Another Christmas Question

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U

Username3000

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If setting apart a day, that is NOT the Lord’s Day, to gather together as a church, sing songs of worship, and be taught from God’s word is wrong on December 25 for Christmas, why is it not wrong on any given mid-week day?

Why is a Wednesday evening gathering to worship God not considered the same as Christmas?

If only the Lord’s Day is the lawfully appointed day of worship, why do we have no problems meeting together during the week?

Why is a Wednesday evening gathering not a breaking of the RPW?

What does this difference hinge upon?
 
U

Username3000

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"Wednesday" does not carry the same associations with idolatry that "Christ-mass" does.
Dr. McMahon has taught that Christmas can’t be rejected merely due to “associations with idolatry.” See Paul’s argument for the eating of meat that has direct associations with idolatry. Is he wrong?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
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the pretended holy days are monuments to idolatry which Gillespie proves for his day and they arguments hold. But I think he must be talking about holiday practices and not the church observing of days. No?
Dr. McMahon has taught that Christmas can’t be rejected merely due to “associations with idolatry.” See Paul’s argument for the eating of meat that has direct associations with idolatry. Is he wrong?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
The church has freedom to gather at other times which was going on daily in Acts 2:46. The argument is made that a call to worship makes the service mandatory in light of not forsaking the assembly. That would make week day services impossible coming into conflict with the freedom to labor given in the fourth commandment. They call most not make the service necessary; but that it is the Lord's Day and the call is given must do so. Is there a cogent argument around that makes a case historically and doctrinal that the call to worship makes any service necessary to attend by all members?
 
U

Username3000

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the pretended holy days are monuments to idolatry which Gillespie proves for his day and they arguments hold. But I think he must be talking about holiday practices and not the church observing of days. No?
He mentions the tree, Yule log, etc., so you are probably correct.
 
U

Username3000

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The church has freedom to gather at other times which was going on daily in Acts 2:46. The argument is made that a call to worship makes the service mandatory in light of not forsaking the assembly. That would make week day services impossible coming into conflict with the freedom to labor given in the fourth commandment. They call most not make the service necessary; but that it is the Lord's Day and the call is given must do so. Is there a cogent argument around that makes a case historically and doctrinal that the call to worship makes any service necessary to attend by all members?
Hm okay. That doesn’t seem like a strong argument to me at this point. What if a Christmas Eve service had no Call To Worship? Then it is in the s same category as any other mid-week gathering?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Hm okay. That doesn’t seem like a strong argument to me at this point. What if a Christmas Eve service had no Call To Worship? Then it is in the s same category as any other mid-week gathering?
Voluntary associating with monuments of idolatry is only better than involuntary in that one doesn't have to go. I would argue that tact rather than for no mid week meetings as that the latter is simply no a majority report I don't think; but I'm not sure.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Dr. McMahon has taught that Christmas can’t be rejected merely due to “associations with idolatry.” See Paul’s argument for the eating of meat that has direct associations with idolatry. Is he wrong?
The church, while it is to sanctify the Sabbath Day, is at liberty to meet any day of the week in addition to it. What she is not at liberty to do is devise modes of worship that have not been commanded by the Lord. RPW 101.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Hm okay. That doesn’t seem like a strong argument to me at this point. What if a Christmas Eve service had no Call To Worship? Then it is in the same category as any other mid-week gathering?
Even if such a service had no formal call to worship, it is giving place to idolatry (not association merely). We must remember, first, that Papism was and remains a real and present evil, and, second, that however much "Protestant" Christmas celebrations have been removed from their Papist roots, they are still carrying on the same species of will-worship. Monuments of idolatry.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
It has to do with the reason for meeting. The Christmas service meets because of a superstitious setting aside a day to observe Christ's birth: the meeting is appointed because the day is regarded as religiously special, the time of year to have this meeting. The meeting itself is a special worship service dedicated to this theme. The purpose for meeting is to worship by God as part of paying a special religious regard to a particular day. A special religious regard for days is part of the immature, ceremonial system of the OT, Gal. 4.

The midweek meetings meet out of convenience. We have warrant to meet daily for worship if we wished. There is nothing special about meeting on a Wed or Thurs, etc.: the time is appointed for the purpose of meeting with no regards to any special religious meaning for the day. The day is not regarded as religious but as an ordinary day that has been conveniently chosen, and the worship service is just an ordinary worship service, the same as it always is and has been. The purpose for meeting is simply to worship God publicly.

