pagan elements, but the original Santa was Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children.  He was a real person who lived in Asia Minor in the early days of the Church:

Saint Nicholas by Catherine Fournier

St. Nicholas: Discovering the truth about Santa Claus

Christmas was not “invented” to “Christianize” a pagan festival.  Only the date is potentially “pagan,” and even that is under some dispute. 

Christmas was apparently celebrated as far back as 200AD in Egypt (in SPRING), and at different times of the year, depending on how the local church calculated the birthdate of Christ.

The date was under dispute for some time, as church authorities tried to figure out what exact date Jesus was born.  It was celebrated in various parts of the world before the date of certain pagan feasts (December 25) was finally set for Christmas by Rome in the fourth century.

The Catholic Encyclopedia has an exhaustive history of the celebrations, along with origins of some Christmas traditions, in Christmas.

But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians.

Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance. –William J. Tighe, Calculating Christmas

 

The crucial thing is not, “Did the early Christians get the date of Christmas right?” It is, rather, “What mattered to them as they determined the date of Christmas?”

And when you look at that, you again immediately realize that what dominates their minds is not Diana, Isis, sun worship, or anything else in the pagan religious world. What interests them is, from our modern multicultural perspective, stunningly insular.

Their debates are consumed, not by longing for goddess worship, or pagan mythology, or a desire to import Isis and Diana into the Faith, but the exact details of the New Testament record of Jesus’ death, alloyed with a Jewish—-not pagan—-theory about when Jewish—-not pagan—-prophets die.

They don’t care a bit how pagan priests ordered their worship in the Temple of Diana at Ephesus.

They care intensely about how Levitical priests ordered their worship in the Temple of Solomon at Jerusalem. These Christians are completely riveted on Scripture and details of Jewish and Christian history and tradition.

They don’t give a hoot what sun worshipers, Osiris devotees, or Isis fans might think. –Mark Shea, Everybody knows that Christmas is really just a warmed-over Celebration of the Feast of the Sol Invictus: Guess what? Everybody’s wrong!

 

The present Feast, commemorating the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, was established by the Church. Its origin goes back to the time of the Apostles.

In the Apostolic Constitutions (Section 3, 13) it says, “Brethren, observe the feastdays; and first of all the Birth of Christ, which you are to celebrate on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month.”

…In the second century St Clement of Alexandria also indicates that the day of the Nativity of Christ is December 25. In the third century St Hippolytus of Rome mentions the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, and appoints the Gospel readings for this day from the opening chapters of St Matthew.

…In 302, during the persecution of Christians by Maximian, 20,000 Christians of Nicomedia (December 28) were burned in church on the very Feast of the Nativity of Christ….

St John Chrysostom, in a sermon which he gave in the year 385, points out that the Feast of the Nativity of Christ is ancient, and indeed very ancient. –OCA website, The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Though the pagan festivities may have served as a catalyst, the selection of this feast for this day was neither sudden nor arbitrary.

In fact, December 25th had already enjoyed preeminence among Christians as the birthday of Christ long before the papal decree. According to Pope Benedict XVI, the first person to clearly assign Christmas to its current feast day was St. Hippolytus of Rome.

…Thus, the common criticism of the celebration of Christmas on December 25 made by some Christian sects — i.e., that the date of Christmas is another trapping of paganism in which the Catholic Church has gone astray — is not based on fact.

The choice of December 25th as the liturgical feast for Christ’s birth is far more likely to have been an independent, patristic tradition of early Christianity.

The fact that it shares the same day as the birth of the sun god seems more based on the Roman calculation of the winter solstice.

The pagans observed the birth of their deity when the “great light” was at its lowest point of the year, calculated as December 25. –Hugh O’Donnell, The 25th of December Pagan Feast or Patristic Tradition?

More on this:

“How December 25 Became Christmas” by Andrew McGowan

Christmas was never a pagan holiday by Marian T. Horvat, PhD

Christmas, Saturnalia, or Sol Invictus? by Jon Sorensen

Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies by Pastor Joseph Abrahamson presents passages from credible sources from long before December 25 was fixed, showing that date was already considered his birthday.  However, his links are now dated, so instead use this for the passage by Clement of Alexandria and here for Hippolytus.

Even Pope Benedict weighed in on this:

“The claim used to be made that December 25 developed in opposition to the Mithras myth, or as a Christian response to the cult of the unconquered sun promoted by Roman emperors in the third century in their efforts to establish a new imperial religion.

