Posts Tagged ‘sabbath’

Sabbath rest, 600 lb. gorillas, and absent referents

October 9th, 2010 No comments

So there’s a new NAS paper out about climate change, greenhouse gasses, and animal agriculture, here.  The claims of that particular paper are not what this post is about though.  I’ll need you to check out this short (less than 2 min.) video, based on that paper.  Notice the tag line at the end?  “Your heart and the earth will love you for it.”  That’s what this is about.

The idea of not just being the recipient of gratitude and affection, but earning gratitude and affection, is appealing and motivating to people. Generally speaking, it’s part of who we are as social creatures.  But that’s where this focus lies.  Neither the earth nor an internal organ can be said to actually ‘love’ you for anything.   I know it’s metaphor but  it’s the use of metaphor in this situation that I want you to take a closer look at.

Someone might say that we can surely speak of  things going better or worse for the earth and for our internal organs.  They can be subjects of sentences but they’re not actually subjects; they don’t, they can’t actually love you.  They can be effected, or merely changed, but not affectively changed by our behavior.  The only way in which we can say that is purely self-referential.  If things go better or worse for our environment or for our biological organs it is going better or worse, existentially, for ourselves.  What we really seem to mean when we say ‘the earth will love you’ or your ‘heart will love you’ is simply that it is in our own self-interest to do these things.  Saying the earth or your heart will love you is synonymous with saying your own behavior towards them isn’t somehow, in the end, detrimental to yourself.  It’s simply saying *you* will love you for it.   So to say something can go better or worse for the earth or for bits of our biology is to deal strictly in self-reflective metaphor.

To say those same things about the cow, a sentient being, is to speak literally and truthfully.

But we don’t speak of the real cow that could really suffer.  She is completely  erased.  Cows are subjects of their own lives and could actually appreciate differences in our behavior toward them.  But we don’t speak about them.  We talk around them.  I find that telling. We don’t speak of the only other part of the equation that could literally appreciate something going better or worse for itself.

By analogy, imagine overhearing Fred and Linda talking about whether or not it’s ok to burn children with hot irons.  Imagine if the conversation went like this …

Linda:  You know, scorched flesh really mucks up the soleplate.  And then, with the steam, yuck – that awful smell.

Fred:  I know.  Sometimes it can damage the iron so much that you have to get a new one, and that’s what $50?  By not burning your child with your iron you could use that $50 for something else.

Linda:  Right. That settles it.  Stop burning your children with hot irons because the iron, and your pocket book will love you for it.

That’s what we’re doing when we frame our behavior towards animals strictly in terms of ourselves.   Cows are not humans but neither are they “earth” or “mere biology.”

There’s a difference.  That difference matters.

The New Creation

January 9th, 2009 No comments

On earth as it is in heaven … (emphasis mine).  

from the New Bible Dictionary, 3rd. ed. (Il: Intervarsity Press, 1996), s.v. “Eschatology: The New Creation”

The final goal of God’s purposes for the world includes, negatively, the destruction of all God’s enemies: Satan, sin and death, and the elimination of all forms of suffering (Rev. 20:10, 14–15; 7:16f.; [339] 21:4; Is. 25:8; 27:1; Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 15:26, 54). Positively, God’s rule will finally prevail entirely (Zc. 14:9; 1 Cor. 15:24–28; Rev. 11:15), so that in Christ all things will be united (Eph. 1:10) and God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28, AV).

With the final achievement of human salvation there will come also the liberation of the whole material creation from its share in the curse of sin (Rom. 8:19–23). The Christian hope is not for redemption from the world, but for the redemption of the world. Out of judgment (Heb. 12:26; 2 Pet. 3:10) will emerge a recreated universe (Rev. 21:1; cf. Is. 65:17; 66:22; Mt. 19:28), ‘a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells’ (2 Pet. 3:13).

from New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. s.v. “(Earth, H824): New Creation”.

New creation. The natural climax of such an eschatological, missiological vision is that, when the nations of humanity are transformed into redeemed worshipers of Yahweh, then the earth itself will be transformed, mainly by the lifting of the deleterious effects of the curse. Accordingly, pictures of the new age of Yahweh’s unhindered reign and the people’s perfect obedience include the transformation of the earth and nature by the removal of all that harms or frustrates (Isa 11:1–9; 65:20–25). Ultimately this leads to the vision of a transformation of the whole created order. In Isa 65:17 Yahweh declares, “Behold, I will create (aérwø;b, lit., am creating) new heavens and a new earth,” which is not only a significant echo of the opening verse of Genesis, but interesting in its use of the participle rather than the imperfect. The new creation is not merely a future event, but something God is engaged in bringing about now (cf. Isa 66:22, making). The NT reflects the same hope (Rom 8:19–22; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev 21:1, 5).


