A Ugandan legislator who proposed the highly contested Anti-Homosexuality Bill insists the measure is being misconstrued.
“There has been a distortion in the media that we are providing death for gays. That is not true,” ruling party MP David Bahati said on BBC. “When a homosexual defiles a kid of less than 18 years old, we are providing a penalty for this.”
The bill, which is currently being debated by a parliamentary committee, has drawn global attention from gay rights advocates and religious leaders alike, many of whom are condemning the legislation for promoting hatred and handing down severe penalties against homosexuals and their family, friends, and even pastors. Punishments range from a fine and a three-year imprisonment to life imprisonment and the death penalty.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda and can be punished with life imprisonment. But the anti-homosexuality legislation was designed to “fill the gaps” in the provisions of existing laws and “strengthen the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional heterosexual family.”
Bahati told BBC that homosexuality is neither a human right nor is it in-born.
“It is a behavior learned and it can be unlearned,” he said on BBC.
Some religious leaders in Uganda are backing the legislation, but many more within and outside the country are gravely concerned.
“Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, in our churches, communities and families, we seek to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as God’s children worthy of respect and love,” said a group of U.S. Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant leaders, in a statement Monday.
Most recently, on Thursday, evangelical Pastor Rick Warren released a video to Ugandan pastors detailing his opposition to the bill and correcting media reports that state otherwise.
As a pastor, he said it is not his role to interfere with the politics of other nations, he said it is his role to speak out on moral issues.
Warren called the Anti-Homosexuality bill “unjust, extreme and un-Christian” toward homosexuals.
Passing the bill would have “a chilling effect” on the HIV/AIDS ministry of churches in Uganda, the southern California pastor added. With the proposed legislation threatening to penalize those who provide counseling to someone struggling with their sexuality and work with people infected with HIV/AIDS and who do not report the homosexual within 24 hours of knowledge, fewer people who are HIV positive will seek care from the churches out of fear of being reported.
“You and I know that the churches of Uganda are the truly caring communities where people receive hope and help, not condemnation,” the megachurch pastor said in his video message.
While affirming that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman and that all sex outside of marriage is not what God intends, Warren also stressed, “Jesus also taught us that the greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Since God created all, and Jesus suffered and died for all, then we are to treat all with respect.
“The Great Commandment has been the centerpiece of my life and ministry for over 35 years.”
According to Bloomberg, a refined version of the bill is expected to be presented to Parliament in two weeks. Dr. James Nsaba Buturo, minister of Uganda for Ethics and Integrity, told Bloomberg that the draft bill will drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays.
Before the changes, which have not yet been made, the measure stated that persons who commit the offense of “aggravated homosexuality” – where the offense is committed against those below the age of 18 and where the offender is living with HIV – shall be liable on conviction to suffer death and to imprisonment for life. Another provision nullifies international treaties, protocols, and declarations that are “contradictory to the spirit and provisions enshrined in this act.”
Evangelical author Josh McDowell takes on theology of media icon
DALLAS, Texas – “One of the mistakes that human beings make is believing that there is only one way to live, and we don’t accept that there are diverse ways to being in the world. There are many paths to what you call God.”
Oprah Winfrey said it. And when she did, many Americans who love Oprah believed it.
But one of the best-selling living evangelical authors, Josh McDowell, is not about to sit back and let that statement go unchallenged.
The result is a very unusual book – both in Christian publishing and in the world of secular literature.
It’s called “O God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality” – and its official debut in bookstores nationwide comes tomorrow.
“As Christian apologists who believe that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone, we wanted to create a fictional, almost Socratic dialogue that would cover many of the themes of Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual teaching in recent years,” explain McDowell and co-author Dave Sterrett in their preface.
Rather than pile on Oprah with Bible verses to contradict her casual New Age proclamations, McDowell and Sterrett use a fictional conversation – or series of conversations – between two female graduate students, both seeking spiritual truth.
The book comes out as Oprah is very much center stage in the news world.
Even in her bid with first lady Michelle Obama to land the Olympics in Chicago, her rhetoric took a markedly spiritual tone.
