Sabbathing


(system) #1

For Adventists, the Sabbath has set us apart, both from "the world" and from mainstream Christendom. While some, particularly a few ex-Adventists, attack us for our Sabbatarianism, I think they are missing the point.

Getting at that, a recent post at Cliff yesterday sparked some reflections on why I keep the Sabbath as a young Seventh-day Adventist.

(I know, I know, some might not like this much Goldstein here, but say what you will, he's provocative, and this time, I think, productively.)

He writes:

For years now, I've been getting Dale Ratzlaff's Proclamation, in which each issue declares how the gospel has freed him and others from the shackles and legalism of Adventism. There's no sense going over all the arguments; we've heard them before, and there's really nothing new there, nothing that anti-Sabbatarians haven't been uttering for centuries now.

But I do find one argument amusingly and oxymoronically ironic: the idea that the rest we have in Jesus "liberates" us from the fourth commandment. This means, basically, that the seventh-day Sabbath, a symbol from the old covenant, has been abolished and Christians are "freed" from keeping it. Sabbath-keeping is, says Dale Ratzlaff, a legalistic work that robs us of the rest Christ offers us in the new covenant doctrine of grace.

Now, maybe I'm missing something here, but how is it that the one commandment devoted to rest, the one commandment that specifically expresses rest, the one commandment that gives us a special opportunity to rest, has been turned into the universal "New Covenant" symbol of works? The only commandment that, by its nature, is all about rest has become the iconic metaphor for salvation by works?

Can you see the irony of Ratzlaff's entire premise: by resting on the Sabbath, I'm trying to work my way to heaven!

The fact is, far from being a symbol of works, the Sabbath is the Bible's covenant symbol of the rest that God's people have always had in Him.

In addition to the irony, the Ratzlaff proclamation is ludicrous when speaking of global Adventism. Most of the 15 million members are hungry for salvation, justice and community peace, not some privatistic "at least we ain't legalists" dogma that's so outdated than even conservative evangelicals are moving on.

As Cliff argues in A Pause for Peace (my grandma used to leave that out for my favorite ex-Adventist, now Conservadox uncle), there is a lot more to the grounding of the Sabbath than the Western tradition of law.

The oh-so-last century ex-Adventist "I'm saved, you're not" mantra reminds me of someone who, after a breakup, spends their time bad-mouthing an entire gender because of their anecdotal experience. This while slapping themselves on the back with ahistorical Walter Martin quotes.

I suggest to them: stand in the middle of Loma Linda University Medical Center or at the next Adventist Society of Religious Studies conference and explain to those who pass how worshiping in community on a day has any connection to who goes to heaven. Sure, some crazy folks still link attendance to heavenly status, but most pastors preach, most teachers teach and in practice most Adventists go to church because of the here-and-now benefit, and leave the rest to God.

I personally keep the Sabbath for myriad reasons including to signify my concern for God's creation (God blessed all creation on the Sabbath) and as an act of resistance against the church/state Constantinian compromise and that continuation through mainstream Christianity's constant habit of compromising Biblical values over issues like unnecessary military aggression and favor for those with the most.

Historically, I think that this is actually more in line with the Sabbatarian orthopraxy of Jewish resistance to empire, Early Christian nonviolent witness, anti-Catholic (in the dissenting Waldensian sense) protest, Coptic and Anabaptist peacemaking than some 19th century modernist proof-texting about law and grace.

Yep, I'm proud to be a Seventh-day Sabbath keeper. (Whoa, dudes, just another extreme plank in the crazy Spectrum agenda...)

As others have noted, keeping the Sabbath mixes belief and behavior. It's an action. And being a Sabbathing Adventist means, for me, that I work, I care, I act out my ethics as Christ modeled.

In the end, I'd have a lot more time for the ex-arguments if they didn't look so often like they were publicly Martinizing their personal soteriology.

After all, we all depend on Christ as well as one another for saving grace and acts of social healing, no matter how we wrinkle our human time.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/728