Tis’ the Reason for the Season

Quite a few years ago while lamenting about the loss of Christ in Christmas and complaining about the crass commercialism of this time of year, my boss at the time turned to me and said, “Well, Christ has never been in Christmas.”  I suspected that my boss, who was not  particularly religious,  was just being a tad bit cynical.  So I said,  “Of course Christ is in Christmas.  What are you talking about?”  Was my boss one of those closet Liberal atheists out to ban creches from public squares, keep kids in public schools from singing Christmas carols, ban the words “Merry Christmas” from the public square and replace it with the secular “Happy Holidays,” or remove the words “In God We Trust” from dollar bills?  Well, not only did he assure me that Christ had nothing to do with Christmas and that the holiday was a fabrication created by the minds of men,  he challenged me to look it up for myself, which I did.   Needless to say,  I have never looked at Christmas quite the same way.

So, for those still harboring sugar plum fairies in their thoughts and dreams, not to mention in their candle lit services,  PCA Pastor Andy Webb has provided a very timely and informative  historical sketch of the practice of celebrating Christmas in Reformed and Presbyterian churches.

Here is a sample:

In the Puritan Settlements of New England, the celebration of Holidays simply did not occur outside of the few Anglican enclaves. The pilgrims who emigrated to Plymouth spent their first Christmas in America working in the fields. By spending the days on which holy days were observed in a cycle of routine work these Puritan settlers showed their utter contempt for what were to them symbols of the corruption from which they had fled. Attempts by non-Puritans visiting the colony at Plymouth to observe Christmas were initially tolerated, but when it was discovered that they were actively engaged in games and revelry on this day they were angrily told by Governor William Bradford: “Your Conscience may not let you work on Christmas but my conscience cannot let you play while everybody else is out working”

After this, attempts to celebrate Christmas in the English way were punished, and Bradford noted years later that “no one had tried to celebrate Christmas since that second year.” Other American Colonies such as Massachusetts and Connecticut also outlawed the observance of Christmas and after the laws abolishing holy days were passed in England, the Colonies gladly followed with their own. Even after the Restoration monarchy forced the repeal of these laws in the Colonies in the 1680s, the practice of not observing holy days remained. While it may no longer have been strictly illegal, socially and ecclesiastically holy days were anathema. The Puritan Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and the other Dissenters of New England were all unified in their belief that holy days were an abomination, and no proper part of the worship of the people of God. This common belief was to remain in place well into the 1800s.

Samuel Miller appears to be largely correct then when he declared that “Presbyterians do not observe Holy Days.” This was certainly the understanding of the first Presbyterians, it had been codified in their creedal documents, and it had been their practice both in Scotland and America for over 200 years. What then happened in the 19th and 20th centuries to change the practice of Presbyterians?

So, cozy up to the fireplace with a nice cup of eggnog and your favorite laptop and read the rest of Andy’s ode to Christmas here.

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91 Comments on “Tis’ the Reason for the Season”

  1. ray kikkert Says:

    That is a very well done article by Rev. Webb. Very informative and quite a history lesson.

    I come from a Dutch background. Our grandparents immigrated to Canada around 1950 and became members in the CRC back in the day.

    Going through this article though … it has been less than …what … 150 years si9nce things have laxed up in the churches.

    Does not this have a familiar ring to it?

    Take doctrines like creation, the atonement, office bearers, Scripture’s authority, marriage … you can add to the list … check out the laxity in so little time here as well.

    I do not know about you, but I am inlcined to “back in the day” over what we have now. I am in furniture retail. Retail is driven by these specials days. People come in to the store asking me if Santa was good to me. I reply that Satan never was any good to me 🙂 My parents when we were growing up… were lax on Christmas and all that surrounds it in the sense that Santa was tolerated, presents et al.

    Now, my siblings and I according to my parents received stricter catechetical training than they ever did, we have nothing to do with santa … I mean Satan … and greed does not rule the holidays. We , with our families take part in the annual Christmas program that our congregation does together, we also attend worship services on Christmas Day, Old’s Years Day, and New Years Day … where the antithesis shows itself clearly. We come together to give Christ the honor and glory.

    It really would not be missed by me to do away with the whole affair. Our families would not be changed by it if we did anyways. We would at the most be without Christmas programs, and a church service.

  2. Eric Says:

    The responses one gets from professors of religion when one claims that Christmas is not a holy day commanded in the Bible are amazing. It is interesting how traditions become laws. You even here reformed professors of religion up in arms over the world’s rejection of the occasion. They want to bind the world’s conscience to the commandments of men.


  3. Ok, here we go again. Every year at this time this debate comes up amongst Christians. Should we be celebrating Christmas or not? Is Christmas about Christ or not?

    Well, I don’t think you can say that any celebration of Christmas, or the birth of Christ is a matter of celebrating a holy day. For we are not making the day as the sabbath, even if we choose to not work that day. God does not require us to work 6 days a week. Of course, we are not commanded to celebrate the Lord’s birth. And of course Christ didn’t create the day of celebration. And whatever one desires to celebrate on Christmas is up to the individual. But Christmas, as the word appears to designate, “Christ’s Mass,” seems originally at least to be referring to Christ and his birth, and is still for the most part the common understanding of the term.

  4. Eric Says:

    “Ok, here we go again. Every year at this time this debate comes up amongst Christians. Should we be celebrating Christmas or not? Is Christmas about Christ or not?”

    There is no debate. Many in the church are upbraiding non-believers because they say “Happy Holidays,” and other things, instead of “Merry Christmas,” they reject the nativity seen, and on and on ad-nauseum. This is a torch even reformed professors have taken up in spite of the reformer’s rejection of images and holy days.

    In Popery Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation. The word derives as you said from Christ and Mass and is a celebration of the nativity. In the Catholic Mass Christ is crucified over and over as if His once for all sacrifice was not enough. The Pope has bound the conscience and obliged everyone to practice this event even though it is not in the word of God.

    “And whatever one desires to celebrate on Christmas is up to the individual.”

    That’s fine, then, do as you please on the day, but rebuke your reformed brethren, or any other pharisee, who would oblige a non-believer to take part in the practice of this event as if God had ordained it.

    Eric


  5. Eric:There is no debate. Many in the church are upbraiding non-believers because they say “Happy Holidays,” and other things, instead of “Merry Christmas,”

    Pat: No, unbelievers are corrected in thinking that it is illegal or improper to wish someone a merry Christmas.

    Eric: The Pope has bound the conscience and obliged everyone to practice this event even though it is not in the word of God.

    Pat: Get real. Only Roman Catholics think that they have to go to Mass on Christmas. Everyone else freely chooses to celebrate Christmas.

    Eric: That’s fine, then, do as you please on the day, but rebuke your reformed brethren, or any other pharisee, who would oblige a non-believer to take part in the practice of this event as if God had ordained it.

    Pat: Again, who the heck is doing such a thing? At best, people try to get others to acknowledge Christ and his birth. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    Pat

  6. Sam Says:

    Pat: “But Christmas, as the word appears to designate, “Christ’s Mass … ”

    Sam: If the Mass is abominable (WCF XXIX, II) and a cursed idolatry (HC LD 30, Q/A 80) shouldn’t “Christmas, as the word appears to designate, ‘Christ’s Mass,’” stop us in our tracks?

    Pat: “And whatever one desires to celebrate on Christmas is up to the individual.”

    Sam: This begs the question. You’ve assumed what needs to be proven, namely, that it is proper to celebrate “Christ’s Mass.”

    FWIW, I’ve had no problem with “Christmas” until recently. But the more I read of arguments against it the more I find myself agreeing with the position (against Christmas).

  7. Eric Says:

    “No, unbelievers are corrected in thinking that it is illegal or improper to wish someone a merry Christmas.”

    Well…take the meaning of the words, and it is improper! The Popish mass is idolatry, especially when linking it with Christ.

    “Get real. Only Roman Catholics think that they have to go to Mass on Christmas. Everyone else freely chooses to celebrate Christmas.”

    No, the Pope has declared authority over all men.

    “Again, who the heck is doing such a thing? At best, people try to get others to acknowledge Christ and his birth. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

    You must have your head in…the sand. Since when did the idolatrous Catholic Mass celebrate the birth of Christ? It doesn’t!

