Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sabbatarianism Misdirected?

The religious history of this country is in many ways a history of Sabbath-observance. "If you would destroy the Christian religion," Voltaire is alleged to have said, "you must first destroy the Christian Sabbath." As goes the Sabbath, we have been continually reminded, so goes the Christian Church.

What is interesting to note, however, is that it is almost exclusively from a transformationist perspective that the ongoing validity of the fourth commandment has been insisted upon. In other words, if we desire to (re)claim the nation and her pursuits for Christ and ensure that Yahweh's healing hand will be ever upon these majestic purple mountains and amber waves of grain, we'd better get our butts to church.

"Sabbatarianism," OPC historian John Muether has argued, "was a crucial part of the agenda of nineteenth-century American evangelical social reform." This reason lay behind the institution of "blue laws," the forming of The General Union for Promoting the Observance of the Christian Sabbath in 1828, and the 1814 petition from the Presbyterian General Assembly to Congress that urged Sabbath observance based upon the claim that it "contributes to increase the amount of productive labour, to promote science, civilization, peace, social order, and correct morality." The conclusion is inescapable that "Sabbath breaking was punishable by the civil magistrate because it destroyed America’s moral and social fabric."

OK, show of hands: Do Sabbatarianism and transformationism represent a match made in heaven, or are they an unholy alliance of odd bedfellows? Why?