Daily Archives: December 10, 2016

Who Was St. Nicholas?

Nicholas was also hailed as a defender of orthodoxy. Later sources claim he was in attendance at the council of Nicea. According to tradition, he was a staunch opponent of Arianism. Writing five centuries after his death, one biographer said, “Thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas, the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as a death-dealing poison.” Stories of his courage abound, one claiming that Nicholas traveled to Nicea and, upon arrival, promptly slapped Arius in the face.

The unsatisfying answer to the title of this post is that nobody knows for sure. To quote one Nicholas scholar, “We can grant a bishop of that name who had a great impact on his homeland. We can also accept December 6 as the day of his death and burial. These are all the facts we can hold to. Further we cannot go.” (Gustav Anrich, quoted by Charles W. Jones in Saint Nicholas of Bari, Myra, and Manhattan).

According to the best estimates, Nicholas, was born around AD 280 in Patara, in Asia Minor. He later became bishop of Myra in modern-day Turkey. Nicholas, it seems, died about 343 on or near December 6.

There is no record of his existence attested in any document until the 6th century. By that time Nicholas, whoever he had been, was already famous. The emperor Justinian dedicated a church to him in Constantinople. Initially, Nicholas was most well known in the East. But by 900, a Greek wrote, “The West as well as the East acclaims and glorifies him. Wherever there are people, his name is revered and churches are built in his honor. All Christians reverence his memory and call upon his protection.” In 1087, Italian sailors stole his supposed relics and took them from Myra to Bari, Italy. This move greatly increased his popularity in Europe and made Bari one of the most crowded pilgrimage sites. It is said that Nicholas was represented by medieval artists more than any other saint except Mary.

Man and the Myth

Why was Nicholas so famous? It’s impossible to tell fact from fiction, but this is some of the legend of St. Nicholas:

He was reputed to be a wonder-worker who brought children back to life, destroyed pagan temples, saved sailors from death at sea, and as an infant nursed only two days a week and fasted the other five days.

Moving from probable legend to possible history, Nicholas was honored for enduring persecution. It is said that he was imprisoned during the Empire wide persecution under Diocletian and Maximian. Upon his release and return, the people flocked around him. “Nicholas! Confessor! Saint Nicholas has come home!”

Nicholas was also hailed as a defender of orthodoxy. Later sources claim he was in attendance at the council of Nicea. According to tradition, he was a staunch opponent of Arianism. Writing five centuries after his death, one biographer said, “Thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas, the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as a death-dealing poison.” Stories of his courage abound, one claiming that Nicholas traveled to Nicea and, upon arrival, promptly slapped Arius in the face. As the story goes, the rest of the council was shocked and appalled, so much so that they were going to remove Nicholas from his bishopric, until Jesus and Mary appeared to defend him. According to the same legend, this apparition changed the minds of the delegates, who quickly recanted of their outrage.

As you might have guessed, Nicholas was also revered for being a generous gift giver. Born into a wealth family, he inherited the fortune when his parents died. Apparently he gave his vast fortune away. The most famous story involved three girls who were so destitute that they were going to be forced into a life of prostitution. But Nicholas threw three bags of gold through the window as dowries for the young woman.

Over time, Saint Nicholas became the patron saint of nations like Russia and Greece, cities like Fribourg and Moscow, and of children, sailors, unmarried girls, merchants, and pawnbrokers (the three gold balls hung outside pawn shops are symbolic of the three bags of gold).

Christmas and St. Nicholas

In honor of St. Nicholas the gift giver, Christians began to celebrate December 6 (his feast day) by giving presents. The tradition developed over time. For good boys and girls, St. Nicholas would come in his red bishop’s robe and fill boots with gifts on the night of December 5. For bad boys and girls St. Nicholas was to be feared. In highly Catholic parts of Europe, St. Nicholas became a deterrent to erring young children. In Germany, he was often accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht (farmhand Rupert) who threatened to eat misbehaving children. In Switzerland, St. Nicholas threatened to put wicked children in a sack and bring them back to the Black Forest. In the Netherlands, St. Nicholas’s helper would tie them in a sack and bring them back to Spain. In parts of Austria, the priest, dressed up in Christmas garb, would visit the homes of naughty children and threaten them with rod-beatings. At least nowadays, he only checks his list!