  8. Bob S Says:

    It’s about time the conservative old school PCA presbyterians – if they are really that – acknowledged the obvious regarding the Westminster Standards as a package deal which included the Directory for Public Worship as well as the Confession and 2 Catechisms. That Chas. Hodge in his Hist. of Amer. Presbyterianism, seconded the complaint of 1789 that the DPW necessitated prayer for the Queen of Bohemia as a reason to refuse to incorporate it in the American church’s constitution, was uncalled for.


  9. Pat:“No, unbelievers are corrected in thinking that it is illegal or improper to wish someone a merry Christmas.”

    Eric: Well…take the meaning of the words, and it is improper!

    Pat: Well, hardly no one means it that literally.

    Christmas. Everyone else freely chooses to celebrate Christmas.”

    Eric: No, the Pope has declared authority over all men.

    Pat: Who cares what the Pope has declared. It doesn’t make it so. People celebrate Christmas because they want to, not because they feel compelled to, except maybe as a matter of tradition. And even among Catholics, the celebration of Christmas is considered separate from their duty to go to Mass on that day.

    Eric:You must have your head in…the sand. Since when did the idolatrous Catholic Mass celebrate the birth of Christ? It doesn’t!

    Pat: Since it claims it does, it indeed does. One can celebrate the birth of Christ, without acknowledging him as Lord or God or even His teaching.

    Pat


  10. Pat: “And whatever one desires to celebrate on Christmas is up to the individual.”

    Sam: This begs the question. You’ve assumed what needs to be proven, namely, that it is proper to celebrate “Christ’s Mass.”

    Pat: As I’ve said, practically no one thinks of Christmas in that sense. Rather, for the most part, it is understood as Jesus’ birthday. That we are free to celebrate or not.

    I find this whole thing to be such a silly non issue.

    Pat

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    FWIW, I’ve had no problem with “Christmas” until recently. But the more I read of arguments against it the more I find myself agreeing with the position (against Christmas).

    It is a losing battle since virtually all P&R churches celebrate X-mass. Of course, and as Andy notes in his piece, even Calvin conducted an occasional Christmas service, but in those days the magistrates had too much say in the administration of church business. OTOH, Calvin had bigger fish to fry. We have no excuse.

    I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word. The opposite persuasion which cleaves to them, being seated, as it were, in their very bones and marrow, is, that whatever they do has in itself a sufficient sanction, provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honor of God. But since God not only regards as frivolous, but also plainly abominates, whatever we undertake from zeal to His worship, if at variance with His command, what do we gain by a contrary course? The words of God are clear and distinct, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” 1 Sam. 15:22; Matt. 15:9. Every addition of His word, especially in this matter, is a lie. Mere “will worship” is vanity [Col. 2:23]. This is the decision, and when once the judge has decided, it is no longer time to debate. – John Calvin, Tracts, Vol. 1


  12. Sean,

    Celebrating Christmas is not about a “mode” of worship. Nor does having a worship service on or around Christmas have anything to do with introducing another mode of worship. The Church can gather for worship on any day or every day of the week (as it did in the early NT time).

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    What do you call candle lit services, xmas carols, advent candles, xmas eve services, etc.? As Calvin said: “I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word.” Of course, Calvin didn’t have the “lawyertheologian” to contend with. LOL 🙂

  14. Eric Says:

    “Well, hardly no one means it that literally.”

    Ignorance is no excuse, and when ignorance is cleared up, sanctification will follow and the jettisoning of the Christmas folly.

    “Who cares what the Pope has declared. It doesn’t make it so. People celebrate Christmas because they want to, not because they feel compelled to, except maybe as a matter of tradition. And even among Catholics, the celebration of Christmas is considered separate from their duty to go to Mass on that day.”

    Again, ignorance is no excuse.

    “Since it claims it does, it indeed does.”

    No, the correct Jesus is worshiped when the correct propositions are embraced.

    “One can celebrate the birth of Christ, without acknowledging him as Lord or God or even His teaching.”

    Wow! One cannot be worshiping Christ if they deny His deity, they are worshiping an idol.

    “Calvin didn’t have the “lawyertheologian” to contend with. LOL”

    I know! It’s like beating one’s head against a wall. That Monty Python clip was soooo… appropriate!

    Eric


  15. What do you call candle lit services, xmas carols, advent candles, xmas eve services, etc.?

    I’d say that candles are trivial to the worship service, and that Christmas carols are proper Christian songs, hymns that are properly sung by the whole congregation (the proper mode).

    Calvin had it so good. I can’t convince people here of the simplest of things.


  16. Eric,

    Celebrating Christmas is not a matter of Worshiping Christ.

    And no, it is not a matter of ignorance. Christmas is whatever anyone wants it to be. It doesn’t even have to be about Christ at all. But no, Christmas is not about celebrating or worshiping Christ in or through a Mass. It is about celebrating Christ’s birth for whatever reason one wants to do so.


  17. Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether the Church should celebrate Christmas, that is, have worship services on Christmas, is there really any thing wrong with people giving gifts on Christmas, and/or getting together with family for a meal?

  18. George Says:

    While I sit on the couch with my laptop and my coffee cools down on the coffee table, my wife and daughter are decorating the tree. Dopey angels with candles on their heads are to my right with fake gold reindeer running from the first to the second angel. There is also a bunch of white and red and green strands (my wife tells me they are “garlands”) draped over various pieces of furniture. The volunteer firemen are galavanting around town in their trucks with sirens on and Santa on the hook and ladder. True, happening right now, not making this up.

    Christmas is as noted above a “mass”. Ironically, in my view, it definetely takes away from helping to remind us how much we need Christ.

    Today Sunday School was cancelled and we all worshiped in a carol and verse service. A few verses from John 1 then a jazzy carol, then a few verses from Luke 2, then the special music Christmas Choir. My Catholic German exchange student actually wants to go to the Xmas Eve Service. I nearly broke my neck putting lights on my roof yesterday and will probably nearly break it again in a few weeks taking them down.

    Meanwhile by December 27 all the rage will be New Year’s and Valentines.

    Call me Grinch-Scrooge, but I think all the hustle bustle, twinklings, tinklings, chimings, sentimental baloney, poinsettas and wreaths in my PCA church building, maddening mall crowds, etc. is a monumental waste of time that pushes out time for true Lord’s Day observance. I’m sticking to the early Psalms for family devotions tonight, and Advent can get along without me.

    If I was an observant Jew or Muslim, I’d probably think all this Xmas stuff was very shallow.

  19. Eric Says:

    Concerning idolatrous worship…

    Isaiah 50:11:

    “Behold, all you that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that you have kindled. This shall you have of my hand; you shall lie down in sorrow.”

  20. Tim Harris Says:

    Calvin was clearly against it in principle, but was willing to submit to the edict of the magistrate, especially when it was made a condition for continuing in the ministry. One of the embarrassments of the Reformed settlement was that the Scottish forbade holy days while the Dutch (e.g. in the Dordt resolutions) commanded certain of them including Christmas. Does it finally come down to the more rigorous Celtic personality vs the more sentimental German? At any rate, it seems like factors like that do play some role.

    As a non-celebrator, I still see another layer in the “happy holiday” movement. Namely, those people are pushing for a secularization of the nation. It seems like they should be opposed in favor of Christmas mention/greeting, at the layer of Christian vs secular nation, even while opposing Christmas at the layer of church polity. That is, I would be in favor of eliminating Christmas as a national holiday, but given that it is a holiday, it is a serious dereliction to continue it under the guise of a generic “holiday” that ignores Christ, bends over backwards not to offend jews, etc.

  21. Steve Matthews Says:

    This thread prompted me to look at what The Trinity Foundation had published about Christmas. Looking through the Trinity Review (TR) archives, I found 12 articles mentioning Christmas, none of which implies that celebrating Christmas is sinful.

    The closest a TR article comes to to condemning Christmas is Robbins’ article “Christ and Civilization,” taken from his book by the same title and published as a TR in December 1992. But as I read it, Robbin’s main point is that most of the people who enthusiastically celebrate Christmas, “have forgotten – or, more likely, have never learned – the meaning of his (Christ’s) birth.” In other words, they miss the main point of the celebration and are, therefore, wasting their time. Robbins leaves unaddressed the issue of the propriety of celebrating Christmas per se.

