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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Lent Comes of Age

The original post was written in 2009


“You make the Word of God of none effect by your tradition.”


Christianity Today (repeated in The Alabama Baptist) notes that Lent is “one of the oldest Christian Traditions.” TAB laments that the season is not practiced in many Southern Baptist churches. I have a similar lament: that it is practiced at all in Southern Baptist churches (or by Evangelicals anywhere).

Let’s take a look at this “old Christian tradition.”

We can all agree that it certainly is not a practice given to us in the pages of scripture. So what does that mean? Well, it means that some guy made it up. Whether he made it up in AD 100 or in AD 2000 makes no difference; he still made it up. Now, if you are one who has no problem with stuff people make up that isn’t in the Bible, then this post isn’t necessarily directed at you.

I just can’t understand why groups which claim Sola Scriptura (authority comes from the scriptures alone) would fawn over such a glaringly unbiblical and historically deadly practice. It’s not terribly surprising, though, as more and more Evangelicals fawn over the “beautiful” and unbiblical practices that go on all around us (practices that were denied by the faithful for centuries - at the risk of their very lives).

How we got here…


OK, so we have some guy who created this “holy season" (which probably dates back to pre-Christ pagan worship in another form). He likes it so much he starts telling his friends about it. They can’t seem to find it in their Bibles either so some of them don’t care to follow the “new Christian tradition.” This upsets the originator of Lent so he gets his like-minded buddies to form a council and they vote that Christians MUST practice Lent.

Lent was formalized at the Council of Nicea in AD 325. The earliest evidence of any kind of Lenten practice dates to the 3rd Century.  CatholicEducation.org gives us a picture of the original restrictions:

For example, Pope St. Gregory (d. 604), writing to St. Augustine of Canterbury, issued the following rule: "We abstain from flesh, meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese and eggs." Second, the general rule was for a person to have one meal a day, in the evening or at 3 p.m.

But those rules were eventually abandoned (or as CE puts it "evolved").

These Lenten fasting rules also evolved. Eventually, a smaller repast was allowed during the day to keep up one's strength from manual labor. Eating fish was allowed, and later eating meat was also allowed through the week except on Ash Wednesday and Friday. Dispensations were given for eating dairy products if a pious work was performed, and eventually this rule was relaxed totally.
Remember as you read these directives, violating them is deemed "sin," in some cases very serious, soul-destroying sin. The season puts true Christians in bondage to fear and succors unbelievers in their delusion that they are pleasing God. It hides the fact that these practices are a mockery of the finished work of the Savior.


The Bible is Sufficient



Heresy and false shepherds were alive in Paul’s day… and more were expected. Shall we look at their “traditions” and say to Paul, “Well, Paul, that stuff may have been wrong in your day, but nearly 2000 years have passed! Surely, doctrines that old must have become truer over time”?


No, that would be silly (I’m trying to be nice).

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. - Acts 20

God’s dealings with man have changed at different times for different purposes, but those changes originated with God and are confirmed by his Holy Word. Now, we may debate the content of that Word, but we surely should be able to rule out anything contradictory to it.

The Evangelical site gotquestions.org notes:

The rule that Catholics cannot eat meat on Fridays during Lent is actually more lenient than what most Catholics in history have had to observe. Centuries ago, the Catholic Church had a law that forbade consuming meat on all Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Later, this rule was relaxed to remove meat from the diet on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays. In 1966, Catholic bishops in America, with the blessing of Pope Paul VI, further relaxed the rule. Nowadays meat is only prohibited on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Fridays of the Lenten season. Catholics are obligated to observe this fast as a minimum..
The "threat" accompanying all these rules is standard in Catholcism: knowingly eating meat on a Friday in Lent, with the full consent of your will, may result in being tortured by fire by God for eternity if not confessed and absolution received from a priest via your assigned act of penance.

Just one of the countless Christ-denying doctrines of the RCC. The only reason the RCC exists (according to her) is to be the sole channel of God's specific grace which can get you to heaven (eventually). If the work of salvation is complete, there is no need for the RCC. This is why (a) they cannot accept the finished work and (b) why we should stop pretending the RCC is just another expression of true Christianity.

Ancient Doesn't Make It True


Yes, Lent is old, but just because something is “old” doesn’t make it any better than if I invented it yesterday. Next time you hear about some “lovely” tradition, do as the “noble” Bereans did with Paul’s doctrines in Acts 17:11 “search the scriptures whether these things are so.”


The progression:
  • Doesn’t Exist 
  • Some Guy Makes it Up 
  • It Gets a Little Older 
  • It Gets Even Older and Changes 
  • It Becomes “Ancient” 
  • Nobody Remembers that Somebody Made it Up
  • It's Ancient, so people assume it's true 

Time is not the arbiter of truth. The passage of time doesn’t make anything more “true” nor does it make the statements of men any more authoritative.

I’m trying to reconcile the words in Christianity Today… they used the adjective “Christian” for a practice they know well is not biblical (a doctrine connected to promises and condemnations that are antithetical to Evangelical Christianity). It makes me wonder… if I made up an unbiblical practice today and declared that failure to honor it as I dictate would amount to one risking his eternal fate… how quickly would Christianity Today and the Southern Baptist Convention swoon over my lovely “Christian tradition”?

You know what I'm giving up for Lent? The unscriptural traditions of men.

"Let no man judge you in regard to a holy day..." (Col 2:16)

I am free of the rudiments of this world (Col), biblical (practices given for other dispensations) and unbiblical. It would be sin for me to subject myself to those rudiments. For these reasons (among others) I neither practice nor acknowledge the practice of observing man's Lent. The Alabama Baptist, Christianity Today, and the Southern Baptist Churches which endorse it should be ashamed.


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