Thank you, No, to Easter, etc.

Discussion in 'General discussions' started by NaphtaliPress, Mar 31, 2013.

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  1. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Only the Lord can sanctify and set aside a day for purposes of worshipping Him. To think a day is more sacred than another, or that one of the 52 days a year the Lord has made holy and commanded to set aside for His worship is some way more holy because we decided it should be, is superstition and will worship.
    EPC on Superstition.
    §5. 5. The ceremonies are not free of superstition, inasmuch as they give to God an external service, and grace-defacing worship, which he cares not for, and make fleshly observations to step into the room of God’s most spiritual worship. Augustine alleges that which is said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17[:21]), against superstitious persons who devote their primary concern to externals.1 The Christian worship ought to be in spirit, without the carnal ceremonies and rites, says one of our divines.2 Yea, the kingdom of God cometh not with splendor and worldly ostentation, so that a time or place can be noticed, says a papist.3 Carnal worship, therefore, and ceremonial observations, are (to say the least) superfluous in religion, and by consequence superstitious.
    As of places, so of times, our opposites think most superstitiously. For of holy days Hooker says thus, No doubt as God’s extraordinary presence has hallowed and sanctified certain places, so they are his extraordinary works that have truly and worthily advanced certain times, for which cause they ought to be with all men that honor God more holy than other days.4 What is this but popish superstition? For just so the Rhemists think that the times and places of Christ’s nativity, passion, burial, resurrection, and ascension, were made holy;5 and just so Bellarmine holds, that Christ did consecrate the days of his nativity, passion, and resurrection, being born in that stable he consecrated it; dying, the cross; rising again, the tomb.6 Hooker has been of opinion, that the holy days were so advanced above other days, by God’s great and extraordinary work done upon them, that they should have been holier than other days, even albeit the church had not appointed them to be kept holy. Yet Bishop Lindsay would have us believe that they think them holy, only because of the church’s consecration of them to holy political uses.

    1. Apud Aquinas, 2a 2æ quest. 93, art. 2. exterioribus principalem curam impendunt. [Cf. Augustine, De Vera Religione, PL 34.125, ¶4.]

    2. John Rainold’s Confer. with J. Hart, cap. 8, divis. 4, p. 489 [1609 ed.].

    3. Com. in Luke 17:20. cum apparatu aut pompa mundana, ita ut observari possit tempus vel locus. [Didacus Stella (Diego de Estella), In sanctum Jesu Christi evangelium secundum Lucam (1599) page 194.]

    4. Eccl. Polity, lib. 5, sect. 69 [cf. Works (1821) 2.281].

    5. Annot. on 1 Tim. 4:5 [Cartwright, Confutation, 559; sect. 10].

    6. De Cult. Sanct., cap. 10. eo quod nascens consecrarit {præsepe, moriens crucem, resurgens, sepulchrum}. The bracketed text was omitted from 1993 edition. [Cf. Opera Omnia (1870) 3.304. Bellarmine: “Christus nascens consecrarit locum, id est, præsepe moriens consecravit crucem, resurgens consecravit tumulum….”]

    From EPC, part three, chapter one, sections 5, 9.
    English Popish Ceremonies on ‘Holy Days’.
    “The celebration of set anniversary days is no necessary mean for conserving the commemoration of the benefits of redemption, because we have occasion, not only every Sabbath day, but every other day, to call to mind these benefits, either in hearing, or reading, or meditating upon God’s word. I esteem and judge that the days consecrated to Christ must be lifted, says Danæus: Christ is born, is circumcised, dies, rises again for us every day in the preaching of the Gospel. George Gillespie, A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies, Book 1, chapter 7, section 6.
    EPC on unauthorized sacred ceremonies.

