What Constitutes A ‘Holy Day’? And How Does Christmas Measure Up Against The Definition?

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Username3000

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As a continuation of the Christmas discussions, I would like to learn more about what constitutes a ‘holy day’. Especially with regards to Christmas, and what makes (or does not make) it an unlawful, man-made holy day.

AND, I’d like the focus to be on Christmas as it is celebrated by some Reformed brothers today in 2019, and not by modern Evangelicalism at large, or by Catholics 500 years ago, so that we don’t get bogged down on the obviously wacky elements of services that exist...yet.

(But if your argument involves historical facts, feel free to use it. I’m just trying to narrow the focus).

So, we are assuming that the elements of the Christmas Eve/Day services are the normal ones acceptable in the worship of God, and that the focus is the incarnation of Christ.

I hope that is clear.

Any takers?

What constitutes a ‘holy day’?

Does modern Christmas, as celebrated by Reformed folk, count as a ‘holy day’?
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
I asked in another thread whether Christmas and Easter might be considered holy days among Reformed Christians who practice them. Unfortunately, no one has replied.

I'm genuinely curious. Since I haven't spent all that much time around Reformed Christians, I'd really like to know what things are like on the ground in Reformed, Christmas-celebrating churches. As I mentioned there, I grew up in in evangelical churches, and I certainly believed such days to be holy.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
I asked in another thread whether Christmas and Easter might be considered holy days among Reformed Christians who practice them. Unfortunately, no one has replied.

This is what I call a loaded question. :) For anyone to answer this they must believe Christmas and Easter to be holy, or set apart.

Now I consider myself to be reformed though I still sin in this area. What is nice is that I have now taken on the mantle as the Grinch, bestowed on me by my family and close friends, this most "holy" time of the year.
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
1. What constitutes, Scripturally, a lawful holy day, and what about Christmas makes it a lawful holy day or not...


2...what about when the elements of a Christmas Eve/Day services are the normal ones acceptable in the worship of God with only the focus on incarnation of Christ...

@Rutherglen1794 Can your query be boiled down like this? (I edited my post in an attempt to be more clear, just ignore if it’s not helpful).
 
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Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
This is what I call a loaded question. :) For anyone to answer this they must believe Christmas and Easter to be holy, or set apart.
I just wonder if anyone has experience with others who might have such a view. In the evangelical church, it was pretty obvious to me that Christmas was thought of as holy.

To get a definitive answer, of course, you'd need to do a survey of some sort.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
No one but those who follow Sproul Sr.’s open avowal are going to admit it is a holy day. One is basically dealing with the anglocatholic position at that point.

Separate out the question if one may simply preach a nativity sermon in December at the end of the month. If it is only a sermon and no funny business, this question is governed by rules of things in theory indifferent and of offense (the rules of piety, charity and purity; see Gillespie English Popish Ceremonies in part 4, which I'm sure I've posted before on the board). But because the pretended holy days remain as monuments of idolatry and churches to all degrees conform to them, if abuses are not preached against, it is not indifferent and should not be done. This is particularly true in the PCA where things like invented ceremonies and observance of Lent are going on.

Separate out the question of a special mid week service every year on whatever day is recognized in the idolatrous communions. Same rules apply plus RPW and monuments of idolatry and not to appropriate the practices of the ungodly land. Depending on how it’s done, and perhaps not even depending, I don't think it passes as indifferent. We, even claiming another meaning, don't use the pope's clothing, the pope's crossing, his days, or any of Antichrist's invented idolatrous ceremonies; they have no necessary use and the rule is to remove rather than reform per Hezekiah. It's offensive, it's stumbling and a gateway to error. And certainly if there is no preaching against abuses let alone if there are added ceremonies, this is just a plain identifying with all that’s wrong with the pretended holy day.

Separate out the question of added ceremonies to either of these. These are not indifferent and are will worship per the regulative principle. If they are pagan or idolatrous Rome practices, the rules against Israel appropriating practices of the land and duty to remove monuments of idolatry apply.

See the argument against the lawfulness of the anglocatholic ceremonies imposed on Scotland (including holy days), and particularly on monuments of idolatry, made by George Gillespie in his Dispute against the English Popish Ceremonies, part 3.

