19 December 2016

Federalist Author's Lies about Santa Claus Facilitated by LPR's Issues Etc.

http://issuesetc.org/2016/12/06/3415-incorporating-the-real-santa-claus-into-the-celebration-of-christs-birth-holly-scheer-12616/

This 14 minute piece was completely misleading on multiple fronts. Contrary to Scheer, Santa Claus is not merely a secularised version of the Roman Catholic St. Nicholas and thus in today's context a bankrupt and hollow form of virtue-appeal minus the theological substance. It's a convenient narrative but one that is less than accurate.

Santa Claus is pagan in origin, a product of Medieval synthesis. Santa Claus perfectly represents the composite nature of Christendom, an amalgam of Christianity and European paganism. The European culture of the Middle Ages can be described as the Greco-Roman Hellenistic culture of Late Antiquity combined with Northern European pagan traditions, all with a gloss or veneer of Christianity. The character Santa Claus is but one of many such examples of this cultural synthesis and tendency. While borrowing elements from a degenerate form of Christianity, the figure is neither wholly Christian nor Pagan... and thus is properly designated by Biblically minded Christians as Anti- or at the very least Non-Christian.

The author of the Federalist piece has chosen to completely ignore this reality and thus wholly misrepresents the nature of the 'Santa Claus question' for the modern Church. 

There's a reason why the Reformation largely rejected this figure as well as most or all of the holidays and elements associated with the so-called Church calendar. This is in addition to the Reformation's rejection of the cult of saints which some High Church Protestants have tried to maintain by a sleight-of-hand theological trick. The hagiolatrous cult is maintained and yet it is redefined so as to 'fit' within Protestant orthodoxy. This is completely deceptive because the whole nomenclature, calendar and basis for the cult are rooted in the Roman Catholic doctrines of soteriology, Purgatory as well as their conceptions of merit.

Scheer decries secularism's 'Cultural Appropriation' of Santa Claus.

Santa Claus is the essence of Cultural Appropriation, a perfect example of this tendency within apostate Christendom. Santa Claus is partly derived from the so-called 'Saint' Nicholas. He is at least half-pagan. Scheer is apparently blind to the fact that the model of Christendom which she celebrates, including the cult of the saints, is nothing more than cultural appropriation. The pagan remnants of the Middle Ages could bring the very same charges against her and her ideological ancestors.

Modern culture's utilisation of the Santa motif seems to trouble Scheer and yet such a secular appropriation is for Biblical Christians no more troubling than any of the pagan rubbish associated with the liturgical calendar and the Christ-Mass.

The modern Santa Claus does not represent some recent degenerative element or tendency within the culture. Instead it points to an ancient degeneration, a centuries old apostasy which now these blind guides seek to resurrect and reinfuse with a new vitality.

Has Santa Claus been reduced to a veneer? That's all he/it ever was. The rot and foundation of sand that Christendom was built upon has been exposed and it's dying. The fact that Santa Claus has survived and has instead become something of a proxy for finding meaning in the winter festival is indicative of how shallow Christendom and in particular American Christendom was all along.

Saving Santa Claus and revitalising this absurdity with some kind of new theological meaning is not only unwise, it is wrong and an utter waste of time. Instead devoting time to the veneration of saints, the Church is better served learning about Christ and His Kingdom, something the advocates and apologists of Christendom fail to understand.

8 comments:

  1. I think this is an adept critique of Medieval & post-Tridentine cult of the Saints and a critique of the adoption of Americana. But you don't deal with variations within it and its roots. It was not merely Pagan veneer over old gods or a way to maintain polytheism. Its roots are in a 2nd Temple Judaism that venerated the saints of the Tanakh. This was not to take glory from God, but how God is glorified in even a Human life. This is the roots of it in the era of the Church (protoevangelium of James). The argument about why not Christ instead of whole bunch of saints is a bait and switch that even Paul rejects when he attacks divisions in Church (e.g. "Some say they follow Apollos, some say Paul, some say Christ" and "Follow me as I follow Christ"). Reverence those who've gone before is a form of the cult of the saints.

