Should Baptists Celebrate Lent?

Six articles at the Baptist Bulletin

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Paul J. Scharf's picture

Coming from a Lutheran background, I understand that there are valid reasons why a Baptist church would not celebrate Lent.
I also understand that there can be very valid and helpful uses to celebrating Lent which have nothing to do with Catholicism -- either historically or spiritually.
What I do have a problem with is Baptists who celebrate Easter and the resurrection without first pausing to remember or explain why Christ had to arise, or what He arose from in the first place! This, I suppose, is both a root and a fruit of the vast Biblical illiteracy which plagues the church today, but it is a great injustice to young people, and really to all Christians.
But then again, if you have services for Good Friday, you really are technically celebrating Lent anyway :O
I also get a kick out of Baptists who don't like the word "Easter" and love to say they celebrate the resurrection every Sunday -- but then go ahead and have special "Easter" services -- usually without one bit of context (as mentioned above). I would almost rather they just forget even marking the day rather than to go half and half.
In my own personal story, Lent/Easter was a very spiritually "heavy" time for me as a child in the Lutheran church, and I believe God used it in my life in a very real way. I usually went to church on Thursday night, Friday afternoon and Friday evening before Easter -- then sunrise and regular services on Sunday (along with Easter breakfast -- followed usually by a week off from school Cool )
I remember the childlike feelings of celebrating these services. It was almost as if Christ were really dead when we left church on Friday -- waiting for Sunday when He would, almost in my mind, rise again.
I know I am no longer a child, but I have not been in many Baptist Easter services that moved me that way...

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Ed Vasicek's picture

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
Coming from a Lutheran background, I understand that there are valid reasons why a Baptist church would not celebrate Lent.
I also understand that there can be very valid and helpful uses to celebrating Lent which have nothing to do with Catholicism -- either historically or spiritually.
What I do have a problem with is Baptists who celebrate Easter and the resurrection without first pausing to remember or explain why Christ had to arise, or what He arose from in the first place! This, I suppose, is both a root and a fruit of the vast Biblical illiteracy which plagues the church today, but it is a great injustice to young people, and really to all Christians.
But then again, if you have services for Good Friday, you really are technically celebrating Lent anyway :O
I also get a kick out of Baptists who don't like the word "Easter" and love to say they celebrate the resurrection every Sunday -- but then go ahead and have special "Easter" services -- usually without one bit of context (as mentioned above). I would almost rather they just forget even marking the day rather than to go half and half.
In my own personal story, Lent/Easter was a very spiritually "heavy" time for me as a child in the Lutheran church, and I believe God used it in my life in a very real way. I usually went to church on Thursday night, Friday afternoon and Friday evening before Easter -- then sunrise and regular services on Sunday (along with Easter breakfast -- followed usually by a week off from school Cool )
I remember the childlike feelings of celebrating these services. It was almost as if Christ were really dead when we left church on Friday -- waiting for Sunday when He would, almost in my mind, rise again.
I know I am no longer a child, but I have not been in many Baptist Easter services that moved me that way...

Well, Paul, I think you have some good points, but have perhaps bundled a few things together -- or perhaps, more accurately -- you have given the impression of bundling things. Perhaps I am deluding myself, but I celebrate Good Friday yet do not consider myself as one who celebrates Lent.

For example, I PREFER to call Easter Sunday "Resurrection Sunday," but then I usually have "Easter" alongside in parenthesis. It is not that I think it is evil to call such a day "Easter," but I think it communicates the real meaning of the holiday by calling it "Resurrection Sunday." If your church kids are like mine, most of them do not recall that Easter is a celebration of the Resurrection. They might agree to it if it is stated, but if you ask, "What does Easter celebrate," most kids will NOT answer "The Resurrection." At least that's how it is every year when I teach AWANA.

Also, the term "Lent" is itself extra-Biblical, and carries with it a lot more than remembering Good Friday. We have a Good Friday communion service every year, and it is special. We read the Scriptures from the Gospels about the death of Christ, and thus prepare for Resurrection Sunday. But I personally think "giving up" something for Lent is silly. Anything worth giving up for Lent should be given up all the time. Otherwise, we are talking about tokenism, and Colossians 2:23 seems to run contrary to the concept that this somehow makes one more godly.

This year, we will be showing the silent movie "King of Kings" (it has a soundtrack) on Palm Sunday evening. This can be another way to focus in on the real meaning of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. I'll break my "AWANA Rhythm" when I teach the kids the next two weeks, as we will survey the trials, death, burial, and resurrection in preparation for the season. I sort of view "Easter" time much like I view Christmas -- a time to put the focus on the spiritual aspects of the holiday. But if you asked me if I celebrate Lent, I have to say no: I think Ash Wednesday is man-made religion, I think giving up something that is not evil is of no actual value, and I think not eating meat on Fridays is not fasting. That's my take.

