10 Jan

DON’T LEAVE YOUR BRAIN AT THE CHURCH DOOR

By Zdravko Plantak – “What is truth?” asked a cynical governor, not waiting for an answer.1 In his eyes he didn’t need to, because as supreme leader, he was the one who defined truth. Truth was what he said it was.

As commander of the Roman occupying power, he certainly didn’t need to be told what the truth was by some Jewish prisoner brought to be condemned by religious leaders who had also defined what truth was. He, Pontius Pilatus, even had the ultimate power of life and death over everyone in the province. His question was a rhetorical disregard for knowing “what is truth.?”

The Bible has much to say about truth. God’s word is truth (John 17:17). We differentiate truth and falsehood through our response to God (1 John 4:6). Jesus says he is the truth (John 14:6).The Spirit guides into all truth (John 16:13). The truth sets us free (John 8:32). Yet there are many varieties of “truth” out there, even among Christians.

So, the real question for us is how we determine “what is truth?” especially in a world of conspiracy theories, “fake news,” and vaccine misinformation.

Many have suggested ways by which we discover the truth. Of course, there are even different levels of truth. The factual (e.g. water is a liquid), the experiential (you fall as a result of gravity), the abstract (most aspects of religion, etc.). But across subjects and disciplines, there are some generally accepted ways of determining what is true. So, let’s look at them and see how they relate, especially to fundamental aspects of “truth knowing” that are philosophical and religious.

Just a fancy word to say, “Does it fit all the facts?” In other words, if you take everything you know about some subject, what concept brings those ideas together and makes sense of it all? It’s a bit like the scientific method which assembles all the known facts about an object or a process, develops a hypothesis that fits all that, and then designs an experiment to test the hypothesis.

Sometimes, such a process is not possible, so then we have to go back to a general coherence of what we know (That is a limitation of this aspect of determining truth. We rarely have “all the facts”). However, we can ask, “Is it more likely or more unlikely that something is true?”

Take for example, the resurrection of Jesus. We weren’t there to observe for ourselves. So, we have to examine the evidence that we have in order to draw our conclusion as to whether it is true. Certainly, those companions of Jesus believed it, and the resurrection is coherent with the rest of Christian belief. In fact, as Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless,” (1 Cor. 15:14 NLT).

This aspect really relates to the world we all observe. We could even say this approach to truth is saying “It’s obvious!” We may accept certain propositions as true without even thinking about them. Water gets you wet. Hot stove tops can burn you. Gravity pulls everything downward. Such a consensus of truth is based on common experience. We can also apply consensus to abstract ideas such as love and goodness, and their opposites, though there will always be arguments about how they are defined. For Christians, some examples of consensus would be “There is a God”; “The Bible is his Word”; “Jesus came to save us.”

Paul uses a kind of consensus argument when he says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse,” (Romans 1:20 NIV). Some, of course, may disagree with such a consensus statement, and the different Christian denominations are proof that consensus is hard to achieve, despite the attempts of ecumenism. In the words of Woodrow Kroll, “Truth can’t be judged on the basis of popularity.”2

While you could separate these out, they all follow similar logic, and all have the same problematic issues when it comes to determining truth. Sometimes we say that a proposition of truth has “stood the test of time.” In other words, if people have believed something is true over a long time period, it must necessarily be true, for if it were not, it would have been discarded. It doesn’t take much thought to conclude that even if a belief has been around for a long time, that doesn’t make it true. The same applies to custom and tradition. Custom says, “We’ve always done it this way, so it must be right.” Clearly not necessarily true.

Similarly with tradition. From a Christian perspective, appeal is often made to the “tradition of the church fathers.” While their experience should be considered, just because it was their belief doesn’t necessarily make it true. In fact, some beliefs and practices that are seen as true because of tradition may be at variance with what the Bible says. As Jesus told the religionists of his day, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:9 NIV).

