The Sabbath and the Rights of Nature: Part One

What does the Sabbath teach us about nature and creation stewardship? Is it simply a day to admire the handiworks of God, or is there a deeper lesson we can glean? Adventists are not the first Protestants to recognize the principles of creation stewardship.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I would hope that Mr. Garner would address in Part 2 the language found in Ex 20 and Deut 5 where there is no mention of the wife getting a day off! Donkeys and oxen, sons and daughters, and strangers but no day off for the wife. Is she exempt from the 4th commandment?

And one other thing I would like Mr. Garner in Part 2 to address is that in Deut 5 there is no mention of the creation story. After all both accounts were written in stone by the finger of God. Why always mention the 4th as found in Ex 20 and never a word about the 4th in Deut 5?


Enough to go to church?

The commandment says nothing about church.

The commandment says rest.

The busy-ness of getting up, preparing for and going to church where things are tightly scheduled, and done in a never-changing order (which sequence also was not dictated by the commandment, BTW) is the polar opposite of that.

So no.

Going to church is not enough.

It is a direct disobedience of the commandment, teaches children the exact opposite of what they might learn by taking a break from all routine, and detracts from one’s ability to appreciate the creator who made all days possible by sequestering the individual in a box where even natural light is typically tainted after being filtered through tinted glass.


Biblical scholars note that the mention of the creation story in Genesis 20 was very likely added to the original text by the redactor who assembled the Pentateuch from two or more sets of source materials into the form we know today (for those interested in biblical studies, click the link above for a great overview).

Nothing. The Sabbath is a day of rest, of ceasing from work. Nothing else. It continued to be a day of not-working at least up to Jesus time, when every time Jesus was accused of breaking the Sabbath he was out and about doing something that was construed as work by the authorities. He was never accused of worshiping wrong because that just wasn’t an issue.

Well, Gen 2:15 doesn’t say anything at all about that. It says that Yahweh deposited the first human He had just created out of dirt in the garden He’d just recently created in Eden, literally the land of pleasure, in order to tend the garden for Him. He did this so He could take evening walks there and enjoy Himself, as described in Gen 3. The “humans created to tend god’s garden” motif is repeated many times in ancient literature, and the Yahwhist version in Genesis 2 is much like the others (and completely different than the creation account in Gen 1).

Abstaining from work is the only thing commanded for the Sabbath. There’s nothing at all about worshiping or contemplating our existence or going to temple or church. In fact, given the details of the sabbath commands found in the three versions of the 10 commandments, if taken literally then no one should be working on the sabbath. No exceptions - including priests and other men of God. Logically, we shouldn’t even be going to church on the Sabbath, as that creates work for others.


Speaking of Deut. 5, it also says The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today. And then it goes on to repeat the commandments, ending the Sabbath commandment with: You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm ; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

There are two different issues going on here. The Hebrews had been a rag-tag bunch of slaves without a national identity. When Moses took them out of slavery, they had no clue how to be a nation. God gave them a plan, and emphasized the Sabbath rest - to be granted even their servants, unlike what they endured as slaves.

In the second level of application the Sabbath becomes their national identity - redeemed from slavery; and elevated as God’s chosen people. The first emphasizes the rest; the second emphasizes their identity.

Christians today have the Sabbath rest “in Christ” (Heb. 4). The Hebrew slaves accepted their identity as Sabbath keepers; but knew nothing about the “rest”. We don’t seem to get that either as we seek special status with God through Sabbath keeping - and that, without any specificity. There were rules to “keeping” the Sabbath. We just made them up as we went. That’s because there are no rules to experience the Sabbath “rest”. Just stop working so hard at being perfect and pay attention to those in need all around you. They need the Gospel - rest.


This is a self perception…but the confusion over the gospel and eschatology within the denomination shows that this just isn’t so.

The announcement of good news in Rev. 14 is simply of God’s immanent judgement. This is considered good news/euangellion because it is announcing God’s coming victory over the evil powers arrayed against his people and him, and because through his judgement he will set the world back right.

This is placing law at the center of the Christian message and not the gospel. Additionally, Jesus himself never identified the Sabbath as the central commandment of the Law/Torah. He said that the greatest commandments were to love the Lord your God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Nowhere do any of the NT writers assert that sabbath observance is the central commandment of the law. Rather, they concur with what Jesus said. Even Revelation doesn’t really say this, it is an imported meaning from an Adventist systematic theological view. It’s not what the book itself is actually saying, even if it does call to people to God as creator. So do many other passages in the NT…Romans 1 comes to mind. Its point was not to call people to sabbath keeping. This also shouldn’t be assumed about Revelation.