From McCrie (on days of thanksgiving and fasting, but the same principle applies to midweek meetings that are not tied to special acts of God's providence): "There are times when God calls, on the one hand, to religious fasting, or, on the other, to thanksgiving and religious joy; and it is our duty to comply with these calls, and to set apart time for the respective exercises. But this is quite a different thing from recurrent or anniversary holidays. In the former case the day is chosen for the duty, in the latter the duty is performed for the day; in the former case there is no holiness on the day but what arises from the service which is performed on it, and when the same day afterwards recurs, it is as common as any other day; in the latter case the day is set apart on all following times, and may not be employed for common or secular purposes."

Ask yourself: What is special about Dec 25th that we have these meetings year after year? Who appointed it? Who decided that we should have worship and worship of a particular nature each year? Who decided that the 25th should be so special? And you will soon see there is a world of difference between a Christmas service on the 25th and a midweek meeting appointed on a Wednesday. And perhaps in finding the answers to those questions, you will also see that, even if it were indifferent for the church to appoint an annual ecclesiastical holy day, this day is a monument to past and present idolatry that must be put away.


https://www.naphtali.com/articles/george-gillespie/holy-days/unlawful-because-superstitious/

https://purelypresbyterian.com/2016/11/03/8-reasons-holidays-should-not-be-observed/
 
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timfost

Puritan Board Senior
I'm left scratching my head every December at the insistence that Christmas is associated with idolatry as Christ-Mass, yet most of these same advocates disassociate Psalms with musical instruments, though the etymology suggests otherwise.

Daniel's name was changed to Belteshazzar. Bel was an idol. Did Daniel answer to this name or did he refuse because of its etymological association with Babylonian deity?

If some would rather not associate with anything Christmas, that is fine. I certainly do not and condemn this practice. However, if others can acknowledge Christmas to one extent or another disassociated from idolatrous roots, who are you to judge? I knew of "Christmas" years before I knew that it was initially associated with Mass.

I find a lack of charity from many on this board surrounding this issue disheartening and unbecoming of those who say religion has its seat in the heart.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm left scratching my head every December at the insistence that Christmas is associated with idolatry as Christ-Mass, yet most of these same advocates disassociate Psalms with musical instruments, though the etymology suggests otherwise.

Daniel's name was changed to Belteshazzar. Bel was an idol. Did Daniel answer to this name or did he refuse because of its etymological association with Babylonian deity?

If some would rather not associate with anything Christmas, that is fine. I certainly do not and condemn this practice. However, if others can acknowledge Christmas to one extent or another disassociated from idolatrous roots, who are you to judge? I knew of "Christmas" years before I knew that it was initially associated with Mass.

I find a lack of charity from many on this board surrounding this issue disheartening and unbecoming of those who say religion has its seat in the heart.

After seeing many interact with the Christmas issue here on the board I've noticed that some of the most strict on not celebrating it with the church are usually the ones who are quick to dissociate the secular part of Christmas with the so-called religious aspect. So I would say that it's not that most are arguing every part of Christmas is inherently touched by idolatry, just the religious parts. At least from I've seen, that seems to be the common view. I actually personally take a stricter view and line up with Mr. Coldwell I believe and would prefer to avoid even the secular aspects, but I just wanted to point out that most people here are fine with (and actively do it) dissociating secular Christmas celebrations with the idolatrous religious aspects.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
"Wednesday" does not carry the same associations with idolatry that "Christ-mass" does.
Thankfully no one in Reformed or evangelical circles celebrates “Christ-mass” (whatever that is).

Fact is, every principle can be taken to a fanatical extreme with attendant applications that are unfortunate. Every principle can have a more hardline interpretation (and attendant application) and similarly, every principle can have a more lenient interpretation (and attendant application). Of course, the nature of the hardline position (of almost any subject) is to see itself as the only valid and true interpretation/application and to dismiss as unfaithful all other interpretations/applications along the spectrum.

The RPW is a lovely principle, unfortunately weaponized with fanatical fervor by our Puritan forefathers. In part because they were hard-liners, they produced some specific fundamentalist interpretations/applications from that valid RPW principle that cannot bear the weight of the manifold witness of Scripture, and this sheer biblical untenability in part contributed to the demise of the movement as a whole.

Thankfully “helpful but not holy” is very much a consistently Reformed way of honoring the RPW while enabling us to capitalize on Christmas as an opportunity for teaching and discipleship.
 
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Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Thankfully no one in Reformed or evangelical circles celebrates “Christ-mass” (whatever that is).
Correct. They celebrate a derivation of it. (I confess I'm a little surprised you don't know what a mass is.)
Fact is, every principle can be taken to a fanatical extreme with attendant applications that are unfortunate. The RPW is a lovely principle, unfortunately weaponized with fanatical fervor by our Puritan forefathers. They produced some specific fundamentalist applications from that valid RPW principle that cannot bear the weight of the manifold witness of Scripture
"The RPW is a lovely principle" which ought not to be consistently applied to matters of worship?

