The leadership of the SDA church in Kettering, Ohio incorporated Lent into its Easter celebration this year. Following two years of Easter morning sunrise services, they have now embraced yet another Roman Catholic tradition.
Here is the announcement in the bulletin,
“The 40 days of Lent correspond to the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness to fast, pray, and endure the temptations of the devil; all in preparation for his [sic] public ministry which culminated in his [sic] death on the cross. During this season of Lent (from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Easter), we challenge you to join Christians around the world who are choosing to give something up that may be comprimizing [sic] their connection to Christ. This could be anything from social media to junk food, television to overspending. What will it be for you?” (Kettering SDA Church Bulletin, March 16, 2019).
Most theologians agree that Lent began in the late 3rd or early 4th century as recorded at the Council of Nicea 325 A.D.
Nicholas Russo writes,
. . . developments in scholarship have led some to conclude that the early history of Lent is simply impossible to reconstruct. The first clear and indisputable evidence for the forty-day Lent does not appear until after the Council of Nicea, and when it does, it looks to be unrelated to the earlier short pre-Easter fasts. As a result, some have suggested that Lent is best understood as an entirely new phenomenon that emerges rather suddenly after Nicea and that any organic or genetic relationship it may have to preNicene fasting practices cannot be proved. (The Early History of Lent, by Nicholas V. Russo, Pages 20, 21).
“Because the evidence is slim and admitting of any number of plausible interpretations, one position has been to view Lent as a sui generis phenomenon—completely new and unique—that simply appears after the Council of Nicea. In this view, any attempt to hazard connections or lines of evolution from pre-Nicene fasting practices is too speculative to be of any value” (The Early History of Lent, by Nicholas V. Russo, Pages 20, 21).
Most, therefore, agree that Lent is post-apostolic and is closely associated with the Roman church.
The Seventh-day Adventist church has historically distanced itself from celebrating Roman ceremonies, such as Easter sunrise services and special days dedicated to various saints. But this is now changing as small steps bring the church closer and closer to conformation.
Do we now reject the counsel of previous generations of Adventists who believed we should live lives of self-denial throughout the entire year and not just a symbolic 40-day period? Can we now abandon self-denial for 325 days and then conform to the ceremonies and traditions of the Roman church?
It is easy to cast away counsel that brought us this far. To throw into the dustbin of obsolescence words & practice that led us away from apostacy and into the arms of Christ:
“Christ has called you to be His followers, to imitate His life of self-sacrifice and self-denial, to be interested in the great work of the redemption of the fallen race. You have no just sense of the work that God requires you to perform. Christ is your pattern. That in which you are deficient is love. This pure and holy principle distinguishes the character and conduct of Christians from those of worldlings. Divine love has a powerful, purifying influence. It is to be found only in renewed hearts, and naturally flows out to their fellow men” (Testimonies to the Church, Volume 2, page 169.2).
“Though the authority and creed of Rome were rejected, not a few of her ceremonies were incorporated into the worship of the Church of England. It was claimed that things not forbidden in Scripture were not intrinsically evil. Their observance tended to narrow the gulf which separated the reformed churches from Rome, and it was urged that they would promote acceptance of the Protestant faith by Romanists” (From Here to Forever, page 181).
Are we on the same slippery slope following the early church, where “Almost imperceptibly the customs of heathenism found their way into the Christian church”? (Great Controversy, page 49.2).
There is a pattern here of exonerating the customs of man, and overshadowing the Truth of Scripture. Any following of Roman traditions opens the door to an acknowledgment of its self-proclaimed authority over all Christianity.
[Editor’s insertion. It is noteworthy that the Hollywood SDA Church—under the oversight of senior pastor Ryan Bell—began observing Lent in 2009. This practice was accompanied and followed by a series of departures from biblical orthodoxy, culminating in Bell’s eventual firing. He went on to celebrate a year of atheism, and is now advocating morality without God as the national organizing manager for the Secular Student Alliance (a social justice group) and is the Humanist Chaplain at the University of Southern California].
Perhaps, in the near future, my beloved Kettering SDA church will pay additional homage with a celebration of Ash Wednesday, or The 14 Stations of the Cross, or Signs of the Cross by members following prayer. There are now no barriers preventing it.
By Gerald E. Greene