Jesus and the Law

December 31st, 2008 No comments

The ethical teaching of Jesus may now be summarized under five points.

5.1. The Presence of the Kingdom. On the question of Jesus’ expectation of the future, Schweitzer was radically mistaken. But modified forms of his thesis are still with us. Too much attention continues to be paid to the notion that for Jesus the kingdom was focused primarily on some event or events subsequent to the initial proclamation recorded in Mark 1:15. Those who hold this view, of course, will always find deep embarrassment in fitting ethics into their scheme; but that has not stopped them from futurizing the kingdom, even at the expense of robbing Jesus’ ethics of their ultimate basis. Jesus, on the other hand, taught that entry into the kingdom was synonymous with entering the life of discipleship–of submitting to the demands of the God who is king. His ethics are dominated by the central burning conviction that God’s rule is now actively present in the affairs of individuals, kings and nations.

5.2. The Priority of Character. For Jesus ethics are to some extent realistic and pragmatic. Those who freely receive God’s gifts must (1) show them in outward acts, and (2) pass them on to others, lest they become stagnant and die. But ethics are also the fruit of character, a claim which many of the Pharisees, with their exclusive emphasis on outward acts, could not accept. The rewards which Jesus promises are not extrinsic to human character, but point to the building up of a personality which would ultimately be at home in the presence of God.

5.3. The Rediscovered Spirit of the Law. The Law of Israel was understood by Jesus as a gracious provision, given not only by a sovereign king but by a loving Father. To obey his Law meant to be in conformity with the purposes which are built into creation. Jesus, like Paul after him, understood that a rigid obedience to the Law, because of corrupting influences (selfishness, nationalism, pride), had failed to achieve God’s primal purposes. Therefore, those who would obey God’s will and respond to his love must go behind the letter, back to the Law’s original intention.

5.4. The Redefined People of God. What we call the gospel of Jesus was not in the first instance a new religion. It was a call to the nation of Israel, asking it to believe that God’s power is always breathtakingly fresh, always ready to break into their history, always an outgoing and transforming power reaching into the lives of those who need help. But in order to receive that power they must also accept a radically different interpretation of what it meant for them to be the chosen people. Going back to the prophecies of Isaiah 40-66, he reminded them of God’s kingly reign. Rather than privilege, they had been chosen for responsibility; rather than authority and glory, they had been chosen for service and suffering; that through them God’s kingly power might reach out into the world, overthrowing the forces of evil.

It is in this context that some of Jesus’ most powerful ethical statements are to be understood, particularly those which concern love. Rather than hating their national enemies and exulting in their ruin, the Jews were to love them and ask God for their well-being. Instead of avoiding their corrupting contamination, they were to become their friends. And, in perhaps the most uncomfortable statement of all, they were to content themselves with the benevolent administration of Rome. To make friends with Caesar did not mean that they could not also give to God a full and uncompromising obedience.

5.5. The Personal and Communal Dynamic. Finally, too much distinction has been made between the personal and the social in the ethics of Jesus. For him ethics were surely personal, insofar as they flow from each individual’s relationship to God. But ethics must also be incorporated into the community of God. If the majority of God’s people had not responded to the challenge, Jesus would work through a remnant, as God had done so often in Israel’s history. Through Jesus–and subsequently through his followers, whether Jew or Gentile–God’s promise to the nations would be fulfilled. The community Jesus founded may be understood truly as a “church,” but only if that term is seen as a community of men and women in whom Jesus is personally present, who put one another before themselves and through whom God’s redemptive power can reach out into the world, driving out evil and drawing all into a body of individuals who are willing to put themselves under his kingly sovereignty and fatherly love.         

~ Hurst, Lincoln D. “Ethics of Jesus,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed.  Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

In Its Narrative Context

December 17th, 2008 No comments

Commentaries say it but just aren’t ready to say all of it yet.  All things in time.   I’m assuming that if you’re reading this blog you know that the other thing we know from the creation account is that whatever our dominion over animals is supposed to be it specifically did not include killing animals for food … we didn’t get that concession until after the flood.   We also know that in the 10 commandments there’s specifically a mention of Sabbath rest for domestic animals.  Are we really so sure that there’s nothing to be said about how we fill our bellies?    

But the Sinai covenant does not simply hark back to these promises to Abraham. It reflects God’s plan for mankind foreshadowed in Genesis 1–2. There God gave Adam the garden of Eden. He told him to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ and provided him with a wife, walked with them in the garden, and gave them a law ‘not to eat of the tree’. It was transgression of this one law that led to Adam and Eve forfeiting the benefits of Eden. The story of the rest of Genesis is of God’s planning and working to bring to pass his original plan for the human race. The call of Abraham was a first step, the covenant at Sinai was another. Not only did the Lord come down. on Sinai but he guided them with the pillar of fire, and eventually ‘walked’ in the tabernacle as he once walked in Eden. Admittedly, it was only the high priest who could enter the divine presence, whereas in Eden the whole human race enjoyed such intimacy with God. But it was a step in the right direction.

