Article ID: JAF2342 | By: Scott Klusendorf

theistic evolution

This article first appeared in Christian Research Journal, volume 34, number 02 (2011). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org


SYNOPSIS

Evangelicals who engage Seventh-day Adventists on the question of Sabbath observance are stepping into a minefield if they don’t first clarify the nature of the Mosaic law and its relationship to Christians today. At issue are fundamental questions about the scope of the law, its purpose in the new covenant, and whether we can distinguish between those aspects that are morally binding (eternal) and those that are not.

Adventists have persuasive answers to these questions. Indeed, my own thesis is that evangelicals who contend for the continuity of the Mosaic Law in whole or in part and, at the same time, argue for the discontinuity of the Sabbath command, lack biblical support and face an almost intractable consistency problem. Conversely, evangelicals who argue for discontinuity—namely, that within the context of salvation history, the entire Mosaic law is fulfilled in Christ and thus has no direct claim on the believer—provide a biblically sound foundation for addressing the Sabbath question.


Does the Mosaic law, most notably the Ten Commandments, continue to make direct claims on the believer and, if so, what does that mean for the Sabbath command in particular?

Before leaving the Seventh-day Adventist Church during my senior year of high school, I routinely stumped evangelicals with two questions taught me in middle school Bible class: “Tell me why you consider nine of the Ten Commandments still binding on the Christian, but not the fourth?” When my critics stumbled explaining a change of Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, a change that is difficult to justify from Scripture, I pulled out the dagger: “ When it comes to the Sabbath command, what right do you have to change the eternal law of God to something you like better?”

Indeed, I was convinced then, as I am now, that evangelicals who contend for the continuity of the Mosaic law in whole or in part and, at the same time, argue for the discontinuity of the Sabbath command, lack biblical support and face an almost intractable consistency problem.

Nevertheless, many evangelicals argue for some form of continuity between the Ten Commandments and what’s required of believers today. Willem VanGemeren’s Reformed perspective is a case in point. For VanGemeren, the continuity of God’s moral law is established from creation forward. One expression of that law is the Mosaic law, specifically, the moral aspects expressed in the Ten Commandments. Though Christ nullified the ceremonial and penal aspects of the law meant only for Israel, He elevated its moral requirements, calling for a more radical observance. In short, Jesus linked the Mosaic law to His own teaching on the kingdom of God, thus preserving the ethical demands of the former: “Under both covenants, the Lord has one standard for ethics, namely holiness or wholeness of life.… Under both administrations, God wants his people to love Him, keep his law, and to depend on Him wholly for life. The Ten Commandments, as a summary of the moral law, are a guide in the imitation of God.”1

VanGemeren is no legalist and nowhere does he suggest the law can save anyone under either covenant. His focus is sanctification for the believer, and he’s clear that under the new covenant, the law can never be interpreted apart from Christ. Moreover, while Christ modeled perfection, it is only by the Spirit that “the letter of the law becomes alive and powerful within the hearts of the Godly.”2

VanGemeren’s continuity thesis is not the only one in play. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., contends that faith and law are intertwined in both old and new covenants. While Christ fulfilled the ceremonial requirements on the cross, the moral law is based on God’s character, and since God’s character does not change, neither does the moral law. Thus, the law remains obligatory for Christians today. This shouldn’t trouble us, however, for God has promised to put His law into the hearts of new covenant believers. Moreover, the law points us to Christ and helps us know the will of God.3

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “ADVENTIST”?