    “2. What can be answered to that which the Abridgement propounds touching this matter? It is much less lawful (say those ministers) for man to bring significant ceremonies into God’s worship now than it was under the law. For God has abrogated his own (not only such as prefigured Christ, but such also as served by their signification to teach moral duties), so as now (without great sin) none of them can be continued in the church, no, not for signification.1 Whereupon they infer: If those ceremonies which God himself ordained to teach his church by their signification may not now be used, much less may those which man has devised.2

    “§6. Fourth, sacred significant ceremonies devised by man are to be reckoned among those images forbidden in the second commandment. Polanus says, that omnis figura illicita [every forbidden figure] is forbidden in the second commandment.3 The Professors of Leyden call it any image at all, whether conceived in the mind or made by the hand.”4

    I have shown elsewhere,5 that both in the writings of the fathers, and of formalists themselves, sacraments get the name of images; and why, then, are not all significant and holy ceremonies to be accounted images? Now, the second commandment forbids images made by the lust of man (that I may use Dr. Burges’s phrase);6 therefore it forbids also all religious similitudes, which are homogeneal [congruous] unto them. This is the inference of the Abridgement….” (George Gillespie, A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies, Part Three, Chapter Five, section 6, p. 230 in the forthcoming 2013 edition, D.V.).
    1. Ministers of the Lincoln Diocese, An Abridgement (1617) 43. [An Abridgment of that booke which the Ministers of Lincoln diocess delivered to his Majestie. Being the first of an apologye for themselves and their brethren that refuse the subscription, and conformitie which is required [W. Jones Secret Press, 1605]. Reprint, An Abridgement of that Booke which the Ministers of Lincolne Diocess deliuered to His Maiestie upon the First Of December 1605. Being The first part of An Apologie for themselves and their Brethren that refuse the Subscription and Conformitie which Is required. Leiden: 1617.
    2. William Ames, Puritan divine (1576–1644), Fresh Suite, p. 266 [Amsterdam: 1633]. [Gillespie cites the Abridgement from William Ames’ Fresh Suit against Human Ceremonies in God’s Worship.]
    3. Syntagma Theol., lib. 6, cap. 10, p. 58, 59. [Amandus Polanus, German Reformed theologian (1561–1610). Cf. Syntagma Theologiae Christianae (Hanover, 1609), vol. 2, col. 2284A.
    4. Synop. Pur. Theol., disp. 19, thes. 4. imaginem quamlibet, sive mente conceptam, sive manu effictam. [Divinity Professors at Leyden, Antonius Walæus (1573–1639), Andreas Rivetus (1572–1651), Antonius Thysius (1603–1665), John Polyander (1568–1646). Synopsis Purioris Theologiæ. Leyden: 1581. Cf. Edited by Herman Bavinck (Leiden: 1881) 163.]
    5. Supra, cap. 4, sect. 9 [See English Popish Ceremonies (2013 forthcoming) 195.]
    6. John Burges, Moderate/Conforming Puritan divine (1563–1635), Of the Lawfulness of Kneeling, p. 116 [sic page 115]. [This work is appended to An Answer Rejoined to that much applauded pamphlet A reply to Dr. Morton’s general defense of three nocent ceremonies (1631)].
    The Nassau Confession of 1578 on Monuments of Idolatry.
    “It were much to be wished that suitable steps against this evil had been taken in the Protestant churches soon upon the initial purification of doctrine. And moreover, that the idolatrous images, which have been and still are one of the principal abominations under the Papacy, had been everywhere abolished by the Protestant estates for the recovery and preservation of the proper service of worship and for the possible prevention of various disgraces to the Christian religion and to its reputation…

    “And even if all the people of this age had their eyes opened so widely that there would now be no more residue of offence or scandal on account of images, nevertheless all manner of injury could be sustained among their descendents no less than formerly as a result of the surviving idols.

    “And even if this were not encountered, still it is right in itself. And, as has previously been often stated, it is commanded by God that one should do away with the monuments of idolatry or memorials by means of which great idolatry was being promoted a few years ago. And this accords with the approved example of Holy Scripture.

