The genetic fallacy:
When an idea, word, person, or group is judged by something in their history.
For example, if you look up the backgroup to ‘hierarchy’, we see the source words mean rule by priests. It would be a fallacy to say that every current use of hierarchy invokes the idea of religion and priestly ritual.
This sentence makes sense: ‘The hierarchy of the Atheist Society have embarked on a new advertising campaign.’ Well, it makes sense unless you fall for the genetic fallacy.
(If you insist, see Wiki-wonder-paedia.)
What about Christmas?
Each year there is some tug-of-war about who owns Christmas and what Christmas means. For example, You don’t need Jesus to enjoy Christmas, Who owns Christmas?, and Why does The Age hate Christianty?.
In general – that is, in more than these three pieces – there is much of the genetic fallacy.
On the one hand: Christmas has a strong hint in the name, Christ; it’s the celebration of his entry to the world; etc.
On the other: Christians did not start this, it’s a pagan festival.
In both cases: so what?
Really, what matters is what we do now. So the ‘pagan origin’ is most ridiculous – there is no real thread of whatever the pagan rituals were. There will always be a news item about druids at Stonehenge at mid-summer, or whatever, but any paganism is well past.
What about the celebration of Bethlehem as God incarnate’s first staging post?
Certainly there is a ‘genetic’ (ie, historic) component. Arguably, the church fathers who began celebration of special days did so to point people towards Jesus and away from cultural practices then current. Yet it is more that mere history. It is current and modern. People today – including me – celebrate this time of year specifically in thankfulness for God’s rescue mission in Jesus.
So who wins the argument?
Easy. It’s whoever puts their celebration into action. So, I intend to pray and sing and be thankful and invite fellow Christians to do the same. That’s the best argument for what Christmas means.