Wednesday, January 02, 2019

God Rest Ye Merry Puritans

 Doug Stabbed You In The Has Got Your Back 
– Or So He Says   
[updated & revised 1/27/19]

God rest ye merry Puritans, 
Let nothing you dismay, 
Doug Wilson is a poser  
Whatever he may say. 

Like it or not, it's that time of year again and come to find out, some of the usual rascals are up to the same old same old.
In other words, what follows is  a somewhat critical review of: 
God Rest Ye Merry, Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything,
Douglas Wilson, Moscow: Canon Press, 2012, 151 p. 

There are any number of problems with this attempt of an apologetic for a robust Puritan celebration of Advent and Christmas, i.e. the ecclesiastical/church year with its seasons and feastdays in God Rest Ye Merry (GRYM), but the chief one is curious enough. Wilson's idea of a Puritan more resembles what he says  about St. Nicholas of Myra. Somehow Nicholas, who supposedly punched an Arian at the Council of Nicea in  325 AD, transitioned from a bishop to an elf to a jolly Dutchman till he finally ended up as  the current occupant at PO. Box 1, The North Pole. “But [what] we must learn from this [is] that if we do not tell our stories faithfully, they will gradually change over time until they become quite unrecognizable.” Moreover, “we have to remember that St. Nicholas probably would have slugged somebody over it.” (p.120). Indeed. As we shall see what Mr. Wilson describes and defines as Puritan defense of Christmas is not just unfaithful to genuine Puritanism, but the exact opposite.  

Puritan and Reformed Preliminaries
Not that we would punch Judy over it or suggest Mr. Wilson seek employment as an Everlast heavy bag, but really.  Mr. Wilson’s not so stellar record on all things Puritan and Reformed include an assault on the reformed doctrine of worship  as a charter member of John Frame's Worship Children and the requisite fundamentalist read of the Second Commandment in common with the crowd he has run with in the past.  The same  bunch which largely morphed into Norm Shepherd's Covenant Children and came up with the theological novelty of  the Federal Vision. Because all Israel is not Israel, our theological sophomores decided baptism is what it signifies,  grace is not irresistable, walking by sight trumps walking by faith  and the visible church is the real church. Until it's not. Or something like that.

Indeed, Peak Wilson might have occurred with his little bio on John Knox,  For Kirk and Covenant, The Stalwart Courage of John Knox (2000). The latter correctly notes Knox’s adamant witness against both error and protestant weasels a.k.a.  temporizers, as well as the place  the purity of worship (but not the Second Commandment)  played  both in his theology and the Scotch Reformation (pp.169-72, 161-4). Yet again,  with Wilson’s embrace of John Frame’s fundamentalist read of the Second Commandment which denies  the reformed  doctrine of worship, i.e.  the Regulative Principle of Worship (p.162),  along with corresponding collegial relations with Steve Schlissel,  James Jordan and Peter Liethart, all of the same mind and ilk, his 2002 book  Reformed Is Not Enough and signing the  2007 Joint Federal Vision Statement, only seal the deal regarding Wilson’s temporizing credentials on worship, justification, election and covenant theology.    

Federal Vision Is Not Enough
As far as John Knox on the doctrine of election goes, the preface to his On Predestination, In Answer to the Cavillations by an Anabaptist (1560) pretty much puts away Wilson’s FV covenantal vacillations in Reformed Is Not Enough. What Knox accords to the doctrine of election, Wilson and the FV accord to the “objectivity” of the covenant and visible church membership. They damn it with faint praise, if not faint mention; if not the addition of and emphasis on the visible church to the exclusion of the doctrine of election and predestination. Yet Knox's preface closes, 
But let us, dear brethren, be assured that none other doctrine does establish faith, nor makes man humble and thankful unto God. And finally, that none other doctrine makes man careful to obey God according to his commandment, but that doctrine only which spoils man of all power an virtue, that no portion of his salvation consists within himself; to the end that the whole praise of our redemption may be referred to Christ Jesus alone . . .
Can Wilson's much vaunted Federal Vision's "objectivity of the covenant" say as much? Hardly. 