Many appeals to truth are done with reference to some authority. In other words, because someone famous (or even a divine figure) says something is true, then it surely must be. The question to be raised first is, “What is the reason this person is given the status of an authority figure?” (It may be because of previous statements that have been accepted, or lifestyle, or claims). We do this frequently today by appealing to “experts,” or to powerful leaders. However, once again, claims to truth do not necessarily make things true. In religion, appeals to the authority of church leaders are made as a way to determine truth or otherwise. Thomas a Kempis wisely observed, “Do not be influenced by the importance of the writer, and whether his learning be great or small, but let the love of pure truth draw you to read. Do not inquire, who said this? but pay attention to what is said.” 3

Yet we must admit we are all fallible, and sometimes those in power may have other reasons for asserting “truth” other than the fact that it is true. Jesus had to deal with questions of authority in terms of his truth-telling. The religious leaders came to Jesus. “‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you authority to do this?’” (Mark 11:28 NIV). Authority in and of itself doesn’t determine truth.

This aspect is often used to say something is “always true.” In mathematics for example, strict logic applies. Two and two always makes four. That statement is always true. Or in logic we can say that “A” is not “non-A.” That is invariably true. In religion, the equivalent statement of consistency is “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). Jesus is consistent, and this is taken as a baseline of truth. Appealing to the importance of logic, hymn writer Isaac Watts wrote, “It was a saying of the ancients, ‘Truth lies in a well;’ and to carry on this metaphor, we may justly say that logic does supply us with steps, whereby we may go down to reach the water.” 4

“I just feel it’s true.” Such a statement cannot be tested or verified, and so is not a means to determine truth. People have different feelings about many subjects, and they cannot all be true. Yet this is frequently the most common attempt to define what the person believes to be true.

We cannot trust what we feel. Francis Schaeffer observes, “We must stress that the basis for our faith is neither experience nor emotion but the truth as God has given it in verbalized, prepositional form in the Scripture and which we first of all apprehend with our minds.” 5 Similarly Jeremiah: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV).

Just like the previous aspect, instinct and intuition cannot be seen as reliable guides to discovering what is true. While we may “instinctively” know that we need to drink when we’re thirsty, and while it may be true that we have a “spiritual thirst,” the fact that we come to different conclusions as to what to do and where to go indicates that this is not a reliable way of finding truth. Intuition, similarly, leads people in different directions.

And yet, Ellen White admonished believers that “we must sink the shaft deep in the mine of truth. You may question matters with yourselves and with one another if you only do it in the right spirit; but too often self is large, and as soon as investigation begins, an unchristian spirit is manifested. This is just what Satan delights in, but we should come with a humble heart to know for ourselves what is truth.” 6

So, having examined these different aspects, how do we, in fact, discover truth? First, it’s clear we need to use our minds! God gave them to us so we could separate right from wrong, to differentiate between truth and error. Don’t listen to people who tell you to leave your brain at the church door!

Then examine the evidence. Ask yourself, does it make sense? Read the Bible and ask what it tells you about God and the way he relates to human beings. Most of all, look at the life of Jesus who said so clearly, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” (John 14:9 NIV). Look for some of those aspects mentioned above—logic, consistency, coherence and so on.

Also, admit that you have to make some assumptions. Like, there is a God. That he’s involved with this planet. That he cares for us. And so on. But then ask yourself, “What kind of God is represented here?” For that’s the most important aspect of discovering truth.

Pilate didn’t wait for an answer to his question. But Jesus had already answered it beforehand, when he told Pilate, “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me,” (John 18:37 NIV). Discover the truth as it is in Jesus!

— Zdravko (Zack) Plantak, PhD, is a professor of religion and ethics at the School of Religion at Loma Linda University. Email him at: [email protected]

1 https://www.thoughtco.com/of-truth-by-francis-bacon-1690073

2 https://www.pvariel.com/dr-woodrow-krolls-quotes-from-giants-of-the-old-testament-part-iv/

3 https://www.christianquotes.info/quotes-by-topic/quotes-about-truth/

4 https://www.bartleby.com/349/302.html

5 https://www.christianquotes.info/quotes-by-author/francis-schaeffer-quotes/

6 Ellen G. White, Counsels to Writer and Editors, (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Assoc, 1946), p. 42.

29 Sep

MY IDEAL CHURCH—UNITED BUT NOT UNIFORM

By Zdravko Plantak — We can think about the church in many ways and describe it by many picturesque metaphors. But it does seem quite pertinent to think of the church in the way that Apostle Paul, at least in one of his significant descriptions of the church, thought of the community of believers as a body—a healthy, growing body. And the passage in 1 Corinthians 12:11-26 is his fullest explanation of this picture of a church as a human body. Because here, using this image, he makes four points about the communal aspects of the church. For me, it describes the church in a very imaginative way.

