Evangelism Challenge: "God is Santa for adults"

Hi @Interested_in_Evangelism,

A relatively popular discussion on reddit.com begins with this post:

When you are a kid you’re told if you behave and act nice Santa will give you toys for Christmas. But of you’re bad you get coal. Religion is the same thing but for adults but the stakes are raised. Do God’s work and allow yourself to be controlled by faith and you’ll be rewarded with pure Bliss in heaven for eternity. But if you sin too much it’s eternity of agony in hell.

If you met someone who had this view of your faith, what would be some thoughtful, respectful ways to engage with this perspective?

What would be some questions you might ask or some evidence you might want to share?

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The first thing would be to analyze where he’s coming from with this statement because a large portion of the time this is a loaded question in which the person is bitter with religion and the heavy yoke it puts on them.

In response to the statement, Santa is a person that rewards for good behavior, with God it’s different. We don’t do anything to earn giftings from God, we do it as a reply for what He’s already done. There is a quote by a famous theologian that goes along the lines of “The greatest heresy we can ever commit is putting more focus on what we can do for God rather than what God has done for us”. Jesus paid the ultimate price to lead us into a living relationship with himself, not because of anything we could or would do but solely by grace.

Aside from the grace aspect, We serve a creator. As any designer of a software would tell you, misuse of proper function leads to chaotic outcomes that the software wasn’t designed for. By the simple law of Causality, the universe being formed DEMANDS a Person/Mind to have created it. That Mind has full dominion and only He knows the purpose of every thing. Only in following His purpose do we actually fulfill the reason for our being.

Lastly, Frank Turek says this and it is amazing, God doesn’t force any one to be in his presence. If you are trying to woo a mate, you go out of your way for that person, buying gifts and whatnot to draw them into relationship. If they reject you, authentic love will allow the person to their own choices. Abuse of love forces themselves on a person. God loved us so much that he gave us free will. We have the choice to be with him or not. It is ultimately our choice (That’s why Peter says that the will of the lord is that all be saved). So he gives us a chance to be with him in relationship. However if we don’t desire him, he gives us not him. Hell is a place of tourture and pain because it is a place Void of God. He gives us to our desire, that’s what true Love is.

God gives us much more than we deserve, unlike santa who still has yet to bring me what i wrote him for when i was a kid. God gives abundantly more than we can ever imagine, He gave us himself.

Hope that helps!!
God bless
Eli

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I’ve encountered this several times, both online and in person. There’s always an urge to say, “No, that’s not true and here’s why,” but I’ve found that to be unhelpful from the get-go. What tends to go better is to ask two questions depending on how the charge is phrased: 1)What do you mean by that? 2) Why do you think that?

It’s all too common in Christian culture to repeat catchphrases and slogans without really thinking all the way through it, but this is also true of non-Christians. So, the question ‘what do you mean by that?’ is meant to slow down the conversation and get clarity as to what the person really means. In the example above, a good place to ask this question would be after the 2nd sentence. Here you’re going to get a clearer picture of what the objection is, and the example provides what the person means in the following 2 sentences. In my experience, it’s not unusual for the person objecting to be caught off-guard by the question and he or she tends to ramble a bit while trying to explain, ‘what exactly do I mean?’ That’s ok, you should be helpful and charitable while they clarify - it might be the first time he or she has really pressed into that statement. Once there’s clarification you now have a little bit of content to respond to, but it’s not time to respond just yet. You still need an appropriate entry point.

After the clarification of sentences 3 and 4, it’s a good time to ask, "why do you think that?’ because this person could say, ‘there’s no evidence for God’ or ‘people only hold to religion because of tradition’ or any number of things. Learning why he or she holds to this position now allows you to enter the conversation at the right place, dealing with the right things. This is really important because as Ravi says, “Answer the questioner, not just the question.”

Obviously, there are many ways to engage a person but I’ve found this simple method to be extremely helpful because it’s only 2 easy questions to ask. As you listen to the response, the objector will end up telling you exactly how to respond to have a thoughtful and winsome conversation that will hopefully plant seeds that take him or her to Jesus.

I hope this is helpful and would love to hear feedback, both pro and con :slight_smile:

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Two great responses there.

Is the premise for the argument that entry to heaven is based on good works outweighing bad deeds? This is not the Christian message ; rather the message of other religions: Man tries to get to God on his own merits.

Could some questions be asked under the ‘Morality’ category we learnt about; leading towards the moral law giver argument ? This might kindly show that appealing to the existence of good/evil points towards Gods existence, not that He is absent…?

