American Presbyterianism and the Religious Observance of Christmas

Discussion in 'Church Calendar and Pretended Holy Days' started by NaphtaliPress, Dec 24, 2017.

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  1. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

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  2. Ray

    Ray Puritan Board Freshman

    Would you be familiar with any Dutch Theologians from the 15th, 16th Centuries that we’re against pretend holidays. And wrote against xmas and easter?
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I noticed the thread says "religious observances" of Christmas, but what about private family observances?
  4. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Sort of like having a statue of Mary in ones garden? In other words, is it possible to observe Christmas with no religious connotations?
  5. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Farel (and Calvin agreed) set up Geneva with no holy days but the Lord's Day. Generally the continental/Dutch churches wanted to jettison the calendar but were in a tussle with magistrates/civil governors who kept re-instituting or retaining / imposing them (such as in Geneva which was one factor in Farel and Calvin's banishment in 1538). And so the churches compromised and appointed services for those days so they would not be days where folks ran riot. Those of the Dutch further reformation such as Voetius pointed this out and sought to return to the non observance of the calendar. On Calvin's view see the recent translation by David C. Noe of his advice to the Montbelgardians and my historical background in "In Translatiōne: John Calvin’s Letters to the Ministers of Montbéliard (1543–1544): The Genevan Reformer’s Advice and Views of the Liturgical Calendar," The Confessional Presbyterian 13 (2013):198-202.
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  6. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    That's the subject and title of the article.
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    This means that I could celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday and it would be permissible, but if I celebrated Christ's birthday, it would be bad?

    Or I could celebrate Arbor Day, but should not remember the birth of our Lord?

    How does your argument not destroy the permissibility of celebrating any holiday, even privately? Even my own birthday?
  8. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Ask me if I think it is OK to celebrate annual birthdays of religious figures. :) I have made this point with the idea of having annual reformation celebrations which in my opinion are not proper.
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    So what of any national observances? Or birthdays?
  10. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior


    You're mixing the question of civil celebrations with religious holidays. No matter how you slice it, Christmas is a Roman Catholic holiday. If families or private individuals celebrate it, they are still celebrating a Roman Catholic holiday.

    You mention Christ's birthday. What day was he born on, exactly? The fact is, nobody celebrates Christ's birthday; they celebrate Christmas, the RC feast day set for the 25th of December.
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I am not sure how the day is the sole property of the RC church. If Protestant families or countries desired to remember His birth, why is that bad?

    Here in my country they call it Natal (related to nativity), it is not called a mass. All the Protestant churches celebrate it. Not a single one forbids it.

    On Arbor Day I wouldn't go out of my way to avoid associations of the day with trees, even though Druids used to use trees in worship.

    I just don't get it and it makes "Puritanism" very unappealing to me. Especially since RC Sproul and most of the Reformed world celebrate it at least privately as families even if not at church:
  12. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I know there is absolutely no religious significance to my birthday though I would rather skip it every year. :) So far as national holiday I also see no religious significance, though I personally tired of such...every year.
  13. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    As with all other matters of worship, the question is not, "Why is it bad?" or, "Why not do it?" The question is, "What biblical warrant is there for the practice?" If there is no Biblical warrant, we shouldn't presume to add it to our devotional life.

    I don't understand the mindset that says that it's not a RC holiday. Nevertheless, whether a religious feast day is invented by Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, or Anabaptists, it remains the invention of men. Why should we expect God to bless religious observances that he has not laid upon us? Should we expect him to honor something as holy that he hasn't sanctified?
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  14. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I tend to agree with you, and I’m not a big fan of advent and the like, but I am curious as to your opinion of how Jesus attending the feast of dedication impacts the concept of the RPW. Obviously Jesus doesn’t praise or commend this festival, but neither does he condemn it.
  15. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    That's a good question, and it's the only example of a man-made feast to the Lord that isn't explicitly condemned in Scripture (like the feast in Exodus 32:5-6).

    I think it's best to simply take the Scriptures at face value here. The passage in question, John 10:22-23 states, "And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch." So, we know, first, that the feast was being held, and, second, that Jesus was there. We aren't told why he was there. A Biblical understanding of holy days would preclude the idea that he was there in order to keep the feast as a devotional exercise. Calvin simply says that Jesus was taking advantage of the occasion to preach to a large audience. I think that's as good an explanation as any. You could compare it to street preaching at an outlet mall the weekend before Christmas.
  16. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    What I don't get is that it's often the same people on this board who cannot separate "holiday" from "holy day" and "Christmas" from "Christ Mass" are also adamant against using instruments in worship. From an etymological standpoint, psalms include the use of instruments. But this same group is unwilling to grant any leeway in the etymology of "holiday" and "Christmas," though I don't know of any Protestant who actually went to Mass on December 25.

    "But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God), and I told the dream before him, saying..." (Dan. 4:8)

    Should Daniel have responded to the name the godless King of Babylon gave him, being named after a god? Was Daniel participating in the worship of Bel?
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2017
  17. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    The association of Christmas with the "mass" in particular has never been a primary objection to it. I will even grant that the use of the word predates transubstantiation as an established dogma so it's not necessarily even etymologically related to that abominable practice. The objection is that it is idolatrous and superstitious in and of itself as a violation of the RPW. The association of the festival days with the idolatrous accretions of the Roman church is a concern, but I don't think that it's about the mass per se.

    I'm one that doesn't have a major issue with Memorial Day or other civil "holidays" and don't see anything purportedly holy in them despite the appellation. It's impossible to maintain the same with Christmas, however, as its basis is explicitly religious. It's the same argument as with images of Christ. If the day is uniquely set aside to memorialize the incarnation of Christ then it must be a day of worship and if it's a day of worship it is subject to the regulative principle.
  18. SeanPatrickCornell

    SeanPatrickCornell Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't have much to add to the topic, especially concerning your other points, but I do want to address this one.

