Bull and Guy Should Just Teach Sabbath School Everywhere This Week

This week's Adult Bible Study Guide focuses on the beginning of the Genesis narrative and connects it to the Sabbath. This is familar territory for anyone who's been around Adventism and, especially SPECTRUM, for the last few generations. The "guide" offers discussion questions like this: 


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11379
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This book certainly throws the entire interpretive view of Genesis 1 into an entirely different light, away from the fundamentalist literalism of the usual denominational organs, and into a historically and literarily contextual interpretation of the text. Another good resource is the work of the OT scholar John Walton, in conjunction with BioLogos. He takes seriously that the Bible, and in this case Genesis 1, was written for us, and not to us. That if we ever hope to understand what Genesis is saying for us, we need to first account for how it spoke to ancient Hebrews swimming in their own cultural river, and not in ours. IOW, Genesis cannot be used as a modern science text or history book in the way we understand such. It does not speak in these ways, and we horribly twist its meaning if we try to force it to.

The irony is that conservative evangelicals and Adventists believe that such an anachronistic reading is being faithful to the bible. It actually is not.

Thanks…

Frank

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You can see a critical review with the authors on YouTube using the link below:

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It’s time Adventists abandon the idea that God could create the world in six literal days. We have much to learn from the secularists in this regard. We created and live within the Biblical narrative and it provides a common cultural touch point that is of value as a work of historical fiction.

We are all much more responsible for our position in the world, our interaction, and our destiny than we would like to realize.

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Huh, why?

Do you think that God is not powerful enough to do just that?

Also, how can you imply that God didn’t create the world in six days when Exodus 20:11 says the following:

“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day…”

This verse speaks of literal days.

[By the way, Adventists are not the only Christians who believe that the world was created in six literal days.]

In other words, we have to trust unbelievers to determine what God can or cannot do. Interesting!!!

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Frank,

Genesis 1 has nothing to do with science… because God never explained how He created the world in scientific terms. He just said that He did it. Period.

So to say that Genesis cannot be used as a science text is just a red erring and a bad one on top of it since science cannot really explain how the world and life came into existence. The Big Bang theory has some gigantic holes in it and there is no satisfying explanations concerning the appearing of life on planet Earth (to the point that some scientists wondered whether life was created on Earth at all or was created elsewhere in the universe and was transported to Earth via some meteorites).

The real question is to know if those who call themselves Christians will take God at His Word or if they will ally themselves to unbelievers to determine whether the Word of God is true or not.

“Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
(Luke 18:8)

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True, the Sabbath school lesson for this week’s discussion about the day of rest focuses a lot on creation (lesson for sunday, monday, also friday again), but the article here, as interesting as the references to Bull/Guy are, for some reason seems to be trapped completely in that never ending discussion.

This way some other aspects of the Sabbath command get neglected and I’d like to pick them out, because they are, in my experience, for many Adventists today the reason for major intellectual troubles:

  1. Why is it of such an importance and considered to be even a matter of life and death that our day of rest must be observed on saturdays and not e.g. on sundays or wednesdays?

  2. Why is the Sabbath law placed at the center of the ten commandments which is, according to ancient Hebrew poetic rules, the position of the most important part of a text? Why should it therefore be even more important than the other laws? A view that EGW confirms in her accounts of a vision where she saw the Sabbath law shine a bit stronger than the others.

  3. How come that we invest incredible amounts of energy into the defense of the concept of a literal 6-day creation but that nobody seems to be disturbed by the fact that the two versions of the ten commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 differ exactly in that single point: the argument for keeping the Sabbath holy is exchangeable! How can that be? Which version is the one that God wrote himself? Both?

