Saturday, December 8, 2007

Is Christmas Christian? - Part X

Continued from Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV,, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, and Part IX

In the past 9 posts I have asked and answered 9 questions/objections often raised against the celebration of Christmas. I have address three major areas of concern:
1. Anti-Christmas Arguments Based on the Supposed Historic Practice of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches.
2. Arguments based on the alleged Roman Catholic character of Christmas.
3. Arguments based on presumed pagan roots of Christmas symbols and ceremonies.
It's time to move to another set of objections made by many Reformed Christians against Christmas. This is the argument based on "the regulative principle of worship" and the absence of a biblical commandment to celebrate christmas. The regulative principle of worship is often misunderstood and misapplied in very narrow ways. I have addressed this problem in chapter 16 of my book The Lord's Service. In the next few posts I will apply what I've said there to the specific issue of celebrating Christmas.

Q. 11. Doesn't Christmas violate the "regulative principle of worship"?

The argument runs something like this: we must follow only what the Bible mandates in our worship. Therefore, since the Bible says nothing about Christmas, we may not observe such a celebration. Kevin Reed writes:
A consistent application of Reformed and Presbyterian principles of worship requires the repudiation of Christmas. Answer 109 of the Westminster Larger Catechism forbids "any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself." The issue is not a matter of indifference. Since Christmas was not instituted by God, it should not be approved or tolerated in the official practices of the Church. Ministers and church officers are not being true to their ordination vows, if they encourage or tolerate Christmas observance in their congregations.
Excuse me, but where have those who celebrate Christmas established or approved worship not instituted by God himself? What exactly is the new mode or manner of worship that has slipped in during Christmas?

Are any of us Presbyterians praying to or through our Christmas trees? Shame on us. Are we lighting votive candles as offerings to Christ for specific prayers? We should stop. Are we praying to St. Nicholas or to his image? I hope not.

What new worship practices have we instituted by celebrating the birth of our Lord? Not one. Nothing. What do we actually do during Advent and Christmas? As I have indicated already we select Scripture readings that highlight the coming of Christ and tell the story of his conception and birth, we pray prayers appropriate to the theme of Jesus' coming, we sign hymns that celebrate his birth, and we decorate our homes and churches with symbols that help focus our attention on the light, life, and joy he has brought to us when he assumed our human flesh in order to die and rise for the salvation of the world.

Exactly what is the innovation in our manner of worship? Other than the fact that we have chosen a specific theme for a few weeks each year, what is the problem here? How is that idolatry? Popery? Paganism? It's not.

If you've never read my "Parking Lot Parable," well, I think I'll make a few changes to that and post it next.

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