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15372[Covenanted Reformation] Re: Christmas a pagan festival? Maybe not

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  • timmopussycat
    Dec 27, 2006
      --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, trygvesson@...
      wrote:
      >
      >
      > In a message dated 12/27/2006 11:58:24 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,
      > timmopussycat@... writes:
      > "Tim-Paraphrasing Calvin in this context might leave a wrong
      > impression since apparently 'he kept Christmas in Geneva to the
      > consternation of the Scots'."
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Tim,
      >
      > Do you have a source and context for this? I see it brought out
      every year,
      > but few ever really document this or put it into it's historical
      context.

      Tim-Sure. A little googling found:

      The Defense of Christmas
      David J. Englesma
      http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/Xmas_ch3.htm

      "Calvin looked askance at the celebration of Christmas in his day
      because of the corrupting of that celebration by Roman Catholicism
      (see I. VanDellen and M. Monsma, The Church Order Commentary,
      Zondervan, 1941, p. 273). [19] He did not, however, flatly forbid it
      as a transgression of the second commandment. [20] As I noted in my
      review of Wulfert de Greef's The Writings of John Calvin: An
      Introductory Guide (Baker, 1993), Calvin went along with the Geneva
      church's observance of the four great feast days that did not fall on
      a Sunday, including Christmas. [21] When the Council decided to
      abolish these observances, Calvin wrote a correspondent that, if he
      had been asked for advice, he would not have supported this decision
      (see de Greef, The Writings of John Calvin, p. 57; my review of this
      book appeared in the September 15, 1994 issue of the Standard
      Bearer)."

      This is the kind of wisdom that we defenders of the "regulative
      principle" must demonstrate in our application of the principle, lest
      we fall into a rigid, stifling (and divisive) legalism and, thus,
      imperil the principle itself.

      On the same page a David W.Carson a critic of Englsma admits the
      following:

      Several conclusions can be made from this survey of Calvin's
      attitudes and practices with regard to the festival days:
      1. It is true that Calvin did not consider the festival days per se a
      violation of the second commandment in the way that he counted the
      Mass to be, for example. But to infer from this fact that Calvin
      approved of festival days is altogether unwarranted. There were many
      things, festival days included, which Calvin considered corruptions
      from pure, apostolic worship, yet not of such a serious nature that
      they could not be borne with for a time to advance the cause of
      reformation.
      2. Calvin did consider festivals to be "fooleries, gave advice not to
      approve them, thought them occasions of superstition, held it
      superstition to distinguish one day from another, or to esteem one
      above another, [and] call[ed] them Judaical though kept to the honour
      of God. "
      3. Calvin never advocated nor sought the institution of such
      festivals, and only complied with such actions under the most
      desperate of circumstances, when the gospel itself was threatened.
      Furthermore, in dealing with other churches, he always recommended
      the abolition of festivals if it all possible, and thought them an
      evil to be born with only when necessary for the progress of the
      gospel.
      4. Because he did not consider them an absolute violation of the
      second commandment, he was ruled by another principle when dealing
      with them the edification of the church. Because he could not obtain
      their removal without tumult that would have been harmful to the
      progress of the gospel in Geneva, he submitted to that of which he
      did not approve.
      Whether we agree or disagree with Calvin's course of action, or his
      views of the nature of the evil of holy days, it is most obvious that
      only by a torturous wrenching of his opinions can he be made to serve
      as an advocate for the institution and maintenance of holy days in
      our modern condition. His principles of worship caused him to
      consider them a corruption and a superstition. His own opinion and
      advice was against them. Only he was restrained by a view of his
      circumstances, that the tumult that would erupt would outweigh the
      benefit gained by their abandonment. But we are not in his
      circumstances today. We have no civil government from whom to fear
      repercussions. We have no church made up of the entire body politic
      of an unruly city. We have complete freedom to reform the church
      according to its original institution. That was Calvin's ultimate
      quest. And THAT is his wisdom for us today.