Unless one is in agricultural work or police or customs who use trained dogs to find drugs, etc., this doesn’t really apply to contemporary life and most contemporary people.

While certainly aiming at a noble end, this entire article is a compilation of out of context Adventist assertions and assumptions.



I have no use for a god who claims to be omniscient and wants or needs to be worshipped because he thinks he’s so smart.

I’m fact, here’s a challenge for such a god.

Prove to me, a person of finite intellect and who only understands a little about a lot things, that you know everything there is to know everything.

This is as impossible as trying to explain astrophysics to an ant or like trying to prove that man has landed on the moon to an amoeba, and in which case such a pitiable god must not only admit that there are things he doesn’t know how to do but must also accept that the assertion of his omnipotence has also been utterly debunked and accept the fact that he doesn’t deserved to be worshipped by anyone.

On the other hand, if my creator wants to share notes on what we’ve both experienced and learned since our respective inceptions, or talk about questions about the universe that he, she and we are still trying to figure out, I’m all ears and will be available anytime he wants to get together.

Thus, I’m much more likely to go to a movie, take a ride, or play the front nine on Saturday afternoon, IOW, anything other than listening to another sermon about a god who is said to have said nothing to anyone for the past two hundred or two thousand years, and rather than spending two seconds “worshipping” an insecure god who supposedly can only and best be found in church.


While I could challenge the remnant/commandment foundation of this article, I think the association of Sabbath with creation stewardship is sound.
Sabbath is egalitarian, with the command extending God’s rest to humans, addressing both female and male leaders of a household, and requiring that my rest is not dependent on more work by another human or animal.
Moreover, in asking us to postpone work for one day, we step aside from the consumerism that continues to ravish natural resources without concern for sustainability. Sabbath rest helps us learn to value things that can’t be measured by money - like the inherent beauty of natural ecosystems or the joy of friendship.
As with other commandments, Jesus taught the positive side of Sabbath keeping. So, rather than a day of less work, it becomes a day if more good, of more life (Luke 6:9). It is easy to apply this life affirmation beyond the well-being of other people to the well-being of the rest of creation.


One of the big eye-openers for me was when I realized how much the SDA church relies on tradition. It’s rather ironic for a denomination that slags the Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans and others for their reliance on tradition. The SDA Saturday church ritual, liturgy and practice is entirely derived from tradition.


One thing SDA’s didn’t adopt was the service structure of EGW’s former cult, The Shouting Methodists:

The official Adventist line is that EGW was a Laodicean-style, middle of the road, mild mannered Methodist when it would be much more accurate to say that in her youth, the future Mrs. White’s fits, histrionics and ravings would have been considered de rigueur in the church attended by her parents.

I should have written down the source but I read somewhere that Ellen’s mom, on seeing her daughter in some sort of altered state or delirium, said something to the modern day equivalent of “Oh, that’s just Ellen being Ellen.”


Here is the beginning of a theological construct which assumes that by interpreting texts from an divinely inspired book one can express the truth about the Sabbath, Creation, and associated issues, including the Rights of Nature. Nature knows nothing of Rights, except in the philosophical discussions of human beings, largely concerned with social and political issues. Might it not be better to look at nature where natural disasters, killing, everything eating everything else, occupy the larger space of the world, but look for spaces, where one can find joy, peace, and stability; a place where there is rest, civility among human beings, and where in the perceived chaos of the natural world one can make out the features of a Creation, and in a biochronology with natural rhythms, one can recognize a space for an existential understanding of rest, which is then incorporated into the metaphor of Sabbath rest, however that religious idea came to be? Every theological construct expresses a metaphorically grounded mythology by which we live. But, we live by what the metaphors and mythologies evoke, not what can be proven true or false. Metaphors and mythologies may evoke something we decide takes us out of the special space we have discovered in nature and human society. As inter-relationally constituted human beings, perhaps we should give the idea, that humans are co-creators with God, its due.


Right on.

The Bible says nothing about denominations and authority to dictate to one another. If the congregation in Jerusalem held to a doctrine, they would try to get diasporan groups to accept similar doctrines as a matter of truth and reason, but
they didn’t say, We’re the boss of you.

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