Christmas in the Hands of Reconstructionists

christmasSo for the last few weeks, I have been tussling off and on with some strong critics of Kirk Cameron regarding an interview he gave to a Catholic radio program and the assertion that he is sliding into a slough of ecumenism. You can get the background to those sparring matches with this POST.

I highlighted in that post how Kirk has a movie coming out on the subject of our Christmas traditions called Saving Christmas. As you would expect, lot of the same folks who didn’t like Kirk’s Catholic show interview also have problems with his forthcoming film.

If you have seen the trailer, it tells about a guy who is all down on Christmas because he has been told by glum legalists that it was originally a pagan holiday that has become heavily commercialized and dishonoring to baby Jesus. Kirk plays the long suffering friend who walks the fellow through the true meaning of Christmas by evaluating each of the treasured Christmas traditions, like Christmas trees, why Christmas is on December 25th, and even Santa Claus. Just from the trailer, the movie does look like it will be fun.

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Kirk speak at my home church for an Institute for Creation Research conference. To be honest, I thought the bulk of his talk was disjointed and awkward. He seemed like he was only half-way prepared, as if he threw together some stuff at the last minute. It may be that he wasn’t on his game that night, so I don’t fault him too much.

At any rate, his session got a bit better as he moved into talking about the Gospel and Christ’s redemption of men and the world. That is when he spoke a bit on Saving Christmas. He did a great riff poking at folks who think Christmas is pagan and none of the Christmas traditions should be utilized in any serious fashion by Christians as a way to explain the Gospel.

He then moved into addressing Christmas trees and showed a clip from Saving Christmas that talked about how they represent the Second Adam, Christ, putting Himself on the tree of Calvary to pay for our sins. The lights somehow represented the light of the Spirit and the fact that Christmas is celebrated in December, during winter, which typifies death, adds emphasis to what Christ did when He died for sinners on the cross.

Afterwards, my friends and I were left scratching our heads. Did we just see what we saw? Basically a contrived allegorized reintepretation of Christmas trees as figures for Jesus on the cross? We were all like,  “That. was. Interesting.”

Fast-forward to a few days later. I’m looking through my twitter feed when someone retweeted a tweet by a guy named Darren Doane who was responding to a Kirk Cameron dissenter who had tweeted him. He had this to say,

SC1aI was familiar with the dissenter because I had interacted with the person at a previous time. However, when I checked Doane’s profile, it said he was THE filmmaker who made the last few Kirk Cameron movies/documentaries and the guy who wrote and directed Saving Christmas.  He also plays the character in the film who is all down on Christmas. I thought, “Okay, here’s my chance to ask him, the writer/actor, about the contrived Christmas tree=cross idea Kirk presented.” And this is what our exchange looked like:

SC2SC3SC4SC5SC6SC7Wowzers.

The tendency of Reformed oriented guys these days is to “Christianize” culture or connect it to the Bible in some fashion so as to “Redeem it for Jesus.” They argue that Christ is Lord of all things and because He is Lord over all things, Christians can reclaim everything (though the primary focus is generally booze and movies or other forms of entertainment) by “redeeming” it. That is accomplished by redefining whatever it is you want to redeem according to some fanciful Reformed hermeneutic, which is okay to do because Jesus is sovereign over everything, so it’s His anyways. See how that works?

ccmI encountered that Reformed, “Jesus is Sovereign” hermeneutic once with a SBC pastor named Jared Moore. Pastor Moore, who is, by the way, a terrific fellow and all around good guy just so that you folks won’t get any wrong ideas about the man, wrote a book I reviewed called The Harry Potter Bible Study.

You can check out my review, along with my rejoinder to a critical response he gave of my review to get more details, but in a nutshell, Pastor Moore claimed that the Harry Potter stories can teach us how to properly apply discernment with engaging our culture for Christ and the Gospel. He did that by drawing his readers to consider all of the spiritual “truths” found specifically in the last four Harry Potter films. Like they are the Chronicles of Narnia or something. And in case you need to know where I stand on the matter, I don’t believe there are spiritual “truths” to be gleaned from Harry Potter.