I 2010 Wilson was claiming the FV theology was "my big promotion",  yet come    2017,  he posted  an  Amber Alert  nominally  disavowing "Oatmeal Stout" Federal Vision along with the claim at the same time to  be a "Westminster Puritan". Whatever that means in that it was as empty of substance as his  repudiation of FV theology, which  only added drunkenness to thirst,  consisting as it did in  nuanced generalities and distinctions among beers and bartenders. But  not biblical categories and reformed theology in that Wilson affirmed that he was  still in agreement with Joint Federal Vision Statement of 2007. Go figure. 

Yet as a smooth operator, facile and glib front man  and titular head (aka bishop) of the CREC safe haven for those fleeing ecclesiastical discipline because of Federal Vision affinities, one is not surprised at the recent claim to Westminster orthodoxy. Yet all invective aside, the proof is in the  pudding that follows, Tiny Tim and  the Sugar Plum Fairy notwithstanding. 

Basic Distinctions vs. Distortions and Contradictions
Wilson begins Lesson Three,  "How To Celebrate Christmas Like a Puritan (p.75-93)",  which is both the heart of his book and his error by saying “One of the most common caricatures of the Puritans is that they were a lot of ecclesiastical killjoys . . . it is manifestly not true of the genius of true Puritanism (p. 75)”. From there is it literally downhill. While he wants to commend and celebrate an exuberant joy founded on the intervention of God in the Incarnation, we are instructed that some “basic distinctions have to be made (p.75)”, which is true enough, but the pig’s breakfast that results is not faithful to the real Puritan position on the ecclesiastical year and holidays. For some strange reason.

The basic distinctions regarding the Puritan position contradicted by Wilson are four:
  • One: if the Puritan opposition to the church year was in principle because of Gal. 4 and Col. 2. Wilson thinks it is rather because of the immorality that accompanied "the feast of Christ's nativity . . ." which was "spent . . . rifling, dicing, carding, masking, mumming, and all licentious liberty, for the most part, as though it were some heathen feast of Ceres or Bacchus (p.78 quoting Gillespie  p.340 p.123). 
  • Two: if the Puritans considered an appeal to the Old Testament feast days to justify New Testament feast days to be judaizing in principle and practice, again because of Gal. 4 and Col. 2., Wilson on his part, thinks the OT example justifies post NT feast days. "If we want direction on how to observe a calendar year that is honoring to God, one of the places we should go is to the Old Testament (p.81)". 
  • Three: if the Puritans considered liberty of conscience to apply to what is not addressed in Scripture, yet by the same token, they considered religious holidays to be not only addressed, but forbidden  by Scripture in Gal. 4 and Col. 2., Wilson on the other hand, appeals to liberty of conscience in order to observe holidays, saying, "we should celebrate Christmas, and the rest of the church year, with a free (and clean) conscience (p.80"). 

    Furthermore, if the Puritans thought that liberty of conscience meant the right of the believer not to observe what God had not commanded in worship, much more again, God had forbidden weak and beggarly days in Gal. 4 and Col. 2, Wilson can only say "If someone's conscience does not permit them to celebrate any day like Christmas, we should be sensitive to that. Feeling sorry for their captivity to overdone scruples is one thing. But binding them, making them observe the day, or pressuring them to do so, is not permissable (p.78)". Again, "We should leave our overly scrupulous brother alone. If God did not command something, then neither should we (p.80)".
  • Four: regarding Purim, the Westminster Assembly considered the Book of Esther to contain  approved examples of days of prayer/fasting and  days of thanksgiving as occasional/circumstantial events,  as per the proof texts for Chapt. 21:5 of their Confession (Esth. 4:16, 9:22),  though  Purim later became  an yearly event (Esth. 9:26-32) But Wilson says, "Even the English theologians at Westminster . . . saw that it was lawful for the church to establish days for "thanksgiving upon special occasions (WCF xxi:v)"." Purim "was an annual recurring celebration (p.79)".
Of Purloined Puritan Letters and Logic
Of course in all this, one might note the failure of modern high school American  Literature classes as  subset of what Wilson decries in his book that got his foot in the door as a Christian writer and educatorRecovering the Lost Tools of Learning (Crossway, 1991).  Wilson tells us in GRYM   that:
Because Christians no longer honor the Lord's Day on a weekly basis, the world has rushed to fill it in with a frenetic 24-7 lifestyle woven around five days of work and two days of leisure. This is a marked difference from the one Christian day of rest, followed by six of work.
In the same way, because we have not seen the passage of the year under the Lordship of Christ, we now find ourselves marking time with dates like Labor Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, MLK Day, and so forth. But Christians must define the year in an explicitly Christian way, and face the objections, or they must acquiesce in the secularization of time (p.80).
This is confusing. Wilson doesn't tell us what is wrong with returning to the historic Christian version of one day of rest and six of work that he mentions right off the get go, but instead  assumes we need to go the church calendar route. Because the world runs after special days and seasons means Christians are to do the same in observing in what Wilson admits are uncommanded days and seasons? How does that make sense?   

