Why Don’t We Stone Sabbath Breakers Anymore?

Few stories in the Old Testament are as gruesome as that of the man stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. The narrative’s outline is clear, but the severity of the sentence is not. We find this account, the only documented killing in the Bible for Sabbath breaking, in Numbers 15:32-36. It is an eerie story. Our hapless protagonist is aptly nameless, for he is everyman.

With little elaboration the writer sums up this man’s entire life in a single paragraph. He went gathering sticks on the Sabbath. His fellow wilderness sojourners arrested and put him in the stockade. Later they took him before Aaron and Moses, and eventually the entire congregation. We learn the reason for this dallying: “[I]t had not been explained what should be done to him.” (15:34; KJV) There is a clear sense that this was a first, not only to the assembled throng, but also to Aaron and Moses. That might explain why God intervened and took the punishment decision away from Moses, declaring: “This man must be put to death.” (15:35; NJB) And with this statement, God bound everyone to his death command. The responsibility for killing him would be communal. All present should pick up stones and, with deliberate aim, hurl it at the offender – their neighbor and friend – until he died. And they all obeyed.

There is unease about this story. It is the same discomfort that nags every reading about Ananias and Sapphira. The core stoning story is very skeletal and shows the writer’s mastery of economy (or maybe a disinclination to linger). Since it lacks texture, we tend to read our reactions into it based on deductions and inferences, and not on actual evidence. We are not privy to why he did what he did, but that has not stopped us from speculating about his motives. Often, in a bid to justify God’s verdict, analysts have painted him blacker than the story allows. We impute sinister motives to him because we are horrified by the apparent disproportionate nature of the punishment. “It must be worse than the story lets on,” we reason, “why else would God demand his death?”

Let’s backtrack and re-acquaint ourselves with the genesis of the Sabbath law. (Exo 20-8-11) The commandment expresses two main thoughts. The first revolves around the sanctity of the day. God pronounced the day “holy,” “sacred,” “blessed” because on this day he rested from his “labors.” So, from sundown to sundown on the Sabbath day, God bids us to refrain from all “recreational” activities. Again, the emphasis is on the sacredness of the day. Which is why, we would argue, another day cannot be substituted.

However, the day’s “specialness” is not discernable. There is nothing demonstrably unique about this day in comparison to the other six. The sun shines, the rains fall, flowers bloom – in equal measure on Sabbaths as on other days of the week. Natural disasters – earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires – don’t pause to observe Sabbaths. If you woke up from a long coma and were not re-oriented to which day it was, you couldn’t tell the difference.

I recall reading about a European missionary who lived among an indigenous tribe somewhere in the tropical African jungle. She introduced her converts to Christianity and Sunday worship. But early in her interactions with the natives, she repeatedly lost track of the weekly cycle and was sometimes observed working on her thatched roof or hoeing her garden on Sundays. On some week days, thinking they were Sundays, she was corralling her converts for church service. There was nothing self-evident that distinguished Sundays from the other days after she lost her ability to differentiate the weekly cycle.

Even when we have a calendar and can identify the days, we may still have difficulty determining the boundaries of the Sabbath. This is a result of our church’s preference for a “sunset,” instead of a set time on Friday/Saturday evenings, as official beginnings and endings of Sabbaths worldwide. But what happens if you live in Svalbard, Norway, where there is no sunset for about half the year? Or in some places in Alaska where sunsets are sometimes rare?

I recognize that these are outlier scenarios. But they serve the point that without a calendar and a way to identify the weekly cycle, it might be difficult to distinguish the Sabbath day from any other. It is commendable that we recognize anomalies – whether in Norway or Alaska – where sunsets don’t conform to generally recognizable patterns, and make allowances for local Adventist communities.

If identification of the first part of the Sabbath command is nebulous, the second is not. It is about what we do or don’t do on the Sabbath, much more than the day itself. And that is what we have traditionally judged others by. Our Sabbath stick gatherer could have thought, fantasized or dreamed about picking up sticks that Sabbath. And if that was all he did and didn’t act on his mental gyrations about picking those tempting sticks, no one would have hauled him before Aaron and Moses or the assembly. We are exposed only when we act on our thinking.

I became an Adventist as a teenager and remember fondly being surrounded by seasoned Adventists who modelled “proper” Sabbath behavior. All activities, especially what happened after “divine service,” revolved around evangelism and other forms of proselytizing. My mentor, Elder AC Abbequaye, introduced me to Prison Ministry. It was in the prisons on Sabbath afternoons that I felt most useful and needed. I peached, counseled and listened. But more than anything, the prison atmosphere was all the reminder I needed to never be an inmate. Engagement with prison ministry was high on the Sabbath to-do list.

In the summer of my sophomore college year, I went to Sweden as a student colporteur to sell Adventist books. One Sabbath, the Stockholm Youth pastor invited my friend and me to spend the day with his church. After church and lunch, we accompanied the youth group to a nearby beach where some of the young people quickly organized an impromptu 4-on-4 soccer tournament, while others swam or just took in the sun on beach towels. I was not prepared for this brand of Sabbath observance, but I waited until the evening was over and gave the young pastor a piece of my disapproving mind. He listened quietly as I went through my sanctimonious speech. When I finished, he put his arm around my shoulders and whispered: “Matthew, occasionally, like today, we go to the beach on Sabbaths. It is one of various activities we organize to keep our youth together on Sabbaths, in a church atmosphere. We’ve decided this is better than risking having them be by themselves in the streets.” Looking back, I count that episode as one of my first meaningful lessons in the power of local solutions.

One of the fondest memories of my Adventist youth is associating the Sabbath day with excellence. It was drummed into us to be the best versions of ourselves every Sabbath. This included grooming, dressing and manners. Nothing exemplified this better than in our attitude toward Sabbath foods. To the average Ghanaian, no food was better than fufu, surrounded by an ocean of soup choices – pepper, palm nut or peanut butter. Ghanaians’ love affair with fufu transcends religion, tribe, education or economic status. And it is with fufu that the early Adventist church in Ghana encountered a major conflict with its “only the best is good on the Sabbath” mantra. The reason? Fufu preparation is hard, sweat-inducing “work.” The boiled cassava is pounded into submission with a long heavy pestle in a wooden mortar. It takes at least two adults to work this through. Because we couldn’t hide the fact that it took hard strenuous work to produce this magic, the early expatriate missionaries to Ghana had no difficulty banning the beloved cuisine from the Sabbath table. In the attempt to sort out competing values in early Ghanaian Adventism, the Sabbath excellence doctrine fell casualty to “work”, if excellence was perceived to be a product of labor.

But thanks mainly to the relentless march of technology, there is an emerging solution. Fufu can now be prepared without breaking sweat. These days, on Sabbath, Ghanaian Adventists in the western diaspora can blend or knead processed cassava or plantain to approximate pounded fufu. Since little noticeable manpower is expended, the fufu police are kept at bay.

The reason for these stories about Sabbath dos and don’ts is to highlight the fact that even though the Sabbath is the most unifying Adventist doctrine, we don’t endorse a uniform way of observing it. We accommodate our differences. But for many among us, what we do or fail to do on Sabbath is still fraught with guilt and doubt. That is why consideration of Jesus’ broader approach to behavioral issues is instructive. He says, for example, that thinking it is as bad as doing (Matt 5:28), a radical thought which broadens our culpability and consequently lessens our eagerness to be first in casting the death stone. Concerning Sabbath “work,” Jesus appears to bait the religious leaders by defending Sabbath behavior that was deemed unlawful and could merit the death penalty. (Mark 2:23-27) Then, in a switch, he uses the occasion to explain why the Sabbath was never intended as a shooting gallery for vigilantes.

How does Jesus’ new interpretive approach impact the law on Sabbath violation in Exodus (31:14) and the God-sanctioned killing of the man who gathered sticks? Whatever the implication, it should no longer be argued that this man’s gruesome killing served a deterrence in the light of Jesus’ explanation. God sees and values us as individuals. Calvary’s gift is for the individual and not the group. Therefore, I can’t fathom a God who makes individuals expendable for the sake of the collective. What I can attest to is that by liberalizing this Sabbath law, Jesus allows us all to breathe easier. We can exhale because the law that promised Sabbath rest had devolved into an oppressive burden of rules we carried around our necks every Sabbath.