“I love this city, because this city has been so great to me and I know what this city has to offer,” Winfrey said. “My message is really about my love for Chicago and … the spirit that we know the games will bring and the spirit that the people of Chicago will bring to the Games.”
Oprah is also lending her name to a new movie about abusive relationships called “Push,” for which she serves as executive producer.
“Push” is about an abused, obese teenager in Harlem who is pregnant with her second child and how a teacher at an alternative school tries to pull her out of her situation. Winfrey was inspired by the message of hope that the book and film present.
“What struck me is that you can live in those circumstances and still find hope,” she said. “You can’t do that on your own. Somebody has to show it to you. For me it was teachers.”
It is Oprah’s compassion that lures millions to her TV show and her magazine and the persona that has become an industry. Yet, McDowell and Sterrett explore the possibility that misguided compassion, based on human emotions rather than divine revelation and God’s law, can lead people in dangerous directions.
“If you are a Christ follower who believes, as we do, that God’s salvation is only through Jesus Christ alone, perhaps this book, ‘O God,’ will inspire a conversation with friends who are asking you questions,” they write. “How do you respond when a friend at your work, school, book club, gym or family reunion brings up Oprah Winfrey’s teaching or a form of new spirituality? Do you know how to speak and live the truth in love? This book probably won’t provide every single answer to all your questions about God and spirituality, but we hope it will provide some. Our desire is that ‘O God’ will create friendly and perhaps robust spiritual conversation about the most important things in your life.”
McDowell has authored or co-authored more than 110 books with more than 35 million in print worldwide. His classic “More Than a Carpenter” alone sold more than 15 million copies.
Shariah experts to proclaim ‘Our Day has Come‘
Muslims who are working to stage the “Our Day Has Come” day of prayer at the U.S. Capitol have discussed views that include an Islamic takeover of the White House, from where they say President Barack Obama is providing their inspiration.
Building on the Islamic interest in Obama’s inauguration, when Muslims claimed in a magazine that “It’s our time,” the event planners are calling for 50,000 Muslims to attend the 4 a.m. event on the National Mall on Sept. 25
The organizer is Hassen Abdellah, who leads a Elizabeth, N.J., mosque, and two special guests for the event, according to the website, will be Sheik Muhammad Jebril and Sheik Ahmed Dewidar.
According to the website, Jebril’s degree is in Islamic Law and he learned the Quran by the age of 9.
According to blogger Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs, Jebril specializes in Shariah law and served as the imam of an extremist mosque in Cairo starting in 1988.
Likewise, the prayer day website reported Dewidar studied law at the University of Alexandria and took a master’s degree in Shariah. He moved to the United States to lead a Muslim community in New Jersey and later established the Islamic Center in Manhattan.
In the interview, Dewidar talked about sermons he’d heard that “Muslims should march on the White House…”
The interviewer asked for an explanation.
“One cleric said in his sermon: ‘We are going to the White House, so that Islam will be victorious, Allah willing, and the White House will become into the Muslim house,’” he said, according to the MEMRI report.
Dewidar denied that this was a plan for a physical occupation of the building.
“They say that through the domination of Islam and its ideas, the White House will change,” the report quotes Dewidar saying.
Atlas Shrugs also cited Dewidar’s comments for a Muslim Brotherhood website that American society is controlled by Jews.
His translated comments include, “Whether or not these events were planned, or pinned on the Muslims, or something else – [it] provided an opportunity for [the American government] to legislate dubious laws that restrict the growth and presence of Islam in the U.S,” Atlas Shrugs reported.
Organizers themselves have credited Obama’s advocacy for Islam for their inspiration.
While he praised Islam during his inauguration, Obama elaborated during his speech in Egypt months later.
He carried a greeting from “Muslim communities” in America, complained how Muslims had been “denied rights and opportunities,” and stated, “I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam at places like Al-Azhar that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s renaissance and enlightenment.”
Besides crediting Islam with significant responsibility for the development of civilization in Europe, Obama also said Muslims have served similarly in America.
“And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States,” Obama said. “They have fought in our wars. They have served in our government. They have stood for civil rights. They have started businesses. They have taught at our universities. They’ve excelled in our sports arenas. They’ve won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building and lit the Olympic torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same holy Quran that one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, kept in his personal library.”