I did like Bo’s two simple questions to draw the conversation away from confrontation towards discussion in order to find an entry point. :slight_smile:

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I am going to answer this question as though I were talking to the individual who just commented that I believe in an adult Santa. (Except I won’t quote the scriptures, just give the references.) I’m also drawing from what I have learned from the book I’m reading that I mentioned a week or so ago, “Forensic Faith”.

"So, let me ask you some questions: Can you think of someone you trust completely? (answer) Why do you trust that person? (answer). If that person made a promise to you. Would you believe him? (answer). What if that promise came with the condition that you believed what he was saying–would you still trust that promise? Would you abide by that condition? (answer). Why? (answer)

OK. So, now let’s consider my faith in God like your trust in the person you named.
When Jesus was on earth, He claimed to be the Son of God. However, He did not want people to believe Him just because He made that claim, He invited people to investigate His claim by the works and miracles He performed. (John 10: 36-38.)
Then, we also have eyewitness accounts by the twelve He was constantly with–His disciples. Two of those eyewitness accounts are from Matthew and John who lived with Jesus the three years of His ministry. The other two were written by Mark, who reported what Peter (one of the twelve) told him; and by Luke, a doctor, who wrote his gospel after careful investigation which included other eyewitness accounts. We also have documented evidence by trusted historians of the day, especially Josephus.
So, based on this evidence, my faith and trust in Christ is not blind faith or based on hearsay. There is clear evidentiary proof of His existence and His claims.
One of those claims was that He would be betrayed (John 13-14), die, and come to life again after three days (Matt.16:21). Again, eyewitness accounts prove His death happened in the manner in which He said it would. He was seen by 500 eyewitnesses within 40 days of His resurrection. (1Cor.15:6);
http://factsandfaith.com/the-witnesses-who-and-how-many-people-saw-jesus-alive-after-his-crucifixion/ No one has been able to disprove the unsealed empty tomb where He was buried.
Jesus claimed that the reason He was going to die and rise again was so believers could have eternal life (John 3:16). He even promised He was going to prepare a place for them (John 14:3). So, if it has been proven who Jesus said He was while on earth, why wouldn’t I trust what He promised for believers in eternity?
Unfortunately, Jesus made another promise that those who don’t believe in Him will live in eternal damnation (Matt.13: 47-50). This is just one example in the New Testament where Jesus used parables to illustrate the truth of what He was saying.

So, in regard to your statement that I believe in the mythical promise of a Santa Claus God, let me ask you another question: If you were given the choice of a fresh, delicious fruit to eat or a pile of sewage, which would you choose? (Hopefully, the only answer :grimacing: ) That’s the way it is with my choosing to believe in Christ. I can choose to trust His promise of life with Him in eternity, or I can choose life without Him in eternal damnation–all based on factual evidence.
The amazing thing about being a believer is that I don’t have to wait to start benefiting from His promise because another promise He made was that He would give believers His Spirit, called the Holy Spirit, to enable us to live the righteous life He desires to see us live (John 14: 15-18)–even in the most difficult circumstances. The eyewitness evidence of that promise being fulfilled can be found in Acts 2.

Santa’s “promises” are based on human effort of deeds and behavior. Christ’s promises are based on His love for us and our placing faith in Him. Because of His love, I have faith and want to serve Him. But it’s not self-serving service (although I will ultimately be rewarded). Because of the love I have for Him, my service is focused on others. It’s a win/win proposition to me.
Can you see the difference between a life lived based on a fictitious Santa Claus vs a life lived for a proven Christ? If you were to present the evidence I’ve pointed out to you in a court of law, it would all be admissible.
You may want to question me about the veracity of the Bible, and we can go into that another time. Why don’t you examine Christ’s claims and promises and see what conclusion you come to. What will your verdict be? Feel free to challenge me along the way."

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The reddit quote describes what conditional love looks like. Questions that come to mind are:
How would you define sin?
How much would be “too much” sin?
How would real unconditional love express itself in relationship?

If God was a development of our imagination, He would indeed be like this religion described in the reddit comment. In fact in all religions of the world, except for Christianity, heaven or bliss is achieved by behaving in a manner that has been deemed worthy of love or reward.

God of the Bible is the definition of love (1 John 4:8). He is not in need of love because He is complete in His person. But His perfect love has been expressed in creation and specifically in placing special value and quality on mankind (Gen. 1:26-27). We are invited (not forced) to experience relationship with Him because love does not operate with a foot on the neck or a demand for work. But His perfection and holiness does require perfection and sinlessness to be in His Presence. We cannot come close to achieving this perfect standard. So here again He (not us) supplies the solution to the matter. He loves us and creates these possibilities not because of who we are but because of Who He is. Because sin deserves death (Romans 6:23) as payment and we all deserve death for sin (Romans 3:9-11), God has again, in love, demonstrated the essential reconciliation of mercy and justice in a way that only He can provide.
The Lord answered Job:
Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who argues with God give an answer. Job 41:1-2

He sent Himself in the flesh, in the perfect, sinless, Person of Christ, to live among us, die and conquer death, paying for sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21) (John 3:16-17)
He created us knowing we’d fall, came up with the solution to the fall, supplied all that is needed for the solution and executed the solution with no help from us. There are no stakes only solutions.
Have you experienced this type of unconditional love?

