Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Christmas, Xtreme Church Discipline and the Regulative Principle

A few years ago our family was visiting a church on the first Sunday of December. The pastor stood up and announced, "Tonight, we will have the hanging of the greens." I leaned over to my wife and whispered, "I don't know what the Greens did but it must have been really serious if the punishment is hanging!" I was torn between rejoicing over the rare prospect of a church practicing discipline and shuddering at its severity!

Now I recognize that the "official" designation is the "hanging of the green" (singular) but the church was in the deep south and the pastor may have inadvertently been thinking of his Sunday lunch when he made the announcement [a note to the culinarily challenged--"greens" is the common designation for a southern delicacy that only the most refined palates can fully appreciate; the three most common varieties are mustard, collard and turnip]. Whether that was the case or not, both the singular and the plural are commonly used by churches who practice decorating their sanctuaries with green foliage as an act of worship. Whole liturgies have been written to guide churches in how to do this "meaningfully."

I applaud efforts to make places dedicated to the worship of the living God aethetically pleasing where that is possible. But I cannot applaud the introduction into corporate church worship those elements that God Himself has not prescribed in His Word. God has told us that He cares how His people worship Him (see the first two of the 10 Commandments, for starters) and therefore we should be very hesitant to look to Hollywood, Madison Avenue or Main Street for cues on what we do in our gathered times of worship. Scripture, Paul says, is sufficient to thoroughly equip the man of God for every good work--including the good work of leading God's people in worship (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Scripture should guide and regulate our worship.

I, for one, believe that greens are better served with hamhocks and cornbread around a kitchen table than hung with liturgies and candles around a church sanctuary.

26 comments:

Kenan said...

"I, for one, believe that greens are better served with hamhocks and cornbread around a kitchen table than hung with liturgies and candles around a church sanctuary"

Amen, brother.
Let's eat, I'm hungry.

allofgrace said...

Agreed. I go to a large SBC church..and there are enuff things in the sanctuary now to distract from rather than draw into an attitude of worship. Let's keep the main thing the main thing...stick to the Word. Thanks for the good word.

Nathan White said...

Tom said: But I cannot applaud the introduction into corporate church worship those elements that God Himself has not prescribed in His Word…God has told us that He cares how His people worship Him (see the first two of the 10 Commandments, for starters) and therefore we should be very hesitant to look to Hollywood, Madison Avenue or Main Street for cues on what we do in our gathered times of worship.

Wow. That opens up a whole new can of worms. Are we currently overlooking this truth in other areas? Have we become to 'consumeristic' in our thinking and therefore in our worship? Can we really worship God any way we please?

For example: is just any style of music acceptable and God-honoring when offered as public worship? I would answer no; scripture is clear that humility and reverance are involved in true worship -something that isnt attainable with some forms of music.
I am often saddened by the fact that many Christians refuse to even entertain the thought that maybe some forms of music –despite sound lyrics- are inappropriate for God’s house.

Anyway, sorry Tom for jumping off topic a little. It was just a thought that entered my mind as you discussed worship.

SDG

justin said...

Great post. I have seen signs on churches advertising "The Hanging of the Greens." I have no idea what that is. Do they sing while they decorate? I guess I missed that class in seminary.

Eric M Schumacher said...

I'm not a big fan of "hanging the green", but the church I pastor does it.

However, I'm confused about how this constitutes "the introduction into corporate church worship those elements that God Himself has not prescribed in His Word". How is hanging something on the wall of a church introducing an element into worship? How is an evergreen branch different than a potted plant...or paint...or wallpaper...or drywall.

Wincing in anticipation...

Eric

Tom said...

Nathan:

I don't think you jumped off topic at all. Thanks for your comments.

Eric:

It isn't the "green" or even the fact that they are attached to walls. It is the liturgical "hanging" of them as an act of worship to which I object. Check out the hotlink in the post.

Now, stop wincing! :-)

Tim said...

Tom said: But I cannot applaud the introduction into corporate church worship those elements that God Himself has not prescribed in His Word.

