Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University
A PERSONAL NOTE: In my previous installment (Sabbath Discussion, Part 15 entitled "Bacchiocchi Replies to Threat of Defamation Suit"), I replied to three basic allegations which Attorney Ken Campbell, acting on behalf of Pastor Clay Peck, levelled against me. The charges were based on two statements I made in my essay "Rediscovering the Sabbath" (Sabbath Discussion Part 14) where I refer to Pastor Peck as a "former Sabbatarian," and I list him among those who in recent times have "attacked the Sabbath."
Following my lengthy response (65K), I received on September 10 an email message from Pastor Peck and his Attoney Ken Campbell, both of them indicating that it was not their intent to file a defamation suit against me. This gives me a sense of relief, especially because of the precious time a litigation can consume. You can read the full text of both messages at the end of this document. I wanted to share this information sooner, but I have been under considerable pressure during the past 10 days.
For one thing I have been working hard to finish my next essay "THE SABBATH AND THE SAVIOR" which, God willing, I plan to post before I leave for Europe (September 27) where I will be lecturing for a week. This essay is the longest (close to 100K) and in many ways the most important I have written. The reason is that it addresses the fundamental thesis of Pastor Peck, Dale Ratzlaff, and a host of Evangelical authors who claim that Christ fulfilled the redemptive typologies of the Sabbath by terminating the actual observance of the day.
My study of the Sabbath material of the New Testament indicates otherwise. I find that Christ fulfilled the Sabbatical typologies of Messianic redemptions, not by terminating the observance of the Sabbath, but by making the day a time to celebrate, not only God's perfect creation, but also His complete redemption. You will soon be able to evaluate for yourselves the validity of my conclusions.
You should find the next essay "THE SABBATH AND THE SAVIOR" to be the capstone of the ongoing Sabbath discussion. It is written in a more scholarly way, with the proper footnotes apparatus. I am preparing this essay as a chapter for my new book THE SABBATH UNDER CROSSFIRE which I hope to complete by the end of this year. Some changes will undoubtedly be made after receiving your critiques.
Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.,
WWW HOMEPAGE: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com
Before reponding briefly to the messages received from Pastor Peck and Attorney Campbell on September 10, I would like to remind the members of the SABBATH UPDATES list of the three allegations levelled against me and of the response I gave to such allegations.
The three allegations are:
My lengthy response (Sabbath Discusion, Part 15) to these allegations can be summarized as follows:
FEW COMMENTS ABOUT THE MESSAGES RECEIVED FROM PASTOR PECK AND ATTORNEY CAMPBELL ON SEPTEMBER 10, 1998.
In the light of the effort I made to submit an indepth analysis of Pastor Peck's anti-Sabbath "New Covenant" theology, I was greatly surprised to read Attorney Campbell's latest message of 9/10/98 where he still defends the legitimacy of his allegations. He wrote: "The reason I said that he [Pastor Peck] would 'consider' filing suit against you is that he was receiving legal advise concerning the merits of a defamation action against you for having intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of your published statements, harmed his reputation among Sabbatarians by stating or implying that (1) he has established a Sunday-keeping church when he has not; (2) he is a "former Sabbatarian" when he, in fact, continues to this day to pastor a Sabbatarian congregation; and (3) he, as a "New Covenant" Christian, holds that Sunday is the "sign" of the new covenant when he has publically rejected that idea. In my opinion, Pastor Peck has legal grounds to sue you. . . . Pastor Peck has forgiven you for your false statements about him.." (You can read below the complete text of his message).
What surprises me about this harsh statement is the fact that Attorney Campbell totally ignores my lengthy response to his allegation. For example, I have shown that from a theological perspective Pastor Peck is a "former Sabbatarian," since he clearly negates the continuity and validity of the principle and practice Sabbathkeeping for today. For Pastor Peck "God does not want you to wait until some day on the calendar to enter his rest and then only for a period of time. He wants you to enter his rest today, and everyday, to live in his rest!" (p. 87).
