Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Seasonal Resources on the Regulative Principle

A few years back, before I had come better to understand and then to embrace Reformed confessional Christianity, my conscience was not much bothered by "Advent" and "Christmas" observances in the church.  Like many other Calvinistic evangelicals I promoted the Advent season as connecting our worship with the historical Christian liturgy and the "Christian year."  I also oranized Christmas Eve services and even Christmas day services (when they did not fall on Sundays).  I also saw the observance of the Christmas holiday as a way to promote Christian influence and ideas in the secular culture.

Even now I understand that different folk hold different views on these matters. There is a distinct historical difference between the "continental" approach (of Calvin, et al) and that of the English Puritans.  Men of good faith and good will might hold different opinions.  I also believe that we can make a distinction between innocent private practices where Christian liberty must be allowed and what is approved for the public exercise of God's worship on the Lord's Day.  In short, I'd like to keep the Lord's Day relatively uncluttered from the Christmas connection. This way folk of various peruasions (whether they approve of Christmas family holiday traditions and celebrations or not) can find a common ground and grant liberty to their brethren to hold their own personal convictions.

I included this note in last week’s issue of the Vision, CRBC’s e-newsletter:

The approach of the Christmas holiday season raises questions about Reformed views on worship and personal practice.  Here are a few resources on these topics:

Sermon on the Second Commandment (a basis for the Reformed doctrine of the Regulative Principle)

The 16 part Blog Series on The Westminster Directory of Worship, including this post “Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship” (Part 16) [click the label “The Directory for the Publick Worship of God” at the end of the post to read the others in the series].



Anonymous said...

Sometimes Muslims spot the inconsistencies before we do!

Muslim: Why does the West celebrate Xmas and tell the children lies about Santa Claus.
Christian: I can assure you no true Bible believer has anything to do with Santa Claus or tells lies to children.
Muslim: Yes they do as the local Methodist Church has Carols with 'Father Christmas' giving gifts and children wearing Santa hats.
Christian: Ecumenism and apostasy is a very long story!
Muslim: Why do Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th when there is nothing in the Bible about that date? I thought Christians believed their scriptures.
Christian: The cult of the Jehovah’s witnesses don’t celebrate Christ’s birth but Christians certainly do, maybe you are confusing the two.
Muslim: Where in your scriptures is December 25th mentioned, then.
Christian: Hmmm, it isn’t.
Muslim: So you add tradition to your scriptures.
Christian: The bible is infallible and Christ’s birth is recorded for us in the Gospels.
Muslim: But where does it say December 25th? If it doesn't then are you not lying to people (children) by giving the impression Christ was born on December 25th?
Christian: Hmmm. Our tradition is...
Muslim: So tradition or your Scriptures, which is it?

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...


A few thoughts:

1. Islam is, of course, largely dependent on tradition (the hadith) as opposed to merely the Koran. So charges that Christians follow "traditions" is hypocritical.

2. Not all traditions are bad. Scripture is supreme in authority but some traditions are good, as long as it is understood that they are subservient to Scripture.

3. Though I agree that "Christmas" is not required by Scripture and so is not required by the RP in worship, I do not think that this is what Muslims dislike about it. What they dislike is the claim that Jesus is the doctrine of the Incarnation, which is Biblical.

3. I've heard the line of parents "telling lies" about Santa from fellow Christians who oppose this and other Christmas traditions. As the resources here indicate, I hold that Christian liberty should be afforded in areas that do not involve obvious sin. I am not sure I see this as sin. This view would have no room for any fiction or work of imagination. Was Jesus lying when he told parables? Such a position, in fact, seems closer to the mirthless Muslims who ban music or destroy works of art they deem impious. One way Christianity departs from this is in the allowance for liberty.


Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Sorry, the second 3 should be 4. Smiles!