Firstly, he describes the church as one despite the differences. This is surely describing a church that is united. And a united church does not imply a uniform church. Paul does not disguise the differences among the faithful. For example, he has just explained in Verse 4 that people are gifted in different ways. And these gifts are used for different responsibilities within the church. There are in Verse 5, varieties of service; Verse 6, varieties of working; and then, in Verses 7-10, Paul goes on to give a list of different gifts given to individuals so that not all members of the church are gifted in the same way. So, he freely acknowledges the differences in gifts. But then he goes on in Verse 11: All these different blessings are inspired by one and the same Spirit who apportions to each one individually as the Spirit wills.

Again, Paul does not deny that there are differences in cultural background: there are Jews and Greeks; or differences of social background such as slaves and free (13). Paul would be the last person to say that differences are to be ignored. But they are nothing beside the great unifying factor which is a common experience of the Spirit—Verse 13: For by one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit. Whatever our cultural or social background may be, we all, each one of us, has been brought into the body of Christ, into the church. And all of this is mirrored in the human body—Verse 12: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body”. The human body has many limbs but is still one entity.

The church is one despite its differences. And this, the Corinthians needed to know. They raised the gift of tongues to an importance that it never deserved. Some were jealous that they didn’t get it. They felt distant from those who had it. And Paul says: There are differences, but there is one body. How much we need to be reminded of this truth. It is easy for us to look at people more gifted than ourselves and be jealous, or feel they are miles above us. But Paul is adamant that all these gifts whatever they are, all these gifts, however seemingly humble, are inspired by one and the same Spirit (11). And it is up to Him to apportion the gifts as He chooses. Perhaps you are very conscious and aware in our church of cultural differences.

Or you are aware of social or economic differences. And yet, Paul says in Verse 13, Don’t you see that all these things pale into insignificance beside our common experience of the Spirit. And that first taste of the Spirit is like a refreshing drink which each one has access to. Yes, says Paul, the church is a motley bunch, with many very different people in it, but it is one despite the differences. United, but never uniform.

It’s a picture, secondly, of the fact that the church is made up of various members. This is the argument of Verses 14–20. Verse 14 says: For the body does not consist of one member, but many. And then Paul imagines the less prominent limb of the body feeling it has no real significance in the body: the foot feeling inferior to the hand, the ear feeling less important than the eye. And out of the inferiority complex, one begins to form the opinion that one doesn’t really matter to the body. Paul says: “That’s ridiculous!” (15). Just take for a moment any one organ in the body, however valuable it might be. If that was the only organ, the body would be infinitely impoverished. “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing, if the whole body would be an ear, where would be the sense of smell.” (17) In fact, there would be no real body at all. “If all were a single organ, where would the body be?” (19).

Indeed, an organ that feels unimportant, wasted, with no significant part to play in the body, is rebelling against God Himself. In Verse 19, as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them as He chose. And so Paul sums up the whole argument in this section: “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body” (20).

And this is a lesson much needed today: there are many in our communities who feel inferior and unimportant. And sometimes, these other body organs push their importance so much that it may be almost natural for some to feel pushed to the margins. Paul reminds us that this is a complete misunderstanding of what the ideal church should be like.

Suppose, for example, that the church consisted entirely of preachers and there was no one to make a hot drink afterwards or to collect our offerings. That would be a very great impoverishment of our life as a body. Suppose everybody was an organizer, everyone in church was running groups, and no-one had the time or ability to invite members of these groups for a meal. We would perhaps be a well-run machine, but there would be no warmth, no humanity. And, as Paul says in verse 20, there would be no body. No body of Christ. Indeed, to feel unimportant, to feel it wouldn’t matter if we did nothing and just slipped away from the church, to feel we don’t really belong to the Christian body, is to rebel against God. You did not choose your place in the body, God did. Verse 18: God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them as He chose. And Paul uses this picture of the body to urge the important truth that the church is made up of various, that is to say different, members.

