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Dan B. Allender’s Sabbath, reviewed by Lisa R. Ward


Dan B. Allender's SabbathDan B. Allender, Sabbath: The Ancient Practices (Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2009), 208 pages, ISBN 9780849901072.

Dan Allender, one of the founders and former president of the Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle, Washington, is a prolific writer and speaker. Currently, he serves as professor of counseling along with his private practice. His recent monograph, Sabbath is a challenge to our postmodern culture to rediscover the master’s intent of the Sabbath rest.

The Sabbath has been interpreted in various ways by the three monotheistic faith traditions. Allender’s thesis confronts western societies’ ideology regarding what it means to celebrate the Sabbath. He encourages the reader with the essence of delight as a premise for framing the idea and experience of the Sabbath. His theological assumptions include this holy day as a commandment which celebrates creation and remembers Eden with anticipation towards the new heavens (5). Whether or not one ascribes to the Sabbath as an observance on a particular day or a frame of mind, readers are encouraged to see it as a time to celebrate the beauty of God through many inspired ways. It is evident through Allender’s’ understanding of time, that he has been influenced by Abraham Heschel’s idea of the meaning of eternity within time (49─53).

The author writes in poetic style which enhances the reader’s imagination and the ideas which are illuminated.  Interwoven in this text is a collection of proverbial wisdom articulated in such ways which stimulate the creative mind to explore beyond the mundane and enter into the realm of possibilities of expecting the divine to show up in awe and splendor. If only the reader can glimpse into the imaginative mind of this writer long enough to experience the richness of his intent. He provides due discourse to the historical and biblical traditions of the Sabbath. He points out the Sabbath is one of several religious rituals that is a commandment within the Torah. It is apparent that Allender is not only invested in the idea of the Sabbath rest, but he has been transformed through the experience of celebrating God in the Sabbath.

Expect a spiritual awakening when you see afresh the beauty of God’s holy day.

The book is organized in three sections that provide the reader with a clear course of direction throughout the author’s message. Section one describes the ambience and frames pictorially the Sabbath experience. First, Allender likens the Sabbath as a renewal of the senses of joy and delight in feasting with community (65). This idea may seem foreign to the traditional view of the western mindset regarding the Sabbath experience of duty and responsibility. He highlights this idea by contrasting the routine concept of the Sabbath of resting from a week of work with that of preparation of entering into a glorious excitement.  For Allender, this preparation heightens one’s expectations of meeting with God, shared in the context of community, and situated in the beauty of creation. This possibility becomes the delight of the soul. I did not expect to experience such a spiritual awakening to the awe of God’s beauty in reading ways in which to observe God’s holy day. However, the descriptive eloquence of this writer combined with real life examples, encourages the reader to engage with his portrayal of the Sabbath. These examples communicate the active participation between of what it means to delight in God as his delight. The author’s use of Jürgan Moltmann’s ecological aspect of the Sabbath and Karl Barth’s discussion of the Trinity as beauty, serves to deepen the meanings of beauty and esthetics as it relates to the Sabbath (66−70).

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Category: Living the Faith

About the Author: Lisa R. Ward, M.B.L., M.P.T., MMGT (Oral Roberts University), is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Renewal Studies, specializing in biblical studies, at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. As a nurse and teacher, she is involved with her faith community to establish churches, orphanages, medical clinics, and leadership training centers for pastors in East Africa.

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