Despite the fact that many evangelicals hold to some form of continuity, they aren’t sure what to make of Adventism and its claims for continued Sabbath observance. Should we treat it as a non-Christian cult or debate its theological claims in-house? After dialoguing with Adventist leaders in the late 1950s, evangelical scholars Walter Martin and Donald Grey Barnhouse essentially gave one answer: That depends.4

Martin and Barnhouse found that a majority of Adventists fell roughly into one of two camps: traditional and evangelical. Briefly, traditional Adventism rejects foundational Protestant beliefs, such as the imputed righteousness of Christ, the authority of Scripture (insisting instead on the authority of alleged prophetess Ellen G. White to interpret biblical truth), the sinless humanity of Christ, and the Reformation’s understanding of “once and for all” atonement. The rejection of these fundamental beliefs, coupled with Adventism’s early flirtation with the Arian heresy, convinced many evangelical scholars that Adventism was cultic.5

That judgment was turned on its head with the emergence of evangelical Adventism in the late 1950s. Largely due to their dialogues with Martin and Barnhouse, evangelical Adventists either revised or repudiated the problematic teachings of traditional Adventism while affirming foundational Protestant beliefs on justification, atonement, and the authority of Scripture (viewing E. G. White as a helpful guide to the Bible, but not infallible). True, they retained Sabbath keeping as morally binding for Christians today, but Martin in particular argued that this belief, though errant, did not disqualify them from inclusion in the community of faith.6

The emergence of evangelical Adventism rocked the entire denomination and culminated in the 1957 volume Questions on Doctrine (QOD), which affirmed key evangelical beliefs. For traditional Adventists, QOD was a devastating blow to church distinctives, symbolic of a full surrender to the evangelical criticisms of Martin and Barnhouse. Evangelicals outside the church, meanwhile, hailed it as proof that Adventists were moving toward theological orthodoxy despite holding heterodox views on some lesser points of doctrine.

But the movement toward orthodoxy stalled when traditionalists staged a campaign against QOD shortly after its publication in 1957. Their efforts paid off. In 1963, the denomination stopped printing the volume and it remained out of print until Andrews University Press independently republished it in 2003 as part of its “Adventist Classic Library” series. According to respected SDA historian George R. Knight, the 1957 publication of Questions on Doctrine “did more than any other single event in Adventist history to create what appear to be permanently warring factions within the denomination.”7 In 1980, traditionalists scored again when the denomination fired leading evangelical spokesperson Desmond Ford and forced the resignation of 120 pastors who shared his views on forensic justification. Walter Martin was deeply troubled by these events and warned that the denomination would soon face doctrinal collapse. Thankfully, the persistent presence of evangelicals within the denomination is keeping the doctrinal debate alive.

Given the ongoing debate within Adventism, defining exactly what individual SDA congregations teach is tricky. For the purpose of this article, I will use the 2005 statement Fundamental Beliefs published by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.8 At least on paper, if not always in practice, those beliefs reflect many of the theological positions found in QOD.

THE ADVENTIST CASE FOR
A SEVENTH-DAY SABBATH

Official Adventist teaching affirms that while salvation is entirely by grace and not by works, the Ten Commandments represent God’s immutable moral law and apply directly to believers at all times and places:

The great principles of God’s law are embodied in the Ten Commandments and exemplified in the life of Christ. They express God’s love, will, and purposes concerning human conduct and relationships and are binding upon all people in every age. These precepts are the basis of God’s covenant with His people and the standard in God’s judgment. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit they point out sin and awaken a sense of need for a Savior. Salvation is all of grace and not of works, but its fruitage is obedience to the Commandments.9

Again, Adventists are clear that salvation is by grace alone, not grace plus works of the law. However, the “fruitage” of salvation by grace is obedience to the eternal law of God as expressed in the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath command. This command was no accident: God affirmed it from the beginning as a memorial to His creation and, later, as a symbol of His redemptive work in Christ:

The beneficent Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation. The fourth commandment of God’s unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of delightful communion with God and one another. It is a symbol of our redemption in Christ, a sign of our sanctification, a token of our allegiance, and a foretaste of our eternal future in God’s kingdom. The Sabbath is God’s perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people.10

The Adventist position on Sabbath observance and its relationship to God’s moral law can be put formally as follows:

P1: God’s immutable moral laws are expressed in the Ten Commandments.

P2: Because these commands are immutable, they apply to God’s people in all places and times.

P3: One of those immutable commands is keeping the seventh-day Sabbath, a day that functions as a memorial to creation and a symbol of our redemption.

P4: Therefore, the seventh-day Sabbath remains a direct requirement for God’s people today.