I’m out till the next silly season. Read Gillespie’s book.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Separate out the question if one may simply preach a nativity sermon in December at the end of the month. If it is only a sermon and no funny business, this question is governed by rules of things in theory indifferent and of offense (the rules of piety, charity and purity; see Gillespie English Popish Ceremonies in part 4, which I'm sure I've posted before on the board). But because the pretended holy days remain as monuments of idolatry and churches to all degrees conform to them, if abuses are not preached against, it is not indifferent and should not be done.
This (and a couple of other things) I was about to bring up in the other thread that was closed just before I could offer a rejoinder.

Of course, everyone should read Gillespie on this. (The Naphtali Press volume is wonderful!) Unfortunately I don't have my own copy on hand since I lent my copy to my pastor, since the book is not available in a Korean translation.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I can only speak from observation, but I do see the current practices of Reformed Christians as giving credence to the holiness of the day insofar as:

1) it is called the day of Christ's birth 2) it is celebrated as such 3) claims of sanctification: i) as in it is a greater sin to do wrong against someone on Christmas ii) Christmas is the most blessed time of the year iii) Christmas is the most joyful time of the year for the Christian 4) Christmas is special because of the month long preview in Advent 5) decorating the sanctuary and the pulpit in seasonal colours etc. 6) claiming the world is wrong for not remembering Christ's birth or trying to change the day into a secular celebration 7) the Christian is wrong for not remembering Christ's birth or trying to change the day into a secular celebration.

Now many will say there is no obligation to acknowledge it and thus there is no holiness attached to the day. But, in my experience, these are only expressed as a concession to those who protest the celebration, not before it is celebrated, when it would do the most good.

Furthermore, if Reformed churches who insist on having these services would: 1) consistently uphold the holy Lord's day 2) warn and war against superstitious practices associated with the day and 3) warmly accommodate those with scruples instead of suggesting they should go elsewhere then I think I should be less disposed to be so vehemently opposed.

Personally though, I do not think that is possible. Knowing what scripture says about idolatry and the inclination of our hearts to it, the high places just have to be removed and each person must be moved in earnest to purify themselves.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
As a continuation of the Christmas discussions, I would like to learn more about what constitutes a ‘holy day’. Especially with regards to Christmas, and what makes (or does not make) it an unlawful, man-made holy day.

AND, I’d like the focus to be on Christmas as it is celebrated by some Reformed brothers today in 2019, and not by modern Evangelicalism at large, or by Catholics 500 years ago, so that we don’t get bogged down on the obviously wacky elements of services that exist...yet.

(But if your argument involves historical facts, feel free to use it. I’m just trying to narrow the focus).

So, we are assuming that the elements of the Christmas Eve/Day services are the normal ones acceptable in the worship of God, and that the focus is the incarnation of Christ.

I hope that is clear.

Any takers?

What constitutes a ‘holy day’?

Does modern Christmas, as celebrated by Reformed folk, count as a ‘holy day’?
I'm with you on what makes it a "holy day"? Our we forced by either state or church to engage in religious practices on these days? Is it inappropriate, or illegal, for a church to meet anytime except on Sunday?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Moderating. This thread will die in confusion if the same subject attempted to answer in the prior thread starts here. Start a new thread on these subjects.
I'm with you on what makes it a "holy day"? Our we forced by either state or church to engage in religious practices on these days? Is it inappropriate, or illegal, for a church to meet anytime except on Sunday?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Some have made some distinction about sentimentality for the 'season' over some ill such as overt will worship. Is there such a distinction? WLC 109?
I can only speak from observation, but I do see the current practices of Reformed Christians as giving credence to the holiness of the day insofar as:

1) it is called the day of Christ's birth 2) it is celebrated as such 3) claims of sanctification: i) as in it is a greater sin to do wrong against someone on Christmas ii) Christmas is the most blessed time of the year iii) Christmas is the most joyful time of the year for the Christian 4) Christmas is special because of the month long preview in Advent 5) decorating the sanctuary and the pulpit in seasonal colours etc. 6) claiming the world is wrong for not remembering Christ's birth or trying to change the day into a secular celebration 7) the Christian is wrong for not remembering Christ's birth or trying to change the day into a secular celebration.

Now many will say there is no obligation to acknowledge it and thus there is no holiness attached to the day. But, in my experience, these are only expressed as a concession to those who protest the celebration, not before it is celebrated, when it would do the most good.

