This project works toward a contemporary understanding of what the Sabbath commandment can mean for Christians, in light of both the post-supersessionist developments in Christian theology since the Holocaust and a declining (Protestant) Christian hegemony in the United States. It claims that a Christian theology of Sabbath must be developed through a serious engagement with the theology of Jewish-Christian relations. It proposes the Sabbath framework as a model for cultural engagement reminiscent of the “synthesis” type laid out in H. R. Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, but less susceptible to the alleged pitfalls of that type.
The approach to a Christian theology of Israel that is judged to be most adequate (both for the project of recovering a Christian Sabbath and for the demands of Christian orthodoxy) is neither supersessionism nor a “two covenant” model, but a “fulfillment” model, such as that laid out recently by Jean-Miguel Garrigues. Principles are drawn from Garrigues’s account of Israel and the Church that are then applied to a Christian understanding of the Sabbath. These principles are also applied to a reading of Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel’s The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man, with the goal of respecting the text’s Jewish integrity while allowing it to be instructive for Christians. A result of this reading of Heschel is the observation that the Sabbath provides a “middle way” between single-minded attention to eternity and succumbing to the totalizing demands of “technical civilization.”
This “middle way” understanding of the Sabbath is developed as an approach to a theology of culture in dialogue with H. Richard Niebuhr, Peter Berger, and Charles Taylor. The discussion particularly draws on Taylor’s observation that a society or community that can hold “tensions in equilibrium” can not only hold together disparate forces within society but is also better equipped to sustain a “social imaginary” that includes the transcendent. The Sabbath is considered through the lens of metaphysical realism, linking practical observance with spiritual meanings, which would also provide a fuller context for the economic ethics (developed elsewhere) to which the Sabbath points.
Graduate Program of Religious Studies
D. Stephen Long
Religion, Theology/Religious Education
Number of Pages
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Cutter, Abigail Woolley, "A Renewed Christian Sabbath, After Supersessionism and After Christendom" (2021). Religious Studies Theses and Dissertations. 29.