THE SABBATH AND THE CONTINUITY THESIS

The Adventist argument is clearly valid, meaning that if the premises are true, the conclusion about Sabbath-keeping follows.

The first premise is key to the entire argument and Adventists are not the only ones to affirm it. Historically, Origen and Tertullian read Paul as making a distinction between the moral and ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic law: the moral, expressing God’s eternal will for humanity, and the ceremonial, a temporary addition given only to prefigure Christ.11 This interpretation of Paul’s thought was widely accepted by the Western church and continues to enjoy support from evangelical scholars who argue that while salvation is by grace alone, God’s eternal moral law as found in the Ten Commandments remains a foundation for Christian sanctification and ethics.

Despite its theological heritage, I’m convinced that granting this continuity premise puts evangelicals in a weakened position on Sabbath-related questions. Consider VanGemeren’s claim that the continuity of God’s moral law is established from creation forward and is expressed in the Ten Commandments. Where does this leave the Sabbath commandment? Though VanGemeren does not address the question in detail, it’s fair to assume that he holds a traditional Reformed position—namely, that the Sabbath no longer adheres to the seventh day, but to the first, in order to commemorate the resurrection.12

It’s exactly at this point that his continuum thesis fails to deliver for evangelicals hoping to engage Adventist teaching. As A. T. Lincoln points out, if the Ten Commandments contain God’s immutable moral laws, why is only the fourth one singled out for change (from the seventh day to the first day) or exclusion? And by what authority is it changed or excluded?

Those who argue in this way but apply the fourth commandment to Sunday, the first day of the week, are certainly not as consistent as those groups, such as Seventh-Day Adventists, who still observe the seventh day; they need to face this inconsistency head-on. On their own presuppositions, by what right do they tamper with an eternally valid moral law? What criterion allows them to isolate the seventh-day aspect, which after all is at the heart of the commandment and its rationale (cf. Exodus 20:11), as a temporary feature belonging only to the Mosaic period, while retaining the remainder of the Decalogue as normative for all ages?13

Given VanGemeren’s claim that, although the law applies in the new covenant, it must be interpreted through Christ, he could say that the seventh-day Sabbath is not an eternal law, only an eternal principle. Those whom Christ redeems are to rest one day in seven. But this response presents two additional problems.

First, as Douglas Moo points out, the only way to know the Sabbath command is merely a principle and not an eternal law is to consult the New Testament.14 But if that’s the case, the Mosaic Law itself is not eternal, but applies to believers today only insofar as affirmed by Christ and the apostles—a position VanGemeren rejects.

Second, it fails to consider the context in which the original seventh-day command is given. Nowhere does the commandment provide for an alternate day of rest, nor is one provided for priests who, unlike the rest of God’s people, were required to work on the seventh day. “Many Christians observe the Sabbath in principle by resting one day in seven, but not on the seventh day,” writes theologian Arthur Baylis. “This, of course, would not have been an acceptable procedure of an Israelite.”15

Moral versus Ceremonial: Is the Split Justified?

At the same time, VanGemeren (and Kaiser, too) unintentionally provides Adventists further cover with his tripartite distinction between the moral aspects of the Mosaic law found in the Ten Commandments, and the civil and ceremonial aspects presented elsewhere. When confronted with passages such as Romans 14:5, Galatians 4:10, and Colossians 2:16 that call into question Sabbatarian doctrines, Adventists typically reply that these passages refer to ceremonial Sabbath days, which are no longer binding, not the Ten Commandments, which are.16

D. R. De Lacey and A. T. Lincoln provide exegetical support for thinking Paul has the Ten Commandment Sabbath in mind,17 but unless one wants to haggle with Adventists over the precise meaning of “days,” a more effective approach is to challenge the tripartite division of the Mosaic law itself. Is the division supported in Scripture?

