Celebrating Celebrity Law-Breakers

It may seem like an easy shot, but for a group of Christians who think of themselves as and talk about being Reformed, the blatant disregard of one of the most characteristic marks of Reformed devotion is breathtaking. The Co-Allies have done it again and failed to understand the importance of sanctifying the Lord’s Day.

Joe Carter posted about Bubba Watson’s victory at the Masters Tournament. What matters to Carter is Bubba’s witness, not whether the golfer conforms to God’s revealed will (though to the credit of some readers, a discussion of the Fourth Commandment did ensue):

Last month Watson’s Tweeted before his third round: The most important thing in my life? Answer after I golf 18 holes with @JustinRose99. #Godisgood

Later that day he posted on his account, “Most important things in my life- 1. God 2. Wife 3. Family 4. Helping others 5. Golf”

“Lecrae said it the best,” Watson said of the Christian rapper he listens to on his iPod. “He doesn’t want to be a celebrity. He doesn’t want to be a superstar. He just wants to be the middle man for you to see God through him.”

Of course, the Co-Allies do not neglect of the Sabbath or exhibit inconsistency alone. Evangelicalism is awash with Protestants who want public officials and school board superintendents to post the Decalogue in court and schools rooms, all the while failing to pay attention to the first table of the law and what it says about Sundays and worship.

But is it too much to ask followers of Jesus Christ to keep his day holy? Maybe it is thanks to the instruction from neo-Calvinists that all the days belong to Christ equally. I mean, if all the days now need to show Christ’s Lordship, then maybe I need a break from that week-long holiness on the day that previous generations of saints believed was reserved for holy duties. How do you keep the Lord’s Day holy when everything I do 24/7 is holy?

Still, some Christian athletes did try to honor the day. Eric Liddell, the Olympic caliber runner featured in Chariots of Fire, is one that comes to mind. Just the other night at Hillsdale we saw Chuck Chalberg (who does a pretty good Mencken, by the way) perform his one man show on Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who signed Jackie Robinson. Turns out that Rickey was reared a holiness-seeking Methodist who promised his mother that he would never play baseball on the Lord’s Day. And speaking of Dodgers, what about Sandy Koufax who would not pitch on the first day of Passover? Precedents do exist for devotion-based sacrifices.

Of course, the problem for athletes of the professional variety is that they would never become celebrities if they did not play sports on the Lord’s Day. Jeremy Lin, Tim Tebow, and Bubba Watson, would not have careers if they reserved Sunday for rest and worship. And without celebrity, Lin, Tebow, and Watson would be useless to those inspiration-deprived believers who need their pastors and mentors to be popular and famous if they are going to believe that God is really in control and carrying out his plan of salvation.

As a cure for this affliction, I recommend Bible reading. It is hard to see in stories of Israel or the early church any kind of fame or power or celebrity. Celebrity is not something that characterizes exiles and pilgrims.

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57 thoughts on “Celebrating Celebrity Law-Breakers

  1. D.G. Hart wrote: “Evangelicalism is awash with Protestants who want public officials and school board superintendents to post the Decalogue in court and schools rooms, all the while failing to pay attention to the first table of the law and what it says about Sundays and worship.”

    Spot on, Dr. Hart. Seems to me that in the American consciousness, God/Jesus serves as a chummy maskot to be used to support “our team” rather than an Almighty Sovereign whose Name is to be feared and whose commandments (including the fourth) are to be obeyed. And the Bible with its moral code (especially as that code is summarized in the ten commandments) serves as the window dressing that makes us look & feel respectable, but it is meant to be for display only, rather than actually to be seriously read and studied. Returning to the sports analogy, if God/Jesus is the maskot, then Christian celebrities (sports and otherwise) are the cheerleaders rooting for “our team.”

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  2. You can’t mention the Dodgers without giving equal opportunity to the Giants. Christy Mathewson, pitcher for some great New York Giants teams in the first two decades of the twentieth century, refused to pitch on Sundays.

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  3. M. Let us come to the fourth commandment.

    S. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.