Not surprisingly, the Reformers were less than friendly towards the traditions that had been built up around the saints. Luther rejected the saints’ days, believing they were built upon legends and superstitions (and a virulent strain of moralism we might add). In Germany, Luther replaced Saint Nicholas’ Day with a different holiday, Christ Child, or Christkindl. Ironically, Kriss Kringle which derived from Luther’s Christ Child holiday, has become just another name for St. Nicholas.

From St. Nicholas to Santa Claus

The cult of St. Nicholas virtually disappeared in Protestant Europe, with the exception of one country: the Netherlands. If you love Christmas with all the trappings of Santa Claus and stockings and presents, thank the Dutch. If you despise all that, try to ignore my last name for the time being. The Puritans had done away with St. Nicholas and banned Christmas altogether. But the Dutch held on to their tradition and brought it with them to the New World. In the Netherlands Sint Nicolaas was contracted to Sinterklaas. According to Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas rides a horse and is accompanied by his helper Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete. Many consider Black Pete a racist stereotype derived from slavery, although others claim he is black because he goes down the chimney and gets a face full of soot.

At any rate, it is easy to see how Sinterklaas evolved in America to Santa Claus. Santa Claus became the Santa we know in the United States only after the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was written in 1823. Possibly the best-known verses ever written by an American, the poem has greatly influenced the tradition of Santa in the English-speaking world and beyond.

Jolly Old St. Nick and Jesus

How should Christians relate to the traditions of Santa Claus? C. S. Lewis embraced them and so included Father Christmas in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Other Christians, fearing syncretism, stay clear of Santa, reindeer, and a tree full of presents. I’ll leave it to you and your family to form you opinions on observing the Christmas holiday (see Rom. 14:1, 5-6).

But if Santa Claus is everywhere already, why not use him to your benefit and talk about the real St. Nicholas? We don’t know a lot about him, but we know he was a real and much-revered person. According to legend—one of those stories that probably isn’t true, but should be—when Nicholas was a little boy, he would get up early to go to church and pray. One morning, the aging priest had a vision that the first one to enter the church the next day should be the new bishop of Myra. When Nicholas was the first to enter, the old priest, obeying the vision, made the young boy bishop right on the spot. But before he consecrated Nicholas, the priest asked him a question. “Who are you, my son?” According to tradition, the child whose legend would one day become Santa Claus replied, “Nicholas the sinner.” Not bad for a little boy.

With what little we know about St. Nicholas, it is safe to say he would not be pleased to know he had eclipsed Christ in the hearts of many as the central figure of Christmas. For the bishop of Myra no doubt knew the angel’s words to Joseph: “Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” So this Christmas, give gifts if you like. We will in our family. Receive them all with thanksgiving. But do not forget what we need most—salvation through substitution. This is one gift the real St. Nicholas would not have overlooked.

Kevin DeYoung has been the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan since 2004. Kevin blogs at the Gospel Coalition; this article is used with his permission.

The post Who Was St. Nicholas? appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Albert Mohler Blog: “I Loved Heresy…But the Holy Spirit Found Me” — Thomas C. Oden (1931-2016) and the Recovery of Christian Orthodoxy

In this his essay Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. commemorates the life of theologian Thomas Oden. Mohler writes:

“Thomas C. Oden, one of the most gracious and respected theologians of our times, died yesterday at age 85. Professor Oden made the pilgrimage from theological liberalism, and what he acknowledged as an infatuation with heresy, all the way to the orthodox affirmation of biblical Christianity. His story is one of the greatest theological testimonies of our age.”