    Other articles on The Trinity Foundation site imply that Robbins saw no conflict between celebrating Christmas and reformed theology, the most obvious example being the December 1992 publication of “Christmas” by 19th century Scottish poet Alexander Smith. If Robbins had believed Christmas to be inherently sinful, he would not have published such an aritcle.


  22. What does it mean to celebrate Christmas, to celebrate Jesus’ birthday? Can it be done privately? Simply thanking God for the birth of His Son? Playing and singing Christmas carols? Is it not clear that the Bible does not condemn celebrating per se Jesus’ birth? Why is this even being discussed/debated?

  23. Eric Says:

    Let’s see…The Roman State Church, who’s head, the Pope, claims 1) the title of the Roman Caesars, Pontifex Maximus, 2) authority over all the earth–man, woman and child, and 3) Christ’s throne on earth, erects a holy day called Christmas, or Christ’s Mass, an idolatrous blasphemy, and other pagans who rightly reject this evil are upbraided by protestants for taking Christ out of Christmas. That’s interesting, to say the least.

    If you want to celebrate Christ’s birth please don’t confuse it with Christmas, which is something entirely different, and don’t make your traditions obligartory on the rest of us.

  24. Bob S Says:

    Steve,
    With all due respect to Mr. Robbins, both he and Gordon Clark at times sided more with American presbyterianism than the Scottish. There were a number of things discarded in the New Country, among them, the establishment principle and purity of worship. So what? The merits are to be decided not on ad hominem basis. At least as far as the Regulative Principle of Worship goes, which includes the non observance of holydays, the prevailing karaoke free will worship of modern & moderate American P&R churches should be enough said.
    It won’t of course, among those who deny the good and necessary consequences of the Second Commandment, but an ex animo affirmation of the WCF in full knowledge of its original intent, will recognize not only the historical reality of that doctrine, but also its abiding validity. That American Presbyterianism has been deficient here is not excuse for the same to continue.

  25. Bob S Says:

    In the FWIW Dept. an excerpt from a sermon preached on Micah 5:7-14 by John Calvin on December 25th, 1551 can be found here. IOW the “War Against Christmas” is neither recent nor entirely an heathen affair.
    The P&R churches essentially understand the Second Commandment to teach that ‘Whatsoever that is not commanded – explicitly or implicitly – is forbidden in the worship of God’ as per the WCF 21 and the Shorter, Larger and Heidelberg Catechisms.

    Happy New Year.


  26. If you want to celebrate Christ’s birth please don’t confuse it with Christmas, which is something entirely different, and don’t make your traditions obligartory on the rest of us.

    Oh, I see Eric. Christmas is what you say it is,what is once meant. For some reason I thought usage determines the meaning of words. It seems that practically the whole world is misusing the word, and we all need to stop doing so. We’ll need to coin a new word like Christbirth.

    And gee, I didn’t realize we were making you feel guilty for not following our traditions. I’m sorry you don’t feel at ease for not doing so. But no one is actually requiring anyone to celebrate Christmas, oops sorry, that’s Christbirth, according to the common traditions, like giving presents.


  27. Calvin and others appear to have been fighting against something that is not the case today. When he says,”For when you elevate one day alone for the purpose of worshiping God, you have just turned it into an idol,” it does not appear that is being done today, except maybe in the RC church. Christmas is just like Thanksgiving or any other holiday. They are not elevated above other days to especially worship God. They are simply days that we wish to commemorate.

  28. Bob S Says:

    Your last is a joke, right lawyer?
    Everybody knows that there are only 3 holydays per year, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. Ok maybe New Years. If you can show up in church – any church, temple or synagogue will do – your civil religion credentials have been validated and are good for the year. That the Christian churches go along with this charade and confirm it in word and practice bothers too few in those churches as can be readily seen above.
    Iachabod anyone?

  29. Bob S Says:

    For the record, as the Assembly’s DirPubWorship on Days of Fasting with Prayer/Thanksgiving, and even more Geo. Gillespie’s classic English Popish Ceremonies makes clear, it is not given unto Christ’s church or its overseers to set up, establish or proclaim rote annual anniversary days in the worship of the church, other than the occasional day of prayer or thanksgiving as providence warrants it. Rather God has already given us 52 days, one in every seven, the Christian sabbath in which we are ordinarily to give thanks to God for all his benefits, including the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ.

    IOW Christmas, Easter, Advent, Ascension et al are an attempt to improve on the divine rule that sooner or later become more important than that weekly sabbath. (Another way to put it might be that P&R celebrate “Easter” or the resurrection once a week, not once a year.) Rather ‘Whatsoever is not commanded, explicitly or implicitly, is forbidden in the worship of God.’

    Further a lot of the usual suspects in the current FV movement cut their teeth dissing the confessional RPW. Schlissel, Jordan, Meyer and Leithart all mischaracterized and misconstrued the historic position and arguments in order to substitute and interject their innovations and typical improvements (holydays, musical instruments, uninspired songs, choirs etc.). If it could be argued that Wilson knew better, he tolerated the strawman approach to the assault on the RPW and while Frame was guilty of the same as the previous four, he to his very slim credit has not yet come out for the FV. In other words, the modus operandi was the same, only the object of assault differed.

    But practice makes perfect. Upward and onward. If Owen said all false worship follows upon the ignorance, neglect or weariness in the exercise of faith (5:437) is it any wonder the FV, having begun with worship, has now turned its guns on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. I don’t think so.

  30. Eric Says:

    “…Christmas is what you say it is…”

    Do you even read your own posts?

    “But Christmas, as the word appears to designate, ‘Christ’s Mass,’…”

    That’s right.

    “…seems originally at least to be referring to Christ and his birth,…”

    No, it is referring to the Mass, the feast of his (another jesus’) nativity, thus Christ’s Mass as defined by the Roman State Church.

    “For some reason I thought usage determines the meaning of words.”

    Yes, that’s what theological liberals do.

    “It seems that practically the whole world is misusing the word, and we all need to stop doing so.”

    Yes, they need to understand what it is they are actually affirming. The whole world lives in ignorance.

    “And gee, I didn’t realize we were making you feel guilty for not following our traditions.”

    Your ilk used to until I heard the gospel from someone who could actually articulate it clearly. Now, I just won’t have uninformed professors of religion binding my conscience and I will relieve the ignorant of the burden placed on them to celebrate this charade (great word Bob).

    “I’m sorry you don’t feel at ease for not doing so.”

    Good, I don’t!

    “But no one is actually requiring anyone to celebrate Christmas,…”

    “Oh! No!” the professors of religion cavil, “They’re taking Christ out of Christmas,” and “Woe to them, they say, ‘Happy Holidays.'”

    Wake up, Pat.

    “…traditions…”

    I think that word says it all.

    Eric


  31. Eric:Yes, they need to understand what it is they are actually affirming. The whole world lives in ignorance.

    Pat: Oh, I see. They are affirming the RC understanding of Christ and a Mass, even though they don’t intend to affirm any such thing. Just by saying “Merry Christmas” that is what the whole world is affirming. Incredible. Words don’t mean what people intend them to mean, only what they originally meant. Try looking up the word in any dictionary today and you will see that it refers to the feast of the Lord’s birth.

    BTW, you and Bob continue to argue for not having Christmas in church and no one has even been arguing for such. You crackpots are in your own world. Do you really think that there is an evil going on because people are giving each other presents on Christmas, that somehow the gospel is being corrupted? And who the heck is trying to bind your conscience? What the heck are you even talking about? Bob’s talking about holy days and I’m talking about holidays, and there are far more than 3, though there are 3 main ones, and Easter isn’t one of them. And how does tradition say it all. Traditions per se are not bad.

    Come back to earth, and enter back into the discussion.

  32. Steve Matthews Says:

    Bob,

    Both Clark and Robbins consistently affirmed RPW throughout their writings, so I don’t agree that they’re deficient in this area. Since Robbins held to RPW and also did not (at least to my knowledge) explicitly repudiate Christmas, I’d like to understand the argument behind his position. Perhaps his defense of Christmas went only so far as to include activities not associated with public worship in church.

    As to the establishment principle, IMO American Presbyterians did the right thing by removing it from the Confession.

  33. Bob S Says:

    Steve,
    I am unaware where either Clark or Robbins affirmed the RPW or its application in anything other than a general way. In other words, they held to the majority American Presbyterian position on holydays, uninspired songs, musical instruments, choirs or even pictures of Christ contra the Assembly’s Standards and the Scotch church, or even John Murray of Westminster. (Robbins told me re. the last that the TF held that pictures for instruction were OK, but not worship. I think I still have the correspondence.)

