John Knox Against Christmas

I’m really enjoying the article by Kevin Reed, Christmas: An Historical Survey Regarding Its Origins and Opposition to It. He is showing that for the Presbyterian reformers, there was no place for things like Christmas. This was based upon the regulative principle, which is understood to mean that unless God has commanded it in worship, then it is not to be permitted for worship. This is why for years, much of the Protestant church would not sing any other songs besides the Psalms. But the point of Reed’s article is showing how adamantly opposed the Reformers were towards the pagan worship of Christmas in the church.

Reed writes:

At the heart of Knox’s argument is an appeal to Deuteronomy 4 and 12. These portions of scripture teach that it is unlawful to add to, or subtract from, the worship which God has instituted in his Word. Consequently, all religious ceremonies and institutions must have direct scriptural warrant if they are to be admitted as valid expressions of worship. This statement of the regulative principle of worship was a hallmark of the Scottish reformation.

Knox made his case for the regulative principle at the beginning of his ministry, before he had studied on the Continent. Knox condemned the false worship of Roman Catholicism.

Then he quotes Knox:

That God’s word damns your ceremonies, it is evident; for the plain and straight commandment of God is, “Not that thing which appears good in thy eyes, shalt thou do to the Lord thy God, but what the Lord thy God has commanded thee, that do thou: add nothing to it; diminish nothing from it.” Now unless that ye are able to prove that God has commanded your ceremonies, this his former commandment will damn both you and them.

I love Knox’s godly zeal for the worship of God. He shows us, as does Reed, that there really is no place for Christmas in the life of the believer, not if we are going to remain true to what Scripture declares to us as acceptable worship.

I believe the church would be much healthier if we would follow the lead of Knox and the Scottish church. Reed writes:

With this understanding of worship, the Scottish Church cast out a multitude of the monuments of idolatry which were part of papal worship; graven images, the Mass, false sacraments, Romish liturgical ceremonies, and Roman bishops were all removed from the Church. Ecclesiastical holidays were also expelled from the Church of Scotland.

Reed goes on to quote Knox’s First Book of Discipline, showing that the celebration of Christmas, along with other holy days, was condemned:

By contrary Doctrine, we understand whatsoever men, by Laws, Councils, or Constitutions have imposed upon the consciences of men, without the expressed commandment of God’s word: such as be vows of chastity, foreswearing of marriage, binding of men and women to several and disguised apparels, to the superstitious observation of fasting days, difference of meat for conscience sake, prayer for the dead; and keeping of holy days of certain Saints commanded by men, such as be all those that the Papists have invented, as the Feasts (as they term them) of Apostles, Martyrs, Virgins, of Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Purification, and other fond feasts of our Lady. Which things, because in God’s scriptures they neither have commandment nor assurance, we judge them utterly to be abolished from this Realm; affirming further, that the obstinate maintainers and teachers of such abominations ought not to escape the punishment of the Civil Magistrate.

All this shows us that we could truly learn a lot from our Protestant forebearers. I know this comes at a time when so many of us have already committed ourselves to the celebration of this pagan worship, but perhaps we should give it some thought.