At the very least it is an unproved assertion, if not  a non sequitur, an informal fallacy of the unexamined or overlooked alternatives, as opposed to formal.   Something Doug ought to know about since he has written about both formal and informal fallacies  in his Introductory Logic and Dr. Ransom's Bestiary of Adorable Fallacies? Or  are we to assume that since he doesn't list overlooked alternatives in the last, which is a "Field Guide For Clear Thinkers", the fallacy doesn't exist and he is free to draw unwarranted conclusions?  Or  is that itself yet again a fallacy of an overlooked alternative? Just who is Dupin who? At least somebody  doesn't try and  tell us Edgar Allen Poe was a Puritan. But maybe that will be next. 

Summarizing Systematic Misunderstanding AKA Bearing False Witness
Because  Wilson really doesn't tell us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to  George Gillespie’s classic Dispute Against English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded on the Church of Scotland (1642) either. Instead we get the drive by treatment from Wilson  with but two brief quotes of Gillespie's Dispute  in GRYM as pretty much representative of the Puritan position (p.78,88). Yet he is bold to tell us elsewhere   in his  opening remarks for  his study guide on the Westminster Confession of Faith, Westminster Systematics, Comments and Notes on the Westminster Confession (Moscow: Canon Press, 2014) that:
We must always remember that a systematic understanding of any given text is really synonymous with a formal understanding of the text. Understanding a work is impossible unless there is an ability to summarize it and summary is nothing more but a systematic distillation. The real enemy to avoid is systematic misunderstanding of the text  (p.xi) . . . .
While it is true that the same study guide might be a backhanded  attempt to  rehabilitat his theological credentials in light again of his FV antics essentially attacking the system of doctrine in the Confession, if not the Westminster Standards as a whole,  suffice it to say  when it comes to Wilson systematically misunderstanding, if not ignoring Gillespie, Nathan to David comes to mind (2 Sam.12:7). Doug is the man and as we shall see, suppression of  texts  is the plan, whether Gillespie –  or  Scripture and the Westminster Assembly.

Ignoring Necessity, Expediency, Lawfulness and Indifference
Summarizing the Dispute is easy enough, as per Wilson’s canon above, particularly since the book does so itself  explicitly. In its four sections respectively entitled, Gillespie exhaustively denies the necessity, expediency, lawfulness and indifference of ceremonies – which explicitly include holidays. This, all the while quoting the opposite position liberally as he refutes it. If Wilson would have done anything like the same, he might have had a case to make, but as GRYM stands now, it’s pretty weak sauce. Kind of like  non alcoholic eggnog. 

In other words, Wilson is coasting on his audience’s ignorance of what the Gillespie, the Puritans and the Westminster Assembly actually taught in order to make his case to teach the exact opposite. Again, he is either incompetent/negligent or deceitful regarding the question. Choose you this day.

Au contraire his remarks above regarding systematic misunderstanding of a text, again GRYM really is all about consistently and systematically ignoring the relevant passages in  Scripture, as well as  Gillespie’s text commenting on the same. The  same texts  where Paul – not the Puritans – enjoins Christians from adding anything, such as the weak and beggarly elements of days and seasons – to their faith in Christ.