However, these old theories can no longer be sustained. The decisive factor was the connection of creation and Cross, of creation and Christ’s conception.” -Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal; Pope Benedict XVI; The Spirit of the Liturgy (pp. 105-107)

There are examples of pagan customs that were appropriated by Christians to articulate Christian truths for the purpose of evangelization. I don’t dispute this. The use of Greek philosophy in the early Church is a great example.

The reason I can accept this with confidence is because there are writings by the Church Fathers (both pro and con) that acknowledge that this was their intention.

You don’t get that with the dating of Christmas. No Church Father ever uses evangelizing pagans as a justification for accepting Dec 25th over Jan 6. It is always related to the Annunciation or the Crucifixion. –Jon Sorensen, Christmas, Saturnalia, or Sol Invictus?

Here are websites debunking the linking of Jesus with Mithras:

Mithra vs. Jesus by Tekton Apologetics

Was Jesus Christ just a Copycat Savior Myth?

Mithras by Mark McFall

The Myth of the Pagan Christmas; or, Why Stephen Fry was Wrong on Mythmas by Chris Jensen Romer

Here is a paper, refuting the supposed “pagan” roots of Christian beliefs and Christmas, which is well-cited with various sources.  (Alternate source if this no longer works: here, here and here.)

It’s why silly charges that “Christmas trees are pagan” and the like just won’t stick. We probably stole them from some pagans. But they’ve been decidedly Baptized. They’re specific enough to upset the ACLU. That’s good enough for me. I would be concerned if they had lost their offense.

Neither did we borrow the date for Christmas from the pagans (that’s a 19th century German myth). The use of December 25th for Christmas predates the feast for Sol Invictus, instituted by Marcus Aurelius, by some decades. So it’s not about the winter solstice (sorry again, pagans).

Neither is the Virgin Mary a thinly disguised version of some pagan Mother Goddess. She’s nothing like her. And if the art forms of such mother goddesses influenced later iconography, well so be it. We stole their art forms. Again, sorry about that.

…Beware instead the grinches that lurk everywhere looking for pagan practices, seeking to purify a holiday which puritan ancestors long ago sought to abolish. –Fr. Stephen Freeman, Why Pagans Aren’t Really Pagan

Now on to Easter:

It is claimed—and it is not widely known that there is no solid consensus on this—that the word “Easter” is derived from the name of a pagan fertility goddess, “Estre.”

Yet the Church, since ancient times, has referred to the celebration of the Resurrection as “Pascha,” the Greek/Hebrew for “Passover,” and not “Easter,” thereby emphasizing that the Resurrection is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover….

This celebration is not based on pagan rituals; it is based on that which is revealed to us in Scripture and celebrated by the Church since apostolic times in the Church’s Holy Tradition.

Perhaps the term “Easter” is based on pagan terminology—hence it is appropriate for us to use the proper term, “Pascha”—but the eternal victory of Our Savior that we celebrate and in which we participate is hardly based on paganism. —Is Easter a pagan feast?

Here is the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Easter.

It is an ancient Orthodox Christian tradition to have red eggs at Pascha. Many people are surprised to find out that this tradition dates to the Apostolic era. The custom of presenting each other with a red egg at Pascha reflects an interchange between Mary Magdalene and Tiberius Caesar….

Mary [was afflicted with] seven demons: those of pride, envy, wrath, avarice, sloth, gluttony, and lust. Mary struggled against the fierce attacks of these demons, and never succumbed to them.

She was unable, by her own power, to totally cast them away from herself, and it was thus necessary for Jesus Himself to cast these demons out of her. Mary Magdalene is referred to in the New Testament as the “woman out of Whom Jesus cast the seven demons.”

Mary Magdalene was about six years younger than the Panagia, the Theotokos, and was well known to her. The Mother of God loved her like a sister, and it is thus not surprising that Mary of Magdala became one of her Son’s followers.

Apparently she was a woman of some means, and her family of some significance for she helped support the work of Jesus and His disciples, and later had access to Caesar in Rome.

…Mary Magdalene is painted in iconography holding the red egg once presented to Tiberius Caesar, which she used to explain the mystery of Christ rising from a sealed tomb.

…It had become customary in Orthodox Russia to not only dye eggs red, but also to decorate them in the “pysankyy” tradition. Wealthy people and the Tsar himself had elegant jeweled eggs produced to give as gifts. The Fabergé eggs are exactly this.