Since for Pastor Peck Sabbathkeeping is an existential experience of salvation-rest that takes place every day, conducting church services on the Sabbath may reflect more his sensitivity toward his Sabbatarian members than his personal convictions. Frankly, I was expecting an apology from Pastor Peck, or at least an admission that from a theological perpective he is no longer a Sabbatarian and consequently I was correct to refer to him as "former Sabbatarian."
I was also surprised to see Attorney Campbell repeating the false allegation that I indirectly accuse Pastor Peck of holding that "Sunday is the 'sign' of the new covenant," when I made abundantly clear that I never attributed such a belief to Pastor Peck. On the contrary, I quoted the paragraph from in the twelfth essay entitled "The Sabbath and the New Covenant" (Sabbath Discussion, Part 12-A) where I explictly state that Pastor Peck does not attach any special significance to Sunday.
Regarding my reference to Pastor Peck holding Sunday services, I did post a correction and an apology last July 9 when I was made aware that I had been misinformed by people who claimed to be associated with the Grace Place congregation. I saw no need to verify the information, since those who have adopted the "New Covenant" theology of the Sabbath espoused by Pastor Peck, have already moved or are in the process of moving their church services to Sunday. This is the only logical and consistent thing to do by those who believe that the Sabbath is a sign of the Old Covenant fulfilled by Christ. For such people to hold church services on Saturday represents an open contradiction of their belief. It is like believing that the sacrificial system has been fulfilled by Christ, and yet choosing to continue to offer sacrifices on make-shift altars.
The strategy of recycling allegations to defame me, after I submitted abundant evidences showing the validity of what I wrote, hardly reflects the Christian commitment to seek and promote truth.
A Brief Comment about Pastor Peck's Message
My response is simple. The truth of the matter, Pastor Peck, is that you totally ignore this "possible interpretation," which recent scholarship has shown to be the only legitimate interpretation. Instead, you choose to support your view that Colossians 2:14 teaches that the Old Covenant was nailed to the Cross by quoting Ephesians 2:14-15, which speaks of Christ "abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations."
Please note, Pastor Peck, that the similarity between the two is only apparent. In the first place the phrase "the law of commandments" which occurs in Ephesians is not found in Colossians. Secondly, the dative in Ephesians "en dogmasin" is governed by "en," thus expressing that the law was set out "in regulations." Such a preposition does not occur in Colossians. Lastly, the context is substantially different. While in Ephesians the question is how Christ removed what separated Jews from Gentiles, in Colossians it is how Christ provided full forgiveness. The former He accomplished by destroying "the dividing wall of hostility" (2: 14-a possible reference to the wall that divided the court of the Gentiles from the sanctuary proper, cf. Josephus, Jewish Wars 5, 5, 2; 6, 2, 4) "by abolishing the law of commandments [set out] in regulations" (2:15). The latter, by utterly destroying "the written record of our sins which because of the regulations was against us."
During this Sabbath discussion I have had to deal time and again with the "cafetaria" method of Biblical interpretation that both you and Dale Ratzlaff consistently use. The method consists in supporting your views by "picking" texts that may contain some similar words or ideas, though their context is totally different. A good example is what you call the "remembrance sign." Your argument is that the Sabbath was replaced by the Lord's Supper because both of them have a remembrance function (Ex 20:8; 31:12-17; 1 Cor 11:24-25) (pp. 72-74). What you fail to realize, Pastor Peck, is that in the Bible the Sabbath and the Lord's Supper serve "to remember" different truths. The Sabbath summons us to "remember" creation (Ex 20:11) and redemption (Deut 5:15), while the Lord's Supper calls us to remember Christ's atoning death. To argue that the latter replaces the remembrance function of the former, means to ignore that in the Bible the two signs have different meanings and functions.
What I find most distressing about the method of Biblical interpretation that you and Dale Ratzlaff employ, is the fact that both of you are the product of our Adventist theological education. It is evident that while you were at our SDA Theological Seminary you were never taught or never learned how to do responsible Biblical exegesis. If this is a weakness of our College and Seminary programs which in recent years have become more practical oriented, then our SDA church urgently needs to address this problem. In my view a fundamental aspect of the pastoral formation is learning how to "rightly handle the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15).