Socrates, Sophistry and Scripture
If Wilson is faithful to tell us that “Socrates once famously said that the unexamined life is not worth living. In a similar vein, the unexamined holiday is not worth celebrating (p.87)”, so too we suppose   unexamined lies are  not worth the wrapping paper they're  printed on. Galatians 4 and Colossians 2 respectively are the classic passages in Scripture that run decisively contrary to Wilson’s argument and are therefore MIA – for some strange reason – from his less than Socratic defense of special seasons and days

Galatians 4:1-11 reads:
1Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. 8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. 9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? 10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. 11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
If nothing else Paul argues that in the OT economy, believers were like servants as  children under tutors and governors “in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman under the law  to redeem them that were under the law" that they might become adopted as  sons. In other words the Incarnation was in part, the reason as sons and heirs,  they were not to return to the days and months they were subject to as servants. But not in Wilsonspeak. Rather  the Incarnation is the very reason to return to the weak and beggarly elements of days and seasons, Christmas and Advent. Can we say schizophrenic? Wilson couldn’t be more contrary to Paul if he tried. 

Colossians 2:16,17 reads:
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Gillespie comments at some length on both passages in Part One,  Against the  Necessity of Ceremonies, Chapt. 8:
My second argument whereby I prove that the imposing of the observation of holidays bereaves us of our liberty, I take of two places of the Apostle; the one, Gal. 4:10, where he finds fault with the Galatians for observing of days, and gives two reasons against them; the one (v.3), They were a yoke of bondage which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear; another (v.9), They were weak and beggarly rudiments, not becoming the Christian church, which liberated them from the pedagogical instruction of the ceremonial law.

The other place is Col. 2:16 where the Apostle will have the Colossians not to suffer themselves to be judges by any man in respect of an holiday, i.e. to be condemned for not observing a holiday, for to condemn here means to accuse a party of guilt (Calvin’s Comm. in illum locum); and the meaning is, suffer not yourselves to be condemned by those false apostles, or by any mortal man in the cause of meat, that is for meat or drink taken, or for any holiday, or any part of an holiday neglected.

Two other reasons the Apostle gives in this place against festival days; one (v.17), What should we do with the shadow, when we have the body? Another (v.20), Why should we be subject to human ordinances, since through Christ we are dead to them, and have nothing to do with them? Now, by the same reason are all holidays to be condemned, as taking away Christian liberty; and so, that which the Apostle says does militate against them as against any other holidays.
But Didn't Paul Observe Days?
Gillespie states the objection: 
For whereas it might be thought that the Apostle does not condemn all holidays, because he both permits others to observe days (Rom. 14:5), and because he himself also did observe one of the Jewish  feasts (Acts 18:21),
And then  says  that "it is easily answered, that our holidays have no warrant from these places", by saying:
  . . . that that which the Apostle either said or did here [about], is to be expounded and understood of bearing with weak Jews, whom he permitted to esteem one day above another, and for whose cause he did, in his own practice, thus far apply himself to their infirmity at that time when they could not possibly be as yet fully and thoroughly instructed concerning Christian liberty, and the abrogation of the ceremonial law, because the law was yet not fully promulgated; and when the Mosaical rites were like a dead man not yet buried, as Augustine’s simile runs. So that all this can make nothing for holidays after the full promulgation of the gospel, and after the Jewish ceremonies were not only dead, but also buried, and so deadly to be used by us. Hence it is, that the Apostle will not bear with the observation of days in Christian churches who have known God, as he speaks (Dispute, p.37, 38, italics added).
It’s pretty straight forward, which is perhaps why Mr. Wilson chooses to ignore both Gillespie and the Scripture texts themselves. The Dispute  gives the standard Puritan and reformed gloss and exposition of these two passages, though perhaps many P&R in our day are loath to acknowledge the conclusion. Days and seasons are weak and beggarly elements and shadows when compared to Christ. While Paul may have for that time, tolerated an exception to the rule for weak Jews not yet clear on their freedom in Christ, he did not intend the temporary exception to become the rule after the Jewish economy and ceremonies were buried and the Christian NT economy established. Needless to say, we are well past both of them.