    “For King Hezekiah broke up the brazen serpent after the children of Israel had burned incense to it, though Moses had made it at God’s command as a type of Christ, 2 Kgs. 18[:4]….”

    The Nassau Confession of 1578, translated by R. Sherman Isbell, in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation Volume 3 1567-1599. Edited by James T. Dennison (RHB, 2012), under the head “The Christian Magistrate not only has the power to remove Idolatrous Images, but is obliged to do so on account of his office,” 531.

    The Bremer on Ceremonies (1595).
    “II. Some ceremonies are devised and established by men are properly called adiaphora, that is, a thing neither evil nor good, or an act which is left free, or an ecclesiastical rule. … They do not take the place of the indispensable worship service, such as the use of the holy sacraments and the hearing of God’s Word. Rather, they are external ordinances of men and thus they serve only for a convenient performance of the worship service. Beyond this, no necessity should be placed in them for conscience sake, nor any confidence or special reverence or sanctity, for as soon as that occurs such ceremonies will be much too highly elevated above their ordinary allowed use and are made into an evident superstition….

    5. Fifth and similarly, should the ceremonies ordained by men come to be regarded no longer as something left free, and if one makes them to be a service especially pleasing to God or wants to insist upon them as if they were necessary for conscience sake, or if one wants to persuade the people that it would be meritorious or an action by which one could obtain grace with God, reconciliation, the forgiveness of sins, or satisfaction from some transgression, then on that account and in such circumstances they should be entirely abolished. This should be done regardless of the preceding custom and regardless of its past beneficial use because by this time they have been so greatly altered that they henceforth are a thing repugnant to the truth and liberty of the gospel and rob Christ of His glory.

    6. Sixth, if the ordinances of men in the church assume a form that, for the sake of similarity, is closer in these matters to the enemies of the truth than to the orthodox so that the weak are offended by this and kept in error and the enemies would become more stiff-necked, then it is best to remove them, in part to obviate offence and in part to avoid dangers either present or apprehended as future. When there is a form with fasts, days of the deceased saints, vestments, wafers, elevation, images and the like, these are nothing other than papal ensigns and the colors of his court. They should no more be retained than a respectable woman should be accustomed to going thoughtlessly clothed among immodest people or than soldiers should undertake to carry the ensigns of the enemy.”

    “The Bremen Consensus (1695),” translated by R. Sherman Isbell, in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, edited by James T. Dennison, Jr. (RHB, 2012) 700–701.
    Calvin on Removing Idolatrous Filth from the Church
    “Similarly, what is alleged of an Italian writer, that abuse does not take away good use, will not be true if one holds to it without exception: because it is clearly commanded to us to prudently watch that we would not offend the infirm brothers by our example, and that we should never undertake what would be illicit. For Saint Paul prohibits offending the brothers in eating flesh that was sacrificed to idols [1 Cor. 10:28], and speaking to this particular issue he shows a general rule that we are to keep ourselves from troubling the consciences of the weak by a bad or damaging example. One might speak better and more wholesomely if he were to say that what God himself ordains may not be abolished for wrong use or abuse that is committed against it. But even here, it is necessary to abstain from these things if, by later human ordinance, they have become corrupt with error, and if their use is harmful or scandalizes the brothers.

