there has been an interesting debate (if we can call it that) in some of the bigger pomo and anti-pomo blogs as of late about the nature of the sabbath, and why and whether we ought to celebrate it.
i have long felt that “church on sunday” has become almost an idol in itself, and the way we treat it, as if thou musteth attend on sunday morning were a salvation issue(1).
some churches even include regular attendance as compulsory — that one must attend in order to remain a member of that congregation.
this strikes me as setting up rules where jesus did not — a thing i have tried to be very careful about ever since i started taking this faith-thing seriously.
even in the most romanized books attributed to paul(2), where “paul” is at his most draconian we don’t see such rules.
and the real paul, as Jeremy Pierce at Parableman points out, was apparently against setting aside any day as “special” at all.
this is in line with what paul was all about: freedom. freedom from the old laws that brought death, not life. freedom from the roman empire (real peace, not pax). freedom, because of the work of god on the human heart, to be what it is one is really designed to be.
it seems very un-paul, and indeed very un-christian, to then turn around an apply the importance that we have to a “worship service”.
now, meeting together is important. we were not designed to do this thing alone, be it school, marriage, life, or faith.
but i believe we’ve allowed the cart to get ahead of the horse on this issue.
(1) salvation issue: this is a weird phrase, isn’t it? where did we come up with such a phrase? what, exactly, is a salvation issue? is it something that costs us our salvation? doesn’t paul tell us, rather clearly, that nothing can separate us from the love of god? jesus comes right out and says that if we forgive others, god forgives us — so how do we, then, turn around and talk about stuff as if it can take that away?
(2) i’ll go on record as saying that i believe only about half of the books that are said to be written by paul actually were. i think john dominic crossan, in his book “in search of paul” makes a very compelling case against pauline authorship of several of the “later” books, both from archeology and from studying the texts themselves. rather than go into it here where i have neither internet access nor the book in front of me, let it suffice for now that it seems some books were forged in paul’s name in order to “tone down” paul’s freedom message. he was preaching “dangerous” ideas, such as equality of men and women, freedom for slaves and these ideas were getting in the way of christianity being accepted by the upper-class roman citizens (though women and slaves were converting in droves, for obvious reasons).
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2 thoughts on “the sabbath”
I fail to see how this debate has anything to do with pomo vs. anti-pomo. The main people I’ve seen debating this on both sides wouldn’t touch pomo with a ten-foot pole. (Anti-pomo doesn’t mean modernist either, by the way.)
I don’t see anything about freedom from the Roman empire in Paul. After all, he’s the one who insists on submission to the Roman empire even when it persecutes in Romans 13, and he insists that Rome’s use of the sword to administer justice is divinely sanctioned.
Paul also has very harsh words for those who don’t live according to what he calls the law of Christ. If you just read Galatians, you might think he’s opposed to law in principle, but even there he calls the law a good thing to bring people along to a specific place so as to be prepared for the gospel, but it’s clear that by the time he wrote Romans he was convinced that there’s a deeper law of God that existed before the particular commands of the old covenant. So this isn’t about law as bad replaced by the gospel. It’s about particular commands as symbolic of deeper commands, and violation of those commands is exactly what deserves death and the reason why Jesus had to come to begin with.
I wouldn’t trust Crossan on the issue of Pauline authorship. He’s probably not very familiar with those he disagrees with. About half of the commentaries on Ephesians take Paul to have written it. I haven’t tallied up the numbers on Colossians. A minority of scholars think he wrote the letters to Timothy and Titus, but some formidable scholars have defended Pauline authorship of all five of those books. I think the arguments against are extremely poor, and the best of recent commentaries on those books have explained why. II Thessalonians is sometimes questioned, but those grounds are even weaker, and virtually no scholars of the current generation have accepted them. It’s generally taken to be authentic now. All the other epistles that claim to be Pauline are almost universally accepted.
The real issue here, of course, is whether you’re willing to accept what the Bible says about who wrote them. If not, then feel free to reject what it says. I see no reason not to trust what it says about its own authorship, especially given that the arguments against are pretty much all specious. But I’m also appalled at the idea that some people will view something as holy scripture inspired by God and then admit that it contains lies about its own authorship.
i don’t think the debate is “pomo vs. anti-pomo” at all, but it was discussed on many of the blogs that tend to comment on those themes. (even those that claim to not be on “either side” tend to talk a LOT about how they’re not 🙂
you’re correct about the real issue being whether one is willing to accept what the bible says about it’s own authorship.
what i’ve discovered, at least this far in my journey, leads me to believe the claims of authorship are not trustable.
i, personally, am very careful about using words such as “holy scripture” and “god inspired” when referring to the new testament books.
they don’t seem to make any such claim about themselves.
those attributes were assigned to them by those who gathered them together in what we have as “the bible”.