Jason Engwer recently posted a response to James McGrath on Christmas. McGrath is a Jesus Seminar retread. McGrath's radical chic attack on Christmas was, in turn, picked up by militant apostate John Loftus.
However, Jason's post got quickly derailed into a debate over the Puritan view of Christmas. For now I'd like to make a few methodological observations.
1. Although ostensibly defending the Puritan view, some of the critics have actually recast the issue. They've recast the issue in terms of whether Christmas is obligatory, which they deny. This, in turn, shifts the burden of proof.
But that's not the traditional Puritan objection. Puritans stake out a far more aggressive and unyielding position.
They don't say Christians aren't obligated to celebrate Christmas.
Rather, they say Christians are obligated not to celebrate Christmas.
The nonobservance of Christmas is obligatory, rather than the observance of Christmas is nonobligatory.
Put another way, the critics are asking whether we think the nonobservance of Christmas is permissible, whereas the Puritans regarded the observance of Christmas as impermissible.
So that represents a fundamental inversion of the Puritan argument. Now, if the critics wish to distance themselves from the Puritan position, that's fine with me. But since the critics ordinarily pride themselves on their unwavering fidelity to the Westminster Standards, this introduces an awkward point of tension into their theological commitments. Do they or don't they represent Confessional Calvinism?
They clearly don't reflect Dutch-Reformed Confessional Calvinism on the status of Christmas. And it's unclear if they even reflect the Confessional Calvinism of the Westminster Divines at this juncture.
2. There's also considerable equivocation over "Christmas."
In this discussion, opposition to "Christmas" can mean more than one thing, such as:
i) Opposition to a formal, dated holiday.
ii) Opposition to the complete package of Christmas customs, including sacred and secular traditions alike.
iii) Opposition to celebrating the birth of Jesus.
iv) Opposition to a national Christmas holiday.
v) Opposition to an ecclesiastical Christmas holiday.
The critics trade on these equivocations, oscillating between one target and another. To have a productive debate, it's necessary that the critics clarify their target.
Incidentally, this is also pertinent to Jason's distinction between specific commands and generic principles.