There are good reasons to think it is not. First, the Old Testament as a whole makes no such distinction. As Wayne Strickland points out, Israel was not permitted to ignore any category of the law (Lev. 26:14–15; Deut. 11:1) and nowhere does Moses present a case for selective obedience based on hierarchy.18 Moreover, in several Old Testament contexts, the moral and ceremonial aspects are almost impossible to separate. Strickland, citing G. J. Wenham, notes that in Leviticus 19:18–19, the moral command to love one’s neighbor is given right alongside a prohibition on the mixed breeding of animals. One chapter later, the command to “be holy” immediately precedes one to execute unruly children.19

Second, within the Decalogue itself, the division between what is moral (eternal) and what is not is unclear. Setting aside the obvious example of the Sabbath commandment, Moo points out that the rationale for the fifth commandment—honor your father and your mother—is linked specifically to the land God is giving the Israelites and thus does not provide an adequate grounding for universal application.20

Third, the New Testament rejects attempts at division. The Jews in Paul’s day didn’t divide the law into categories, but insisted it must be obeyed in whole.21 Paul challenges Galatian believers to walk by the spirit rather than live by the law, since doing the latter requires one to “obey the whole law” (Gal. 5:3). James, meanwhile, warns that transgressing the law anywhere is to transgress it everywhere. If one wants to live by the law, he must obey all of it—flawlessly (James 2:10).

Fourth, at the grammatical level, Strickland points out that words used to justify a tripartite division have varied meanings. For example, “statute” in Leviticus refers to a ceremonial ordinance, but elsewhere means any regulation. “Judgment” can mean judicial decisions or case legislation.22

Finally, great moral laws are found outside the Decalogue. Arthur Baylis cites a powerful example. Christ said the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself, but you won’t find it in the Ten Commandments. It’s recorded in Leviticus 19:18, “bumper to bumper with such commands as: Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”23

In short, the categorizing of selected Old Testament laws as “moral,” and thus binding, while dismissing others as “ceremonial” is methodologically questionable and tactically disastrous when confronting Adventist Sabbatarian teaching. There is a more logical and biblically supported approach to the Mosaic Law.

Fulfilled in Christ

Douglas Moo’s discontinuity thesis—namely, that within the context of salvation history, the entire Mosaic law finds its terminus in Christ, and thus God’s people are no longer directly subject to it—challenges the major premise of the Adventist argument for Sabbath observance and puts evangelicals in a strengthened position for dialogue.

Moo’s case turns on the word “salvation,” which, properly understood, is the culmination of a historical process that has as its center the death and resurrection of Christ. “All that came before funnels into this decisive event and all that will come after flows from it.”24 That is, basic to biblical revelation is the contrast between two successive ages, before Christ and after. “Salvation history finds a discontinuity between the time before and the time after Christ,” though this does not mean God’s plan for salvation lacks continuity. Rather, “it is to insist that this one continuous and eternal plan unfolds in successive and distinct stages.”25

Moo argues that the New Testament writers view the Mosaic law within this salvation-historical framework and relegate it to the period before Christ.26 Thus, “the entire Mosaic law comes to fulfillment in Christ, and this fulfillment means that the law is no longer a direct and immediate source of, or judge of, the conduct of God’s people.”27 Instead, Christian behavior is governed directly by the law of Christ. Using Moo’s discontinuity thesis as a foundation, the reconstructed evangelical argument against Sabbath keeping looks like this:

P1: If the Mosaic law in its entirety is fulfilled in Christ, the Ten Commandments, as part of that law, are also fulfilled.

P2: If the Mosaic law was entirely fulfilled in Christ, it no longer directly governs God’s people.

P3: The Mosaic law in its entirety was fulfilled in Christ. Thus, (1) the Ten Commandments are also fulfilled and thus no longer directly govern God’s people, and (2) the fourth commandment in particular is fulfilled and thus no longer directly governs God people.

This simplifies the Sabbath debate dramatically. Instead of haggling about the precise meaning of “days” or why one command is suspended while nine remain in force, evangelicals can focus the discussion on just one core question: Is there good biblical evidence to support the discontinuity of the Mosaic law as a whole? If so, the case for Sabbath keeping based on the Ten Commandments collapses. As the Mosaic law goes, so goes the Decalogue. Like Moo, I’m convinced the evidence for discontinuity is compelling.

