Sunday, February 24, 2013

Reformation, Lent and the Church Calendar

Over on the Gospel Coalition, New Calvinist Colin Hansen has posted on the topic of the church calendar in general and Lent in particular. The overall slant of the article is towards the celebration of Lent, while giving room for Ligon Duncun to voice the lone case against the celebration of Lent. Given that people like Hansen are low church baptists, it is interesting to see them adopt what is essentially a high church ritual, but I digress,

The main argument brought up by Hansen is the idea that all churches practice a church calendar, just as all churches practice a liturgy (which is after all an 'order of service'). Since all churches practice a church calendar, the argument goes, why should we be against the celebration of Lent, especially since many churches celebrate Christmas and Easter as well?

Now, it is true that many low church Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter, and yet are against the celebration of Lent. But this is not the historic Reformed position. The Reformed with the Regulative Principle of Worship removed the celebration of Christmas and Easter, and all other holy days, as can be seen in the Westminster Directory for Public Worship:

There is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord's day, which is the Christian Sabbath. Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued. (Appendix)

The Reformed see that proper worship is to be centered upon the 52 Lord's Days per year, with the ceasing of all other holy days, which necessarily means removing the celebration of Christmas and Easter. Now of course, such did not happen in the Dutch churches for instance, because of various reasons including the fact that people do want to celebrate Christmas and Easter.

So, yes, Hansen is right in saying that all churches have a calendar. The Reformed at their best however see the calendar as speaking of the celebration of 52 Lord's Days, which are our "holy days." We can say that we have a "church calendar," but it is a church calendar centered around the 7 day creation week, not the circuit of the earth around the sun.

Now I personally have no issue with people wishing to celebrate Christmas or Easter, if they are not done as holy days. By all means people may decide in their personal piety to celebrate Christmas and Easter, but that is different from saying that the Church should celebrate them. Likewise, if some people want to fast during Lent season, that is their own prerogative. But Christians can fast any time they wish to, not just during the Lenten season. And Christians should be meditating upon the death and sacrifice of our Lord every time they partake of the Lord's Supper, which should be done frequently, not just during Lent leading up to Good Friday and Easter. So while I do think believers could choose to fast, and meditate upon Christ's death and sacrifice during the Lenten season, I do not see why they should be doing so, since they should be meditating upon it everytime they partake upon the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Instead of celebrating popish feasts like Lent, why not have a proper church service with frequent celebration of the Lord's Supper? Perhaps the impetus for the promotion of Lent is the fact that many evangelical church services have lost all sense of the sacred, and are more like rock concerts instead of covenantal meetings with our holy God.


James Sundquist said...

I discuss Lent in my book Who's Driving the Purpose Driven Church? on Rick Warren because of the 40 Days of Purpose.

Our site is:

James Sundquist

PuritanReformed said...