    M. Does he order us to labor on six days, that we may rest on the seventh?

    S. Not absolutely; but allowing man six days for labor, he excepts the seventh, that it may be devoted to rest.

    M. Does he interdict us from all kind of labor?

    S. This commandment has a separate and peculiar reason. As the observance of rest is part of the old ceremonies, it was abolished by the advent of Christ.

    M. Do you mean that this commandment properly refers to the Jews, and was therefore merely temporary

    S. I do, in as far as it is ceremonial.

    M. What then? Is there any thing under it beyond ceremony?

    S. It was given for three reasons.

    M. State them to me.

    S. To figure spiritual rest; for the preservation of ecclesiastical polity; and for the relief of slaves.

    M. What do you mean by spiritual rest

    S. When we keep holiday from our own works, that God may perform his own works in us.

    M. What, moreover, is the method of thus keeping holiday?

    S. By crucifying our flesh, — that is, renouncing our own inclination, that we may be governed by the Spirit of God.

    M. Is it sufficient to do so on the seventh day?

    S. Nay, continually. After we have once begun, we must continue during the whole course of life.

    M. Why, then, is a certain day appointed to figure it?

    S. There is no necessity that the reality should agree with the figure in every respect, provided it be suitable in so far as is required for the purpose of figuring.

    M. But why is the seventh day prescribed rather than any other day?

    S. In Scripture the number seven implies perfection. It is, therefore, apt for denoting perpetuity. It, at the same time, indicates that this spiritualrest is only begun in this life, and will not be perfect until we depart from this world.

    M. But what is meant when the Lord exhorts us to rest by his own example?

    S. Having finished the creation of the world in six days: he dedicated the seventh to the contemplation of his works. The more strongly to stimulate us to this, he set before us his own example. For nothing is more desirable than to be formed after his image.

    M. But ought meditation on the works of God to be continual, or is it sufficient that one day out of seven be devoted to it?

    S. It becomes us to be daily exercised in it, but because of our weakness, one day is specially appointed. And this is the polity which I mentioned.

    M. What order, then, is to be observed on that day?

    S. That the people meet to hear the doctrine of Christ, to engage in public prayer, and make profession of their faith.

    M. Now explain what you meant by saying that the Lord intended by this commandment to provide also for the relief of slaves.

    S. That some relaxation might be given to those under the power of others. Nay, this, too, tends to maintain a common polity. For when one day is devoted to rest, every one accustoms himself to labor during the other days.

    M. Let us now see how far this command has reference to us.

    S. In regard to the ceremony, I hold that it was abolished, as the reality existed in Christ. (Colossians 2:17.)

    M. How?

    S. Because, by virtue of his death, our old man is crucified, and we are raised up to newness of life. (Romans 6:6.)

    M. What of the commandment then remains for us?

    S. Not to neglect the holy ordinances which contribute to the spiritual polity of the Church; especially to frequent sacred assemblies, to hear the word of God, to celebrate the sacraments, and engage in the regular prayers, as enjoined.

    M. But does the figure give us nothing more?

    S. Yes, indeed. We must give heed to the thing meant by it; namely, that being engrafted into the body of Christ, and made his members, we cease from our own works, and so resign ourselves to the government of God.

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  4. Thanks in part to this this blog, this Baptist has been increasingly convicted that me and my family are giving short shrift to the 4th commandment. The main source of this conviction came from listening to the whole Bible during Jan-Feb this year.

    Bingo: “Evangelicalism is awash with Protestants who want public officials and school board superintendents to post the Decalogue in court and schools rooms, all the while failing to pay attention to the first table of the law and what it says about Sundays and worship.”

    Paydirt: “And without celebrity, Lin, Tebow, and Watson would be useless to those inspiration-deprived believers who need their pastors and mentors to be popular and famous if they are going to believe that God is really in control and carrying out his plan of salvation.”

    Just what the doctor ordered: “As a cure for this affliction, I recommend Bible reading. It is hard to see in stories of Israel or the early church any kind of fame or power or celebrity. Celebrity is not something that characterizes exiles and pilgrims.”

    Last Sunday, for the first time in a very long time, I gathered my family and we began to read what the Bible says about the Sabbath.

