"SABBATH", by Dan B. Allender
Sadly, editor Phyllis Tickle's love affair with equating Christianity, Judaism, and Islam started on page "vii" of the Foreward. I mention this because it unfortunately takes away from the work Allender tried to accomplish. Allender's work is strictly gospel-centered, and Tickle's opinion always operated in the back of my mind as I read the book.
She writes, "The Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share a common religious ancestry...in their adherence to a fixed set of seven religious concepts and practices..." "The processes by which each faith group has adapted tithing, fasting, fixed-hour prayer, Sabbath observance, adherence to the liturgical year, sacred pilgrimage, and participation in the sacred meal..."
Quite frankly, Islam does not observe, nor celebrate, a Sabbath. Nowhere does the Qur'an mention Islam's god resting after creation (Qur'an: Surahs 19:68; 21:31; 32:9; 53:43-48; 71:14-19; 77:22) and commanding Sabbath to Muslims. There are five pillars in Islam, but Sabbath-keeping is not one of them. But, I digress, since this review is not intended to be an apologetic against Tickle's inclusivism or Islam's incompatibility with Christianity and Judaism. For the remainder, I'll stick to reviewing the book, "Sabbath."
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE: I think Allender did a good job organizing "Sabbath". Each chapter built upon the foundation the previous chapters established. For example, Allender set the stage in chapter 1 with the notion that many, if not most, Christians don't even practice Sabbath-observance. Not only that, but we have a skewed notion of what Sabbath really is. Most equate Sabbath with simply "going to church". With that, he uses the next 4 chapters to explain what Sabbath is and what it is not; what it entails and what it eschews. That forms the first part of the book. The following 2 parts of "Sabbath" then build on the first part: What its purposes are, how to enjoy it, and how to practice it.
WHAT SABBATH IS? Allender provides helpful insight into what Sabbath is:
- "...an intentional choice to enter joy and follow God as he celebrates the glory of his creation..."
- "...an invitation to enter delight."
- "...a day of delight for humankind..."
- "...a feast day that remembers our leisure...anticipates our play in the new heavens and earth..."
- "...a day when the kingdom to come has come and is celebrated now..."
- "...a fest of remembrance and anticipation..."
- "...an encounter with God's delight."
- "...is our re-creating the garden and recreating in the new heavens and earth."
(all cited from the Introduction)
WHAT SABBATH IS NOT: Mixed in with what Sabbath is, Allender helps us understand also what it is NOT:
- "...not merely a good idea; it is one of the Ten Commandments."
- "...not a day to 'perform' religious activities...thoughtless routine...or diversions."
- "...not about time off or a break in routine."
- "...not a minivacation to give us a respite..."
(all cited from the Introduction)
With these phrases in mind, Allender provides support throughout the remainder of the book for the benefits and necessity of observing Sabbath.
Quite frankly, though, I got bored with "Sabbath" rather quickly. Since I can't imagine being tasked with writing a book on such a difficult topic as Sabbath, I will at least give the man credit for diving and digging in. However, I didn't need to have my pencil ready beyond page 1 of chapter 3...and I'm one who likes to mark and write in all my bibles and study books. Much of what Allender wrote in the introduction and first 2 chapters seemed to suffice the topic for me. He certainly left few stones unturned in the writing of the book. It's just that those stones merely uncovered small details scurrying around in the mud and minor insight buried under the shadows of the particular stones.
Maybe I simply wasn't interested in the topic; maybe it was simply his plain writing style that didn't keep my attention. However, if exploring Sabbath practice is something that interests you, this may be a good book for your money. I just won't go recommending it to all my friends (I'll just take the hit for you instead.)
Favorite quote: "No five-star fare is a feast if eaten alone or eaten in silence or banality with another." (Introduction, page 14)
RATING: 3 out of 5 stars
I received "Sabbath" free of charge in exchange for my unbiased review for Thomas Nelson Publishers (aka, "Booksneeze"). I was in no way compensated or threatened to provide a positive review.