Five Reasons to Not Observe Lent

Landon ChapmanChristianity17 Comments

“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.

As a friendly response to Jordan Cooper’s article, 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. 080206-N-7869M-057We 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.

Landon Chapman

Landon Chapman

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Founder of Entreating Favor, writer, and host of the Fire Away! podcast. He is an architect by vocation and professes the Bible to be the infallible, inerrant, Word of God. He and his wife Holly have two children.

 This article was originally published at Pulpit & Pen.

Show 3 footnotes

  1.  “Christian Fasting – What Does the Bible Say?” 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.

17 Comments on “Five Reasons to Not Observe Lent”

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  4. Only really applies to the Roman Catholic observance of Lent… but in that scenario its the “Roman Catholic” part that is the problem, not so much their take on Lent.

  5. Ummm….there’s absolutely nothing wrong with anyone observing this season. Seriously, someone tell me what’s wrong with fasting and praying in the days leading up to Easter. Because….there isn’t. Having a season of the year that guides us and reminds us is not wrong. And how many other churches do Ash Wednesday? Methodists are very Protestant, and they do. I’m an Anglican. So….the presuppositions made in this article are problematic. The RC doesn’t share the same gospel? So who is on the crucifix in the front of the church, then? They’re a cult??? Hardly.

    Come off it. It’s time we all learned to try to understand one another so we can come together as the body of Christ, instead of using totally inaccurate terms like “cult” to create fear of other believers. You don’t have to agree with everything another church does. You don’t have to agree with all of their theology. But you’re going to have a hard time telling me that people who confess Jesus as the son of God, who take communion every week, and who are devout believers are as wrong as you say they are.

    1. It is impossible to snag small snippets in 90 seconds and refute an entire denomination as a “cult” – have you read those quotes in their contexts? Many, MANY Protestant churches also claim that you can lose your salvation – a lot of that rides on how you interpret certain passages of Paul in the New Testament. Are they also cultish now?

      I am not a RC, I have issues with some of their doctrine – but your article levels the accusation that they are a cult, and this is absolutely not the case. Not only that, but I believe it is spiritually dangerous to make such an accusation against other believers without proof positive. Yes, they are different. Yes, I disagree with some of their doctrine, as I am not Roman Catholic. But a cult? Not even close.

      And as far as Lent goes, I’ve seen nothing that says this season is not something to be observed. When is it ever wrong to take time to fast and grow closer to God. By the logic of the article, we should also not celebrate Easter and Christmas, because the dates of those celebrations (or how to find the date, in the case of Easter) were determined by the Roman Catholic Church if memory serves….

    2. The term “cult” has been simply defined as one who doesn’t accept the deity of Christ, which is Jesus. I know many Catholics that do. So calling them unsaved or a cult would be foolish! If they choose to do rituals, that’s fine but they also know that religious rituals aren’t going to get them to heaven, they know it’s through Jesus. But if something brings someone closer to the presence of God, to Feel His Spirit, I see no error in that. We could be religious and say only the KJV is for English speakers or sing only hymns… No matter how I choose to worship Jesus as Lord, I’m still in worship.

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