So why don’t we stone Sabbath breakers anymore? Because we all do things on the Sabbath that, if judged by the standards which cost the stick-gatherer his life, ours would be demanded as well. We see, in the dead man’s sad eyes, recollections of our own tendencies and inclinations that got him killed. And we, like the blood-curdling mob that was at the ready to stone the “adulterous” woman before Jesus, read our own deep secrets in Christ’s sand – and cannot do it. We don’t stone Sabbath breakers anymore because we realize we are all Sabbath breakers who have found grace in the company of the Lord of the Sabbath.

Matthew Quartey is a transplanted Ghanaian who now lives in and calls the Adventist ghetto of Berrien Springs, Michigan, home.

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8943
1 Like

As always, Matthew Quartey, you write a stunningly provocative, powerful and pertinent perspective on the principles underlying Adventism’s doctrines.

As an aside, some of the stories in the Old Testament are so vicious violent and venomous they do not portray the loving, compassionate Savior of the Gospels . It is often difficult to imagine the same deity prevails in the
OT and NT.

A good Adventist friend told me recently, she does not teach Old Testament Bible stories to her toddlers . Indeed many are not appropriate bedtime tales.

I grew up in a very conservative (and extremely poor ) Adventist family.
We never had money to eat out at cafes/restaurants and always camped on our family vacations. But I have à fond memory of a rare occasion where we were going to need a meal on Sabbath . My dear father went to the restaurant on Friday and pre-paid for the food.

But Sabbath afternoons were boring after my father, a lay elder, had made the necessary rounds visiting the sick and discouraged church members.

My first private practice professional appointment was at the enormous two thousand bed MEMPHIS BAPTIST HOSPITAL. (no longer existing )

A Saturday surgery schedule was in place . I arranged for my non Adventist anesthesiology partners to cover my shift. It was an extra chore for them and some resented it.

Then I moved to a large Adventist Medical Center where there was not a fixed Sabbath surgery schedule. However not infrequently non emergency surgery was performed forcing me to miss the sabbath worship Hour!,

Made me wonder why I had inconvenienced my former anesthesiology colleagues with my insistent Sabbath keeping requests!

My three daughters attended a private non SDA all girls school .
However our church had a series of superb youth pastors who ran a constant activity schedule from Friday night through the weekend. No doubt, as with your Swedish experience, some activities may have been “eye brow raising”. to more conservative folk. But my adult children remember with great fondness their Sabbaths with the church youth group.

I remember a Sabbath rule when at the beach. We lived hundreds of miles from the ocean, but camped at the beach one week a year. It was OK to paddle at the sea edge, on Sabbath, but not to get your legs wet above your knees!

My step son recently informed me that he is a member of a mega Sunday church in Phoenix The thousands of members require multiple worship,services.

I asked which of the many Sunday morning services he attended. He stated that this congresftion also had two services on Saturday afternoon and that his family electively attended these, so that Sunday would be free for recreational activities!.

I laughed out loud and told my step son that he was finally a “Sabbath keeper”.

Some of my Catholic friends now attend Saturday afternoon services at their parish instead of going on Sunday. So much for forthcoming “Sunday Laws”.

Speaking of Catholics and their latest breaking sex scandal ——— my South African countryman, comedian TREVOR NOAH, has just labeled Catholicism ‘“A molesting club with an opening prayer”. What would EGW think of this label. if she were alive today ???

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How about the idea that we don’t stone sabbath breakers because we would be prosecuted by the authorities for murder?

This is not to mention that the relationship of the early church to the Torah/ Law was something that changed once Gentiles were accepted as Gentiles. The sabbath seems like a much more grey issue for Gentile believers, especially from the Pauline letters, than we ever allow for in Adventism.

Of course, denominational identity is staked upon it. But, is Christian identity to be?