It is exactly what I see Doane suggesting with his tweets. Looking over his profile and considering the company he and Kirk are keeping these days, he is advocating his hermeneutic from a reconstructionist, postmillennial, theonomic perspective. The postmillenial reconstructionist vision believes God has appointed the Church to triumphantly spread the Gospel over all the earth. But it is much more than what is read in Matthew 28.

Accomplishing that victory entails subjecting all human authorities and institutions under the Lordship of Christ. One of the key strategies employed for completing that goal is reconstructing the culture according to God’s law as revealed in Scripture. In turn, that reconstructing of culture may include redefining our societal norms and reality along the lines of reconstructionist terminology, or in this case, hermeneutic.

So, take our Christmas tree for example:  God assigned certain trees in Scripture with typological significance; i.e., Tree of Life, lampstand in the holy place, cross of Christ (called a “tree” by Peter in Acts 5:30). Hence, it is perfectly fine to utilize God’s typological hermeneutic regarding trees in the Bible in order to pour new meaning onto the Christmas tree, along with presents, the decorations, the lights, and even Santa Claus. In doing so, Christians are redeeming culture for the sake of Christ’s Lordship.

I have three problems with the reconstruction typological hermeneutic used in that manner:

1) God doesn’t desire to redeem things, like culture, or movies, or holidays. God redeems people. He desires to call men unto Himself, delivering them from His just wrath and fellowship with them forever. He accomplished that by Christ’s death on the cross.

Now certainly cultures will be impacted by redeemed people living in society. If a strip club owner gets saved, he shuts down the strip club. The same happens with any other element in society. But that is God changing people who then live godly among their neighbors. Think of John the Baptist’s words to his hearers in Luke 3:10-14.

2) I’ll develop this next point a little more when I do a fuller review of the film, but there is something dishonest with telling people the real meaning of Christmas trees, along with all the other festive trappings of Christmas, is now redefined according to this contrive hermeneutic. It is especially dishonest when you suggest to people that the new, imaginative meanings are biblical, derived from God’s Word, when in point of fact they are not. That is where a person begins to wander into David Barton territory claiming Thomas Jefferson was a Christian. Doane can argue all day long that God gave trees this meaning, but again that is dishonest because it doesn’t reflect the truth regarding the real history of Christmas trees.  It also misleads those who hear his and Kirk’s promotion of this movie as having a biblical basis. God most certainly did not intend for us to make a type out of Christmas trees so as to “redeem culture.”

3) This reconstructionist hermeneutic does a great disservice to God’s Holy Word and borders on undermining the authority of Scripture. If a person feels, according to his eschatological outlook on the world, that he can play fast and loose with the types of Scripture, giving them newer meaning for the sake of “redeeming culture” that goes way beyond what God intended to convey, the floodgates are opened to the introduction of all sorts of theological error.  It’s the same stuff we saw with neo-orthodoxy mangling the Bible.

Look it: I disagree with my detractors who insist Kirk was putting his arms around Catholics in his interview on Busted Halo. I really have no problem with him, or even Doane, plugging their movie on various radio venues whether they be Christian or secular.

I do, however, have a serious problem with their reconstructionist revisionism that I am seeing played out, because this is where I see the crux of their debate with their critics. Those critics, I believe, have yet to identify the problem of their hermeneutic and if they are serious about engaging them accurately, they’ll sharpen their focus upon it.

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27 thoughts on “Christmas in the Hands of Reconstructionists

  1. This is one of the most important articles I’ve read in the last couple years Fred. Brilliant and unbelievably needed. EXCEPT. :) I can point you to dispensationalists, or at least total non reconstructionists who are pickled in this whole “engaging culture” debacle.

  2. “We believe our Lord Jesus Christ to be none other than that Tree of Life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations! We can scarcely conceive of any other interpretation, as this seems to us to be so full of meaning and to afford us such unspeakable satisfaction!” – CH Spurgeon

  3. Good work Fred. Its frustrating to watch others think that a knockout punch is best performed by aiming at the kneecaps.

    Good right hook on the button.

  4. To suggest that God set up the first Christmas tree is just plain loony. Proposing such a thing is an embarrassment for thinking Christians.

