Polycarp Beats Valentine's Any Day

Dear Walking Worthy readers. Kip very kindly offered to write a post on the subject of whether Christians should or should not celebrate Valentine's Day. Due to our inefficiency this post has only just been posted (for which I apologise). However I think that it will be very helpful for us to read this article and discuss this very interesting topic - as always please get posting! Kip will, I am sure, be quick to respond to questions that arise.

Blessings to you all.



A few days ago in conversation with one of the intelligent van den Broek boys, I suggested that Christians need to be reticent as regards celebrating Valentines day. The challenging questions that followed forced me to carefully assess my views on this issue and here I want to articulate something of what I meant to say that Monday evening over supper at the van den Broek's.

At the outset I want to say I'm not anti-romance. Rather my concern in raising this issue, is with a view to asking Christians to consider carefully those things that we assimilate from our culture.

As many of you know, Valentines is meant to be a day when those who are courting, those who are betrothed to be married or those who are married express their affection for one another. In most cases this translates to the man getting flowers for his beloved as well as the couple enjoying an intimate meal. Now there is nothing wrong with any of these things per se.

However, I wonder if we Christians sometimes simply join in with what the culture says is a good thing without considering how a Christian celebrating such a festival would differ. Now please hear me carefully – I am not saying that celebrating a festival which the surrounding culture celebrates is necessarily wrong. In fact I would argue that many of the festivals and celebrations which our culture celebrates find their proper place and true meaning in a Christian setting. What I am saying however, is that we need to consider everything we do in light of Scripture and ask ourselves how a Christian celebrating Valentines day (or for that matter Mothers day, Christmas, Easter etc) would differ from how the world celebrates. I think this is a basic application of verses such as 2 Corinthians 10 :5 where Paul writes that 'we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.' It also follows from passages such as Colossians 1:16-18 where we are told that 'all things were created by Him and for Him... so that in everything he might have the supremacy.'

I wonder if one way to ensure that the days, weeks and months of the year display Christ's supremacy is for us to consider patterning our lives around the much maligned notion of a Church year. No doubt this sounds like an archaic and possibly odd idea for some but I want to offer two reasons why I think following the church year will be of immense benefit to us.

First, the Church year follows the story of the main events in Jesus' life: his birth at Christmas, his death on Good Friday, his resurrection on Easter Day, his Ascension forty days later, and his sending of the Spirit at Pentecost. Other lesser known festivals/seasons such as Advent and Lent are also linked to the great stories of salvation: Advent is meant to encourage us to consider Christ's final second coming whilst Lent is meant to help us reflect on the great sacrifice that Christ paid on the cross. The benefit of following these seasons as the year unfolds is that it provides Christians/the Church with a very clear framework with which to teach and live the gospel. Thus as we consider the bible readings that are appropriate for the season and as we mediate on how these readings fit into God's big story of salvation we will become more immersed in the gospel and become more the people God calls us to be.

Second, by following a church calender the wonderful story of salvation will be easily transmitted from one generation to the next. This will therefore help Christian families and the church to pass on the gospel message to the next generation (Psalm 78:4-7). Furthermore, following a church calender will also help us to evangelize the lost since over time they will become more familiar with the bible's storyline and we will not be starting from further back as we often find today when we engage in evangelism.
Instead therefore of organizing the year into the patterns dictated by the world (valentines, mother's day, summer holidays etc) shouldn't we be organizing our year to reflect Christian priorities? One example of this was kindly provided to me by Ruth Field. Last week as we were thinking of a good reason to get some friends together for some food, fun and fellowship, Ruth suggested we meet on or around the 23rd February for this is the date on which the Church has historically remembered a great Christian martyr: Polycarp. What a fabulous idea and for me, remembering this great hero of the faith rather than partaking in soppy sentimentalism, will be the highlight of my February.



By Kiprotich Chelashaw



All posts on this blog are published at the discretion of the Walking Worthy moderators. If you wish to write an article, please send it to walkingworthy110@gmail.com. Please note that the contents of this post may only be re-published with the permission of Walking Worthy.

37 comments:

  1. Very interesting post! I think it would be great to have a more God-centred year. A similar way to following the Christian calendar is, for a year, to explore each of the Jewish feasts as they come up. They give great insights into God's over-arching plans and it's amazing to see how Jesus fits perfectly into each one of them!!

    A question that came to me when I was reading the post is: is it wrong to not celebrate something yourself but use it to encourages others, particularly non-Christians? For instance, even though the 14th isn't a big deal in our family, for a number of years my sisters and I held a tea party near Valentine's Day for Christian young women who were 'unattached'. The purpose of it was to encourage them at a time when they could get depressed when the focus is on 'having some-one' and to get them to focus on God and waiting the right way for their future husband.

    Personally, I don't think that is wrong. But I do think that sometimes the church as a whole does go too far in doing 'worldly' things to try and evangelise. My question is, I suppose, where's the balance? Obviously, anything the Bible forbids is a definite no-no but I also don't think it's necessarily appropriate to try and find a Christian message in every single secular thing so as to attract non-Christians.