According to a Daily India report, Abdellah confirmed the idea of the event “germinated” after Obama’s inaugural speech, then was reinforced by the Egypt speech.
“For the first time in my lifetime,” Abdellah said. “I heard someone of his stature speaking about Islam and Muslims not in an adversarial sense, but in the sense of being welcome and acknowledging we are integral citizens in the society-that we’re gainfully employed, we’re educated.”
Gellar wrote of another event organizer, Abdul Malik.
“I highly recommend taking a look at Abdul Malik’s Facebook page, and watching the video – during which he says many interesting things including: Polygamy is an American tradition,” she wrote.
She also cited this comment from Malik: “Democracy is not revelation, and democracy does not equal freedom, for in democracy you have apartheid, you have slavery, you have homosexuality, you have lesbianism, you have gambling, you have all of the voices that are against the spirit of truth; so no we don’t want to democratize Islam, we want to Islamize democracy. That’s what we want.”
“It is a mockery of the Christian faith,” Safa told the magazine. “It’s a mockery of all of it. In a sense, I’m happy for it because the church needs to wake up before it’s too late.”
The prayer day website says, “The Athan will be chanted on Capitol Hill, echoing off of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and other great edifices that surround Capitol Hill.
“Our Time Has Come.”
Obama repeatedly has denied he is a Muslim. His presidential campaign website contained the statement, “Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised as a Muslim, and is a committed Christian.”
But as WND has reported, public records in Indonesia listed Obama as a Muslim during his early years, and a number of childhood friends claimed to the media Obama was once a mosque-attending Muslim.
In Obama’s autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” he acknowledged studying the Quran and describes the public school as “a Muslim school.”
“In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Quranic studies,” wrote Obama.
In an interview with the New York Times, Obama described the Muslim call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”
The Times’ Nicholos Kristof wrote Obama recited, “with a first-class [Arabic] accent,” the opening lines of the Muslim call to prayer.
The first few lines of the call to prayer state:
Allah is Supreme!
Allah is Supreme!
Allah is Supreme! Allah is Supreme!
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that Muhammad is his prophet …
Some attention also has been paid to Obama’s paternal side of the family, including his father and his brother, Roy.
Writing in a chapter of his book describing his 1992 wedding, Obama stated: “The person who made me proudest of all was Roy. Actually, now we call him Abongo, his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African heritage. He converted to Islam and has sworn off pork and tobacco and alcohol.”
Gospel superstar Andrae Crouch and his twin sister, Sandra, confirm meeting with Michael Jackson and praying and singing with him weeks before his death.
Jackson, raised as a member of the Jehovah’s Witness sect and reportedly a convert to Islam last year, sought out the Crouches for inspiration for his upcoming tour, for which he was unprepared, according to a report in Assist News Service.
But while some blogs have reported that meeting led to a spiritual conversion by Jackson, the Crouches say they are not certain.
“Not sure where that came from,” said Sandra Crouch on her Facebook page. “We loved and respected Michael and will continue to pray for his family. All the extra is not from us.”
A spokesman for the Crouches had this to add: “Andrae and Sandra did in fact visit with Michael Jackson two times, once at the recording studio, and once at his home in the last two months, as recently as three weeks ago, asking for prayer concerning the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and how he could make his music more ‘spiritual.’ So Andrae and Sandra explained to him about the anointing and about Jesus. He wanted to know what makes your hands go up, and makes you ‘come out of yourself,’ and what gives a ‘spirituality’ to the music? He then requested to hear his favorite song that he loves and wanted the(m) to sing to him, so they … joined hands and sang together, and he said, ‘It was beautiful.’ He first heard it in New York, and loved it and wanted it on tape. He had the engineer tape the song sang to him by Andrae and Sandra. He definitely had an encounter with them.”
The Crouch spokesman said: “He did NOT reject Jesus or the prayer when (we) prayed, and gladly joined in prayer. He usually doesn’t touch anybody, but he touched them, and held their hands in a circle as they sang and prayed. There was NO actual ‘sinners prayer’ however, but they did talk and pray about Jesus and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. They also told him, ‘Michael, we consider you as our son,’ and he said, ‘Yes, yes, yes’ and gave him his latest music on a CD, and he told him, ‘Andrae I trust you with this,’ and gave him CDs of 2 songs … unpublished, beautiful music.”
