Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sabbath salve (3)

Michael Morrison confuses me with his Sabbath rhetoric.  On the one hand we should, he seems to say, feel able to do whatever we want (more or less) when it comes to observances and special days.  On the other hand, any form of seventh-day sabbatarianiasm is a very bad idea.

I recollect the wise words of Paul Tonson, a Baptist minister who, commenting on the Sabbath question, took a 'live and let live' line.  "It's really just a matter of tradition."

Forget the proof texts (and boy, does Michael thrash those proof texts!)  We embrace a particular tradition, sometimes out of conviction, sometimes because it's a family or ethnic heritage, sometimes because we just misunderstood or were misinformed.  But the story doesn't end there.  People then imbue traditions - including dubious ones - with significance and meaning beyond what they have inherited; given time they become part of our identity, something precious.  If they're in danger of turning toxic, or they clash with emerging reality, we reinterpret them.  Only an extreme fundamentalist would find that objectionable.

Traditions, when they no longer function effectively, can be transformed to keep them fit for purpose: to unilaterally rip them out of the heart of a community (as GCI has done) involves horrendous, needless cost.   Human existence is unthinkable without traditions and identity markers.

The early church itself seems to have been incredibly diverse, judging from the documents that made it into the New Testament.  Morrison wants to put the New Testament evidence through his meat grinder and make burger patties, all nicely consistent and saying the same thing.  If Luke has Jesus say something (perhaps quite different to Matthew's Jesus) then it quickly gets dumbed down to "Jesus said."  Really?  Quick, bring over a Harmony of the Gospels...  Harmonisation is sleight of hand and a denial of distinctives, leading us to imagine an ideal "apostolic church" where everyone agreed on everything, which clearly wasn't the case.

Now I realise that Michael is talking down to the little people, and that he is a very significant person in a very important congregation of GCI.  But, y'know, that only makes it worse.  In the cause of apologetics is it okay to stretch the evidence to fit?

Isn't that what a sect does?  Is this any different from what WCG did in years gone by?

Like Michael I'm now against any wooden, legalistic form of sabbatarianism, of either Sunday or Saturday varieties.  The idiotic idea that it goes back to a literal seven day creation, for example, is both harmful and untenable.  Living in the twenty-first century with all the benefit of knowledge literally at our fingertips, that's inexcusable.  But think of it as custom rather than command.  There's a lot to recommend a form of Sabbath-observance that values a time set aside from the rat-race, time for family, reflection and rebalance.  And it's probably Seventh-day Adventists and kindred communities who realise that (in both senses of the word 'realise') rather than your run of the mill Sunday mainliners.

Maybe we could cut them some slack on that at least.

Well, maybe Michael has some valuable insights when it comes to tithing.  Let's see...


  1. People mostly just follow the customs and traditions of the culture in which they were born and raised.

    They hardly ever question the truth of any of it but merely assume that certain things are done and other things are not done.

    People in America go to church because that's what they think they are supposed to do. People who don't are looked down on because they are not following the prescribed custom. Those poor souls need to be rescued from their sins (of not following the custom) and saved.

    Saved from what and saved for what is never quite clear and explanations vary from sect to sect. It used to be "Adamic Condemnation" that we had to be saved from but many sects no longer believe in that doctrine because is creates the distasteful fact that babies are born in sin and condemned at the moment of conception. Plus, it made Jesus born also under Adamic Condemnation with no way to even save himself.

    So, now, there isn't a proper explanation and everyone has their own idea of what they are to be saved from. They know it has to do with death but without "Adamic Condemnation" there would be nothing for which Jesus had to die, except for his own sin of or the sin of another being born a descendant of Adam and under the same curse as any other son of Adam.

    Yeah, see, so it gets really complicated from there. You can't get rid of Adamic Condemnation without conceding to the doctrine of Adamic Condemnation.

    That's why the virgin birth and immaculate conception of Mary and other complications have been invented over the centuries. Somehow, you have to make Jesus untainted by original sin, or else he was just as condemned by being born a son of Adam (through the flesh of his mother) as anyone else - even if his father was actually God.

    Heh. And some people think which holy day to "keep" is the all important thing.

  2. Actually Corky, as you well know, the stigma of NOT "going to church" in America, is pretty much gone.

  3. larry said...

    Actually Corky, as you well know, the stigma of NOT "going to church" in America, is pretty much gone.

    The stigma is still pretty healthy here in Arkansas. They don't voice it like they used to do though, it's all behind your back now - like other gossip.