    Now does that mean you can ask them to pray for you? That's a totally different issue. But it undermines your own position when you pick the weakest point for argument (the crypto-Paganism of folk Catholicism). So, yes, I am defending the principles behind the Cult of the Saints, without disputing your demolition of crypto-paganism (way more people in Italy pray to Padre Pio than Christ). Christ is Head and Body, and He promises that we (or at least the Apostles) will do greater miracles than He. So it's diminution to His endless Glory which radiates even from those who've fallen asleep.

    On the St. Nick/Santa Claus question, I'm totally with you. But I think the real issue is that the Santa Claus we have is not merely some strange myth, but is a corporate product. The Santa Claus we all know is an invention of the Coca Cola company, so it's no surprise that those committed to Americana won't give it up. There's nothing more holy in America than Mammon and her diverse and whoring children. But I still like to reminisce about St. Nick the resister of Arius. American Chrisitans will kill for "freedom" and the middle-class lifestyle, we will even protest over keeping Jesus in shopping mall greetings and gaudy nativity sets, but the idea of punching a guy in the nose over the divinity of Christ seems not only preposterous but "extreme". I don't condone the violence, but it's a proof for me to talk about warped things are.

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    1. I'm sorry, I really need to look over my comments before them. The last sentence of the 2nd paragraph should be "So it's no diminution to His endless glory, which..." and the last sentence of the third paragraph, "...to talk about how warped things are". I'm sure there are others!

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    2. "over my comments before I post them" I can't win!!

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  2. I'm curious as to where you read that Second-Temple Judaism included the veneration of saints in their liturgical practices. This is honestly the first time I've ever heard about it, and it comes as somewhat of a surprise given that Jews were (especially during this period after returning from Persian exile), and are, extremely strict about monotheism. The only thing I can think of was that it existed among Hellenized Jews but was declared anathema by the emerging Pharisee class.

    With regard to the rest of your post, I think this is one of those things that comes down to final authority. Is Scripture sufficient to establish the foundation for liturgical practices in the church, or are extra-biblical traditions justified by philosophical arguments necessary as well?

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    1. What is a "liturgical practice"? Certainly there are levels of operations, in Second Temple Judaism, that constitute worship, from the High Holy Days of the Temple, to synagogue gathers, familial devotions etc. etc. I'm not getting into this question, I'm dealing with the origins and principles.

      It was surprising for me as well, considering what I initially learned in my high-school comparative religions class and my own personal reading. Daniel Boyarin does a good job in complicating this. This was not an issue of Hellenism, but one of Jewish interpretation. Rabbis argued whether there was plurality within the Godhead and there were plenty of discussions about the fate of saints. There were a lot of apocryphal accounts over Moses, David, Enoch that show a Human sharing in divine glory without it somehow contradict God's sole glory. The issue is not whether they are factually true, but the idea that Jews saw the saints as figures to remember and reflect upon.

      That's an unfair question. The Scripture is sufficient, but we still have to engage in the act of reading it. What does the Church do with all the heroes of the faith who are a "great cloud of witnesses" and all the passages that address them? To show that they all reveal Christ does not contradict honoring and remembering them, unless you assume a metaphysical zero-sum between Divine and Human action, which itself is an extra-biblical philosophical idea injected into the text. And if this is true for the heroes of faith in the Bible, what about those who come after?

      And as I've said above, "liturgical practice" can exceed the gathering worship enjoined in what we see in Acts 2. However, this does not mean we can't "follow Paul as he follows Christ", which would not be preserved in the Scripture if it was totally irrelevant beyond the circumstances of his own mortal life.

      I am not arguing for any particular practice or justification for the "Cult of the Saints", but for the principle behind its origin. From there one must disentangle unbiblical and false practices, like the crypto-Paganism of Medieval and Tridentine Roman Catholicism. Without properly dealing with the shape, nature, and content of the Canon, I can flip the question (since it contains the barb of accusation) around and ask if you are adhering to extra-biblical traditions justified by philosophical arguments, namely 16th century Reformational critiques and ideas.

      cal

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    2. By the term "liturgical practice", all I mean is what is done in public worship.