I do not care to address your charge that the Puritans (and others, presumably, including many on this board) are "fanatical".
and this sheer biblical untenability in part contributed to the demise of the movement as a whole.
That's an interesting thesis. I'd like to see that explored further.
Thankfully “helpful but not holy” is very much a consistently Reformed way of honoring the RPW while enabling us to capitalize on Christmas as an opportunity for teaching and discipleship.
You have said that before, but so far you have gone nowhere towards proving it.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
If Christmas is so useful, why does the Evangelical Church not institute new "helpful-but-not-holy" days?

Many modern churches do special things for Thanksgiving and Halloween. Not holy, of course, but oh, so helpful! But nothing comes close to the pageantry of Christmas or Easter.

The reason we all know. It's the same reason men would balk if you celebrated Christmas in July. The "helpful-but-not-holy" days are fixed in men's minds as something special, set apart from other days by reason of tradition. Men think they know better than God how worship ought to be done.
 
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User20004000

Puritan Board Sophomore
It has to do with the reason for meeting. The Christmas service meets because of a superstitious setting aside a day to observe Christ's birth: the meeting is appointed because the day is regarded as religiously special, the time of year to have this meeting. The meeting itself is a special worship service dedicated to this theme. The purpose for meeting is to worship by God as part of paying a special religious regard to a particular day. A special religious regard for days is part of the immature, ceremonial system of the OT, Gal. 4.

The midweek meetings meet out of convenience. We have warrant to meet daily for worship if we wished. There is nothing special about meeting on a Wed or Thurs, etc.: the time is appointed for the purpose of meeting with no regards to any special religious meaning for the day. The day is not regarded as religious but as an ordinary day that has been conveniently chosen, and the worship service is just an ordinary worship service, the same as it always is and has been. The purpose for meeting is simply to worship God publicly.

From McCrie (on days of thanksgiving and fasting, but the same principle applies to midweek meetings that are not tied to special acts of God's providence): "There are times when God calls, on the one hand, to religious fasting, or, on the other, to thanksgiving and religious joy; and it is our duty to comply with these calls, and to set apart time for the respective exercises. But this is quite a different thing from recurrent or anniversary holidays. In the former case the day is chosen for the duty, in the latter the duty is performed for the day; in the former case there is no holiness on the day but what arises from the service which is performed on it, and when the same day afterwards recurs, it is as common as any other day; in the latter case the day is set apart on all following times, and may not be employed for common or secular purposes."

Ask yourself: What is special about Dec 25th that we have these meetings year after year? Who appointed it? Who decided that we should have worship and worship of a particular nature each year? Who decided that the 25th should be so special? And you will soon see there is a world of difference between a Christmas service on the 25th and a midweek meeting appointed on a Wednesday. And perhaps in finding the answers to those questions, you will also see that, even if it were indifferent for the church to appoint an annual ecclesiastical holy day, this day is a monument to past and present idolatry that must be put away.


https://www.naphtali.com/articles/george-gillespie/holy-days/unlawful-because-superstitious/

https://purelypresbyterian.com/2016/11/03/8-reasons-holidays-should-not-be-observed/

“It has to do with the reason for meeting. The Christmas service meets because of a superstitious setting aside a day to observe Christ's birth...”

You define it as “superstitious” and then condemn it for the same. What is the unfounded belief you condemn? I’d like to see proof that any church is “superstitious” about December 25th.

”The midweek meetings meet out of convenience. We have warrant to meet daily for worship if we wished. There is nothing special about meeting on a Wed or Thurs, etc.: the time is appointed for the purpose of meeting with no regards to any special religious meaning for the day.”

The special meaning for Wednesday is for the church to pray. The special meaning for December 25 is to praise the incarnation. Your thesis seems to be your argument. It’s wrong to worship on Christmas, therefore, worshipping on Christmas is wrong.

“Ask yourself: What is special about Dec 25th that we have these meetings year after year? Who appointed it?”

Who appointed Wednesdays, week after week?

“Who decided that the 25th should be so special?”

The same sorts of people who decided Wednesdays are special. The only difference is, you’ve defined up front that Wednesdays aren’t special yet December 25th is superstitiously special. We need to avoid stacking the deck and then dealing ourselves a Royal Flush.

“And you will soon see there is a world of difference between a Christmas service on the 25th and a midweek meeting appointed on a Wednesday.“

I think the difference is easily explained by the arbitrariness and inconsistency of opposing positions.
 