      Tim-Or is it? Given that the evangelical church is as divided as it
      is and given that, as will be seen below, Carson has not refuted the
      idea that the regulative principle does not apply to extraordinary
      festivals, the danger of an unnecessary division among Christians may
      still outweigh the alleged danger of a supposedly unauthorized
      service.

      Not to mention:

      The Protestant Reformed Churches' practice of observing Christmas is
      a long and honorable tradition in the Reformed Churches that trace
      their spiritual descent to the Synod of Dordt. [3] Article 67 of the
      venerable Church Order of Dordt (1618/1619) requires that the
      Reformed churches "shall observe in addition to the Sunday also
      Christmas.
      This observance consists of a public worship service on December 25.
      [5] The elements of this service are the same as those that make up
      the congregation's worship on the Sabbath. [6] The minister preaches
      on some aspect of the birth of Christ, usually, and preferably, the
      history in the gospels. [7] The congregation hears the blessed gospel
      of the incarnation and praises God with appropriate psalms in
      congregational singing.
      [8] Objection against Dordt in this provision and practice is
      invariably in terms of the "regulative principle" of worship:
      observance of Christmas is not prescribed in Scripture.
      [9] But this is a misunderstanding of the "regulative principle."
      [10] This is evident from the fact that Dordt permitted, indeed
      prescribed, observance of Christmas even though the great Reformed
      synod was committed to the "regulative principle" as laid down in
      Question 96 of the Heidelberg Catechism. [11] Dordt saw no conflict
      between the requirement of the second commandment that we worship God
      only in the "way ... He has commanded in His Word" and the observance
      of Christmas at a Reformed worship service. [12] The fathers of Dordt
      saw no conflict because there is none.
      [13] The "regulative principle" requires that the elements of public
      worship the "how" of worship be those, and those only, that God
      prescribes in His Word, whether the public worship be on the Lord's
      Day or on some special occasion. [14] The "regulative principle"
      certainly does not forbid the church ever to gather for worship on
      another day than Sunday or on another occasion than the regular
      remembrance of Christ's resurrection on the first day of the week.
      [15] The Heidelberg Catechism explains the fourth commandment as
      requiring that "I, especially on the sabbath diligently frequent the
      church of God." [16] The Catechism does not say, "exclusively on the
      sabbath."
      [17] The Westminster Assembly likewise allowed for the observance of
      days of public fasting and of public thanksgiving in addition to the
      observance of the sabbath (see "The Directory for the Public Worship
      of God").

      And

      II. The Standard Bearer, 15 March 1995[3]
      [1] The term "Christmas," according to Webster's Ninth New Collegiate
      Dictionary, derives from a word meaning "Christ's mass." [2] From
      this, nothing follows concerning use of the word by the true church.
      [3] According to Baker's Dictionary of Christian Ethics (ed. Carl F.
      H. Henry, Baker, 1973), the word "Sunday" is "derived from pagan
      sources and denotes the day devoted to the sun" (p. 653). [4] This
      does not rule out Christians meeting for worship on this day or using
      the word to refer to the day on which they engage in public worship.
      [5] There is no basis in Scripture for the Reformed churches'
      commemoration of Christ's birth on December 25. [6] Neither is there
      basis in Scripture for their observing a Day of Prayer on the second
      Wednesday of March annually. [7] Nor is there such basis in Scripture
      for services of public worship in observance of "notable
      judgments," "some special blessing," and "days of public
      thanksgiving," as allowed by the Westminster Assembly's "Directory
      for the Public Worship of God" and as actually held by Presbyterian
      churches in the Scottish tradition.

      Tim-Carson does not address this point although the same
      contradiction with which he charges Englsma is here present in the
      WCF.

