Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Celebrating the Release of Prisoners

July 14, 2008

Today the French celebrate “Bastille Day,” a day on which the rebellious mob of the French Revolution overwhelmed the security of France’s most famous prison, the Bastille, and released its prisoners. I have a proposal this year to remember on this day God’s gracious act of regeneration. It is a bit incongruous, I suppose to liken the Sovereign setting free the rebels, as opposed to the rebels overthrowing the sovereign, but perhaps the irony will provide a much-needed reminder of the work of our Most High King!

Isaiah 42:6-7
6I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

It is by regeneration that our eyes are opened. It is by regeneration that our bondage to sin is broken, and the shackles of slavery to the flesh are shattered. It is the Holy Spirit working in regeneration that opens our eyes to the truth, so that we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 49:8-9
8Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; 9That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.

This again has the same concept. I should point out that both passages have a double fulfillment. A first fulfillment was in the return of Judah from Babylon. The second and greater fulfillment is in our salvation from sin.

Zechariah 9:11 As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.

As you can see, the prophet Isaiah is not alone in describing God’s work of salvation in such terms. It is the Holy Spirit that regenerates, but he does so on the basis of the blood of the covenant: the blood symbolized in the water of baptism.

This is not simply my teaching, but the teaching of Peter the Apostle, who wrote by divine inspiration:

1 Peter 3:18-22
18For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

So then, we may glorify God singing Psalm 102:

Psalm 102:19-22
19For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth; 20To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death; 21To declare the name of the LORD in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem; 22When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.

Here’s one proposed metered version from Scottish Metrical Psalter:

He from his sanctuary’s height
hath downward cast his eye;
And from his glorious throne in heav’n
the Lord the earth did spy;

That of the mournful prisoner
the groanings he might hear,
To set them free that unto death
by men appointed are:

That they in Sion may declare
the Lord’s most holy name,
And publish in Jerusalem
the praises of the same;

When as the people gather shall
in troops with one accord,
When kingdoms shall assembled be
to serve the highest Lord.

Praise be to our Gracious Prison-Breaking Savior!


Worship-Related Blog Posts of Interest

April 10, 2008

Have Praise and Worship Music in Church become a Cain Sacrifice to God?

(TurretinFan would answer, “yes”)

The RPW is simple, why all the fuss?

(TurretinFan would answer, “because people think they know better”)

Handraising in Worship: Questions

(TurretinFan would answer, “Jordan basically gets it right: raised hands by the pastor during prayer/benediction is called for – otherwise one has a tough time binding anyone’s conscience”)

Singing Psalms (Example in video)

(TurretinFan would comment, “I still prefer the Psalms unaccompanied”)

Why the Date of Easter Changes

(TurretinFan would comment, “This post actually provides a good counter-argument for the idea that we know when Easter was, such that we have a legitimate selection of a single day yearly to celebrate the resurrection. Sure it is determinable based on Passover – but that itself is a bit of a challenge.)

The Original Name of Easter

(TurretinFan would comment, “The underlying assumption that the earliest Christians celebrated Easter is unproven at best. The point about the name ‘Easter’ coming after ‘Pascha’ is correct”)

iMonk on the RPW

(TurretinFan would comment, “iMonk is a good writer, but his view of the RPW is wrong”)

The meaning of “Psalms” in the Westminster Standards

(TurretinFan would comment, “Psalms meant the 150 Psalms in the Hebrew canon”)

The Regulative Principle of Worship, Part 1
The Regulative Principle of Worship, Part 2
The Regulative Principle of Worship, Part 3
(Music & Singing in Life & Liturgy)
Worship in Spirit and Truth, Part 1
Worship in Spirit and Truth, Part 2

(TurretinFan would comment, “This series is one of the least commendable on the RPW. Jeff Meyers lone footnote was to his fellow Federal Visionist, Peter Leithart. Perhaps this series will define the halfway-back-to-Rome worship for the CREC in the future, though Meyers is still in the PCA, as far as I know”)

All praise and worship be to our Lord!