    Anybody got any thoughts on the subject? And does 1 Corinthians 2:19-22 fit in, where Paul is talking about 'becoming' a Jew to the Jews, to those without the law as without the law himself and to the weak becoming weak?

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  2. What a great idea! I must admit I do think that a lot of celebrations these days (such as Valentines, Easter etc) are far too commercialised, and the real meanings behind most of these celebrations are lost. I think it's a wonderful idea to pattern our lives around the Church calendar - what a great suggestion! I think it's so important that we, as Christians, do not get 'caught up' with the rest of the world and observe certain things because everybody else is. If we based our lives around the Church calendar, then it's an outward show that we keep Christ in the centre of our lives and hold fast to the true meanings behind these different celebrations. What a fantastic witness to people, and at the same time, we are keeping Christ in the centre of all things, which is what we should be doing every day of our lives as followers of Christ! Again, as regarding 'man made' celebrations, many people love to celebrate Halloween; but how much better to celebrate this date as the day that Martin Luther nailed the 95 thesis to the door of the Roman Catholic Church! As Christians, we could celebrate Martin Luther Day!

    As regarding Valentines Day, I also am not adverse regarding romance. But I think that a husband and wife should be able to demonstrate that they love each other any time of the year without having to observe this 'man-made' celebration. Godly husbands and wives, I think, should occassionaly do something romantic for each other, as it helps to strengthen their marriage, but they can do this without observing Valentines Day. My parents don't observe it, but they do show each other that they love one another, and they will occassionaly give each other gifts, or share a romantic meal with each other.

    Thanks for this post, Kip!

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  3. Kip' thanks for another article that brings our focus back onto the scriptures. Right, so I do accept that it is far better to take the opportunities of events in the church calendar for celebrations. Would you say do away completely with the non-Christian holidays to replace them with Christian holiday? I completely see the logic and sense of celebrating events in the church calendar- what a witness to your neighbours when you invite them over for a massive party to celebrate the faithfullness of 80 year old man to Christ his saviour.... and you get to explain the story to them!!

    thanks again,

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  4. Folks,

    Thanks for your very kind comments so far. It is very encouraging.

    I'd like to answer two questions that have arisen so far. The first was Tabitha's question asking if it would be ok to use something like Valentines to encourage others particularly non-Christians. I suppose the question that comes to mind here is what does it mean to encourage someone and especially a non-Christian? I think Scripture shows that the biggest encouragement a non-Christian needs is to put their trust in Christ and repent of their rebellion against the Creator. For one to encourage a non-Christian in this sense, it would mean transforming Valentines so much that you might as well not call the event Valentines.

    For Christians, I can see a very legitimate use of Valentines to remind us of God's love (e.g. by using the day to meditate on 1 John 4:7-21) and I am not against this. What I was trying to say was that Valentines among other things are events which the secular world trumpets and champions and so us as Christians simply joining in without thinking why we celebrate or making it distinctly Christian is a failure to bring every thought captive and obedient to Christ.

    I think 1 Corinthians 9:19-21 is a very good passage challenging some of what I wrote in my post. However, I think we need to be cautious with applying this passage wholesale to ourselves given that this Paul speaking of himself as An Apostle (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1). Secondly it is important to note the categories that Paul, marks out for accomodation: Jews, Gentiles (with/without the law) and the Weak. I reckon there are examples of just such categories in Scripture especially in Acts and Romans which do not show that this adaptation is done very carefully indeed and hardly involves taking what the world says is important and embracing it. In any case Paul says later in 2 Corinthians and elsewhere that all is to be subdued before Christ hence we need to be thinking how can everything (Valentines included) be obedient to Christ.

    The second question was from Thomas and related to whether we should ditch non-Christian holidays. Not necessarily. In some cases yes e.g. Haloween. In some cases we can seek to Christianise them although I reckon the effort and planning etc taken to do this would be fairly considerable hence why not use the rich resources and wonderful heritage our Christian ancestors have left us with in the Church year and share the Christian story with each other and the world?

    Kip' Chelashaw

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  5. nonchristians seem to view valentines as an excuse to dress up nice for a date with their boyfriend or girlfriend (lets face it, not many people bother to get married anymore), be like everyone else and plan the "perfect evening" and then have sex together. if it were me, i would be looking at christians to see what they do. and my personal opinion is that if i asked them and they said they were doing the church calendar thing it would be either arrogant, preachy or a pathetic excuse to avoid the discussing how christians, if being doers of the word and not just hearers, "date" or "court" diferently.
    my opinion on valentines day is that it shouldnt be the only day that 2 people with special feelings for each other have a nice tie together. a healthy relationship is one in which people show their affection at all times, not just on a secular holiday. to me, valentines is celebrating a special love between 2 people. nothing to break a sweat over but also nothing to ignore.

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  6. I think that Valentines and Mother's\Father's day was just invented by the big companies who get all the money out of these events. I don't think its wrong though if you are already courting or married.

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  7. if we remember 'famous' Christians etc... Isn't it like making idols of them when it should be God who we remember. Obviously we are going to remember them for who they were but to set a day a part to remember them...?

