Tom Wells’ book on the Sabbath: Chapter Three (IV)

by | May 24, 2011 | Biblical Theology, Book Reviews, Hermeneutics, New Testament, Old Testament, Systematic Theology

Tom Wells’ book on the Sabbath: Chapter Three (III)

Mark 2:27-28

 Wells discusses Mk. 2:27-28 (48-57). He claims, and rightly so, “There is no command in these verses…” (49). He continues, “…but an argument for Sabbath keeping has been drawn from each of them” (49). He states the argument this way:

The argument is twofold. First, if God at creation made the Sabbath a blessing for mankind, He certainly did not do so only to abolish it later. Second, when the Lord Jesus announces Himself as Lord of the Sabbath, it seems unlikely to suppose that He intended to exercise His Lordship over it by doing away with it. (49)

Dealing with this twofold argument, Wells assumes “that God commanded man to keep the Sabbath at the time of creation” (49), though he does not believe that to be the case. Discussing the first argument, he says:

The first argument implies the impossibility of God later abolishing anything that He made for mankind’s benefit at the creation. But is this sound reasoning? It may be true or it may be false, but it is certainly not obvious. Where is it written that if God once made something a blessing for mankind at large that He would never suspend it? (49)

He then gives examples of many things God has made for man’s benefit that he subsequently takes from man (i.e., the Garden of Eden, many wonderful fruits, extinct birds and animals, the benefits of family life for some believers in Christ, etc. [49-50]). What shall we say to this?

Wells asserts, without citing anyone, that “The first argument implies the impossibility of God later abolishing anything that He made for mankind’s benefit at the creation” (49; emphasis mine). Does the first argument imply this? Is this the way those Wells is arguing against state their position? I think the answer to both questions is a resounding, “No!” Do those who believe that God instituted some things for mankind’s good at creation also believe in “the impossibility of God later abolishing” those things? Again, Wells cites no one. In fact, he over-states his case. Claiming that God instituted some things for man’s good at creation does not necessarily imply the impossibility of God later abolishing those things. The Garden of Eden is a case in point, as Wells says.

The argument Wells set up (i.e., that “God at creation made the Sabbath a blessing for mankind”) needs additional elements to necessarily imply what he claims. Those who argue this would need to state that it is impossible for God to institute anything for man’s benefit at creation and then abolish it later. I don’t know of anyone who would argue this way, though someone who does may exist.

But there is another problem with Wells’ response. The examples he uses of things instituted by God at creation for the benefit of man and later abolished are not identified as creation ordinances by those he is combating. Creation ordinances are not co-extensive with everything instituted by God for man in the Garden of Eden. Wells himself identifies what those who hold to creation ordinances identify as such. He says, “Often three are cited: marriage, labor and Sabbath” (26). In other words, for example, the Garden of Eden is not a creation ordinance in the minds of Wells’ opponents. Even though it appears that Wells does not adhere to the doctrine of creation ordinances, he is disagreeing with those who do and should have seen the problem with arguing the way he did. In effect, he put words in the mouths of those he is critiquing and then shows those words to be impossible to square with Scripture. I found Wells’ argument unconvincing and his method of argumentation, at this point, very sloppy.[1]

After extensive discussion, Wells denies that this verse teaches any sort of Sabbath perpetuity under the lordship of Christ as Son of Man. However, is it that simple? Let’s consider these verses in context in our next post.

[1] I am sure I have been guilty of the same thing.

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