A new book from B&H Academic: Perspectives on the Sabbath: 4 Views, edited by Chris Donato. Here are the contributors and the descriptions of their positions from the back cover:

Skip MacCarty (Andrews University) defends the seventh-day view, which argues that the fourth commandment is a moral law of God requiring us to keep the seventh day, Saturday, holy. It must therefore remain the day of rest and worship for Christians.

Joseph A. Pipa (Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) backs the Christian Sabbath view. He reasons that every since the resurrection of Christ, the one day in seven to be kept holy is Sunday, the first day of the week.

Charles P. Arand (Concordia Seminary) upholds the Lutheran view that the Sabbath commandment was given to Jews alone and does not concern Christians. Rest and worship are still required but are not tied to a particular day.

Craig L. Blomberg (Denver Seminary) supports the Fulfillment view: since Christ has brought the true Sabbath rest into the present, the Sabbath commands of the Old Testament are no longer binding on believers.

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33 thoughts on “Four Views on the Sabbath”

  1. Dan K. says:

    Justin,

    Just curious, what view do you personally hold?

    Thanks,
    Dan

      1. Dan K. says:

        Thank you! I couldn’t remember if Schreiner’s article was on your blog or Kevin’s. His interpretation of Colossians 2 was eye-opening to me.

        Thanks again.

  2. Rafael Alcantara says:

    Are the positions 3 and 4 are mutually exclusive or can be believed at the same time by one person?

    Thanks,
    Rafael

    1. CS says:

      Based solely on the descriptions above, I would say they’re definitely compatible (at least I would hold to both of them). However, whether that’s the case or not with how they’re fleshed out by their respective defendants, I don’t know.

      1. Chris Donato says:

        Yes, definitely compatible. The main difference will be—the extent to which the more liturgical traditions rely on past councils of the church. This didn’t come out as clearly as I had hoped in Arand’s “Lutheran” view (though it is implied), but that’s what I was shooting for.

  3. Mark Priestap says:

    Justin – Is Blomberg’s view the same as Calvin’s? http://www.fivesolas.com/calsaba.htm

    I found the Genevan Catechism really helpful on this.

    1. Michael says:

      Calvin would hold to a Christian Sabbath, which is what most non-Lutheran Protestants held until the past 100 years.

      To me, the question to ask is “Do I hold to 9 commandments or all 10?” And also, is the Sabbath grounded in creation or the Mosaic law?

      1. Laura says:

        And the question, to me, is “Have all the commands of God found their ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ in Christ, or all but ten?” ;)

        1. CMM says:

          Here is where I struggle with this question: does it really make sense that because Jesus kept and fulfilled the law, we are now allowed to break it? The problem with this is that we don’t do it with every command. No one has this debate about theft, or adultery, or idolatry, or murder. No one argues that since Christ faithfully abstained from adultery we are now allowed to excercise our freedom with regard to this command.

          I’m familiar with the “moral law” argument, but I believe it has no validity. God himself is the arbiter of morality; there is no universal code beyond his word. Actions can only have the moral value that he assigns to them. I don’t claim to have all the answers by any means, but the widely held belief that Jesus’ obedience sanctions our disobedience is confusing to me.

      2. henrybish says:

        Michael,

        those are good questions, but I would ask:

        1) On what basis do you single out those particular 10 commandments from the Mosaic law and say they are abiding? They were written on stone tablets, yes, but what does that prove?

        2) Do you think early Gentile Christians would have exempted the Sabbath commandment from the scope of the Acts 15 decision, especially in light of Acts 15:5 which seems to refer to the whole law of Moses?

        1. Jeff Downs says:

          Henry,

          Regarding your first question, here is where this volume would come in handy From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law.

          1. henrybish says:

            Many thanks Jeff.

  4. Jeff Downs says:

    I have to say, from what I looked at Dr. Pipa does a fine job refuting Blomberg.

    1. CMM says:

      What evidence does Pipa put forth to support his view? It seems to me to have the least support in Scripture.

      1. Jeff Downs says:

        Dr. Pipa taught two hours on this subject at Greenville Seminary this past Friday. The course is titled Reformed Spirituality, which someone else regularly (Dr. John Carrick) teaches, but since Dr. Pipa has written and taught on this subject for years, he asked Dr. Pipa to fill in. I have posted the particular class here

        For those who do not believe Calvin held to the Sabbath, need to read Chris Coldwell’s article “Calvin in the Hands of the Philistines, Or, Did Calvin Bowl on the Sabbath?” You can find this in The Confessional Presbyterian, Vol 6 (2010)

        1. CMM says:

          Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out.

          1. henrybish says:

            Jeff,

            I think I have even heard John Frame (who is a sabbatarian I think) indicate that Calvin did not have that view of the Sabbath. Why would he think that?

              1. Chris Donato says:

                Suffice to say, it’s highly disputable that Calvin held a view of the sabbath similar to that of the Westminster divines.

                Having sat under Frame at RTS some years ago, I remember him thinking (of course) that he was following Calvin’s trajectory on this score—which was basically a “one-in-seven” principle. Still sabbatarian, but not for quite the same reasons (or restrictions) as the puritans gave.

  5. AStev says:

    I think Paul addresses the issue in Romans 14:5-6.

    It seems a day of rest – like all worship – is something we *should* do (as it both benefits us and glorifies God), but – like all worship – we should be cautious about mandating it in a legalist fashion.

