12.01.2003 Feature Article

A Critique Of Recent Anti-Christian Writings ....

A Critique Of Recent Anti-Christian Writings ....
12.01.2003 LISTEN

Kwasi Boahene has no intention of giving the Christian community any respite, not even on the Christmas day. He continues his vitriolic and vituperative attacks against Christians. It is unfortunate that great effort needs to be taken to distinguish between sincere intellectual and ideological disagreements and the puerile prejudices and fashionable hatreds that seem to typify much, if not most of his writings. It is neither intellectually justifiable nor argumentatively productive to attack the individual choice of belief and faith. I take issue not with those whose thinking differs from mine, but with those who abstain from thought. Both the arrogance and the ignorance of his position is readily apparent, especially in the context of the intolerant and judgmental character of his sentiment, which is ironic considering his accusations of intolerance that he leveled against Christian politicians in his first article. As I have stated in my earlier rejoinders, his writings are consistently inconsistent, his thought process incoherent and his argument logically flawed. The contents of his articles are always at variance with his titles. His claims are inconsistent and his sequels contradictory and ambiguous. The purpose of this article is first, to point out the flaws in his reasoning, the inconsistencies in his writings, the insensitive manner and the arrogance with which he has treated the Ghanaian Christian community. The second goal is to show why it is not idolatry to celebrate Christmas as a Christian. In his first article “Libation Has Served Ghana Better”, he deviated completely from his title and used libation as a theme to lash out at Christianity. Out of the fourteen-paragraph article purported to talk about libation, only approximately one and one half paragraphs have something to say about libation. The word libation occurs only five or six times in the article. Neither his introduction nor conclusion has anything to do with his title. The best places to find the thrust of any good article are the introductory paragraph and the conclusion. Boahene’s introduction and conclusion in this article were devoted to attacks on Christian politicians and Christianity respectively. This is a very deceptive way of writing an article. The introductory paragraph of his first article was used to attack Christian politicians. The writer described these Christians as limited in their thinking, unable to understand the very purpose of their functions, narrow-minded, dogmatic, and religiously intolerant, and called for condemnation of their pronouncements. I will let Boahene speaks for himself: The recent utterances by some influential policy makers to ban libation demonstrate limitations in the thinking of certain people with whom we have entrusted power. It also shows their inability to understand the very purpose of their functions. Needless to say, Ghana is a secular state, and I hope that has not changed since the Minister for Asante Region and the Deputy Minister for Local Government took office. The degree of narrow-mindedness shown by these policy makers is widespread among Christians in our dear country. I wonder why these politicians do not fancy resigning from their posts to become evangelists. Their statements should have been condemned by policy makers and Christian leaders of all persuasions since they can contribute towards religious intolerance. He cunningly switches gears after his vitriolic attack against Christian politicians and claims self-piety. He writes: The assault on our culture is led by these charismatic, pentecostal priests and their congregation who think they know but do not understand anything, not even about their own religion. Otherwise they will be tolerant towards other faith. I have never met a GHANAIST who judges the fate and spirituality of believers of other religions. To me, this demonstrates the spiritual maturity of the GHANAIST and his belief in the unity of God. Christians are quick to condemn other religions, forgetting about the limitations of their own religion. I will like to mention few observations about charismatic priests and their congregation: If you are looking for a good case study of hypocrisies and inconsistencies in writing, simply piece Boahene’s three articles together. After his sanctimonious claim, he devotes the rest of his article to attacking any Christian foundation that can be attacked. He attacks the deity of Jesus Christ, equating Him to Osiris, and he challenges the canonization of scriptures. In his second article titled “Has God Ambushed Ghana?” He also didn’t in anyway show his readers in what ways God has ambushed Ghana. Instead he used this deceptive title, as is his usual practice to attack the authenticity and reliability of the Bible. He used questionable and extra-biblical sources like the Q-sources and other liberal revisionist writings to discredit the bible. The irony of his writings is that after debunking the Bible, he turned around and used the same Bible to authenticate his assertion that Christmas Celebration is a pagan practice.

