What the Bible teaches about Lent [letter to the editor]
[any suggestions/corrections are welcome; I'll be submitting this later today -SRB]
Dr. Weinberg addressed the subject of Lent in his column from April 13, 2012. I learned some things from his article and wanted to comment on a couple points that really caught my attention in his piece.
First, I noticed that Weinberg didn’t refer to a single Bible verse about Lent. He didn’t cite any commands from God regarding Lent or any exhortation from an apostle. Of course, one cannot blame Weinberg for this—the Bible is silent about Lent! That’s right, Lent is not mentioned in Scripture. Some may not be troubled by this fact, but this is a significant matter, however, for a true Bible believer (i.e., one who looks to the Scriptures for his authority and not man-made traditions that have evolved over centuries). All Scripture is given by God, and God has given us everything we need to be equipped to live righteous lives for Him (II Tim. 3:16,17; II Pet. 1:3). Furthermore, Jesus promised that the apostles would be guided into all the truth (John 16:13). I believe they were guided into all the truth and wrote down everything we need today religiously. Yet, they were silent about Lent and there is no evidence the apostles observed Lent. If the apostles didn’t observe Lent, why should anyone today do so? Paul stated a concern of his in Galatians 4:10,11 that is applicable here – “You observe days and months and seasons and years [in a religious sense, -SRB]. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored in vain.”
Second, I must disagree with one comment Weinberg affirmed: “Since the earliest times of the Church, there is evidence of some kind of Lenten preparation for Easter.” The Bible records that Jesus’ church came into existence in Acts 2 (note 2:47), which was approximately AD 30. There is no record of anyone keeping Lent until the second century. So, for about 100 years or more, no Christian observed Lent. The apostles certainly never did. Since several generation of Christians did not observe Lent, it is not the case that Lent has been observed “since the earliest times of the Church.” Lent is a man-made religious tradition.
Lest I be misunderstood, I am certainly not against an individual choosing to fast or examine his or her spiritual life in order to make changes for the better (Matt. 6:18; II Cor. 13:5). The problem comes when such is regulated and even mandated. To do such is wrong because it adds to God’s word (Rev. 22:18,19). If God wanted us to observe Lent, He would have instructed the apostles (who were guided into all truth) about the matter in the first century. Jesus warned about the error of vain worship. When one teaches “as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9), vain worship is the result. It would be my pleasure to discuss these matters in more detail with any interested party.
-Stephen R. Bradd, Clinton Church of Christ