Thirdly, the church must respect the contribution of each part (21-22). Now Paul turns from those who feel inferior, who think they have gifts not worth talking about, to those who know very well they are gifted, to the more prominent members of the body. And he tells them not to imagine they could do without the others. Verse 21 says: “The eye cannot say to the hand ‘I have no need of you.’ Nor again head to the feet ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. Take the hand, for example—it seems a fairly unimportant appendage to the body, much less vital than the eye. But just imagine the vast range of things that we couldn’t do if we had no hands. Or take the feet. Sometimes they seem just as like ugly lumps of flesh, very quick to sweat, prone to diseases like athlete’s foot or developing bunions. But just think how much your life would be restricted if you had no feet. No, says Paul, these parts may seem weaker or less important, but for a full healthy life they are, according to Verse 22, indispensable. We should never underestimate the power and importance of the seemingly less important limb of the body.

Finally, the interdependence is essential to flourishing in the Body of Christ. God has created the human body in such a way that it has the instinct to lavish a great deal of care on what might seem the least worthy part (vv. 23-24). And we could see this in action, in Verse 26: If one member suffers, all suffer together. If the stomach is upset, the whole body is thrown out of joint with it. If one member is honored, all rejoice together. If arms or legs have been involved in some athletic activity, and have done well, maybe lifting weights or running fast over a distance, the whole body feels good as a result. Because in the human body, all the limbs know very well that they are not independent entities, but that interdependence is a significant and necessary posture. They belong together in one body. And there are people in our communities that seem weak. They are decidedly less honored in the world’s eyes: those who will never have prestigious jobs, who might never become leaders even in a small church. There are even, in recent times, members who push for different realities of the world we live in. They are on the opposite side of the spectrum on politics or understanding the pandemic, vaccination, or other public health measures, or just disagree with us in the way we think about environmental responsibilities or social, economic, or racial justice.

But the whole point of this passage of Paul is that we belong to each other because we are one body. We are not independent entities. We belong together. Of course, we struggle with this. Of course, we may even think, should we really stay connected to that body? And yet, we are invited to think about such a community that God creates, despite vast differences within its parts, as ‘e pluribus unum’, out of many, one.

Yet, God’s priorities are exactly opposite of the world’s and are mirrored in the human body He has made. Verse 24: God has so composed the body, giving great honor to the inferior part, so that there may be no discord in the body but that they can have the same care for one another. If some weak member pours out their suffering to the group, our reaction cannot be: “Not again. We heard all this last week.” This would only be possible if we belonged to two separate worlds. But we don’t. We belong to the one and the same body.

It’s a rich picture, this picture of a church as the human body. And Paul uses it to make important points. But, in a way, it’s all summed up in Verse 20: There are many parts, yet one body. The ideal church is an extraordinary collection of different people. I have only to look around the church (or even the family) that I belong to. And in the ideal community of the faithful, we must allow people to be different, nay we must celebrate our differences, and then, especially, care for people in their weaknesses, the entire time never losing sight of this important fact that we are one body!

–Zdravko (Zack) Plantak, PhD, is professor of religion and ethics at the School of Religion at Loma Linda University. Email him at: [email protected]

05 Jan

SOCIAL JUSTICE THROUGH SABBATH OBSERVANCE

By Zdravko Plantak — “I hate your Sabbaths!” This sounds like a pretty strong sentiment, right? “I hate, I despise your feasts, I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, . . . Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of the harps, I will not listen.” These are, of course, God’s words recorded by a prophet. Amos penned them in the context of what seems to be utterly detestable to God–Sabbath assemblies and worships that are not matched by social justice that rolls down like an ever-flowing stream. And Amos is not ambiguous on what is at stake in the same chapter [Amos 5] where he defines the social injustice problems in crystal clarity: “You trample on the poor, . . . you oppress . . . and deprive the poor of justice, . . . you turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground.”

Of course, Amos is not the only prophet who suggests similar lines of thinking that link the issues of Sabbath and justice. In Isaiah 1, the community is called to repentance from meaningless worship and evil Sabbath assemblies (Vs. 13), “Sabbaths and convocations. I cannot bear your evil assembles . . . as they have become a burden to [God]” because the faithful do not “seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” (Vs. 17, 22-23). The anger of God is against those who have ruined God’s vineyard (God’s people, Is. 5:7) because “the plunder of the poor is in [their] houses [because they are crushing God’s people] and grinding the faces of the poor” (Is. 3:14-15).