Tom,

Could you elaborate, then on why Christmas is celebrated in the first place? Where in Scripture is such a command to celebrate this? I understand the incarnation, but I do not understand Christ-mass. Not looking to pick a fight, just curious as to why people do those things that God has not commanded, but rather follow in the traditions of men.

Eric M Schumacher said...

Tom,

The wincing has ceased. :)

I'm uncomfortable with that formal service to hang the greens. With that said, do you object to special decorating for certain "seasons"? (Another can of worms...)

I'd really appreciate some insights on the regulative principle. (This is probably something better handled in an email exchange or phone calls.) It's something I've always struggled to understand how to apply consistently. For example:
Does the RP apply to corporate worship only--or also to family and private worship? If it applies to family worship, is the use of an advent calandar or candles with our children sinful?

Looking forward to your insight.

Unwincingly,
Eric

Brian Hamrick said...

I'd second Eric's question on things such as advent candles. We removed them from our worship this year, and I'm fighting the resistance. Would be curious how the rest of you brothers see this issue.

David B. Hewitt said...

The main two questions (thank you, Dr. Whitney!) to consider when addressing an issue as to whether or not it conforms to the Regulative Principle are the following:

1.) Is it biblical? If an "element" (as opposed to a "form") that we are doing in worship, like a candle lighting or a drama presentation, is not found in Scripture as something we are supposed to do, then it should be excluded from worship. This is different from using, say, a power-point projector to display music lyrics. This is just a form that an element (singing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs per Eph 5:19-20) happens to be taking in the 21st century American church. The same element would take a different form elsewhere in the world.

2.) Is it God-centered? By definition, worship is focusing on and responding to God. Therefore, if there is something that we are doing in worship that is not God centered, it should be excluded. As far as greeting times are concerned (because of the biblical exhortation to greet one another), such a thing should probably be moved to the beginning or end since it tends to be more horizontally focused than vertically.
Regardless, all we do must be done for God's glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Perhaps an exegesis of John 4:21-25 would help. Any volunteers? :)

Nathan White said...

Tim,

If we choose to drop Christmas then that would rule out Thanksgiving and Easter as well wouldn't it?

I personally don’t see how recognizing and celebrating a significant moment in Christian history is an undesirable tradition. No, these holidays aren’t specifically outlined in scripture, but certainly the concept of taking a special moment of remembrance is (Lord’s supper). Jesus definitely had our edification in mind when He instructed us to take a moment and reflect on His death.

So I would argue that entering these holidays into corporate worship IS outlined in scripture –just not directly (therefore we must recognize the actual celebration of them as a tradition rather than a biblical fact, but a tradition in which each person may decide for himself). The events happened in scripture and it would do us well to recognize and celebrate them. And choosing a special day of the year to do this is no less biblical than choosing Sunday as our day of corporate worship. However, I think I know where you’re coming from, as I am very familiar with churches that have overblown Christmas celebrations and ‘dog and pony show’ type Christmas productions. As in everything, Biblical discernment is needed in these areas.

SDG

David & Rose Ann said...

In some sense we're straining a gnat on this one. We all know there are far bigger fish to shoot than Green Hanging.

But, if the larger point is collective SBC amnesia at best (and widespread ignorance at worst) when it comes to the Regulative Principle, then as others have said above we have to add a number of things, not just this one. This particular issue is interesting in that it seems to be Tradition driven by worship leaders and congregations, and not necessarily pastors. That they have something in common with Roman Catholicism around circa 800-1000 AD might escape them.

Scripture Searcher said...

Thomas, at times you are so funny you make me cry for joy.

Your ability to differentiate the "greens" indicates that
the Beaumont (South Park) Texas boy has skills far beyond the classroom and pulpit.

Persevere!

jmattingly said...

I think we must ask the question: Why do we want to introduce these rituals and traditions (meaningful as they may be) into the corporate worship?

Though it is certainly not the case in some instances, often the desire to introduce these elements betrays a dissatisfaction with the Biblical elements that God has prescribed for New Testament worship: the reading of the Scriptures, the preaching of the Word, the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, prayer, encouraging & admonishing one another. Sometimes we just want something new and memorable!