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Grant

Puritan Board Senior
You define it as “superstitious” and then condemn it for the same. What is the unfounded belief you condemn? Prove, just don’t assert, that any church is “superstitious” about December 25th. You can’t, so instead I can expect a paraphrase of your original assertion.
Well in my area it would be offering up candle lighting ceremonies to our Lord . Turning off all the lights so you get that glow and that warm heart. The fact that more people have attended the candle lighting than the Lord’s Day Service that just past. And yes the candle ceremony occurs at a few Presbyterian churches in the area. The superstitious candles really fill those seats! This belittles the ordinary means of grace our Lord has commanded.

Those special songs, some of which seem questionable even from a non-EP perspective. Those same songs only getting used once per year. Not to mention we never use candles any other time of year unless we loose power during an evening service. The German baby Jesus nativities that get put out once per year (out goes the confession on the 25th). For me, the above things do seem to be idolatrous and superstitious because for some reason they only get "tagged in" during this holiday. The superstition is real and alive even in churches.

Catering to the crowds, including some members, that superstitiously ONLY attend church on Mother’s Day, Easter, and Christmas. Maybe they need to be called out broadly during the sermon at least or ..........Church Discipline if it be members under a vow.

Personally, I would not get grumpy over a called worship service on Dec. 24th or 25th, but make it include the regular elements of worship and not man made ones. Allow the Pastor to speak to what the congregation NEEDS to hear and not what they might WANT to hear just because they have their nativities up and really want the thought of cute little babies.

Take a step back from “reformed” and surely you can see that within Christianity at large these things have become issues. Even local municipalities put up baby Jesus in my state.

I am not saying you do any of the things above brother nor would I think you approve. However you asked for superstitious things. The above do in fact happen regularly in churches, even otherwise confessional ones.:detective:
 
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PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
The world of difference is easily explained by arbitrariness and inconsistency but analytic thought rarely enters into “Reformed” fundamentalism.
I am not sure what your definition of fundamentalism is but his arguments don't appear to be what you are claiming in my mind to be Fundamentalism.

There is so much idolatry and violation of the Regulative Principle of Worship attached to the day it is superstitious to believe God is pleased by the so called celebration. It is Will Worship. I can't understand how you equate the mid week prayer meeting with this kind of will worship. They are two totally different things.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
In part because they were hard-liners, they produced some specific fundamentalist interpretations/applications from that valid RPW principle that cannot bear the weight of the manifold witness of Scripture, and this sheer biblical untenability in part contributed to the demise of the movement as a whole.
The same thing is directed at you ole friend. I understand it failed because of the King's religion. Anglicans were Erastian and the Reformed Church suffered under it for centuries. It was persecuted and heavily regulated till we declared our Independence in the States. By then the damage was done.

The manifold witness of scripture actually bears much weight in this discussion. I still haven't seen a biblical defence for a day to be set aside once a year to celebrate the incarnation specifically. And where is this Reformed Fundamentalism description coming from? Last time I heard any fundamentalism attached to anyone Reformed was Machen.
 

Grant

Puritan Board Senior
Part of this hostilely is the indirect message of belittling of the ordinary means of grace and Lord's Day, though likely unintentional, that gets sent to both members and visitors alike when un-commanded religious ceremonies get introduced during worship services (private or public) or other "religious services" (without a call to worship).
 

User20004000

Puritan Board Sophomore
Part of this hostilely is the indirect message of belittling of the ordinary means of grace, though likely unintentional, gets sent to both members and visitors alike when un-commanded religious ceremonies get introduced during worship services (private or public) or other "religious services" (without a call to worship).

Yes, that can be a problem. Good thoughts I think.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
I find a lack of charity from many on this board surrounding this issue disheartening and unbecoming of those who say religion has its seat in the heart.
Lack of charity? Where? We disagree strongly on matters of worship. Disagreement, even condemnation of a practice, does not amount to a lack of charity.

Or else you must charge a good many righteous men with the same lack of charity. You often quote John Calvin. That's great! But you do know what he said about Christmas, don't you? Coming from him (or many, many others of a distinguished company) is it "disheartening and unbecoming of those who say religion has its seat in the heart"?
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
One a side note here.
***Moderator Hat On***
Stop the name calling (example...Reformed Fundamentalism) and if you can actually disagree agreeably point out why you disagree instead of posting the theological equivalent of nuh-uh, your mommy wears army boots.