    “Here I marvel how this “Reformer,” after granting that superstitions sometimes have such strong popularity that it is necessary to remove from the realm of man those things once ordained by public authority (as we read of Hezekiah doing with the bronze serpent), finally does not consider even a little that his shrewdness is a horror to the ways of good action: as if in defending supportable rituals, he would oblige that all superstitions should be considered as safe and whole because they are weighty. For what is there in the papacy now that would not resemble the bronze serpent, even if it did not begin that way [Num. 21:9]? Moses had it made and forged by the commandment of God: he had it kept for a sign of recognition. Among the virtues of Hezekiah told to us is that he had it broken and reduced to ash [2 Kings 18:4]. The superstitions for the most part, against which true servants of God battle today, are spreading from here to who knows where as covered pits in the ground. They are filled with detestable errors that can never be erased unless their use is taken away. Why, therefore, do we not confess simply what is true, that this remedy is necessary for taking away filth from the church?” Cf. Raymond V. Bottomly, “Response to a Certain Tricky Middler” (Responsio Ad Versipellem Quendam Mediatorem, [French] “Response a Un Certain Moyenneur Rusé,”), The Confessional Presbyterian 8 (2012) 264.]
  2. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I would certainly agree with you that there is much idolatry associated with Easter and other such "holidays", however I would also argue that there must be some significance to this particular day otherwise why would the early church move their worship from Saturday to Sunday?
  3. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    But isn't that sort of the whole point? The day of Christ's resurrection has a God ordained commemoration in His moving the day of worship; making a special day or turning one of those 52 Lord's days a year into something "more special" is so much more will worship. At least one might argue (wrongly) that they were giving the other events of Christ's life "equal" time in setting up those holy days.
  4. kodos

    kodos Puritan Board Junior

    Bill you are absolutely right, that the significance of that day is so great, and so vast - that the Church moved their worship from Saturday to Sunday (the Lord's Day), such that they might proclaim the Resurrection of Christ as Risen Lord and Savior every week, at the beginning of the week - in order to recognize His dominion and majesty and subjection of all things under Him. At which point, the rest of the week follows.

    The pattern in Acts appears as if they didn't wait until the anniversary of Christ's resurrection to proclaim this news. Rather, they did it every week.

    And like them - it is of such significance to us and the entire Creation that we celebrate this earth quaking event every week :)
  5. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

  6. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    For my part, I don't argue the church changed the day set apart to divine worship (from Sat. to Sun., or 7th day to 1st day).

    Rather, Jesus changed the Sabbath Day himself, and imposed this change upon the church by his authority as God, and Lord of the Day.

    The day of Resurrection was the day he chose for special assembly of his people, when he would meet with them. Time and again, after he arose, we see him present as they gather on the first day of the week: Jn.20:19; 20:26; Act.2:1, whether in the flesh or by his Spirit. The disciples (including some 120 followers, Act.1:15) seem to be continually at prayer, Act.1:13-14; all well and good; yet Jesus meets with them (so far as we are told explicitly) specially on the first day.

    As for the celebration of Ishtar, er, I mean Easter... well, what can I say in my own defense? At the request of Session, I've consented to preach a special sermon four days per year, one of which will assuredly be a Sunday every year, and one other every so many years. In this thing we are more American (and Dutch-Calvinist) than Presbyterian and Puritan. At least it is done by repeated approval, and not by rote liturgical dominion, binding the conscience of all.
  7. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

  8. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I agree with you, I guess the real problem is that we don't celebrate the resurrection enough on the other 51 Sabbaths and so we feel like we need to "make up" for it on one particular Sunday. If we treated every Sunday as if were truly special and set apart, then maybe we wouldn't feel the need for holidays.
  9. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I don't think that is why churches that formerly for centuries ignored holy days have since embraced them. At least I am fairly sure it is not why Reformed and conservative Presbyterians embrace them now.
    The Religious Observance of Christmas and
  10. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I agree with this principle of historic Presbyterianism but I have (strangely) discovered that so many modern Presbyterians do not.
  11. Curt

    Curt Puritan Board Graduate

    The Reformovana presbyterni cirkev celebrated the resurrection yesterday, just as they did the week before and will again next week.
  12. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    And my church not only celebrated the resurrection, but acknowledged Easter. However, that doesn't mean we won't celebrate the resurrection again next week. Although I can appreciate many of the arguments against Easter, I think it would be a mischaracterization if one were to suggest that acknowledging it necessarily means the resurrection is not celebrated, or is deficiently celebrated, the rest of the year.
  13. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I don't know if it necessarily does; nor does it seem to me it affects the case contra very materially whether one church does Easter with due accord to the resurrection the rest of the year and the other does not. Certainly historically the case has been made that holy days seemed to pair with less regard for the holy day God has appointed. That is just the nature of idolatry and will worship to cry up our own inventions at the expense of the ordained ones.
  14. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    I've been thinking about this thread and wondering, if the average church member is celebrating Easter by worshipping our Lord 'in Spirit and in truth', knowing little or nothing about the theological arguments concerning holy days/idolatry, will that be hay and stubble or precious metal at the judgment seat ?