In Praise of Slavery and Piracy

March 17, 2008

Joseph’s brethren famously sold Joseph into slavery:

Genesis 37:28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

Later Joseph explained that this was intended as evil by the brothers of Joseph, but was intended by God for good.

Genesis 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

It’s not the only time God has used slavery to achieve His ends for the good of a nation.

Around the turn of the 5th century, a man named Maewyn Succat was taken prisoner by Irish raiders: pirates/slavers. God worked in this providence to make of that man a missionary to the Irish nation, leading ultimately to the Christianizing of the island of Ireland.

God’s Providence is mysterious. It is said that Mawyn, or Patrick as he came to be called, believed that his enslavement was a punishment for a particular sin that he had committed. Perhaps, in part, that was true. But in hindsight, God’s greater purpose in the event was to save Irish souls by the voice of a Welsh preacher.

There are still today many Irish souls in need of salvation, and there are no more Irish pirates to import Christian slaves. In some ways, the Irish condition today is more dangeous now than it was then, for there are many lost who call themselves Christians, whereas then there were few if any. Any modern-day Patrick has an enormous challenge, to shed the light of the gospel in place that thinks it knows what Christianity is, and yet is trusting not in Christ alone for salvation, but in some human system.

While much of Ireland, and much of America as well, celebrates the day with drinking large quantities of green beer, perphaps a sober prayer to God for renewed missionaries to the Irish people is in order. Whether they are brought as slaves (which seems doubtful), or however God chooses to send them, let us be eager that God’s flock be gathered unto Him.

May God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,


The real Turretin: On Christmas

January 23, 2008

I stumbled recently across this post, in which the author (about 80% of the way through the article) transcribes the real Turretin’s view on Christmas. (link) Obviously, I don’t share the views of the articles’ author, even if I do share the views of Turretin, Calvin, etc., whom he cites.

Also, by the way, I enjoyed the title of his blog: “Autonomy is Madness.” How true that is!

Jackson’s Birthday

January 21, 2008

And, of course, as a follow-up to my previous post (link), today is the birthday of General “Stonewall” Jackson: military hero and devout Christian gentleman. Born in 1824. Read more here.

UPDATE: Benjamin Glaser’s tribute (here).

Happy 200th Birthday …

January 19, 2008

… to General Robert E. Lee. Christian, gentleman, patriot, and hero. May God give us more men like him. (see McCrory’s discussion)

UPDATE: Obviously, this post is about a year late. Yesterday was the 201st anniversary of Lee’s birth.

Part V of my Response of my Response to Centuri0n on Christmas

January 3, 2008

This is the fifth, and final, post in my series of posts to Centuri0n. As I’ve pointed out in each of the last three posts, one should really start with the first post and read sequentially.

(part 1)
(part 2)
(part 3)
(part 4)

In this part, I’ll be tackling Centuri0n’s conclusion:
*** Centuri0n’s Conclusion, including embedded quotations ***
It is your answer to that question, and the ones above it, which leads me to accuse you of mopery. So when you say this:

Your assertion, sir, that: “You are, in fact, wanting mopery in order to avoid popery. You want no sign that we smile, and no opportunity by which we can show people something they can taste and see as goodness — especially if it’s a time when they would have been enjoying themselves.”

is false. I repudiate that sentiment, and if you continue to repeat your assertion that such is my position, you are illustrating that you are not hearing what I’m saying.

That’s very daunting language, I am sure – the problem is that you do advance mopery – you advance the elimination of all kinds of cultural and social means of interaction in order to do what Jesus told us to do.

I’d encourage you to reconsider putting words in my mouth, let alone avatars in my avatar window.

There’s no need to put words in your mouth: you say everything that needs to be said in order to discredit your view. The clowning merely points out that you are unwilling to see how bad your logic works out in real time and space.

Happy New Year – unless the Catholics are having mandatory mass tomorrow, in which case forget I said anything. We don’t want to be confused with them, right?

