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Ash Wednesday (also known as dies cinerum, ‘day of ashes’) is a moveable feast day, observed exactly 46 days before Paschal (Easter) Sunday (40 days, not including Sundays). It is a day of repentance, and marks the beginning of Lent (a period of fasting in preparation for Easter). Ash Wednesday gets its name from the ceremony where congregants come before a minister, who dips his thumb into ashes and marks their foreheads with the sign of the cross as a symbol of repentance. As he does this, he reminds them, “Remember, O man, that thou art but dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.” He may also utter the phrases, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel,” or “Repent, and hear the Good News.” The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year.
Holy Scripture indicates dusting oneself with ashes (and wearing sackcloth) was a way for penitents to express mourning over sin. Job, for example, said to the LORD, “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). Other examples include laws for purification (Numbers 19:9, 17; Hebrews 9:13), the repentance of Nineveh (Jonah 3:6-8), and the Lord Jesus’ warning to Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:20-21; Luke 10:13). Protestant/ Evangelical groups which observe Ash Wednesday include Anglicans/Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Methodists/Wesleyans, Nazarenes, the Church of God (Anderson), and some Baptists. Here are some thoughts from various Reformed Baptists regarding the observation of Ash Wednesday as noted by The Confessing Baptist.
While working on the Master of Divinity, one of my very favorite professors was Dr. Ted Cabal. Dr. Cabal, once an ardent atheist, was converted while reading the Gospels. In addition to having served as the pastor for several congregations and on the faculties of Dallas Baptist University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Cabal plays a mean guitar. His favorite musical style used to be the blues, but he once quipped to me, “But now I’m too happy to play the blues!” Dr. Cabal is also the general editor of The Apologetics Study Bible. I had the privilege of studying “Philosophy of Religion” under Dr. Cabal. That class was a study of world philosophies and considered how philosophy and theology are interwoven. I also studied philosophy during college, but the class was not nearly as detailed or informative as that in seminary. My favorite portion of the seminary class was discovering Scottish Common Sense Realism (also known as the Scottish School of Common Sense).
Scottish Common Sense Realism is a school of epistemological philosophy that originated during the Scottish Enlightenment with the ideas of major figures such as Thomas Reid (pictured), Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Adam Ferguson. Others notables included Gershom Carmichael, Archibald Campbell, George Turnbull, George Campbell, James Beattie, Alexander Gerard, Henry Home (Lord Kames) and Dugald Stewart. It was developed in response to the skeptical philosophies of René Descartes, John Locke and David Hume, in particular. A central concern of the school was to defend “common sense” against philosophical skepticism and paradox. Rooted in Aristotelian thought, it advocates an empirical and scientific philosophy in which the trust of one’s senses is essential and implicit. Each individual has an innate ability to perceive common ideas and that intuitive ability is fundamental in the accumulation of knowledge for both physical and metaphysical constructs. Ordinary experiences provide a certain assurance not only of the existence of the self, but also the existence of real objects that may be seen and felt. They also provide particular “first principles” upon which sound morality and religious beliefs may be established. Observation alone, however, cannot account for all knowledge, and truth may only be garnered by reflection. Common sense is, therefore, the foundation of philosophical inquiry. Common Sense Realism maintains that common sense beliefs govern the lives and thoughts of all, including those who avow nonsensical notions.
Scottish Common Sense Realism is evident in the works of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Adams compared the contributions of Dugald Stewart to those of Aristotle and Descartes. Another American figure influenced greatly by Common Sense Realism was John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who also presided over Princeton University. Students under Witherspoon’s tutelage included James Madison, who later served as president, as well as 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention and 12 governors. Common Sense Realism not only pervaded intellectual circles in America during the Revolution, but also provided a stabilizing philosophical influence for the nation. Benjamin Rush, who studied Common Sense Realism at the University of Edinburgh, was imbued by the realist philosophy in his scientific and political work, and provided a framework for his moral opposition to slavery. Scottish Common Sense Realism also heavily influenced conservative religious thought, particularly at Princeton up through 1929.
Many people simply chuckle when I tell them that my philosophy is that of “Scottish Common Sense Realism,” having neither heard of it nor thinking it is a true philosophical school. Nonetheless, it is an important and vital historical philosophical school which I believe contains essential principles, especially in our skeptical and often nonsensical world.
By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America
WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”
NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;– and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;– to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
(signed) G. Washington
Source: The Massachusetts Centinel, October 14, 1789
From the movie, Luther, here is the Reformer’s speech at the Diet of Worms:
HAPPY REFORMATION DAY!
Dr. Bruce Ware is a highly esteemed evangelical theologian who serves as a Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to his arrival at Southern, he taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary and at Bethel Theological Seminary. Dr. Ware co-editedThe Grace of God and the Bondage of the Will and Still Sovereign with Dr. Thomas Schreiner. He also authored God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism, God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance. In this clip, Dr. Ware discusses the matter of free will superbly.