Santa's transcript Santa's transcript 2 Inside Higher Ed shared a copy of Santa’s university transcript. Given his busy schedule, I’m not surprised that he has taken so long to finish his degree. But isn’t having a degree issues by a registrar who is also your employee a conflict of interest?

I wonder who else it would be interesting to make a fictional university transcript for. Any suggestions?

The truth about Santa

I saw this cartoon, and it seemed to me to offer parallels to the discoveries that are sometimes made in my own fields of religion and Biblical studies.

Sometimes people go through a time of questioning which, because they have not yet jettisoned their immature black-or-white absolutist thinking, involves going from believing everything to believing nothing.

But often, what we discover after a maturer and more critical inquiry is that there is something to whatever it was we once believed – but the story isn’t entirely pleasant.

One may find that some sort of deity cannot be done away with, but any confidence that that deity has attributes such as benevolence may be challenged.

One may find that there was indeed a historical Jesus or Muhammad, but their character was not always as exemplary as you had been told, nor were their views always ones that you can embrace.

In both cases, one may be sure that one has discovered “the truth.” But which, if either, is the real truth, and which discovery is the harder one to cope with?

Stuff Fundies Like shared this bit of Christian polemic against Satan…I mean, Santa:



(If you cannot read the text in the image above, click through to read the chart on the Cutting Edge website).

This is exactly the same way that fundamentalists identify ‘predictions’ in the Jewish Scriptures that supposedly match up with Jesus. And mythicists, being mostly former fundamentalists, accept the claims of similarities that cannot be coincidence, and merely explain them in terms of borrowing.

But a look at the list above ought to lead to a different conclusion, namely that many of the supposed parallels are strained, and in the imagination of the fundamentalist conspiracy theorist, while even those that are not do not tell us anything serious about either Jesus, or Santa, or whether the latter is a satanic imitation – or any other sort of imitation – of the former.

Some get excited at slim connections – “Look, north connects Jesus and Santa – and also, the grassy knoll on the north side of Elm Street in the JFK assassination!” Critical scholarship, on the other hand, has to ask deep, probing questions which allow both for the possibility of borrowing, and the possibility that superficial similarities on a chart designed explicitly to offer such similarities, may obscure more substantive differences.

It is striking that we see this in two very different streams of mythicist – on the one hand, in lists of alleged parallels between Jesus and Inanna or Horus or someone else, and on the other hand, in lists of alleged parallels between New Testament texts and the stories in the Jewish Scriptures from which some (e.g. Thomas Brodie) think they were drawn.

See also the article by Lawrence Mykytiuk in the Biblical Archaeological Society’s Bible History Daily on mythicism and the evidence for Jesus.

I have no idea what this picture means. But I have the strange sense that it belongs on this blog.

HT Judy Stack-Nelson on Facebook


Two boys are exiting Sunday school class. One of them asks the other, “Do you think there really is a Satan?” The other says, “I'm not sure, but I think maybe he is like Santa and the tooth fairy – it is probably actually your dad!”




This image was shared with me this morning by e-mail:

Perhaps it is a professional hazard (as I have blogged about God and Santa more than once in the past), but I found myself not just enjoying the face value humor of it, but also reflecting on how this relates to ancient (including Biblical) and modern ideas of God.

The idea prevailed in antiquity that one or more gods must be appeased through good behavior, or can be offended by bad behavior, resulting in the bestowal or withholding of things like rain, productive crops, or offspring – or if you were naughty, blight, pestilence, infertility and more.

The big issue today for theology – one that does not get discussed nearly often enough – is our ability to “buy our own presents.”

While modern medicine cannot cure all illnesses, we do not live in fear of plagues to the extent that ancient people did – and many still do in other parts of the world than that in which the majority of readers of this blog live. While modern technologies of farming and transportation cannot guarantee we have food to eat, the truth is that the vast majority of us, whether we pray for daily bread or not, answer our own prayer by going and buying it whenever we choose.

Theologians often talk about the “God of the gaps” with respect to the natural sciences. But there is a similar “God of the gaps” problem with respect to health, food, and other daily needs.

And so I think that the image is worth reflecting on – and not just as a bit of Christmas humor. To a large extent we can indeed “buy our own presents” – or “bestow our own blessings.” And if we cannot, we are aware that it likely has to do not with our appeasement or otherwise of a deity, but with social structures and inequities. And so, just as theologians have reflected on what if anything it means to speak of God in a universe understood scientifically, is there not a need for more conversations about how theology needs to adapt to the closing of gaps in our understanding of the social world – from medicine to food production to shopping and beyond?


I thought the video below was a clever challenge to the notion of God as an oversized Santa.

I’d say, from my own perspective, that it doesn’t go far enough in moving away from anthropomorphism altogether. But it may be helpful in getting those whose idea of God is one particularly crass form of big man in the sky to reflect and perhaps even begin to reconsider their approach.

It also seems to offer a different approach to the gospel than one typically encounters in Evangelical fundamentalism. There it tends to be about how your response is the key to the process being completed. In the video, in a manner more akin to what one finds in some Eastern Orthodox theologians, God has accomplished something, and the message is simply making you aware of it. It is assumed that amazing news will have an impact on you, but it is not as though your response in any way changes or contributes to what has been done.

What do readers think of the video?

Below are some more “God and/vs. Santa” images from around the internet, which might be helpful in generating thought about the closeness of the image many people have of God and the idea of Santa. It is also worth reflecting on the fact that ideas like Santa are ones that people naturally grow out of – but also typically come to appreciate in a new way later in life. It is natural to outgrow a very similar idea of God, and to do so around the same age. But no one comes to believe in Santa later in life, do they? Yet with some views of God, that can and does happen. And so it is worth pondering what sorts of idea of God it is natural to grow out of, and what ideas of God are appropriate for adult thinkers.

This first image is from fellow Patheos blogger Daniel Florien a few years ago. Most of them have web addresses in the graphic indicating their source, and a couple of them I shared in previous year. And don’t forget to revisit the graphic I posted back in October about physics, Santa, and God, as well as other posts related to Santa from years gone by.

OK, the argument above is cute. Can it be used to prove not only that there is a Santa Claus, but also that there is a God – indeed, an infinite number of them? Or does the apparent absence of Santa from our universe suggest that there are not an infinite number of universes? And if the multiverse idea ends up needing to be discarded, what are the implications for atheism and for various religious beliefs?

Since I have mentioned God and Santa in conjunction with one another, let me emphasize that I do not share the Santa-like view of God that some but not all theists hold, and which atheists and quite a number of religious believers reject. For me, and many others, questions about God (at least, the sort of God we are interested in) are about the fundamental nature of reality, and not about the presence or absence from a universe of a particularly powerful gift-bestowing person.


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