The authors of the lesson quarterly touch these subjects but it becomes obvious, that they don’t have integrating answers, so the issue is only raised in the form of questions for discussion. One of them tries to counter the idea of a creation lasting longer than 6 literal days by asking “What purpose is there in keeping the seventh day holy in commemoration of billions of years…” This line of thought is part of the traditional answer to my point 1) up here, as we all have been taught in bible class since we remember. (It ignores though that Deut 5 neither refers to billions of years nor literal 6 days but doesn’t need creation at all to justify Sabbath observance.)

I want to suggest a (speculative) answer that I have mentioned here before, but that has not yet found its way into Adventist circles of discussion, even though it would provide an intellectually satisfying answer to the questions up here as well as to the ones raised in the lesson quarterly. The point is: If the argument for keeping the Sabbath in Exodus and Deuteronomy is exchangeable, it might be because both reasons given were NOT the FINAL reason! Instead they are pointing to an other, more authoritative reason.

And the need to keep the Sabbath on exactly the saturdays as we use to do, may indeed be a historical necessity, but it could be pointing to and remembering another Sabbath day than the one we believe to find at the end of the creation week, and therefore take away the desperate pressure from our justification attempts when we insist on 6 literal days.

And the Sabbath law being at the center of the law could indeed be the most important revelation of who God is, not just an unintelligible test of faith, as we often preach it, but the most meaningful part of the law.

Jesus, the Son of God, the creator, the redeemer, died on a friday afternoon, at sunset, just in time to start a day of rest as the universe never ever had witnessed nor never ever will witness again. He rested in the grave. He rose again on a sunday. We always focus on his death and resurrection - but hardly ever talk about the time when he was dead, when he rested. But, dear sisters and brothers, why did Jesus from Nazareth rest in that grave for the duration of a whole Sabbath? Was he keeping the Sabbath there - or was the Sabbath keeping him? Why was he not raised on the Sabbath when he himself had made clear in his teachings that this would have been absolutely legitimate? Wasn’t that an emergency more urgent than a donkey in a pit? Who wants to contradict me must answer this question!

— I postulate that we keep and will eternally observe the Sabbath as a reminder of the historical fact that for one day in all eternity, the Son of God was lying dead in the grave. There the true character of God as being honest and non-manipulative and self-sacrificing was revealed in a way that no other answer could have provided. There the big conflict whether God used tricks or not was solved. There complete transparency was created. There God let go of what all knew was dearest to him. Zillions of living beings were stunned by the fact that God was not miraculously intervening! The whore-moms before Solomon, splendid king Darius and Daniel, Moses in the basket on the Nile river, whatever story we take from the Old testament, they testify of this day! That’s why we may be proud carriers of our name, 7th-day Adventists. It happened on a historical 7th day! In our earth’s history. This must be remembered forever!

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If you are taking Genesis 1 as a literal description of material origins, then you must deal with the problems it presents on such a basis. Start with three twenty four hour days before there was a sun in the sky. Explain that apart from miracle, because the text itself never comes close to such an explanation. Also, one must deal with the fact that the ancient Hebrews believed that the sky, often translated firmament/expanse, was some type of dome upon which the heavenly bodies hung, and separated the waters of chaos above from the waters below. That the sky dome was held up by pillars. We could go on.

Are you prepared to accept the cosmological views of the writer of Genesis and its audience as literally factual today? If so, why? If not, why not? Would you take these literal views as being more accurate than what science, in a post Hubbel age, tells us about the universe, the age of the earth, etc?

To read Genesis as not speaking to our contemporary understanding does not mean a denial of God as creator. It is saying that Genesis, while affirming God as creator, is not giving a scientific understanding of the earth and the cosmos as we comprehend it…it was speaking to ancient people and to the way they would. The Genesis account was written to them, in their cultural matrix, not to us in ours. It is incumbent upon us to interpret what its message was to its original audience before trying to apply it to ourselves today. And, it wasn’t to refute modern science and cosmology. That wasn’t even on the radar screen.