In his last article, he came up with another deceptive title, “Should the traditionalists have to celebrate Christmas? And used it to show why Christmas is a pagan celebration. Any good reader would expect that the body of this article would address why traditionalists should celebrate Christmas or not. However, this was not the case but another deceptive way of getting at his victims (Christians). His introductory paragraph was couched to cast insinuation at Christians. He writes, “ I wish you all a Happy 2003! Let it be the year that we will grow in the knowledge of GOD and allow our culture to prosper alongside all forms of developments. It must also be the year that we fully realize that the secret of prosperity is based on sweat, and not miracles.” In this article, Mr. Boahene does a masterful job of concocting his own stories and putting them in the mouths of his victims (Christians) to provide a reasonable cause to attack them. Look at how he does it: They [Christian victims] felt that I should be proud of what Jesus has done for the world rather comment on the activities of his church. Some cited Christmas, Easter and the Christian calendar as examples. They claim that they value Christmas more than the independence day of Ghana. They want to know what I am doing to discourage people, who believe in Ghanaian religion and culture, from celebrating Christmas and Easter.” Insertion mine. If you have never read or heard Kwaku Ananse stories before , then this is a good one for you. You see the clever way he manufactures stories that are then used to attack his victims. One is left to wonder whether this approach of his writing is a way of deceiving his readers by hiding behind those titles or his concocted stories to unleash his arsenals against Christians or it is his normal way of writing. Neither is intellectually justifiable nor argumentatively productive. In a well-written article, one thought is connected to another, and the words and the sentences are arranged logically and coherently. As a result, the reader moves easily from one point to another and understands how the individual points relate to the whole. An article then should be unified and conveys a singleness of purpose. Nevertheless, this is not the way Mr. Boahene writes his deceptive articles, but presents a rhapsody of anecdotal stories. Not only did he fail in his logical presentation, but also the appropriateness or the timing of his Christmas article. In Aristotle’s Rhetoric, he identified three artistic proofs that make up the art and science of Rhetoric. These proofs include ethos (character), pathos (emotions), and logos (logic), which provide resources of communication to a writer or a speaker. If Mr. Boahene goal were to address charismatic excesses then he failed miserably for not treating the Christian community with respect. You do not get your audience attention by disrespecting them and irritating them. One does not need to read Aristotle’s idea about pathos in communication to know how to respect or get people’s attention. My mother never went to school, but every time she sent me to collect a debt from somebody, she would caution me to retreat if I found the person eating. Her rich traditional culture (Efie Nyansa) taught her not to disturb people in joyous moments or in festive moods. Why did Mr. Boahene choose to publish his attack against Christmas celebration on Christmas day if his intention was not to irritate us? As a Christian I find the timing of his publication inappropriate and offensive. In his article, “Do The Traditionalist Have To Celebrate Christmas?” the writer states, “ the morale of the article (Has God Ambushed Ghana?) was that there are excesses in the charismatic churches, which need to be addressed given the churches’ increased role in the Ghanaian society.” Notwithstanding, the writer has written three articles all attacking Christianity in general and “charismatic” churches in particular without giving any hint as what is a charismatic church. Mr. Boahene needs to define and delineate the Charismatic church as a group within the Christian community if that is his focus of study and analysis. This is because the word charismatic as used in both secular and religious circles is a very ambiguous term as shall be shown presently. Few people can technically distinguish between Pentecostal churches, charismatic churches, Word of Faith Movements, and Syncretic churches. Scholars who study these movements ask critical questions such as: What does the word “Charismatic” mean in general? What does the word “Pentecostal” mean in current common usage? Are there other variations in the meaning of the word charismatic as used by some in general conversation? What similarities and differences do Pentecostal and Charismatic have? And what are the implications of the words Pentecostal and Charismatic in current common usage? How are the words Pentecostal, Charismatic and Hyper-Charismatic used in current theology to describe religious movements, groups, ideas and teachers? It is therefore important for Boahene to make these distinctions very clear if his