Centuries-old clash continues over disputed commandment
By Joe Kovacs
This sign at the Mesa Avenue Church of Christ in Grand Junction, Colo., is typical of churches announcing their worship services on Sunday.
Most Christians today think it’s Sunday, when the majority of churches hold services.
But others confidently say it’s Saturday, calling Sunday worship “the most flagrant error of mainstream Christianity,” believing Sunday-keepers are victims of clever deception.
Some high-profile evangelical pastors such as California’s Greg Laurie say it’s simply “wrong to set Saturday apart as a special day for worship.”
Today, some high-school sports teams refuse to play in state tournaments for the sole reason the events are held on Saturday – what they say is God’s Sabbath.
Scottish sprinter Eric Liddell
Conversely, the 1981 film “Chariots of Fire” was based on the true story of Eric Liddell, a Scottish sprinter and Christian missionary who disqualified himself from his best event at the 1924 Olympics because the race was on Sunday – the Sabbath in his view.
Christians seem irreparably split, as this issue goes back to the beginning of time itself.
In the beginning …
There are seven days in a week, but historians have no consensus about the cycle’s origin, since it has no basis in astronomy.
The Bible, though, indicates God created the Earth and its life forms in six days, and then rested on the seventh.
“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.” (Genesis 2:2-3)
Biblically speaking, the first six days of the week had no special name. They were simply identified by ordinal numbers, such as the first, second and third day. But the seventh day was given a unique name. In Hebrew, it’s “shabbat,” meaning “rest.” In English, the word is “Sabbath,” and it’s detailed in the Fourth Commandment.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work … . 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.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
In many languages, the word used for the seventh day of the week – what we call Saturday – is actually the same word used for “Sabbath.” In Greek, it is sabbaton; Italian, sabato; Spanish, sábado; Russian, subbota; Polish, sobota; and Hungarian, szómbat. Even the French “samedi” is from the Latin “Sambata dies,” for “day of the Sabbath.”
Names of days in today’s English come from ancient paganism, where they were originally associated with celestial objects and heathen gods.
Table traces the seven days of the week from their pagan Latin origin through the names of Norse gods to their current names in English
In the King James Version of the Bible, the word “Sabbath” appears 137 times. The word “Sunday” is absent, though its equivalent, the first day of the week, occurs eight times – nine if the “first day” of creation is counted.
Some examples of the use of Sabbath include:
- “Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.” (Exodus 31:15-16)
- “But pray ye that your flight be not in winter, neither on the sabbath day.” (Matthew 24:20)
- “Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:28)
Most biblical scholars have little disagreement when asked what day the Bible specifically calls the Sabbath.
Prof. Richard Bauckham
“The seventh day, Saturday,” says Richard Bauckham, professor of New Testament at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “No other day is called the Sabbath in Old or New Testaments.”
In 2001, Jan Marcussen, a Seventh-Day Adventist from Thompsonville, Ill., was so sure there was no Bible verse declaring the first day to be the Sabbath, he offered up to $1 million for clear, Scriptural proof.
“I didn’t get even one response claiming the $1 million from any theologian, bishop, cardinal, pope or anyone else,” Marcussen, author of “National Sunday Law,” told WND. “Why not? Because they can’t. [Observing Sunday as the Sabbath] is the biggest hoax the world has ever seen.”
But while the Bible never calls the first day of the week a Sabbath, the vast majority of Christians today gather for worship then. Many think Sabbath-keeping was either abolished or moved to Sunday once Jesus rose from the grave.
“There’s not a simple answer,” said Dr. Roger Felipe, a Baptist preacher from Marco Island, Fla., who is also director of programs for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, part of Trinity International University. “From [today's] Christian point of view, the Sabbath is Sunday.”
There is little, if any, argument Jesus and His fellow Jews observed the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week, as the Bible states, “as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read.” (Luke 4:16)
But it’s what took place after His death and resurrection that’s key.