    I did correspond with Robbins on uninspired song at one time and ask him what he made of the Songs of Zion by one of the OPC’s very own, Michael Bushell, which is the contemporary unanswered classic on psalmody. He of course did not agree with the position, though I don’t know that he read the book, much more the RPW was not an area of concern for him. Rather the RPW was an emphasis with Kevin Reed of Pres. Heritage Publ. who John did collaborate on for some projects and Kevin was the one I think who first alerted John to Eire’s War Against Idols. But other than a polemic against Rome stemming from Robbin’s background in Baltimore(?), the RPW/purity of worship was not a real concern of the Trinity Foundation which is pretty much par for the course with American presbyterianism.

    That doesn’t mean I didn’t and don’t appreciate what either Robbins or Clark had to say, only that in some areas like the American Presbyterian application of the RPW, I disagreed and preferred the original standards and historic viewpoint.

  34. Eric Says:

    “Oh, I see. They are affirming the RC understanding of Christ and a Mass, even though they don’t intend to affirm any such thing.”

    Yes. It’s a Roman Catholic contrivance (word). Who do you suppose would and should define the term, Buddhists? Gypsies, perhaps? Or, maybe the brothers Grimm.

    “Just by saying “Merry Christmas” that is what the whole world is affirming.”

    Yes. Many in the world are ignorant of what they are affirming.

    “Incredible. Words don’t mean what people intend them to mean, only what they originally meant.”

    It is the Roman State Church’s word and they’ve defined it a certain way and they still affirm this meaning today. Christmas is the Mass (feast) celebrating Christ’s birth. Having a merry one means taking joy in the same. Is this so difficult to see?

    Let’s assume, for arguments sake, that Christmas does mean celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25th rather than the Mass (feast) celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25th. Remember, Pat, this is an assumption. How are pagans responsible for saying Merry Christmas when they don’t believe in Christ, at all. Should they be forced? Should a business be forced, coerced, or boycotted? This IS what IS happening. Their consciences are being bound to a tradition of men, not a commandment of God. And, why is the church up in arms because pagans don’t and would rather say ‘happy holidays’ instead? This is merely a rhetorical question, I know the answer, but I expect you’ll answer anyway.

    “Try looking up the word in any dictionary today and you will see that it refers to the feast of the Lord’s birth.”

    Yes, the feast (Mass) of the Lord’s birth.

    “Do you really think that there is an evil going on because people are giving each other presents on Christmas”

    No one is saying what you can, or can’t do at home with your own family. If you want to celebrate Christ’s birth go ahead, give presents until your blue in the face, I could care less, unless, of course, you want to get me a present ;-). I like firearms, by the way, and chocolate. Don’t, however, make it mandatory that I or the church celebrate December 25 as Christ’s birthday. It is NOT a command of God.

    “BTW, you and Bob continue to argue for not having Christmas in church and no one has even been arguing for such.”

    Of course I am arguing for not celebrating Christ’s Mass in the Church. But, in my original post, if you care to trouble yourself by reading it again, I was arguing that pagans are not obligated to celebrate it either. The ones that object, rightly object. One pagan that I’ve had in depth discussions with actually knew what the word ‘Christmas’ meant and the it’s history and rejected it outright and I don’t blame him one iota. The part I find the funniest, but not ha ha funny, is that protestants are upset because pagans reject this Roman Catholic idolatry. This is quite a paradox, but I’m sure this charlie horse between the ears has a resolution and is along the lines of this from my original post: DON’T BIND ANYONE’S CONSCIENCE WITH THE TRADITIONS AND TEACHINGS OF MEN!!!!!!

    Eric

  35. George Says:

    Christ’s mass is celebrated in my PCA church. We even have a special Christ’s mass eve service. A Good Friday one also. And lighting the Advent wreath.

    IMHO it crowds out prayer, teaching, breaking of bread, fellowship and teaching in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. On the other hand attendance is probably about five to ten times higher than it would be if we did things without the innovations of worship bands and Popish Holy Days.

    I think Clark and Robbins were correct in sticking with the American rather than the Scottish view of the WCF. I don’t think that they made the Regulatory principle as it applies to Holy Days a very high priority — but they had more than enough other problems to deal with him.

  36. lawyertheologian Says:

    Eric:It is the Roman State Church’s word and they’ve defined it a certain way and they still affirm this meaning today. Christmas is the Mass (feast) celebrating Christ’s birth. Having a merry one means taking joy in the same. Is this so difficult to see?

    Pat: Are you so ignorant not to realize that words mean what people intent them to mean? They change in meaning when people begin to use them with a different meaning. Again, although in its first use it meant a Mass for Christ, it long ago dropped that narrow meaning and took on a broader meaning; in fact, for some or many, Christmas has nothing to do with Christ at all. Again, if you want to correct someone for using the term to refer to his celebration of the day, then you have lost the whole point of the discussion. It is not about the correct use of a word. It is about what should or shouldn’t be done on a particular day. That is, is it wrong to celebrate Christ’s birth? Now, you may have a case for not having a (special) worship service on that day, according to the Regulative Principle (though I hardly see much of a difference from preaching about Jesus’s birth the Sunday before Christmas- teaching the Bible on any day is a proper mode of worship), but everything else people do, publicly or privately to celebrate Christ’s birth, is clearly not evil per se.

    Eric: Don’t, however, make it mandatory that I or the church celebrate December 25 as Christ’s birthday. It is NOT a command of God.

    Pat: For the nth time, NO ONE IS COMMANDING ANY SUCH THING.

  37. Sean Gerety Says:

    I think just the sheer religious zeal evidenced against those who have the audacity to even suggest that Christmas is a popish invention and will worship makes the whole practice suspect. The complete lack of biblical arguments for its keeping is even more telling. As Webb notes in his piece:

    Samuel Miller appears to be largely correct then when he declared that “Presbyterians do not observe Holy Days.” This was certainly the understanding of the first Presbyterians, it had been codified in their creedal documents, and it had been their practice both in Scotland and America for over 200 years. What then happened in the 19th and 20th centuries to change the practice of Presbyterians?

    The answer to that question is complex, but surprisingly it does not lie in any substantial rethinking of the underlying theological presuppositions that have guided Presbyterian worship since the Reformation. Rather, as we shall see, the increasing willingness of Presbyterians to observe holy days was ultimately the result of pressure from the laity, the movement towards the adoption of a common liturgy, and the pervasive atmosphere of pluralism, ecumenicism, and liberalism in the American Protestantism of the 19th and 20th century.

    As far as Clark and Robbins, I agree that Christmas seems to have been off their radar and I agree that they had more than their share of controversy to deal with. As far as the RPW goes, John did publish a piece by Gary Crampton against the practice of exclusive psalmody.

    For me, I have long ago soured on this whole time of year. There is nothing about it that honors Christ. Besides, my mind glosses over at Christmas sermons. I think the doctrine of the Incarnation would be better served if pastors waited until, say, August before preaching on the topic when their congregants are awake.

  38. Eric Says:

    “Are you so ignorant not to realize that words mean what people intent them to mean?”

    It is amazing that even a pagan has the motivation to study out the meaning of Christmas, yet professors of religion are so lazy they won’t lift a finger, much less a book and the Pope has protestants doing his bidding in their ignorance.

    “For the nth time, NO ONE IS COMMANDING ANY SUCH THING.”

    Indeed, they are! Have you been living in a cave. You’ve never heard members of the Church up in arms because the culture is taking Christ out of Christmas, boycotting stores, etc… This was one of the post’s major points right in the first paragraph. Did you miss it? I was making the same point in my response. There are in fact AT LEAST two of us saying the same thing. If the author of this post agrees, and I’m sure he does, or else he wouldn’t have posted it, there are now three of us. If three of us see it, and you don’t, does that make us liars?

    I’m beginning to think you simply like to argue for arguments sake rather than taking the time for any serious reflection.

    These are the propositions that opponents are taking in this thread:

    1) Don’t bind pagans to the commandments of men.
    2) Don’t bind Christians (the Church) to the commandments of men.
    3) Know what it is you are affirming.

