At this festive time of the year my Facebook feed is all aTwitter with the intramural Reformed debate over whether observance of Evangelical Feast Days are consistent with or contrary to the principle of “Worship, Reformed According to Scripture.”
The Second Helvetic Confession, authored by Zwingli’s successor, Heinrich Bullinger, notes in XXIV.3 that “if the churches do religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s Nativity, Circumcision, Passion, Resurrection, and of his Ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, according to Christian liberty, we do very well approve of it.”
Bullinger’s important contingency is “according to Christian liberty.” No doubt he had in mind Romans 14:4-8.
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:4-8 ESV)
On the other hand, the Westminster Directory for Publick Worship, in an Appendix entitled “Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship” appears to express the matter quite differently.
THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath. Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.Nevertheless, it is lawful and necessary, upon special emergent occasions, to separate a day or days for publick fasting or thanksgiving, as the several eminent and extraordinary dispensations of God’s providence shall administer cause and opportunity to his people.
A few years ago, Danny Hyde, Pastor of Oceanside Reformed Church, wrote an excellent article on this question entitled “Not Holy, but Helpful: A Case For the Evangelical Feast Days in the Reformed Tradition.” I recommend that you follow the link above to read the whole article. It is worth the time. At the end of the article he draws the following conclusion.
The Reformed family of Protestant Reformation churches affirms that worship is to be done according to the Word of God. What this means today may not be what it meant historically speaking. And so we’ve seen that some of those same churches and theologians who affirmed sola Scriptura and what later came to be known as “the regulative principle,” also affirmed the Christian freedom to celebrate the work of Jesus Christ on the evangelical feast days besides the Lord’s Day and that this was to be done with a view to the edification of the body.