Thanks…

Frank

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I came to Adventism at around 16. Not knowing Sabbath rules, I just followed what everybody else did/didn’t do. I gave up school band concerts on Friday nights, as well as playing for Friday night football games. There were Sabbath hikes, and a lot of waiting around on Sabbath afternoons. On rainy Sabbaths, it was permissible to play card games with pictures of birds, butterflies, and plants on them, but not boats or buildings; and definitely not red or black hearts, or kings and queens - EVER.

Our kids spent their youth in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (long winters - lots of snow). The UP Michiganders had figured out that cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing are a lot like hiking, except on skis and snow shoes - that took the place of hiking (lots of summer hiking). That place is completely surrounded by water, so hot summers were spent near water (OK to wade, but don’t swim). So, at one point we decided enough of that, and our kids took to the water in the summer, where it’s said, “the ice doesn’t melt; only sinks to the bottom”.

Here’s the thing - either,the Sabbath can be kept as prescribed at its inception; or not kept at all. The only place on earth where there is a uniform 24 hour period when everyone concerned can keep that same period of time HOLY, as intended, is Israel. The way it’s set up now, there’s actually 48 hour period of time that’s presumably holy time on this earth. By the time sundown travels from the “international time line people”, all around the earth, there will have been 48 hours of holy time experienced on earth. in other words, while some people start “holy time,” sundown will not have reached another group of people - and so on. By the time the last people have seen the end of Sabbath, 48 hours will have passed. Add to that, the issue of latitudes where the sun never sets in summer, and never appears in winter, the whole issue is moot. According to EGW those living above the Arctic circle should definitely move. If all that’s necessary to comply with the fourth commandment is to keep one seventh of the week as Sabbath (which is what this amounts to) , why get upset with “Apostate Protestantism”?)

And don’t get me started on the “new moon” calculations.

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What Adventists don’t want to admit is that to many early Christians, including especially the Apostle Paul, after having been baptized into the death, the burial and the resurrection of the Risen Christ they now lived “In Christ,” no longer in Adam, but in the Last Adam. All things having to do with the creation of Adam were now left in the grave; they had died to all that. Now they lived in the New Creation (2 Cor 5: 17). In the New Creation all days are the same, that is to say, Sabbaths (Rom. 14: 5). “Let every one be convinced in his own mind” as the Spirit guides him/her. Being convinced is what faith is about. “That which is not of faith is sin” (Rom 14: 23). Nothing can be more Christian than that. We do not stone Sabbath breakers because we no longer live under Aaron and Moses.

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I like Christ’s statement— The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. Adventist take Paul’s statement to heart when he advised Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach sake. Maybe about 4-5 Oz with dinner. Seems we know Timonthy’s stomach quite well.

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Sirje,

You are so astute about the international date line.

I once attended the Adventist church In Sydney, Australia on Sabbath morning and boarded a plane for Los Angeles that Saturday evening.

Technically sundown had already occurred for me, when I boarded the plane. However modern air travel created for me two consecutive Sabbaths,—back to back.

When crossing the date line I entered a new Sabbath day, arriving in Los Angeles at three pm on Saturday afternoon.

Was I sinning when I chose to watch an in flight movie during that fourteen hour flight ?? And I clearly arrived too late to attend my Los Angeles worship hour that LA Sabbath, but had I not just attended a Sabbath worship hour in Sydney?

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No problem if it was “VEGGIE TALES”. (That’s meaningful only if you have kids.) :smile:

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Am going to post this here as it relates to the subject matter. It’s a bit lengthy but I can’t post a link as it comes from a FB group that requires joining…

John Borton
Your Questions Come From Satan.

To EGW, the issues surrounding the International Date Line or “IDL” (and/or versions thereof) were SERIOUS Satan stuff. She refers to it no less than 5 times directly as a snare or trap or fallacy of Satan.

