Christmas and the Regulative Principle

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piningforChrist

Puritan Board Freshman
I have a humble question concerning the regulative principle and its relation to worship on Christmas Day. Pastor Brian Schwertly of Covenanted Reformed Pres. Church wrote an article entitled, "The Regulative Principle of Worship and Christmas," which can be found at the below link:

http://entrewave.com/view/reformedonline/Christmas%20(web).htm

In the article, he argues that:

(1) Christmas is a violation of the regulative principle. It is an invention of man that came into the church long after the death of the apostles and the close of the canon.

(2) Christmas is a monument of pagan idolatry and cannot be made pleasing to God. With regard to the monuments of idolatry, the biblical imperative is annihilation not incorporation (syncretism).

What are the opinions of you all on this issue?

What do the Scriptures have to say concerning the celebration of Christmas?

How does this relate to Chapter 22 of the 1689 LBCF concerning worship and the regulative principle?

Colossians 2:16-17 states, "Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." Are we allowed to publically and/or privately celebrate specific days during the year, marking the feats of glorious substance of the shadows, Jesus Christ?
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
I would recommend this thread for a long treatment of the subject.

Also, two articles that convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt were The Regulative Principle and Christmas by Matthew McMahon, and Why do Presbyterians Observe Holy Days? by Andrew Webb.

As for scriptural support, the celebraters of Christmas are the ones that must come up with their support to celebrate "holy days" because God has not commanded them. He HAS commanded one day to be holy, and that is his Sabbath.

The Westminster Confession states:

Chapter XXI.
Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath-day.

I. The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.(a) But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture. (b)

(a) Rom. 1:20; Acts 17:24; Ps. 119:68; Jer. 10:7; Ps. 31:23; Ps. 18:3; Rom. 10:12; Ps. 62:8; Josh. 24:14; Mark 12:33.
(b) Deut. 12:32; Matt. 15:9; Acts 17:25; Matt. 4:9, 10; Deut. 4:15 to 20; Exod. 20:4, 5, 6; Col. 2:23.

To create our own "holy days" of worship is to undermine what God has instituted, and his directions for approaching him.

The Directory for Public Worship also states:

Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship.

THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord's day, which is the Christian Sabbath.

Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.

Aside from these resources, I can provide no better explanation. I will only say that the day of worship that God has instituted is a part of that worship. He set it aside as Holy, and only he can do that. :pilgrim:
 

piningforChrist

Puritan Board Freshman
<P>Colossians 2:16-17 states, "Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." </P>
<P><STRONG>Are we allowed to publically and/or privately celebrate specific days during the year, marking the feats of glorious substance of the shadows, Jesus Christ?&nbsp; </STRONG></P>
<P><STRONG>Why does it seem that when RPW is defended, it's always with forms from the OT wrapped in a tight robe of eisegeted NT texts?</STRONG></P>
<P><STRONG>What are the differences between the old and new covenant, in terms of essence, sign, and expression?&nbsp; </STRONG></P>
<P><STRONG>Was the early church ardently regulative, or liberally expressive?</STRONG></P>
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Christ seems to have celebrated both Hannukah and Purim.

Not all Reformed theologians have held the strict view.
This has been my signature for some time:

Concerning the celebration of holidays:
Hence we cannot approve of the rigid judgment of those who charge such churches with idolatry (in which those days are still kept, the names of the saints being retained), since they agree with us in doctrine concerning the worship of God alone and detest the idolatry of the papists.
Francis Turretin - Institutes of Elenctic Theology (p. 104)

Might consider this also Matthew.
http://www.prpc-stl.org/auto_images/1071243331Defense_of_Xmas.htm
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by piningforChrist
<P>Colossians 2:16-17 states, "Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." </P>
<P><STRONG>Are we allowed to publically and/or privately celebrate specific days during the year, marking the feats of glorious substance of the shadows, Jesus Christ?&nbsp; </STRONG></P>

Civil days of Thanksgiving are permissible under the RPW. Days such as Reformation Day, Thanksgiving, and others are not set aside as "holy days" and therefore are not adding to the Sabbath as the only Holy Day.

Colossians 2:16-17 is speaking of the ceremonial observations required under the law, the same law that Christ abolished.

Originally posted by piningforChrist
<P><STRONG>Why does it seem that when RPW is defended, it's always with forms from the OT wrapped in a tight robe of eisegeted NT texts?</STRONG></P>
Can you provide examples?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
See The Religious Observance of Christmas and "˜Holy Days´ in American Presbyterianism here.
The appendix on Purim is an extract from M'Crie's lectures on the book of Esther; and the whole article was written because of at least one misstatement of fact by Mark Horne in an article referenced in the Myers piece referenced above.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I don't know about you, but I'm going to be in church this Christmas. New Years Day too. They're each on a Sunday this time.