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  8. Many good points have been made already. Megs, I particularly agree with you. I think there is a very real danger of drifting towards a RC position of venerating the saints.
    I think it would be great to have a party on the theme of Polycarp/whatever every now and then, but to institute a 'church calendar' celebrating Luther etc every year, as far as i can see would be unbiblical and dangerous. But it is nevertheless very important that we remember the saints of old, and their place in Church History!
    Christs Churchs worship and practice in the world ought only to be in ways that Christ has commanded, and the Bible does not to propound a calendar that the NT church should be adhereing. But Paul in Gal4:10 has to warn the Galations of returning to observing 'days and years.'
    Anyway, do come back on that if you want!

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  9. Hello folks,

    This is going to be quick as I'm enjoying Emma at the lovely van den Broek clan.

    My first comment relates to something anonymous said namely that if you were a non-Christian who asked Christians what they were doing and they said they said they were following the Church calender it would sound "arrogant, preachy or a pathetic excuse to avoid the discussing how christians, if being doers of the word and not just hearers, "date" or "court" diferently." One question to this point, would you say the same of any other Christian festival e.g. celebrating Reformation day on Haloween's? My post wasn't meant to say that we ignore the contemporary issues of the day rather that Christians should think carefully in how they embrace the things we see in the culture. Christ after all calls us to be in the world but not of it.

    My other comment is to Megs who asks whether remembering famous Christians etc isn't somewhat akin to making idols of them. This is a very real danger and one we should be wary of especially given some of the abuses from the medieval Church. Nevertheless, I think there is a biblical way in which we can remember the godly saints of old without getting into idolatry. And why do I say that? Because Paul says "...respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other." In simple words, Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 we are to hold in highest regard those who are over us in the Lord.

    Kip' Chelashaw

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  10. What do you think about celebrating Valentines Day with your family. I mean Valentines isn't JUST for people who are courting or dating. It is a holiday of love. SO I see nothing wrong with giving your siblings, and Mom and Dad a card or some candy. I mean, you do love your parents and family right? So what do you think?

    I agree wiht many of you.... that ALL of the holidays are WAY to commercialized! Like easter... The Easter Bunny? Common, Easter was the time Christ arose from the dead, not about the easter bunny or candy! And Christmas... it is NOT AT ALL about gifts or Santa Claus... it was the time that Jesus was born!!! Halloween. That should not even be a holiday! That is a Devil holiday created by peagans (i watched a movie about it... its HORRIBLE!) It should not be celebrated at all.

    So anyway, that is my view of things. Our church had a Valentines day party with pizza and games. I see nothing wrong with that either.

    Thanks for letting me comment.

    Steph

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  11. Philip,

    Thanks for your wise words. I agree that there is a real danger of drifting to the RC position (see my comments to Megs above) and Christians have wavered and fallen on this. Nevertheless, I think we need to be careful of saying that because X is a danger, it is therefore to be avoided. One example of this. Alcohol is a danger BUT should it therefore be avoided or banished? I think the Scriptures would say no. I suppose at this point you would then say but the Scriptures do not explicitly tell us about a church calender. I am agreed. However does this mean that using a church calender is wrong, dangerous or even sinful? Consider for example the life of the OT people of God. Did they have something equivalent to a Church calender? Did they have festivals etc that marked out their months, years, seasons? Yes they did. It is therefore not inherently wrong to have the year of the believer/Church marked by seasons, days, which call God's people to remember the story of salvation from Genesis to Revelation.

    Furthermore we need to ask ourselves, if all these festivals are recorded in Scripture and Scripture says everything therein is written for our good and instruction (2 Timothy 3:16-17) is it not conceivable that something of their life and pattern should be evident in the Church today (not the OT festivals of course but a year marked by ongoing reflection on God, appropriate readings for the different times of the year, praise to Him for exemplary Christians - John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Stott, etc)

    It is also interesting that Scripture exhorts us to ask the Lord to number our days aright (Psalm 80:12). Would one application of such a verse be that God would help Christians and His Church to use the year to reflect on the different aspects of the God's purposes in saving sinners and His ultimate purpose to exalt all things under Christ. We do this to an extent at Christmas with the 9 readings and carols where we pick key passages that highlight the gospel story. What my post was saying was that rather than let the world dictate the shape/highlights of our year by saying to us that Valentines etc is a time to celebrate, spend lots of money, be excited (except of course if you're single) why not let the gospel do that? Such a view of our year etc could easily be achieved by using the wonderful resources the Christians of a bygone age have bequeathed to us e.g. this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer

    O Lord, who has taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send you Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you. Grant this for your only son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen

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  12. I think there is a real danger of the church becoming so embedded in it's traditions and history that it becomes out of touch with those it is supposed to be evangelizing. There are a lot of people out there who have never heard of John Calvin or Martin Luther and although we are certainly to maintain and perpetuate their memory we must never give the impression that this is part of Christianity. Christianity is about the simple and glorious gospel of Jesus Christ alone and the celebration of his death through communion is the only thing we are commanded to remember. Yes we should remember and praise God for the lives of his servants but this should NEVER become part of our Christianity, because that is not the gospel he would have us proclaim.
    On a personal note, I have always found it a much greater oppurtunity for evangelism to say "No I don't celebrate this" than "Yes I do but not properly." People do not peruse our calendars, they respect our principles of seperation from their sinful traditions.

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  13. It sounds like we're getting very close to the synchrotism position, people. Take care, because that's not the best place in the world to be. I agree with Samuel that it says more to a non-Christian to say "I don't celebrate this holiday, this is why" than to say "I do celebrate this holiday, but I've cleaned it up and put a nice Christian label on it". God actually warns us in the OT that we should not attempt to "clean" the festivals of the land - the pagans - and that they should be an abhorrence to us. I think that Jesus echoes this, though I can't remember the verses off the top of my head, and Paul has a LOT to say about how Christians *shouldn't* adopt the practices of the nations around them.

    Not to say that things like Bank Holidays are wrong, per se, but if a festival is not Biblical, then what are its roots? Should it be "sanctified" and made into a Christian occasion just so that Christians can be like their neighbours and celebrate it too?

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  14. Fantastic discussion folks! A lot of what you've been saying is very good.

    I would just like to point out that to different countries Valentine's Day can mean different things. For example, when I went to an American school all of the teachers and pupils swapped cards, sweets and presents. In America and Canada it is not just for married/courting people but friends, family and neighbors. Like you said, Stepheny.

    Also I think that with the whole idol-RC issue, there is indeed a danger of going that way. It can all be seen as idolatry to celebrate a person's "day". But if Christians are simply thanking God for that person's life and reading about the great saints of Church history, surely that is not wrong in itself? But I think you're right, Samuel, when you say that Christianity is about Christ and His death and resurrection. We should never forget that.

    Going back to Valentine's Day; families/lovers should seek to show their love for one another every day of the year, not just Feb. 14th. Surely unconditional and sacrificial love demonstrated daily is far more desirable than an annual meal out in February? The Bible did not command us to remember to buy a card and chocolate on Feb.14th. After all, "Love suffers long... bears all things... endures all things..". 1Cor.13:4,7. Christ certainly didn't save up all His love for a day in February, did He?! So rather than getting caught up in all the sentimental, gooey, over the top "love" that the world has to offer on Valentine's Day, it would be far better to love our neighbors, family, friends and Saviour with a continual and sacrificial love. Does that make sense?

    Elspeth

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  15. Samuel,

    I do take your point about not becoming too involved in history but I don't think that this is yet a problem for today's church. Obviously, looking forward as a Christian is a very good thing to do but I think we can and should learn a lot from the past. I don't know if you've ever read the story of Polycarp (www.newadvent.org/fathers/0102.htm) but it is not only inspiring but again and again points us to our Lord Jesus Christ. So when we celebrate Polycarp, we are actually celebrating the Lord and what He has done in one particular saint's life.
    We've also had a Reformation Day party for the last couple of years and certainly intend to keep that going year by year. Again, we are emphatically not celebrating Martin Luther as himself but instead are marvelling at the work of the Lord in one man's life and how the God-given conviction and courage that Luther had, changed many things for the better.
    So again, no, this is not a part of Christianity as such but I do think interested, informed Christians should be learning about the church fathers and others as a way to wonder at the Lord and His work and also to be inspired yet again to live for Him.
    About evangelism, I've found that celebrating Reformation Day is a great opportunity. While simply not celebrating Hallowe'en can look like a 'typical boring Christian' actually swapping the holiday for another celebration not only opens the conversation to talk about Luther and the thesis but shows that we Christians still know how to party! After all, we've got a huge party ahead of us, so why not enjoy the very small versions of what's to come now? Hope that helps clarify things a little bit.

    Ruth

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  16. Kip, thanks for your well thought out reply!
    I agree we shouldnt always just avoid things because there are dangers associated, and this is why we need the Scriptures to guide us!
    I would argue yes, if the scriptures do not command or promote the celebration of a 'Church Calendar,' then we should not be doing it. As Christs Church, He is the head, and he has told us all we need to know in the Bible. Adding to our practices is to suggest that Christ has not given us sufficient guidance on how to worship him.
    You are right that in the OT there were many feasts celebrated by the OT church so called, but this was clearly part of the OT administration. Gods people in the OT were a people of types, and the feasts, sacrifices being an integral part of this. (The law being their school master; Gal3:24).
    Im expect you would agree its inherently wrong to have sacrifices or years of jubilee today, so you cannot say 'its not inherently wrong to have a year of the church...'
    In the NT these Jewish feasts are clearly done away with in the new ministration. As Samuel has so well said, the only feast we are commanded to celebrate is the Lords Supper, and the only special day being the Lords Day (now the first day of the week).
    Re. Ps90:12 (So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.)
    I would argue that this is far more personal; it is a prayer that the Lord would teach us how few our days our, to redeem the time, for our lives are as vapour. As the second half of the verse says 'That we apply our hearts to wisdom;' so we should consider our latter end which is all too near, and act accordingly!

    Elspeth, you are quite right, it is an excellent thing to be remembering the Lord's saints, and Christs dealings with his people through history, both for helping us to understand our context now, and to direct us to worship the Lord for all his mighty acts (Ps145:4 etc).
    And what you said about Loving all year round certainly made sense!