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Hillary Clinton Who Lied To America About Muslim Video Now Warns Against Fake News ‘Epidemic’

Hillary Clinton, speaking in public Thursday for one of the first times since losing the presidential election a month ago, called the proliferation of fake news “an epidemic.”

So-called fake news — often blatant falsehoods passed off online as the truth and spread by conspiracy theorists — rose to prominence around the 2016 campaign. Clinton said the spread of fake news, which has “flooded social media over the past year,” is a trend that “can have real world consequences.” She made the comments at a portrait unveiling and retirement ceremony for outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Hillary Clinton, the Benghazi liar, now tackles fake news:

So, Hillary Clinton thinks that fake news – intentionally false stories pretending to be true – should be dealt with by Congress? That we should pass a law to punish the fake news people? What a great idea! She and Obama can both be brought to trial to answer for their intentional fake news story about the Muslim YouTube video causing the Benghazi attacks that killed 4 Americans on 9/11/2012.

Obama and Hillary Blame Muslim Video for Benghazi Terrorist Attack as Coffins Arrive:

This is what it looks like when American lives are intentionally sacrificed and the president and Secretary of State look into the camera and lie about how it happened. This is the real fake news, dispensed 24 hours a day by the liberal media and obscene, filthy liars like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton’s fake news mashup:

From helping to get a child rapist set free to the Rose Law Firm and TravelGate, Hillary Clinton has spent her entire adult career creating and spreading fake news. The liberal news sites like CNN and MSNBC that promote and protect her have published fake news for decades.



Source: Hillary Clinton Who Lied To America About Muslim Video Now Warns Against Fake News ‘Epidemic’

Microsoft ‘Holiday Ad’ Celebrates Black Lives Matter, Transgender Activism And Muslim Migrants

To celebrate the “spirit of the holidays,” Microsoft released an ad this week best described as a collage of Left-wing pet causes. The commercial features sympathetic images and anecdotes for Black Lives Matter, Syrian refugees, transgender activism and more general LGBT issues.

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 (KJV)

In a likely allusion to the 2016 election, Microsoft says the year “has been challenging for many” because “much of what we hear in the news can be negative.”

“We wanted to lift people up and remind them that ordinary people can make a difference,” Microsoft’s description of the ad reads on YouTube. “”Our message focuses on the spirit of the holidays, people coming together and celebrating what is good and right with the world—what unites us, instead of what divides us,” claims the ad’s description.

The ad then features seven individuals, who according to Microsoft, represent “good and right” causes, which are anything but unifying issues — including two young children in connection with LGBT issues.

Microsoft Celebrates the Spirit of the Season:

“Knowing that at least one adult cares can make the difference in the world to a transgendered youth,” says Jazz Jennings, a teenager whom the company’s press release acknowledges to be one of the youngest public figures to identify as transgender, in the ad. “Be that person.”

The other representative for LGBT issues is seven-year-old Zea Bowling, a first grader who says “People should let people be whoever they want to be.”

“We need our fathers and mothers to be by our side,” says another little girl, while scenes from a Black Lives Matter protest roll across the screen. That girl, Zianna Oliphant, is a child activist who whose speech was before the Charlotte City Council in the aftermath of the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

Black Lives Matter, joined by liberal politicians and other left-wing organizations, generated massive outrage after Scott was killed by police officers in Charlotte. Riots paralyzed the city for multiple night.

The officers involved were later completely exonerated after the investigation showed Scott had pulled a gun after being stopped and refused to drop the weapon despite repeated warnings.

“There’s a damaged relationship between America’s youth and the American police officer,” says an officer later in the ad.

An activist for Syrian refugees recounts a sympathetic story of rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean — no mention of heartwarming efforts to heal communities in Ohio, Florida, New York and California in the wake of Jihadist attacks all carried out by migrants or children of migrants.

