Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Sabbath: Not for Sale

As I've been trying to argue, the eschatological focus of the Church’s Sabbath observance bears witness to her identity as a foreign people, a peculiar polis, and a wandering tribe dispossessed "but for a moment."

For this reason, I would argue, the Church is never to see herself merely as culture’s errand-boy or a lackey of the State, existing to make life in this passing evil age a bit more comfortable. In their book Resident Aliens, Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon echo this sentiment well:
"The political task of Christians is to be the church rather than to transform the world…[to be] a new people, an alternative polis, a countercultural social structure.... The church does not exist to ask what needs doing to keep the world running smoothly and then to motivate our people to go do it.... The church has its own reason for being, hid within its own mandate and not found in the world. We are not chartered by the Emperor."

Contrary to transformationist-driven Sabbatarianism, which values the Sabbath as "an instrument to promote and preserve the social order," the two kingdoms paradigm sets forth a version of Sabbath observance that is more than a "socially-constructed coping device" designed to make us better, more productive citizens of Egypt.

The logic of our observance, therefore, is antithetical to that of old covenant Israel and modern day Kuyperianism. It is not the preservation of the nation or the recovery of some "Golden Age" of days gone by that gets us out of bed early on Sunday morning, but the desire to faithfully maintain the ethos of our eschatological counterculture. In so doing we do not affirm the world but condemn it, employing God’s divinely-ordained tool to subvert the culture and its "idols of leisure and consumption."

The complaints and fears of many evangelicals notwithstanding, our post-Constantinian context has freed the Church from the task of legitimizing the State, thereby enabling us to proclaim that the Sabbath is not for sale.