Being previously more a regional affair, the formal International Date Line was mulled over at an 1884 “International Meridian Conference” attended by 25 countries, but no official decisions were made in its regard. It began to show up officially on maps in the 1890s, and became somewhat formalized in the late part of that decade by the American and British Navy chart departments. We touch on this history to make the point that these ‘Satan’ comments from Ellen all come from between 1897 to the year 1900 – smack in the middle of the discussion / implementation of the agreements relating to the still very new IDL.

It should also be noted that with a round earth, a date line IS a necessity for the use of the Gregorian (or Julian, or …) calendar. If you are going to have a day defined by 24 hours on a round earth, you’re going to have to have a day break somewhere to keep it all straight. The only question regarding the existence of this line is “where does it go”? Existence required, location negotiable, technical impact on the Sabbath issue the same no matter where it is.

EGW in her “Satan” quotes, called it the “day-line”, but let’s make sure we understand what she meant when she used that term. Here we see clearly that she understood what the IDL was and that she used that term (“day-line”) to refer to the IDL:

EGW:
// “Between Samoa and Auckland we crossed the day-line, and for the first time in our lives we had a week of six days. Tuesday, December 1, was dropped from our reckoning, and we passed from Monday to Wednesday.” // {Bible echo}

Now that we have established that when referring to the “day line”, EGW is referring to some implementation of an IDL like “date line”, let’s look at what she thought of this dastardly day line issue.
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(for the moment, I am giving just the short snippets - we’ll talk context in a moment)

EGW:
1: // “Now, my dear sister, this talk about the day line is only a something that Satan has devised as a snare.” // {3SM 317.3}

2: // “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.” // {3MR 255.2}

3: // “The fallacy of the day line is a trap of Satan to discourage. I know what I am speaking about.” // {Lt118-1900.17}

4: // “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 318.4}

5: // “We took Brother and Sister Haskell with our team to the station at Dora Creek. On the way Brother Haskell read an article on the day line, written to meet the fallacies that are coming in to make everything uncertain in regard to when the seventh day comes.” // {Ms173-1897.16}
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One more related quote by EGW before we try to figure out what was so Satanic about the date line issue and it’s a quote (one of many) showing that EGW was seriously into precision when it came to keeping the Sabbath - “obedience is required”. This is a test. You better keep it, and you better keep it right or face a “consuming fire”.
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EGW:
// “The Lord accepts all the obedience of every creature He has made, according to the circumstances of time in the sun-rising and the sun-setting world. Obedience is the test. All this ploughing into the intricacy of the precise minutes and hours of the Sabbath—it is the test of man’s obedience to honor and glorify God. To sin, or transgression of His law, God will prove a consuming fire. The Sabbath observance is “a sign between me and you throughout your generations forever. … therefore obedience is required of the people that are in perfect consistency with the Lord’s created world.” // {Lt167-1900.4,6}
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Now for the context:

As ‘round the world’ travel became more common and widespread, the more formal recognition of an IDL was a secular topic during the time in question. Easy access to such travel capabilities had enabled a much broader scope of SDA missionary work and with the days of the week being an extremely important issue with Adventists, the ‘day line’ had similarly become a bit of a hot topic among some in the Church. The discussion centered around where the date line should be with regard to the Sabbath day.

The argument for departing from the secular IDL went something like this: The secular implementation of the IDL is merely a man made construct placed out in the Pacific ocean only because it was a convenient place to do so as it was the least disturbing to trade (all this was true). But to SDAs, the days and nights were first created for the Garden of Eden and this would mean that the first Sabbath sunset occurred in that location and worked its way westward (this logic would also be true).

The conclusion of this argument asserts that the ‘law of God’ or biblical day-line (BDL) would not be based on the 180 degree inverse of the Prime Meridian as with the newly formalized ‘law of man’ IDL, but rather at about 43 degrees east of said Prime Meridian in the supposed region of the Garden of Eden.

Now the logic of the BDL argument is truly unassailable given the assumed facts. … IF the first sunset occurred in the Garden and progressed westward, THEN the only truly biblical location for a date line would be this starting location. But let’s be blunt, few struggled more with the implications of an ‘IF / THEN’ statement than EGW. She wanted her sweeping statements to stand unchallenged by reality. She could deliver a statement so divinely inspired and perfectly clear (to her apparently) and then promptly wave off the associated tsunami of implications with some version of “I have been shown you are not to ask such questions”. This is exactly what she did here.

