Advent Candles and WLC 109

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Clark-Tillian

Puritan Board Freshman
What's your view on Advent Wreaths/Candles--in the sanctuary, on the Lord's Day, with the candles burning during the worship of Yahweh?
Is it a violation of WLC 109? It seems clear to me that it is, but there is much dissent in the PCA. Even here in Ascension Presbytery, the opinion is divided.
I'd be curious to know if the OPC is more stringent on this one. I imagine the RPCNA is fully against the practice.

I'm currently trying to convince my Session to abolish the practice, can the Christmas tree, and lose the banners of "baby Jesus". The banners are obvious violations. I've been here 11 years, and have moved slowly in a former PCUSA church, but my conscience cannot abide it any longer. Ironically, the tree seems to be the easiest to dispose of, yet it's likely the least egregious infraction as it doesn't image the Godhead at all.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
A candle can provide lighting when necessary or it may be a part of a ceremony with sacred significance; the first is a circumstantial matter, the latter must have biblical warrant, which it does not. Mixing up the two or defending ceremonies without such warrant, etc. was the hallmark of the anglocatholic ceremonies imposed at the time of the second reformation by their tyrannical defenders (for those who do not know about this era, see the book by George Gillespie against such practices which Naphtali Press should release in a few weeks). Those who do so today while still maintaining the regulative principle of worship of the reformers, are confused at best.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
It sounds to me like you've already decided how the confession applies to candles and Advent wreaths. The real issue going forward is how to follow your conscience without driving a wedge between yourself and your congregation and session, and how to lead the congregation without "lording it over them" in a pushy way where you might get what you want but it happens at the cost of bitterness and without anyone really appreciating any change in worship.

My own views regarding what's permitted in worship are less strict than those of many on this board. I suspect that how you apply "no worship not instituted by God himself" is less important that that you do determine together to apply it in a Scripture-and-prayer-informed way that both you and your session feel good about. It likely will mean both you and them not getting to apply it exactly the way you would if it were all up to just one of you. That's part of being many members of one body.

So on the premise that hearing from a less strict guy might help... and since you asked... I have a few thoughts that might help you and your session come to a decision agreeable to all:

- Can you make a distinction between objects that are decorative and those that are directly used in the worship of God? Not that decor is completely neutral or has no bearing on our worship, but it seems we must be much more guarded with with those things that are directly used as part of the service. Perhaps some items could be kept only as seasonal decor but not directly used or referred to in the worship service.

- Can you make a distinction between those items that are in the sanctuary and those elsewhere in the building? Keeping the sanctuary more guarded (because that space represents our formal worship time) is also a good principle. The rest of the building is for the church's less "regulated" activities. Perhaps some items can be moved outside the sanctuary.

- Might it help to explain to the congregation what boundaries they ought to set for themselves in thinking about objects in the sanctuary? Any sanctuary object, even one that's just a simple necessity or circumstance, might end up drawing worship away from God if worshipers aren't careful. Likewise, any piece of decor—and even the most plain worship space has some decor—might end up being cherished and drawing worship away from God. I could see candlelight being an element of decor, much as some churches (though not the strictest ones) have colored window glass. But candles also have been badly misued in many churches, taking on mystical or superstitious properties. Prehaps congregational instruction that we must guard ourselves against misuse of otherwise indifferent items helps you reach agreement.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I would define the minimum required as getting rid of the ceremony; the reminders of it can be a subsequent reform. If this is done the way I remember in my old PCUS/PCA in college days, the ceremony involves the minister; so it is a case of conscience and that makes it a necessity to aim for that minimum.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
A candle can provide lighting when necessary or it may be a part of a ceremony with sacred significance; the first is a circumstantial matter, the latter must have biblical warrant, which it does not. Mixing up the two or defending ceremonies without such warrant, etc. was the hallmark of the anglocatholic ceremonies imposed at the time of the second reformation by their tyrannical defenders (for those who do not know about this era, see the book by George Gillespie against such practices which Naphtali Press should release in a few weeks). Those who do so today while still maintaining the regulative principle of worship of the reformers, are confused at best.


A candle can provide lighting when necessary or it may be a part of a ceremony with sacred significance

Great distinction.
 
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