Friday, October 05, 2007

Calvin and the Sabbath, Redux

Calvin understands the first condition as having two aspects (see the outline in the previous post). The first aspect was a typological observance. The second aspect was the real observance. By the typological observance, Calvin is referring to the outward or ceremonial observance. This consisted of the many rules concerning what could and could not be done on the Sabbath. These rules were meant to regulate the rest that was commanded. As with the other ceremonial aspects of the OT, these rules went away when Christ completed his earthly ministry. In other words, the rules were abrogated. This is because the rest was meant to typify the spiritual rest that would be won for us by Christ. However, once Christ did the work, we no longer needed the type, so the type passed into uselessness. This might be equated to the sacrificial system. The slaughter of innocent and spotless lambs for the atonement of sin prefigured or typified Christ. Once Christ came, there was no longer any need for such slaughter of innocents. The thing typified had been realized.

This brings us to the second aspect: the Real Observance. Calvin argues that the real observance was unrealized in the OT. In other words, the Sabbath observance in the OT was a shadow of the true Sabbath to come. This Sabbath is realized in Christ.

So, referring once again to our outline, we see that Calvin argued that the outward or ceremonial observance (according to the many rules of the OT) was abrogated. The inward observance, which was unrealized in the OT, is realized in the NT. Since this principle is always true, we should strive to observe it daily. In this way, Calvin is extending the principle underlying the Sabbath to each and every day of our lives, not just one day in seven. And so to this point we can properly argue that Calvin did not teach a strict observance of the Sabbath on these principles.

Calvin then goes on, however, to argue that the other two conditions, as I said above, are still to be observed.

Calvin believed that there is still a Sabbath observance. The nature of this observance is related not to rest, but to corporate worship. He further argues that this should occur one day in seven. However, Calvin does not believe that Sunday is necessarily the day upon which we are commanded by God to observe the Sabbath. God commands one day in seven. Prudence dictates that this day be Sunday. The church has met on Sunday since the NT, and therefore Calvin wholeheartedly supports the Sunday gathering for worship as an observance of the Sabbath. He further argues that this is not without meaning, since Christ accomplished the purchase of our rest in his resurrection, which occurred on Sunday.

The Sabbath is still to be observed inasmuch as we are still to apply the third condition as well. This is summarized well when Calvin writes "we should not inhumanly oppress those subject to us." While we see this condition being generalized by Calvin in his conclusion (as opposed to the specific statement in section 28), it is implied that we are to especially exemplify this on that day in which we rest from our work in order to worship God and improve in piety.

This is Calvin's view, which is different from Westminster. And that will have to be another post.

No comments: