It’s common for atheists to be a “Grinch” over the Holidays and exclaim that Jesus is just a “Santa Claus for adults!” When I hear that claim, I immediately respond with a question: “What do you mean by that?”
If one means that children often believe in fictional fairy tales and adults believe in fact-based evidence, then I agree – Jesus is for adults (and actually people of all ages)! But I don’t think that’s the intent behind this claim. I believe the intent of the atheist (“Grinch”) is to convey that little kids believe in a fictional Santa Clause and many adults believe in fiction too – Christianity.
Well, why think a thing like that, Mr. Grinch?
Is belief in Jesus — or belief in God — really no different than belief in Santa? To answer this question, we must first ask if we have any good reason to believe in Santa. What good reasons are there that would lead us to logically conclude, “Therefore, Santa exists”?
Now, I’m not emotionally opposed to the existence of Santa Claus, and my life would not really have to change if Santa really exists, so if there were any evidence pointing to a jolly fat man in the North Pole who flies around with Rudolph giving gifts made by the elves, then I would happily follow that evidence wherever it leads. Even if there were logic-based arguments concluding that Santa PROBABLY exists, I would be very open to the existence of Santa. Come to think of it, Santa Claus would save me a ton of money on Christmas presents! Be that as it may, there is no evidence or any logic-based arguments concluding that Santa Claus exists — or even PROBABLY exists. So, although I am willing to be persuaded, there just doesn’t seem to be any evidence or logical reasons to believe in Santa Claus (sorry kids).
Now perhaps, Mr. Grinch, you’re saying to yourself: “That’s right! There’s no evidence for Santa Claus AND there is no evidence of God or Jesus either! That’s why it’s ridiculous to believe in Santa Claus or God!”
But is that true? Is the evidence — or lack thereof — for Santa Claus and the evidence for God really the same?
Well, if Santa does exist, we would know what to look for: A big, jolly, white-bearded, fat man in a red suit flying around in a sleigh being pulled by flying reindeer delivering presents to children on Christmas Eve. We would look for his factory full of elves at the North Pole too! So far (as far as I know), this evidence for Santa has never been detected. That in and of itself is not PROOF that Santa does not exist, but once we add to the fact that we have no other reasons to believe that Santa exists, then we can safely say that Santa does not exist.
But what about God? If God does exist, what would we expect to find? Do you even know what evidence you should start looking for?
Before stating that there is no evidence for something, Mr. Grinch, make sure you know what kind of evidence there should be if that thing does exist. If the God of the Bible exists, for example, he is not the kind of being you would see flying around in the clouds. He would not be some “sky daddy,” as many internet atheists seem to think. No, if the God of the Bible exists, He would not be some humanoid “Zeus-like being.” God (if He exists) is an immaterial unembodied mind – a “spirit” (John 4:24).
So, what should we expect to find if Christian theism is true?
We would expect to find scientific evidence for the beginning of the space-time universe. We have that!
We would expect to find evidence for the fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the big bang so that intelligent life – not to mention matter itself – could exist. We have that!
We would expect to have historical data showing that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person of history who was executed by the Roman government. We have that!
In fact, we would expect to be able to make a strong case — via the historical method alone – that Jesus actually rose from the dead. Historians have demonstrated that the resurrection of Jesus is the inference to the best explanation after examining all of the historical facts!
So, the things we would expect to find if Santa exists, do not exist. However, the things we would expect to find if the God of the Bible exists, those things DO exist!
After taking everything into consideration, although it would be irrational to believe in Santa Claus, one is quite coherent by believing in the God Jesus revealed. That is to say, we have good reason to celebrate Christmas.
So, the next time Mr. Grinch compares Jesus to Santa Claus, just show him the evidence pointing to the reason for the season.
Have a reasonable (Isaiah 1:18) and Merry Christmas,
Dr. Tim Stratton