By the way, I would be in church on those days even if it was a Wednesday. And I am a supporter of the RPW.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Originally posted by piningforChrist
<P>Colossians 2:16-17 states, "Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." </P>
<P><STRONG>Are we allowed to publically and/or privately celebrate specific days during the year, marking the feats of glorious substance of the shadows, Jesus Christ?&nbsp; </STRONG></P>
<P><STRONG>Why does it seem that when RPW is defended, it's always with forms from the OT wrapped in a tight robe of eisegeted NT texts?</STRONG></P>
The regulative principle is not a shadow. God is the same God of both testaments. He relates to all the people of God through grace. The OT worship contained shadows to teach us about Christ, but the principle that God determines how He is worshipped has never changed.

<P><STRONG>What are the differences between the old and new covenant, in terms of essence, sign, and expression?&nbsp; </STRONG></P>
<P><STRONG>Was the early church ardently regulative, or liberally expressive?</STRONG></P>
Liberally expressive? How does that reconcile with the orderly worship of 1 Cor 14? You seem to misunderstand traditional Reformed worship. You are setting a false dichotomy, stuffy old shadowy worship vs. liberating unregulated free feel good worship. Traditional Reformed worship is about focusing our love and devotion to liberally and wholeheartedly use the means He has appointed. We worship him in joyful submission to the commands He has given us. There's no shadows in Reformed worship. Quite the opposite actually. It is very liberating to worship God only as He commands.

I would recommend you take a step back, and consider that maybe you haven't thought of all the angles yet. The Regultive Principle is a hallmark of Reformed worship and history, and a bedrock for the legitimate heartfelt worship of the Christian. Perhaps you should understand it better before you are so critical.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I have heard others tell me that there are weeks where there were more than one sabbath. Does anyone else know of such things?
 

piningforChrist

Puritan Board Freshman
<P>I think that a good examination of how Jesus deals with the Sabbath will shed some light on how he deals with regulating worship.&nbsp; Surely, those who worship God, worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.&nbsp; I am not saying that we must ignore Scripture or the Spirit in our formulation and practice of worship.&nbsp; Nonetheless, there is a good deal of freedom granted to the church of God to prudently magnify Chirst in a multitude of ways that the OT could not.&nbsp; For example, Chapter 1, Section 6 of the 1689 LBCF states, </P>
<P>"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men. <STRONG>Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed."</STRONG></P>
<P>Therefore, my claim is that, although the Lord's Day is to always be observed according to the below statements of Jesus, He has also given us&nbsp;a larger measure of liberty to determine circumstances concerning the worship of God, such as setting aside non-binding days of celebration of the great acts of Christ, in so far as they concur with the Holy Scriptures, that is, the expressed rules of the Word.&nbsp; As long as the expressed rules of the Word are kept by faith and a yoke of a&nbsp;binding nature is not placed on such celebrations, Christian prudence and the light of nature necessarily give us the liberty to choose specific days throughout the year to proclaim and show the excellencies of Christ.&nbsp; For example, celebrating His resurrection and holding optional services for sorrow during tragedies such as 9/11.&nbsp;</P>
<P>Let´s read Matthew 12:1-14.</P>
<BLOCKQUOTE>
<P>At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "œLook, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." He said to them, "œHave you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? [At this point in the same story Mark 2:27 records, "œAnd he said to them, "˜<U>The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath</U>.´"] Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, <U>something greater than the temple is here</U>. And if you had known what this means, "˜<U>I desire mercy, and not sacrifice</U>,´ you would not have condemned <U>the guiltless</U>. For <U>the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath</U>." He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, "œIs it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" - so that they might accuse him. He said to them, "œWhich one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! <U>So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath</U>." Then he said to the man, "œStretch out your hand." And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.</P></BLOCKQUOTE>
<P>Dr. John Piper states, </P>
<P>"The upshot of all this is not that there is no special day for the followers of Christ but that there is certainly a new kind of freedom and a new criterion for what is permissible (foreseen in Hosea 6:6). Jesus did not try to settle whether his disciples´ behavior fit the mold of the law. He put the issue on a new plane: The Sabbath is for expressing Jesus´ rule and authority, not Moses´"”it is for worshipping Christ. The Sabbath is for relieving man, not burdening him. The Sabbath is for showing mercy and doing good." http://www.desiringgod.org/library/sermons/05/100205.html</P>
<P>My claim: worshipping Christ is to be done in Spirit and in Truth.&nbsp; The new type of freedom and the new criterion for what is permissible shown cheifly in Hosea 6:6, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice," relates both to the Sabbath and to other means and modes of worshipping God.&nbsp; Therefore, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, New Years, Birthdays, Reformation Day, etc, may be celebrated with word and sacrament in so far as they do not&nbsp;fall into the legalism that Paul warned against in Galatians 4:10-11, which may be defined as John Piper defines one meaning of legalism as,&nbsp;"The erecting of specific requirements of conduct beyond the teaching of Scripture and making adherence to them the means by which a person is qualified for full participation in the local family of God, the church."&nbsp; Beyond this, Christian prudence of the local elders may rightly set aside celebrations, worship services, and thanksgivings for the sake of edifying the body and proclaiming the excellencies of Christ.</P>
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Take Christ out of Christmas and I'm all for it.

