To Celebrate or Not to Celebrate Easter: That Wasn’t the Question

by Dr. Tim Chaffey
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We should remember to be grateful to the Lord every single day of the year for sending His Son to die on the Cross in our place.

We have received many responses to our series by Roger Patterson concerning the date and name of Easter. Some comments have been supportive while others have challenged the content of the articles. Those who objected to the articles generally fell within two camps: 1) those who believe Christians should not celebrate Easter because they believe we should follow only the festivals outlined in Leviticus 23, and 2) those who believe we should not have any special celebration of the Resurrection based on the idea that Christians are free from aspects related to the Law or that the Resurrection is already celebrated every time the Lord’s Supper is taken.

Here are samples of comments we have received:

[from an email] Dear Brother Ken Ham,

I've met you several times, and on one occasion I asked you personally about the authority of God's completed word. For many years, I have really appreciated your perspective, so should I assume that the two articles I just read about Easter were not compared to the Scripture (by you) before issuing? Can they be retracted until further investigation? Or, at least, some points added?

1. Shouldn't we do like the Bereans: "search the Scripture" (ONLY, not somebody's history books!) to PROVE what is God's will? Many people (that I have tried to share the Gospel with) have this type of logic (which could be the basis for these articles): human reasoning and uninspired history (ONLY in God's word is the history inspired!) which is elevated above . . .

2. Being "THOROUGHLY furnished" by the Scripture "for EVERY good work". God did not instruct the church (through the Apostle Paul's writings) to observe a day (or how to), but to demonstrate the resurrection in our walk every day! Instead of crowd-following, God does show us in His word how to "rightly divide", to know what is HIS program for the church today.

3. The Galatians (whom Paul had already weaned from Judaism) were rebuked by Paul for observing days (Gal. 4:8-11). . . .

[from Facebook] UGH! Can you please stick to the creation week? That is where your scholarship most useful. The falsehoods you've been promoting lately are causing me to question your entire organization. How about calling it Firstfruits, like scripture does, since that's the day He actually rose which has ITS roots in Torah. OH NO!

[from Facebook] The article only addresses the name Easter, but the name isn't the biggest problem. The problem with the Easter "holiday" is that pagan traditions such as baskets, eggs, bunnies, new clothes, and various other inane practices are practiced ... and even PROMOTED by the church of Jesus Christ as somehow honoring the resurrection of the Savior. Most of this is done to make Christianity less offensive and more favorable to the popular culture. That, AIG, is the problem with Easter, not just the name.

We are grateful that we have so many readers who have strong convictions about their Christian faith and the beliefs they hold and are concerned enough that they would take time to write. We are fallible people who, of course, make mistakes, and so we appreciate being corrected when it is appropriate.

So where does Answers in Genesis stand? This happens to be one of those areas in which we do not take a specific position because this is not necessarily a biblical authority issue, which is AiG’s specialty (see Where Do We Draw the Line?). At the same time, we understand that many people who have strong convictions on this subject may believe it does concern biblical authority.

If you carefully read the web articles, which sparked this discussion, you will notice that they were not focused on how and when believers should celebrate the Resurrection or whether they should call that celebration Easter. These articles did not seek to justify any one particular method of celebrating the Resurrection. Instead, the articles by our colleague Roger Patterson focused on the history of why one particular celebration came to be known as “Easter” and how the date of that celebration was selected.

These articles were “descriptive” rather than “prescriptive.” In other words, Mr. Patterson described what has been done rather than what should be done. The primary goal in these articles was to clarify some of the debates that believers have on these issues and clear up some of the related misconceptions. This necessarily meant he would challenge some existing beliefs, such as the notion that “Easter” is derived from the name of a pagan goddess and that the date was chosen to co-opt pagan festivals.

We wholeheartedly agree that our web articles should be firmly based on Scripture. However, as evidenced by the quotes above, those who base their views on the Bible and start from Scripture arrive at various positions on this issue, largely because of the disagreement of how we should understand the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Again, these are often denominational issues and AiG avoids them because they are not primarily biblical authority issues. For example, some say it is wrong to celebrate Easter because it is not specifically one of the prescribed festivals. Some say it is wrong to celebrate it because we are no longer under the laws about the festivals. Others believe we have freedom in Christ to celebrate the Resurrection at the time designated as Easter.

The reason Mr. Patterson quoted from the church fathers numerous times was to explain the historical development of the date of the Resurrection celebration. He did not claim or imply that we should follow their teachings, but that we can learn a great deal about the development of certain traditions and teachings from their writings.

As a very practical verse from Proverbs states, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13). We want to carefully caution people about making accusations before getting the full account of a matter and thus be in violation of this verse. AiG kindly asks that before you accuse anyone of promoting falsehoods or misunderstanding the issues, that you would take the time to carefully read through the articles and also extend grace (and patience) as we cover these issues.

For example, the first article clearly stated that we would examine the date, name, and symbols of the celebration in that order. These articles are posted each Tuesday, so we have not yet had the opportunity to post the article dealing with the symbols, such as bunnies, eggs, etc. Now, some of you may have carefully read the articles before responding, and we thank you for that. Others clearly did not read the articles or did not read them carefully. Frankly, some of the comments seem to reflect preconceived ideas rather than thoughtful responses to the contents of the articles. Even worse, some criticisms have been attacks on individuals who have a different understanding of the issues (see Ephesians 4:1–6).

Indeed, please do compare what we have written with Scripture. If after thoroughly researching the issue you still believe we are in error, then please contact us and let us know your concerns.

Many people call today Good Friday. Whether one believes Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or any other day, the paramount thing is that we should remember to be grateful to the Lord every single day of the year for sending His Son to die on the Cross in our place. May we also remember and celebrate the Resurrection of Christ every day. Without the Lord’s death and Resurrection, we would still be in our sins and would have no hope: “For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15: 16–17). The fact that He rose is certainly a reason to rejoice.


Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.


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