  5. It’s funny that you use the word “revisionism”, which is exactly how I felt about the movie “Monumental”… But that’s another discussion for another time. I wish we could talk Dr. Gregg Frazer into reviewing that movie and writing an article. It would greatly highlight the seemingly deceptive will in which the Reconstructionist hermeneutic is rooted. Keep it up Fred. Don’t be discouraged by the KC fanboys while beating their Theonomic hobby-horse.

    Why haven’t Joel McDurmon and Gary DeMar commented yet about how they’re being “misrepresented”?

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  7. Marcus can quote Spurgeon out of context if he likes. Here’s Spurgeon IN context: “We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas. First, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be sung in Latin or in English; and secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Savior’s birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred. … It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the nativity of our Lord; and it was not till very long after the Western church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it. … Probably the fact is that the “holy” days were arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals. We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Savior was born, it is the twenty-fifth of December. Nevertheless since, the current of men’s thoughts is led this way just now, and I see no evil in the current itself, I shall launch the bark of our discourse upon that stream, and make use of the fact, which I shall neither justify nor condemn, by endeavoring to lead your thoughts in the same direction. Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day in the year, it cannot be in the power of other men’s superstitions to render such a meditation improper for to-day. Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of His dear Son.”

  8. “To suggest that God set up the first Christmas tree is just plain loony. Proposing such a thing is an embarrassment for thinking Christians.”
    This is actually true. :( I’m not much of a holiday guy, but I’m not going to be the one to tell somebody that they’ve fallen from grace if they have a Christmas tree. Do not however try n tell me that it has biblical or historic Christian roots (no pun). It IS an embarrassment. It reminds of these worldlings who think they see gospel truth in these reprehensible Hollywood movies. (well, not THAT bad)

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  10. I love the guy. I loved Fireproof and Courageous. Regardless of what the artsy shfartsy culture worshiping snobs say.

    That said, I can’t shake the sense that he actually is drifting out of his lane as of late.

  11. Kirk is a great guy. When he finished talking a few Friday’s ago at the ICR conference, he stepped down the stage and immediately saw a gal in a wheel chair sitting in the aisle in the front. He bent down and spent at least a minute or so chatting with her. It was neat to see. That is genuine love and concern. So let’s do our best to exhort the guy on to good works in Christ and not bash him.

  12. I have no doubt of Cameron’s utter commitment to the Lord and true longing to serve Him faithfully. From what I’ve seen and read of him, this kind of godly compassion is exactly what I’d expect. He is a man of God. I certainly didn’t intend to convey criticism. I apologize. Some concern maybe? Yes.

  13. I don’t know where you’ve recived your info on reformed reconstruction, but it’s not what you or Kirk are demonstrating.

    Those who hold to this position usually hold to several distinctions that are taught in the scriptures:

    1. Theonomic
    2. Postmillenial eschatology
    3. Confessional (WCF)
    4. Presuppositional apologetics
    5. Peadobaptist Covenant Theology
    6. The Regulative principle of worship

    The majority report on historical Christian reconstruction as I understand it concerning “holy days”, is that God is the one who prescribed holy days. The only holy day prescribed from scripture is the Lord’s Day after all of the Jewish ones were abrogated/fulfilled in Christ.
    Christmas is not lawful because it is not prescribed by God in the scriptures. That’s the real answer.

  14. As all things concerning Christian doctrine, not all who call themselves reconstructionists, faithfully practice or hold dogmatically to these distinctives.

    But for those of us who try to faithfully practice what we believe the scriptures teach about holy days, we start with the Regulative principle of worship as taught in Deuteronomy chapter 12 (complete). This informs our Hermeneutic concerning these matters.

    Other text that speak of God’s instruction on worship, which is what holy days are supposed to reflect are:

    1. Jeremiah 7:30-31
    2. Jeremiah 19:1-5
    3. Leviticus 10:1-7

    Just to name a few.

    The bottom line is that God never calls us to redeem wicked practices or worship, he commands his people to remain seperate in those practices and even to destroy them at times. That’s Christian reconstruction applied to worship and holy days so called.