I hope to briefly develop three constructive points, as I think we would do well to look again at the meaning of Sabbath observance and its relationship to necessary social implications and applications through the vision of the prophetic responsibility.

Sabbath’s Universality

Philo’s expression that the Sabbath is “the birthday of the world” and consequently a “festival, not of a single city or country, but of the universe” (Philo, On the Creation, XXX, as cited in Sakae Kubo, God Meets Men: A Theology of Sabbath and Second Coming, 1978), p. 19.), points to the universality of the Sabbath. And the universal Sabbath makes no distinction among people. Instead, it makes all people equal before God.

Sabbath teaching does not involve only the Sabbath day; it concerns the other six days of the week as well. The atmosphere and the principles of the Sabbath will not only “extend beyond the worship service to the dinner table and the living room” (Kubo, p. 27.) on the seventh day, but they would also become a part of the Sabbath attitude which ought to be practiced throughout the week. In the words of Jack Provonsha:

True Sabbath-keeping touches the whole of life. The Sabbath sanctifies the week. One cannot be dishonest on Monday and truly keep the Sabbath, because Sabbath- keeping is essentially a posture toward God that is not a one-day-in-seven kind of activity. (A Remnant in Crisis, 1993, p. 87.)

The concern for other people which the believer is called to have on the Sabbath must be extended to a way of life exercised daily. The Sabbatical concern, which extends from the weekly Sabbaths to Sabbatical years also, was to teach the faithful about the needs of the less fortunate, the poor, the widows and the orphans (Ex. 35:12-33). In a similar way, we must develop a greater “Sabbatical” conscience for the poor, the unfortunate, the racially and ethnically disadvantaged, and the powerless whose basic human rights are denied.

As Karen Mains suggests, without the meaningful Sabbath cycle, our spiritual world is being ravaged, defoliated and deforested . . . as the forests in the Amazon River Basin in Brazil, and with similar spiritual consequences. “We have become a dehydrated people, with meager spiritual life, dwelling in desert places of the soul. God meant when He said, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” (Making Sunday Special, 1987, p. 145)

You see, without true Sabbath observance, without regularly entering that promised rest, our personal spirituality and our social concern can become dehydrated, deforested, and ravaged. We are becoming dehydrated people because we forget what Sabbath could bring to our compassion, relationship with, and love for others. On the other hand, a weekly reminder of God’s Shalom offered through Sabbath observance can replenish our compassion for and interest in others.

In the prophet Isaiah’s vision, in that oft-quoted passage in Chapter 58, that one needs to keep one’s feet from breaking the Sabbath and calling it delight (Is, 58:13) is directly linked to the earlier verses that have explicit social justice connection that elaborates on what may be a day acceptable to the Lord: “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and break every yoke; to share your food with the hungry, to provide the poor sojourn with shelter, to clothe the person you see naked, to spend yourselves on behalf of hungry and satisfy the need of the oppressed” (Is 58: 6.7.10).

Jesus is again the supreme example of the way God desired to have fellowship with man and how He intended the Sabbath to bring meaning to the worshipping community. As “the Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28), Jesus took pains to clarify the true meaning of the Sabbath. At the time of Jesus, the Sabbath had become a legalistic exercise of self- righteousness on behalf of different groups of believers who wanted to prove their perfection. Jesus, however, pointed out to the almost forgotten humanitarian function of the fourth commandment. As one commentator notes, To counteract prevailing legal interpretations which restricted humanitarian service on the Sabbath to emergency situations only, Jesus intentionally ministered on this day to persons who were not critically, but chronically ill. (Samuele Bacchiocchi, Divine Rest for Human Restlessness, 1980, pp. 194-195)

In such a way Jesus pressed the Sabbath into salvation history, making it a day intended for the benefit of humankind.

The Sabbath points to equality among all human beings. It is a memorial to God, the Creator. Remembering weekly that God is our Creator, and that all human beings are only creatures among whom the differences are really non-essential, should encourage Sabbath observers to accept and respect others regardless of their occupation, race, culture or nationality, ethnic or economic background, ability or disability, or their occupation, or educational level.

