Five Reasons to Not Observe Lent

“The truly wise man is he who always believes the Bible against the opinion of any man.”  – R.A. Torrey

No more than 24 hours into the 2015 Lenten season and a plethora of Evangelical #lent posts began appearing in the social media world.  The Lenten season and Evangelical’s strange desire to participate, is as confounding as it is misguided.  This strange situation is undoubtedly the unholy fruit of rapidly increasing Biblical and confessional illiteracy within the overall Protestant church and its many denominations.

Here are five Biblical reasons as to why we ought not observe Lent:

  1. Protestantism and Roman Catholicism do not share the same Gospel.  While some Lutherans also observe Lent, it’s fair to say that Roman Catholics comprise the majority of participants.  Protestants subscribing to Sola Scriptura would do well to avoid, in the eyes of unbelievers, seeming to equate oneself with Roman Catholicism and their false gospel.  In fact, most Protestants do not observe any other Roman Catholic traditions such as regenerative infant baptism, so why pick and choose random doctrines from a theological cult?
  2. Lent has become a pop culture phenomena, an opportunity for braggadocio and personal gain.  Sadly, as Lent has become more in vogue, society has grasped ahold of the practice and it’s becoming increasingly secularized.  With the massive growth in the seeker-sensitive church model and their desire to bring the world into the church, it should be no surprise that many Protestants “giving up” something for Lent do so quite publicly (which is addressed in point #4).  Further, Lent is quickly becoming yet another tool in the global ecumenism movement with Muslims now joining in on the activities using the hashtag #Muslims4Lent.  Bible-believing Christians have no business even hinting at solidarity with Islam, much less Roman Catholics.
  3. We should be fasting year round.  While we are not Biblically required to fast, the Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial.¹  There are countless Biblical examples of people fasting for a wide range of reasons, (e.g. before an important decision Acts 13:2, Acts 14:23) and at all different times of year.  It’s a strange concept that leading up to remembering and celebrating Christ’s resurrection, where Liberty was greatly enlarged (WCF 20.1), one would do so with a sullen face.  As Doug Wilson rightly points out, “…the glory of that liberty should feel, taste, and smell like glory, which means gladness and simplicity of heart (Acts 2:46).  It does not mean a couple of months with no chocolate.”²
  4. Public announcements of Christian piety, especially in the area of fasting, are Biblically questionable.  It’s interesting that a season promoted as denying self has grown into something illustrative of American consumerism.  As mentioned at the outset, professing Evangelicals post pictures and status updates all throughout the strata of social media advertising their self-imposed restrictions and ashy foreheads.  Without belaboring the point, Christians are called to fast in a spirit of humility as indicated in, but not limited to, Matthew 6:16-18, Isaiah 58:3-7, Psalm 69:10, and Nehemiah 1:4.
  5. While all churches utilize some kind of liturgy, teaching about repentance should not be limited to the Lenten season.  Some have argued that Lent is a beneficial addition to a church’s liturgical calendar because it ensures the teaching of repentance at least once per year.  The contention is that if repentance is only being taught from the pulpit once each year, there are much bigger problems than the observation of Lent.  Repentance is a necessary response to the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Along with unwavering faith in Christ and His work on the cross, a life of repentance is a sign of a regenerated heart.  This is not a subject to be given attention merely in the Lenten season.  This is a subject that so permeates the true believer’s walk with Christ it should be an almost weekly reminder and a daily necessity in the regenerate heart.

Carl Trueman said it well when he wrote, “…just as celebrating July the Fourth makes sense for Americans but not for the English, the Chinese or the Lapps, so Ash Wednesday and Lent really make no sense to those who are Presbyterians, Baptists, or free church evangelicals.”³

If one wants to participate in Lent, the true Christian’s unwavering commitment to Christian Liberty ensures that they do not regard one’s choice as sinful.  However, they should heartily reject attempts to make participating in Lent a Christian requirement or “blessings machine” on the basis of that same Christian Liberty.

Philippians 1:10   And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.


Footnotes:

  1. “Christian Fasting – What Does the Bible Say?” GotQuestions.org. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.
  2. Wilson, Doug. “In Which I Do Not Relent.” Blog & Mablog. 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.
  3. Trueman, Carl. “Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing Our Piety.” Reformation21. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

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