Similarly, the laws given at Sinai, particularly the penal laws and those formulated negatively, e.g. most of the Ten Commandments, should not be [675] regarded as God’s ideals for human behaviour. Rather they represent the floor below which no one should fall—if they do, society or God must step in to punish. God’s ideals are set out in the opening chapters of Genesis, where man is created in God’s image and therefore expected to imitate him. In the exhortations and motive clauses scattered throughout the collections, similar lofty goals emerge: ‘Be holy, for I am holy’, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ Therefore the OT law fixes no ceiling on human ethical endeavour: it too encourages man to ‘be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt. 5:48).

and … 

The fulfilment of the law for Paul (cf. also Jas. 2:8–12) also involves empowerment so that the moral norms of the law may be kept. …  Of course, Paul never conceived that the law could be fulfilled in one’s own strength. Fulfilling the law was due to the work of the Holy Spirit which enabled believers to obey God’s commandments.   ~New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed., s.v. “Law: The law in it’s narrative context”, “Law: abrogation and fulfillment”.   

Keeping the Sabbath

November 2nd, 2008 No comments

Because nobody believes it’s there …  and it’s in both.    

Ex. 20:1   And God spake all these words, saying,  2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:  5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;  6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.  7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.  8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  10 But the seventh day 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 maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:  11 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. 

Ex. 20:12   Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.  13 Thou shalt not kill.  14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.  15 Thou shalt not steal.  16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.  17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Ex. 23:12 Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed. ~ KJV


Deut. 5:6   I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.  7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.  8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:  9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,  10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.  11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.  12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.  13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:  14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.  15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.  16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.  17 Thou shalt not kill.  18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.  19 Neither shalt thou steal.  20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.  21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.  ~ KJV

No Idolatry. No killing. No adultery. No working your animals on the Sabbath.  The God of the Universe put an animal welfare clause in the big 10 contract.  Most people would deny it has anything about animals in it at all.   Nothing about animals, really?  Even though the words actually are right there on the page? Even though the examples Jesus gave of what kinds of work are acceptable on the Sabbath were about continuing routine care for animals (Luke 13:15) and helping an animal in need (Matt. 12:11, Luke 14:15)? 

The point was that it’s ok to do good on the Sabbath and the examples he used were about caring for animals.  Consider this comment in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (1992), in the Ethics of Jesus (ethics and the law) section, about the role of the Sabbath … 

There was also a divine necessity for healing on the Sabbath, insofar as the Sabbath was divinely ordained to be for Israel a foretaste of the kingdom of God. By healing those bound by the kingdom of Satan, Jesus had enabled the kingdom of God to break in upon human life (Lk 11:20; Mk 3:27). Thus, since the Sabbath was a foretaste of the kingdom, there was no better day for him to perform his acts of mercy. Since the kingdom had arrived, the Son of man (see SON OF MAN) was Lord of the Sabbath (Mk 2:28). 

In context, the point Jesus was making was about the fact that his questioners would not have hesitated to do these things for animals but then questioned him about helping a person … but this whole discourse is based on the assumption that doing good for animals is understood to be a good thing, that’s the reason the argument works.  If A, then how much more B … it depends on both sides agreeing on A; A is the given from which you expound to B.  

  • The Sabbath commandment specifically includes a rest for the animals that serve man. 
  • The Sabbath is a foretaste of the kingdom.  
  • Jesus has inaugurated his kingdom.  
  • The prophets tell of a time when there will be a reconciliation not only among the animal kingdom but also between man and animal – as it was in the beginning, before we messed it up.
  • Paul says the whole creation longs for the children of God to be revealed.  

I think you have a pretty good argument for the people of God to be renouncing the ways of this world and our own history as it relates to animals.  

We’ve been happy to focus on the biblical descriptions of how much more “valuable” we are than animals but it’s avarice to ignore the part that animals are valuable to God in their own right.  With a greater understanding of how our  value is based on the idea of our greater capacity to serve and reflect Jesus in his plan of redemption for all of creation we’ll eventually come to terms with the full extent of our arrogance in this respect.  Sackcloth and ashes will be in order.  

Prov. 12:10 A righteous man regards the life of his animal, 

But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. 

“Compassion for animals is an indication of one’s character.  The righteous are kind to all God’s creation (see Deut 25:4) because they have received his bounty. Toy suggests the analogy that if one is kind to the lower animals, he will surely be kind to humans (p. 248). Greenstone adds that even when the wicked are moved to compassion, they often manifest it in a cruel way (p. 129)”. ~ The Expositors Bible Commentary