A mega-company like Microsoft could, of course, have produced a holiday ad most Americans could find inspiriting. Instead the tech-giant opted to push a liberal agenda. source

Source: Microsoft ‘Holiday Ad’ Celebrates Black Lives Matter, Transgender Activism And Muslim Migrants

The Mainstream Media Is Asking For A Government Bailout Via Censorship


This article is dead on. The #oldmedia is dying and they are trying (desperately) to pull a fast one while they can.

For people who make their living on controlling media and information, it was akin to the barbarians breaching the walls of Rome. So the answer is to call for government regulation to combat what will be declared “fake” news or propaganda. It is only the latest effort to convince people to surrender their rights and actually embrace censorship.

– From Jonathan Turley’s: Washington Post Issues Correction To “Fake News” Story

Watching Hillary Clinton attack “fake news” and calling for legislative action against free speech she doesn’t like got me thinking. Why is she doing this? Yes, it’s obviously related to her notorious personality trait of never taking responsibility for anything and attaching herself to an invented controversy in order to deflect blame for her monumentally embarrassing loss to Donald Trump. But there’s more going on here. A lot more.

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‘Highlights’ kids magazine to include same-sex families after flak from gays

LifeSite News reports:

One homosexual’s complaint to Highlights for Children will result in the inclusion of same-sex families in its magazines with an audience as young as pre-toddlers.

Rod Dreher, an Orthodox Christian columnist for the American Conservative, exposed a concerned parent’s dialogue with the children’s magazine, which shows that after gay activist pressure Highlights will now depict homosexuals as “family.”

The unnamed Dreher informant shared her correspondence with Highlights editors, who publish the magazine Hello for 0-2 year-olds, High Five for 2-6 year-olds, and Highlights for ages 6-12.

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False Teacher of the Year 2016

Doug Evans of Asleep No More has chosen the person he believes to be the Big Bad Wolf of 2016. And the winner is….

It’s that time of year, the time of caring and giving. As the nights grow longer and the days grow colder we retreat indoors to the warmth I pray you all are taking the opportunity to fend off the wrath of Satan by studying the word of God. I am in two studies this year, John and Hebrews, and what a delight! I’ve always loved John, but this is my first study of Hebrews and I wish I had studied this a long time ago.

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Iraqi Christians Fear Future Persecution in Post-ISIS Iraq (Interview)

“Even though IS is being driven out of the area, many native Christians will not return until they are given guarantees from the Iraqi government, Kurdish Regional Government and the international community that they will be able to live without fear that another radical Islamic uprising will put their lives in danger once again.”

Iraqi Christians are uncertain if they will be included in negotiations deciding the power structure of a post-Islamic State northern Iraq, an Iraqi Christian human rights activist told The Christian Post.

Although Iraqi-led coalition forces are fighting to liberate Mosul and many Christian villages in the Nineveh Plains from IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh), much uncertainty remains about what the future will look like for Iraqi Christians in their ancient homelands.

Even though IS is being driven out of the area, many native Christians will not return until they are given guarantees from the Iraqi government, Kurdish Regional Government and the international community that they will be able to live without fear that another radical Islamic uprising will put their lives in danger once again.

Loay Mikhael, head of the foreign relations committee of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council and deputy chairman of the Soraya Charity Organization in Nineveh, told CP that Iraqi Christians are ideally looking for a way to return to their homelands and “rule themselves” with a certain level of autonomy.

“We believe that situation should be that after liberating Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, the Christians should be able to rule themselves — whether that is creating a province or if there is any sort of safe haven or autonomy for Christians in the region so they can rule themselves — be protected by themselves and have international community aid and U.S. military assistance to be able to sustain themselves, at least for a while,” Mikhael said.

Mikhael added that when the government and KRG and other actors in the area previously met to discuss the Nineveh Plains, Christians were not a part of that conversation.