*** End of Conclusion ***

I’ll break it down line-by-line, this time:

1. “It is your answer to that question, and the ones above it, which leads me to accuse you of mopery.”

There’s simply no connection between any of the foregoing discussion and mopery. There’s no support to the charge. Christian liberty is not mopery. Avoiding confusing the gospel of Christ and the gospel of Rome is not mopery. Griping that someone is not joining you in your artificial holiday is the closest we come in the discussion to mopery, but that’s not from my side of the aisle, Centuri0n!

2. “the problem is that you do advance mopery – you advance the elimination of all kinds of cultural and social means of interaction in order to do what Jesus told us to do.”

That simply is not true. It might be true if I suggested that we should all become hermits and live in caves far from other people, but of course I do not. Simply holding that it is permissible not to celebrate Christmas is in now way equivalent to or convertable to “eliminat[ing] all kinds of cultural and social means of interaction.” Furthemore, suggesting that there may be some value in exercising that freedom is likewise not equivalent or convertable to such nonsense.

This can be seen from the facts that:
a) religiously celebrating Christmas requires no or little cultural/social means of interaction with our unconverted neighbors (“I’m headed to church for Christmas,” provokes no reaction from the crowd); but
b) contrariwise “I’m going to go into the office/out to my field/to open my shop on Christmas” does tend provoke a crowd reaction and provide a starting place for conversation.

Thus, in fact, going with the flow does not provide much opportunity for meaningful social interaction, whereas bucking the flow does.

And of course, Jesus did not tell us to celebrate his birth, or to celebrate the holidays of our society. So the “Jesus told us to do” line is just rhetorical puffery.

3. “There’s no need to put words in your mouth: you say everything that needs to be said in order to discredit your view.”

If that were true, one would expect you to simply post what I said without further commentary. But, of course, my actual position is not self-discrediting. In fact, my position is simply Paul’s position in the Epistle to the Romans.

4. “The clowning merely points out that you are unwilling to see how bad your logic works out in real time and space.”

The clowning is a substitute for reasoned argumentation, and useful in situations (unlike this one) when reasoned argumentation is unnecessary. The idea of “logic work[ing] out in real time and space” is a confusion of doctrine with practice. Regardless, however, the way the doctrine is practiced is simple, we celebrate if we want to, and we don’t if we don’t want to. We’re not obliged either to celebrate (even if there are salutory reasons for doing so) and we’re not obliged to abtain (even if there are salutory reasons for abstaining, such as those I presented).

5. “Happy New Year – unless the Catholics are having mandatory mass tomorrow, in which case forget I said anything. We don’t want to be confused with them, right?”

I do often celebrate a feast on the New Year, and I give God thanks, but I don’t suggest that it is obligatory for anyone else. Doing so in my cultural environment (which is well post-pagan and post-Jewish) doesn’t seem to be likely to confuse my celebration with religious observances of a false religion.

But you weren’t really worried, you were mocking.

As demonstrated above, however, your mockery is crockery.

But Happy New Year to you too, Centuri0n, may God bless you and all who pass by,


Part IV of my Response of my Response to Centuri0n on Christmas

January 1, 2008

This is the fourth part of a series of response to a recent post from Centuri0n. I suggest that you read the first three parts first, in order to gain a proper perspective and context.

(part 1)
(part 2)
(part 3)

In this part, I’ll be addressing Centuri0n’s claim that: “Here’s a short list of things that we have to stop doing if we have to stop doing all the things “Rome” does to make sure we don’t confuse people about what the Gospel is: … — eradicate all iconography of crosses from our architecture and art.”

I had answered: “I don’t see any particular problem eliminating the iconography of the cross from our architecture. Our art? I’m not sure what you mean there. Plenty of both Reformed and Fundamentalist non-Reformed Baptistic churches avoid the iconography of the cross.”