  6. Jeffrey Brannen says:

    I think the Sabbath question is probably the clearest indication of an individuals belief on the relationship of the OT to the NT. A diagnostic test, of sorts.

    I would also suspect that there is a close connection between infant baptism and the Christian Sabbath as well as believer’s only baptism and the Fulfillment View.

    1. Jeff Downs says:

      “I would also suspect that there is a close connection between infant baptism and the Christian Sabbath as well as believer’s only baptism and the Fulfillment View.”

      One might think this is the case, but this is certainly not the case. Many confessional reformed baptist would hold to the sabbath.

    2. Matt Morales says:

      Jeffrey, I agree with you statement that the Sabbath issue is a good diagnostic test of a person’s view of the OT in relation to the NT.

  7. Stan Ermshar says:

    As a former Seventh Day Adventist, I would say that the 7th day view is the only consistent view. The only problem is that the Seventh -day Adventist church borders on being a cult.

    I now am a partial Preterist and believe that all Sabbath days came to an end in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem.

    Stan

    1. Nick Kersten says:

      Stan, I share your concerns. It is worth noting that the SDA church was not the origination point of Sabbatarian views in the US–it was the Seventh Day Baptist church. Though not as large, SDBs do not hold some of views many (including myself) find troubling in the SDA doctrines. Seventh Day Baptists (full disclosure: I am a SDB) do not hold that keeping the Sabbath has any tie to salvation, but that it still holds value for believers because the day was sanctified by God at creation.

      1. Michael says:

        Stan and Nick,

        The SDA’s based their sabbatarian views from a SDB flier. I grew up SDA and have studied the doctrine for many years before coming to a reformed understanding of the Bible. Joseph Bates found a SDB flier and the rest is history for the SDA’s. I personally find the view of Roman 14 the most helpful although there are many others in Christ full filled the whole Law to include the Ten Commandments. It is no longer what you do but why you do it. We are told that we will only be able to do good because it is the Holy Spirit working through us not that we could do it ourselves. James tells us a sin starts in the mind and Romans 14 says anything that is not done for Christ’s glory is a sin.

  8. Jeff Downs says:

    I mentioned an article above on Calvin, but the post reads “Your comment is awaiting moderation,” and it has been in that stage since yesterday. So, let me try again and add some material. This article maybe of interest to some “Calvin in the Hands of the Philistines, Or, Did Calvin Bowl on the Sabbath?”, by Chris Coldwell in The Confessional Presbyterian, Vol 6 (2010). The article begins this way
    “A remarkably durable anecdote about John Calvin, the great Protestand Refomer of Geneva, is often related by those critical of the Puritan view of the Sabbath. The goal seems to be to demonstrate that the Reformers were not tainted with that ‘pharisaical’ a strictness in observance of the Lord’s day–particularly respecting abstinence from otherwise lawful sports and recreations on that day. One Lord’s day, it is said, the Scottish Reformer John Knox paid a visit to his friend Calvin in Geneva. The greate Scot found, to his surprise, as the telling would seem to indicate, the austere Reformer of Geneva engaged in a game of bowls. There appears to be no good reason for the tales’ durability. It has been repeated and used uncritically by Seventh-day Adventist apologists, Calvin scholars who should known better, and also by anti-Sabbatarian writers.”

  9. We just had a discussion on this a couple of days ago in Bible Study. Many Christians here in the Bible Belt would take Pipa’s view. Many still remember blue laws and frown when they see people mowing the lawn while they are on the way to church. I pointed out Hebrews 4 because it seems pretty definitive and harmonizes with Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath in His day according to the accounts in the gospels. As such, while a day of rest isn’t binding (Blomberg’s view), it is a healthy thing to do and gives us a pattern by which to proclaim the true rest we have in Christ.

    That’s where I fall. I wouldn’t counsel people that they have to rest on Sunday lest they break some divine law. I would counsel that it’s a good idea to rest one day of the week, and Sunday is a good one, if any, that when people ask why we rest one day a week, we can tell them about God’s perfect rest for us in the last day.

    1. Jeff Downs says:

      Jim,

      Not sure what part of the Bible Belt you are in, but the many Christians in this the buckle of the Bible Belt (South Carolina) would certainly not hold to the same view as Dr. Pipa.

      1. I’m in the North Carolina Piedmont. I wouldn’t classify most Southern Baptists around here as legalistic according to a principle of law-righteousness, but they do tend to be functionally so out of respect for the “old ways”. It’s perhaps more of a sentimental moralism.

        Fundies do tend to be more principally legalistic. There are also a lot of Lutherans around here who tend to be very legal-minded and it’s hard to distinguish between their love for making rules and what they actually believe you need for salvation. Most other denominations have a mix of people with a healthy contingency of moralists.

  10. henrybish says:

    For the sabbatarians out there,

    Could you guys recommend some of the best material that defends the sabbatarian view? I have heard Frame’s Doctrine of the Christian Life mentioned here before, do you know of anything else that is especially good?

  11. Tom Wells says:

    Dear Brother: I was interested to see your comment on the Sabbath book. I hope you’ve not forgotten that you would review my recent book, The Christian and the Sabbath. I sent you several copies at Crossway. Did I miss your review or did those copies never reach you? Or is it part of the backlog we all get under?

    Best wishe in Christ, Tom

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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