Despite the fact that I believe certain activities will be more edifying, the reality is that God blesses the ordinary means of grace (I have to remember this so that I do not forego my afternoon Scripture reading in order to read blogs!). God certainly encourages creativity (various sermon series, arrangements of songs, multi-faceted ways of encouraging one another), but within the structure of the elements prescribed.

I know of many who would never miss a special Christmas service with all the gleaming lights and holiday décor, yet would never darken the church door for a Sunday evening Bible study and prayer time. God give us grace to not see his prescribed worship as restrictive and confining, but to rejoice in those wonderful elements that He has promised will shape us into the image of Christ.

In Christ,
Jeremiah

Randy Williams said...

Being a Liturgical minded Reformed Baptist I don't have any major problems with the Hanging of The Greens as described by the link. My Church does not however do it.

We began Advent this Sunday by a reading of Isaiah 60:1-3 and the lighting of a Advent candle which reminds us, , "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. [4] In him was life, and that life was the light of men. [5] The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. "( John 1:3-9 (NIV)

We will light one every Sunday and at our Christmas Eve service. I however am not a strict RP fellow though I believe there has to be some regulation.

Grace +T+

Tim said...

Nathan,

Thanks for the comments. However, I want to ask some questions and get your take on them.

The topic became that of the hanging of the greens. First, are we familiar with the liturgy involved and what it teaches? I would say that many are knowledgable of these things. Now, is it a a celebration of the incarnation? Absolutely. Why is that somehow different than the celebration of Christmas? How can we honestly say the hanging of the greens is wrong, but celebrating Christmas is ok. The Bible does not state that either is permissable or acceptable to God. I want to also ask about some of your statements. I know you know the spirit in which I ask them.

You said, "If we choose to drop Christmas then that would rule out Thanksgiving and Easter as well wouldn't it?"

I don't have a problem with dropping them. We were commanded long ago before the time of the Pilgrims to give thanks. We are commanded to give thanks in all things and at all times according to Scripture. As far as the resurrection goes, that seems to be apostolic. Easter is not brought about as a celebration in Scripture. That has pagan roots. However, the resurrection itself is remembered in the observance of the Lord's Day each week and follows apostolic tradition from Scripture and from church history.

You stated, "I personally don’t see how recognizing and celebrating a significant moment in Christian history is an undesirable tradition. No, these holidays aren’t specifically outlined in scripture, but certainly the concept of taking a special moment of remembrance is (Lord’s supper). Jesus definitely had our edification in mind when He instructed us to take a moment and reflect on His death."

I agree 100% about the remembrance of remembering His death. No question about it. However, we are never at liberty to start establishing other things in the worship of God other than what He has commanded. Exhibit A would be Nadab and Abihu from the story from Lev. 9 & 10. The "strange fire" clearly references something they offered that they were not instructed to offer. They were not told that they could not offer this "strange fire", yet God sent a fire out and consumed them. Then we are told in Leviticus 10:3, "And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: `By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace." The point was that the holiness of God was at stake and it was not to be mingled with the intentions of men, no matter how well intentioned. Isn't this exactly what most of us despise about the user friendly movement, along with its watering down of the gospel?

"So I would argue that entering these holidays into corporate worship IS outlined in scripture –just not directly (therefore we must recognize the actual celebration of them as a tradition rather than a biblical fact, but a tradition in which each person may decide for himself)."

But Nathan, to jump from The clear instruction of the Lord's own mouth and to devise our own celebrations is not Scriptural. Let's be honest and ask ourselves. If we never heard of Christmas, would we ever get the idea to celebrate it from Scripture. The only conclusion I can come to is no we would not.

"The events happened in scripture and it would do us well to recognize and celebrate them. And choosing a special day of the year to do this is no less biblical than choosing Sunday as our day of corporate worship."

True, these events did happen. We should rejoice over the truth of the incarnation and other things, but again we see a pattern for the Lord's Day, we do not see a pattern for Christmas.