intention is to address charismatic excesses. In a book “Immanuel Kant Logic,” translated, with an introduction by Robert S. Hartman and Wolfgang Schwarz, Kant talks about the concept of concept, and emphasized that the subject of general logic like the issue under discussion is to make clear concepts distinct. He continues that if one intends to proceeds from the land of prejudice and error to the domain of a more enlightened reason and sciences, then s/he has to begin with intentional clarification. What is Boahene’s definition of a charismatic church? Since Boahene’s morale is to address Charismatic excesses, he should have by this time been able to delineate Charismatic churches from Christianity in general by bringing out what the teachings of these churches are and how they deviate from the doctrines of other evangelical churches. Not only are his titles deceptive, but also his claims and analysis (if any) are inconsistent and contradictory. In his first article the writer tells his readers that Osiris was a Greek God. I pointed out in my rejoinder to that article that Osiris was an Egyptian God. The writer did not in his subsequent articles acknowledge his error. Notwisthanding, he tells his readers in his third article that Osiris was an Egyptian God. Anyone reading both articles at the moment is left to his/her own to figure out which of his two claims is correct. The writer has to tell his readers which of the two is correct. A well-established law of thought should be able to help us here. It is called the law of non-contradiction (or the law of contradiction). This law basically says that something can’t be “A” and “Non-A” at the same time and in the same respect. We expect claims meant to discredit other people’s faith to be logically consistent. As it is said in the science of logic, “inconsistency is always a sign of error.” In his first two articles the writer cast aspersion at the authenticity of the Bible but used the bible as a proof text to support his allegation that Christmas is a pagan religion in his third article. In this third article Boahene makes certain claims about Christ and Christianity that needs to be examined. The next section of this paper therefore responds to issues raised in the said article. It is my position that Christmas is certainly not pagan. I will therefore attempt to show that Boahene’s facts are not correct and his logic faulty. Boahene claims that the Sixteenth Century reformers rejected Christmas because it was pagan, as did the Puritans in the Seventeenth. Moreover, he claims that it was not until the Nineteenth Century that Christmas was observed in Protestant denominations. Boahene’s logic is that if these Bible believing people rejected Christmas then it must be pagan. It is true that many Reformation churches rejected or outlawed the celebration of Christmas, as did the Puritans, and some Protestants denominations after them. However, it is disingenuous to claim that they did so because they believed Christmas was Pagan. Rather, they refused to observe Christmas because they believed that scripture forbade special holydays, and second, they perceived Christmas to be “Roman Catholic” based on non-scriptural traditions, and they rejected Christ-mass because they consider the church of Rome’s mass to be contrary to the Gospel. In their zeal for Biblical truth, many of these groups tried to remove all doctrines of men and everything that smacked of the church of Rome, including Christmas and other major holydays, ceremonies, and fasts. Now Mr. Boahene would respond by saying, but there is a passage that commands Christians not to observe special holy days. It is wrong to celebrate Christmas because the Bible commands you not to observe "days, months, seasons, and years" in Gal. 4:9-11 Paul wrote to the Galatians, "Ye observe days, and months, and months, and years! I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain." (Gal. 4:10-11). Actually, the "days, months, and times, and years" to which Paul referred were Jewish holy days, about which the vast majority of Biblical commentators agree. When this passage is placed in the context of the entire letter to the Galatians, this becomes obvious. The Galatians were being taught by Jewish false teachers that faith in Jesus Christ was not enough to justify them before God and that they also had to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses. Paul focuses on this issue in Galatians 5:2-4: Also, it must be stated that any honest person dealing with this topic in a scholarly manner will point out to his readers that not all reformers took this approach to Christmas. In fact, the original reformer, the one who launched the Reformation, Martin Luther, did not. Luther and the reformation churches that followed him, only discarded those traditions that directly contradicted the Gospel and the scriptures. All other traditions were retained if they were found to be helpful and edifying. According to Luther: We do not condemn the doctrines of men just because they are the doctrines of men, for we would gladly put up with them. But we condemn them because