Gillespie concludes that “after the full promulgation of the gospel, and after the Jewish ceremonies were not only dead, but also buried” holidays are “deadly” to be used by Christians. “Hence it is, that the Apostle will not bear with the observation of days in Christian churches who have known God, as he speaks (Dispute, p.38)”. But fools rush in where Santa’s elves and reindeer refuse to tread. Wilson again thinks that “the weaker brother is the one who does not observe Christmas (GRYM, p. 78)”. But then evidently Paul was neither a brother nor a Puritan, but an apostle and not an anachronism. Which is a good thing. Wilson had us clutching our pearls Christmas tree ornaments  for a moment. 

Suppression of Westminster Puritanism
But what really  takes the fruitcake in all this further is Wilson's studied silence –  as a self styled "Westminster Puritan"  – on the Appendix to the Directory for the Publick Worship of God (1645). (Not that Wilson's mentor, John Frame didn't likewise ignore the Assembly's Directory of Publick Worship  in order to beg the question, if not muddy the water when it came to understanding how the Assembly's doctrine of worship worked out in practice.) That is because the Westminster Confession is not the only part, but rather instead, the “chiefest part" of that "uniformity in religion, confession of faith, form of church government, directory for worship and catechising” called for in the Solemn League and Covenant (SL&C 1643). 

While previously the Assembly had only been responsible for revising the Anglican 39 Articles, with the SL&C, the Assembly had a new mandate. It would go on to  produce a Directory of Public Worship,  the Larger and Shorter Catechisms  and the Form of Church Government, all of which we might assume would  hold up the hands of the Confession, as Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses (Ex.17:12) rather than contradict it,  in that the doctrine, worship and government of Christ's church is a threefold cord not easily broken (Eccl. 4:12).

The   Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly 1643-1652tell us for "Session 348, Decemb. 27, 1644, Fryday Morning", that the day's discussion and work included the "Report of the Appendix concerning days and places for publique worship". The next session, "Decemb. 30, 1640 [sic] Munday morning" says that it was:
Ordered: That the Appendix be sent up tomorrow morning (p.489-491)
The same reads as sent up to Parliament as finally  approved as part of the  Directory:
AN APPENDIX,
Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship.

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. . . (Westminster Confession of Faith, Free Pres.Press, 1997 rpt. p.394, italics added)
In light of this, one wonders what exactly an affirmation as a "Westminster Puritan" really means, if the  Assembly – an epitome of 'Westminster Puritanism' if there ever was one tells us plainly that festival or feast days, i.e. holy-days or holidays,  are unScriptural in the very first official document they penned in obedience to the SL&C 's charge.   Not that holidays are or can be subject to abuse, but that there is no basis in Scripture for them.  Just  exactly how  does one justify claiming the complete opposite, without justifying one's self as a fool,  a fraud or a  flim flam man? Just who is it we are trying to snooker, if Wilson hasn't already deceived  himself about what the Westminster Assembly  teaches and what Puritanism really is? 

Suppression WP 2.0: Taking Liberties with Christian Liberty:
Further, as such, seasons and days are an imposition on Christian liberty. This, no matter how much the pseudo Puritans of our day want to argue for the liberty to observe penitential seasons like Advent and Lent and the special days of Christmas and Easter, all the while scouting the supposedly over scrupulous and weaker brother  which is pretty much of the essence of Wilson's position (GRYM. p.78,80,83,89). 

As for Chapter 20 "Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience" in the Confession, mum's the word from Wilson, who is certainly not hanging any mistletoe over this section of the WCF and with good reason. It tells us that:
I. The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the Gospel . . .  is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected,
 The proof texts for the same include  Gal. 4:1-3,6,7, as well Gal. 5:1 and Act. 15:14,15.
Gal. 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Acts 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
As for the second head, Doug gets it. He knows he can't force anybody to obey.
II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in any thing contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith or worship.
So far, so good. But the Confession continues, 
So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.
But if New Testament believers are freed from the  ceremonial  days and seasons commanded in the Old Testament –  to return to which is judaizing –  are  NT believers free to essentially substitute other days in their place? Are not the same,  if not "contrary to His Word", at least "beside it" and if so, then observing them "is to betray true liberty of conscience"? In other words, to believe or obey such doctrines as our "Westminster Puritan's" celebration of Advent and Christmas, which are contrary to  Gal. 4 and Col. 2.  if not beside them,  is to betray true liberty of conscience. But that's not what the Westminster weaker brethren are being told by our stronger  libertine brother. Why is that? 