If you insist that it was or is…then show where there are pillars that hold up the sky, where the windows are in the sky dome/expanse, limit the amount of stars to about six thousand, and tell where the edges of the flat earth are.That would be the modern, scientific accuracy of an entirely literal reading of Genesis. Totally obsolete. Catapult us thirty five hundred years from now, and the same will probably be said about our cosmology.

God is far greater, bigger than, and beyond us all. Yet, he speaks to us within our cultural frames of reference. That’s behind the idea of incarnational and enculturated revelation. That included the writer of Genesis and his target audience. Ignoring this and trying to explain it away, is actually being unfaithful to the text, its content, and its intent…in the name of biblical literalism, and taking God at his word.

Frank

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While there is much beauty to what you’ve shared, and much with which I agree, Paul also said that “if messiah is not raised, our faith is futile, we are still in our sins.” Jesus’s resurrection launched new creation, the very thing that the NT testified to, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come.”

The sabbath when Jesus lay in the tomb without his resurrection on the first day would have simply said that Jesus was a fraud and a failed messiah. Resurrection says that God approved and vindicated Jesus as messiah and lord.

There is a reason why the early Christians, as far back as the late first to early second century, gathered together regularly on the first day of the week.

Frank

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i think a lot depends on how we read the bible generally, and the books attributed to Moses in particular…the commonly accepted literary structure of Deuteronomy places chapter 5 towards the beginning of the second of three sermons of Moses, given as Israel stood on the verge of the promised land of canaan…assuming this is a valid placement, and we have no reason to believe it isn’t, it obviously succeeds events recorded in both halves of the diptych structure of Exodus, including the covenant portion that contains the 10 commandments…this being the case, the primary position of Exodus 20 gives it preeminence over Deuteronomy 5 when determining fundamental meanings of the 4th and all other commandments, namely the emphasis on the need for rest on the seventh day because god created the world in six days…and if we assume that the events of creation week preceded the exodus, as seems reasonable, the narrative containing the first appearance of the sabbath, in Genesis 2, contains further preeminent meaning over both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, namely god’s rest on the seventh day following his six days of creation work…

an important point to consider is that god’s recorded interpretation of Exodus 20, given in Exodus 31, is an expansion of Genesis 2 that includes the rationale for the sabbath given in Exodus 20, but also, at least partially - enough to be seen as inclusive and embracing - the rationale for the sabbath given in Deuteronomy 5 (and this Exodus 20 version of the Ten Commandments is obviously the version god wrote in stone, as seen in Exodus 31, long before the chronological realization of the sermons of Moses recorded in Deuteronomy)…this immediately indicates that Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, far from being antagonistic, or even mutually exclusive, are actually commutual, and part of the same compound meaning intended by god for Exodus 20…that is, Deuteronomy isn’t replacing or competing against either Exodus 20 or Genesis 2…it’s simply personalizing the meaning of the sabbath to the circumstances of Israel as it embarked on the fulfillment of supernatural prophesy given more than half a millennium before…

this means there is no license to excise Deuteronomy 5 from Exodus 20, or see Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 as “exchangeable”, which is ludicrous to begin with, since the reasoning for the sabbath given in Deuteronomy 5 doesn’t fit into the context of Exodus - it’s premature - even if the reasoning for the sabbath given in Exodus 20 fits into the context of Deuteronomy…in other words, there’s no rational reason to question the fundamental meaning of seventh-day rest on the sabbath given in Genesis 2 and Exodus 20 just because Deuteronomy 5 personalizes that fundamental meaning in a way that was anticipated by god himself in Exodus 31…