    I might add as an example that our government has gone rogue by changing the meaning of a few words in the Constitution, one of which is ‘regulate.’ By changing the meaning of this small word they’ve taken control of ALL interstate commerce and changed the meaning of the second amendment.

    I’d like to state another proposition, that I learned from Clark, that seems to have arisen here.

    4) If a word can mean anything to anybody, and I’m thinking of the word ‘Christmas,’ then it means NOTHING, at all.

  39. lawyertheologian Says:

    “For the nth time, NO ONE IS COMMANDING ANY SUCH THING.”

    Indeed, they are! Have you been living in a cave. You’ve never heard members of the Church up in arms because the culture is taking Christ out of Christmas, boycotting stores, etc… This was one of the post’s major points right in the first paragraph. Did you miss it? I was making the same point in my response. There are in fact AT LEAST two of us saying the same thing. If the author of this post agrees, and I’m sure he does, or else he wouldn’t have posted it, there are now three of us. If three of us see it, and you don’t, does that make us liars?

    How does being up in arms about taking Christ out of Christmas translate into commanding people to celebrate Christmas? It seems simply to show that people want Christmas to be about Christ rather than something else; or that they don’t want the idea of religious plurality to be swallowed up in political correctness, such that we can’t celebrate Christ’s birth without offending others. Thus again, as to
    1) and 2) no one is doing this. As to 3)we/they do know what they affirming: Jesus’s birth- for that is the meaning of the term- look it up in any dictionary. As to 4)It doesn’t mean ANYTHING to anybody; but it does mean different things to different people, though again, its primary/most common meaning is the feast of Jesus’s birth.

  40. lawyertheologian Says:

    “I think just the sheer religious zeal evidenced against those who have the audacity to even suggest that Christmas is a popish invention and will worship makes the whole practice suspect. The complete lack of biblical arguments for its keeping is even more telling. As Webb notes in his piece:”

    If it were a matter of keeping a holy day, then it would need biblical support. But clearly, even having a worship service on Christmas, and preaching about Jesus’ birth, is not a matter of having a holy day in addition to the sabbath. For, there is no obligation (the whole RC concept of obligation is itself unbiblical- Christians choose to gather together, and did so more often than on the Sabbath)to do so. Churches choose to gather together on that day. Besides that, there are other public and private things people do to celebrate Christmas (which even the Pope and all Catholics ackowledge to be a matter of celebrating Christmas which has nothing to do with coming to Mass on that day)which are completely up to the individual(s). Again, outside of the RC church making it an obligation of ITS members/parishioners, there is simply no obligation laid upon anyone to celebrate Christmas. You’re making an issue where there is none.

  41. lawyertheologian Says:

    Eric:”It is amazing that even a pagan has the motivation to study out the meaning of Christmas,”

    Pat: You are making the etymological fallacy. Where/how a word was derived does not determine its meaning; usage and context determines the meaning of words. The word Christmas may have been used at one time to refer solely to the RC Mass celebrated on that day, but it has long been used to refer simply to Christ’s birthday. Again, that is the meaning of the term. All one needs to do is look it up in any dictionary.

  42. Eric Says:

    “How does being up in arms about taking Christ out of Christmas translate into commanding people to celebrate Christmas?”

    Why are they up in arms if NO SIN has been committed? This is simple coercion. Also, when one boycotts a store, this is coercion. In this coercion the Christian right, and I use the term ‘Christian’ in this context very loosely, is saying that unless you obey we will make you pay.

    “though again, its primary/most common meaning is the feast of Jesus’s birth.”

    I’ve stated this over and over. The ‘feast’ is the Catholic Mass. The dictionary definition affirms the Catholic definition. You, on the other hand, have adopted a foreign definition, as have other protestants.

  43. Eric Says:

    In my post of December 21, 2009 at 11:21 I used the words ‘propositions/proposition’ when I should have used ‘affirmations/affirmation.’ I realized a command is not a proposition.

  44. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Why are they up in arms if NO SIN has been committed?”

    They’re up in arms because of the perceived animosity against Christianity. That is why they wish to boycott stores. If they want our business,they can’t show a disdain for us and our celebration of Jesus’ birth. Sure, stores act ignorantly, thinking it illegal or improper to have anything in their stores relating to Christmas, or having employees wishing people Merry Christmas.

    ” The ‘feast’ is the Catholic Mass.”

    No, the feast is the celebration of Christ’s birth. The Mass may be a feast of sorts (though Luther viewed it as the Gospel Promise, and Catholics often refer to it as a sacrifice), but again, even they don’t view it as the sole feast/celebration of Christmas.

  45. Bob S Says:

    Sean,

    Ouch. Come to think of it, I do remember Crampton’s piece on psalmody. As in it was pretty poor and not up to the usual high Trinity Foundation standard or even other things Gary wrote. I particularly enjoyed his review of Rock Reymond’s Systematics, which finally got me off the dime to get the book.
    Of course, the Reformed Baptist Nick Needham’s lastest on the question centerpieced in the WCF in the 21st Century Vol. 2 pretty much took the cake and obliterated Crampton’s efforts, of which even I Murray also surpassed. Guess Gary got third on that one.

  46. Eric Says:

    “They’re up in arms because of the perceived animosity against Christianity.”

    “No, the feast is the celebration of Christ’s birth.”

    You are downright dishonest, Pat.

  47. lawyertheologian Says:

    “You are downright dishonest, Pat.”

    You’d better explain yourself before I sue you for libel.

    Pat

  48. Sam Says:

    Pat,

    You’d sue another believer? Or do you consider Eric an unbeliever?

  49. Sean Gerety Says:

    Boys, boys. It’s Christmas. +8-P

  50. George Says:

    Bob S. Thanks for the link to the Reformed Presbyterian Verita site. That was a great review of Needham on RPW. Also on that site is a War Against Christmas post with a great quote from Calvin’s 1551 Xmas message. So Calvin. I love it.

    “. . . Now I see here today more people than I am accustomed to having at the sermon. Why is that? It is Christmas day. And who told you this? You poor beasts. That is a fitting euphemism for all of you who have come here today to honor Noel. Did you think you would be honoring God? Consider what sort of obedience to God your coming displays. In your mind, you are celebrating a holiday for God, or turning today into one. But so much for that. In truth, as you have often been admonished, it is good to set aside one day out of the year in which we are reminded of all the good that has occurred because of Christ’s birth in the world, and in which we hear the story of his birth retold, which will be done Sunday. But if you think that Jesus Christ was born today, you are as crazed as wild beasts. For when you elevate one day alone for the purpose of worshiping God, you have just turned it into an idol. True, you insist that you have done so for the honor of God, but is more for the honor of the Devil.”

  51. lawyertheologian Says:

    What is +8-P?

  52. Sean Gerety Says:

    It’s a priest with his tongue sticking out. I thought it was fitting given the popish holy days.

    Also, Pat, threaten anyone again and I’ll ban you from posting on my blog.

  53. lawyertheologian Says:

    But you would allow someone to defame another in print? Matt.18, church discipline, should come into play. Or we could settle things the old fashioned way: have a duel. After all “them’s fighting words.”

  54. Mike Says:

    So… in conclusion:

    I may continue to use my secular holiday as an excuse to indulge in several of my favorite idols, to include: food, drink, and worldly possessions….

    So long as I don’t tell my athiest friends that “Jesus is the reason for the season”

  55. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi Mike! I’ve come to the conclusion that even atheists realize when they’re being conned.

  56. Sean Gerety Says:

    But you would allow someone to defame another in print?

    I allowed you to call those who disagree with you “crackpots.” Grow some skin Pat.

  57. lawyertheologian Says:

    I apologize for that, but they were sounding whacky. But insults are not the same as defamation of character. Calling someone a liar is not a minor matter.

    BTW, I don’t understand the last exchange between Sean am Mike. Are you guys actually saying that we can celebrate Christmas as a non religious holiday, but we can’t celebrate Jesus’ birthday? And what are atheists being conned of, that Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth? Isn’t it at least for some?

  58. Sean Gerety Says:

    Calling someone a liar is not a minor matter.

    No worse than calling someone a crackpot in my book. Get over it.

  59. Tim Harris Says:

    Might I suggest in addition that one can hardly defame someone that is anonymous?

  60. lawyertheologian Says:

    Good point Tim. But I am assuming that everyone here knows who I am. After all, I have a blog by the same name, which indicates who I am.