they are contrary to the gospel and the Scriptures. While the Scriptures liberate consciences and forbid that they be taken captive by the doctrines of men, these doctrines of men captivate the conscience anyhow (A Reply to the Texts, LW 35:153; WA 10II: 91). Furthermore, the assertion that December 25th as the day for the celebration of Christ birth originated from Rome is a display of ignorance of church history. The earliest presentation of the birth of our lord is not given by a pagan or Rome itself, but by Hippolytus (who lived sometime around the turn of the third century-AD 180-236). Although no one can know the exact month and day of our Lord’s birth (and that is not important), yet Hippolytus was one of the earliest of the fathers to calculate a date from a rational perspective of the Lord’s birth and not from a pagan holiday. He came up with the date of December 25th by taking Zechariahs’ ministration and combining it with the six month mentioned in the annunciation of to Mary (Luke 1:26). He reached the conviction that Jesus’ life from conception to Crucifixion was precisely thirty-three years and that both occurred on March 25th. By calculating nine months from the annunciation or conception, he arrived at December 25th, as the day of Christ’s birth. There were other dates being offered for the birth of Jesus Christ contemporary to Hippolytus such as May 20th by Clement of Alexandria, Egypt, as well as the dates of April 18th and 19th and 28th. The question is, if there were so many dates floating around, how then did December 25th, become the official date for the celebration of Christ birthday. There are two theories. (1) The first theory holds that after careful research, Julius (337-352), Bishop of Rome, determined that Christ had been born on December 25; or at least he determined that December 25 was the best authenticated date in the Tradition. John Chrystostom states this in one of his writings (John Chrysostom, Homil. Diem Natal. 2; PL, 49, 552ff.). Chrysostom asserted that Julius, after Cyril of Jerusalem had requested him, had the official records of the Roman census examined, and determined that December 25 was the correct date. Scholars points out, however, that there is no evidence to back this up; in fact, it was expressly stated in Rome that the actual date of the Saviour's birth was unknown and that different traditions prevailed in different parts of the world (F. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs - New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1958, 61.). (2) The second theory states that the Church of Rome intentionally chose December 25 as the date of Christ's birth to turn people away from a pagan feast that was observed at the same time. December 25 was observed as "the birthday of the Sun god" (natalis solis invicti). The Sun god was identifed with Mithra, a popular Persian god that also was viewed as the Sun god. Pagan celebrations occurred throughout the empire on Dec. 25 (see Clement A. Miles, Christmas, New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1912, 23). The Church at Rome seems to have chosen this date to counteract this pagan feast of the sun god and turn people instead to the "Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings" (Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78). In another words, Julius chose December 25 so that the Son of God rather than the Sun god would be worshiped. Though there is no direct evidence that proves that the Church of Rome deliberately chose December 25 so that Christ's birth would replace "the birthday of the sun,” there are sermons from some of the church fathers that used this line of reasoning. For example, Augustine (354-430) in his sermon 202 and Leo the Great (440-461 -- PL 54 Sources chrtiennes 22) gives this line of reasoning. Therefore, the second theory seems to be the probable one. December 25 was chosen not because it had somehow been proven from extra-biblical sources that Christ was definitely born on December 25. Rather the date was chosen to counteract a very popular pagan holiday that already had been occurring on this date. Now, does the fact that the Church of Rome chose the same date to celebrate Christ's birth as a popular pagan festival mean that "Christmas is based on a pagan festival" or that "Christmas is pagan"? I don't think so! What kind of reasoning is that? It simply means that they chose the same day – why? we don't know exactly. Perhaps they chose it to keep Christians away from taking part in the pagan festivities, or perhaps to entice pagans to join the Christian faith. Placing a Christian feast on a well-known non-Christian day does not make the Christian feast non-Christian. They are merely sharing the day. We worship our God on Sunday, which in Roman times, was the day dedicated to the Sun god. Does that make our worship on Sunday pagan? Perhaps we should worship on Saturday. But that day in Roman times was named in honor of the god Saturn. Would that make our festivals on Saturday pagan? Of course not, but this is the kind of faulty logic used by Kwasi Boahene in his third article.

