A Spatial Theology of the Sabbath (Part 4) – A World of Living Things

I’ve tried to describe, in the three previous articles of this series (1, 2 and 3), a conviction that Adventist Sabbath theology is stuck within a mechanistic and restrictive vision. Our Sabbath effectively tends to be too anthropocentric, ecclesiocentric, pragmatic and future oriented. All these various characteristics can be brought back to a single fundamental category: “History”. And this is the reason why we have privileged, up until now, an almost exclusively temporal understanding of the Sabbath – overvaluing the dimensions of change, movement, transformation, performativity and efficacy.

My main hypothesis has been that the life-affirming universalism of the Sabbath has been obscured and dismantled by the typical Western cultural view that unilaterally privileges Time over Space. This inflexible dictatorship of Time at the expense of Space is, even though not uniquely, seen in the radical ecological crisis we are facing today as a global humanity. And Christian theology in general and Adventism in particular, which should have re-oriented and corrected this cultural trend as it emerged, simply validated it with a biblical justification found in the pivotal category of “History”. The problem is that what we moderns understand by history is not what the Bible has in mind. History was in biblical times still very much linked to and balanced by a recurrent and consistent reference to Cosmos and Space as the indispensable and essential environment (Place) where human spiritual life is possible. All this has just disappeared in our modern understanding of history.

The result is that today we are efficient and productive, but also “Time-Alienated” persons. And the Sabbath, conceived only in temporal categories, not only fails to correct this trend but paradoxically achieves its radicalization. It has unfortunately become part of the problem. The Sabbath itself needs to be saved. And, in rearrangement, healing and reconstruction of the Sabbath is possible only by the re-introduction of the correcting and re-balancing category of Space. We urgently need a “re-spatialization” of the Sabbath, because since the very beginning it was a strong spatial category. Sabbath is the biblical way of saying – Nature, Cosmos and Ecosystem.

Only this “Spatial Sabbath” unveils God’s refreshing presence as a reality which precedes and gives ground (Space) to what we do and are. Through this “Spatial Sabbath” we become noble respondents to a word situated in space that is prior to us. We are in fact spatially-derived beings. We come after a founding place and intention which expresses a positive and affirming divine desire for life. Sabbath is the guarantee that we all are grounded children. In and through the Sabbath we are all well-born and well-placed beings, before and independently of what we can reach and achieve professionally, ethically or religiously.

How can we correct this diffuse temporal alienation and at the same time experience the benefits of a regained Space-recomposing-perspective? There are various ways – cultural and theological – of achieving this. I will mention one of them, as articulated by the German sociologist Hartmut Rosa, in his “Resonance Theory”.

Rosa says that the pace of modern life is undoubtedly speeding up, yet this acceleration does not seem to have made us any happier. Acceleration is the updated face of alienation. The quality of a human life cannot be measured simply in terms of resources, options, and moments of happiness. Instead we must consider our relationship to, or resonance with, the world. The dominant institutional mode of “dynamic stabilization”, which requires incessant growth and innovation in order to reproduce the social structure and the institutional status quo, inevitably implies the potential for systematic undermining. It forces us into a mode of “dispositional alienation” which produces an instrumental mode of relating to objects in order to increase and secure their resources, to speed up and to optimize results.

The pervasive logic of competition undermines the possibility of overcoming alienation. Alienation then has become our specific way of relating to the world of things, to people, and to one’s self in which there is no responsivity, i.e., no meaningful inner connection. It is a relationship without genuine relation. In this common and usual way of living today, there certainly are causal and instrumental connections and interactions. But the world cannot be appropriated by the subject, it cannot be made to “speak”. The world appears to be without sound and color. Alienation is thus a relationship which is marked by the absence of a true, vibrant exchange and connection. Between a silent, grey world and a “dry” subject there is no life. Both appear to be “frozen” and chaotic. Hence, in the state of alienation, self and world appear to be related in an utterly indifferent or even hostile way.

The best way to overcome alienation, says Rosa, is “Resonance”. Resonance is a mode of relating to the world in which the subject feels touched, moved, or addressed by the people, places and objects he or she encounters. Existentially speaking, we all know what it means to be touched by someone’s glance or voice, by a piece of music we listen to, by a book we read, or a place we visit. Thus, the capacity to feel affected by something, and in turn to develop intrinsic interest in the part of the world which affects us, is a core element of any positive way of relating to the world. Yet, affection is not enough to overcome alienation. What is additionally required is the capacity to “answer” the call.

