What the Missional Movement Should Learn From the Confessional Movement: Sabbath

Today’s post, continuing a series on what confessional and missional Christian should learn from one another, might rub some people the wrong way.  The ‘Sabbath’ question is hotly debated (especially in recent publications) even in confessional circles.


I should also note that my journey to what is commonly called the “Christian Sabbath” position was not easy.  I was convinced of the “Lord’s Day” position espoused by D.A. Carson, A.T. Lincoln, Craig Blomberg, and others all the way to the end of my first year in seminary.  In the summer of 2009, I took an ethics class with Mark Ross at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte.  Ross lectured through the Ten Commandments, using the Westminster Larger Catechism as a grid.  Ross’ lectures on the fourth commandment (largely espousing Jochem Douma and John Murray’s exposition) made me rethink the Sabbath question.

Even though I had read Douma and Murray on the Sabbath, I was unconvinced.  Then, I read John Frame’s Doctrine of the Christian Life.  Frame’s chapters on the Sabbath remain the most persuasive presentation of the Christian Sabbath perspective I have ever read.

So, even though I am a Christian Sabbatarian (and even my church names the ‘Sabbath’ as one of our ministry rhythms), I think that many Sabbatarians (including Presbyterians) do a poor job of being persuasive on the topic.  I felt this way especially after reading Joseph Pipa’s chapter in Perspectives on the Sabbath: Four Views (not to mention his uncharitable treatment of Blomberg).  Even my professors in seminary never persuaded me when they gave brief lectures on the Sabbath (except for maybe Ross).

Given my own narrative, I tend not to be a harsh theologue when it comes to the fourth commandment.  I’d rather engage in humble, gentle dialogue on the issue instead of posting Isaiah 58 as my Facebook status and be a jerk about the issue.

Still, my encouragement to my missional friends is to at least read Frame and other sources and to see whether there is value (especially in discipleship) in worshipping, resting, and feasting on ‘the eighth day’ of creation.

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One thought on “What the Missional Movement Should Learn From the Confessional Movement: Sabbath

  1. Daniel,

    Good thoughts. I will also admit that Frame’s argument is much more convincing than Pipa’s (also in his The Lord’s Day). However, I still have a hard time getting past the historical data on Sabbath rest observance, e.g. Justin Martyr, Eusebius, John Calvin, the Augsburg Confession, etc. To be clear, I am 100% behind Lord’s Day observance and worship. But I have a hard time seeing the rest principle transferred to the Lord’s Day. And I also have a hard time calling it the Sabbath.

    What was it about Frame’s perspective that changed your mind?

    Ethan

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