Part 1 in a series of posts on the Church calendar (portions of a booklet I wrote entitled “Should We Follow a Church Calendar?”)
Reforming is messy business and sometimes it results in downright confusion. When the Protestant Reformers were protesting, the controversies centered on the doctrines of justification or salvation, hence, the battle cries of the Reformation reflected this emphasis: sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola Christus (Christ alone), sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), and soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone).
These battle cries inevitably led to reformation in other areas as well. If we accept Scripture as our sole and final authority, the natural result is that we must address our practices of worship and church practice in light of the Scriptures. As some writers have noted, the Protestant Reformation was a liturgical reformation.
This could, and should, lead us to a discussion of myriad questions but the focus of this article is the Church calendar. Should Reformed churches observe a Church calendar? More specifically, should our church observe a Church calendar?
Some of the grandchildren of the Reformers have argued against the use of a Church calendar because the practice is not explicitly commanded in Scripture. They further claim that the regulative principle (that we can only do in worship what God has commanded in Scripture) prohibits observing any day above another.
The idea that a Church calendar is not commanded in Scripture and is, therefore, not to be observed is odd. When did Reformed folk begin using ad ignoratium arguments (arguments from silence)? While this practice is the bread and butter of our Baptistic and Dispensationalist brothers, it is out of place in the Reformed world.
We believe that God has always only had one people and one Church, so we hold that there are certain continuities between the Old and New Covenants. Among them, signs of the covenant being applied to our children (circumcision then, baptism now) and the enjoyment of a regular covenantal meal (Passover then, the Lord’s Supper now). We also accept as true that God’s people worship on and observe His designated day (the Saturday Sabbath then, the Lord’s Day now).
The relation of the regulative principle to this debate falls with the same answer. If God’s covenant people lived by a calendar that once pointed to the coming Messiah, why would we not expect that God’s people would now live by a calendar which reflects that He has come? The issue of a Church calendar is an issue of covenant continuity. The regulative principle, no matter how strictly held, does not require the abandonment of covenantal patterns.