    Pat

  61. Bob S Says:

    Glad you liked the links George.

    On other fronts,
    I liked that: Defaming anonymous. I think they both should get coal in their stockings and anywhere else for that matter. Maybe even spill eggnog on their keyboard.

  62. Sean Gerety Says:

    Of course, the Reformed Baptist Nick Needham’s lastest on the question centerpieced in the WCF in the 21st Century Vol. 2 pretty much took the cake and obliterated Crampton’s efforts

    I must be missing something? I just read the review and it is considerably wide of the mark re Crampton. Perhaps you’re confusing Frame with Crampton? For one thing the reviewer really doesn’t engage the exegetical arguments made by Crampton which could also be amplified in support of his thesis. Besides, Crampton’s arguments are in support of the RPW not opposed to it, so maybe I’m not understanding why you linked that review? BTW, who is the reviewer?

    Also, to equate the use of “uninspired hymns and musical instruments” with the recognition of “ecclesiastical feast days into public worship” is begging the question. There is nothing in Crampton’s piece that would require the assumed parity which seems to be a typical error of some EP defenders.

    While I’m at it…another weak but typical argument the reviewer makes is:

    “The inspired writers of the New Testament did not see a new inspired songbook as a necessity, otherwise the Holy Spirit would have graciously provided one.”

    This doesn’t follow and is a straw man argument. The Holy Spirit didn’t provide an inspired confession or an infallible preacher either.

    Perhaps I just don’t understand what I’m supposed to be seeing in that review and how it relates to Crampton’s arguments? Did you provide the link in order to recommend the book and not the review?

    FWIW and since I have no desire to get into a brawl over EP, my position is that I’m not opposed to the use of hymns in worship for the same reason that I don’t require my wife and daughters to wear doilies on their heads.

  63. Eric Says:

    “I think they both should get coal in their stockings…”

    That’s funny Bob! It reminds me of a Christmas card I found, quite by providence yestarday:

    On the front of this card a snowman is going through a stocking hanging by a fireplace.
    On the inside of the card this snowman has found two lumps of coal in the stocking, through which he’s been searching, which he places on his face and proclaims, “I can see! I can see!”
    The greeting on the card is “Happy Holidays.”

    I’m not sure if the author of the card intended it but I found the subtle message of this card, if not totally correct, refreshing, and on the mark, that is, that this blind snowman has been ‘given’ sight and gives the appropriate greeting, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

    If only professors of religion could see as well.

  64. lawyertheologian Says:

    I guess we should also avoid saying “Happy Halloween” and instead say “Happy Trick or Treating” or some other phrase. Yes, I know R and P celebrate Oct.31 as Reformation Day. But to say that we should have nothing to do with puting on constumes and giving out candy on that day is just, er, crackpot. Okay, if you prefer a less derogatory term, I guess fanatical will do.

  65. Eric Says:

    Interesting piece by Andy, Sean.

    “To the contrary, since the constitutional documents of the PCA uphold and endorse the original Puritan concept of the Regulative Principle of Worship as it is set forth in chapter 21.1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the practice of observing Holy Days in worship is logically forbidden as no one has ever been able to prove that the practice of their observation was instituted by God in His Word. What is odd in light of this is that very few, if any, members of the PCA view the observance of Holy Days as an exception to the teaching of the Westminster Standards.”

    “Even the oldest of PCA saints might be reasonably tempted to conclude that a notion that Holy Days should not be observed represents the thought of a crackpot.”

    I suppose modern Presbyterians believe the puritans were crackpots as they do those who agree with them.

    “Of course, while these conclusions address the specifics of how it was that the vast majority of American Presbyterians came to celebrate Holy Days when their forbears clearly did not, they do not tell us from whence the psychological impetus for these changes comes. Perhaps it was an unconscious desire to return to the comforting traditions and symbolism of medieval Roman Catholicism, this is for instance, the supposition advanced by James Hastings Nichols in Corporate Worship in the Reformed Tradition. Nichols notes that Catholic conceptions and forms of worship ‘established themselves in a few Reformed centers in the day of cultural romanticism and political reaction’ and from thence ‘they have increasingly penetrated the main Reformed bodies…’ Nichols goes on to point out that while the Catholicizing tendency has often been blunted by the ‘legacy of anti-Romanism’ it has ‘established it’s right to exist in these churches and won official toleration.’ It is more likely however that the answer ultimately lies somewhere in a statement made almost 200 years ago by French Statesman and observer of the new American society, Alexis de Toqueville:

    ‘All the clergy of America freely adopt the general views of their time and country and let themselves go unresistingly with the tide of feeling and opinion which carries everything around them along with it.'”

    As a corrective and in other words, apart from the true religion all man-made religion leads to idolatry. Since Roman Catholicism is an idolatrous religion, a departure from the true faith inevitably leads there. Calvin’s words are quite apt: “The human heart is an idol forge.”

  66. Pat Says:

    To observe a Holy Day is to treat a day as such. That is, to treat as a sabbath day.

    Again, apart from RC teaching, and going to midnight Mass as a duty, people are not observing/treating Christmas as a Holy Day.

  67. Pat Says:

    To not treat Christ’s birthday as a Holy Day is not a crackpot idea.

    Claiming that people’s celebration of Christmas is a matter of making it into a Holy Day and taking part in a Catholic Mass is.

  68. Sean Gerety Says:

    I suppose modern Presbyterians believe the puritans were crackpots as they do those who agree with them.

    I think it’s fair at this point to include Reformed Baptists and people with the first name Pat. 🙂

    It’s nice to see that someone actually read Andy’s piece. I really thought it was quite good.

    FWIW I’ve pretty much reconciled myself to the realization that fighting the Christ-mass is a losing battle, especially when you still have children in your home and a wife who tenaciously holds to some long lost romantic Midwest ideal about what “Christmas is all about.” Since we say in politics you can’t kick every barking dog, the Christmas stuff is something I try to make the best of while avoiding special X-mass services and all the other pseudo-phony-religious accouterments.

    So to answer Pat’s earlier question when he was busy threatening to sue everyone for questioning his questionable honesty, I do view it as a secular holiday and as an opportunity to use up whatever remaining vacation hours I might have racked up.

    Also, a number of years ago I started sending out Papal Holy Day cards with a timely message to a few politically incorrect friends and associates who, I hope, have a sense of humor. This year was the first time in a few that I sent one, but I guess if you can’t beat ’em, make fun of ’em. 🙂

  69. qeqesha Says:

    Hi everybody,
    I do not celebrate the X-mass. I find most carols positively silly and annoying. Belief in the Incarnation and the Gospel is enough for me.
    I have just posted ¨Does God have emotions¨ at http://calvinatorium.wordpress.com

    Denson

  70. Tim Harris Says:

    Women love Christmas because children love it and women want children to be happy. Men love or tolerate Christmas because women love it and men want women to be happy. That’s just about the whole of it.


  71. “I suppose modern Presbyterians believe the puritans were crackpots as they do those who agree with them.”

    “I think it’s fair at this point to include Reformed Baptists and people with the first name Pat.”

    You’re totally wrong, which shows that you’ve totally misunderstood me all along. Which is incredible, after what I just posted. “To not treat Christ’s birthday as a Holy Day is not a crackpot idea.”


  72. “FWIW I’ve pretty much reconciled myself to the realization that fighting the Christ-mass is a losing battle,”

    What the heck is the battle you are trying to fight? As I said from the beginning, you’re fighting against nothing. The whole argument is refuted out of hand by this one statement: The Bible does not condemn the celebration of Christ’s birthday. How can you condemn something the Bible doesn’t condemn?

  73. Eric Says:

    “FWIW I’ve pretty much reconciled myself to the realization that fighting the Christ-mass is a losing battle, especially when you still have children in your home and a wife who tenaciously holds to some long lost romantic Midwest ideal about what ‘Christmas is all about.'”

    Yes, since having a ‘coal’ placed on my eyes it is amazing how prevalent this Popish practice is in our society and how even those who do not profess religion use the ‘Merry…’ expression. It is as if the Knights who say ‘Ni’ were now guardians of the ‘Merry…’ expression and their disciples were all around stinging us with, “Merry…,” well…you know. Does anyone know where I might get a shrubbery?