EGW harped constantly on the need to keep the Sabbath exactly when it should be kept. The SDA church is literally based on that premise. But like trying to nicely wrap a single cloth around a globe and hoping no one points out the necessarily crumpled seams, she didn’t want people pointing out the crumpled seams in her statements regarding keeping the Sabbath precisely. And so of course in an obvious defense mechanism, it became “Satanic” to challenge her on this.

EGW was a woman of incredible conflict. From the record, it seems internal consistency was not something high on her list of priorities, and so it was here. She claimed to accept a round world, but she didn’t want the ‘crumpled seam’ issues inherent to a round world discussed. Her Sabbath issues was driven by the concept of ‘the time of sunset’ and her position shows she truly wanted to think of this only as it related to a flat earth - even going so far as to state that living in the regions of the world where sunsets get seasonally fuzzy was objectionable to God. She couldn’t seem to wrap her head around the fact that a globe creates Sabbath ‘fuzzies’ whether she liked it or not - and real people had to live those fuzzies.

Another way to describe EGWs philosophy when things got sticky was ‘Out of sight - Out of mind’ and no case would illustrate that more than this one. The clear EGW problem with observing the BDL, is that if implemented by the church (and not the world), everyone from the BDL eastward to the IDL would be worshiping on the actual seventh biblical day, but also on the secular Sunday. When she wrote the “Satan” comments she herself was living in Australia and thus would have been forced to worship on the same day as the Catholics. No logic nor geographic discovery nor scientific progress was going to make EGW lose her ‘I have the true day and you don’t’ identity.

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EGW:
// “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. … The truth is, we have the original Sabbath to observe, and all the sophistry of human and satanic science combined should only teach us to cling more firmly to the truth.” // {Lt118-1900.18}

(Note: the above problem is actually even a bit stickier than described, because if you were to revert from the IDL back to the BDL, do you ‘walk’ the line back around the globe to the east or to the west? The relevant question being of course which direction did it come from when it arrived in the Pacific originally. Take it back the '‘wrong’ direction and you worship a full day off from God’s plan)

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Even if somehow the entire world were convinced to accept the BDL over the IDL, the problem still wouldn’t conform to the EGW desired standard of ‘Out of sight - Out of mind’ and here’s how:

Imagine a city on the BDL where there are two SDA churches (Baghdad, Iraq essentially straddles this proposed line for instance). The members of the church to the west of the town will be mowing the church lawn on sunny Sunday while at the same time the members of the church on the east side are preaching the Sabbath day message. Some of these people will undoubtedly know each other locally and yet they are faithfully (and biblically correctly) worshiping on different days.

Even worse, what about SDA neighbors right across the BDL from each other? One household is all ready for a fun SDA saturday night popcorn and games get together while the house next door is holding vespers and singing “Day is dying in the west, heaven is touching earth with rest”.

More troubling yet, what if the reason there are two churches in the town is due to language diversity and the members whose home is on the west side of town speak the language of and thus attend the church located to the east of the BDL. Which day is the Sabbath for them? For them to attend the church of their language, though even only a few blocks away from their house, they must literally worship on the biblical first day of their own week, not the Sabbath.

As you can see, once you go down the fundamentalist route (and a literal “The seventh day is the Sabbath” observance is PURE fundamentalism), you’ve gone down a round world rat hole from which you can never return intact. People, REAL people, sincere people, can’t make sense of it (because it doesn’t always make sense everywhere on the globe).

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EGW:
// “Is it possible that so much importance can be clustered about those who observe the Sabbath, and yet no one can tell when the Sabbath comes? Then where is the people who bear the badge or the sign of God? What is the sign? The Seventh-day Sabbath, which the Lord blessed and sanctified, and pronounced holy, with great penalties for its violation.” // {3MR 254.2}

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Back to the ‘Out of sight - Out of mind’ mindset of EGW. Any grade school geography student can figure out that the IDL has the same Sabbath issues the BDL has (even worse as it turns out) most of us just aren’t forced to stare those problems in the face.