      [8] The Reformed and Presbyterian churches have the liberty to
      observe these special occasions by worship services on other days
      than the Lord's Day. [9] This is really our liberty. It is our
      liberty in Christ Jesus. [10] The Belgic Confession asserts this
      liberty in general terms: "it is useful and beneficial that those who
      are rulers of the church institute and establish certain ordinances
      among themselves for maintaining the body of the church" (Art 32).
      [11] The Second Helvetic Confession of 1566, in its day a Reformation
      creed of standing, distribution, and influence, expresses this
      liberty in specific terms:
      [12] Moreover, if in Christian liberty the churches religiously
      celebrate the memory of the Lord's nativity, circumcision, passion,
      resurrection, and the ascension into heaven, and the sending of the
      Holy Spirit upon the disciples, we approve of it highly (Chapter 24,
      in Reformed Confessions of the 16th Century, ed. Arthur C. Cochrane,
      Westminster, 1966).

      Tim-Carson claims that granting liberty to the churches to observe
      the Lord's birth, denies the liberty of the members not to observe
      it. But this is incorrect. Members can stay away from the services on
      that day. Tactful management of the difference "think and let think"
      means that fellowship is not necessarily affected.

      [13] That which churches maintaining the "regulative principle" do
      not have liberty to do is to introduce into the worship service
      itself, whether on the Lord's Day or on a special occasion, any other
      element of worship besides those commanded by Scripture. [14] As the
      Heidelberg Catechism explains, God requires in the second commandment
      that we not worship Him "in any other way than He has commanded in
      His Word" (Q. 96).
      [15] The "regulative principle" of public worship does not care on
      what day, in addition to Sunday, the church may gather for public
      worship, or that the occasion may be celebrating the birth of Christ
      or some notable judgment. [16] The concern of the "regulative
      principle" is that when the church does gather for worship she
      worships God only as He has commanded in His Word; using the
      sacraments; publicly calling upon the Lord (which includes
      congregational singing of the Psalms); contributing to the relief of
      the poor; and doing all in spirit and in truth (see Heid. Cat., Q.
      103; John 4:24).
      [17] The Reformed churches that stand in the tradition of Dordt do
      not accuse, and never have accused, their Presbyterian brothers and
      sisters who stand in the tradition of Westminster of any wrong-doing
      as regards their worship. [18] It is perfectly alright in our
      judgment that the Scottish Presbyterians do not observe Christmas by
      a public worship service on December 25, or any other date. [19] We
      make no effort to bind their consciences.
      [20] When, on the other hand, our Presbyterian brothers and sisters
      accuse the Reformed churches standing in the tradition of Dordt of
      transgressing the second commandment, because they do observe
      Christmas, we warn them, "Beware, lest in applying the good principle
      you 'fall into a rigid, stifling (and divisive) legalism, and, thus,
      imperil the principle itself.'" [21] This was, and is, my warning,
      not to those who choose not to observe Christmas, but to those who
      are inclined to charge Article 67 of the Church Order of Dordt, and
      the Reformed believers adhering to it, with violation of the second
      commandment.
      [22] You inform us what you would do, should any minister call for
      the observance of Christmas: flatly refuse to attend.
      [23] It may be profitable to you to know what I would do, if the
      situation were reversed. [24] If the consistory decided to drop the
      observance of Christmas by a special worship service on December 25,
      I would acquiesce, although regretting the unnecessary giving up of a
      delightful, edifying service. [25] If the consistory gave as its
      reason, that it desired to avoid practical dangers, e.g., the secular
      corruption of Christmas or the threat of Roman Catholicism, I would
      still acquiesce, although believing the thinking of the consistory to
      be faulty.
      [26] But if the consistory gave as its reason for dropping the
      observance of Christmas that the observance of Christmas is per se
      violation of the second commandment, I would move heaven and earth to
      restore the observance and, certainly, to attend an observance
      myself.
      [27] It is a precious principle with us Reformed of Dordt not to
      allow our liberty in Christ to be infringed.


      Tim
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