  15. Frank,
    I got my understanding of Theonomy and reconstructionism from Greg Bahnsen, Gary North, and Rousa Rushdoony who are the principle architects of modern reconstructionism. I would also include Gary Demar and a number of online reconstructionist personalities who defend the movie Saving Christmas as reflecting the hermeneutics of postmillennial dominionism and reconstructionism.

    Also, I am not dealing with holidays specifically, but with the practical hermeneutic of redefining cultural images like Xmas trees and turning them into some Christian object that has now been “redeemed” and insisting this is how we reclaim culture. See this article by Gary Demar, http://americanvision.org/3866/of-christmas-and-christmas-trees/

    One commenter posted this from James Jordan, another reconstructionist who had had this to say about Christmas and the Winter Solstice:

    “And so we show that the Romans and other pagan people had a feast at the Winter Solstice to celebrate the rising of the sun in the heavens and the change from cold to warmth — so what? All pagan feasting is a perverse replica of true Godly festivity. The pagan worship of the sun is a perversion of the Biblical analogy of the sun to Christ (Mal.4:2(1); Ps.19; etc.). The pagan recognition of the change in the year from dark to light, from death to life, at the Winter Solstice is but a perversion of the covenant truth found in the Noachic Covenant. What is wrong with reclaiming the Winter Solstice for Christ?”

    Looks like you guys need to clarify your position on holidays among the reconstructionist dominionists.

  16. @fivepointer, Thank you for your response. I have read Gary Demar’s position on Christmas before and I know a few folks in my circles who still celebrate Christmas in some form or another. I’ve never heard any reason beyond the fact that they had celebrated Christmas before they became reformed and that it was a tradition that their families were used to. I’ve never heard anyone explain it like Kirk and his proponents are doing. I disagree with both positions wholeheartedly.

    As I mentioned before, there are those in this camp that are not consistent in distinctives that make up the so called reconstruction hermeneutic. While I have a healthy respect for the men mentioned in your post, I would have to disagree with any of their positions that are contrary to the scriptures teachings, specifically on the matters of the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW).

    I do think that in regards to this topic, whether the focus is on cultural redemption practices or holy days, the foundational error is about the worship of God. Does the bible teach us that God is the one who prescribes and decrees to his people how he is to be worshiped, or has he left it to fallen man to decide?

    Since you are familiar with the distinctives of this reformed hermeneutic you would know that both of these positions cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense. Each position has its starting point/pre-thinking/presuppositions when it comes to their perspective hermeneutic. Therefore each has to have an internal critique to see if their position is tenable and consistent with the teaching of scripture.

    As I have already laid out, I believe that the scriptures teach the RPW, that is what God commands we do, what God forbids we do not do, and what is not expressly commanded or forbidden, we don’t do. The issue of God’s commandments in the reformed hermeneutic is understood as being revealed by direct commands, approved examples, and necessary consequence/inference. I would also add that the RPW is applied to all spheres of God’s institutions on earth (Family, Church and State).

    With all of that said, I concede that there are adherents of these principles that are not consistent in their practices. This has no bearing upon any weakness or strengths of this position. Any adherent to this position that holds to a contrary view of the so called reconstruction/dominion hermeneutic distinctions can easily be demonstrated as being inconsistent. All practices of Christian orthodoxy fall into this type of scrutiny as well.

    In matters such as the issue of the worship of God and holy days, I do understand the scriptures teaching on Christian Liberty and the Liberty of conscience. The Holy Spirit is the only person that can bind men’s consciences and each man has to stand or fall before his own master. I do not look towards other brethren and condemn them for what I believe is error in their Christian practices, but I will take any opportunity given to give a defense for what I believe is the prescription taught by God in his word.

    The position I have put forth in these posts is what I believe the scriptures teach on this matter of worship and holy days. It’s not a matter of getting our story straight so to speak, when it comes to this issue of Christian reconstruction, it’s about being consistent in our practice in all areas and matters of life.

    I would be glad to continue this discussion on these matters as a friendly polemic among brethren for anyone who might want to understand this position better.

    The best treatment on this matter in my opinion is that of John Knox’s work entitled “True and False Worship.

  17. I’m going to go down and worship at the local strip club, because naked women writhing around a pole is a symbol of sinners clinging to the cross of Christ.

    See, I can do it too.

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