Thursday, September 16, 2010

Only nine?

David P. Murray reviews two books about the Ten Commandments, both of which he highly recommends. One is by the president of Wheaton College, Philip Ryken, developed from a sermon series on the subject. The other, by Mark Rooker, The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century, he identifies as "a fine example of premier evangelical scholarship" with many strengths, among which are that "Rooker explains the Ten Commandments in their redemptive context, as a response to God’s gracious redemptive acts, not as a means of redemption. Towards the end of the book, he has an excellent section on Old Testament salvation by grace through faith...." But he also identifies a couple of weaknesses, one of which I particularly noted since I belong to a denomination identified with a minority position on the fourth commandment. Murray writes:
...I was a bit confused by Rooker’s treatment of the fourth commandment. He argues strongly for the unchanging validity and permanence of the Ten Commandments:

The Ten Commandments are foundational for ethics and religious instruction. Or as Josh McDowell has stated, ‘The Ten Commandments…represent the most famous codification of absolute truth in the history of humanity’… (3); The Ten Commandments express the eternal will of God… (6); As these commandments mirror the character of God…(10); The Ten Commandments are absolute and ultimate… (199); the Ten Commandments manifest the attributes of God (199), etc.

But, to me at least, he fatally weakens his argument by arguing that the fourth commandment is not binding on the Christian today. It is hard to argue that the Ten Commandments are “foundational” “absolute truth” and “the eternal will of God” and then say that one is no longer applicable either because it is not mentioned in the New Testament (debatable), or because there were some “typical” elements attached to it in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the New.

On the basis of Acts 15, Rooker states, “The Sabbath law was no longer binding on the people of God” (97). But then, having said that, Rooker concludes his chapter by saying, “the principles involved in observance of the Sabbath law are applicable today. The principles of work, rest, and worship that emerge from the Sabbath law are extremely meaningful in their application to the contemporary Christian” (99-100). He then goes on to give an excellent exposition of these principles, which sound very like Sabbath-keeping to me!

I know it is unintentional, but I sometimes wonder how much we unwittingly undermine the whole argument for absolute and unchanging truth by undermining the place of the fourth commandment. If the Ten Commandments are now only nine-strong, where has absolute truth gone? .... [more]
A further consideration: if the fourth commandment is still important, why not observe it on the day God chose?

The Ten Commandments - TGC Reviews