      As far as the rest of what I said was concerned, I did not intend any condescension or accusatory tone in what I wrote. I was merely interacting with the points you were making in order to better understand your position, which I think I better understand. You're not so much arguing for a "cult of the saints" as you are challenging the notion that respecting them in any way is wholly attributable to pagan practices. I can agree with that. Scripture is replete with such examples (Stephen's sermon in Acts, for example).

      My point about final authority was more of a rhetorical prolepsis in the strictest sense of that word. While I understand where you're coming from, I'm also anticipating the objection of those who would defend Feast Days on the basis of extra-biblical tradition, at which point the debate really does become one wherein which what constitutes final authority for faith and practice is contested.

      I apologize for any offense I may have caused in my prior response and I hope I've made myself clear in this one.

      Cheers,
      A.P.

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    3. There was no offense taken. Sometimes tone is hard to convey in comments or any textual medium.

      I intentionally defend the phrase "cult of the saints" because it is applied to nearly every practice that involves reverence for holy men and women. In Reformational lingo, it becomes a pejorative, yet it still functions. Let's call all reverence for those who fall asleep in Christ a "cult of the saints", and we can begin to pick apart where and whether a particular form or practice of this is biblical or unbiblical, true or false.

      Fundamentally, the question is 'how' are we mindful of the great cloud of witnesses who the author of Hebrews (Paul?) commends us to. I think this is something not only good, but necessary. I'm sure we've all read books about the lives of particular Christians. Maybe that's all that's warranted, but Jesus doesn't seem to condemn the existence of the tombs of the prophets nor their adornment, but the bad faith involved by those whose ancestors put those prophets in the grave in the first place. Then another question: how ought we do honor the dead, particularly those whose lives offer a demonstration of the grace of God healing Human flesh and transforming lives?

      And therein lies one stream of origin for feast days. The question is not merely the regulative principle or the sufficiency of Scripture, which are both well and good, but how we engage with it. The Chicago Statement (I think?) on Biblical inerrancy provides a similarity here. What good is an inerrant Bible if inerrancy is attributed to texts that may or may not exist anymore? What good is an inerrant text if we can't read it? It's not a one to one parallel, and by no means, may God strike me dead otherwise, is this an appeal to an infallible magisterium. But it's something to think about. and Constantinople. A lot of people were uncomfortable with what was produced because it used the word 'homoousios', a word that is no where found in the Bible. Even Athanasius, the great defender of the Son's full divinity, was uneasy for a number of years. This is the exegetical question: can we deduce a concept from the Scripture that is alien to the text? If not, we have to overhaul our entire doctrine of God. If so, then how is this done?

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    4. Basil the Great fought for the Godhood of the Holy Spirit, but even he was uneasy with calling Him God, because the text does not say it explicitly (and hence in his liturgical writings and written prayers, he refers to the Holy Spirit as divine, but neither The God (ho theos) per the Father or God (theos) per the Son.

      I greatly admire the caution exercised (which is something that many so-called theologians totally neglect), but even they took steps on the ledge for the sake of the Truth. How can we think similarly?

      This connects to a comment I made elsewhere on the blog about my respect for Reformational groups who were radical biblicists. Unlike many Magisterial Protestants (confessional Lutheranism, some parts of Reformed orthodoxy, and the mainstream of the Church of England), they kept the Bible open, both among their leaders and among the regular people. I might fight them because they misinterpreted or wired together Bible passages poorly, but at least that's what they are doing, namely keeping the Bible open. What's the point when a Richard Hooker says, hey, it doesn't matter, it's not clear, let's just go-along to get-along or Queen Bessy will put you in jail. I'm being a little mean, but there's not much of a debate past that. But the key is that to engage is to fight over how we read.

      These are the kind of questions at the root of my defense of the so-called "cult of the Saints". And what a more thorough differentiation buys you is that you can invade people's arguments, like these Americana Evangelicals, and get them caught in foolishness. It undermines the sort of proof-texting that people do to justify just about anything. But Proto has a similar kind of strategy, I'm sure, when dealing with people face to face, vs. the format of a blog post. I'm just being chatty and using it to think about it more deeply.

      cal

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