The Christian Sabbath and the WCF

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Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
I am interested in getting the opinions of the members of the PB with regard to Sabbath issues and the WCF. As most of us know, it has become fashionable in our day to mock the Puritan view of the Sabbath. I was wondering how members of the PB would view statements such as these below on the issue, and what responses might be appropriate. These are quotes from a much larger paper which, by necessity, must remain anonymous at this point. Suffice it to say, these are not my own personal views.

First, with regard to issues of the Law:

I do not believe in a strict division of the law into moral, ceremonial, and civic laws. Such distinctions are useful at some lower level, but cannot be maintained strictly. I believe the law should be treated as a unified whole. This is how the Bible treats it in both New and Old Testaments. It simply calls it “the Law.” I believe that the entire law, including the Ten Commandments, was a shadow or type of Christ. The law pointed forward to the person and work of Christ, and to the blessings of the Kingdom he would bring. The Ten Commandments point forward to the morality that will exist in the Kingdom of God, and, by the Holy Spirit, already do exist in the Church. I believe the Law is useful, and meant for meditation and moral reflection, and the Westminster Catechisms are faithful examples of the sort of reflection that Christians should do with the Law. However, I think the confession itself views the Law too highly, and does not acknowledge its limitations. All of the Law and the Prophets did not hang on the Ten Commandments, but on love. I believe the Sabbath was fulfilled by Christ, and Christians have, by the Holy Spirit, entered into the rest foreshadowed by the Sabbath law, such that they are freed from the bondage of sin, and also, such that labor is redeemed from the curse of Genesis 3, inwardly, if not yet outwardly (2 Corinthians 4:16, 5:17). At his second coming, the full Sabbath rest, inward and outward, will be brought by Christ. I believe that all days are equally holy (Romans 14:5, Colossians 2:16), and that nothing is lawful on one day and unlawful on another day. Christians should worship every day, and do good on every day. I believe that the first day of the week is especially appropriate for gatherings of public worship, because it commemorates Jesus’ resurrection, and the New Testament attests that Christian worship occurred regularly on this day. I believe, on the basis of the golden rule, that Christians should try to abstain from doing things that might keep other Christians from public worship. For instance, if one eats out for lunch on Sunday, chances are that some Christian was required to be absent from Church so that they could prepare the meal or wait tables instead. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is to live by the rule of love under grace.

And now, with regard to Westminster Sabbatarianism:

The Christian ethic for the Lord’s Day is not “Sabbatarianism” based on an ideology of transferring the Old Testament Sabbath to the first day of the week. This misses the point of the Lord’s Day and woefully underestimates Christ’s fulfilling of the Sabbath and the Christian’s participation through the Holy Spirit in the eschatological rest of God. The Puritan view of the Lord’s Day, such as seen in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, regulated by thorough restriction and exaction, is more in line with Jewish letter-of-the-law ethics, not Christian living-in-the-Kingdom-by-the-Spirit ethics. The austerity of the Puritan Sabbath seems to out-Pharasaize the Pharisees by even forbidding thoughts about “worldly employments or recreations.” This is a terrible mistake. The surpassing of the righteousness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20) is not achieved by fencing the law even more rigorously than the Pharisees did, but by tearing down the fences and being set free by the Spirit to live presently in the coming eschatological age of freedom, thereby giving willing obedience and submission to God. The Jews wanted to obey the law, so they went to synagogue on the Sabbath. Christians want to live in the Spirit, so they assemble as the Church on the Lord’s Day. There is a different principle and motivation at work. The ethic of the Lord’s Day is the same as for the whole Christian life: it is enabling, freeing, and positive, not restrictive or exacting. The willing obedience of God’s people, who through the Spirit already live in the reality of the eschatological kingdom, replaces and surpasses the Jewish system of restrictions and exactions according to the letter of the law. It is in this way that Christian righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees.


It is thus somewhat misleading to call the Lord’s Day “the Christian Sabbath.” The Christian Sabbath is the whole freedom of the Kingdom of God, obtained by Christ, and enjoyed through the Holy Spirit now. The Lord’s Day, then, is not best understood as the Christian Sabbath, but as an eschatological day in distinction from the old Sabbath. It is the Christian celebration of entering into Christ’s resurrection. Questions of what is forbidden or required on the Lord’s Day are out of place, and motivated by a wrong understanding. As on every other day, sin is forbidden and love is required. The letter of the law is transcended by the law of the Spirit of life and of liberty for the adopted children of God (Romans 7:6, 8:2-4, Galatians 5:18).Their days become days of worship as all life and all work are freed and sanctified under the banner of the new creation. The Lord’s Day becomes a particular day for worship as Christians assemble together on the day of their Lord’s resurrection to commune with him in and receive the blessings of his death, resurrection, ascension, and return.

I await your responses.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
Is the author ashamed of what he wrote, or did he ask you to keep his name secret?

such that they are freed from the bondage of sin, and also, such that labor is redeemed from the curse of Genesis 3, inwardly, if not yet outwardly

It sounds like the person is thinking out loud. If labor is not yet redeemed outwardly, then you still need an outward rest.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
However, I think the confession itself views the Law too highly, and does not acknowledge its limitations.

It seems someone is admitting they do not believe the Confession(s) as a faithful summary of the doctrine of Scripture in some very basic ways.

Okay, so this person is not "Reformed." Nothing unusual about that. I suspect, based only on these exerpts, this person does not understand Reformed theology, either.

Maybe fodder for a meandering debate with someone general attacking the Confessions, without understanding them, or the biblical statements and propositions they represent.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
Is the author ashamed of what he wrote, or did he ask you to keep his name secret? ... It sounds like the person is thinking out loud. If labor is not yet redeemed outwardly, then you still need an outward rest.

No, the person is not ashamed. I was sent this as an email and do not wish to defame his name w/o his permission. I am only seeking the thoughts of others and guidance before I proceed further with the matter. The fault of the "anonymity" lies with me, not him.

Thanks for the comment on outward rest. But these are not "thinking out loud" comments; part of this is from a paper submitted to a Reformed seminary.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
It seems someone is admitting they do not believe the Confession(s) as a faithful summary of the doctrine of Scripture in some very basic ways.

Okay, so this person is not "Reformed." Nothing unusual about that. I suspect, based only on these exerpts, this person does not understand Reformed theology, either.

Herein lies the problem; this person would fully consider himself to be Reformed and has placed himself under the authority of the WCF. Yet, he says some very disparaging things about the view of the Law in the WCF. And as I said in the above post, this was part of a paper submitted to a professor at a Reformed seminary (a name you would all recognize -- no, not John Frame!). This adds another layer to the troubling aspect of it.
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
I believe the Law is useful, and meant for meditation and moral reflection, and the Westminster Catechisms are faithful examples of the sort of reflection that Christians should do with the Law. However, I think the confession itself views the Law too highly, and does not acknowledge its limitations.

This reads as a form of Antinomianism to me. If the Law is limited, why stop at the Sabbath? Why not sin so that Grace may be abound?

Theognome
 

Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
It reads like and odd mix of dipensationalism and new covenant theology. I used to think this way a little over a year ago.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
With all due respect, I think the whole excerpt is a package of errors.

I seriously do not believe that the writer even understands the position he disputes as error-ridden. That's not unusual, after all I'm sure that 5 years ago I did not understand the Baptist position on baptism as well as I do now, and yet I would confidently point to what I considered its glaring errors. Today, I still think it is quite wrong, however, I also think I could present the Baptist position in such a way as the Baptist would own it. Then my description of what is "wrong" with it would be coherent with the Baptist's own view of the matter.

That sort of analysis is exactly what is wrong with the excerpt above. He "disputes" the West.Stds. position, but cannot even explain what's "wrong" with it in a way that the W-S guy says "I agree with your description, and disagree with your conclusion."

We didn't "salvage" the 10C from the Law. The 10C are independent of the Law and prior to it, and yet the Law as Moses received it could not have been established with any other cornerstone. So, even though the Law of Moses per se has gone, the 10C continue to be a handy, convenient, helpful, and complete (see a good exegesis of Jesus "2-great-commandments" teaching) summary of God's moral and eternal will.

So, the real question is whether the 4C is MORAL. If it is, then all the above is bunkum. Just an excuse to not be held to any definable canon of righteousness. Sure, he won't question whether he may murder or not, but in the end he lacks a consistent reason for accepting one rule, and ducking another.
:2cents:
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
The problem I see with all over-realized eschatologies is that they fail to account for the fact that man is still sinful. I also think the above description of the Law makes the common error of treating the OT community as if they were under the Law in some sort of "pretend" economy that had no meaning or purpose other than for Christ to come and proclaim: "OK, I'm here so you can stop doing all this pointless stuff."

Does the author forget that the OT Saints had the "Gospel" too and that they had the same eschatalogical hope that we have even if they couldn't name the Savior? Anything that would be considered legalistic for us to do would be legalistic for them for the Law was to point them to a Messiah (2nd use) even as it points us to Christ. The Saints in the OT who believed upon Christ were saved by faith in Him as we are and were united to Him as we are.

Now, what this fellow misses is apparently obvious to the casual observer who reads Hebrews and that is the fact that there are some things that clearly pass away when Christ comes. In fact, the big distinction in the OC and the NC is the Priesthood of the NC in contra-distinction from the priesthood of the OC. All the ceremonies that this fellow says are indistinguishable from the the rest of the Law are the very things that Hebrews says points to the imperfect nature of the OC and the anticipation that the perfect Priest would come whose sacrifice and intercession would be perfect and once-for-all.

I just don't understand this desire to continually wrest OT Saints out of the stream of faith we find ourselves in as if they were to approach the Law differently than we. Certainly there was a magisterial role to it that we no longer participate in and the ceremonial aspects of it have clearly been fulfilled in the priesthood of Christ but to act as if our third use of the Law is materially different than theirs is to ignore Romans 4, Galatians 3, and Hebrews 11.
 

Rev. Todd Ruddell

Puritan Board Junior
If it is misleading to call the Lord's Day the "Christian Sabbath" then our Lord misled us when He said, in Matthew 24.20 that the first century Christians should pray that their flight be not on the "Sabbath Day" when the destruction of Jerusalem is at hand--that is, a Sabbath that existed long after the formal inaguration of the New Covenant.
 

YXU

Puritan Board Freshman
I feel so sad in reading this. When we take things off God's law, the next thing we will do is to add things to God's law and trying to make ourselves as law givers.

The "sweetness" and "gentleness" throughout the article is the weapon they equip themselves to take off what God requires of us, and then use the same "sweetness" and "gentleness" to justify their wrongdoings by adding to God's law.

May God has mercy on us, that we in this age have sinned against him greatly.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
My opinion is here.

Thanks for linking this. Your comments on Hebrews 3 and 4 are particularly good, I think.

Question: there are references to "the pamphlet" in the post. But you also mention a discussion on another blog. Was it the other blog discussing the pamphlet? And was the pamphlet attempting to promote a Seventh-day Sabbath position?
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
My opinion is here.

Thanks for linking this. Your comments on Hebrews 3 and 4 are particularly good, I think.

Question: there are references to "the pamphlet" in the post. But you also mention a discussion on another blog. Was it the other blog discussing the pamphlet? And was the pamphlet attempting to promote a Seventh-day Sabbath position?

Yes, the pamphlet referred to is a Seventh-Day Adventist propaganda booklet. The other blog was not discussing that particular pamphlet, and I regret not having linked to that blog post, although I think it was Nate Eshelman's blog to which I was referring, and these posts (here and here) in particular.
 
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