  74. Eric Says:

    And for those not acquainted with the Knights who say ‘Ni’… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crX4E-dul4Y

  75. Sean Gerety Says:

    The whole argument is refuted out of hand by this one statement: The Bible does not condemn the celebration of Christ’s birthday.

    The Reformed principle maintains:

    But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.WCF 21.1

    You’re not Reformed Pat.

    How can you condemn something the Bible doesn’t condemn?

    The Bible doesn’t condemn interpretive dance in monkey suits during worship while throwing cupcakes either. As Calvin said and as I cited above:

    “I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word. The opposite persuasion which cleaves to them, being seated, as it were, in their very bones and marrow, is, that whatever they do has in itself a sufficient sanction, provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honor of God.”

    You’re just of the “opposite persuasion” and believe that anything is acceptable in worship “provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honor of God.”

    Like I said, you’re not Reformed. So I can completely understand why the christ-mass observances cause no conflict in you.


  76. Sean,

    I’m not denying the Reformed principle. So you have no basis for saying I am not Reformed. Why can’t you see this?

    You’re just of the “opposite persuasion” and believe that anything is acceptable in worship “provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honor of God.”

    No, I am not. I believe in the Regulative Principle. Again, for the nth time, this is not about worship. But I guess you guys just can’t or won’t see this. You are so bent on reacting against RC teaching that you go to the opposite extreme on this issue. Again, you’ve made an issue where there is none. No one is doing anything wrong in celebrating Christmas/Christ’s birthday, either in giving or receiving presents, or having dinner with their family or listening and singing Christmas carols, or whatever other activity they choose to do to celebrate the day. Can anything be more obvious? The Bible doesn’t condemn such things.

  77. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Sean,
    Like Eric I used to think that Pat is being ¨dishonest¨ from some of his arguments and assertions. Now I think this is an unfair characterisation. He is honest! Pat just isn´t what we thought he should be, a reformed believer. Pat seems to be nominally reformed, if at all.

    By the way Sean, Ben posted something on Crampton´s review of Anderson´s book over at the Yahoo Scripturalist Group. Point #9 I think is worth the whole post as it answers Anderson´s assertion that it can be rational to believe a paradox. Ben shows that this is simply impossible!

    Denson

  78. speigel Says:

    Does participating in Christmas make one not reformed? Or is more required?

  79. Sean Gerety Says:

    Does participating in Christmas make one not reformed? Or is more required?

    To argue that what the Bible does not explicitly condemn in worship is therefore acceptable is un-Reformed and contrary to the WCF 21.

  80. speigel Says:

    Thanks for the clarification. But how did GHClark justify celebrating Christmas?

    Isn’t there some disconnect to argue that Pat is wrong because he is arguing a position contrary to WCF when people on this blog aruge for a two-person theory of the incarnation contra WCF?

    I’m looking for clarification, not a debate – in case someone sees this as an opportunity to flame me.

  81. Eric Says:

    Denson,

    “Like Eric I used to think that Pat is being ¨dishonest¨”

    I have to break my silence because I was hoping to be sued for liable, this would provide the humor I needed to get me through the Holy Season ;-). Is that reeeaaally the holy family over in the neighbors yard? No, I said this because the dictionary definition used by Pat, hi Pat (I don’t want you to feel like a third wheel), to define Christmas (Christ’s Mass) which is clearly a tip of the hat to (indicating) the Catholic Mass in its use of ‘feast,’ which word, has its meaning and source in the cycle of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church from which all church calenders come. This is why I questioned Pat’s honesty because he was denying, in this particular instance, clear meaning. Again, I am not interested in what others (protestants) have changed the words to mean but what they mean. Christ’s Mass (Christmas) means ‘the feast celebrating the birth of Christ’ or as the dictionary defined it ‘the feast of Jesus birth’–the Mass. This is so plain, one would have to be blind, or completely dishonest to argue with it. Even if we did concede to the protestant definition we still find no warrant for it in scripture, therefore, it is non-binding to either Christians or pagans.

    The bone that I had with Andy’s ode to Christmas was in the conclusion, which I stated above. The practice of Christ’s Mass comes from the Catholic Church whether we like it our not. Pastors in American were merely following an established idolatry which has been added to in subsequent years.

    The Presbyterian tradition clearly rejected the church calendar which includes the Christ’s Mass feast. They not only condemned its practice for worship in the Church but also as a private exercise for the day, and instead, thought people should be working. Please correct me if I’m wrong in this assessment. While I may agree with the former, I definitely do not agree with the later, that the church use the state to pass laws on religious conscience and practice outside its sphere.

    Pat, I believe, is arguing that he is free, outside the church, and correct me if I’m wrong, Pat, to exchange gifts and other things with his family. I have absolutely no problem with this, at all. I do believe the puritans would have problems with it, though. As long as Pat doesn’t bind anyone’s conscience to his practice, I believe he’s free to do it as long as his conscience is clear which means he believes the Bible to teach this freedom.

    As I see the reformation it seems they had this debate early on, that is, how far should reform go. This was a point of contention between Luther and Carlstadt. Luther seems to have been a proponent of more conservative changes and the Lutheran Church retained the Church calendar in its liturgy.

    I must state again for clarity that if the culture doesn’t like the Merry Christ’s Mass thingy that they have no right to pass laws to shut its proponents up because the Constitution clearly forbids this. But, neither do the proponents of the Christ’s Mass thingy have any right to say that unbelievers reject Christ because they reject the Christ’s Mass thingy as the Christ’s Mass thingy is not biblical and its absence as a particular ‘Holy’ day does no violence to Christ.

    As an aside, what disturbs me most about those professing Presbyterianism today is that their profession is a facade. The like the prestige associated with Presbyterianism, but not the substance, the WCF.


  82. “Does participating in Christmas make one not reformed? Or is more required?

    To argue that what the Bible does not explicitly condemn in worship is therefore acceptable is un-Reformed and contrary to the WCF 21.”

    I’ve never argued any such thing.


  83. Eric,

    Thanks for trying to provide some clarity to the madness that’s going on here.

    “No, I said this because the dictionary definition used by Pat, hi Pat (I don’t want you to feel like a third wheel), to define Christmas (Christ’s Mass) which is clearly a tip of the hat to (indicating) the Catholic Mass in its use of ‘feast,’ which word, has its meaning and source in the cycle of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church from which all church calenders come.”

    So, you’re saying that the dictionary’s use of the word “feast” means a Mass or holy day celebration? That seems unlikely at best. One should simply look at the dictionary’s definition of feast for its definition. You will not find “Mass” as its definition. Yes, a feast is defined as “a periodic religious observance commemorating an event,or honoring a deity,person or thing.” But I hardly think that going to Mass or a formal public worship is necessary to celebrating Christmas, or that any use of the word Christmas must imply a religious feast.

    “Again, I am not interested in what others (protestants) have changed the words to mean but what they mean.”

    If a word is changed, then that is what it means. Again, etymology does not determine meaning. Words change in meaning by their usage. People start using a word to mean something different and the word thus changes in meaning.

    “(Christmas) means ‘the feast celebrating the birth of Christ’ or as the dictionary defined it ‘the feast of Jesus birth’–the Mass.”

    What dictionary gives the word “Mass” in its definition? Again, as I’ve said, hardly anyone, including Roman Catholics mean that by the term.

    The Presbyterian tradition clearly rejected the church calendar which includes the Christ’s Mass feast. They not only condemned its practice for worship in the Church but also as a private exercise for the day, and instead, thought people should be working. Please correct me if I’m wrong in this assessment. While I may agree with the former, I definitely do not agree with the later,

    What are we disagreeing on then? The use of a word.

    I must state again for clarity that if the culture doesn’t like the Merry Christ’s Mass thingy that they have no right to pass laws to shut its proponents up because the Constitution clearly forbids this. But, neither do the proponents of the Christ’s Mass thingy have any right to say that unbelievers reject Christ because they reject the Christ’s Mass thingy as the Christ’s Mass thingy is not biblical and its absence as a particular ‘Holy’ day does no violence to Christ.

    What is the “Christ’Mass thingy?” If it is that Christ the savior of the world was born, then of course they are rejecting Christ. If it is about making Christmas a holy day, again, I would say, no one is attempting to do so, except the RC church.