Frosty, Santa, Kris Kringle, snow covered slieghs, winter wonderlands, Rudolph, Bumbles, elves who want to grow up to be dentists, Winter Wizards, and yes, presents. Bring it on. :banana:

[Edited on 11-3-2005 by Scott Bushey]
 

piningforChrist

Puritan Board Freshman
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Christ should be central in EVERY festivity. That is a clear principle in Scripture, espcially from Paul's defense of His preeminense in Colossians 1:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities"”all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Whether we celebrate holidays in corporate worship, in family worship, or refrain from celebrating them at all, it is necessary that we are Christ-centered, seeking to magnify His name in our affections.
 

ServantoftheLamb

Inactive User
I see it as a personal issue. Even if I wasn't against it from a theological standpoint, there is no possible way I could celebrate it in the commercial and consumerist fashion that it has now manifested itself as. For me, though, it's Sola Scriptura, and I have no interest in celebrating a pagan holiday that was transformed by the Roman Catholic church.

Deuteronomy 12:28-32
"Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God. When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?' You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it."
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by piningforChrist
My claim: worshipping Christ is to be done in Spirit and in Truth.&nbsp; The new type of freedom and the new criterion for what is permissible shown cheifly in Hosea 6:6, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice," relates both to the Sabbath and to other means and modes of worshipping God.&nbsp; Therefore, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, New Years, Birthdays, Reformation Day, etc, may be celebrated with word and sacrament in so far as they do not&nbsp;fall into the legalism that Paul warned against in Galatians 4:10-11, which may be defined as John Piper defines one meaning of legalism as,&nbsp;"The erecting of specific requirements of conduct beyond the teaching of Scripture and making adherence to them the means by which a person is qualified for full participation in the local family of God, the church."&nbsp; Beyond this, Christian prudence of the local elders may rightly set aside celebrations, worship services, and thanksgivings for the sake of edifying the body and proclaiming the excellencies of Christ.</P>

Doesn't the mere invention of an ecclesiastical holy day such as Christmas violate the spirit if not the letter of this defintion?

As soon as the church leaders bring the notion of an annual special day based around the birth of Christ into the congregation, then they must, by necessity, invent regulations for the observance for this pretend holy day. And the bottom line: where has God in His word authorized church leaders to perform this function?
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by piningforChrist

Whether we celebrate holidays in corporate worship, in family worship, or refrain from celebrating them at all, it is necessary that we are Christ-centered, seeking to magnify His name in our affections.

If such "celebtrations" are, in fact, will worship, then there is no way for God to bestow His blessing on church activities regardless of our human zeal. It still amounts to ignorant zeal (Rom. 10:2).
 

Peccant

Puritan Board Freshman
Christmas and Regulative Principle

The problem for many I've debated with is the word "Christmas" it's origination. And the so called Pagan roots of the event itself.
Usually the word "Pagan" is wrongly applied by some.
As for Christ - mass = The word mass originally comes from eucharist.
Christs Eucharist would sure be a different topic.??

As for the event:-
Romans 14:5 "One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."

Paul makes some strong points in this chapter about our judging others. EG: "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant.? to his own master he standeth or falleth..."(v4).

Besides the "expert" academic theology of christmas, where ever you stand, there is good things done at this time of year that otherwise is not addressed. Feeding the poor and some joy in kids circumstances. whilst we would hope and pray for these to happen 24/7 - sadly they don't.

Perhaps some would look for a more theologically acceptable statement on the day, or even another day. Alas that is not yet achievable in our society.:pray2:

Hope you can receive comfort and joy from the Birth of Christ, in whatever way you see fit.
And to those who receive it "Merry Christmas.":bigsmile:

[Edited on 12-19-2005 by Peccant]
 
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