It is well known that most of the customs of Christmas were also observed in pagan cultures and religions. Lights, trees and gift giving, merry-making, Santa Claus, all found use or expression in ancient pagan religions and cultures. But similarity is not the same as dependence or derivation. In other words, just because we use similar customs does not mean in every case that these are directly derived from pagan religions. Cultures all over the world have used lights and trees, gift giving for their celebrations. It is illogical to assume that because Christians use these things at Christmas, they have taken them directly from pagans. Is everything that was once used by paganism centuries ago, off limits to Christians? Are we prepared to strictly apply that to everything we do? Is Mr. Boahene aware that some of the designs in the clothes we wear everyday have pagan origin? Even some of the names of the cars we drive have pagan names. Does that mean that Christians should stop wearing these clothes or stop driving these cars? What kind of logic is this? Another issue raised by Boahene in his last article relates to Christmas trees. Are Christmas trees a form of idolatry? Interestingly, this question arises out of the pronouncement made by the prophet Jeremiah 10:2-4. Boahene referenced this in his article. While at first blush this may seem to be referring to our custom of decorating Christmas trees, a closer examination of Jeremiah 10 reveals that God in reality was condemning the creation of permanent wooden idols carved from the trees of the forest, in the very next verse (vrs5) God ridicules these idols because they cannot walk or talk. In his first article Mr. Boahene accused the Charismatic, and Pentecostal priests of “citing out – of context phrases from the Bible…” to justify their claims. Nevertheless, he did the same thing when he cited Exodus 32:5, Jeremiah 10:2-4 and Galatians 4:10-11. Instead of doing good exegesis (interpreting biblical passage by critical analysis), he was doing eisegesis (interpreting biblical passage by reading into the passage a meaning that is not evident by the passage itself or the context in which it appears in the bible). The basic method of interpreting a Biblical passage is context! Context! Context! In addition, Mr. Boahene believes that Mithraism share many of the same features as Christianity. If such assertions are true, then it would be easy to infer that Christianity borrowed much from Mithraism since Mithraism is quite a bit older, this inference would not be a direct proof-just because two things correspond does not prove that one developed directly from the other. However, when we examine Mithraism critically, we see quite clearly that the similarities between it and Christianity is not as convincing as Mr. Boahene would have us believe. The earliest references to Mithra come from the ancient Hindu literature. However, just what people believed about him at that time is unknown. J.P. Arendzen writes, “ The origin of the cult of mithra dates from the time that the Hindus and the Persians still formed one people, for the god mithra occurs in the religion and sacred books of both races, that is, in the Vedas and in the Avesta. In Vedic hymns he is frequently mentioned and is nearly always coupled with Varuna, beyond the bare occurrence of his name, little is known of him ( Rigveda, 111, 59).” Another mithraistic scholar David Ulansey in “The Comic Mysteries of Mithras,” writes, Owing to the cult’s secrecy, we possess almost no literacy evidence about the beliefs of Mithraism. The few texts that do refer to the cult come not from mithraic devotees themselves, but rather from outsiders.” Another point that also needs to be taken into consideration in mithraistic scholarship is the continuity of the cult. Mithraism seems to have changed drastically from its Persian roots when it became a Roman cult. It is acknowledged by Mithraistic scholars that Romans adapted the military cult into something much more comfortable and understandable for their form of worship. Scholars like Beard, North and Price agree with this when they write, “the form of the cult most familiar to us, the military cult, does not seem to derive from Persia at all. It has no significant resemblance to its supposed Persian origins, and seems largely to be a western construct.” Mithraistic Studies scholar John Hinnells in 1975 lamented about the practical difficulty of any scholar mastering all necessary fields –linguistics, anthropology, history (Indian, Iranian, and Roman), archaeology, iconography, and sociology in order to get a handle on Mithraistic Studies. Yet Mr. Boahene could make such absolute claims about the parallelism between Mithra and Jesus without any caveat. In conclusion, let me say that Boahene’s comments are not even arguments (claims buttressed by evidence), and cannot possibly be good arguments. It may arguably, even plausibly be argued that most of his claims are anecdotal stories and obfuscations meant to discredit Christianity. I think that most of his claims are deceitful and verges on intellectual chicanery. And rather than give any evidence to support this accusation and claims, he appeals to his own concocted stories. Given that most of his statements are supported by nothing other than Boahene’s word, this forces all readers concerned about the truth to evaluate the credibility of his writings. In historical and biographical research, in deciding whether a witness’s word can be relied on; the two relevant questions are: a) does he have a past record of twisting the truth? And b) does he have a bias on the matter at issue? When we examine Boahene’s negative statements about Christianity and his deceitful style of writing with these criteria, he clearly fails on both counts; he has engaged in deliberate, systematic deception in his articles, and he is biased by his bitterness and resentment towards Christianity. Let me conclude with this word of wisdom from David Well: Time has brought low the mighty, obscured the famous, removed kings and rulers, toppled empires, and transformed civilizations, but it has not effaced the knowledge of Christ nor erased the teaching of His apostles. Neither the gates of hell nor the passage of the years has succeeded in eliminating his church or in wrestling from the biblical teaching of conversion. And that is well for us in the twentieth century, for with all our vaunted progress we still stand in need of the gospel’s saving truth as much as any generation ever has.

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