Resonance, says Rosa, is defined by four crucial elements. First, by affection, in the sense of the experience of being truly touched or moved. Second, by emotion, as the experience of responsive (as opposed to purely instrumental) self-efficacy. Third, by its transformative quality; and fourth, by an intrinsic moment of unpredictability, i.e. of non-controllability. We can never simply establish resonance instrumentally or bring it about at will; it always remains elusive. Put differently, whether or not we “hear the call” is beyond our will and control. This in part is due to the fact that resonance is not an echo – it does not mean to hear oneself amplified or to simply feel re-assured. Instead it involves encounter with some real “other” that remains beyond our control, that speaks in its own voice or key different from ours, and therefore remains “alien” to us. Against acceleration, resonance is the answer, more than a formal “slow down” in itself. And there can be resonance only in a new understanding of our being grounded in Space.

A Spatial Theology of the Sabbath doesn’t aspire to approach things, persons and events by using Space as a kind of ordering and neutralizing instrument. On the contrary, Space becomes the place of freedom and interaction. Place makes the world grounded by bringing beings together without the dictatorship of time. And the first effect of this is a change in our approach to Things. We typically have incurred a Cartesian, reductive view of Things. Things to us moderns are by definition inanimate. This “depreciation of things” goes back to Descartes and his understanding of the whole non-rational world as simple “Res Extensa”. The cosmos, the body and things themselves are inanimate, unresponsive and necessarily disenchanted. They are mute and therefore not relational and incapable of resonance. But the “depreciation of things” goes parallel to the “depreciation of Space”. Space itself became mute and the object of pure scientific experimentation. The appreciation of Space has as first effect the appreciation of Things. Things are not objects, as Remo Bodei reminds us in his book “The Life of Things, The love of Things”. And Things are alive because they are meaningfully related to us and our world. Things are bundles of relations, meetings and memories in a Space that resists the temptation to run. This is what José Saramago’s book “The Lives of Things” pertinently reminds us of.

For this reason the rediscovery of Space, through the Sabbath, makes the world of things resound as living things. The first resonance we need to discover is the Resonance of Things. Things are not mute or unresponsive. They just speak another language we need to reappropriate and make our own. And this also implies the partial and responsible re-enchantment of our ecosystem. The acknowledgment of God the Creator can’t be built up on the disenchantment and manipulation of the Cosmos. In the book of Psalms the Cosmos sings and praises. It is responsive and resounding. (Psalms 19:1/ 98: 7, 8) In and through the Sabbath the Cosmos and the things within get back their voices. And things get back their voice by getting back their place. And the Sabbath is the guarantor and mediator of this recovery.

Hanz Gutierrez is a Peruvian theologian, philosopher, and physician. Currently, he is Chair of the Systematic Theology Department at the Italian Adventist Theological Faculty of “Villa Aurora” and director of the CECSUR (Cultural Center for Human and Religious Sciences) in Florence, Italy.

Previous Spectrum columns by Hanz Gutierrez can be found at: https://spectrummagazine.org/author/hanz-gutierrez

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10207

Thank you, Hans. You broaden our view of Sabbath theology. Be strong and courageous.

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Thank you for this series. Unfortunately, I am not sure that I understand the main point of this article, but I want to understand. Hanz, do you mean “Sabbath” as a metaphor for discovering our world, detecting all that’s there at its place, and then enjoy what we find, engage with whatever is there and be affected by whatever is there? Peace for looking, enjoying, living in awareness?

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I do not understand how someone can talk about the Sabbath and time, and say the “western world” is totally wrong, and never mention Abraham Joshua Heschel. His book, The Sabbath, is the best response to this article. You can read one chapter of it here.

Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time. Unlike the space-minded man to whom time is unvaried, iterative, homogeneous, to whom all hours are alike, quality-less, empty shells, the Bible senses the diversified character of time. There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious.

Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year. The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn; a shrine that even apostasy cannot easily obliterate: the Day of Atonement. …

The mythical mind would expect that, after heaven and earth have been established, God would create a holy place–a holy mountain or a holy spring–whereupon a sanctuary is to be established. Yet it seems as if to the Bible it is holiness in time, the Sabbath, which comes first. …

While the festivals celebrate events that happened in time, the date of the month assigned for each festival in the calendar is determined by the life in nature. … In contrast, the Sabbath is entirely independent of the month and unrelated to the moon. Its date is not determined by any event in nature, such as the new moon, but by the act of creation. Thus the essence of the Sabbath is completely detached from the world of space.