Does Mr. Wilson want to require an implicit faith  and absolute and blind obedience even as he denies it? He is free of course,  to  do as he pleases,  but when it comes to anything that is contrary to God's Word, or beside it in faith or worship, he is only free to refrain from using or doing it contra what we are told about the likes of Advent and Christmas.

FWIW Wilson's Confused Rejoinder
The best Wilson can do is tell us that "the church calendar began to reflect a false understanding of the nature of the gospel (p.83, italics added)".  But Paul says after Christ it always was a false understanding. The only criticisms Wilson can come up for penitential seasons is that,
First . . . we would be in worse shape than our Old Covenant brethren, who had to afflict their souls only one day out of the year . . . 
Second each penitential season keeps getting interrupted with our weekly Easters. . . 
And last, what gospel is implicitly preached by the practice of drawing out the process of repentance and forgiveness?  (p.83)
Answer, we are in worse shape than the  OT church if we don't understand and believe Paul's gospel, wherein  adding seasons or days  to Christ is Judaizing. Wilson can only admit that "the lex orandi lex credendi –  the law of prayer is the law of faith, and over time, this liturgical practice will speak very loudly to our descendants (p.84)". Well, yeah. It's called romanizing. In part it was what the Reformation was all about, i.e. the reformation of the  Christian church, on the basis of Scripture alone,  from out of the deformed Roman churchwhich added many things uncommanded  to the  doctrine, worship, discipline and government of the church –  the descendants of which Reformation include not only  the Puritans, but also  their bastard relations today. Or so we might seem to be  told.

Wilson goes on to say that the "celebration of Easter should far surpass the glory of Christmas". Needless to say it's "more than  a little lopsided – and we shouldn't try to fix this by reducing what we do for Christmas (p.84)".  In other words, even more emphasis on days will fix the problem, as in doubling down.

Nyet. But yet he says it is true that, 
"Whenever we do anything on autopilot, it is not surprising that at some point we forget where we are going, or what we were supposed to be doing. And when we are just cruising in a mindless tradition, it is a short time before sin takes over (p.87)".
Rather, it is true that there was a short time after the Resurrection that observation of the OT Jewish seasons and days was tolerated/excepted  in the weaker brothers, but the rule was that to celebrate the same – never mind other uncommanded seasons and feasts,  even sincere and well intentioned –  was a sinful addition to Christ's completed work and full salvation. In other words, over time sin didn't take over the calendar of seasons and days; after Christ the calendar is a sinful addition to Christ. Seasons and days are not redeemed by reforming them ala Wilson, but by abolishing them. But obviously that is not Wilson's credenda or agenda. Unfortunately, unfaithfully  and unscripturally.

Purim and Puritans
Wilson also brings up the standard objection or misunderstanding of Purim. Because it is a “Jewish festival not required by the law of Moses, . . . which was an annual recurring celebration . . . we might want to add Thanksgiving and Reformation Sunday to our calendars (p.79). Yet again, this is not the intention of the Westminster Confession in Chapt. 21:5 when it comes to days for “thanksgiving upon special occasions”. 

Gillespie for his part,  says in Part Three,  Against the Lawfulness of Ceremonies, Chapt. Six,
. . . whether the days of Purim were instituted to be holidays or not, yet there was some more that ordinary warrant for them, because Mordecai, by whose advice and direction there were appointed to be kept, was a prophet by instinct and revelation of the Spirit (Esther 4:13). Perhaps we will not have gone far astray, says Hospinian, if we say that this was done by Mordecai and Esther from a particular inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Bishop Lindsey believes that they only had a general warrant, such as the church has still, to put order to the circumstances belonging to God’s worship, and all his reason is, because if the Jews had received any other particlar warrant, the sacred story should not have passed it over in silence.