    “Pat, I believe, is arguing that he is free, outside the church, and correct me if I’m wrong, Pat, to exchange gifts and other things with his family. I have absolutely no problem with this, at all. I do believe the puritans would have problems with it, though. As long as Pat doesn’t bind anyone’s conscience to his practice, I believe he’s free to do it as long as his conscience is clear which means he believes the Bible to teach this freedom.”

    (Yet, people here are saying that I’m not Reformed for believing this?) Of course the Bible teaches this freedom. AS I’ve been saying, the Bible doesn’t condemn the celebration of Christ’s birth. And of course, I’m not binding anyone’s conscience. We are all free to celebrate it or not. And BTW, I have tended not to want to make too much of it. And my family would think that I do not want to celebrate Christmas if I don’t want to exchange gits. Again, what are we arguing over, a term? Get over it already. Celebrating Christmas is celebrating/commemorating our Lord’s birth. That is what people mean by their usage of the term. To say that people can’t use the term without implying advocating the Mass or some public worship implied, or the making that day into a Holy Day is just plain silly.

    Also, my congregation, and none that I know of in the OPC or PCA have a worship service on Christmas day. So, again I don’t know what the big tadoo is all about.

  84. Eric Says:

    “So, you’re saying that the dictionary’s use of the word “feast” means a Mass or holy day celebration?”

    I am saying ‘feast’ refers to a ‘meal’ which is the Mass, and if the protestant term be accepted, and I don’t in this case, Lord’s Supper. Christmas is the special Mass in celebration of Christ’s birth. In the protestant church, if this definition be accepted, it is the special Lord’s Supper celebrating Christ’s birth. This is all according to the church calendar of the Roman Rite established by the Catholic Church. A special Lord’s Supper on December 25 celebrating Christ’s birth, much less a Mass, is ever commanded in the Bible.

    I have to say that I’m with the puritans (WCF) on this one and I believe they are on the side of the Bible. Where I disagree with the Puritans is that of control through legislation. However, I understand the Puritan ‘fear.’ If Catholic practice be embraced, so eventually Catholicism. In the ascendancy the persecution of the church would go unrestrained as the Catholic Church, still holding to every dogma since the reformation as firmly as ever, would use the state to persecute those who condemned the Pope and his teaching. This should still be a ‘fear’ today. This ‘church’ must not gain the ascendancy over our government, or any other government. The Pope still claims authority over them all and is working through his ambassadors to form treaties (concordats) with every nation so that he can collect tithes from the same. Germany pays tithes to the Pope to this day, since the concordat signed by Hitler. As an aside, and as a conspiracy theorist, not to bring up the old laundry, too much, I believe the ignorant are as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than the informed ideologue. This is why I object to ignorant affirmation of anything.

    “Of course the Bible teaches this freedom.”

    I think so, but I don’t think the puritans would concur.

    “Again, what are we arguing over, a term?”

    The reason there is so much confusion is because there is so little definition. Most Everyone I know says, “Merry….” For most, if not all, it’s automatic. People need to know what it is they are affirming. If a ‘term’ can mean anything, and this one has one meaning or another to most everybody, then it means nothing at all.

    “What is the “Christ’Mass thingy?” If it is that Christ the savior of the world was born, then of course they are rejecting Christ.”

    This is the whole point, its not. This was the point of the puritans.

    “Also, my congregation, and none that I know of in the OPC or PCA have a worship service on Christmas day. So, again I don’t know what the big tadoo is all about.”

    Every OPC and PCA church I’ve attended had a Christ’s Mass service. It was usually held on Christ’s Mass Eve. Every Presbyterian Church used advent candles leading up to this event.

  85. Eric Says:

    I might add that if the ‘feast’ definition be accepted above whether the ‘feast’ be the idolatrous Catholic Mass or the Lord’s Supper, then any private celebration of Christ’s Mass is out of the question.

  86. Sean Gerety Says:

    To argue that what the Bible does not explicitly condemn in worship is therefore acceptable is un-Reformed and contrary to the WCF 21.”

    I’ve never argued any such thing.

    Here is one of many places where you did:

    “The whole argument is refuted out of hand by this one statement: The Bible does not condemn the celebration of Christ’s birthday. How can you condemn something the Bible doesn’t condemn?”

    Ipso facto the celebration of Christ’s birthday is acceptable.

    FWIW, I can see why someone would consider you dishonest.

    Also, are you really a lawyer Pat? And, if so, what kind of lawyer are you and do you actually practice? Just curious.

  87. Sean Gerety Says:

    If it is about making Christmas a holy day, again, I would say, no one is attempting to do so, except the RC church.

    Are you out of your mind? Virtually every Protestant denomination has special Christmas and Christmas eve worship services, not to mention the “living nativities,” advent observances, and a whole host of other worship and evangelism programs all focused around the imagined birth of Christ on December 25th. Saturnalia by any other name is still just a Pagan feast or holiday.

    Again, I can see why some would think you are dishonest.


  88. “Christmas is the special Mass in celebration of Christ’s birth.”

    Again, not even the Pope or any Catholic accepts this as the definition of Christmas.

    “A special Lord’s Supper on December 25 celebrating Christ’s birth, much less a Mass, is ever commanded in the Bible.”

    Of course not. And no one is claiming such, or even suggesting that we celebrate the Lord’s Supper in commemoration of the Lord’s birth.

    “I have to say that I’m with the puritans (WCF) on this one and I believe they are on the side of the Bible.”

    No one disagrees with you or the Puritans on this one.

    “The reason there is so much confusion is because there is so little definition. Most Everyone I know says, “Merry….” For most, if not all, it’s automatic. People need to know what it is they are affirming.”

    They are not affirming anything. They are wishing people have a happy Christmas day. Possibly they mean that people will rejoice in and/or be thankful on this day commemorating our Lord’s birth.

    “If a ‘term’ can mean anything, and this one has one meaning or another to most everybody, then it means nothing at all.”

    This doesn’t follow. The fact that a word can mean different things to different people does not mean it can mean ANYTHING. Christmas doesn’t mean Thanksgiving or Halloween or car or horse or monkey or type or any other word in the dictionary. Words can have broad meanings and/or references. It doesn’t mean they can mean anything anyone wants it to mean. Take for example the word “bald”. For some it might mean completely hairless. For others, it might be having no thick hair on one’s head.

    “What is the “Christ’Mass thingy?” If it is that Christ the savior of the world was born, then of course they are rejecting Christ.”

    “This is the whole point, its not. This was the point of the puritans.”

    Really? One can deny that the savior of the world was ever born and still accept Him as the savior of the world?

    “This is why I object to ignorant affirmation of anything.”

    One cannot affirm what he does not know he’s affirming. Affirmation, like assent, requires understanding. Again, no one is affirming anything regarding the Catholic Mass or making a feast day/holy day for Christ’s birthday.

    “Every OPC and PCA church I’ve attended had a Christ’s Mass service.”

    The appropriateness of doing so is worthy of discussion. But this whole blog about the appropriateness of using the term Christmas and celebrating the Lord’s birthday is not.


  89. If it is about making Christmas a holy day, again, I would say, no one is attempting to do so, except the RC church.

    Are you out of your mind? Virtually every Protestant denomination has special Christmas and Christmas eve worship services, not to mention the “living nativities,” advent observances, and a whole host of other worship and evangelism programs all focused around the imagined birth of Christ on December 25th

    Sean, those things in and of themselves don’t show that they are making Christmas a holy day. You’ve simply been begging the question all along.

    Also, no one actually thinks Jesus was born on Dec.25 (in fact we are probably not even in the right season). It is simply a day chosen/designated as such.


  90. “The whole argument is refuted out of hand by this one statement: The Bible does not condemn the celebration of Christ’s birthday. How can you condemn something the Bible doesn’t condemn?”

    “Ipso facto the celebration of Christ’s birthday is acceptable.”

    Yes, but that has nothing to do necessarily with having a worship service or making it a holy day. One can celebrate Christmas in a million ways. Thus, this does NOT show that I have argued “what the Bible does not explicitly condemn in worship is therefore acceptable.” Sean, is this really you? For someone who has written some good books and is Clarkian, you really are not thinking very precisely.

  91. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sean, those things in and of themselves don’t show that they are making Christmas a holy day.

    That’s right, special modes and days set aside for worship in honor of Christ’s birth, resurrection, you name it are not “holy days.”

    I see you didn’t answer my question concerning your professed profession. Big surprise, but that’s OK, because this thread is closed.


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