"However, I think I know where you’re coming from, as I am very familiar with churches that have overblown Christmas celebrations and ‘dog and pony show’ type Christmas productions. As in everything, Biblical discernment is needed in these areas."

I agree. But have we not also overblown it in our lives outside the building that we meet in? How many churches and homes of professing Christians are decorated with Christmas trees? Is that a biblical idea? Sounds very similar to learning the ways of the heathen from Jer. 10:1-4. However, we put "christian" decorations on of the nativity and I guess that makes it ok. We often indulge ourselves and our lusts with multitudes of gifts for one another, but it's supposed to be someone else's birthday we are supposed to be celebrating. Then many often give gifts out of guilt, so it really isn't a gift, but more of a conscience appeaser.

I don't mean to be a Scrooge, but its the more I think about it the more it seems that we need to truly reform in this area of following after holidays (holy days) as we see fit, or as the world and Rome has taught us. Any of us clearly has access to the origins of Christmas and the go way back beyond the incarnation and are outside the perimeters of the Scripture. Sorry for the long post, but would be happy to hear your response.

Randy Williams said...

I really enjoy and appreciate the responses on this Blog. Some of the questions that I have never heard answered is

1. Why was not the Purim festival orginating in Esther but not approved by the Law not condemned?

2.Why Did Jesus celebrate Hannukkah in John 10? or at the least have a Temple cleansing knocking over Menorahs?

The explanation I often have been given is that these were secular festivals. That however is completely wrong since there was no separation of sacred and secular in Jewish culture and seems to insert a Western mindset into Scripture in order to justify the Regulative.


I am moderately Regulative. I don't think puppet shows, drama, belong in worship. Personaly I wonder if Cantatas, Special music have a place since it seems to lean toward entertainment.

Strange fire in the context of scripture was taking lightly the altar of the LORD by offering unauthorized fire or what we might call casual worship that does not recognize the Holiness of God when approaching Worship.

God Bless +T+

Nathan White said...

Tim,

You make some good points which I will humbly try to address.

Tim: Why is that somehow different than the celebration of Christmas? How can we honestly say the hanging of the greens is wrong, but celebrating Christmas is ok. The Bible does not state that either is permissable or acceptable to God.

Hanging of the greens is a ritual not prescribed by the Word of God, and a ritual performed in God’s house under the pretense of worship. A celebration of Christmas is simply a special recognition of a particular Biblical truth. It is not a ritual like the Lord’s Supper, there is nothing that will “commend us to God, for we are neither better nor worse” if we choose to celebrate or not. It is not an issue of right or wrong, but rather of conscience and Christian liberty: “He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and He who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it”. Rituals that are not outlined in scripture are in error [cough, cough: Altar call...whoops, did I just say that out loud? :) ].These holidays are NOT a ritual but rather an observance.

Tim: Easter is not brought about as a celebration in Scripture. That has pagan roots.

And clearly there isn’t a hint of scripture that warns us about overemphasizing Biblical, historical events. There is however, Paul’s scolding of the Corinthians on how they were celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Although, despite all of their errors in these types of areas, Paul still just admonishes them: “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. Again, we are not performing a ritual in place of worship. We are only choosing a special day to recognize certain Biblical truths, and we have the freedom in the Lord to do so.

Tim: However, we are never at liberty to start establishing other things in the worship of God other than what He has commanded. Exhibit A would be Nadab and Abihu from the story from Lev. 9 & 10…

(Come on now Tim, you know I’m dispensational :) Just kidding. Actually, Nadab and Abihu were drunk and they performed a blasphemous act back when there were strict ritualistic guidelines for the Lord’s house…But I agree with the statement that we are not at liberty to start establishing anything that contradicts God’s Word. However, you have confused rituals with simply choosing a day to devote our focus and celebrate a certain truth.

Tim: The point was that the holiness of God was at stake and it was not to be mingled with the intentions of men, no matter how well intentioned. Isn't this exactly what most of us despise about the user friendly movement, along with its watering down of the gospel?

