Yes, My Church Still Calls It Easter – Here are 5 Reasons Why

I wish Easter wasn’t called Easter.

It would be great if everyone knew it as Resurrection Sunday. But they don’t.

Our church uses both terms. But Easter is our go-to. Especially when we invite people to join us.

Some ministers believe it’s outright wrong, even unchristian, to use the word Easter at all. If your church doesn’t use the word Easter, I’m not arguing that you should.

But before you criticize us for it, I hope you’ll hear me out.

Here are five reasons why we call it Easter.


1. Resurrection Sunday Is Insider Lingo

Years ago, I asked a neighbor if he’d like to attend our church for Resurrection Sunday.

His response? “Uh… doesn’t your church celebrate Easter?” 

I tried to explain to him that Resurrection Sunday is Easter Sunday. That the word Easter has pagan roots. That Resurrection Sunday is a more theologically correct term.

He wasn’t buying it. A church that didn’t celebrate Easter seemed like a cult to him and he wanted no part of that. No matter what we called it. Or why.

No, I don’t take my theological cues from nonbelievers. But this wasn’t about theology. It was about a language barrier.


2. Easter Is an Open Door

More people go to church on Easter than any other Sunday of the year. It’s also when more people make real commitments to Jesus than any other day.

Why would I close that door by using a term I have to interpret?


3. Using the Word Won’t Tempt Anyone to Worship Pagan Gods

The primary argument against using the term Easter to celebrate the risen Christ is that the word may have pagan roots. (Or it may not. More on that in #4).

But calling it Easter doesn’t mean my church is worshiping the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Ēostre any more than calling it Resurrection Sunday means we’re worshiping the pagan Sun God. We’re also not worshiping the Norse god Frigg on Good Friday.

While we’re at it, no one thinks we’re compromising with paganism when we use the terms January and March, which were named after the Roman gods Janus and Mars. We also accept the names of the planets without worshiping the Roman gods they were named after.


4. Easter May Not Be Pagan After All

The origin of the word Easter is obscure. It’s commonly believed to have pagan roots, but many scholars disagree with that. Anthony McRoy in his article, Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?, says there’s plenty of reason to doubt what’s come to be common knowledge.

In another well-researched paper, Why We Should not Passover Easter, Nick Sayers claims that root of the word Easter is Tyndale’s translation of the word Passover. In fact, according to Sayers, the current scandal over Easter’s supposed Babylonian etymology may all be based on some sloppy scholarship by Alexander Hislop, a 19th century anti-Catholic conspiracy theorist who “boldly claimed Easter was pagan, but offered little proof.”

In another article, Roger Patterson claims that Easter comes from auferstehung a German word meaning … wait for it … resurrection.


5. People Matter More than Terminology

Last week I watched as a friendly Facebook conversation among pastors turned into a theological battle. All because one pastor insisted that any church using the term Easter was compromising with paganism.

After watching the back-and-forth battle escalate, I clicked on the instigator’s name to read his Facebook page. On it, he describes his church as “one of the few churches that actually preaches the cross.” So maybe we should be more worried about pride than paganism.

How many people have turned away from the church and the message of the resurrection, not because they reject Jesus, but because they can’t see him clearly through the fog of churches and ministers claiming a false moral superiority while causing divisiveness over petty issues? (Yes, petty. Using or not using Easter is hardly a core doctrine. And I’m not linking to the pastor in question because there’s no need to personalize this.)

If you prefer Resurrection Sunday, I get it. Keep using it. But don’t condemn churches that call it Easter.

Celebrate Jesus and his resurrection this Sunday and every day. And work alongside others who celebrate it with you – no matter what they call it.


So what do you think? Can we all agree to celebrate the resurrection together?

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19 thoughts on “Yes, My Church Still Calls It Easter – Here are 5 Reasons Why”

  1. We will use both in all our promotions, including our FaceBook posts, and on our website. Primarily we want to identify with the well known term Easter. It’s the word, used for generations in our part of the country, that identifies the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. We’re making this Sunday an emphasis on Amazing Salvation extended to us by Jesus triumph over sin. The name of the day is of little importance to us.

    I sometimes wonder if Christians, in their efforts to scrub all semblance of paganism from church vocabulary, haven’t ended up re-introducing and promoting something long since forgotten.

    Make it a Great Easter Week ! ! !

  2. Yep. We use both interchangeably for the same reasons as well. It just makes sense. If we’re in the business of communicating, we need to speak language that people understand. To *insist* on Resurrection Sunday over Easter really isn’t any different than insisting on Greek over English. It is technically more correct, but if we only spoke the gospel in Koine Greek we would fail to communicate to the people we’re trying to engage.

  3. Great words Karl. Honestly I was not aware of the whole Easter term issue until recently when a church member brought it to my attention. I came down pretty close to what you described. I often wonder if another attack of the enemy is to get the church off on such discussions. By debating the etymology of words (not bad in and of itself) that have changed over time it seems yet another diversion to what matters – proclaiming the Gospel. We are a redemption minded and driven people. Let’s keep redeeming as much of our broken world as possible for Jesus. That said, I have attempted to introduce both words for the sake of contextualizing the message to all.

  4. I don’t have any problem with using Easter. If you wanted to avoid all pagan terms we would have to rename the days of the week and most months of the year. THat would make us feel “holy” I guess but would make it impossible to communicate with anyone.

  5. Interesting, I had exactly the same conversation yesterday, and told the person I intended to keep using the word ‘Easter’ for some of the same reasons you mention. I’ve always considered this argument to be a tempest in a teakettle that actually detracts from the Gospel message. Thanks for continuing to keep us small church guys focused.

  6. We should celebrate the fact that we have stolen the pagan name (if it is, in fact, a pagan name) and given it a whole new meaning. I wonder if the the pastor that avoids the term Easter calls his worship service a “Sabath Service”, and for that matter celebrates it on Saturday, the original sabath.

  7. Few, if any churches use the term Resurrection Sunday in the UK – in fact I can’t think of any at all offhand. We all use the term “Easter Sunday” as a matter of course. Speaking to my colleagues here has revealed to me that most see Resurrection Sunday as an American Term and churches using it in the UK will probably have strong links in the USA and/or be influenced by American churches in some way. In any event, Christ came to redeem the world, and that can include all sorts of things – including how we name the day He rose from the dead!

      1. yes – it’s just not a big deal here Karl 🙂
        I love it that we see things differently sometimes and really enjoy hearing your different take on so many things – even just in the way you express yourselves – I love it!
        It often teaches me something new or gives me a new perspective on something.

  8. I do have an issue with using the term Easter. I have read and heard from multiple sources that Easter actually comes from the pagan worship of Ishtar, the goddess of fertility. Which is why there are bunnies, chicks, and eggs associated with Easter. Even more than the name I have an issue with the day the resurrection of our Lord and saviour is celebrated. We know that Jesus died on the Passover, why wouldn’t we celebrate on the day we know He died and on the day we know He rose, instead of a day in accordance with the equinox. I truly believe that we need to make disciples out of people using only the truth. Even if many people come because it is Easter Sunday, shouldn’t we stand up for God’s precepts and leave traditions of man behind. In writing this I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone, it’s just something to think about.

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