Furthermore, if Reformed churches who insist on having these services would: 1) consistently uphold the holy Lord's day 2) warn and war against superstitious practices associated with the day and 3) warmly accommodate those with scruples instead of suggesting they should go elsewhere then I think I should be less disposed to be so vehemently opposed.

Personally though, I do not think that is possible. Knowing what scripture says about idolatry and the inclination of our hearts to it, the high places just have to be removed and each person must be moved in earnest to purify themselves.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Some have made some distinction about sentimentality for the 'season' over some ill such as overt will worship. Is there such a distinction? WLC 109?
Westminster Larger Catechism Q 109: "What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?"

Right. It sounds like a good candidate for pretense: "The sins forbidden in the second commandment are... all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God... though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever..."
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Moderating. This thread will die in confusion if the same subject attempted to answer in the prior thread starts here. Start a new thread on these subjects.
My apologies, I thought the OP was "what constitutes a holy day"? I thought those were relevant questions to the OP.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
My apologies, I thought the OP was "what constitutes a holy day"? I thought those were relevant questions to the OP.
You ask two distinct questions that don't seem directly related to defining a holy day; and one of which was directly the subject of the other thread. Sorry; just trying to ensure no repeat of the confusion there.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
You ask two distinct questions that don't seem directly related to defining a holy day; and one of which was directly the subject of the other thread. Sorry; just trying to ensure no repeat of the confusion there.
No problem. I guess what I would define as a "holy day" would be a day set aside by the church for some religious reason that was at least in some way coercive on the members to participate in, without scriptual and/or confessional warrant. Outside of the Lord's day.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
It does not have to be compelled; it is not like we can invent our own holy days for ourselves and it not violate the second commandment. That simply adds a violation of Christian liberty as well as of the second commandment In my humble opinion.
No problem. I guess what I would define as a "holy day" would be a day set aside by the church for some religious reason that was at least in some way coercive on the members to participate in, without scriptual and/or confessional warrant. Outside of the Lord's day.
 

User20004000

Puritan Board Sophomore
I’ll try to take a crack at this.

“I would like to learn more about what constitutes a ‘holy day’.”​

A holy day is one that is obligatory. Observance is required by the authority one submits to.

“Especially with regards to Christmas, and what makes (or does not make) it an unlawful, man-made holy day.”​

Christmas is not obligatory for those who understand and submit to Scripture. Therefore, it is not unlawful for the learned because it’s not obligatory for them. However, it is obligatory for all those who have placed themself under a yoke of tyranny rather than Christ’s yoke. For such as those, it is an unlawful holy day.

“Does modern Christmas, as celebrated by Reformed folk, count as a ‘holy day’?”​

That must be nuanced. For “Reformed folk” like myself, it’s not obligatory from the Scriptures. Therefore, it’s not a holy day. Therefore, one is free to participate in the worship of the day freely, out of no compulsion or obligation.

However, since it is a man-made holy day for the unlearned, some Reformed folk insist it may not be enjoyed freely by those who appreciate that it’s not obligatory. (I find that insistence ironic. I believe it’s to violate liberty of conscience and to place the learned under a precept of man.)
 

User20004000

Puritan Board Sophomore
No problem. I guess what I would define as a "holy day" would be a day set aside by the church for some religious reason that was at least in some way coercive on the members to participate in, without scriptual and/or confessional warrant. Outside of the Lord's day.

I agree. If it’s not obligatory, then by the nature of the case the day can be enjoyed freely or simply ignored.

But if it is a “holy day of obligation” for some, which sadly it is, then why can’t learned ones (who realize it’s not an obligatory holy day) enjoy in good conscience sermons and hymns that focus on the wonder of the incarnation?
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
It does not have to be compelled; it is not like we can invent our own holy days for ourselves and it not violate the second commandment. That simply adds a violation of Christian liberty as well as of the second commandment In my humble opinion.
Ok. I think "holy days" is the confusing term here. For some people it is easly defined, for others it sounds like "no special event at church outside worship on the Lord's day", hence questions like weekday service. Perhaps if it were defined the way your defining it we could parc out what was good and what was bad.
 
U

Username3000

Guest
Yes, there is disagreement over what a holy day actually is.

Are there any texts of Scripture to shed light on the matter? As far as what constitutes a holy day? If we can’t come to an agreement over that, than I may not have much hope of ever coming to a personal conviction about all of this.