Sabbath’s Liberation

So, the Sabbath becomes the true means of liberation for humanity. It celebrates God’s merciful act of liberation and deliverance from the bondage of Egypt (Deut. 5:15), but it also points to the ultimate liberation from sin and all its consequences.

Charles Bradford remarked in his treatise on “The Sabbath and Liberation” that the Sabbath lay at the very heart of the first great freedom movement. Moses delivered God’s message to Pharaoh: “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me” (Ex. 7:16). This was a direct appeal to Pharaoh to allow the enslaved people to observe the Sabbath rest. Later, God re-established the Sabbath as a sign of their liberation (Deuteronomy 5:15).

Moreover, this arrangement was to be permanent be- cause Sabbath rest and Sabbath observance is directly related to human dignity and freedom. Yahweh never intended for one human being to tyrannize another, or for one nation to subjugate another nation (Charles E. Bradford, “The Sabbath and Liberation: With the Sabbath, No One Can Keep Us Down,” Anchor Points, 1993, p. 28).

Several commentators call Isaiah’s description of the Sabbatical attitude in Isaiah 56:1-7 “Yahweh’s manifesto,” or God’s sign of freedom, independence and liberation. “Maintain justice and do what is right. . . . Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it.” And “Yahweh’s manifesto” is relevant and applicable to the whole human family, especially to the outcasts—the poor, the powerless, foreigners (e.g., refugees) and eunuchs (politically and economically impotent). Bradford adds that, “The Sabbath is a sign in perpetuity
and a constant reminder of the relationships that exist between human beings and their God and between human beings and their fellow humans” (p. 28).

In the words of Sakae Kubo: “Sabbath observance has integral social and humanitarian aspects that we dare not forget. The Sabbath, as sign of redemption, points in two directions—to our own redemption and to that of the oppressed. We must bring rest to those who live in servitude (p. 46).

Ironically, we have many times failed to recognize that Sabbath observance should initiate liberation beyond our own community. Even within the church, the principle of equality was not always practiced rigorously. But, as Kubo concludes, if Adventists “fail to practice true fellowship and genuine equality, they betray a lack of understanding of the Sabbath as a sign of fellowship and equality” (p. 46).

Sabbatical Year Principle Through Annual Sabbaths and the Sabbath of Sabbaths

In Deuteronomy 15, the extensions of the weekly Sabbath idea apply to the sabbatical year and the Year of Jubilee, and it emphasizes almost exclusively humanitarian aspects. From a week of days to a week of years, God’s desire for the poor and the oppressed to be liberated is the prime concern of the true Sabbatical attitude (Ex. 23:11 and Lev. 25:10).

It is fascinating to notice how Jesus’ programmatic speech in Luke 4, where He said that He came to “set at liberty those who are oppressed and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,” resembles the description of the Year of Jubilee. If we listen carefully to Leviticus 25:5.8-11, and also the detailed description of the Year for Canceling Debts in Deut. 15:1-11, we can detect the resonances of Jesus’ announcement of His ministry in Luke 4.

Jesus’ work was the true Sabbatation, the proper celebration of the Sabbatical consciousness. The idea of the land resting (lying “unploughed and unused”) on the seventh year focuses on concern for the poor, the slave, the underdog, as well as the rights which go beyond mere human rights to protect and preserve the environment because God cares about the Earth to the point of destroying those who destroy the Earth.

Theodore Friedman, the rabbi of Congregation Beth El in New Jersey and a former editor of Judaism, wrote that the Sabbath “is the anticipation, the foretaste, the paradigm of life in the world-to-come” (“The Sabbath: Anticipation of Redemption,” in Judaism 16, 1967, p. 443).

True Sabbath keeping is “playing heaven.” Rabbi Friedman concludes his article by saying: “The Sabbath is at once the climax of that primordial time and the paradigm of the future time. Therefore, man should so conduct himself on the Sabbath as if the future time were already at hand”
(p. 447).

–Zdravko (Zack) Plantak, PhD, is professor of religion and ethics at the School of Religion at Loma Linda University. Email him at: [email protected]