    I suppose the mindset that says that it (Christmas) in not a (distinctly) RC holiday is predicated upon the fact that a day commemorating the birth of Chris was being observed by Christ's church annually before there even was any concept of a "Roman Catholic" church, and before the word "Mass" came to be known as we currently know it.
  19. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Can u please provide proof that the birth of Christ was routinely celebrated in the first century church?
  20. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    From what I can tell and recall (I was raised Roman Catholic), Rome would date their origin back to the apostles. The first reference, that I could find was from Ignatius around AD 103:
  21. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think his point was that it predated the great schism and was maintained (albeit on different days) in both the East and the West, so it's not distinctly "Roman." There was plenty of idolatry to go around before the Roman church became a definite entity, of course.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2017
  22. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    That's a good point. However, we typically refer to things as "Roman Catholic" when they are rooted in medieval doctrines and observances, whether or not they are exclusive to the Romish church. It's somewhat imprecise, but it is useful shorthand for "a ceremony having its origin in medieval superstitious innovation."

    Thanks for the insight. It's important to recognize where we are being imprecise.
  23. SeanPatrickCornell

    SeanPatrickCornell Puritan Board Freshman

    Why would I, or even should I, have to provide proof for a claim that I never made?
  24. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Please forgive me as I reread your post and see where I misunderstood.
  25. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    To my knowledge the Christ mass was so named in the 11th century. But recent evidence has furnished a different evidence, by a discovery that it is linked to African and Egyptian sources, and means “burial”. So that when you wish someone merry Xmas you are saying merry burial! The whole of the Xmas myth is an importation of pagan beliefs,(druidical in my own country), wrapped up in the glitter of religious finery to accommodate the natural inclinations of man. To my mind there is no biblical warrant to support its existence, and overwhelming evidence to keep and defend the Sabbath day. It was John Brown who memorably wrote, when holy days come in, the Sabbath day goes out! Everybody now keeps Xmas even the unbelievers, but very few keep the Sabbath even believers. The Sabbath draws on, so have a blessed Sabbath everyone.
  26. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Memorializing does not automatically result in worship. There are better arguments against the religious observance of Christmas than that.
  27. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    So Jesus (our great example) attended a non-commanded holiday (the feast of the dedication), but we cannot?

    Further, we can celebrate our birthday, but not Jesus'?

    Finally, Arbor Day is okay because it is non-religious, but any holiday that has any religious connotations must be avoided?

    The birth of Christ has been celebrate for most of the last 2,000 years, but the Church suddenly became aware that it should not be celebrated at the Reformation? ....yet most of the Reformed still celebrate it in some manner.
  28. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    Here is what CARM says:

    Is a Christian free to celebrate Christmas, a holiday that not only has pagan origins but also is used by the unbelieving world as a promotion of commercialism? In my opinion, it depends on the person and his convictions before God. First of all, we are to hold our standards of righteousness and devotion to God above everything else. We must seek to please God according to what we believe is consistent with Scripture. But, when we look at Scripture we don't find any place that says to celebrate Christ's birth. But, on the other hand, the Bible says all things are lawful though not all things are profitable (1 Corinthians 6:12). In addition, we should be fully convinced in our own minds about days of worship and eating (Romans 14:1-12). This last reference supports the position that Christians have liberty and freedom to interpret Scripture and to celebrate Christmas.

    The Old Testament says that we are to worship God in truth according to the dictates that He has established (Exodus 20:1-4; 24:12-31:18). But, Christmas was not established by God. In addition, there are no records at all of the early church celebrating the birth of Christ. Yet, there is no biblical prohibition about celebrating the birth of Christ. So, since it doesn't say that we can't do it, does it mean it's okay to go ahead and do it? This issue deals with the Regulative Principle. One version of it says that we can only do what the Scriptures expressly commands. The other says we can do everything except with the Scriptures forbid. So, which is the right position? When we turn to Scripture we find that it says that we are "not to exceed what is written," (1 Corinthians 4:6). Obviously, the Scriptures are our guide. But when we look to the verses above about all things being lawful (1 Corinthians 6:12) and that Christians are to be convinced in their own minds (Romans 14:5), then celebrating Christmas becomes more of personal preference.

    Also, consider this.

    In the Bible in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, Paul speaks about meat sacrificed to idols that was then later sold in the meat market place. The question arose, "Should a Christian each such meat?" Paul answers the question in verse 25 when he says, "Eat anything that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions for conscience' sake." Paul said that it was okay to eat the meat.

    Then in verses 28-29 he says, "But if anyone should say to you, 'This is meat sacrificed to idols,' do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake; 29 I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience?" Paul is saying that if you are with someone who might be negatively affected by your eating meat that was sacrificed to idols, then don't eat it -- not because of you, but because of the other person. In other words, eating that meat won't affect you. The false gods are not real (Galatians 4:8-9). They have no power.

    1 Corinthians 8:7-9 echoes this idea. It says, "However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. 9 But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak." Though this passage requires a bit more examination, it still carries the sense of freedom. And, Jesus has definitely set us free, (John 8:32).

    So, celebrating Christmas is up to the conviction of the Christian. He is free to celebrate it. He is also free not to celebrate it. But, do not judge other Christians who celebrate it or don't celebrate it since they are free to act according to their conscience in this matter.
  29. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    From a post of A. Myers on the Feast of dedication from 2004:

  30. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    It doesn't look like you gave any of my posts more than a passing glance. Let me know if you're really interested in discussing the subject; I'd be glad to contribute as I'm able.
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