The user-friendly watering down of the gospel is a different gospel. Much of it is contrary to God’s word as a teaching and as a philosophy. Choosing a day to recognize a Biblical truth and celebrate it among friends and family is in no way similar to changing the Word of God to tickle itching ears.

Tim:But Nathan, to jump from The clear instruction of the Lord's own mouth and to devise our own celebrations is not Scriptural.

How dreadful and dreary would our lives be if we were not free to celebrate what we love?! Do you not celebrate your birthday? Or the birth of a child? Or a significant anniversary? Why not do the same with Whom you love the most: the risen Christ? How glorious is our freedom from the law in that we DO have the liberty to express our love for Christ in many ways -as long as they do not violate scripture. The purpose of Christmas has no intention to commend us to God. I am not arguing that these holidays make God smile down on us more, or that people are more or less holy if they recognize the holiday or not. I am arguing that we have complete and total freedom in Christ, per Romans 14 among other passages, to choose to celebrate and rejoice in whatever we please as long as it doesn’t clearly violate His word, and as long as we do it unto God’s glory.

Tim:but again we see a pattern for the Lord's Day, we do not see a pattern for Christmas.

But you would agree that Sunday is not the standard right? If I desired to hold worship on Saturday, or Tuesday for that matter, I have the freedom in Christ to do so right? It’s the same principle here. Choosing a special day to put aside special time to focus on certain truths in scripture is certainly in the same spirit as the Lord’s purpose in instituting the Lord’s Supper.

Tim:How many churches and homes of professing Christians are decorated with Christmas trees? Is that a biblical idea? Sounds very similar to learning the ways of the heathen from Jer. 10:1-4. However, we put "christian" decorations on of the nativity and I guess that makes it ok. We often indulge ourselves and our lusts with multitudes of gifts for one another, but it's supposed to be someone else's birthday we are supposed to be celebrating. Then many often give gifts out of guilt, so it really isn't a gift, but more of a conscience appeaser.

I completely agree that Christmas is overblown in man’s desire to express his sinful heart. But are we living by the Spirit or the letter? What biblical truth hints at Christmas trees being wrong? If it violates your conscience then yes! But if you understand that this is a discernable area as it does not violate a clear biblical command, and if you understand that it does not commend you to God whether you do so or not (meaning it is not ‘worship’ per se, like for instance music is), then there is no Biblical warrant for condemning such a practice. Just because some have perverted the birth of our Savior into a man-made, lustful, materialistic, depravity-fest, does not determine our abandonment of the practice. And even though Christmas has been perverted to materialistic extremes, the foundation for celebration is widely recognized as the birth of Christ. The culture has not quite fallen to the depths of completely separating Christ from the holiday. To the true Christian, his heart can be pure towards God during this holiday, and his reputation and stance for the truth can go uncompromised to the society as well.

Tim, you also know me well enough to understand the spirit in which I ask these things. And I praise God that you are a defender of the truth to the point that you don’t mind being blunt with me. I like it! And I know you are aware of my own tendency to be blunt. So here goes: I share your concern, but I’m sure you know that your view is rather extreme, maybe even radical –even among the most sound of Christians. I am always concerned when we focus too much on the external rather than the heart, and I think that might be a danger in this area. If it violates your conscience (and you realize that your conscience will sometimes lie to you), and if your conscience is informed by the written word, then by all means refrain from this practice. But clearly the Christian liberty Paul spoke of in several places does not call for strict rules, but rather Biblical discernment in the fear of God. We do nothing but harm when we place rules on others that do not deal with the matters of the heart.

(I think my post was just as long as yours!)

SDG

GeneMBridges said...

Re: Easter has pagan roots...

(A) So does the English word "nice"...but you're not removing that from your vocabulary are you?

(B) Those who insist on this seem to forget that Tertullian tells us the Ante-Nicene Church prohibited fasting and kneeling on the Lord's Day and Eastertide. The dating of Tertullian precedes the dating of Easter generally given by those insisting on Easter's pagan roots. We generally use this when discussing modern Rome's penchant for claiming it's practices (kneeling and fasting on those very days when the Ante-Nicene prohibited it) do not match those of the Patristic Age, yet we seem to forget this when dating the beginning of Easter observances.

jmattingly said...

