Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Uneasy Conscience and Holy Days
I went many years as a believer in the pew and even as minister in the church without ever thinking through the idea of Christian holy-days (Christmas, Easter, etc.). I just took it for granted that Christmas and Easter were part of the Christian tradition and practical opportunities to teach good doctrine (whether the incarnation or the cross and resurrection) and reach “inactive” church members. I even admired the pragmatic Southern Baptist tradition of seizing on these holidays to promote mission offerings (Annie Armstrong at Easter and Lottie Moon at Christmas).
The further I went in my journey in discovering Reformed (Biblical) theology, however, the more the celebration of these extra-biblical holy-days began to bother my conscience. Beyond Calvinistic soteriology (the five points) there is the Regulative Principle of worship. Slowly, the Lord began to show me the significance of the Lord’s Day as the only scripturally prescribed day of worship. We have 52 holy-days given in the course of the year, one day in seven for celebration of the resurrection. It is a sinful human tendency to add to what God has prescribed in order to augment our experience or to diminish what he has given. When Aaron created the golden calf, he also created an extra-biblical feast day (“and Aaron made a proclamation and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD” Exod 32:5).
Now when I hear of evangelical, Protestant, and even “Calvinistic” (soteriologically) churches following the Christian year, observing “Ash Wednesday,” “Lent” [including "giving something up for Lent"],” “Holy Week,” “Maundy Thursday,” “Good Friday,” and, yes, even “Easter Sunday,” my conscience does not rest easy.
I realize that spiritual pride is a supreme danger. I do not think these are issues that are pivotal for salvation. I also realize we need to avoid ungodly legalism. I think we can distinguish between cultural celebrations enjoyed lawfully and privately in our homes and families, things that are not malum in se, and what we do in public worship in church. But I want to leave that out of my church life. In the worship of God I want only to do what is Biblically faithful. I do not want to create more confusion (where it already freely abounds) about what the Lord requires of us.
Here are some audio resources on this topic one might find helpful: