Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sunday worship

I've discussed this before:

but I'll make some additional observations:

i) I don't have a problem with Sunday worship, so long as we recognize Sunday worship as a custom rather than a divine mandate. By the same token, I have no intrinsic problem with messianic Jews making Saturday their Sabbath, although I might disagree with their rationale if they make Saturday their Sabbath for the same reason they continue to practice circumcision and kosher diet.

ii) Over and above what I've already written, there are two additional obstacles insisting that Sunday is the divinely-mandated day of worship. To begin with, there's the question of how we demarcate a day. When does one day end and the next day begin? You can define a day as the interval between sunrise and sunrise or sunset and sunset. That's a matter of convention. One definition isn't right while the other is wrong. But depending on which system you use, depending on when a day begins and ends, a day under one system won't coincide with a day under the other system.

iii) Another complication is time zones. Even if we agree on what demarcates a day, sunup and sundown don't occur at the same time all around the globe. Because the earth is a large globe spinning on its axis, my today may be your tomorrow, so it isn't physically possible for all Christians to worship on the same day, since the day is constantly shifting. That wasn't an issue for ancient Jews clustered in Eretz Israel, but for a global faith it makes a difference.  

iv) Not only is there a longitudinal distinction, but a latitudinal distinction, regarding solar days and solar nights. So there is no fixed reference point. It's a fairly (but not entirely) arbitrary calendrical convention. It has some basis in nature, but even from a natural standpoint there are different natural choices regarding the starting-point and end-point. 

I find it amusing that some Protestants who swear by sola scriptura can't bring themselves to see or admit that this is an ecclesiastical tradition rather than a divine mandate. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that so long as you don't confuse the two and assign divine obligation to a human custom. 


  1. Just to add to Steve's post:

    1. If Sabbatarianism is a mandated biblical principle, then that'd mean all Christians ought to observe the Sabbath.

    However, in the NT, I presume most slaves including Christian slaves had to be at their masters' beck and call. Indeed, weren't most slaves including Christian slaves essentially required to work on the Sabbath unless their masters let them have it off?

    If so, then wouldn't a whole class of Christians be breaking the Sabbath? Why would God have made it so that a whole class of Christians had to break the Sabbath? Doesn't make sense, but maybe missing something.

    2. I guess a modern analogue might be physicians who have to work nonstop due to their job. Like it's often routine for physicians (residents and fellows) to work Mon-Sun. Sometimes for weeks at a time. Hence physicians are happy when they get a single day off to catch up on their dishes, laundry, etc. The best is a golden weekend which just means you get two days off in a row. Ideally Sat and Sun but it could Tues and Wed. Just depends.

    For example, take a cardiothoracic surgeon or a neurosurgeon. Many if not most of them simply sleep in the hospital Mon-Sun. They'll sleep for a few hours, then wake up again to operate. Repeat. That's what the job requires. If they won't do it, then they're out of a job.

    I imagine it's the same with other jobs. I've heard corporate law firms require that of their lawyers. Accountants. Fighter pilots. Astronauts. I don't imagine politicians get much time off (e.g. Ted Cruz).

    Wouldn't all of these guys be breaking the Sabbath?

    3. What makes a day a day? I suppose one sunrise-sunset period marks one day.

    The International Space Station (ISS) orbits the Earth once every 90 mins or so. This means the ISS gets approximately 16 "days" in a 24 hour Earth period.

    Hence a Christian astronaut on board the ISS should be observing the Sabbath a little bit more than twice per 24 hour Earth period.

    Same applies if we colonize other planets or asteroids.

    If there are Presbyterians who think Sunday worship is a divine mandate, based on an earthbound Gregorian calendar, then perhaps they should be called Presbyterrans for privileging a kind of geocentric Sabbatarianism.

    1. *chuckles baptistically*

    2. No salvation outside the Church of England!

    3. Also, even in the Arctic or Antarctic, the days are shorter/longer depending on the time of the year. I recall some Jewish rabbis attempting to deal with this. I believe the idea that most seemed to agree on was that anything above or below a certain latitude would simply be considered one day = 24 hours regardless of how much actual time it took for a single sunrise/sunset. I think the basis for this fiat decision was Jerusalem, i.e., whatever a day in Jerusalem is is the standard.

      However, I think that's arbitrary. Why should Jerusalem be the standard? Why not, say, Eden? Why not Mt. Sinai? Why not Bethlehem? Why not Nazareth? Granted, all these would still mean a day is roughly 24 hours. My point though is that the locations chosen only push the question back a step - why this or that location? Who decides?

      Also, on Christian theology, there's the new Jerusalem. I suppose the new Jerusalem can be conceived in different ways. Suppose the new Jerusalem is like a domed city that comes down from heaven. Like Stephen King's Under the Dome except far more pleasant. Will the new Jerusalem necessarily occupy the same location as the present Jerusalem? What if it occupies a different geographic location?

      What if the new Jerusalem is really the entire planet Earth?

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    1. "A direct command from God, An approved Apostolic example, or good and necessary consequences."

      I don't know what your specific argument is. It's like you're asking a multiple choice question. Where's none of the above?

      "Antinomians infest the visible church...but not forever."

      The same could be said about other groups "infesting the visible church". Such as legalists or Pharisees.

      However good thing the invisible church is safe!

    2. We have a direct command from God to use the Gregorian calendar to establish the day of worship? Feel free to quote chapter and verse.

    3. OT Jews, living under the Mosaic covenant, had a direct command from God.

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    5. i) Now you're backpedaling from your original claim. The only direct command is from the Mosaic covenant.

      ii) So you're saying God commands Christians to obey the pope.

      iii) You haven't even attempted to refute points (ii-iv) of the OP.

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    7. Your argument is full of holes:

      i) Since the Mosaic law code contains both moral laws and ceremonial laws, there's no presumption that every command in the Decalogue must be a moral law. That might be the case, but it's not a given.

      ii) There's no evidence that the Jewish Sabbath was originally a day of worship. Rather, it was originally a day of rest from labor. The association of the Sabbath with worship probably arose with the synagogue system, to service Diaspora Jews.

      iii) Apostles worshiping on Sunday doesn't entail Sunday replacing Saturday as the day of worship. For one thing, that assumes the Sabbath was a day of worship. If, however, that's not the case [see (ii)], then at most, Sunday worship creates an additional day of obligation: Saturday Sabbath and Sunday worship. Two separate days of obligation.

      iv) Likewise, apostles worshiping on Sunday doesn't entail Sunday replacing Saturday as the Sabbath and/or day of worship inasmuch as apostles continued to frequent the Temple services as well as Saturday Sabbath/worship services in the synagogue. So both systems were in play.

      v) If you imagine that the Gregorian calendar coincides with the Jewish Sabbath, you're not tracking the argument. It's just the opposite. If the Gregorian calendar dropped 10 days from the Julian calendar, then Sunday doesn't fall on the same day on both calendars. What makes Sunday fall on the same day? If Sunday is seven days apart from the last Sunday and the next Sunday. If, however, the Gregorian calendar dropped 10 days from the Julian calendar, then that breaks the cycle. It renumbers the days and resets the cycle at a new starting-point. The first Sunday on the new calendar doesn't fall on the same day as the last Sunday on the old calendar because it's not seven days apart. If you can't count back by 7-day intervals from our Sunday to the apostolic era, then our Sunday doesn't match their Sunday. It's a different day on their calendar. We simply relabeled the days.

      vi) Moreover, you blow past another objection I raised: what makes a day a day? What demarcates one day from the next? When a day begins and ends. A day which is reckoned from sundown to sundown won't coincidence with a day that's reckoned from sunup to sunup. If the apostles used a dusk-to-dusk calendar while we use a dawn-to-dawn calendar, or midnight-to-midnight calendar, then those are different days since a day is defined by when it begins and ends.

      v) Furthermore, you blow past the issue of time-zones. Sunday isn't simultaneous across the globe. Sunday in one time zone doesn't fall on the same day as Sunday on a time-zone 12-14 hours apart. So the identification is equivocal.

      vi) Finally, you blow past the issue of polar days and polar nights. What counts as Sunday in that setting? It's purely calendrical with nothing in nature to back it up.

      It's vacuous for you to say there's one right day of worship when you can't specify the conditions which single out a particular day, to the exclusion of other candidates.

      BTW, if we had a space colony on Mars, what day would the Sabbath fall on? What's the frame of reference? A terrestrial diurnal cycle or Martian diurnal cycle? If the future, this may be more than hypothetical.

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    9. "Do whatever you want Steve. Worship God anyway you want. If you want to watch the superbowl on the Lord's day have at it. Maybe Wedsday is the day of worship...who knows. Maybe God doesn't even care...its just a total crap shoot. Truth, what is truth?"

      That's unresponsive to Steve's actual arguments.

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    11. "So Hawk, Steve has been answered already by smarter men than me. To sit here argue with Steve about this in 2019 when it's been dealt with by more able men from centuries ago is a waste of time. I'm really surprised that he would debate a lowly person like myself. Hawk if you want to do your own thing on Sunday...go for it. But there's good reasons that the 3 kingdoms AGREED to the wording of the WCF. That would have included the erastian party of the day."

      You're behaving oddly. You have no problem throwing accusations and even passive-aggressive attacks against other people and their positions, but you deflect any sort of actual engagement of Steve's arguments which go to issues more fundamental than "the wording of the WCF".

      If you don't want to "sit here and argue with Steve" then don't comment. It's simple.

      However, if you comment, especially if you make a critical comment of Steve's position, then stop being so passive-aggressive and indirect and present a clear and direct argument for your position.

    12. You haven't refuted my arguments. I don't hand out participation awards.

    13. "WHO CARE?"

      Who care? I care. He care. She care. We care. Many care. Care care.

      "Let see what we have here Steve.. after 2000+ years we dont know what day we're supposed to gather on,"

      For one thing, that assumes Sabbath worship has been the norm for 2000+ years. However, that fails to interact with what Steve said above.

      "we really dont know what we're supposed to do when we do gather."

      Where in Steve's argument did he indicate this?

      "We dont know if the 4th commandment is moral or ceremonial"

      It's up for debate. How would you argue it is moral?

      "and we dont know what the ancient Jews were doing during synagogue."

      At the risk of stating the obvious, the Jews weren't all a single homogeneous entity.

      Also, what's your precise argument? That Christians should celebrate the Lord's day in the same way the Jews celebrated the Sabbath?

    14. Since "Unknown" refuses to engage the argument, his comments will be deleted. This is not a sandbox for anti-intellectual commenters to emote.

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    1. Seems like there are several things you're attempting to argue but mistakenly conflating into a single argument. I'll tease them out for you:

      1. Should Christians keep the Sabbath? Your answer is yes.
      2. Should Christians keep the Sabbath on Sunday? I assume your answer is yes, but I don't know for sure.
      3. If a Christian doesn't believe in #1 and/or #2, then is the Christian an antinomian? Your answer is yes.

      Your assumption in answering yes for #1 is that the Sabbath in the 10 commandments is still binding on Christians today. However, some Christians argue otherwise. For example, see Tom Schreiner's argument.

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    3. "Yes, I know that many Christians are caught up in antinomianism. I've pretty much read every argument against the Christian Sabbath over the last 30 yrs. and doubt seriously that Tom has anything new to add. Maybe I'll read it later."


    4. "Hawk you're falling down on the forgot to call me passive aggressive."

      I thought once would be enough for most people, but I guess it takes repetition to get through to you.

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    1. "Right Hawk, it's for my good."

      Welp! You were the one who asked me to call you passive aggressive again.


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    1. "Go stand on your head, really I mean it."

      See, you don't need my help to be passive aggressive! You can do it on your own here. :)

    2. On a more serious note this is fun, but a bit childish. When are you going to respond to Steve's arguments? Rather than simply throwing stones at them? In other words, do you have substantive criticisms against what Steve has said?

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    1. "No Hawk I've gone as far as need to. I think it best for you to imbibe as much of Steve's uncertainty about these things as possible. Then you too can not know."

      I think it best for you to imbibe as much unthinking confidence about these things as possible. Then you too can know without needing to think through the biblical and theological issues.

  7. I don't see why accepting Sunday worship as a custom is such a problem. It's simply not a divine mandate like worship itself. It's an established tradition and the application of he moral law is unaffected by it. Sometimes I think God's people are more concerned than the God Himself about certain issues. If Sunday was of this high level of importance, I would think Scripture would be abundantly clear about it (you know, like it is about faith in Christ, the Incarnation, the Resurrection,etc). The moral law doesn't stand or fall on Sunday.

    1. 7. Incest

      Incest takes two different forms:

      (i) Vertical incest, between one generation and another (e.g. mother/son; mother-in-law/son-in-law; father/daughter; father-in-law/daughter-in-law; grandparent/grandchild; aunt/nephew).

      (ii) Horizontal incest (brother/sister; brother-in-law/sister-in-law).

      Vertical incest is always condemned. Horizontal incest is generally condemned, but allowed in the case of Levirate marriage. Horizontal incest was implicitly permitted, even essential, for the first few generations of the human race.

      Horizontal incest was licit according to the nomadic and less regulated lifestyle of the patriarchs, but illicit under the Mosaic law—except for Levirate marriage, which is a customary carryover from the patriarchal period.

      The implication is that vertical incest is intrinsically wrong, as involving an unnatural transgression of the social hierarchy.

      Horizontal incest is not intrinsically wrong, but it is imprudent, and thus is ordinarily forbidden, except under special circumstances.

      Because Israel was a tribal society, a certain amount of inbreeding was inevitable, so it came down to prohibited degrees of consanguinity.

      And because Israel was a tribal society, the land belongs to the clan. Hence, inbreeding was a way of keeping property within the family.

      This also accounts for the custom of the kinsman-redeemer (e.g., Book of Ruth).

      Assuming that Scripture took tribalism into account on the subject of horizontal incest, the same allowance cannot be made in the case of cultures where tribalism has broken down.

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    3. "What's all that got to do with us now in the NT era. In all that you wrote you didnt prove one way or the other whether it applies to us or whether it was ceremonial uncleanness or morally binding law. Assuming things seems imprudent."

      I wasn't using the excerpt (which Steve, not I, wrote years ago) to argue about the Sabbath. I was using it to argue against what you said about incest. It puts the lie to your contention that incest in the Bible is based on "some iffy OT references concerning this unclear subject" and so on.

      "By the way, is the prohibition against murder ceremonial or moral?"

      What does the prohibition against murder have to do with the Sabbath? Just because they're both in the 10 commandments? You'd need to develop a fuller argument.

      Murder isn't murder solely because the 10 commandments say so. It's not as if murder didn't exist prior to the 10 commandments. Arguably that's partly grounded in the imago Dei.

      Perhaps you'd retort the Sabbath is grounded in the creation order. However, the NT doesn't ground the Sabbath in the creation order, though the NT grounds other things in the creation order (e.g. marriage between man and woman in Mk 10:1-12).

      By contrast, the NT does refer to the Sabbath as a "shadow" rather than the "substance" (e.g. Col 2:16). This isn't solely Sabbath weeks, but Sabbath days. And the NT argues for shadow/reality or promise/fulfillment regarding the Sabbath (e.g. Heb 4:1-10).

      "When God rested on the 7th day was that because He was tired"

      Not unless you think God is able to become tired, but that would bring you into heretical beliefs about God.

      "or was He trying to teach the Jews at that time ceremonial law?"

      Sure, it's possible (arguendo) God could have been teaching the Jews about ceremonial laws with the Sabbath. How is this suppposed to be inconsistent with Steve's position?

      "Another question...was the the sabbath made for Jews or for men?"

      In the OT, the Sabbath was Saturday. That's what the 10 commandments (technically the ten words or דברים) refers to. Hence the 10 commandments would apply to the Saturday Sabbath, not necessarily the Lord's day or Sunday.

      In the NT, there's the Lord's day. However, the Lord's day isn't necessarily equivalent to the Sabbath. You'd need a connecting argument to argue the two are equivalent to one another.

      You could say we ought to celebrate both the Sabbath and the Lord's day. However, in practice, that's not what you do. You only celebrate the Lord's day.

      Otherwise how has Sunday replaced Saturday as the Sabbath?

      If the Lord's day has replaced the Sabbath, then the Sabbath has been superceded by the Lord's day. As such, even on this view, the Sabbath in the 10 commandments would no longer be binding, for the 10 commandments are speaking about the now-superceded Sabbath, not the Lord's day.

      "Here's a personal question Hawk. Since you deny any kind of Sabbath keeping and deny that Sunday is a day that Christians are required to meet on, do you observe Christmas and Easter with much gusto?"

      Your latter statement doesn't necessarily logically follow from your former statement. You're committing a non sequitur fallacy.

      How much "gusto" (or lack thereof) one has toward any particular holiday (Sabbath, Christmas, Easter) has nothing to do with what's biblically licit or illicit. Facts don't care about your feelings, as Ben Shapiro might put it.

      In any case, I agree with what C.M. Granger said. As such, I can and do worship on Sunday as well as Christmas and Easter, and I can and do enjoy them all, including celebrating them with "gusto". That's perfectly consistent with our position.

      By the way, according to Exod 31:14–15 and 35:2, the penalty for breaking the Sabbath was death. Do you think Christians today should be put to death for breaking the Sabbath?

    4. (I mean עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת, not the book of Deuteronomy.)

  8. *than God Himself*, sorry for the typo

  9. I'm a Romans 14:5 man myself. I don't esteem any day above another. I do know some people get quite excited over Revelation 1:10. It's reference to the Lords day.

    SDAs say it must be Saturday because Christ is Lord of the Sabbath. Other people say it must be Sunday as that is the day Christ rose from the dead.

  10. Much like the Pharisees, "Uknown" is fixating on a minor detail to the detriment of the meatier aspects of the 4th commandment.