Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is Christmas Christian? - Part XII

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

The last two posts have focused on objections made by many Reformed Christians against Christmas. Some conservative Presbyterians use "the regulative principle of worship" and the absence of a biblical commandment to criticize others for celebrating 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. Does Christmas violate the "regulative principle of worship"?

Q. 12. But celebrating Christmas is an imposition on my conscience! I am being forced to worship in ways I don't agree with.

Answer: Oh really? Is it a violation of your Christian liberty to be forced to sit through the reading of Luke 1 and 2 every year? Is your conscience violated when the church compels you to sing with the entire congregation "Joy to the World, the Lord is come" every year on a certain date? Are you being coerced against your will to listen to sermons on the wonder of Jesus' incarnation and pray prayers that implore the Lord to come again and restore his kingdom? What more can I say?

Every church orders her Scripture readings, prayers, and hymns even though there are no explicit instructions on how to do this in God's Word. If our choosing the theme of the incarnation of Christ to order our worship, prayer, and singing is a violation of the regulative principle of worship, then so are all other ways in which pastors and churches choose themes and order their service. The pastor who preaches through the book of Isaiah for seven years and each week picks hymns and prayers appropriate to the sermon's topic is imposing extra-biblical worship on his parishioners.

Q. 13. How can any Reformed pastor justify imposing these man-made annual observances on his congregation?

Answer. Some American Presbyterians who are more comfortable with the Scottish and Puritan traditions have thought that annual church year celebrations are not only extra-biblical, but outright dangerous. One must be careful how the word "Reformed" is used. The designation "Reformed" refers to a much wider tradition than is commonly thought. As I argued in an earlier post, many Reformed communions since the Reformation have used church year calendars with good effect.

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