Sunday a Human Institution

How vigorously and with what conviction are you preaching the Sabbath of the Bible?

By FRANT K H. YOST, Associate Secretary, Religions Liberty Department

Earnest advocates of Sunday observance are having a difficult time. They are con­cerned, perhaps more than ever before, both with the origin of and basis for Sunday's ob­servance, and with the manner of its honoring. They divide into two principal classes. Class I maintains that Sunday is the successor of the Sabbath of the Bible, the change having been made by Christ, or by the apostles, or by the church, or by some combination of these, and that the requirements for keeping Sunday are the Biblical ones once applicable to the Sab­bath.

Class II holds Sunday is man-made, by and through the church (by a way difficult to define and through a process equally difficult of analy­sis in the sources), and that the church only can define how Sunday is to be observed.

Of course these divisions in the ranks of Sunday observers are fundamental, and unity destroying. That is had enough for them, but, in addition, there are numerous particularities and variations of these main positions. This all throws the picture for Sun daykeepers badly out of focus.

The result is that sonic are going all the way in making Sunday entirely a human institution. As extreme an illustration of this as any is found in Canon Glazebrook's article on "Sun­day" in Hasting's Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 12, pp. 109, 15o. He says:

"It is easier for us to answer this question than it was for the theologians of the 17th and 18th centuries, and that for two reasons. Recent investigations into early Church history have removed some prejudices which hampered our ancestors. We now know how gradually the observance of Sunday developed and how late was the theory which connected it with the Sab­bath. And the modern study of the Old Testament re­moved a difficulty which they could never fully meet. So long as the story of creation in Genesis i and and the account of the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai were regarded as historical, the question had to be faced. How can a divine command directly given to men, be abrogated? The 'answer for us is plain : No such commands were ever given, and the stories which record them are legends. The Sabbath was made for man ; and, under the guidance of Providence, it was made by man. Sunday in its turn was made by man and for man. Man, therefore, is lord both of the Sab­bath and of Sunday. It is from the experience of men, both as individuals and in societies, that the reasons must be drawn which determine the manner in which Sunday is to be observed."

Notice that, according to Canon Glazebrook we are not dealing with a Sabbath once divinely ordained but now outmoded and succeeded by an equally divine Sunday. No; the Sabbath never was divine. There was no creation Sab­bath: that is a myth. There was no divine law from Sinai; that story is legendary. The phil­osophy of Sabbath or Sunday is purely a matter of the humanities, and the rational basis for a rest day is merely humanitarian. "The Sabbath was made for man ; and, under the guidance of Providence, it was made by man. Sunday in its turn was made by man and for man." The man­ner of its observance "is from the experience of men."

This was written in England a number of years ago. What is the attitude today ? The an­swer: The kind of Sunday Glazebrook describes must be observed and with enhanced ad­vantage, spiritual and physical, to man. Bishop Henson, of the diocese of Durham, has col­lected a series of studies for the use of his clergy, which the Oxford University Press published in 5946 under the title Bishoprick Papers. The whole book sums up to an appeal to a sounder, healthier church life for clergy and people. But what concerns us as a present trend is his chapter "The Passing of the Lord's Day." Bishop Henson is pained that Sunday has become so secularized that church attend­ance and the quality of worship is declining.

He quotes Canon Glazebrook on the origin of Sunday (should we say lack of origin?), and endorses what he has to say. But he urges that man needs this kind of day and in its observ­ance he should keep in nice proportion church attendance, recreation, "the festival of family life," and meditation. This is what Christian people "from the Age of the Apostles" have sought in Sunday observance, and this, Sun­daykeepers, facing frankly all the facts, should continue to maintain.

"I incline to think," says Bishop Henson, "that the Lord's Day with its refreshment for body and mind, and its unfailing witness to an­other life than this, does bring to modern men just the protection they need against the world's severe and unrelaxing strain." Weak, do you say ? What would you say if you were a well-informed and honest Sunday observer? What are you saying, as a well-informed and honest observer of the seventh-day Sabbath? How vigorously and with what conviction are you preaching the Sabbath of the Bible?

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By FRANT K H. YOST, Associate Secretary, Religions Liberty Department

November 1947

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