The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.

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Coming from a Christian, this leaves me dumbfounded. Where, in this embrace of “Resonance” do we find Christ? According to this, the “Resonance Theory” is to heal our relationships, giving us the capacity to “feel”. It lists all the ways resonance affects us, opening us up to affection and emotion. “Resonance” has that “transformative quality”; and is unpredictable, in that it can’t be manufactured or planned; and, comes, “not by will” - always “elusive”. Above all, it comes from a new understanding of being grounded in Space" (with a capital S).

Jesus came to give us “peace”, not by “rediscovering Space”, but by discovering Christ. And the last thought summarizes this theory, the answer to our disenfranchisement with creation:

And things get back their voices by getting back their place. And the Sabbath is the guarantor and mediator of this recovery. This might be a good Hebraic philosophy. To make that “Christian” some substitutions need to be made - just like the ones in the book of Hebrews.

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Sorry. The words are too pompous. I couldn’t get past the second paragraph.

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His intellectual and academic words encourage us to expand our understanding and vocabulary.

Think of it as a challenge. :wink:

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Yes, I had to rub the sleep out of my eyes and tackle it for a second time; but it is doable - but this one I find not worth it. Which, I don’t feel happy saying because I usually like hearing from Hanz Guitirrez. I guess it’s another sample of Adventist compartmentalizing. I wish more SDAs would notice the word “New” in the last part of their Bibles.

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So was that why I was the first to comment on his article?
And the comments that followed were about my comments rather than his content.

If that article is so thought provoking like a dazzling treasure surrounded by a pride of roaring lions, please tell me what I missed :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Bill –
Yes, Rabbi Abraham Heschel presents a very lovely view of
Sabbath keeping and ones emotional and mental status as one
looks forward to the setting sun, the lighting of the candles, and
the invitation they provide for spending “the day” with God and
community.
Seventh day Adventists don’t have traditions that make the Sabbath
special.
The Conservative Jewish Book of Common Prayer has this–
“Grant me the privilege of the liberating joy of Shabbat, the privilege
of truly tasting the delight of Shabbat. Be undisturbed by sadness,
sorrow, sighing. Help me expand the dimensions of all Shabbat
delights. Help me to expand the joy of Shabbat to the other days of
the week, until I attain the goal of deep joy always, the full joy of Your
Presence, the bliss of being close to You forever.”

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You weren’t the first to comment…there were at least 4 people before you.

I shouldn’t have to tell an intelligent man such as yourself “what you missed”. :slight_smile:

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I think that the point is that as Westerners we tend to be “foreground-oriented”, and as such we tend to live in the imaginary constructs of past and the future and forget certain necessary details of now.

This SNL skit is a metaphor for that:

It seems dumb, but it does carry a profound commentary of how we tend to isolate individuals from their environment as we fixate on idea of something and live in our imaginatinary assumptions.

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Yes. The words are pompous… and not your expectation that every writer should adjust his style and vocabulary to fit your preferences :slight_smile: .

BTW, is president Pence still on his schedule to take over in April? Or will he be a secret president, passing the secret Sunday Laws? :wink:

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A delightful companion to Heschel is The Jewish Sabbath: A Renewed Encounter by Pinchas Hacohen Peli (1930-1989). Peli explores the Sabbath and offers that every generation must interpret the Sabbath anew. “Tell me what your Sabbath is like”, Rabbi Peli writes in his preface, “and I will tell you who you are and what kind of person you are.”

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Steve,
Growing up in an SDA pastor’s home I remember that as the time approached for Friday sunset the children had to help getting our bedrooms in order, we shined our shoes (that was my job), picked from the clothes we wanted to wear to church the next day that our mother had washed and ironed and prepared for a short 5-10 minute family gathering. We would start with a hymn or two, my dad then read scriptures and welcomed the Sabbath with a prayer. We would then gather at the kitchen table for a dinner and a special dessert treat.
On Saturday afternoons it was the reverse so to speak there was no preparation but we had a similar sunset family gathering. This was our tradition and we kept until our early 20s always resuming it after arriving from boarding academies and college. As an adult I realized the value of this family communion we had and we ourselves started a similar, if more flexible tradition of family time.
Now that my parents are long gone and our boys have fled the nest I still sit back and remember the melodies and words of some of the hymns – sorry this one is not the same in English

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Nice to see you on the internet, if I do not see you often in our fair city. :slight_smile:

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How many of his essays have you read in the past say five years? I bet even Hans can tone down the rhetoric for us mere mortals; It is not the words that I object to but rather the ideas-especially knowing his role in the SDA organization.

