Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University
I thought that the members of our SABBATH UPDATES list would appreciate receiving this brief report from my recent trip to Europe. I was eager to find out during this trip how the Pope's call for a revival of Sunday observance, especially through Sunday legislation, is being received in some European countries.
The primary purpose of my trip was to speak at the annual convocation of the Croatian Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, on Sabbath, October 3, 1998. Croatia is a small country of about four million people that separated from former Yugoslavia in the recent bloody war. The country is incredibly beautiful, with high mountains, valley, lakes, and over 400 miles of marvellous beaches. The Croatians were among the first invading Eastern tribes that accepted Christianity alreadi in the seventh century. Their millennarian history is documented by ancient structures that do the countryside.
The Adventist church in Croatia has about four thousand members. The annual convocation was held in the convention center of the capital city of Zagreb. Approximately 3000 members came from different parts of the country for the one day Sabbath celebration. Many of them stood for much of the day because the convention hall could only seat about 2000. Incidentally on the same day Pope John Paul II was speaking few miles away from Zagreb to a crowd estimated to be close to one million.
The President of the Croatian SDA Conference, Dr. Dragutin Matak (a graduate from Andrews University), surprised me at the airport by showing to me a copy of my disseration FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY-OD SUBOTE DO NEDJELJE which they translated and published in a record time of three months. In fact it came off the press the very day I arrived. The decision to hasten the translation and publication of my dissertation was motivated by the renewed efforts to promote Sunday observance in Croatia through various means, including legislation.
The response of our Adventist members to my presentations on recent Sabbath/Sunday developments, surpassed my fondest expectations. They listened with much eagerness and anticipation practically for the whole Sabbath day. On Sunday several hundred travelled to our Seminary in Marusevec for a one day seminar, where I shared my research on fundamental aspects of our faith. Recent political and religious developments have heightened the awareness that end-time events are fast unfolding. Thus our Adventist believers are eager to receive all the information and guidance available. The eagerness of our members became most evident on Saturday evening when the Publishing Secretary offered to the people my newly released dissertation OD SUBOTE DO NEDJELJE. It took less than one hour to sell out the first printing. I have never witnessed such a such a thing before. Some members bought several copies, though they were rather expensive (100 Cuna = $15.00 per copy) for the average income of $300/400 a month (Pastor's income). Least some should think that I benefited from the sale of my book, let me make it clear that I have never received a cent from the sale of the over twenty foreign editions of my books.
The influence of the Pope is deeply felt in Croatia. People travelled from all over the country to see and listen to him. This may explain why the Pope's call for a revival of Sunday observance is generating considerable interest in the country. Dr. Matak informed me that various forms of Sunday legislation are being discussed at this time. This is why he made a passionate plea for me to vist Croatia at this time. I accepted the invitation reluctantly because of the many commitments I have here at home, but I am surely glad I went. In my ways I feel that I received far more blessings from seeing the dedication of our believers, than I was able to bring to them through my ministry.
On my way to Croatia I stopped for two days in Rome, Italy, to visit my parents who live less than 10 miles from the Fiumicino airport. While in Rome I contacted La Sala Stampa-the Press Office of the Vatican as well as the office of the official Vatican paper L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO. I specifically asked if Pope John Paul II has been discussing further plans for implementing Sunday observance. Both offices has told me that for the past three months since the release of the Pastoral Letter Dies Domini, practically every Sunday, after reciting the "angelus," the Pope has consistently urged the faithful to rediscover the importance of Sunday. The Pope's homilies on the importance of recovering and restoring Sunday observance have been published on the Monday/Tuesday issues of L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO. I will be examining these documents during the next few weeks while working on the chapter "The Pope and the Sabbath/Sunday Question" for my forthcoming book THE SABBATH UNDER CROSSFIRE.
The pressure to promulgate Sunday Laws is felt beyond Catholic Countries. In Norway, for example, a largely Lutheran country, the ruling Christian People's party has pushed through a law that will stop larger shops from opening on Sunday. The law is supported by the opposition Labor Party which is concerned about shop-workers rights. The reason given for such Sunday legislation is "the need to strengthen the family and the need for people to think beyond the material values for at least one day a week." It is not difficult to detect the religious overtone of such a law. A fuller eport will be published in my forthcoming book THE SABBATH UNDER CROSSFIRE.
Currently I am working on the chapter "Paul and the Law," which I hope to post for the members of our SABBATH DISCUSSION group within a week. This is a most important study, because in Sabbath-Sunday debate, it has been customary to appeal to Paul in defense of the abrogation-view of the Old Testament law in general and of the Sabbath in particular. We have found this to be true even among former Sabbatarians also appeal to Paul to support their "New Covenant fulfilment" view of the Sabbath. In view of the immense importance attributed to Paul's comments regarding the law and the Sabbath, in this chapter I examine Paul's attitude toward the law in general. This study will provide the basis for considering in the following chapter Paul's view of the Sabbath in particular.
In order to give priority to researching and writing my new book THE SABBATH UNDER CROSSFIRE, I will limit myself during the coming weeks to post only a few studies in our SABBATH UPDATES list. The studies I have in mind are a series of essays I have written last year dealing with the prevailing deception of conscious life after death. To do justice to the cange of topic, I plan to change also the name of our list from SABBATH UPDATES to END-TIME ISSUES. This title provides an umbrella to address a broad spectrum of relevant issues of our time.
One of the issues that deserves an indepth study, is the Biblical teaching regading the role of women in the church. This issue has been debated for several years in our Adventist Church, and now is coming to the forefront again with the publication of the symposium WOMEN IN MINISTRY, edited by Dr. Nancy Vyhmeister. The contributors to the symposium are professors from the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, all of whom espouse a pro-ordination position. The book was released this past week and introduced to the seminary students at a chapel program that I was unable to attend. I have not been able to purchase my own copy yet.
Colleagues who have have already read WOMEN IN MINISTRY, tell me that the opposing view held by an equal number of professors here at Andrews is not represented. On my part I can testify that I was never invited to participate in this project, though my book WOMEN IN THE CHURCH has become the standard textbook in numerous theological seminaries of different denominations across the country. In fact, few months ago a Missouri Synod Lutheran Professor requested permission to translate the book in Chinese to serve as a text book for their Lutheran Seminary in Taiwan. If there is an interest for a discussion of this timely issue, I would be glad to submit an analysis of each chapter of the book, and then give the opportunity to the author of each chapter to respond. Tell me what you think of this idea? If the majority feels that we should stay out of this controversial subject, I will not bring it up. Personally I feel that a careful study of the Biblical data can help our members to make a better informed decision on this sensitive issue.
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to those of you who received a duplicate of part 17, THE SABBATH AND THE SAVIOR, as well as to those who did not receive this important essay. Just let me know which parts are you missing and I will email them to you immediately. I have had problems in using compuserve to email these essays. I was not aware of the fact that Compuserve allows only a maximun of 50 addresses to be attached to one message. Being unaware of this limitation, I caused a bloackage of my account which now has been cleared. To avoid the recurrance of such problems I am in the process of signing up with an internet provider that allows me to send out my essays to the 5000 plus email addresses of our list without any problem.
Thank you for informing your friends about this Biblical research service which I am glad to provide to those who seek for a deeper understanding and experience of Biblical truths. Just let them know that if they have email service, they also can receive these timely Bible studies free of charge. All what they need to do is to ask to have their names added to the list. They will also be able to benefit from my research, without having to pay the high cost of tuition for sitting in my Bible classes here at Andrews University. That is a good deal! (Please laugh!).
Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.,
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