The “easter bunny” and his “eggs” are a secular version of this sacred tradition.

The western tradition of dying and decorating “easter eggs” developed after the Tsars sent Fabergé eggs to the monarchs in Britain, and such decorated eggs became fashionable among all classes of people in England. —The Tradition of the Red Pascha Egg

Here William J. Tighe presents the origins of the celebration of Easter.  You will see that Jewish, not pagan, practices figured into the dating of Easter.

This article shows that the Resurrection has been a centerpoint of the Church since the earliest days.

No one who has been through Orthodox Lent and Pascha, would think Easter is based on anything from paganism.  The whole focus of practice, fasting and celebration during that time (and any other time), is on the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ:

You reflect on and repent for your sins.  You are mystically present with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, during the Trial, and during the Crucifixion.

Services are full of the depths of sorrow for sin, Christ’s purpose on Earth, and hopeful teachings of what will happen to the souls of the dead.  Then you rejoice as Christ is resurrected.

There is nothing here about pagan goddesses or fuzzy bunnies.

Also, the dating of Easter/Pascha was originally based on the dating of the Jewish Passover.  You will note that while “Easter” is an English word, the rest of the world mostly uses names based off “Passover,” such as “Pascha” in Greek (see a list here):

The other difference in the determination of Easter between the Orthodox and other Christian Churches concerns the date of Passover.

Jews originally celebrated Passover on the first full moon following the vernal equinox. Christians, therefore, celebrated Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox.

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the other tragic events, which gave rise to the dispersal of the Jews, Passover sometimes preceded the vernal equinox. This was occasioned by the dependence of the dispersed Jews upon local pagan calendars for the calculation of Passover.

As a consequence, most Christians eventually ceased to regulate the observance of Easter by the Jewish Passover. Their purpose, of course, was to preserve the original practice of celebrating Easter following the vernal equinox. –Fr. Lewis J. Patsavos, PhD, The Calendar of the Orthodox Church

(Christians celebrated on a Sunday because Christ rose on a Sunday.)  Also see here.

The Orthodox date for Easter is based on a decree of the Council of Nicaea, Asia Minor, held in 325 A.D.  According to this decree, Easter must be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon of the vernal equinox but always after the Hebrew Passover to maintain the Biblical sequence of events of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The Orthodox Christian churches have adhered strictly to this formula. –GOARCH News Release, April 26, 2016, Orthodox Christians to Observe Pascha (Easter) May 1st

 

The Eastern Orthodox Church also applies the formula so that Easter always falls after Passover, since the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ took place after he entered Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.

In the Western Church, Easter sometimes precedes Passover by weeks. –Borgna Brunner, A Tale of Two Easters

 

Those Christians who originally converted from Judaism celebrated Easter in accordance with the Jewish calendar, on the same day that the feast of the Passover, ‘Pascha’, was celebrated, that day being the 14th of the lunar month of Nisan, regardless of the day of the week upon which it fell.

The Churches of Asia Minor followed this practice whilst the other Churches both in the East and in the West, always celebrated Easter on the Sunday following this date.

…By the third century AD, all the Churches had agreed upon celebrating Easter on the Sunday following 14th of Nisan. This date was determined in accordance with the Jewish calculation of Passover, on the first full moon following the vernal equinox.

Following the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, however, the Jews of the Diaspora depended upon local pagan calendars for their calculations. The feast of Passover consequently sometimes preceded the vernal equinox and most Christians abandoned the practice of regulating the date of Easter through the date of Passover in order to avoid the inaccuracy occasioned by the dependence on these calendars.

…The issue was finally brought before the First Ecumenical Synod at Nicaea in AD 325, which decreed that Easter must not be calculated according to Passover, but that it must be celebrated after the vernal equinox, specifically, on the Sunday following the first full moon occurring after the date of the vernal equinox.

Subsequently, the regulation concerning Passover was interpreted as requiring that Easter be celebrated after Passover. The Eastern Church then reverted to the original method for the determination of the date of Passover and consequently of Easter. —H.E. Metropolitan Makarios Tillyrides of Zimbabwe, When do Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter?

The dating of Easter has been subject to much debate down through the centuries, including some who used the Jewish Passover to date it, and some who decried this practice.

The Orthodox Church uses a different calendar (Julian) to date Easter, and must date it after Passover.  This is why the Western and Eastern churches do not always celebrate it on the same dates.