I like the "your mommy wears army boots" phrase. It makes me laugh. LOL I can't take credit for it. But I love it.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
I've enjoyed all the different perspectives on these seasonal threads that have popped up the past few days, particularly those from which I differ from. That said, I think we need to tighten our shot group a bit when throwing the word "superstition" around in these discussions. While there are indeed traditions around this time of year originally steeped in superstition, the vast majority are wholly ignorant about these things today. Is there a degree of sentimentalism that moves the hearts of many this time of year? Yes, of course...but the two shouldn't be confused even if viewed as equally misguided.

Question: since Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year will your church still meet as scheduled for it's mid-week gatherings?


Tonight my family will likely attend our church's Christmas Eve service. I'm sure there will be some invited guests and other "I attend church twice a year" types that show up. If year's past are an indicator there will be nativity-themed hymns and carols sung, select scripture readings, and the night will likely end with candles lit and all present singing Isaac Watts' "Joy to the world; the Lord has come".

Then tomorrow my family will rise up early and attend the Christmas Day service at my in-law's church. There will be more nativity-themed hymns and carols sung, more select scripture readings read, and a short sermon. Later in the day at home I'll have the opportunity to remind my children of the significance of the first advent and our longing for the second. We'll no doubt read more scripture and sing more hymns together in the evening.

Some may decide to teach the importance of the incarnation on Lord's Day 14 from the Heidelberg Catechism...others from a periodic review of the WCF whatever day that happens to fall...others may wait until their pastor preaches on it expositionally when they get to Luke 2 in the year 2044. Lol. For my family we choose to do it on the day most others celebrate Santa, strangely clothed elves, and Rudolph and his reindeer friends. I'll sleep like a baby over the decision I've made and feel far from an idolatrous practitioner of medieval superstition! Lol.

However you and your family decide to spend the next day or two I pray you will be happy and blessed! Christ is our life.
 
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User20004000

Puritan Board Sophomore
If Christmas is so useful, why does the Evangelical Church not institute new "helpful-but-not-holy" days?

Your implicit argument is that anything useful should somehow be “instituted” by the “Evangelical Church.” Since it’s not going to happen, then how useful can it be?

Since when does “useful” practice require confessional status for it to be recognized as useful? Since when is usefulness a sufficient condition for something to become a required practice of the church? Many things can be useful without them having to be required, which December 25th is not. It’s not even required of its members by true churches that offer it.

These discussions might get further if we’d clean up those sorts of implicit arguments. By those standards we might also argue that if SS is useful, then it too much reach confessional status in the Evangelical Church. But how silly would that be?
 

Grant

Puritan Board Senior
Is there a degree of sentimentalism that moves the hearts of many this time of year? Yes, of course...but the two shouldn't be confused even if viewed as equally misguided.
For clarity: I for one do not use the word lightly. Nothing wrong with sentimentality in itself, but when it is used to bring foreign elements to worship services, then it quickly becomes an idolatry. When Pastor's get karate chopped for trying to remove the practice, or preach a non-nativity sermon that is evidence of superstition. I also appreciate your pushback.:detective:
 

User20004000

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am not sure what your definition of fundamentalism is but his arguments don't appear to be what you are claiming in my mind to be Fundamentalism.

There is so much idolatry and violation of the Regulative Principle of Worship attached to the day it is superstitious to believe God is pleased by the so called celebration. It is Will Worship. I can't understand how you equate the mid week prayer meeting with this kind of will worship. They are two totally different things.

That during such a service there are countless violations of the regulative principle (RP) is not an argument against such a service being held. Nor would we want to argue against Sunday worship on the basis of churches violating the RP. Of course there should be no violation of the RP if a call is made to worship. That’s a given and hardly undermines assembling on Christmas Day.

I wasn’t equating Christmas services to Wednesday night. I was trying to point out that the other person hadn’t identified a relevant distinction between the two. Loading up one’s thesis and then pointing back to it to defend it isn’t very persuasive.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Your implicit argument is that anything useful should somehow be “instituted” by the “Evangelical Church.” Since it’s not going to happen, then how useful can it be?

Since when does “useful” practice require confessional status for it to be recognized as useful? Since when is usefulness a sufficient condition for something to become a required practice of the church? Many things can be useful without them having to be required, which December 25th is not. It’s not even required of its members by true churches that offer it.

These discussions might get further if we’d clean up those sorts of implicit arguments. By those standards we might also argue that if SS is useful, then it too much reach confessional status in the Evangelical Church. But how silly would that be?
The point of my post was precisely that "usefulness" or "helpfulness" are not enough to determine appropriateness for worship.

Nor are those qualities even the reason that Christmas is celebrated. People could have an event to mark the incarnation in July or August, but they don't.

Whether the thing might be required was not in view.
 
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