A BIBLICAL CASE FOR FULFILLMENT
AND DISCONTINUITY

As Arthur Baylis points out, Christ fulfills the law in two fundamental ways. First, He fulfills its sacrificial requirements, bearing in full the penalty for sin as our substitute.

Second, He fulfills the righteous requirements of the law, living perfectly in accordance with God’s moral will. Thus, “Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4)—not only because he inaugurated a new covenant to replace it, but because He achieved its righteous standard for all who believe.”28

As a result, believers are not merely acquitted; they are transferred from one realm to another. That is, when God declares them justified in virtue of Christ’s righteousness, not their own, they are freed from the dominion (realm) of sin, death, and law and are transferred into the realm of His beloved Son (Rom. 6:1–23; 7:1–6; Col. 1:13). It is precisely for this reason that true believers, though they remain sinners, cannot make peace with sin. How can they? They no longer live under its dominion, but instead are joined to another, Christ.

To make sure the point is not lost, Paul makes two additional claims about the Mosaic Law in Romans 7. First, using the analogy of marriage, he insists one’s bondage to the law must be severed in order that he or she might be placed in a new relationship with Christ (7:1–6). Second, despite its divine origin, the Law can neither justify nor sanctify because it is weakened by flesh (7:7–25; 8:3). Just as in chapter six believers are dead to sin so that it no longer rules them, so in chapter seven they die to the law in order to be joined to another, Christ. From this new position in Christ, they produce fruit pleasing to God (7:4–6).29

The Purpose and Scope of the Mosaic Law

Moo’s case for discontinuity stands solidly in Pauline tradition. He strengthens his case further by examining the Law’s purpose within the context of salvation history. First, the Law’s purpose was never salvific. True, it held out the promise of salvation for those who fulfilled its demands, but it couldn’t deliver on that promise due to human sin.30 Indeed, God never gave His people the law so they could earn eternal life. Instead, He gave it to a people already His own (based on His prior promise to Abraham, who was saved by faith) whom He called out of Egypt by a gracious act of deliverance.31 Its function was to supervise and reveal sinfulness, acting as a provisional custodian until Christ (Gal. 3:24–26).

Second, the Law’s purpose was temporary. Unlike God’s unchanging covenant with Abraham, the Mosaic one was at risk due to Israel’s persistent rebellion (Dan. 9:7–14; Hos. 6:7; 8:1). The solution God promises is not a renewal of what He gave at Sinai, but a new arrangement “not like the covenant I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke” (Jer. 31:34). That promise of something new was not lost on its intended audience. “Hope for a new covenant that would arise out of the ashes of the old surfaces repeatedly in the prophets,” Moo writes.32 Later, Paul conveys that same hope in Romans 11, reminding Jewish and Gentile believers that Israel’s future salvation is not grounded in the Mosaic covenant, but on (1) God’s faithfulness in calling His people out of Egypt, and (2) His prior promise to the patriarchs (11:16, 28–29). The writer of Hebrews is even more specific in 8:6–13. The new covenant in Christ is “more excellent” than the “obsolete” (Mosaic) one it replaces because it is based on the promises of Jeremiah 31:31–34. His conclusion in verse 13 makes crystal clear the fate of the old covenant: “In speaking of the new covenant, he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

Third, the Law’s content was subject to review. As Moo points out, Jesus not only expounded on the Law’s meaning, He swept large portions of it away (e.g., the Old Testament system of vows and oaths, as well as the teaching on clean versus unclean foods) and placed His own authoritative demands alongside it.33 When questioned about divorce, He said the Mosaic law, in allowing for human sinfulness, does not always express God’s perfect will (Matt. 19:3–11). Paul, meanwhile, directs believers from the law of Moses to the law of Christ (Rom. 13:8–10; Gal. 5:14; 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:21). Put simply, the Law points to Christ as its goal, but with that goal now realized, it is no longer central. For Moo, what emerges from the teaching of Christ and Paul is a decisive shift from the Law to Jesus Himself as the standard for what it means to obey God. “It is the ‘I say unto you’ of the Messiah and Son of God, not the Mosaic law in any sense, that is the basis of the new kingdom demand.”34

