Rituals and Worship

Sacred Time

Generally speaking, "sacred time" is not a category of thought in the Baptist tradition, and the tradition has no formally articulated view of it. The Baptist tradition places great emphasis on the direct, unmediated relationship between the individual Christian and the triune God. (Unmediated, that is, by anything created. Baptists believe that Jesus Christ is the one Mediator between all Christians and God the Father.) This has significant implications for the Baptist perspective on ritual and worship.

In effect, the Baptist tradition denies that there is such a thing as sacred time. Or, perhaps it is better said that in the Baptist tradition all time is sacred. God is always and everywhere alive and at work (Psalm 139:1-12). Christians should make the best use of whatever time they have (Ephesians 5:16) by living a life of worship and service to God in Jesus Christ. The Christian need not be concerned with "the times and the seasons" or with "times and dates" (1 Thessalonians 5:1). There is no sacred time in the sense of special times that are somehow inherently better or "sacred" in a way that other times are not.

There are at least two practical implications of this view when it comes to marking time. First, while attendance of worship services and participation in educational classes on Sundays, "the Lord's Day," are important, an intentional observance of "the Sabbath" is not (Seventh Day Baptists being an exception). This comparative lack of emphasis on Sabbath-keeping is not the result solely of a lack of belief in sacred time, but the latter is part of the basis of the former.

Second, the Baptist tradition is among those Christian traditions that, essentially, do not follow the so-called "Christian calendar" or "liturgical year." Other than celebrating Christmas and Easter (with varying degrees of attention to Good Friday), many Baptist churches do not formally recognize any other days of the liturgical year. There has been some change in this regard in recent years, with some Baptist churches recognizing the season of Advent, leading up to Christmas Day, and some churches recognizing, to various degrees, Holy Week, leading up to Easter Sunday. There are exceptions to these prevailing practices in that there are some Baptist churches that do in fact order their corporate worship by consciously following the Christian year.

Study Questions:
     1.     Describe the Baptist understanding of the individual’s relationship with God. How does this affect understandings of sacred time?
     2.     Why should all time be thought of as sacred time within the Baptist tradition?
     3.     Why is the Sabbath not emphasized within the Baptist tradition?
     4.     How might the decision to not follow a liturgical calendar isolate Baptist time from other Christian faiths?

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