    Again, feel free to come back on what ive said.
    :)

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  17. Folks,

    Thanks for all your good comments. I'm certainly encouraged to see all of you taking time to write about this issue.

    A couple of things to say. I completely agree that embracing the church year has various dangers associated with it one of which is idolatry. One need look back to some of the things the Church did in during the middle ages. Nevertheless there is a way to follow a church year that can compliment the gospel and seek to educate us in the rich story of God's wonderful salvation.

    One clear example where this is the case is regarding Easter and Christmas. Where in the Bible would you go to justify celebrating these two festivals? Where in the Bible would you go to say we need to have services on Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Where would you go to show that carol services focussing on the birth of Christ are a good thing? Yet we gladly (and I would say rightly) celebrate these things.

    Part of the reason why is because everything including our time (seconds, minutes, hours, years) belong to Christ. Colossians 1:15-20 stresses this point. So we need to ask how then could our lives in the way we structure our year commend Christ's Lordship. Is it by living as the world does in looking forward to the celebrations they celebrate and ordering our year around the same things they do or is it by looking to the story of the Bible could be thing that orders our year.

    So for example in the period of Lent (the 40 days before Easter we could spend time reflecting again on Christ's great example of denying Himself (as he fasted 40 days in the wilderness; as he chose to be poor when he could easily have had angels to attending to Him etc) and ask ourselves why do we cling so easily to things of this world? Coupled with this (and perhaps for illustration purposes) we could remind ourselves of great Christians like Polycarp who in following our great saviour chose the life of denying themselves (even to point of death) rather than denying Christ and this will be a great motive for us in our evangelism to be bold as other Christians have been as we seek to honour Christ.

    Kip' Chelashaw

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  18. I'm not saying that remembering our heritage is not a good thing, or even remembering specific dates of great events. I do not however agree with setting up alternative Christian celebrations in the place of popular traditional dates like valentines day or other festivals, I think where we can safely participate in and celebrate our national culture we should do so, and where we cannot do so as Christians we should stand clear.
    I also object to actually forming our calendar around these events and people. I'm sure many of the saints our calendar celebrates were good Christian people but by actually making them part of our calendar we steer away from the truth of their lives towards myth and fable. The best way to celebrate their lives is not perpatrate their heritage of strong biblical doctrine and gospel power. not to incorporate their memory into our Christianity. Remember that these are real living people in heaven today who we will one day meet and have fellowship with, should we really be adding placing their memory on the same sort of plane as that of Jesus Christ himself?
    As for what was said early on about the Old Testament year of feasts and traditions, all that has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and we now have no mandate to celebrate any feast other than the memory of his death through communion and the observance of the sabbath as a day of rest.
    Also, there are so many known and unknown heroes of the faith that we can never hope to celebrate even a fraction of them, in Revelation we see heaven filled with those who gave their lives for Christ. Are we going to have a 144,000 day year to remember them all? :D
    Finally, we have no permanent home in this life, and this is not where we truly belong, where we truly belong is in heaven where we will worship Christ and remember his death without ceasing for eternity, surely we should be working towards that goal now, not setting ourselves a timetable of remembering important dates in church history throughout the year. The very best way of giving our every second to Christ is by constantly living in the memory of the price he paid, for his service and Glory, yes We might owe a great debt to Christian heroes of the past, but how much greater is the debt we owe to him?

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  19. Philip, thank you for the questions you raised about following a church calendar.

    We do need to be very careful not to worship God in ways he hasn't commanded us. Nadab and Abihu were severely judged for bringing an offering to God which he had not commanded (Lev 10:1-3), so we need to ensure that our methods of worshipping God are limited to what he has ordained.

    Also, it is hard to see why even such days as Easter and Christmas should be celebrated as religious festivals without biblical warrant. Why do we need to set apart an annual day to remember Christ's death and resurrection when God has ordained a far more regular occasion - the Lord's Supper - for us to think about these things?

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  20. Hello everyone,

    Thanks walking worthy moderators for your 4 points to help us as we make comments. I'm sorry that I haven't been setting a good example recently and my comments have tended to be errrrrrm on the long side - sorry.

    In trying then to be brief I want to limit my comments to two comments

    First comment is to say when I urge Christians to pattern their year on the Church year, I am not in any way saying this should be mandatory. It seems to me (at the present time) that this is one good way where we could be more Christ-centred in how we order our time rather than following the world. I am sure there are other ways but this one seems to me a good one as it recognizes what God has done in history and seeks to bring all thoughts captive and obedient to Christ

    Secondly, let us be very careful when we say things like "we need to ensure that our methods of worshipping God are limited to what he has ordained." If comments like this are simply saying that the Bible should be our rule and guide in all things, then I am agreed. However, if this is saying that we need to find a chapter and verse that explicitly tells us what to do then I think we are in dangerous territory.

    Here is one example, The Trinity. Which one chapter and verse would you go to show that the God of the Bible is a Trinity? To be able to affirm the Trinity requires that you put together a string of verses and then logically deduce that God is Triune. Now this doctrine is fundamental to the Gospel and to deny it would be heretical/damnable yet there is no one specific verse that says God is Trinity. Another example, Christian weddings - where in the bible (specific chapter and verse) would you go to justify the pattern/different components of weddings we see around today? Yet no one would say that what we do is sinful or wrong.