Based on Centuri0n’s further explanation, he apparently just meant architecture and building decorations. Centuri0n provides some examples of churches that incorporate crosses, and I could simply reply by providing examples of fundamentalist and reformed churches that do not incorporate crosses in their architecture. Here’s one such example, in case anyone thinks it doesn’t happen (link). I should point out, interestingly, that while the church itself does not employ cross iconography, the web site for the church has something that arguably is supposed to be a cross (though it does not have the typical dimensions associated with Catholic crosses).

I could also point out that using the particular cross found in Russian Orthodox architecture (example) would be confusing (note the extra piece for the title above the main crossbar, and the slanted piece towards the base, which looks something like a place to stand). It’s not sinful to use such a cross in one’s architecture, but it might confuse, in a way that a typical simply cross does not.

In some parts of the world, that may not be the case. Perhaps in some parts of the world, it would be valuable to avoid cross iconography in church architecture specifically to avoid the appearance of being a Catholic church. But, in general, churches are free to decorate their church in any way that does not violate God’s law, and a cross in ipse does not violate God’s law.

That said, again, there is no Scriptural requirement that we incorporate crosses into our architecture and building decorations. So, Christians are free to include it or not, and it would be wrong for Centuri0n to insist that Christians must use crosses in their architecture.

I found this particular topic interesting, because Mormons have conventionally not put a cross on top of their churches, specifically to avoid being connected with conventional Christianity. These days, they want to be called Christians, so we can probably expect to see cross architecture/decorations start to appear (compare the current look of the St. George Temple, look closely, that’s a weather vane on top, or this more modern Mormon temple, where you can see a golden statue of what the Mormons think is an angel holding a trumpet). I doubt a weather vane would confuse anyone for long, but placing a golden statue holding a trumpet on the pinnacle of the roof of one’s church would be a really bad idea for a Christian church in, say, Utah, Idaho, or Oregon.

Major Objections

1. Of course, a major objection is that the matter simply does not follow. There may be some marginal value in avoiding crosses to avoid a connection with popery, but – as I think Gene Bridges has pointed out – the cross is an ancient symbol of Christianity, and one that predates the sect of Roman Catholicism. While avoiding cross iconography may be helpful in some places and at some times, to distinguish the true gospel from the gospel of Rome, the situation is not similar to observance of a church holiday, because the informational content associated with the form of a cross is quite minimal compared with the informational content associated with the holiday held December 25.

2. Whether we place a cross on our buildings, or not, is of relatively little consequence. Thus, even if the logical conclusion of my position on Christian freedom was that it would be wise to avoid crosses in our architecture, that would not be an “over the top” action to take. Worship does not subsist in pictures, but in ideas.

3. This is the big one. Centuri0n’s apparent line of reasoning is that if we do one thing to set ourselves apart from Catholicism, we must do everything possible to set ourselves apart from Catholicism. That simply doesn’t follow. Centuri0n does not provide any analytical link, and there is not one to be made.


Part III of my Response of my Response to Centuri0n on Christmas

January 1, 2008

This is the third part of a series of responses to post by Centuri0n. If you haven’t read the first two posts in the series, you should really read those first (part 1) (part 2).

In this part, I’ll address Centuri0n’s contention that: “Here’s a short list of things that we have to stop doing if we have to stop doing all the things “Rome” does to make sure we don’t confuse people about what the Gospel is: — stop calling our list of holy books “the Bible”.”

I had pointed out that:

a) “there is already a relatively clear notion in the public’s mind that the “Protestant Bible” and the “Catholic Bible” are two different things. No real concern of confusion there.”


b) “Also, there is a problem that there is not really a substitute word in English. We could use the term “Scriptures” but that word is also used by the Catholics.”

Minor Quibbles
With respect to (a), Centuri0n pointed out that few printed editions of the Bible specify “Catholic” on the cover (and, he could have pointed out, even fewer specify “Protestant” on the cover). I suppose he may be right about the statistics, but I don’t think they particularly help him. The reason that the various Bibles are not labeled with “Catholic” and “Protestant” is that the consumers know the difference. They are typically labeled with a translation name (the “NASB” or “KJV” etc.), which ends up being a proxy for whether the translation is Catholic or Protestant.