"The Midrash Detective"

Paul J. Scharf's picture

I appreciate your perspective, but you are also bundling several Roman Catholic elements of Lent -- which are not part of Lent per se -- into the mix.
Most Protestants who celebrate Lent do not give up anything for it, and the Friday meat thing is purely RC, not part of Lent.
I am glad that you are taking the time to lead your congregation spiritually and emotionally through the events leading up to the cross and the empty tomb -- not just showing up one Sunday and singing "You ask me how I know He lives..." :Sp
If you want to split hairs, however, you are indeed celebrating Lent by having Palm Sunday and Good Friday services.
Now that we have established that, it is just a matter of where we draw the line... :bigsmile: :bigsmile:

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Jim's picture

As a former Methodist ..... saved in 1969 AND
My wife a former R/C .... saved in 1974

The whole Lent thing is just meaningless. By the way we feel the same way about Easter - it's just another Sunday. Good Friday? Don't we remember the Lord's death at the communion table? Plus are we so sure it was Friday anyway?

Question: What's before Lent?
Answers:

Many of the associated festivities are just pagan debaucheries (as anyone who has been to New Orleans at Mardi Gras can attest)

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Smile

We do celebrate our own "pancake day" every Saturday morning. We make [URL=http://www.homesteadmills.com/ Buckwheat Pancakes[/URL ]

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Jim Peet wrote:
The whole Lent thing is just meaningless.

Jim,
I think this is a good place to insert Rom. 14:5-7 -- regarding Lent itself, not the RC and other trappings you are mixing in.

Again, if you really think Easter is "meaningless", that is fine, but I would encourage you not to reference it at all then, rather than trying to convince those of us who enjoy it -- or rather than singing a couple of verses of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" followed by a messge from something completely unrelated. I also hope there is another time in the year, then, when your church would take a serious look at the harmony of passages which give the resurrection account as well considering the theological and spiritual implications of the resurrection.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Listen to Monday's Grace To You broadcast (www.gty.org/Shop/Audio+Lessons/2395), and at the end you will hear John MacArthur credit the Catholic Church for at least giving the culture a vast awareness of the death of Christ.
Protestants and Baptists would say they are out of balance on this issue, both in their theology and even in their symbolism -- i.e., life-size crucifixes in cemeteries with Christ dying on the cross.
"We serve a risen Christ," we would say, and for good reason.
But if He rose, He first had to die. Do our kids get that? Do our adults? Does a two-minute dry run through communion at the end of an evening service teach that in-depth? I am dead serious when I say I wonder how many of the kids -- dare I even say how many adults -- in our churches really understand these things. Perhaps we are also out of balance in the other direction. We also suffer from Biblical illiteracy.
Ed, it breaks my heart when you say (post #2) that most church kids wouldn't know what Easter is. Perhaps we have a problem here...
When you are remodeling a house, before taking out a cross-beam, you always have to make sure you understand why it was put there to begin with before you remove it.
It is very easy to preach against Lent and lump lots of RC tradition and abuse into it.
But, before we tore out that "beam," perhaps we should have asked why it was put there in the first place in the early centuries of church history -- and what we would do to prop the "house" up once we tore that "beam" out.
To put it simply, if we have something which serves as a better teaching tool than Lent, ain't no time like the present to bring it out...

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think Jim mentioned the Communion table. This is all about teaching the death of Christ and what it means and our entering into it with Him by faith. We don't observe the table weekly but in churches that do, the argument that every Sunday is resurrection Sunday is especially strong, assuming they include time to ponder the resurrection after pondering the suffering and death.

As for teaching kids what Easter means... I do think a whole lot of kids don't know. But it only takes five minutes to teach that to however many you can gather. We have kids club today, so--depending on how many show up, they'll all know what Easter means.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

I am glad you are teaching the kids about Easter!
If they really don't know what Easter means, their parents and teachers are guilty of educational malpractice, if nothing else. I am glad you are correcting the problem.
I still think there is lots of misunderstanding about Lent. Many folks load terms like this with what they think the RCC teaches and argue against a straw man. As I have briefly explained, lots of people who are as anti-RCC doctrine as they are celebrate Lent. (Accuse an orthodox Lutheran of teaching that you have to give up meat on Fridays and you are likely to have a fight on your hands Wink )
I also see the inconsistency of accepting Easter but decrying Lent -- unless we are just pure pragmatists who have special Easter celebrations because "it works." Both Lent and Easter are equally manmade, arbitrary traditions which have taken hold in the culture and the church over many centuries -- and both are similar to Christmas and Advent in that way.
For some reason, though, it seems like Easter ruffles more fundamentalist feathers than Christmas. Some fundamentalists will even go so far as to utilize Advent to some extent or other, but most don't bite on Lent. I see all of these traditions as being on a similar plane historically and theologically, however.

Food for thought: I once heard the comment that evangelicals spend almost 1/4 of the year focusing in on the birth of Christ, but very little time on His death and resurrection. Yet which receives more attention in Scripture? Hmmmmm.....

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Well, I'm quite confident all our church kids were well aware of the meaning already, but the kid's club is mostly neighborhood kids. I'm thinking most of them would do pretty well also on a short answer quiz. But I'll get a chance to find out in a little while.