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Why do we insist on saying THE sabbath when Lev 23 is jam-packed with sabbaths? Our reason for dumping all but one is outstandingly weak. (In my humble (?) opinion.)

The real spatial problem is that we haven’t a clue where the sabbath dateline is so we don’t know when and where the sabbath begins.

I think I should repeat Ellen White’s response to this very problem:

Now, my sister, … I write … to tell you that we are not to give the least credence to the day line theory. It is a snare of Satan brought in by his own agents to confuse minds. You see how utterly impossible for this thing to be, that the world is all right observing Sunday, and God’s remnant people are all wrong. This theory of the day line would make all our history for the past fifty-five years a complete fallacy. But we know where we stand… . (3SM, p.318, para.4)

But burying our heads in the sand isn’t standing, at all.

HER RESPONSE WAS A COPOUT that proves that the objection was valid, and still remains unanswered.

It’s the basis of the sabbath mess in Samoa.

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Am I a victim of technology? or sloppy commentary?
My computer was taken over by ransomeware in January. It was a challenge to get it up and running again. Lost access to my passwords and got locked out several discussions.

When I made my “solo” comment, my screen did not display the four comments that came before me. Or I thought they were part of the article. Either way I was wrong and apologize for my erroneous comment.

If I am not the target audience that the writer was aiming at, so be it. I do not enjoy reading, and I will not read what I do not enjoy. Reading is a chore that I must do to learn facts and when it becomes needlessly laborious or boring, I move on.

Allow me to share some clues from Ellen White’s Spirit of prophecy writings:

The “time of trouble, such as never was,” is soon to open upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now possess and which many are too indolent to obtain. It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal. In that time of trial, every soul must stand for himself before God. “Though Noah, Daniel, and Job” were in the land, “as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.” Ezekiel 14:20 (GC 622.4).

Jesus rose up, and shut the door, and entered the Holy of Holies, at the 7th month 1844; but Michael’s standing up (Daniel 12:1) to deliver his people, is in the future (WLF 12.4).

Michael had not stood up, and that the time of trouble, such as never was, had not yet commenced. The nations are now getting angry, but when our High Priest has finished His work in the sanctuary, He will stand up, put on the garments of vengeance, and then the seven last plagues will be poured out (EW 36.1).

“The commencement of that time of trouble,” here mentioned does not refer to the time when the plagues shall begin to be poured out, but to a short period just before they are poured out, while Christ is in the sanctuary. At that time, while the work of salvation is closing, trouble will be coming on the earth, and the nations will be angry, yet held in check so as not to prevent the work of the third angel. At that time the “latter rain,” or refreshing from the presence of the Lord, will come, to give power to the loud voice of the third angel, and prepare the saints to stand in the period when the seven last plagues shall be poured out (EW 85.3).

The light that Daniel received direct from God was given especially for these last days. The visions he saw by the banks of the Ulai and the Hiddekel…are now in process of fulfillment, and all the events foretold will soon have come to pass (4BC 1166.5).

I was by the side of the great river, which [is] HiddekelMichael, one of the chief princes, came to help me (Daniel 10:4, 13).

As I read EGW

  1. Michael stood in 1844, but that is not the final complete meaning of Daniel 12:1.
  2. Michael stands to bring on the Time of Trouble.
  3. after the Time of Trouble begins the latter rain comes.
  4. Michael stands and puts on the garments of vengeance and comes to rescue the saints.
    Jesus stood in 1844 to begin the Investigative Judgment…OK
    Jesus stands at the end of the IJ to return for His saints…OK
    Why is Michael called ONE OF THE CHIEF PRINCES?
    Who is the Michael that stands to begin the Time of Trouble…My study says Michael Pence.
    The whole study is in “The Last Trump Shall Sound: Michael Stands”

In a locked thread, I gave the date of the end of the Judgment of the living as 14 February 2013
and I have noted the parallel between Noah’s 7 days and our 7 years that end 14 February 2020
I wondered if 14 February 2020 would bring any events of significance
Are the twin bomb cyclones merging into one of the strongest storms ever (14 Feb 2020)
In the North Atlantic (heading toward the Old World)
any indication of prophecy fulfilled (as it was in the days of Noah so will it be before the coming of Jesus) or a sign that we need to note?

As Noah waited in the ark for 7 days for the rain to come,

You must admit that it is interesting that on the very day that ended our 7 years:We have a super storm