Are we distinguishing between the elements of corporate worship in the church and those observances that we tend to have in our personal lives? Is this not a legitimate distinction to make? I’m assuming that it is, but I’m truly asking the question.

Yes, I understand that scripturally there ought to be a “secularization of holiness”, where every aspect of life is lived out to the glory of God. But isn’t there a difference between introducing elements into the corporate worship and incorporating them into your family life?

For instance, my son and I maintain the tradition of having a good wrestling match about every other evening (wrestling to the glory of God, mind you). We truly talk about things like how he can honor God in defending his sisters or his own family someday. We’ve even connected this with how we struggle with the flesh and do spiritual battle. But I would venture to say that this wrestling match would be viewed by most as an inappropriate element of corporate worship (amusing at it may be to watch).

I realize this is an extreme example, that the connection between wrestling & God is not as direct as Christmas, and that wisdom is truly called for in these issues, but surely simply because something is memorable for one particular person or group does not mean that it is appropriate for the worship of God.

But the reading of His word, preaching, prayer, his ordinances- praise God that these things transcend all distinctions in age, gender, people group, and even location with respect to the Mason-Dixon line.

Would love to hear thoughts,
Jeremiah

Tim said...

Nathan,

Thanks for your comments. I think many of them are good thoughts. I am radical?? lol. I don't mean to be, just haven't found good answers to my questions:) I don't know that much about the hanging of the greens. I heard aobut it about 2 years ago and was not at all familiar with liturgical worship. However, I read some things on the hanging of the greens and did not come upon anything that "commended to God" the worshippers. I saw where the origins of the different symbols and traditions were taught through the ceremony, but I didn't see the commending to God.

The point of birthdays is a good point, but if we are celebrating the birth of the Lord, why does everyone else get the presents?:)

As far as rituals go, are there others here who go through the ritual of establishing a tree in their home or place where you meet for worship? If so, why? We may not be bowing down to it and may say so in defense, but how many of us would scold someone who put a buddha in their home for decoration? They would never pat his head or rub his belly or bow down or burn incense, but some of us would not think it to be a good idea.

Nathan, I completely agree that we should rejoice over the incarnation, death and resurrection of our Lord, but I still have not seen, even from your comments the liberty to do with that as we see fit in particular celebrations. For instance, I have heard people bring up the Romans 14 passage as evidence of liberty of such celebrations. However, let us note that the ones being spoken of here are Jews who are not clear about the doing away with of the ceremonial aspects of the law. They are the weaker brothers. These that are spoken of are not inventing new ceremonies or celebrations. Their conscience is tied to old covenant customs. It is simply not right for us to claim this passage in order to justify our traditions.

I appreciate your bluntness too. Lest anyone should perceive in reading our interaction that we are being mean towards one another, I want everyone to know that you are my brother in Christ and I rejoice that we can dialogue without lowering ourselves to ad hominem. We are simply trying to spur one another on to love and good works and sound doctrine.

Jeremiah,

I would love to see that wrestling match! lol. I have six kids so far and wrestling at our house can be like the royal rumble:)

Gene,

I was referring to the practices that came before the time of Tertullian that have been "Christianized". Again, no where in the pages of Scripture do we find that particular celebration. We should see something of that in Acts I would presume, but there we only see reference to the first day of the week coming together for the Lord's Table.

Going back to that point of being radical though, was Spurgeon a radical? Most of us would happily agree that he was:) Is that his picture at the top? lol. Yes and we see that Spurgeon did not stand against the truth of the incarnation, but against the celebration of Christmas. There, now I've gone and done it, Spurgeon is the final authority (tongue in cheek).

Nathan White said...