The rising of the Son
One reason many Christians provide for gathering on Sunday is the belief Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week.
“It’s a powerful symbol,” says Felipe.
An angel informs women that Jesus is not in the tomb, but has already risen.
“In the weekly reckoning of time, Sunday recalls the day of Christ’s Resurrection,” the pope stated.
But the idea Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday is not universal.
The Bible is actually silent on the precise moment of resurrection. Jesus’ followers came to His tomb before dawn on the first day of the week (Sunday), but they did not witness Him coming back to life. They merely found an empty tomb.
A tomb with a view
“Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen,” is what an angel told the women. (Luke 24:5-6)
John Pinkston, Congregation of God Seventh Day
“Christ was already gone!” exclaims John Pinkston, a retired Air Force navigator who is founder and president of the Congregation of God Seventh Day in Kennesaw, Ga. “So that shoots in the foot the belief that He was raised on Sunday.”
Pinkston is typical of many Sabbath-keepers, believing Jesus was neither killed on a Friday, nor raised on Sunday. He believes Jesus was actually put to death on a Wednesday, and remained in the grave 72 hours until Saturday evening. When the women came to the tomb early Sunday, they found it empty, indicating Jesus arose prior to their arrival.
Even the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, a Sunday-keeper and chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., agreed with that timetable, telling WND in 2001, “I personally believe He was crucified on Wednesday evening … and rose after 6 p.m. Saturday evening.”
Most Christians today think Jesus died on a Friday and rose on Sunday. They point to Scriptures indicating a Sabbath day followed Jesus’ execution. But Sabbath-keepers claim it was not the weekly Sabbath of Saturday approaching. Rather, they say it was an annual Sabbath, a “high” holy day in the Hebrew calendar known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which supposedly occurred on a Thursday the week Jesus was killed. The Gospel of John mentions that Sabbath was the annual type.
“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) … .” (John 19:31)
In other words, Sabbatarians say there was more than one day of rest that week. Their timeline has Jesus slain on Wednesday – the day before the “high day” annual Sabbath on Thursday. They believe Jesus was in the grave for a full three days and three nights, finally arising Saturday evening, the second Sabbath of the week.
The mention of “three days and three nights” is important for many, as Jesus used that phrase to prove His divine identity:
“For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so I, the Son of Man, will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:40, New Living Translation)
There’s disagreement if that phrase means a full three days and three nights – 72 hours – or merely parts of three days and three nights, leading many to stick with the Friday-evening-to-Sunday-morning timeline.
The last shall be first?
Beyond the resurrection issue, there are several Bible references to “the first day of the week,” none of which are clear on the Sabbath issue.
Prof. Margaret M. Mitchell
“The New Testament evidence is not conclusive, and nowhere ‘ordains’ or instructs [Sunday-keeping],” said Margaret M. Mitchell, professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Mitchell says the “evidence is, historically speaking, tantalizing but not absolutely clear.”
She notes the apostle Paul, for instance, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “calls on the Corinthians to treasure up on the first day of the week.”
“He does not explicitly say there whether the envisioned context is a gathering of the assembly, or if this refers to what people do in their own homes,” Mitchell said.
Another mention of the first day is in Acts 20:7, as Paul is shown breaking bread with fellow believers in ancient Troas, a peninsula in modern-day Turkey: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them … .”
Mitchell told WND: “This text appears to show a particular Sunday eucharistic gathering, but it does not tell us if this replaced the Sabbath observance or stood alongside it, [i.e., people observed both].”
Interestingly, while most Bible versions use the phrase “first day of the week” in Acts 20:7, a 1990 word-for-word translation of the same Scripture by Greek experts Robert K. Brown and Philip W. Comfort in the New Greek English Interlinear New Testament from Tyndale House Publishers, actually renders it as “one of the Sabbaths.”
Their version reads: “And on one of the Sabbaths having been assembled us to break bread, Paul was lecturing them … .”
If the Tyndale translation is accurate, it could heighten the Saturday-vs.-Sunday controversy, since this alleged evidence for Sunday worship may not have been a Sunday at all, but the usual Saturday Sabbath.
‘The Lord’s Day’ – or is that ‘Day of the Lord’?
