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    « What Are You Reading? | Main | Brian McLaren is Back, and Opinions are Flying »
    Monday
    Feb222010

    Brief Book Review :: The Ancient Practices Series: Dan Allender's Sabbath

    Dan Allender loves the Sabbath. That much is clear. I appreciate this. As one who does not observe Sabbath faithfully (at times I engage in outright rebellion), Allender's love for this ancient practice kindled my own. The Ancient Practices Series has had that tendency, as on the whole I have greatly enjoyed these volumes.

    Within this installment Dan Allender writes in clear, enjoyable prose concerning the practice of Sabbath. I devoured this book in a couple of days, and after I had put it down, I was eager to return. With three clear divisions (Sabbath Pillars, Purpose, and Performance), the reader is shown theological and biblical foundations for Sabbath observance, the reasons this practice has been given, and how this day can be most deeply enjoyed. Throughout his book, Allender quite thankfully avoids a bland description of Sabbath, and instead opts for the language of pure delight, play, and abundance. Allender also avoids legalistic prescriptions, and rather inspires the imagination for how Sabbath might be engaged with the totality of one's being.

    Despite the fact that I read this book quickly, and on the whole found it enjoyable, I did find it lacking in a couple of ways. First, this book did refer to the biblical foundations for Sabbath practice, most notably the fourth commandment. But as has been true of more than one volume of The Ancient Practices Series, I found the level of engagement with Scripture lacking. What significance did Sabbath practice have for the people of Israel? And, for those in the Christian community, in what way did Jesus challenge Sabbath practices and open up new possibilities for Sabbath observance among those called as his disciples? Such questions deserve attention, for the Scriptures serve as a foundational and critical narrative for the establishment of these practices in the life of the Christian person.

    As another critical observation, it was quite clear that Allender made a choice to avoid discussion of the Sabbath that focused too heavily on our need for rest in a world addicted to work, hurry, and busyness, a move that took something away from the overall value of this volume. Though teachings on Sabbath commonly take this angle, the value in stressing rest as a gift to be received as part of our life rhythm clearly remains, and all signs within American culture (and perhaps others, but I speak from my location) tell us this lesson has yet to be learned. Allender does nod in this direction, but does not treat this aspect of Sabbath fully enough.

    Simply because Allender's love of Sabbath is contagious, I would recommend this book. The shortcomings I have noted do not outweigh the potential benefits this book could bring. Allender describes this practice as something to be cherished, and I believe that his description, in many ways, provides an uncommon lens through which to see God's good world that includes his gift of Sabbath.

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