With respect to (b), Centuri0n argues that we could simply call ours the “Holy Book.” But (a) Catholics already sometimes call Scripture that (see here), so Centuri0n’s uncreative alternative label would not help.

Furthermore, it was Protestants popularized the English word “Bible” over the Latin word “Biblia.” It was Protestants in England that championed placing the Bible in the Vulgar tongue. In other words, the label was a Protestant label to begin with. The fact that Catholics have adopted the same label for their book (rather than simply translating Biblia Sacra into English) is hardly a compelling reason to change our label.

Major Disagreement

More importantly, the comparison between Christmas and the Bible is non-analogous. I was not suggesting that we should keep a holy day of obligation on December 25, but call it “Jesus’ Birthday Party.” I was suggesting that we should feel free to disregard December 25 entirely. I think Christians should also feel free to call the Bible the “Holy Book” as you point out, and that we would be rank legalists to insist that it must be called “The Bible,” in order to capture conventional public sentiment associated with the word “Bible.”

In other word, the attempted reduction to absurdity only demonstrates a similar analytic disconnect to that set forth in part 1 of this series.

May God be glorified,


Part II of my Response of my Response to Centuri0n on Christmas

January 1, 2008

Part I of my response is provided above, and should be read first (link).

In Part II, I will discuss very briefly Centuri0n’s comments on Lord’s Day worship:

Centuri0n seems to think that if one took my position to its logical conclusion, one would have to “– stop worshipping on Sundays” to avoid having the gospel of Scripture be confused with the gospel of the Vatican.

I responded that this “is out, because (a) Rome itself no longer emphasizes Sunday worship, and (b) Scripture requires it.”

Centuri0n surprisingly insisted that Rome continues to emphasize Sunday worship (which seems dubious, to anyone who has seen the difference in attendance on days of obligation versus a typical Sunday). Nevertheless, let us suppose out of charity that Centuri0n is right, and that I was mistaken about Rome’s deemphasis of Sunday worship. No problem, my second point was sufficient.

Even more surprisingly, Centuri0n challenges the fact that Scripture requires Sunday worship!

I simply point Centuri0n to

The Heidelberg Catechism, Question 103. What does God require in the fourth commandment?

Answer: First, that the ministry of the gospel and the schools be maintained; (a) and that I, especially on the sabbath, that is, on the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God, (b) to hear his word, (c) to use the sacraments, (d) publicly to call upon the Lord, (e) and contribute to the relief of the poor. (f) Secondly, that all the days of my life I cease from my evil works, and yield myself to the Lord, to work by his Holy Spirit in me: and thus begin in this life the eternal sabbath. (g)

(a) Tit.1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 2 Tim.3:14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 2 Tim.3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 1 Tim.5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 1 Cor.9:11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? 1 Cor.9:13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? 1 Cor.9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. 2 Tim.2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (b) Ps.40:10 I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation. Ps.40:11 Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me. Ps.68:27 There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali. Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, (c) 1 Tim.4:13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 1 Cor.14:19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. 1 Cor.14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 1 Cor.14:31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. (d) 1 Cor.11:33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. (e) 1 Tim.2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 1 Tim.2:2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Tim.2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 1 Tim.2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 1 Tim.2:9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 1 Tim.2:10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 1 Tim.2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 1 Cor.14:16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? (f) 1 Cor.16:2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. (g) Isa.66:23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.

See also Chapter XXI of the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1646, Chapter XXII of the Savoy Declaration of 1658, and Chapter XXII of the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689.

This is not advanced theology, but part of ordinary Reformed catechesis.


Questions 86-90 of the Catechism for Young Children
Questions 57-62 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism
Questions 115-121 of the Westminster Larger Catechism

These various sources, and the Reformed churches that have variously endorsed them are an adequate explanation of the Scriptural doctrine.


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