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Hello Carson,

Thanks for this question. The first thing that comes to me is that this view has redefined God. Thus, what might concern me would be to help the person reflect on their assumptions on who God is and how he operates with us.
-I might want to ask the person the reasons or possibly experiences that have made them have that perspective?
-I would also want to ask what the person thinks about the order of things like rain and sun, which benefit us and the air we breathe which we all have access to irrespective of what we do
-Would it be possible to actually do all God requires perfectly? Is there any person or better still would I have any hopes of eternal bliss by this standard of doing all perfectly?

  • What can be considered as sinning too much or too little.
    In furthering the conversation, I would like to point to evidence in scripture showing that as much as God is just, God is Love, and that salvation and eternal bliss is possible because of the balance of grace and faith since we are saved first of all by grace…through faith and not of works.
    ( John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9 are few scriptures that I could start from)
    These thoughts would be my starting point for the conversation…
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Bo, @boabbott you’ve obviously had a lot more experience engaging others than I. I love your clear, logical approach and the way you explained each step along the way. As you can see from my response to this question (below), I think better on my seat than on my feet. I write better than I speak. I want to save your response because I can learn from your methodology. Thank you so much. Great job.

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Thanks, @sgewehr, you’re very kind. But remember, more experience engaging others means I’ve messed up more times, haha!

I also wish I could take credit for that method, but I can’t. I learned the basics of it from Tactics by Greg Koukl and just trying to talk more about Jesus with my friends. It’s a fairly easy read and I would really recommend it.

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I love to see engaging the questioner rather than the question first. This is something I have not always done, and yet I do think it is the proper way to answer this and so many questions like it. I wish I had learned this a long time ago, and yet I am so grateful that my teens are learning it now.

Once we hopefully are past the confrontation part and have moved into the conversation part of a discussion, the question I would ask would be, "Santa often gives only what one asks for, and very often not even that. Yet God gives what we don’t ask for in ways that we would never imagine in order to grow us into creatures more like Him. As Santa never gives his life for anyone on the “naughty” list, how is God, Who gave His precious Son as a ransom for people who don’t even care about Him anything like Santa? This could easily lead into the morality category which is a wonderful discussion.

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That’s an interesting statement. Firstly I am intrigued that the questioner would even compare the two – believing in Santa and believing in God. As adults we all know for certain that the modern concept of Santa is fantasy. The commercial image we have all grown up with was invented in the late 1800’s early 1900’s – so Santa is a comparatively modern icon. “Religion” on the other hand has impacted the world since the beginning of history and is a much deeper and more complex worldview.

But seeing as the questioner is putting the two concepts on the same page, my questions would be as follows:

If as kids we were promised gifts from Santa if we were good and now as adults we are promised eternal bliss in heaven - Is that such a bad thing? The joy and pleasure to receive gifts from Santa is one of the most exciting joyful things to experience as a small child. So now as an adult if we are promised eternal Bliss in Heaven as opposed to eternal agony in hell, I’d be interested to know what that entails! Wouldn’t you?

(I might be able to take the opportunity here to share who Jesus is – and what He means to me. That believing in Him is not a forced controlling of faith but an open invitation – a personal choice – He is a gift from God given for all of us - that His sacrificed life has been able to wipe away all of our sins once and for all – so there’s no need to fret any more about agony in hell.)

What is it that you mean by “Do God’s work?” What do you think that is? If God is a good guy like Santa, I would imagine that being good for Him would be quite easy to understand. What is it to “sin too much”? And what is it that makes a person good anyway?

I am interested to understand what is meant by the term “Allow yourself to be controlled by faith”? Some “Religions” could be viewed as controlling – as in the Islamic faith – but Christianity is different…

Hopefully this could lead to further discussion :slight_smile:

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It’s possible that my approach would not fit into the correct way of apologetics, but I would answer with a question: Who is your Santa?

Because everyone has someone or something, an idol, they worship deep inside. So through a flow of questions we might get to the point of a comparison between their Santa and mine :slight_smile: .

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I would have to ask why they felt that way about a gift that was freely given. I would also wonder what they thought about the fact that all gifts carry a certain amount of responsibility and care of that gift

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