Answer. Thus much we understand from the sacred story, that the Jews had the direction of a prophet for the days of Purim; and that was a warrant more than ordinary, because prophets were the extraordinary ministers of God. (Dispute, p.267, 268).
Either way you cut the fruitcake, Wilson’s objections hold less than the average  punchbowl. Even if Gillespie overstates his case and  even before its annual  appointment in Esth. 9:26-32 as an annual  religious – if not civil –  holiday, the Assembly appealed to  Esth. 4:16 & 9:22 respectively as  approved examples of days of prayer/fasting and  days of thanksgiving i.e. occasional/circumstantial events (cf. WCF 21:5 proof texts). In other words, WCF 21:5 does not appeal to the   yearly holiday of Purim  as Wilson mistakenly claims  (p.79). Further, we do not see Purim mentioned per se, much more sanctioned by Christ or the apostles in the New Testament. 

Moreover, if  Scripture is silent regarding a  command to observe Purim annually  does not mean what the Anglicans of Gillespie’s day or Wilson of ours assert: that there wasn’t a command – in order to justify their uncommanded days, Gal. 4 and Col. 2 notwithstanding – in favor of their misunderstanding on Purim. 

Approved Examples
To that end,  for all so called "Westminster Puritans a quick peek at the  Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly 1643-1652,  ought to help. The same for Session 649, June 1, 1646, on Monday morning, in continuing the discussion on the force, if not the good and necessary consequences (cf. WCF 1:6), of examples in Scripture,  states that it was:
Resolved upon the Q.: `Some examples show a Jus Divinum and the will and appoyntment of God; as in the Old Testament the building of Altars to the Lord and offering of sacrifices by the Fathers from Adam to Abraham, which was done in faith and acceptance, for which ther is noe foregoing precept recorded in Scripture’.

Resolved upon the Q.: ‘The same may be said of the duty of the surviving Brothers marrying the wife of his brother deceased without Issue, of which we have noe evidence that it was the will and appoyntment of God before the law was given by Moses, but the example of Judahs sonnes, Gen. 38.’

Resolved upon the Q.: `The like also we may say of Jewes having of synagouges and worshiping of God in them, and in perticular of their Reading Moses and the Prophets there every Sabbath day.'

Resolved upon the Q.: `In the New Testament we have the like Instances of the observation of the first day of the weeke for the Christian Sabbath.’. . . .

Resolved upon the Q.: `In all which examples, as we have cause to believe that the fathers at the first had a command from God for those things whereof we now find only their example, for the ground of their posterity's like practice for many generations, soe likewise, though we believe that Christ, in the time that He conversed with His disciples before and after his Resurrection, did instruct them in all things concerning the kingdome of God, yet nothing is left Recorded to shew his will and appoyntment of the things instanced in, but the example the practice of the Apostells and the churches in their time.’ (4:148)
Note the distinction. The Westminster Assembly responsible for the Confession of Faith, understood that “the fathers at the first had a command from God for those things whereof we now find only their example, for the ground of their posterity's like practice for many generations”. In other words, approved examples in the Scripture are not uncommanded examples, such as the sacrifices from Adam to Abraham, if not Moses, levirate marriage, "synagouges" and the NT Lord’s day. While we again do not have the explicit command in Scripture, we do have the resulting approved obedience to those commands in Scripture. 

Which means if Purim was an annual religious holiday,  it was commanded by God contra Wilson's justification for  uncommanded yearly holy days And while Gillespie might argue that it was commanded, again the Assembly clearly only appealed to the  days for  fasting/prayer  and thanksgiving as approved examples in Esth. 4:16 &  9:22, not what the latter  turned into, Purim as  an annual event in arguably the civil calendar of the Jews (Esth. 9:26-32). [Correction: Esther 9:17-19 should be the proof text for the day as an occasional  one-of as originally called, with 9:20-22 being where Mordecai made it an annual event.]