But you see that the equinox dating of Easter is to preserve the equinox dating of Passover, NOT to adopt pagan practices, as some have accused.

It seems that even the symbol of the Cross is not safe from revisionism.  A while back, probably around 1998 or 1999, I was confronted with an outrageously ignorant question, asking:

Does it bother you that the cross, supposedly a Christian symbol, was actually stolen from the Egyptians? Why or why not?

(The Egyptian cross, the ankh, was a male-female symbol similar in concept to the yin-yang. When the Christians stole the ankh from the Egyptians, they removed the female symbol, or yoni, leaving only the masculine symbol–a subtle way of reinforcing the idea that women are lesser beings).

You see, somebody on a Christian Usenet newsgroup–probably rec.music.christian–asked if anybody wanted to answer her questionnaire, saying that if they were answered to her satisfaction she would convert.  I volunteered, so she sent me a modified version of Heirophant’s Proselytizer Questionnaire.

(One question: “Why are you trying to convert me?”  Answer: “Because you asked.”  No, I was not an “Evangelical proselytizing zealot,” and never have been, but I’m always willing to answer questions from honest seekers.)

This questionnaire is obviously meant to be witty and a way to shoot down overzealous Evangelicals, supposedly well-researched etc.

But as you can see if you have any knowledge of Christian history and theology–and especially if you’ve been looking around the websites I reference here–that questionnaire is full of ludicrously funny questions, full of ignorance about Christianity.

I don’t know where the “research” was done, but it sure wasn’t in theology books or a Bible–probably, rather, various hate sites around the notoriously inaccurate Web.  (Here is one person’s answers to those questions, by a former atheist who turned Christian.)

I had no idea the questionnaire would be so huge (her version had about 150 questions).  And she did not mention that it wasn’t her own creation, but came off some website copyrighted 1997.

(I found it just now by accident.  When I first wrote this page, there was even a forum for people to answer the questions, at http://forum.cygnus-study.com/forumdisplay.php?f=3.)

Thinking she actually sat down and come up with all or most of the questions and was serious, I sighed and decided to plod through it, answering as best I could.

For question 121, after saying that whoever came up with that theory obviously knew nothing about history–the Cross came from the crucifixion, and the manner of the crucifixion from the Romans–I heard no more about such theories.

But now, in doing a little Web searching on the symbolism of the ankh, I’ve come across similar theories.  Apparently, now people are saying the Cross comes from the ankh.

This theory does not mention the anti-woman element, just that Coptic Christians thought it would be a good idea to incorporate the popular ankh into their symbolism, and the other patriarchates soon copied them.

So now there are people saying that, yet again, the Christians stole something from the pagans.

(Some people don’t care where the Cross symbol came from, while some hate anything Christian, and take any excuse to accuse the Church of stealing pagan holidays/symbols/deities and call Christians “ignorant” for calling these “stolen items” Christian.)

Now, as is clearly shown in the above links, we cannot trust the sources of these theories to tell us the true origins of Christmas and Easter.  So why should we trust them on this ankh theory?  Instead, here is an extensive article by the Catholic Encyclopedia on the origins of the Cross symbol.

Also, this article shows the true meaning of the Cross for the Church.

Yes, the Coptic Church seems to have based its cross on the ankh.  But that’s the Coptic Church, and there was nothing sexist about it.

There are many different Cross symbols, which seem to have developed on their own, and all go back to the Crucifixion–not to making a pagan symbol anti-woman.

Also see this article by W. Ward Gasque, which debunks the idea that Christianity basically stole from the Egyptians.

But just in case my research above is not enough to convince you, if you want to hear from an atheist–here ya go: Tim O’Neill’s History for Atheists website, an atheist writing for atheists, showing that the myths of Christmas/Easter being pagan are false.  See especially:
THE GREAT MYTHS 2: CHRISTMAS, MITHRAS AND PAGANISM
EASTER, ISHTAR, EOSTRE AND EGGS
Pagan Christmas (which also links to many other sources)

Probably originally posted around 2005/2006/2007, and updated and revised over the years since.

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing
End Times and Christian Zionism
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine
Cat and Dog Theology
Raising One’s Hands in Worship
Christian Music
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings
The Message Bible
The Purpose-Driven Life
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers
Republican Party
Abortion Protests
Creation
The idea that God has someone in mind for you
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse
Other Resources

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday?
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples?
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go?
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated)
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship?
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

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