Rather than continuing this discussion that is accomplishing nothing positive, I would like to take this farewell opportunity to make a special personal appeal to Pastor Peck. Your strong reaction to my references to you as "former Sabbatarian" and as "attacking" the Sabbath, suggests to me that your anti-Sabbatarian "New Covenant" theology, may not reflect what you really believe in your inner soul. Your reaction, Pastor Peck, suggests to me that in your heart you still believe that the Sabbath is a valid and valuable institution that enables us to celebrate and experience God's creative and redemptive love.
If indeed this is what you believe in your heart, why not ask God to give you the courage to confess that you were misled in adopting the "New Covenant" theology? Why not take a bold step and reaffirm your commitment to the Lord of the Sabbath, not only by giving priority in your personal life to the Savior on the seventh day, but also by helping your congregation to understand and experience more fully the rest of salvation through a proper observance of God's Holy Sabbath day?
Pastor Peck, I have reason to believe that if you take such a bold step by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, there will be great joy not only in the heart of our Heavenly Father, but also in the heart of your mother and father, who are dedicated SDA church leaders. They must be suffering a great deal over your present situation. Rest assured that you will be in our prayers. May the act of resting on the Sabbath for the Savior become for you a resignation to your human effort to achieve salvation in order to allow the omnipotent GRACE of God to operate more fully in your life.
In Christian love,
THIS IS THE MESSAGE I RECEIVED FROM ATTORNEY KEN CAMPBELL ON SEPTEMBER 10, 1998
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 08:48:09 -0400
Dear Dr. Bacchiocchi:
Clay Peck has not threatened you with a defamation suit. Rather, I have advised you that if you continue to republish libelous statements about him and refuse to retract those already published, Mr. Peck "will strongly consider filing suit against you". Those were my words, not his. The reason I said that he would "consider" filing suit against you is that he was receiving legal advise concerning the merits of a defamation action against you for having intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of your published statements, harmed his reputation among Sabbatarians by stating or implying that (1) he has established a Sunday-keeping church when he has not; (2) he is a "former Sabbatarian" when he, in fact, continues to this day to pastor a Sabbatarian congregation; and (3) he, as a "New Covenant" Christian, holds that Sunday is the "sign" of the new covenant when he has publically rejected that idea.
In my opinion, Pastor Peck has legal grounds to sue you. Frankly, I doubt that he will, because he is far more interested in spreading the gospel of salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of His completed substitutionary atonement at the cross than he is in seeking to restore his good reputation among Sabbatarians which you, in my opinion, have tried to destroy.
Pastor Peck has forgiven you for your false statements about him. He, a redeemed sinner, believes in extending grace to others, including you, Dr. Bacchiocchi, because of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ's sacrifice at calvary. Will you now extend grace to Pastor Peck?
You have requested my reply to your proposed response to my charge of defamation. Please publish this reply in its entirety.
Kent N. Campbell, Esq.
THIS IS THE MESSAGE I RECEIVED FROM PASTOR CLAY PECK ON SEPTEMBER 10, 1998
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 09:51:30 -0600
Samuele Bacchiocchi wrote:
Dear Dr. Bacchiocchi,
Thank you for the above promise.
Please understand, as Kent Campbell's statement clarifies, that the threat of lawsuit was his words not mine. I did suggest and supported his cautioning you about putting into print things that aren't true.
I have read your reply.
I don't believe that you have been totally fair in your analysis. You make it sound like I never tried to dialogue with you to clarify things -- which I have done for the last couple months via email. You pull things out of my booklet to make your point without providing the full picture. One example is how you criticize me for using Col. 2:13-14 as a passage that suggests that the old covenant was nailed to the cross without quoting where I say "Some people interpret this verse to be referring to the record of our sins which was nailed to the cross. That is a possible interpretation." (p. 50)
But none of that is worth squabbling over. Under the umbrella of God's everlasting covenant of grace I see a clear distinction between the old and new covenants taught in the New Testament. You don't. That's O.K. Let's be friends.
May God bless you in your research and personal walk with him. May he keep us both humble, teachable and eager to learn is my prayer.
In Christ Alone,