Fourth, the Sabbath itself is not eternal, but was a sign of the Mosaic covenant. Exodus 31:13–17 designates the day as “a sign between Me and you throughout your generations.” As such, it is given to a specific people for a specific time to remind them of a specific covenant—the Mosaic one. When that covenant is replaced with a new one, the sign that pointed to it—the Sabbath—no longer applies.35 True, the “sign” is said to be “forever,” but as Lincoln points out, “forever” does not necessarily mean “eternal,” but forever until fulfilled.36 For example, various other elements of the Mosaic law were spoken of as permanent—including the administration of the tabernacle, animal sacrifices, and the priesthood. All these were fulfilled in Christ.

To sum up, the Decalogue does not constitute God’s unchanging moral law as Adventists contend, but is part of the provisional Mosaic law that was fulfilled in Christ. As such, it is binding on Christians today only insofar as affirmed and interpreted by the law of Christ. Therefore, the Adventist case for Sabbath keeping based on the Ten Commandments collapses. As the Mosaic law goes, so goes the fourth commandment.

In the new covenant, the Sabbath isn’t transferred from Saturday to Sunday—a move for which there is scant biblical or historical evidence. Rather, Sunday functions as a new day of worship to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus who not only fulfilled the penalty of the law, but also its righteous demands. “As believers celebrate the salvation rest achieved for them through Christ’s resurrection, they can give thanks that it is not their own achievements or productivity that gives them value in God’s eyes,” writes Lincoln. “By the resurrection, they have been liberated and their failures, feeble undertakings and unfinished work need not bring them into bondage.”37

IS THE SABBATH A CREATION ORDINANCE?

The Adventist case for a seventh-day Sabbath is grounded in the Ten Commandments, but also in the Sabbath as a creation ordinance. “The beneficent Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation.”38 Put simply, by resting on the seventh day, God mandates that His people should as well.

The validity of the ordinance argument turns on how we get from is to ought. That is, how does recognizing the sabbatical structure of creation translate into a command for ongoing Sabbath observance?

In short, it doesn’t. True, God rests on the seventh day, but nowhere in the explicit commands of Genesis 1–2 is it stated that humans must also.39 Moreover, not only is a command to rest missing, there’s also no mention of a Sabbath or, for that matter, humans. Instead, the focus is entirely on God resting, not his creation doing so. A. T. Lincoln, citing Klaus Westermann, writes, “One can find here neither an institution of nor preparation for the Sabbath”—meaning any grounding for an obligatory rest must be read back into the text.40 Indeed, if you want a command for Sabbath rest, you will have to stick around until God’s people are en route to the Promised Land, where they will be governed by a theocracy.41

The case for a creation ordinance gains strength in noncanonical Jewish texts, but not in ways that affirm Sabbath keeping as binding on all people. Excluding Philo, who sought to universalize Jewish teaching, the remaining texts restrict the Sabbath ordinance to Jews. Lincoln provides a summary of the majority view:

Jubilees 2:19–21, 31 can state, “the Creator of all things…did not sanctify all peoples and nations to keep sabbath thereon, but Israel alone.” Similarly, in rabbinic literature, it is stated that the seventh day of creation was God’s Sabbath but not humanity’s (Gen. R. 11). It is said of Jews in Shabb. 16:6–8 that “if a gentile comes to put out the fire, they must not say to him ‘put it out’ or ‘do not put it out,’ since they are not answerable for his keeping the sabbath.” This is because, as Mekilta Shabb. 1 puts it, the Sabbath is “a perpetual covenant between me and the children of Israel, but not between me and the nations of the world.”42

The Noahic commandments, which governed the behavior of Gentile Godfearers, also point to a restricted application of the Sabbath ordinance, for they say nothing about keeping the Sabbath. Only a full-fledged proselyte was expected to join Jews in observing it. Even more striking is the example from Acts 15, where the apostolic decrees from Sabbath-keeping Jewish-Christians to Gentile believersexclude any mention of Sabbath observance.43 In short, the argument for a creation ordinance fails to convince.

