By Larry Ray Hafley
Mr. William Pile, editor of Good News, the bulletin of the Highland Park Church of Christ, Los Angeles, California, wrote an article under the title above in the December, 1985 issue of that paper. The Highland Park church is a conservative Christian Church. Editor Pile writes of his conversion regarding the commemoration and celebration of Christmas. He used to be, he says, “a ‘Christian’ Scrooge.” This was because he denounced Christmas. But let him tell his story. Please read his article on the opposite page.
Here’s My List
Mr. Pile requested that we exchange lists of passages on Christmas celebration. As requested, here is my list. Surely, the former Scrooge will send, as promised, his list of “all the Bible verses that justify (his) change.”
(1) Matthew 28.20. This verse says disciples are to be taught to “‘observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. ” Since the Lord did not command them to observe His birth, how can we do it and obey Him?
(2) 1 Corinthians 4:6. This text instructs us “not to think of men above that which is written.” Mr. Pile, is Christmas above and beyond “that which is written”?
(3) Colossians 3:17. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” To do a thing in the name of Christ is to do it with His authority (cf. Matt. 7:22, 23 with emphasis on the word, “iniquity,” or lawlessness). How can Christmas be observed in the name of Christ since the Bible is silent about it?
(4) 2 John 9. This passage says that if we do not abide in the doctrine of Christ, we have not God. Is Christmas in the doctrine of Christ? If so, where?
(5) 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. These verses say that the word of God completely, thoroughly equips us “unto all good works.” Where do the Scriptures equip or outfit us with Christmas?
(6) Galatians 1:8, 9. Though Mr. Pile or an angel of heaven should preach any other gospel, “let him be accursed.” Is the observance of Christmas part of the gospel of Christ?
Now, it is no longer a “draw,” Mr. Pile. The tie has been broken, and you are in debt to the tune of six “Bible verses that justify (your) change.” That is a heap of work for Mr. Pile to stack up. Perhaps we shall see if he pays his debts, or if he reverts to being a miserly Scrooge.
That “Old ‘Origins’ Argument”
Let us see if we cannot up-date “the old ‘origins’ argument.” “The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven, or of men?” (Matt. 21:25) “The religious observation of Christmas, whence is it? From heaven, or from men?” He may reason with himself saying, “If I shall say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say unto me, ‘Why did you not then cite the passage? But if I shall say, ‘Of men,’ I fear the people; for all hold Christmas as divine.” And Mr. Pile may answer, “I cannot tell.” To which a Catholic might respond, “Neither tell I you by what authority I light candles, chant the Rosary or sprinkle water on little babies.”
Scrooge Pile will favor us with the origin of “All Saints Day, ” the lighting of candles, the burning of incense, holy water, the counting of beads and Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day? Yes, I really want to know if “the old torigins’ argument” will stand up or not. According to Editor Scrooge, it will not hold up concerning Christmas. I wonder if “the old origins’ argument” will eliminate the “many ‘true Christians'”. who want to light candles and burn incense in the Catholic Church (or even in the Highland Park Church of Christ). Pagan origins do not keep Christmas from Mr. Pile. Do they keep him from beads, incense and holy water? If so, why?
“Even a flashing thought of a world without Christmas now scares” Mr. Pile. Well, Mr. Pile would have been scared to death all of the time had he lived during the days of the apostles! They never had “a flashing thought of a world with Christmas.” Mr. Pile, would a world without beads, candles, incense and holy water scare you? Also, say, “Boo!” to yourself when you have a “flashing thought of a world without” the Pope. Mr. Pile, you would have been a nervous wreck during the first century unless someone could have laid hands on you and driven out your “flashing thought” demons.
Remember, however, a thing that has a “pagan” origin is not a problem to Mr. Pile. He practices the magical art of ‘”Christianizing'” items like Christmas which has a “pagan” origin. Mr. Pile, let us see you turn back to being “Brother Scrooge” again. That is what you win have to do if you dry up the holy water and snuff the candles of pagan Catholicism, or can you wave your mystical, magical “‘Christianizing'” wand and sanctify those things?
Scrooge Sold “Christian Exclusivism”
Mr. Pile once “bought heavily into Christian exclusivism.” That meant that the “Observance of religious holidays not specifically mentioned in the Bible” were “outright condemned.” But he has sold out his stock in that market. Mr. Pile, did you sell all of your stock, or did you keep a little bit? Do not be like Ananias and Sapphira and keep back part of the price. Since you sold your shares of the argument that “religious holidays not specifically mentioned in the Bible” are “outright condemned,” did you sell out on infant baptism, too? Since you “bought heavily into Christian exclusivism,” I suppose you excluded the sprinkling of babies. Opposition to baby baptism has been part of your portfolio, has it not? Well, now, since you have seen the error of your ways on Christmas, how about infant baptism? Is the observance of infant baptism “outright condemned” because it is “not specifically mentioned in the Bible”? Is it, Mr. Pile, or are you still secretly trading in “Christian exclusivism” in this area?
Mr. Pile, you have opened the door for Christmas as a religious observance. Through that same door I can bring infant baptism, holy water and the Pope himself. Try me and see if I can.
A Parallel Conversion
Suppose, using Mr. Pile’s premises, I experience a conversion regarding infant baptism. “You may not agree with my conversion. You may see it as compromising with evil. And you may be wondering where all the Bible verses are that justify my change. I already thought of that. My list is composed of one passage encouraging infant baptism for every passage denouncing it. Send me yours and I’ll send you mine. In the meantime, we’ll call it a draw.”
Mr. Pile, do you care to answer that last paragraph concerning infant baptism (or candles, beads, holy water, the Pope)? Or will you remain a “Brother Scrooge” in those areas?
