Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Andy Williams – Or Just Say No to Noël

[updated 12/23/12]

One was more than a little disappointed to read the current Ref21 website headline article, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Mr. Hays, (which  has since been superseded by an article on the Newton school shooting. Digging around even further, we did find two excellent articles by Roy Blackwood, Reforming Your Bible Study and The Exercise.)

While it is well enough written as far as it goes, it evades the real question regarding the celebration of Christmas among evangelically confessional churches, at least the presbyterian. IOW “invidious associations” of paganism, popery or partying upon  the holiday are not of the essence of a principled concern or objection from Scripture.

Rather  the P&R churches, contra the Lutheran or  Anglican, understand the good and necessary consequences of the Second Commandment to be that ‘whatsoever is not commanded – explicitly or implicitly in Scripture – is forbidden in the worship of God’. In other words, what is called the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW). Thus the Larger, Shorter and Heidelberg Catechisms on the Second Commandment and the Westminster Confession Chapt. 21 On Religious Worship, if not also the Belgic Confession Art. 32 Of the Order and Discipline of the Church.

Consequently  as the Appendix to the Westminster Assembly’s Directory of Worship states, “Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued”. “No warrant” as in “uncommanded”.  And if uncommanded, forbidden.

Again, while we are commanded in Scripture to observe Christ’s resurrection  once a week, not once a year at Easter – that is after all the reason for the switch from the seventh  to the first day when it comes to the 4th commandment – and his death  in the Lord’s Supper, we are never commanded to observe or celebrate his birth whatever the associations it might have for us,  sentimentally or culturally notwithstanding.

Granted the continental reformed churches have not been as consistent or agreed with the presbyterian on the point. Early on – arguably, if not largely due to the civil magistrate’s sponsorship of the traditional feast days according to Van Dellen and Monsma’s Commentary on the Church Order  – the same Order called for the congregations to religiously improve those days, though previously the churches had set them aside.

Yet it must also be recognized that the 1566 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland only took exception to the Second Helvetic Confession in a letter to Beza when it came to observing the “festival of our Lord’s nativity, circumcision,  passion, resurrection, ascension and sending  the Holy Ghost upon his disciples” in the 24th chapter. Why? “(F)or we dare not religiously celebrate any other feast day than what the divine oracles have prescribed”. The Word does not command it. Or the RPW if you will.

 In the next century, Geo. Gillespie was a well known Scotch representative at the Westminster Assembly (1643-49), in part due to his previous Dispute Against English Popish Ceremonies (1637). This is the classic presbyterian work on worship that skewers  the largely Anglican arguments  for not only  the indifference of  feast days such as Christmas, but also their lawfulness, expedience and necessity.  Needless to say,  Gillespie’s  conclusion is that all four arguments fall short of carrying the day.

For that matter, William Ames was an Nonconformist minster who fled persecution in England for Holland, only to serve as an advisor to the Moderator of the famous Synod of Dordt (1618) and later as a theological professor at Franeker. [His Marrow of Theology was very popular in America and though he died before moving there, his widow, children and library made the voyage after his death to New England.] He quotes an early church father Hospinian in his Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies in God’s Worship (1633) to the effect that “Not the day, but the Word of God, etc. puts us in mind of the nativity, resurrection and ascension of Christ”.

 In light of all this, one might hope for some clarification on the issue from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.  Again, invidious associations with paganism are the least of the classic confessional objections to the “most wonderful time of the year”.

And that with all due reverence and respect to the memory of that most noted, revered and eminent minstrel of good cheer  and singer of theological songs, one Andy Williams.
Thank you very much,

[See also here, for a "Christmas Day" sermon by Calvin.]

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Problem with Propaganda/Rap

Propaganda's  rap/song is  still making the rounds, as well as waves  these days with  heavyweights like Joel Beeke and Thabiti Anyabwile weighing in either on it or Jonathan Edwards's defense of a fellow slave holding minister. Props considers the Puritans to be hypocrites on slavery and is critical of the modern reformed love for them. Yet the problem with propaganda is just that . . .  it's propaganda.

This Just In
But what else is new? If  the essence of propaganda or a half truth is that it contains enough of the truth to convince somebody that it is the whole truth, then good enough buddy, let's go for it. So, lemme see, before we found out that The some Puritans puritans  approved of slavery, if not owned slaves, we learned the same things regarding the Puritans and Ye Burning of Ye Olde Witches. Or Calvin executing  Servetus. With his bare hands no less. (I think the Big P's reference to 'slave ship chaplains' had something maybe to do with John Newton, who was a captain,  not a chaplain, that  eventually repudiated the slave trade.) The point being in all of this, is that  slavery was endemic to the times, just like witch hunting and the civil execution of heretics.

The corresponding and salient distinction lost in all the noise is that while Christians engaged in what are now reprobated activities - and properly so -  Puritanism/Christianity is also  pretty much what got rid of them. Which somehow got left out of the song, due to poetic license, no doubt.  Or is that the license of  propaganda?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, Who’s the Biggest Racist of Them All?

Not Ron Paul (unless Voddie Baucham don't have  clue) or even  the Newt Gingrich in the recent Repuglican debate. Rather we know that those who criticize Paul for not reading his 20 year old  newsletters, can't be anybody -- mainstream media or member of Congress -  involved with passing the Patriot Act, the TARP Bailout or ObamaCare, all of which  were "Too Big to Read". In other words, for one, we're talking major mainstream hypocrisy.

More Smoke and Mirrors
Two,  even if Paul or the Newt was the Great Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan  and they're not, the dubious honor of being the biggest racist just might be reserved for the present occupant of the big white house on Pennsylvania Ave. who still hasn't got around to telling anybody what he was doing sitting for twenty years in what could be called the black version of KKK church.

Which  is to say, it just  goes to show how far education in the  government schools has been eroded if the lesson of Edgar Allen Poe's Purloined Letter doesn't cause some lights to go on for the media, which has generally been in the tank for the darling  incumbent,  who is incapable of doing any  wrong. That, while the same  media again has only been capable of smearing someone as a racist if they dare to question their golden boy, if not Goldman Sachs Candidate No.1 - as compared to  Goldman Sachs Candidate No. 2, Mitt "Obamalite" Romney. Which is perhaps why some refer to members of the mainstream  press by the vulgar term of press-titutes.