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  5. Yes! Now, if we can just get Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels to not pitch on the Lord’s Day, my inner Philly Phanatic will be more than satisfied.

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  6. D.G. Hart: But is it too much to ask followers of Jesus Christ to keep his day holy? Maybe it is thanks to the instruction from neo-Calvinists that all the days belong to Christ equally. I mean, if all the days now need to show Christ’s Lordship, then maybe I need a break from that week-long holiness on the day that previous generations of saints believed was reserved for holy duties. How do you keep the Lord’s Day holy when everything I do 24/7 is holy?

    RS: A good post except for the paragraph above. Believers are the bride of Christ and love for Him is to keep the Greatest Command. So how many days of the week do you expect your wife to be faithful?

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  7. GM, I didn’t know someone who invokes Calvin would be so cowardly to use a pseudonym and a fake email address. Even Meredith Kline stood by his ideas.

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  8. GM, I am, but I am not familiar with you. Why not use a name and a real email address instead of hiding behind Calvin? Why not also connect the dots between Calvin and your point. The Westminster Divines disagree with Calvin. And so?

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  9. D. G. Hart: Richard, then why talk about sanctifying the Lord’s Day? See how pietism destroys the distinction between sacred and common and profane.

    RS: No, don’t see it at all. The fact that all is to be done for King Jesus does not mean that some days are distinct by His command. On the one hand He commands that our eating and drinking and whatever else we do be done to the glory of His name (I Cor 10:31), yet that does not negate the sanctity of the Sabbath. If we are commanded to be holy as He is holy, then we are to be holy in all we do and at all times. God was holy, holy, holy all the time of creation and yet set apart the sabbath day as a holy rest.

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  10. Dgh- so would you say Westminster views the Sabbath as a perpetual (binding) command, whereas Calvin saw it as beneficial but not binding?

    What would you say were the key differences between old covenant and new covenant view/purpose of the Sabbath?

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  11. Dr. Hart

    I think he was responding to your comment

    ” Maybe it is thanks to the instruction from neo-Calvinists that all the days belong to Christ equally.”

    Which seemed to imply people without a strict sabbatarian view are neo-Calvinists. It seems to me he was demonstrating that Calvin was not as strict either (for good reason I believe), which would make Calvin a Neo-Calvinist. (if that makes sense)

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  12. Richard: In what way is the Sabbath spiritually, morally, theologically different from every other day? Why is it “sanctified” and how? What does this mean? I don’t see how you can hold to a distinction based on what you’ve said.

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  13. Just pointing out that by your standard Calvin was a neo-Calvinist. It would seem that by your latest comment you would view the Westminster Divines as the true Calvinists.

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  14. Mathewson didn’t take a bat to Koufax, but he took a few figurative shots to his own head in a one-game playoff against the Sabbath-breaking Cubs to determine the NL pennant in 1908. The Cubs then defeated the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. We Cubs fans have only waited 104 years for a return to our golden age.

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  15. Richard, in your quest to make all of life holy have you ever considered that if all of life is holy then none of it is? The very concept of holiness is that something or someone is set apart from the common. So the pietism you promote is spiritual egalitarianism. But just as it’s not true that “everyone is special,” it’s not true that common days are to be sanctified. My suspicion is that part of what underlies all of it is a Gnostic discomfort with the common, as if it’s icky just because it isn’t holy. But what’s wrong with “very good”? Profane doesn’t mean untouchable.

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  16. Let’s be clear…Koufax was not particularly pious, and Hank Greenberg sat out Yom Kippur in 1934 with the Tigers in the heat of a pennant race (a year before Koufax was born – though I understand you were making a Dodger connection).

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  17. GM and Justin, and I am pointing out how an idea foreign to Calvin — every day is holy — has made it hard to keep a day holy that all Dutch Calvinist, Scottish Presbyterians (and their North American cousins) used to. I’m just waiting for the neo-Calvinists to acknowledge how innovative their views are (if not a tad destructive).