As one John Knox put it – surely an approved example of a  stalwart witness according to Wilson –  "But that if anything proceed from faith it must have the word of God for assurance (Dispute, p.250)". If whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23), and faith comes from the word (Rom. 10:13), the good and necessary consequence is that the fathers had a revelation and word from God for their worship,  even though that revelation was oral and not written at the time. Revelation was not inscripturated till Moses, the previous means of God in communicating his will before that not dying out till Scripture was completed and the canon closed as per the WCF 1:1. Regardless the days of prayer and thanksgiving in the WCF 21:5 were to be occasional in light of the outstanding circumstances and not a rote autopilot annual state of affairs like what the national day of Thanksgiving has become in America. And what Wilson unfaithfully claims.

Pharisees and Preposterous  Puritan Poppycock
Still at this point though, not  much can be expected from any self styled “Westminster Puritan” promoting Advent and Christmas. Wilson’s systematic misunderstanding of the question, all the while consistently ignoring the relevant Scripture, the thrust of Gillespie’s Dispute and the Puritan position of  the Westminster Assembly in their Confession and Directory for Worship, if nowhere else,  regarding the church calendar and holidays,  has not carried the day or made his case. 

One, he cannot tell us why the Puritans actually objected to Advent and Christmas in principle in the first place, whatever the moral or immoral practices that accompanied the observation thereof. That, on the basis of Scripture, Puritans condemned religious feast days as an uncommanded and Judaizing imposition on religious liberty and an addition to faith alone  in Christ alone. Two, this all the while they were not opposed to occasional days of prayer or thanksgiving based on extraordinary events or circumstances. In other words, there is a difference between annual and automatic yearly holidays and occasional days of prayer and thanksgiving though again, Wilson is  incompetent to the distinction. 

The relevant Scripture passages,  along with Geo. Gillespie’s classic Dispute Against English Popish Ceremonies, as well the Assembly's Directory and Confession have been consistently, egregiously and inexcusably ignored, never mind misunderstood, while Wilson distracts us with  erroneous constructions  and speculations about Puritanism. But Judaizing is more appropriate for Pharisees, not Puritans and Mr. Wilson has amply demonstrated he is not the latter. Now if only he would admit it and stop blaming the weaker brother as he throws this year’s Christmas tree – and his book – on the bonfire. Or takes both of them to the dump. 

Based on his track record with  Regulative Principle of Worship, and the Federal Vision we don't think that will happen anytime soon. But you never know. Mr. Wilson could have a change of heart  like Ebenezer Scrooge and do the right thing after all. Regardless, Scripture, the Westminster  Directory and Confession along with  Gillespie, all give us more reliable takes on the question than Mr. Wilson's erroneous  opinions and pious confabulations contra Scripture, history and reason. And in the end,  that is good enough.

God rest ye merry Puritans,
Let nothing you dismay
Douglas Wilson is still a poser
Whatever he may say

His claim for Puritan  days and seasons

To the novice might appear quite strong
The facts are quite the opposite
though
What exactly could go wrong?

The problem with the internet
And  lazy writers too,
It’s easy to check up on them,
Which is  what real Puritans do.

Bah humbug is the answer,
To his propaganda complete
He ought to shut up and sit down
If he cannot stand the heat.

The gentleman has a record
Mere rebuttal will not do.
For errors so gross and obvious
Only full Retraction will do


We only state the obvious
But are under no conceit
That Mr. W’ll do the right thing
And not sinfully practice deceit.


He may not to Scripture

A blind eye turn,
All the while his catechism on the Ninth
He has yet to learn

The absence of the Standards
And Gillespie's Dispute to boot
Makes any talk of Westminster Puritans
absolutely moot.

At best Doug is 
But Reformed Lite
Despite the serrated putty knife
And talk of a good fight

He's really a conservative evangelical
Though he'd make a good Anglican too
But that's not what at length 
He will repeatedly tell you.

Yet God alone is glorious
And he will do what he will do
If Mr. Wilson is not more honest
His reputation will he rue.


Merry Custom and Happy Tradition
Cheers and Happy New Years




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