Also, have I read correctly (in an article) that Francis Turretin was in favour of Christmas, Easter, etc. in the church calendar? If someone has a copy toncheck, that would be appreciated. Maybe chapter 2, page 101, if the note is correct.
 
U

Username3000

Guest
You guys better not all be busy doing Boxing Day shopping. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Yes, there is disagreement over what a holy day actually is.

Are there any texts of Scripture to shed light on the matter? As far as what constitutes a holy day? If we can’t come to an agreement over that, than I may not have much hope of ever coming to a personal conviction about all of this.

What does the scripture say about true, holy days? (such as the Sabbath)
1) they are appointed by God, 2) they are appointed for holy ends:
i) sanctification of body and soul ii) involve holy reminders of God and redemptive acts through prescribed means & 3) they are celebrated in a holy fashion and distinguished from other days. Work, for example, though good on any other day becomes sinful on the Sabbath.

Whereas false, holy days are appointed and devised by men as an addition to God's will and ways (1 Kings 12:33, Galatians 4:10) or the binding of men to days that have been set aside by God (Colossians 2:16).
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Also, have I read correctly (in an article) that Francis Turretin was in favour of Christmas, Easter, etc. in the church calendar? If someone has a copy toncheck, that would be appreciated. Maybe chapter 2, page 101, if the note is correct.

Yes, that discussion is found in Volume 2, pages 100-104. Turretin notes "that other [ed. besides the Lord's Day] festivals can be consecrated to God" (page 102) and states that the orthodox believe this is to be left to the liberty of the church (page 101), without ascribing any holiness to additional feast days.

However, he notes with some approbation those that have abolished them altogether: “However although our churches do not condemn that practice simply as evil, yet since sad experience has shown that the institution of festival days received into the papacy from a false jealousy (kakozēlia) of the Jews or of the heathen gave occasion to the abominable idolatry which continues and increases in the papacy, not without weighty reasons have they preferred to abolish that usage in their reformation (that no contagion might be contracted, but that they might carefully shun the danger from that source). For in religion, when even the slightest departure takes place from the commands of God and men wish or suppose a thing to be lawful for them, all safe things are to be feared. Indeed it has been found by experience that from insignificant beginnings wonderful progress was made in superstition and idolatry in the papacy as to the worship of images, invocation of saints, purgatory, the sacrifice of the mass, prayers for the dead, etc. Thus it seems better to lack some useful good (but less necessary), than from the use of it to incur the imminent danger of any great evil.” (page 104)
 

Kinghezy

Puritan Board Sophomore
But if it is a “holy day of obligation” for some, which sadly it is, then why can’t learned ones (who realize it’s not an obligatory holy day) enjoy in good conscience sermons and hymns that focus on the wonder of the incarnation?

Assuming for the sake of argument that someone learned could enjoy these things without a problem, would this perhaps fall into the "weaker brother" concern? If so, it seems to me that it would be wise for churches to avoid it altogether and perhaps individuals limit to in the home.
 

User20004000

Puritan Board Sophomore
Assuming for the sake of argument that someone learned could enjoy these things without a problem, would this perhaps fall into the "weaker brother" concern? If so, it seems to me that it would be wise for churches to avoid it altogether and perhaps individuals limit to in the home.

I think not. The “weaker brother principle” instructs us not to cause someone to stumble into doing something against conscience. Those within the Reformed community holding to such Christmas-worship scruples aren’t so much in danger of succumbing to Christmas-worship temptation. Typically they stand firm in their convictions. Rather, their temptation might run a different course - perhaps to judge another brother who regards the day as permissible.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Our own experience shows this and not just the past. The PCA inherited candle services from the PCUS, and now we have Lent and advent ceremonies. And we are equally condemn-able in forsaking our former rejection and embrace under liberal decline of the calendar in Presbyterianism.

Thus it seems better to lack some useful good (but less necessary), than from the use of it to incur the imminent danger of any great evil.” (page 104)
 
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User20004000

Puritan Board Sophomore
On the whole, the PCA has little to no regard for the regulative principle of worship. My biggest problem with Christmas services is the utter disregard they show for the RPW. The reckless manner of worship is only accentuated. Because of the heightened abuse during Christmas, I’d prefer there’d be no recognition of the season. Although I believe there’s liberty, unfortunately I’ve only rarely seen it exercised responsibly.
 
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