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  18. Dan and Pat, I was doing some leg pulling about Koufax. I still prefer Walter’s perspective from the Big Lebowski on Judaism — one great tradition from Moses to Sandy Koufax.

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  19. D. G. Hart: GM and Justin, and I am pointing out how an idea foreign to Calvin — every day is holy — has made it hard to keep a day holy that all Dutch Calvinist, Scottish Presbyterians (and their North American cousins) used to. I’m just waiting for the neo-Calvinists to acknowledge how innovative their views are (if not a tad destructive).

    RS: It is not innovative when it is clearly taught in Scripture.

    Matthew 22:37 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’

    1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

    Until it can be shown that there are moments of the day or even days of the week where we are free from the Greatest Commandment, then the innovation is on your head. Until it can be shows that “whatever you do” is only limited to one day a week, then innovation is on your head.

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  20. Alexander: Richard: In what way is the Sabbath spiritually, morally, theologically different from every other day? Why is it “sanctified” and how? What does this mean? I don’t see how you can hold to a distinction based on what you’ve said.

    RS: Perhaps the difference is that the day is sanctified in terms of the Sabbath, but I am arguing that all a person does on all days is to reflect being holy to the Lord. The Sabbath day is holy in that this day is set apart to rest from the labors of life and be devoted in a particular way to the Lord. But in all of life the person is to be a living and holy sacrifice to the Lord.

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  21. Richard, please square your reading of Matt. 22:37 with the fourth commandment and chapter 21 of WCF.

    BTW, are you getting much sleep these days because it sure seems hard for me to believe you can actively love God with all your being while you sleep (or have some of those bad dreams)?

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  22. Zrim: Richard, in your quest to make all of life holy have you ever considered that if all of life is holy then none of it is?

    RS: No, that leap of logic has not entered my mind. The saints (set apart ones) of God are to love Him in all that they do and do all they do to the glory of His name. All of life is to be lived out of love for God whether it is the labor of the hands or whatever one does.

    Zrim: The very concept of holiness is that something or someone is set apart from the common. So the pietism you promote is spiritual egalitarianism.

    RS: Call it what you will, but until you can show that there are times that the Greatest Commandment is not valid, all of our lives are to be goverened by it.

    Zrim: But just as it’s not true that “everyone is special,” it’s not true that common days are to be sanctified. My suspicion is that part of what underlies all of it is a Gnostic discomfort with the common, as if it’s icky just because it isn’t holy. But what’s wrong with “very good”? Profane doesn’t mean untouchable.

    RS: Again, I am not arguing that the days in and of themselves are sanctified, but that people are to do all that they do out of love for God and to the glory of God. Christ lives in His people and His life will be seen in and through those He dwells in. Christ is married to His bride and He expects her to be devoted to Him at all times and not just one day of the week.

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  23. D. G. Hart: Richard, please square your reading of Matt. 22:37 with the fourth commandment and chapter 21 of WCF.

    RS: There is no need to square them at all as they are not opposed to each other. Ch XIX sec V of the WCF says that “the moral law doth for ever bind all.” Sec VI says that the Law “as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly.” Since the law of love is needed to obey any commandment of God, Matt 22:40 teaches us that “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” The commands of God are for all times (except the Sabbath) and not just the Sabbath day. We should never have any idols on any day of the week. We should never use God’s name in vain on any day of the week.

    D.G. Hart: BTW, are you getting much sleep these days because it sure seems hard for me to believe you can actively love God with all your being while you sleep (or have some of those bad dreams)?

    RS: Actually, Baxter has a section on how to do that. However, one can plan sleep in such a way that glorifies God rather than being sleeping too much or too little.

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  24. Richard, you do need to square your interpretation with the Westminster Standards. They teach that one day is holy, not all six. How do you like them apples? (Rhetorical)

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  25. D. G. Hart: Richard, you do need to square your interpretation with the Westminster Standards. They teach that one day is holy, not all six. How do you like them apples? (Rhetorical)

    RS: But it also teaches that believers are to be holy all of the time.

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  26. Consarnit, Richard. Who is saying anybody is free from obedience in their six days? But part of your problem is that you seem to make holy and obedient synonymous. We are to be obedient all of the time, but our time is divided into common (six days) and holy (seventh day).