And then there’s something called “the Lord’s Day.” Though mentioned just once in the Bible, many today assume it means Sunday.
The Scripture, written by the apostle John on the Greek island of Patmos, says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.” (Revelation 1:10)
Depiction of John on Patmos by Pat Marvenko Smith, (c) 1992. Used with permission. Revelation Illustrated
Some Sabbatarians like Pinkston believe the term has no connection to the first day of the week.
“It’s not talking anything about Sunday,” he said. “It’s talking about the ‘Day of the Lord’ mentioned in the Old Testament. It’s prophecy about when Christ comes back. The Book of Revelation reveals the events of the ‘Day of the Lord.’ It has nothing to do with a worship day.”
Others think it is indeed a worship day, but not Sunday. They suggest “the Lord’s Day” is actually a Saturday Sabbath, noting Jesus called himself “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28) and that God referred to the Sabbath as “my holy day.” (Isaiah 58:13)
Thus, according to this reasoning, if any day of the week were really “the Lord’s Day,” it’s the seventh-day Sabbath, not Sunday.
However, Prof. Bauckham in Scotland believes there’s good evidence from early Christian sources the phrase does indeed refer to Sunday.
“John probably means that his visionary experience happened during the time when other Christians were gathered for worship,” he said.
“The other interpretation [equating it with the 'Day of the Lord'] doesn’t really make sense because the earlier parts of the vision are not placed temporally at the end of history. That is only approached over several chapters [into Revelation].”
The Encyclopedia Britannica equates Sunday with “the Lord’s Day” in Christianity, stating, “The practice of Christians gathering together for worship on Sunday dates back to apostolic times, but details of the actual development of the custom are not clear.”
The New Testament, penned within the first century, never specifically mentions a Sabbath change.
“From a logical point of view,” says Pinkston, “if the New Testament had intended for us to start worshipping on the first day of the week, then we’d find ample evidence for it. Yet, it’s not in there.”
One example Sabbatarians point to is when Paul is shown preaching to both Jews and Gentiles (non-Hebrews) on a Sabbath, and not Sunday. He’s then asked to preach again on the following Sabbath.
“And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. … And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.” (Acts 13:42-44)
The argument is, if there were some kind of worship on the first day of the week, then Paul would have just told the people – especially those with no connection to Jewish customs – to simply come back tomorrow (Sunday) to learn more, rather than wait an entire week for the next Sabbath to arrive.
Man of the Sabbath
A well-known expert on the Sabbath is Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, a retired theology professor at Andrews University in Michigan.
Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi
Bacchiocchi earned his doctorate in Church History at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was awarded a gold medal by Pope Paul VI for his summa cum laude class work and dissertation, “From Sabbath to Sunday: A Historical Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity.”
Bacchiocchi, a Seventh-Day Adventist, believes there’s no Scriptural mandate to change or eliminate Sabbath-keeping, and he singles out the Catholic Church for its role in changing the day.
“The Church of the capital of the empire, whose authority was already felt far and wide in the second century, appears to be the most likely birthplace of Sunday observance,” he writes.
In the 1876 book, “The Faith of Our Fathers,” James Cardinal Gibbons, the Catholic archbishop of Baltimore, agreed the shift to Sunday was not based on the Bible, but was solely the work of the Catholic Church.
“You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify,” Gibbons wrote.
Bacchiocchi also told WND: “Anti-Judaism caused the abandonment of the Sabbath, and pagan sun worship influenced the adoption of Sunday.”
He says evidence of anti-Judaism is found in the writings of Christian leaders such as Ignatius, Barnabas and Justin in the second century. He notes these three “witnessed and participated in the process of separation from Judaism which led the majority of the Christians to abandon the Sabbath and adopt Sunday as the new day of worship.”
Bacchiocchi also explains the influence of pagan sun worship provides a “plausible explanation for the Christian choice of Sunday” over the day of Saturn. Its effect wasn’t just limited to Sunday. It apparently led to the placement of Jesus’ birth in late December.
“The adoption of the 25th of December for the celebration of Christmas is perhaps the most explicit example of sun worship’s influence on the Christian liturgical calendar,” Bacchiocchi writes. “It is a known fact that the pagan feast of the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti – the birthday of the Invincible Sun, was held on that date.”