ENGAGING ADVENTISTS WITH SALVATION HISTORY

Evangelicals who affirm the continuity of the Ten Commandments while denying the continuity of the fourth, place themselves in a difficult if not unworkable position. Adventists are right to ask how God’s Law can be both unchanging and changeable at the same time. They are right to ask what authority allows for this change, and why only the fourth commandment qualifies for revision or exclusion. VanGemeren’s continuity thesis fails to provide a framework for resolving these objections.

Conversely, Douglas Moo’s case for discontinuity within the context of salvation history dispatches these objections and levels the playing field. Its strength lies in challenging the major premise of the Adventist argument for Sabbath keeping, thus reversing the burden of proof. Instead of charging evangelicals with inconsistency and then declaring victory, Adventists must now explain why the Mosaic law still applies in the first place and why those passages pointing to discontinuity should be interpreted another way. For reasons discussed above, that won’t be easy.

Scott Klusendorf is president of Life Training Institute and holds an M.A. in Christian apologetics from Biola University.


NOTES

  1. Willem VanGemeren, “The Law Is the Perfection of Righteousness in Jesus Christ,” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, ed. Wayne Strickland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 36.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “The Law as God’s Gracious Guidance for the Promotion of Holiness,” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, 177–99.
  4. Kenneth Samples, “From Controversy to Crisis: An Updated Assessment of Seventh-day Adventism,” Christian Research Journal (Summer 1988).
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. George R. Knight, ed., Questions on Doctrine: Annotated Edition (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2003), v, 522.
  8. SDA Fundamental Beliefs cited at http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/fundamental/index.html.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Richard N. Longenecker, The Ministry and Message of Paul (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), 93.
  12. Douglas Moo, “Response to Willem VanGemeren,” Five Views on Law and Gospel, 88.
  13. A. T. Lincoln, “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical and Theological Perspective,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation, ed. D. A. Carson (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1999), 355.
  14. Moo, “Response to Willem VanGemeren,” 88.
  15. Arthur H. Baylis, From Creation to the Cross: Understanding the First Half of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 127.
  16. True, the previously cited (see note 8) 2005 statement of SDA fundamental beliefs does not mention this distinction, but popular Adventist literature routinely affirms it. See W. L. Emmerson, I Believe in The Ten Commandments (Watford, UK: Stanborough, 1934). Cited in R. J. Bauckham, “Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant Tradition,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 341.
  17. D. R. De Lacey, “The Sabbath/Sunday Question and the Law in the Pauline Corpus,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 159–85; A. T. Lincoln, “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical and Theological Perspective,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 343–405.
  18. Wayne Strickland, “The Inauguration of the Law of Christ with the Gospel,” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, 261–62.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Douglas Moo, “The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses,” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, 337.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Strickland, “The Inauguration of the Law of Christ with the Gospel,” 261–62.
  23. Baylis, 126.
  24. Moo, “The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses,” 321.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Moo, The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses,” 343. Emphasis in original.
  28. Baylis, From Creation to the Cross, 138–39.
  29. Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, in The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Gordon Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 409–10.
  30. Moo, “The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses,” 333–34.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Ibid, 348–49.
  34. Ibid, 350.
  35. Harold H. P. Dressler, “The Sabbath in the Old Testament,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 30.
  36. Lincoln, “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day,” 352.
  37. Ibid, 405.
  38. SDA Fundamental Beliefs.
  39. Lincoln, “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day,” 348; Strickland, “Response to VanGemeren,” in Fives Views on Law and Gospel, 76–77, 81.
  40. Klaus Westermann, Genesis 1–11 (Neukirchener-Vluyn: Neukirchen Verlag, 1974), 237; cited in Lincoln, 348.
  41. Strickland, “Response to VanGemeren,” 82.
  42. Lincoln, 350–51.
  43. Ibid, 350.