Tim,
Thanks for your comments. LOL…I do not see you as radical! I wouldn’t have you on my blogroll if I felt you strayed from the truth in ANY way. But I did want to communicate that the no-holiday belief would be considered radical by many sound Christians (not to say they are always right). But you are right in wanting answers to these questions and looking to God’s word. I always like interacting with you and am thankful to God we can do this in a loving manner –recognizing our common faith and desire to defend the truth. Press on brother!

Now, pertaining to your argument:

I don’t know much about the hanging of the greens either. But again, rituals, if they are not prescribed by God, should be shunned if there is no biblical support for them. Special recognitions and celebrations, although we should be very cautious in how we recognize these in the context of God’s house, I do not believe scripture condemns.

Why does everyone else get the presents? Tradition. But some traditions are OK if we recognize them as traditions and strive to keep them in their proper context. The wise men brought gifts and so tradition determines that we give gifts to others to mimic their actions. I agree however, that the whole gift-giving thing has gotten way out of hand. Especially in the context of being wise stewards with the money and resources God has entrusted to us.

I would understand if someone had an issue with raising a Christmas tree in the church. In the home however, I see it as a tradition meant only for fun and decoration. I fail to see how this compares to putting up an idol, as it is only meant for decoration and to show that we plan on celebrating the birth of Christ. Again, its tradition, but I would argue that not all traditions are in error.

I certainly didn’t mean to say that an exegesis of Romans 14 shows that we can do whatever we want with our days. I just meant to show that Paul didn’t have a problem with giving others the freedom to make decisions as long as they did not contradict scripture. Remember, the letter kills but the Spirit gives life, and Paul knew the error in setting strict guidelines in areas where responsible discernment should be our guide. But I disagree with your statement that it isn’t right to use this passage to justify our traditions. Why is the passage in there in the first place? Does this passage only address the Jews in Paul’s day –only in the context of their conscience being tied to the old covenant? I would strongly argue otherwise. Just because some abuse this text to justify all kinds of shameless rituals in no way means we abandon the passage altogether. I think this passage, along with other passages on liberty and love in 1 Cor, shows the necessity for responsible discernment rather than rigid rulemaking. These do not refer to rituals or acts of worship, but rather to personal areas where scripture is not clear.

SDG

Brian in Ytn said...

Brian says: almost everything done in the modern American church is a distraction from worship. Singing may be praise, testimony, etc., but not strictly speaking, worship. Even somebody "leading in prayer" may not even himself be worshipping, but saying the right things. True worship happens in the heart between the person and God, and almost everything we do in church is a distraction from that.

Brian in Ytn said...

Almost everything we do in church is a distraction to worship. Singing may be praise or testimony, but not strictly speaking worship. Even someone "leading in prayer" may be only someone saying what he thinks needs to be said at the moment. True worship happens between a person and God, often in silence. Most of the things we do in church make it next to impossible to worship.

Randy Williams said...

Would those rituals not prescribed by God to be shunned be such things as Announements in the Pulpit? Homecomings? Sermon series? or even Reformation Sunday? What about Sunday Worship itself? Sunday Worship is not commanded directly but is based on the example of the Apostles in Acts and of course the Church Fathers carried on this example (a Tradition I affirm BTW.

Again the rituals related to Hannukkah, we see Jesus particpated in them in John 10. Hannukkah like Christmas is an extra Biblical holy season. The Jews who celebrated Purim were not condemned either.

The symbols of Christmas have been Christianized

1. The Christmas tree reminds us that Jesus came to die on a tree. The Tree is Green, reminding us that Christ sacrifice purchased eternal life on the tree. The Lights remind us that Christ is the light of the World.

2. Advent wreath - The circle of the wreath symbolizes eternal life and that Christ sacrifice is the One and Only sacrifice that can save from Sin (1 John 2:2) and the light from the candles symbolizes Christ coming as the light of the world. (John 1:1-8)

3. The Nativy Scene - Reminds us that God became man in great humble circumstance and declares the truth of the Incarnation.

I actually think these symbols would fit under the Regulative (not necessarily the Puritan view) since similar symbols are found in the OT Tabernacle, Temple, Brazen serpent.

Grace +T+

TWGRIMACE said...
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