    Now how does this apply to our chat about the Church year? It applies in that there is no verse in Scripture that says you must have a Church year or you must not celebrate cultural festivals. To answer this question requires far more than just saying we haven't been commanded (or prohibited) from doing so for if it did then not just Valentines but Easter and Christmas and birthdays and I would even say celebrating Christian weddings in the way we do them would be sinful.

    As I finish, one verse and a half for you all to think about

    One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.

    Romans 14:5-6

    Kip' Chelashaw

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  21. Kip' That was a great verse to end with.

    Great debating everyone!

    AM

    Isaiah 26:4

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  22. Thank you Elspeth! I agree! We deffinetly need to show our love for family friends etc. all year long!

    Steph

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  23. Hi Kip,

    I was just wondering, why are you celebrating Polycarp? Shouldn't you be, instead of remebering the person, thanking God for working in Polycarp to do all the great things he did?

    Thanks,

    Anna

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  24. .....and he that does not consider one day special does so to the Lord.
    Perhaps one way of organising our time to serve Chirst is by not spending so much time thinking about such small issues and formulating such complicated and largely unimportant traditions but by realizing there is a war on and getting out there and fighting, Christ battles are not won by changing calendars but by changing lives.

    Samuel.

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  25. Hello Anna,

    Thanks for your question. If you look back at my original post, what I said was that Feb 23rd was the date when the Church remembered a great Christian martyr. The word remembered here is crucial. We remember what we did and how courageous he was in the face of great pain and then turn that to thanksgiving to God and pray to Him to help us be bold and courageous wherever we find ourselves. Does that help?

    Kip' Chelashaw

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  26. This is a great discussion everyone - I am enjoying reading everybody's comments and looking at all the different views expressed.

    Samuel, you said that 'Christ's battles are not won by changing calendars but by changing lives.' I agree with this statement up to a point, and as Christ followers and part of His army, we should get out there and fight the battle, but should we not also set aside time to praise Him and thank Him for what He has done through His people, and what He still continues to do? I'll try and explain what I mean. For example, when it comes to October 31st and many people celebrate Hallowe'en, wouldn't it be right and a good witness to others if we 'remembered' how God used Martin Luther to stir up the Reformation, and thanked Him for what He did, and ask Him to use us as His people to reform the Church just as He used Luther? Instead of celebrating a wicked festival along with the majority of people, we would be 'setting ourselves apart' from them and turning this time to the Lord. This, in itself, is an excellent witness to others, and would perhaps cause them to stop and think, and it might be that they come to know Christ through that, and in one sense we would have changed lives through changing the calendar.

    We are expected, as Christians, to live differetnly from the rest of the world. "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2) Also, 1 Peter 2:12 says, "...that, whereas they (unbelievers) speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." If unbelievers behold us living differently and see God's people praising and thanking Him for using people such as Polycarp and Martin Luther,and also asking Him to use us for His service, instead of participating in wrong festivals such as Hallowe'en, it could be that by viewing this difference, they would be turned to Christ themselves and glorify Him!

    I hope what I have said makes sense. Please don't think that I'm trying to demean what you said in any way, because I do agree with you when you said that spending time thinking about such small matters is not organising our time well in serving God. What I have said is just merely my thoughts on the matter, based in the light of scripture. I personally, think there is nothing wrong in remembering a certain person's life (as long as we don't idolise that person) and how God used them, for it points us to Christ, and should awakedn within us to also want to be used by Him in His service.

    In Him, Rebekah

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  27. Hi folks, two thoughts; I'll try and keep them short. :)

    In response to Samuel: I absolutely agree that "realizing there is a war on and getting out there and fighting, Christ battles are not won by changing calendars but by changing lives" is important. However, I take issue with what I perceive to be your underlying suggestion that getting out there and fighting is more important than knowing *what* we are "celebrating". Christ's battles are won by changing lives - whose lives? If ours, then you HAVE to consider what you are doing and how you are walking and whether what you are celebrating is wholesome and constructive. Do you see what I mean, or have I misunderstood you and that's what you were trying to say all along? Opps, or were you just referring to the Church Calender issue?!

    To Rebekah, I still can't agree about Reformation Day! :) Not because I have a problem with remembering and teaching people about the amazing things that God used Martin Luther to accomplish, but because I have a BIG problem with the way the church as a whole is insisting on finding Christian reasons to celebrate on the same days that unbelievers celebrate bad stuff. Ephesians 5:8-11: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret." What do you think?

    Nellie

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  28. Nellie,

    I really like what you said in your point 1 but I'm not sure I followed your criticism in point 2.

    What I am struggling to follow is why you are against celebrating Reformation day after what you say in your point 1 namely that "you HAVE to consider what we are doing and how we are walking and whether what you are celebrating is wholesome and constructive." How does celebrating Reformation day in the way that Rebekah explained above contradict this? Doesn't what see described especially in the 1st and 2nd paragraph precisely fit Ephesians 5:8-11?

    Kip' Chelashaw

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  29. Hi, Nellie!