    It could be argued that if the member doesn't know the theological arguments he ought to know them. OTOH, since many don't pursue understanding the foundation of the faith as deeply as they ought, wouldn't the sincerity of their worship count for something ?
  15. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Yeah, as one who's always celebrated Easter and Christmas (coming from the continental Reformed tradition), I can see how it takes work not turn those days into idols and not to treat them as extra holy. I say I don't consider Easter any more holy than any other day of worship—it just has a particular theme—and intellectually I believe that. But there can be emotional pressure to make sure it feels special, so that if you don't get that special feeling it's a letdown. Christmas is even worse. Many people in our culture especially worship that special Christmas feeling, and struggle when it isn't everything they want it to be. We're wise to guard against that.

    Then again, I regularly make idols out of all sorts of otherwise good things. The fact that it tempts one toward idolatry does not necessarily make a thing bad in itself. To me, your strongest argument is that when we start pursuing things in worship because they feel good to us rather than because they fit what God has told us to do, we stop worshipping God and are actually worshipping our own worship experience. If an Easter celebration of the resurrection turns into a celebration of Easter sentimentality (and it easily can if one is not careful!), that's a danger. It's why I can, to an extent, appreciate the argument to just stay clear of Easter, period.
  16. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Good thing the Lord doesn't require our own perfection even in his worship and even that is covered by Christ's sacrifice and his merits. We just need to focus on reforming our practices in accord with God's revealed will and not worry if some way holy days are the unpardonable sin.
  17. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    Is it a sin? Celebrating Easter?
  18. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    If observing holy days isn't then it is just preference and a lot of us are wasting everyone's time, right?
  19. Tyrese

    Tyrese Puritan Board Sophomore

    Wouldn't we all agree that the few days leading up to Easter are good Gospel opportunities? Being that those who are lost have a sudden interest in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord I personally think its a mistake to have our churches closed (thurs, fri). Especially most of the churches represented here on the board. I think that we can be evangelistic w/o the idolatry attached to Easter. I think it comes down to motive. Are we observing some day that God has not required? Or are we just opening up the Ark for Lost sinners to flee the wrath to come. And brothers it is coming.
  20. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't agree with the thesis that the lost have any more "interest" in those particular things during those particular days. If anything the existence of these routine days actually militates against that thesis.

    Anyone who has ever been involved with a mainline church knows of the existence of the "C and E 'Christian'" and the magic 40% or more attendance bump on these "holy days". Merely "opening up the church" for these days does zero to get these folks to understand that the Lord's Day worship in August is equal in importance to this day that folks have falsely attributed more "holiness" to.
  21. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Evangelism is for outreach to the lost; the worship service is for the people of God; confusing the two perhaps is the fault of much of the errors in the worship of God today.
  22. Tyrese

    Tyrese Puritan Board Sophomore

    I agree. But don't we preach the gospel during worship service assuming there are unconverted men and women in the pews?
  23. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Sure; but it is the ordinance of God for his people. Tail wagging dog otherwise.
  24. Tyrese

    Tyrese Puritan Board Sophomore

  25. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Spot on. The issues of worship in general and holy days in particular are to be decided on the basis of faithfulness to God's Word, first and foremost so that all other considerations are secondary. Indeed, without this (acting as our guiding principle) we will have effectively sacrificed our Protestant beliefs of theology to culture and personal preference. Hence the mess that the modern evangelical church is and always will be until we return to this primary principle.
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