SDA churches in New Zealand lie to the east of portions of the IDL and yet worship with the west side. SDA churches in Hawaii lie to the west of portions of the IDL and yet worship with the east side. It still happens that some households on the line are popping the popcorn and other households on the line are vespers bound - the only difference is they can’t hear each other through the curtains as they do it. Out of sight - Out of mind.

Don’t think the oddities don’t still exist? - get your head out of the EGW sand … and don’t think we’re talking thousands of miles here – there are large SDA populations and churches today on islands on opposite sides of the IDL that can be SEEN from each other in good weather.

In EWG’s lifetime, the Philippines (being associated with Spain) were on the east side of the IDL while at the same time what would become known as Alaska (being associated with Russia) was on the west side. This created a mind blowing overlap of a full third of the globe - creating a time difference of 32 hours (and there were SDA churches in Alaska well before the Alaska purchase which moved the IDL to its present location).

Since the establishment of the SDA church, multiple locations have been moved from one side of the IDL to the other (some back and forth multiple times).

In Fiji, the first missionaries arrived from the Australian region and taught the natives the names of the days of the week and worship times from their home perspective. Soon missionaries arrived from America with the “news” that the inhabitants were one day off with their day names and were worshiping on the “wrong’ day (this is all documented in Ministry Magazine for those interested).

Changes to the IDL impacting SDA churches have occurred as recently as 2011 when Samoan SDA’s refused to go along with the switch back from the earlier switch across (yes, back and forth) and against all EGW exhortation, now worship on the same day as the Catholics … Sunday (seriously … check it out for yourself).

The above examples should suffice to show that what Ellen White was following and blindly claiming to be the unchanging and unchangeable command of God, was actually a regularly changing construct of man – all the while covering her ears and screaming - not the childish “I can’t hear you”, but rather in context the even more childish “Satan, Satan, Satan”.

It should be obvious by now that the SDA church has adopted the ‘man’s law’ IDL over the “God’s law” BDL for the exact same reasons that the secular world has adopted the various incarnations of the IDL … practicality, and that’s all fine unless you try to mislead me as to the real reason.

And that brings us to the point of this piece – integrity. A person of integrity, when faced with the implications of their statements, faces them. They don’t bob and weave and then cry “Satan is causing you to question me”. A person of integrity faces the questions and the implications head on.

As a divine prophet, don’t tell me God demands perfect observance and then tell me my honest and well founded questions regarding this perfect observance are from Satan. Don’t tell me we must follow the commands of God and not the constructs of man and then immediately follow the constructs of man. Don’t tell me details are important and then follow up by telling me to stop concerning myself with the details. Don’t tell me to follow God even if inconvenient and then bail on your instructions because doing it right is inconvenient.

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EGW:
// “To Stand Fast by Our Colors.– My sister, let not your faith fail. We are to stand fast by our colors, the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. All those who hold the beginning of their confidence firm unto the end will keep the seventh-day Sabbath, which comes to us as marked by the sun.” // {Lt118-1900.17}

Her colors ran.

10 Likes

Thanks for posting this interesting synopsis of the issues in various locations. We can’t even know at this point in time, whether the day we consider to be Saturday in any part of the world is actually the seventh day of the week, if we’re counting from the beginning of time.

I don’t believe in a God that sets His people up to fail on a weekly basis.

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So, we’re back to the “new moon” sorry folks.

There actually was a way to determine the Sabbath and it wasn’t by counting by sevens since the beginning of time. The original Sabbath was calculated by the appearance of the new moon. That set the beginning of a new month; and the Sabbaths were counted from that - every seventh day.

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The law as part of the old age/ creation under Adam is clear in Paul. Our insistence on imposing sabbath keeping for belonging to the people of God is like putting new wine into old wine skins. It doesn’t work. It never defined being Christian, then, now, nor as the final identifying marker in the end.