Christian facts, pagan Mithras
One of the Roman names for this “Invincible Sun” god in the days of the apostles was Mithras. There are striking similarities between the ancient worship of Mithras and today’s Christianity, leading some to think early Christians adopted Sunday worship from heathen customs.
The pagan sun god Mithras, also known as ‘the Invincible Sun’
For instance, Mithraism’s sacred day of Sunday was said to be called “the Lord’s Day.”
Donald Morse, a retired professor at Temple University, wrote a 1999 essay comparing the tenets of Mithraism to modern Christianity, explaining Mithras was worshipped on Sunday; was born of a virgin known as the “mother of God” on Dec. 25; was part of a holy trinity; and had a “Last Supper” with his 12 followers before his death and resurrection at Easter time near the spring equinox.
Mithraists were also taught they had immortal souls that went to a celestial heaven or an infernal hell at death.
“All of these religions intermingled in those days,” Morse, who is Jewish, told WND. “There’s no way to know who stole from whom.”
On the change from Sabbath to Sunday, Morse suggested early Christian leaders including Paul felt “the best way to convert pagans was to not have them change too much. Just accept their [pagan] holidays, as long as they accepted Jesus as Messiah. They didn’t really have to do much more than that.”
There’s no place like Rome
As Christianity spread through the pagan Roman Empire, it was finally given official toleration in the year 312 by Emperor Constantine, who purportedly had a vision that prompted his soldiers to fight under a “symbol of Christ,” leading to a key military victory. The emperor then restored confiscated church property and even offered public funds to churches in need.
Roman Emperor Constantine sees a symbol of Christ in the sky before the battle at Milvian Bridge outside Rome in A.D. 312
Sunday observance received a historic boost when Constantine – himself a pagan who is said to have adopted Christianity at least nominally – established Sunday as the first day of the week in the Roman calendar and issued a mandatory order prohibiting work on that day, in honor of the sun god.
On March 7, 321, he decreed, “On the venerable Day of the Sun, let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.” Farmers were given an exception.
“The importance of the actions of Constantine cannot be overstated,” says author Richard Rives in “Too Long in the Sun.” “During his reign, pagan sun worship was blended with the worship of the Creator, and officially entitled ‘Christianity.’”
Before the end of the 4th century, Sunday observance prevailed over Saturday.
At the Council of Laodicea in 363, the Church of Rome – today known as the Roman Catholic Church – declared: “Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord’s Day [Sunday]; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.”
In 380, Emperor Theodosius made Sunday-keeping Catholic Christianity the official religion of the empire, outlawing all other faiths:
We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that the shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics.
While some went along with the decrees, others apparently did not. A letter from Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, possibly reveals Saturday Sabbath-keeping in his own town, while Sunday was being observed in Rome. It led to the well-known proverb, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
Once Sunday had the imperial power of the Roman Catholic government behind it, Saturday Sabbath-keepers became less visible, though some Sabbatarian websites have documented mentions of seventh-day observers through the centuries.
For example, the Catholic Church persecuted Sabbath-keepers in the 15th century. At the Catholic Provincial Council of Bergen, Norway, in 1435, it was said:
We are informed that some people in different districts of the kingdom, have adopted and observed Saturday-keeping.
It is severely forbidden – in holy church canon – [for] one and all to observe days excepting those which the holy pope, archbishop, or the bishops command. Saturday-keeping must under no circumstances be permitted hereafter further that the church canon commands. Therefore we counsel all the friends of God throughout all Norway who want to be obedient towards the holy church to let this evil of Saturday-keeping alone; and the rest we forbid under penalty of severe church punishment to keep Saturday holy.
The Catholic Encyclopedia even refers to Sabbath-keeping as “the superstitious observance of Saturday,” noting it was forbidden by that council.
Coming to America
As Christianity headed west, the earliest settlers to America included both Sunday-keepers – such as the Puritans who landed at Plymouth, Mass., in 1620 – and Sabbath-observers like the Seventh Day Baptists, whose first church was founded in Newport, R.I., in 1671.