    I can certainly see what you are saying, although I personally don't see a problem with remembering Reformation Day on the same day unbelievers celebrate Hallowe'en, because the Christians' celebration is completely different and separate from the world. The Christian's focus is on the Lord whereas the unbelievers are not. Remembering Reformation Day is a complete contrast with Hallowe'en and thus is not having fellowship with darkness. If a Christian participated in Hallowe'en then that would be wrong, for they would be then having fellowship with darkness. I just think that when unbelievers are celebrating a time of evil, how wonderful for God's people to be doing the total opposite and are celebrating the good, with the focus on Christ! So while a lot of people are knocking on doors and 'trick or treating' in the dark, God's people are sitting at home remembering how God brought about the reformation through Martin Luther, and are bathing in the light of Jesus. This demonstrates how sharp the contrast is between believers and unbelievers, which is a good thing, for as I said earlier, we Christians should live our lives differently from the rest of the world. (Romans 12:2). As I also said before, it is also a good example to others, and might perhaps win them for Christ's kingdom. (1 Peter 2:12). Would you agree?

    Every blessing.

    In Him, Rebekah

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  30. David van den Broek19 February 2010 at 00:17

    Thanks for your comments everyone, I hope that the discussion is proving profitable to you all. Please don't feel that because there is a new post up you have to stop the discussion!

    Just a quickie - Samuel I was interested by the fact that you seem concerned that for the church to remember particular trophies of God's grace (whether people or events) is to somehow detract from Christ's glory. You say that we should remember Him instead of them.

    What is it that we have to praise our Saviour for? Well I praise him that he saved me and that he is at work within me, but the reasons for praising Him are far reaching. God is at work in all of history and to forget that is (I believe) to detract from His glory rather than to add to it.

    Yes of course we can't remember all of them - but does that mean we shouldn't remember any of them?

    Yes of course the Lord's Supper and the Lord's day should be our focal point.

    But the more days that I have to say "praise God because on this day x years ago He did x - Hallelujah!" the better! Bring them on! :)

    Samuel don’t be afraid to rejoice and feast –you have so much to rejoice about! Don’t let the world have all the fun –they don’t have anything to rejoice about.

    Praise God that he has been at work through all of history!

    And remember that a BIG chunk of the bible is a record of people and events (that we are called to remember).

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  31. Okay, It looks like I need to clarify and expand my arguments a bit.
    First of all, I would like to say I am in no way opposed to remembering and celebrating our Christian heritage, I completely agree with you that to forget it would be to throw away a priceless treasure belonging to God's people.

    What I do oppose is the Idea of a "Church calendar" Which was suggested earlier in the debate.
    This is a very dangerous idea which would, I believe, not only distract the Church's attention from spreading the gospel but also denigrate the historical fact of these great events into a much less powerful tradition.
    Christmas, for example means we rarely hear of or celebrate Jesus' birth at other times of year, and even at Christmas it has lost much of it's power due to tradionalisation and commercialisation.
    And secondly because I beleive that this is not the best way to remember these men. You can be inspired for life by a great story without having to ritualistically celebrate it once a year. The best way to celebrate church history is to preach the gospel these men gave their lives to share, inspired by their example.There is also a real danger that by annually celebrating these men we will forget the facts of their stories, all of them had failings and were weak men used by God.
    When I said that one way to organise our time better is to spend less time thinking about such small issues I was talking about where as Christians we focus our attention. One of the greatest problems with churches in Britain today is that christians spend too much time talking about men like Calvin and not enough time preaching his gospel. Why is the memory of Christian history failing in Britan today? not because we aren't writing books by the hundred, but because we are not preaching the gospel enough, people are not interested in our history if they are not interested in our truth, and I would far rather tell them about Jesus than Polycarp.The problem is this, lots of Christians will turn up to a nice warm church for a lecture on Luther, but not that many are on the streets preaching the gospel.

    Which brings me to my next point, there is a war on. the same war that Polycarp and Antipas and Hus, and Patrick Hamilton and so many others died fighting, and it has the same intensity. Millions of Christians around the world are living with the constant threat of death, do we not have a duty to remember them? And can their example today not give far more encouragement than that of a martyr over 1000 years ago?
    Finally, I completely agree that there is no basis whatsoever for Christians to celebrate ungodly festivals such as halloween.I do think that it is a better witness to say "No I don't celebrate this" than "No I'm celebrating the Reformation." Because saying #1 naturally leads to a conversation about christianity whereas #2 leads to a conversation about Christian history, in which they probably have no interest, I find people are always interested in what Christianity means to you personally rather than the grand scheme of things and from personal experience this is a better platform from which to share the gospel.
    In conclusion,I believe incorporating these men's lives into our calendar could easily lead to a denial of the gospel they preached, and which is still being preached throughout the world.
    Thanks everybody for a great debate, it has certainly made me think.

    Samuel

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  32. Hi again!

    I have been reading through all the comments and I have really enjoyed seeing some of them.

    I deffinetley agree with Rebekah~! I think that it is a great idea.... I too see nothing wrong with celebrating good things on the same day as non believers are celebrating bad. Yes, I also agree that as long as your not doing the same thing as they are... that is good.

