February 25, 2015

Australian Adventist Takes Unusual Stand for Sabbath

What are Adventists supposed to do when an eloquent and influential person writes something that they believe contradicts the Bible?

That was the question that Australian Adventists faced when the Australian Bible Society ran a commentary in its influential newspaper questioning Sabbath observance.

Little did they expect that their solution — to submit a counter-commentary — would be published in the same newspaper and start a discussion.

The initial article, written by Michael Jensen, rector at St. Mark's Anglican Church in Sydney, uses Scripture and historical records to suggest that Christians began to observe Sunday in the New Testament but today can worship on any day of the week.

“We should feel free to meet together on any day and on every day! … But it is good that churches set aside certain times for this habit — and it is a great blessing when governments help them to do this,” Jensen writes in the article,“Take This Sabbath Day.”

He concludes: “Does God command us to meet on Sunday? No. Is it good that there is a day set aside for church-going by human beings? Yes. Can a real church meet on Wednesday? Indeed!”

Rather than let the article pass by, James D. Standish, director of communications and public affairs for the Adventist Church’s South Pacific Division, submitted an unsolicited response that the Australian Bible Society published this month.

“I read the piece. It sparked me,” Standish said Monday.

His commentary, “Does God’s Rest Still Need a Special Day of the Week?”, affirms several points in the initial article. But it also cites Bible passages about Christians worshiping on the seventh-day Sabbath in the New Testament and says God still offers a special blessing to those who remember the Sabbath.

“The Sabbath isn’t a burden for me or my family: it is far and away the best day of the week,” Standish writes. “We don’t keep the Sabbath to earn God’s grace; we keep it because we have God’s grace. And it is a fabulous blessing. Why not give it a try?”

The two commentaries have generated considerable discussion in some circles.

“This was a very interesting look at two sides of the 'weekly rest' scenario,” reader Ross Herrmann wrote on the South Pacific Adventist Record’s website.

“James' response was wonderfully written that did not degrade the view of Michael Jensen,” he said. “They both acknowledged the destructive nature of ignoring God’s plan of resting one day in seven. However, only James had the correct reason for keeping the day God set aside.”

Standish said by e-mail that he has received considerable feedback but “nothing of tremendous note,” such as the Anglican author changing his mind.

“I think if people read both, the strength of the Adventist position is overwhelming. But then again, I’m biased,” he said, punctuating the sentence with a smiley face.

How well does the Seventh-day Adventist perspective stack up against thoughtful and insightful critiques?

Read the two commentaries for yourself and decide:

“Take This Sabbath Day,” by Michael Jensen

“Does God’s Rest Still Need a Special Day of the Week?” by James D. Standish

South Pacific Adventist Record contributed to this report.