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‎שבה - ShBT (Strong’s Hebrew 7637) — In Gen 2:1-3 this root appears 4 times. Three times in “seventh” and one time in “to shabbat”. We see this common root of “seventh” and “shabbat” even in English (s-v/b-t). The Hebrew here doesn’t say God rested (“nuach”, Ex 20:11) but merely that God was shabbatting. Nobody can exactly say what this “shabbatting” consisted of, the concept and potential dimensions of this type of rest are only later introduced and explained in the bible. Later texts help us to understand the meaning intended in earlier texts also on many other subjects, see the sermon on the mount or Hebrews on sacrifices. I suggest again, that the “sign of Jonah”, i.e. Jesus’ “rest” in the grave gives us the most accurate definition of what “to shabbat” means: it’s not about taking a siesta but about leaving our own plans and projects and making room for our neighbours and God, about stepping out of our shoes, about to sacrifice ourselves completely for others, about being dead to ourselves. The fact that the disciples met on sundays doesn’t turn keeping that day into the practical basis of being a Christian, as little as the fact that they met in an upper room or behind closed doors or ate grilled fishes, etc. There is no such thing in the bible as a theology of sunday that could be remotely compared to the depth of the ethical (!) Sabbath law at the center of the ten commandments and the gospel message, that spans from creation/redemption through social welfare to the historical grave at Golgotha and still further to the new creation. - Truth tends to be simple and beautiful. I like the simplicity and beauty of the idea that I keep the Sabbath as a testimony to the historical fact that my creator and savior once was dead on it.

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We need to be able to respectfully discuss how to read Genesis and how it relates to scientific understanding, but no matter what the outcome of this discussion is, it misses the point. The point is this: Is membership in the SDA church and more importantly our salvation dependent on believing a literal 7 day 6,000 year ago creation? My concern is that we are keeping people from believing in God because we first insist, they accept a 7 day 6000 year creation. Someday God will make it clear what really occurred, but I don’t have to know that now.

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The point also needs to be taken in reverse…sabbath observance, and any holy time observance for that matter, and keeping kosher or practicing vegetarianism, are not the practical basis of being a Christian, either.

Sabbath as the center of the gospel message? The proclamation of Jesus as the promised messiah and lord, who was crucified and risen is the gospel message. See all the apostolic sermons in Acts. That is the gospel proclamation, that includes or alludes to creation, redemption, new creation, and issues of social justice. Nowhere do we see sabbath mentioned or even alluded to in all of these passages.

Go even further into Colossians, and Paul addresses a Gentile audience, telling them that no one is to judge them regarding the observances of holy times. That includes yearly, monthly, and weekly calendrical days…including the weekly sabbath. Adventists trying to say that his listing only refers to ceremonial sabbaths simply misread the text because of a sabbath agenda and bias. Paul classifies the sabbath, with these other holy times, as a shadow of things to come, but the reality is Christ.

This reflects the rabbinic teaching that sabbath was a foreshadowing of the messianic age. Paul is saying that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, this age has arrived. The shadows have met the reality. Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you over or lead you back into the supposed necessity of shadowy observances. The full reality has been unveiled in Christ himself…remain vitally connected to him…and that is enough! Rest and restoration are found fully in the person…not in any day.

That is wonderful, and I think that you share some beautiful theological reasons for doing so. But, just know that Christians of all stripes have been gathering together since the 1st c. on the first day, as a testimony to the historical fact that Jesus lives! As the hymn says, "We serve a risen savior." Their reasons are as strong if not more strongly aligned with the apostolic proclamation of the gospel, and its truth, than the sabbath theology you present. It is as biblically compelling for many Christians, as you feel compelled by your own biblical reasons.

This says nothing about the inclusion of Gentiles into the people of God, and how sabbath observance was not forced upon them, along with other works of the Law/Torah. This is in the content of Paul’s great letters, such as Romans and Galatians. And that is the point…holy time observances such as the sabbath, or any day for that matter, are not to be made central to Christian life and experience, and not to be made a test of fellowship for those who hold to different views and practices regarding such. It is part of what are called debatable matters, as we are doing now. Let everyone be convinced in their own mind, not condemn, not create disunity in the body of Christ, or put a stumbling block in the way of others regarding such.

Herein lies the Adventist problem…a denomination built on sabbath exclusivity in relation to other Christians and Christian groups.