    I have heard of a person trying to go door to door on Halloween and pass out tracks (soulwinning) on that night. I don't think that is right, because even though you are doing right, you are still going out and "knocking on doors" trying to talk about Jesus while the world is celebrating the devil! besides, I don't think anyone would listen. Does anyone have anything to comment on about this?

    I have also seen someone that has had someone come to there door on Halloween 'Trick or treating' and instead of giving them candy, the stuck a track in there bucket. I don't see anything wrong with that... do you?

    So anyway... those are my thoughts for this comment.

    :)Steph

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  33. Dear all, thanks for such a thought provoking and profitable debate!
    I was going to clarify my position as I think we ended up disagreeing on things we really agree about, at some points! but Samuel has already done a good job of clarifying my points that.
    It is very important and an excellent thing to remember Gods dealings in the past, and thank Him for them and learn from them. However I do not believe this requires Christs church to follow a 'church calendar', because as Samuel says, the church has a higher calling...

    And David, thanks for the reminder to be joyful! you are quite right, Christians have all the real joy, and feasting is indeed a good thing in its place! -after all, there will be a pretty big one in heaven!

    Stepheny, thanks for your thoughts; I think going d to d giving out tracts and talking to people is one of the best ways to reach the lost (certainly here in the UK.) I would however be cautious about doing it on halloween, simply because of not wanting to be seen to be associated in any way with the rest. One would have to think it thro carefully first.

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  34. Hello,

    Wonderful to see all the commenting...

    I've a question for Samuel M.

    You say that you are opposed to the Church calender idea because it would "not only distract the Church's attention from spreading the gospel but also denigrate the historical fact of these great events into a much less powerful tradition." In what way do you think that the comments I have made throughout this discussion would lead to these two things?

    I am in complete agreement that a church year has in the past been abused and led to very bad theology but it is misleading to say that just because something has been abused or could lead to erroneous practice means it should be abandoned. For example drinking alcohol has been (and continues to be) abused. Do we abandon drinking it? No rather we look for ways to enjoy this gift of God that fits with Scripture and also commends Christ.

    I hope I'm not being harsh but I'm a bit saddened when you say that for someone to have a pattern to the year that remembers God's purposes in History, choosing Scripture readings appropriate to the occasion, and praising Him for the way He has used mortal weak men to show His grace is a dangerous thing.

    Kip' Chelashaw

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  35. I don't think that the chruch calender is wrong, hebrews 10:25 reminds us to not neglect spending time with the saints, but if it is for magic shows etc. then, in my opinion, it is wrong.

    Anna

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  36. Okay, two points!

    Kip & Rebekah - sorry that I came across as criticising in my second point, I didn't mean to. I'm not quite sure how to explain why I still think that celebrating something like Reformation Day on the same day as Halloween is wrong; I agree with Samuel that people *are* more interested in hearing about our Christianity and how it effects *us* than what happened in history. However, spreading the Gospel shouldn't be the only reason we don't do something. Time and again God tells us in the Bible that we should not do as the people of the land do; unless you are going to hang a sign on your door that says "we are not celebrating Halloween, we're celebrating Reformation Day", then how are people going to know that your party isn't because it's Halloween? It's like 2 Kings 17:10 "They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree." Unless you're very careful and explicit about your good festivals that take place on the same day as bad festivals, the people around us who see you will think "Oh, those Christians, they're such hypocrites, they even celebrate our holidays". Does that make more sense to you?

    Samuel & Philip - to you both I would like to make the point that while I agree that the idea of a Church Calender isn't a good one, that is because of what you are putting on the calender, not because of the calender itself. God created a "calender" for the Jewish people (in Leviticus); to remember God's faithfulness is, for Jewish people, to consider today and keep oneself up to the mark.

    An example: In the Jewish calender there is the feast of lights, or dedication (not commanded in the Bible, but celebrated by Jesus in John 10). This is when the salvation of the Jewish people from the Greeks in inter-testament times is remembered, when the Jewish people fought against the assimilation and pagan influences that were infiltrating their people and God performed miracles among them. Today, when that feats is celebrated, the Jewish people remember that and always but always draw the paralels between the past and the present - I've heard a lot of stories about Jewish people who, as kids, heard about the Jews who fought against assimilation into the pagan Greek culture and it was those memories of the stories and the way their parents used to tell them never to give in or to stop living God's law to the full, that have helped them to overcome the "Greeks" in their lives and remain faithful to God.

    Can you agree that a balance might work?

    Good debate, I'm enjoying it! :) Nellie

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  37. Hi all,

    Valentines Day was named after a Priest in Rome. Claudius had banned Marriage in Rome but Valentine, knowing that marriage is good and important, proceeded any ways. He was caught and was killed for marring those couples, on February 14. I personally think that Celebrating the Day the way the Roman Catholic Church did is wrong and pagan. No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. Matthew 6:24. But enjoying the day as a romantic occasion cannot be wrong. When we go to a Wedding we don't sit on the pew conscience-stricken. It is like a planed date.

    @ Megs,

    Last night at a church service I heard a guy say, "Christians are prone to idolise the good things like ministers and church and family more then wealth or fame."

    Josh

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