Blame It On The Holy Spirit
Experience with denominational preachers will teach one thing; namely, if it cannot be found in the Bible, then, “The Holy Spirit reveals it to me.” They always say the Spirit “led” them into this “new” awareness, this “new” light. It never fails. If it cannot be found in the word of God, blame it on the Holy Spirit. It is funny when you think about it. After all, who wrote the Bible? Who revealed the mind of God in the Bible? Why, the Holy Spirit, of course! Strange that the Spirit did not reveal things like Christmas when He guided the apostles into “all truth,” but He had a “dramatic” “impact” on the late Scrooge, Mr. Pile.
Note Mr. Pile’s meanderings as he attempts to put the blame on the Spirit for his “change.” He is “not sure of the dynamics,” the processes of his “change,” “but He (the Spirit) certainly changed me.” So, the Spirit operated on Mr. Scrooge apart from the word of God. If the Spirit’s sword, the word of God (Eph. 6:17), had been the instrument of Pile’s conversion, he would have been sure “of the dynamics” of his “change,” but since he is “not sure,” then the Holy Spirit worked outside of His word.
Let us try this argument on the Pope and see if it fits.
It didn’t happen overnight, my conversion, that is. I’m not sure of the dynamics of my change, actually. I know that no body, no person, changed my mind. People don’t un-scrooge a Scrooge. I know that for a long time I’d been questioning whether the fact that the Bible didn’t mention the early Christians honoring the Pope meant that it was wrong to do so. I was wondering about the “origins” argument. I could think of some things that used to have an evil connotation, but now didn’t.
The Holy Spirit’s impact on my life wasn’t quite as dramatic as the ghosts in Scrooge’s, but He certainly changed me. He began to strip my robes of righteous exclusivism from me while re-focusing my attention from the negative to the positive. Those were two radical moves! I discovered many “true Christians” who honored the Pope in a genuinely Biblical spirit, and if anything they were better for it. They knew the early Christian probably didn’t honor him, and they knew that the office of the Pope was just a guess at his true function. They don’t worship the man, the crown he wears or the golden cross he carries.
Mr. Pile, would you excuse me while I bow to kiss the Pope’s ring?
“A Genuinely Biblical Spirit”
How does one do a thing that is not authorized in the Bible in a “genuinely biblical spirit?” That “genuinely biblical spirit” will make you feel “better,” not only toward Christmas, but also toward beads, candles and ham and cheese on the Lord’s table. If you cannot find it in the Bible, simply do it in a “genuinely biblical spirit,” and “Presto!” it becomes acceptable. Do not forget, Mr. Pile, that through the same portal that you bring Christmas, I will bring in a myriad of other things in a “genuinely biblical spirit,” of course.
Mr. Pile, are you still wearing your “robes of righteous exclusivism” regarding the Pope and infant baptism? Has the Holy Spirit taken those musty clothes off you yet? Are you still in “negative” focus concerning holy water, or are you positive about it? Are you “negative” or “positive” about coke and saltine crackers on the Lord’s table (provided, of course, they are partaken in a “genuinely biblical spirit”)? You need to tell us if the Spirit has you in focus on these matters.
Conclusion and Commentary
Surely, there will not be a Scrooge response to the issues and questions raised here. It will be easier to dismiss this article as the bigoted, narrowminded ranting of a legalist than it will be to answer it. It is easier to accept things that are “pagan” in origin than it is to answer scriptural questions.
We are seeing the same stages of digression among churches of Christ – ask Guy Woods, Garland Elkins and Tom Warren if it is not so. Be warned, brethren.
The truth is that William Pile is simply becoming more consistent. He accepts mechanical instruments of music in worship. He does so without divine authority. He has merely dusted off some of his arguments for mechanical instruments and applied them to Christmas. He may have unwittingly done so. But he has done it. There is no need to blame the Spirit, or Ebenezer Scrooge. It is a process of theological evolution. When you go beyond the word of God in one area, the next step is easier, and the next, and so on. Now, Mr. Pile may stop at Christmas. However, his spiritual descendants will not. They will eventually take the next steps. They will shed more coats of “Christian exclusivism.- Mr. Pile may not live to see it, but they will do it. The Christian Church itself is proof of this evolutionary development societies to do the work of the church, mechanical instruments, social gospelism, recreation and entertainment sponsored by the church, Christmas, Easter, and, finally, the Disciples of Christ denomination. The chain of apostasy is there in the strata. There is no historical missing link in the “dynamics” process Mr. Pile is fostering and following.
To those brethren who have been smitten by the siren song of unity with the Christian Church, does the acceptance of Christmas sound a sour note? Apparently, some are ready to swallow pianos and organs in worship, or at least not burp against them (Rubel Shelly, for one), but just when they have gulped down a “Baby Grand,” along comes the sound of “Jingle Bells,” with mistletoe and holly, jolly old Saint Nick and Christmas! Is that too much for them to swallow? And what next? At first, it was just a little organ music to overlook or grow deaf to, but now William Pile has added Christmas to the menu – and if you put it on your plate, what is for dessert? Does this meal never end? Yes, eventually, it does. See the lumbering, humanistic, modernistic Disciples of Christ denomination? It is the end of the feast. It is the result of swallowing all the traditions of men that you have to gorge yourself with in order to have your “unity.” Bon appetite.
Stay within the pages of God’s book. If it is not in the word of God, have neither part nor lot with it. If you cannot read about it in the Bible, either from general or specific authority, do not preach, present or practice it. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). It is that simple. It is that sure.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 7, pp. 205-206, 211
April 3, 1986