Thanks…

Frank

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this is interesting…i don’t think i’ve seen this point stated like this before…

i don’t think most adventists insist on using the 6,000 yr figure as a literal necessity…it’s more of a YEC metaphor now, in the same way we see it used in the writings of egw…it isn’t on that level of primacy as a miraculous, literal six-day fiat creation that overcomes all natural law, followed by a literal 7th day of rest…

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In this point I have to agree with Frank, there is a weak point in my last argument, out of joy about the newly found content to a before rather legal definition Adventists traditionally recur to: of course I don’t only keep the Sabbath as a testimony to the historicity of Jesus’ death. Then this would be comparable to keeping the sunday as a memory for the resurrection as well. Or the friday as a memory of the crucifixion (why is there no such church…?). My correct version should state the integrated view that I also keep the Sabbath because it’s part of the ten commandments and therefore on the same authoritative level like e.g. not lying or not killing. Though these were no specific subjects in the apostles’ preachings, it did in no way mean that they were or are not relevant rules for a proper life anymore. And would you someone who tries not to lie call a legalist? These are absurdities. The majority of Christianity subtracts the Sabbath law in an isolated manner out of the decalogue, which is a strikingly unsystematic and arbitrary act. That does not even fit historical facts. Because if the Christians of the early church had not observed it, we would for sure have a documented uproar that might have exceeded discussions like that about the abolition of circumcision by far. It’s a no-brainer that they all still kept the Sabbath, otherwise we would find the book of acts and the letters full of “smoking guns” of such a shift. The scarcity of the quoted verses about not observing festivities anymore is rather a proof that they were not about a central issue at stake but about ceremonial questions related to the sacrificial services and annual calendar of specifically Jewish feasts. Opposed to Sabbath that goes back to - creation, there we are again. The Christian sunday is a matter of church tradition but not theologically rooted in the bible. As every good Jesuit will easily admit, with reference to the authority of the church and clergy. — Let me come back: I was not planning for apologetics here but rather to share my joy about a newly found aspect of the Sabbath that fits in well to what we always believed and that expands our faith and answers some practical questions.

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No, it’s not a no brainer that they all still kept it. The reality is that Paul, and the other apostles, insisted that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised. If Paul went further, insisting that uncircumcised Gentiles were to now observe sabbath, the uproar would have been seismic from within the Jewish community. His demise would likely have been much earlier, because to them this would have been an abomination…uncircumcised Gentiles were in no way part of their covenant, nor was the sabbath, the covenant sign between Israel and God, considered for Gentiles to keep. There is no trace in the NT of such a controversy, that would surely have happened. In tandem with this, one doesn’t see sabbath observance enjoined upon Gentile believers in the apostolic letter in Acts 15, nor is there any trace of sabbath observance or instruction about it given to Paul’s Gentile churches in his letters. None!

This also speaks to the idea of works of law, that Paul insisted were not to be imposed upon Gentiles for justification/full belonging to God and salvation. Those works are plural, and signify not moral deeds, but Jewish works of law that were outward signs of belonging to the covenant people…specifically circumcision, food laws, and sabbath/holy time observance. That Paul’s contemporaries and the early Christians into the 2nd c. understood it this way is quite evident. Recent scholarship has shown this to be the case.

Paul also differentiated the Sinai covenant and its package of laws, 613, including the ten, from the requirements of the New Covenant. Galatians 3-5 makes this plain, especially the identification of Hagar and Sarah respectively with Jerusalem that gives birth to slaves under law, and the New Jerusalem that is above, and gives birth to free people through the promise. Those free people in Christ and through the power of his Spirit, are to fulfill all the law in one command," Love your neighbor as yourself." Paul also fleshes this out with, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill messiah’s law.” That this is not equivalent with the ten commands is obvious. Where in the ten is bearing one another’s burdens even articulated, or restoring one caught in a besetting sin, the context that Paul gives for such burden bearing? Yet, Paul calls this the fulfillment of the law of the messiah. That Paul used the ten at points to instruct his converts is evident. That he adopted the ten and the Torah wholesale, including Sabbath observance, as the covenant stipulations that were the conditions for belonging, and guide for community life, is not.

