Evangelical hipster, and the go-to boy when it comes to building the bridge between pop-culture and mainstream evangelicalism, Matt Chandler, is at it once again.Recently, Village Church was exposed for building partnerships with radical Islamic groups for the promotion of the social gospel. While he is well known for dabbling in questionable theology, and promoting mysticism within the church without pushing the envelope far enough to make the good-ole-boys too uncomfortable, he’s not stopping short of once again encouraging his followers to slip into a state of mindless buff.
In a recent video, Matt Chandler talked about Lent, and how Christians should consider practicing what he calls “the gift of Lent.” In the video he says,
I want to encourage you… to reconsider as a Christian how Lent might come into your other disciplines and begin to shape you as a follower of Jesus Christ. Lent has historically been used by the people of God for thousands of years to turn their attention to Jesus heading towards Jerusalem to die for our sins. It’s the way that the church has prepared its heart for Easter, to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ…
What he fails to acknowledge is the true history of Lent, and larger ramifications of observing an unbiblical tradition in unison with a religion that is the enemy of the Gospel. Lent is a Roman Catholic tradition practiced by the Roman Catholic church. The Roman Catholic church is not part of the true Church of Jesus Christ. While he acknowledges some of the arguments against the practice, he justifies the practice by attempting to redefine it. Lent is nothing more than an empty man-made tradition–it has nothing to do with the historical people of God nor the church. Chandler continues, saying that each time we “want” something that we’ve given up for Lent, we would be reminded of the suffering of Christ. But Jesus already gave us a way to remember Him, and that’s laid out in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 (another practice that the false church of Rome has perverted),
…and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
According to Catholicism, Lent is observed in respect to the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting, however, there is no observance of Lent for several centuries after the crucifixion. Usually the observance of Lent is connected with giving up some kind of food, a television show, or some other bad habit for the 40 days before the Easter holiday. It is alleged that Lent is a form of self-denial, and a way to connect with the experience of self-denial that Jesus went through.
But there is absolutely no mention of a season of Lent in Scripture, and have never been Christians or Jews commissioned to observe such a tradition. The true history of Lent can actually be traced back to the worship of the Babylonian goddess Ashtoreth, or Ishtar. Alexander Hislop, in his classic work, The Two Babylons, in the section entitled, Easter, explains the origin of the Lenten fast:
The forty days’ abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess. Such a Lent of forty days, “in the spring of the year,” is still observed by the Yezidis, or Pagan Devil-worshippers of Koordistan, who have inherited it from their early masters, the Babylonians. Such a Lent of forty days was held in spring by the Pagan Mexicans, for thus we read in Humboldt, where he gives account of Mexican observances: “Three days after the vernal equinox… began a solemn fast of forty days in honour of the sun.” Such a Lent of forty days was observed in Egypt, as may be seen on consulting Wilkinson’s Egyptians. This Egyptian Lent of forty days, we are informed by Landseer, in his Sabean Researches, was held expressly in commemoration of Adonis or Osiris, the great mediatorial god.
Hislop also states:
Among the Pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz, which was celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing, and which, in many countries, was considerably later than the Christian festival, being observed in Palestine and Assyria in June, therefore called the ‘month of Tammuz;’ in Egypt, about the middle of May, and in Britain, some time in April. To conciliate the Pagans to nominal Christianity, Rome, pursuing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian and Pagan festivals amalgamated, and, by a complicated but skillful adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in general, to get Paganism and Christianity — now far sunk in idolatry — in this as in so many other things, to shake hands.
It is no doubt that Rome is a melting pot for world religions, and still is today. It is well known for mixing Pagan idolatry, observed through the veneration of the saints and Mary, with a Christian theme. However, there is no saving Gospel within the doctrines of Romanism. Rome, since ancient times, has been nothing more than a religio-political system with the aim of world domination through whatever means necessary, be it politics, violence, or total control of your soul through religion. It is no different now, and Rome’s agents are working hard to blur the lines of mainstream Evangelicalism with Catholicism.
While watching Chandler’s video and listening to his reasoning on the subject, on the surface, it seems that his motives for doing so are benign. He takes the stance that the observance of Lent can be good if done so with Scriptural motives, and prayer and fasting are almost always considered worthy undertakings in Scripture. However, Scripture never calls for a public or corporate form of fasting as practiced in the tradition of Lent. Those who do fast are supposed to look and act as though they are not (Matthew 16:16-18). However, this observance of fasting during the season of Lent has become a commercialized mockery of biblical fasting, with people plastering advertisements all over social media of what they are “giving up for Lent,” and “how hard it is” to do so.
Traditionally, the celebration of Lent is more than just fasting and prayer. In Catholicism, there are a number of mystical aspects that also are at play. During this Catholic season, a mystical custom known as The Stations of the Cross is practiced. It’s a method of going through a series of artistic representations of the steps Jesus took while carrying his cross to his crucifixion. The idea behind the practice is that through these artistic representations, often un-biblical, one’s emotions are supposed to be evoked to the point of sorrow, and identification with Christ. However, this practice is condemned in Scripture. Sadly, many Evangelical churches, including Rick Warren’s Saddleback, are adopting a form of this practice today, further muddying the waters between Catholicism and Christianity.
I also find it rather interesting that Chandler’s Lent guide put out by his church is filled with Puritan prayers from the Valley of Vision. Considering it was the Puritans stance to abstain from man-made traditions such as Lent, I find it highly suspicious that Chandler would use these as a means to observe the practice. It’s not that the substance of the guide itself is merely unscriptural, in many ways it is perfectly fine, and would otherwise be a great devotional, but the bigger issue here is the attempt to connect Roman Catholicism with Biblical Christianity through the ecumenical practice of a man-made tradition. The Protestant reformation was based on the view that the Roman Catholic church was apostate, and that Biblical Christianity should stand apart from, and distinct from the Pagan traditions of Rome. However, Chandler, (and he’s not the only one) seem to have lost their grasp on this highly important historical concept, and without a second thought, are helping to reverse the Reformation.
…what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? –2 Corinthians 6:15
For more information on why Protestants shouldn’t observe Lent, see Five Reasons Not To Observe Lent
[Contributed by Jeff Maples]