Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cultic Worship, Cultural Withdrawal, and the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms

The history of American Presbyterianism is largely a history of Sabbatarianism. "If you would destroy the Christian religion," Voltaire is quoted as saying, "you must first detsroy the Christian Sabbath."

The various attempts to protect and preserve the Lord's Day—from the forming of The General Union for the Promoting the Observance of the Christian Sabbath in 1828 to the institution of "blue laws"—all serve to reinforce the sentiments of the 1814 petition from the Presbyterian General Assembly to Congress urging 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." In the minds of American Presbyterians, as goes the Sabbath, so goes the nation.

Now for something completely different....

For nineteenth-century postmillennialists, a rationale for Sabbath observance that focused upon its benefit to America's health and vitality makes good sense. But what about those of us whose understanding of the Church's mission does not include cultural transformation? If going to church and eating home-cooked meals on Sunday is not connected to winning the War on Terror, then why bother?

As I've been arguing, one's eschatology informs all of his Christian life. In keeping with this, why must an amillennialist need to see corporate worship as a means to furthering the American Dream? Why can't our cultic worship and cultural withdrawal on the first day of every week serve to subvert, rather than supplement, the grand visions of the rulers of this age?

If the Church seeks to be truly different from the world, then perhaps observing the Lord's Day is the way to do it. As Michael Horton has written, "This sort of observance would proclaim to the world that we are not slaves in Egypt, for we refuse to surrender this day to the tyranny of the clock and to the gods who amuse us."

To those who seek to commandeer the Lord's Day for the purposes of the kingdom of man (even if they are good), we answer that the Sabbath is not for sale.