Again, if you receive spiritual sustenance and benefit from your views and practice of sabbath observance, that’s great! For you to to share that as blanket requirement for all Jesus followers is not. You’re going beyond the evidence of the NT, taking a disputable matter and turning it into something central for all Christians, and actually advancing teaching that is divisive to Christian fellowship…in line with what our denomination does.

Thanks…

Frank

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Teaching not to lie or murder is not divisive but a foundation for healthy relationships. And so it is with the other commandments of the decalogue. They are reliable interpretations of what “to love each other” really looks like and they were never suspended. By keeping them we don’t earn heaven, but that that doesn’t allow for the opposite conclusion, that we should not keep them anymore; who is given heaven for free will try to keep them intuitively. To select one of those ten and dismiss it is arbitrary and makes no sense. And let me add: this one law about the day of rest speaks of creation and redemption and may ultimately refer to Christ’s rest, this is the one that speaks of bearing each other’s burdens.

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it’s always all about doing away with the 7th day sabbath, isn’t it…

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Any analysis of the creation narrative as found in Genesis must include many other creation references found in the scriptures and should be part of the understanding of probably the most critical message to the skeptics and deniers of theistic origins of the entire physical universe . The bible has chapter long creation references outside of Gen 1 ,2. for example Ps 104 and the book of Job. These glimpses into God’s creative activity need to be harmonized into a cohesive story rather "cherry picking " those references that support your particular agenda. This more comprehensive approach is demanded because there is only one Creator and one basic story teller. Analyzing the culture ,audience and language of the manuscripts, while interesting , does not address the fundamental question of the origins of the physical universe This is best done using the “scientific method” Science is how you come to know anything in the physical world . Creating a “model” is one method to see if your understanding stands up to vigorous scrutiny Paul is right in advising “to test all things” -the scientific method. In science that’s seems to be the way to “truth”
Many argue that the bible is not a science textbook, but I would like you to consider the first phrase of the bible “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” Is that just a poetic phrase or is it full of scientific meaning.? When Einstein published his theorems of general relativity, it stood the world on its head Why? Because that thesis claimed, to the chagrin of the scientist of that day,. that the universe had a beginning. Before he made that “fact” known, it was thought by most scholars that the universe always existed in a steady state so there was infinite in the past and infinite in the future… To propose that there’s a beginning implied the unthinkable - a Beginner. Over the last hundred years the inflationary "big bang’ model has achieved the status of the standard model of the universe It is no longer being challenged because it has been exhaustively tested and has become a “fact” That is no mean feat.Now we know that the “beginning " was 13.71 billion years give or take a few thousand years. This time stamp almost single-handedly makes evolution moot . It is too short for evolutionary processes to play out…So I ask again is “in the beginning ,God created” a statement of scientific fact or a poetic musing, or is it both ? There are other descriptive words such as 'the stretching of the heavens” which aptly describes the expanding universe which is further evidence that bible is “scientifically” accurate . What is so miraculous is that with the limited scientific knowledge and limited vocabulary, the text is uncanny in conveying modern scientific truths which have come to light Modern science grew because most advances in understanding of the physical universe were pioneered by God fearing scientists who most of whom you know . Job has much to say about managing the planet as well… If the church had lessons to see how the bible predated some of the scientific discoveries we take for granted, it might help in grounding the scriptures as very reliable
Dave Okamura

They have a big problem. They say God created the earth over a long period of time but have no problem with the resurrection happening in a nana second. God creating new bodies, raising millions from the dead and changing those that are alive at His coming in twinkling of an eye.
Bull and Guy look foolish to me.

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