We need a serious revision of thought, belief and practice as a world wide body in the gospel. Gospel freedom, diversity, and unity need to become real values, more than the observance of the day. We need to admit where the founders and the in house “prophet” were simply wrong as we try to go about the business of being simply Christian.

Thanks…

Frank

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OK, thanks for that.

She had no idea what she was speaking about.

This is how all people will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.

And that’s the whole problem, isn’t it? From plagiarism, to bad theology, to a convenient wax nose, to demonizing those who disagreed, and to never being able to admit she was wrong about anything.

Her colors ran, is right, Paul! This organization needs to own up to the issues and problems once for all…and see that the gospel and belief/obedience to it is enough to be Christian!

Thanks…

Frank

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The fourth commandment and God’s instruction to kill the man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath are historically conditioned. Both are informed not solely by the thoughts of God but by the historical context of sinful humanity in which God inserted Himself. Most Seventh-day Adventists, because they do not possess what the hermeneutics literature refers to as historical consciousness, erroneously believe that God’s law is eternal, transcendent, universal, absolute, and unchangeable. But Scripture clearly teaches that historical context changes, and as the historical context changes, God’s law changes. Scripture is relevant; we are interested in the law of God that governed the ancients, because there are commonalities between the historical context of the ancients and our historical context. To understand God’s law that is applicable to us in our particular historical context is not a theological undertaking but an anthropological and historical one. The failure of most Seventh-day Adventists to understand hermeneutics continues to cripple their interpretation of Scripture. Thank you for this interesting essay.

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Yes, I’ve heard that before and it’s an interesting argument.

I’ll add that in the commandments we are told to keep the Sabbath “holy” and then that is subsequently defined as resting, the opposite of working, which you did on other days. No worshiping is mentioned. Just resting. Somewhere along the way the resting turned into worshiping and a long list of prohibited things that in no way can be construed as working.

To support this argument, notice that every time Jesus was chastised or questioned by the priestly authorities regarding the Sabbath they accused him of working on the Sabbath in some technical way. For example, picking grain for a snack as he walked through a field or even healing the sick. Never did they suggest that he was worshiping wrong, since even in their legalistic minds keeping the Sabbath is not about worshiping correctly, but instead resting correctly.

Also note that their legalistic thinking is presented negatively in the bible and Jesus reacts to it by repeatedly indicting that black-and-white thinking, rule following, is not the correct way to keep the Sabbath - that there is a better more subtle way.

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Yes, exactly.

I posted this a few minutes ago, which also points this out.

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Yes! And beyond that we don’t even follow the commandment. It does not say to worship on Saturday. It says very clearly to rest after working no more than six days in a row.

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Right. How many different covenants (contracts) can we think of in the bible? There’s one with Adam, one with Abraham, and one with Moses. I’m pretty sure there are more. Then there are Jesus’ statements about ‘fulfilling’, which I expect amounts to another. Paul seems to think so, to think that Jesus replaces the last covenant with something new.

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This is an emotional issue more than any kind of issue of exegesis. Clearly, there are problems connecting Sabbath keeping to the NT Gospel - however, whatever, brought us all to this place, as Seventh-day Adventists, has deep emotional bonds to our thinking and our way life. Either, we’re still connected to Adventism by habit, or simply have no idea how else to live our lives. Let’s not forget, for a lot of Adventists, it’s terrifying to hear some of the facts associated with how these beliefs came about, and how they were sustained all this time. Some feel duped and may even be angry; others, confused; and still others are tenaciously hanging on. There are various ways to react to all this. For those honestly seeking truth and guidance for life, we have the promise that “if we seek - we will find”; and we have been promised the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth.

If we find that the Sabbath, as we have been taught, has lost integrity, it’s certainly part of a way of life we can respect. How ever it’s defined, it’s obvious as Christians, we would seek a time to disconnect from our everyday concerns and toils, and can find refreshment from a time-out to concentrate on the reason for our faith in gospel of Christ. Does it have to be on Saturday… why not, as long as we don’t keep polishing the halo around the fourth commandment that outshines all the others. This changes how we think of ourselves - “who we are” - and how we feel about other Christians who worship God on some other day of the week.

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