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  27. Richard, I don’t understand why the pietist Baxter has the market cornered on “sleep spirituality.” Seeing that I see nothing in Scripture whatsoever about “holys sleep’, I think the burden falls on you (or another pietist) to prove the case. “Do all things to the glory of God” can be whipped up into legalism pretty quickly without proper context.

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  28. Scott F Oakland: Richard, I don’t understand why the pietist Baxter has the market cornered on “sleep spirituality.” Seeing that I see nothing in Scripture whatsoever about “holys sleep’, I think the burden falls on you (or another pietist) to prove the case. “Do all things to the glory of God” can be whipped up into legalism pretty quickly without proper context.

    RS: Would immoral dreams be something sinful? Would sleeping too much be like the sluggard that turns on his bed? Scripture does speak of sleep. But it is true, do all things to the glory of God could be whipped up into legalism. But so could the Sabbath day and the sacraments and…

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  29. Zrim” Consarnit, Richard.

    RS: Now, now, don’t start with the bad language.

    Zrim: Who is saying anybody is free from obedience in their six days?

    RS: For what seems like ages now, I am been insisting that people are to love God all days of the week versus just showing up on Sunday mornings.

    Zrim: But part of your problem is that you seem to make holy and obedient synonymous.

    RS: A holy person is one that is set apart for obedience. One cannot be obedient unless one is holy.

    Zrim: We are to be obedient all of the time, but our time is divided into common (six days) and holy (seventh day).

    RS: Agree, the Sabbath day is holy in a special way. But God’s people are commanded to be holy as He is holy all the days of the week.

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  30. Richard, you’re sounding weary. But imagine the fatigue of not finding oneself in the constant antinomian suggestions of another. And not to take anything away from obedience, but “just showing up Sunday” is not only a work but also the remedy for failure. Where is there any room in your 24/7ism for being a sinner not just in theory but also in practice?

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  31. John,

    I don’t know. But, if we’re gonna extend out into dreams and sleep holiness it may end up having the psychological underbelly of “cutting” or self-flagellation. Sunday needs to get her quick so I can get absolved, that or you’ll find me in the confession booth; ” Father, it’s been 31 years since my last confession…………………” At least then I can pound out my “hail Mary’s” and “our Father’s” and refill the tub.

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  32. Alexander said: “so would you say Westminster views the Sabbath as a perpetual (binding) command, whereas Calvin saw it as beneficial but not binding?”

    FYI, I think there was some movement in Calvin’s view of the Sabbath. The Institutes seem to give a good bit of latitude on the use of the day, but it seems that he tightened it up in his sermons on the ten commandments that he preached nine years before his death. Following is some material from his sermon on the 4th commandment:

    “We must refrain from our business which hinders us from meditating on the works of God. We must call upon his name and exercise ourselves in his word. If we spend the Lord’s Day in partying, games and sports is this honoring God? No! Is it not mocking him and misusing his name? Yes!
    …Furthermore we must understand that the Lord’s Day was not appointed only for listening to sermons, but that we should spend the rest of the time praising God. For, although he gives us food every day, we do not keep his gracious gifts in mind and give him the glory. It would indeed be a poor thing if we did not give consideration to the gifts of God on the Lord’s Day. And, because we are so occupied with our own affairs on the other days of the week, we are slow to serve God in them in the way he has assigned on the one day. The Lord’s Day must, therefore, serve as a tower in which we can go up to view God’s works in the distance. It is a time in which there should be nothing to hinder us or keep us occupied, so that we can employ our minds meditating on the benefits and gracious gifts he has given us.…What are we to do then? Let us understand that it is not enough for us to hear the sermon preached on the Lord’s Day to receive some good instruction and to call upon the name of God. We must also digest the same things, and bend our minds to meditate on the gracious things that God has done for us.”

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  33. Zrim: Where is there any room in your 24/7ism for being a sinner not just in theory but also in practice?

    RS: With every intent of the thoughts and of the heart all fall short of the glory of God. God saves sinners by grace alone but they can still do nothing good apart from Christ (John 15:4-5).

