Sabbath by Dan Allender

Sabbath is the third volume in the Ancient Practice series published by Thomas Nelson, the first of which is Finding Our Way Again written by Brian McLaren. Allender is the founder and president of Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle (no connection to Mars Hill Church pastored by Mark Driscoll).

Allender develops his book around three core premises: keeping the Sabbath is a commandment and thus is incumbent upon every child of God; the Sabbath is to be a day dedicated to delight; and the Sabbath is a feast day which remembers our leisure in Eden and anticipates our play in the new heavens and earth (p. xiii). It is important to note that Allender does not draw any of his premises from Scripture but rather from Jewish tradition (pp. 11-12), ancient and modern practices and rituals created and imagined by Allender and those in his mystically oriented camp.

For example, Allender claims that since Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments Christians are to keep it. Not only does this ignore the frequent New Testament statements proclaiming us free from the Mosaic Law, but Allender also has no intention of actually following the prescribed Old Testament manner in which Sabbath was kept. Working from Deuteronomy 5:12-15, which states Sabbath as a day of rest, Allender immediately twists the passage to teach Sabbath is a day of play and celebration of creation (p. 64). At no point does the author mention, nor does he intend to apply, the many and stringent Old Covenant regulations regarding Sabbath. Instead, Allender makes an inexplicable leap from the pages of Scripture to an imaginary understanding of Sabbath as a day of pretense and delight.

In order to delight in Sabbath Allender recommends many options from lighting candles (p. 24), smoking pipes (pp. 24, 58, 136), drinking good wine (pp. 135-136), finger painting (p. 42), taking a hike (p. 42), reading a novel (p. 78), fly fishing, even if it is an imaginary adventure on the lawn (pp. 78, 108) and eating the best of food. The only stipulation is that Sabbath must be pursued with delight: “What intrigues, amazes, tickles your fancy, delights your senses and casts you into an entirely new and unlimited world is the raw material of Sabbath” (p. 28).

Not only is Sabbath a day of play, it is also a day of pretense. “It is a day we pretend that all is well, our enemies are not at war with us and the peace we will one day enjoy for eternity, is an eternity that utters this day on our behalf” (p. 86, see also pp. 88, 108-109). Sabbath then “is a fiction” (p. 88) a day lived as if there was no sin (p. 88), a day of “curiosity, coziness, and care” (p. 89). It is a party (p. 103). We are to pretend and play on Sabbath as if the new heavens and earth were here (p. 110). Such pretense will require props which could include candles, using our finest china, or rituals such as Sabbath sex or a walk in the woods (p. 131).

In Allender’s theology the Jewish year of jubilee is also to be kept but, true to form, not as it was kept in the Old Testament (pp. 153-166). Instead it is twisted into a call for social action.

In other words, Allender has created a totally unbiblical view of the Sabbath, one that would be totally unrecognizable by Old Testament Jews as well as church age Christians. He has not drawn his concepts from Scripture, nor has he made any serious attempt to do so. He is content with the opinions of his peers, his own imagination and the direct communication that he receives supposedly from the Lord (pp. 106, 112, 141, 146, 151-152). In short Sabbath is in fact a work of fiction, not exactly the kind of fiction Allender recommends but fiction nevertheless.

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