“The Christian forces, by the way, were not a part of their conversation agreement after the post-liberation of the area,” Mikhael said. “So, I don’t think we know whether there is a seat for us to be in the process of negotiating or what will happen.”

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When “fake news” comes from both right and left

Albert Mohler has a really thoughtful commentary on “fake news” today. He is in large part responding to Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece at The Washington Post on the same subject. Bailey is lamenting the fact that too many evangelicals have too much credulity toward “fake news” and too much incredulity toward real news delivered according to real standards of journalism.Mohler is sympathetic with Pulliam Bailey on this point. He agrees that there really is a qualitative difference between mainstream outlets and other “news” sources that have no editorial accountability. But Mohler also raises the very real problem that mainstream outlets have with detecting their own ideological bias, which sometimes distorts their reporting and which has led many conservative Americans to believe that “fake news” is the stock-in-trade of mainstream outlets.I think Mohler is making a point here that newsrooms need to come to terms with. Liberal bias in mainstream outlets is real. And when it becomes the vehicle for the bullying false narratives of the far left, it has real life consequences for real people. It also has the effect of driving the bullied away from those outlets.A case in point: the Christian owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana. Remember them? The left does, and even to this day mainstream outlets report on this little restaurant as evidence of how religious Americans practice invidious discrimination against gay people. Is that accusation true? No. It never was, but a lot of people believe that it is. And mainstream outlets are largely responsible for creating and disseminating such false narratives. And yet somehow editors of mainstream outlets don’t view such misinformation as “fake news.” But as Rod Dreher observes, many Americans have viewed the situation quite differently.

How have conservatives and Christians perceived such false narratives? As an existential threat to their institutions and way of life. And mainstream outlets have been ignoring this, and it is why they do not understand the rise and the appeal of Donald Trump to so many. Many religious Americans view him as someone willing to take on what they perceive to be a conspiracy against them.

David Bernstein of The Washington Post also has a really thoughtful piece to this end at The Washington Post. He writes:

In short, many religious Christians of a traditionalist bent believed that liberals not only reduce their deeply held beliefs to bigotry, but want to run them out of their jobs, close down their stores and undermine their institutions. When I first posted about this on Facebook, I wrote that I hope liberals really enjoyed running Brendan Eich out of his job and closing down the Sweet Cakes bakery, because it cost them the Supreme Court. I’ll add now that I hope Verrilli enjoyed putting the fear of government into the God-fearing because it cost his party the election.

The only reason that these progressive witch-hunts worked is because mainstream reporting reflected the liberal narrative—that Christians are bigots who deserve to be driven to the social margins. And every scare-quoted reference to “religious liberty” reminds conservatives of the apparent collusion between bullying progressives and mainstream outlets.

Americans were not introduced to the real stories of Barronelle Stutzman, Kelvin Cochran, Aaron and Melissa Klein, Elaine Huguenin, and many others like them. If you don’t recognize those names, you should. They should have been household names by now because of what was done to them in the name of “justice.” It is a testament to the dereliction of mainstream outlets that they are not. And it is one more reason why so many people don’t trust those outlets.

I share some of the concerns that the left has about “fake news.” I really do. But the left needs to remember that those who live in glass houses ought to be careful about throwing rocks. In many ways they helped create the conditions for “fake news” outlets to flourish.

Source: When “fake news” comes from both right and left

‘Pope’ Prays in Observance of Catholic Belief Mary Was Conceived Sinless: ‘You Free Us From Stain of Sin’

Christian News Network reports:

In one of the feasts and celebrations marked on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar leading up to Christmas, Catholics around the world observed the Feast of Immaculate Conception on Thursday, a day in which those who follow the religion commemorate their belief that Mary was conceived without sin.

Jorge Bergoglio, also known as Pope Francis, made his fourth visit to the “Column of the Immaculate Conception” in the Piazza di Spagna to pay homage to Mary and to pray that she would give protection and blessings.

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