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  34. I for one am not surprised Bubba played on the Sabbath. Saturday is moving day, y’all (golfers joke for dispensationalists).

    I taped the Sunday round and watched on Monday. Uh oh, was DVRing a violation?…. The action was neither of necessity nor mercy, although my wife might argue it was necessity out of sympathy for my affliction with the game.

    Mighty glorious and emotional stuff too. A hook pitching wedge from pine straw to 12 feet, pin high. Providential, one could even say, thus almost santifying the event.

    But, he did break the Sabbath, no doubt, and for this he must receive the appropriate punishment: death:

    I read the Bible, and here’s what it says: ‘For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death. So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant’ Exodus 31:15-16.

    Death! That’s the perpetual penalty for breaking the Sabbath, gentlemen. Or are some of you more disposed to a half-way sort of thing – enforce the Sabbath, just not with death but guilt, and in so doing, not enforce it’s penalty as “perpetual”? You who wish to be under the law, do you not break the law?

    Consider the words of Jesus: “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers” (Luke 11:46).

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  35. Ted, what you might call “a half way sort of thing” others call 2k. Have you missed the 2k-theonomy discussions here and elsewhere? It’s the theonomists who want physical death, but 2kers who understand messianic fulfillment and instead want patient discipline for trespasses (and theos want 2k hides for saying so). And some 2k sabbatarians are quite aware of the potential for legalism. But the larger point seems to be one about the potential for hypocrisy.

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  36. Zrim,

    Thanks brother. I have indeed.

    What is the discipline in your church for a person who breaks the Sabbath? Not talking about non-attenders, but someone who does attend. And who has ever received such?

    2k is good. But none of your churches will ever remove a person for going to church in the morning and playing golf in the afternoon. You’ld have a revolt.

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  37. Someone with more wit than I once espoused their support of the “Calvin-Klein” view of the Sabbath.

    And no, that doesn’t have anything to do with Romney’s underwear.

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  38. MikelMann,

    How does citing Calvin’s sermon on the 4th commandment preached 9 years before Calvin’s death show he tightened up on his view stated in the Institutes, last edited 4 years before his death?

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  39. Ted, if your point is that discipline has fallen on hard times of late, I’d agree. Though it could also be that patience accounts for what seems like laxity. But to reiterate the larger point about hypocrisy: it’s not a little ironic that those who seem all too eager to get the world to obey the 10 Commandments also tend to to be the same folks who behave as if there are only 9 (or even less).

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  40. D. G. Hart: Ted, you’d be surprised. A Reformed church is different from a Baptist congregation. Revolt is what Baptists and Southerners do.

    RS: Which may not have answered his question. When is the last time you have seen (maybe even heard of) a person being disciplined for breaking the Sabbath?

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  41. Richard, believe it or not, discipline doesn’t actually happen in the OPC because many pastors, elders, and congregants have a shared awareness that you should not desecrate the Sabbath. The rule enforces itself, sort of like running red lights.

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  42. D. G. Hart: Richard, believe it or not, discipline doesn’t actually happen in the OPC because many pastors, elders, and congregants have a shared awareness that you should not desecrate the Sabbath. The rule enforces itself, sort of like running red lights.

    RS: Which, surely you would admit, is rather strange. Not your answer, but the practice. Church discipline would most likely be carried out on all the other commandments by churches that practice discipline, but not this one. But of course by definition a church practices discipline. It does seem as if keeping the Sabbath holy, at least in terms of practice, is relegated to second class status or at least unenforceable. By the way, what follows is not a sarcastic question. I am a sabbatarian and look down to some degree (hopefully the theology and not in pride) on those who do not keep the Sabbath and claim to follow the nine commands. So what does this say about churches that practice discipline on nine commands only?

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  43. Richard, it indicates that the shared sensibility brings with it compliance on Lord’s Day observance. I know you want people to bubble over in their piety. But sometimes Reformed devotion is ordinary and even silent. It’s like taking the Lord’s name in vain. I don’t know when a discipline case has occurred because everyone generally practices it.

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