When the Puritan Christians used the word Sabbath, they would mean Sunday – “the Lord’s Day” – and passed rules enforcing its observance from sunset Saturday to sunset Sunday.
Connecticut’s so-called Blue Laws of the 1650s had strict codes of conduct said to include:
- No one shall run on the Sabbath day, or walk in his garden or elsewhere, except reverently to and from meeting.
- No one shall travel, cook victuals, make beds, sweep house, cut hair, or shave, on the Sabbath day.
- No one shall read Common-Prayer, keep Christmas or saints-days, make minced pies, dance, play cards, or play on any instrument of music, except the drum, trumpet, and the Jews-harp.
- Adultery shall be punished by death.
Instructions for colonists in New Haven, Conn., drafted in 1655 and published in London in 1656 became known as blue laws.
In her 1909 book, “The Sabbath in Puritan New England,” historian Alice Morse Earle documented “lists of arrests and fines for walking and travelling unnecessarily on the Sabbath,” regarded here from Saturday evening to Sunday evening:
A Maine man who was rebuked and fined for “unseemly walking” on the Lord’s Day protested that he ran to save a man from drowning. The Court made him pay his fine, but ordered that the money should be returned to him when he could prove by witnesses that he had been on that errand of mercy and duty. As late as the year 1831, in Lebanon, Conn., a lady journeying to her father’s home was arrested within sight of her father’s house for unnecessary travelling on the Sabbath; and a long and fiercely contested lawsuit was the result, and damages were finally given for false imprisonment.
Spring of 1642: Puritan settlers in New England observe the Sabbath on Sunday, Courtesy the Stamford Historical Society, Stamford, Conn.
Christians observing the Sabbath on Saturday also spread throughout America, but in fewer numbers than Sunday-keepers.
The teachings of the Seventh Day Baptists are said to be instrumental in the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church – which claims a membership today of 15 million – and the Church of God (Seventh Day) – which has more than 200 congregations in the U.S. and Canada and a worldwide fellowship of more than 300,000.
Other Christians promoting Saturday rest include many offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God, such as the United Church of God, Living Church of God, Church of God International, Philadelphia Church of God and Intercontinental Church of God.
Messianic Jews, including Dallas-based Zola Levitt Ministries, are also seventh-day proponents.
Some Sabbatarians, such as Richard Ames of the Living Church of God, produce TV shows like “Tomorrow’s World,” asking, “Which day is the Christian Sabbath?”
On one program, Ames points to Luke 4:16 in the Bible and says, “It was Jesus’ regular custom to worship on the Sabbath, and since that time, and centuries before, the Jewish community has very carefully documented their observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, Saturday. In other words, history demonstrates that time has not been lost, that the seven-day cycle has been accurately recorded to this day.”
In another episode, Ames’ colleague, Roderick C. Meredith, calls Sunday observance “the most flagrant error of mainstream Christianity” and “the most obvious deception of all.”
“Do you realize that this deception is blinding millions of people from knowing God?” asks Meredith.
Despite such rhetoric, many Catholic and Protestant Sunday-keepers reject Sabbath-keeping on Saturday.
Greg Laurie, a WND columnist and senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., one of the eight largest Protestant churches in America, maintains it’s wrong for Christians to observe Saturday, claiming Jesus and the apostles never taught anyone to keep the Sabbath. He says it’s the only one of the Ten Commandments not specifically repeated in the New Testament.
“Of all the New Testament lists of sins, ‘breaking the Sabbath’ is never mentioned,” Laurie said. “That is because it was given to the Jews, not the non-Jews.”
Back in Florida, Sunday-keeper Roger Felipe thinks God is not overly concerned with the Sabbath issue.
“Paul is very clear that we Christians don’t use [one particular day] as a determining factor if someone is right with God,” Felipe said.
At the same time, though, the minister supports the idea of resting one day each week to stay on track with God.
“Humanity has forsaken the importance of Sabbath rest,” he said. “God desires us to be renewed spiritually. We should observe a day … to be consecrated and to be devoted to God, to be renewed and refreshed. In terms of affecting the human quality of life, it would do us very well to observe a Sabbath rest.”