3rd LETTER TO A SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST - Part II

Following is the second part of a letter from James Likoudis, President Emeritus of Catholics United for the Faith, answering a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

 

Dear ________

With regard to the Seventh Day Adventist' claim that Christians must worship on the 7th Day, alleging this is an immutable commandment of God, I must deny the claim. The command for Christians to worship on the Jewish Sabbath is no more unchangeable than God's command forbidding the Jews to:

  • light a fire on the Sabbath (Ex. 35:3), or
  • to gather wood (Nm. 15:32), or
  • to prepare food (Ex. 16:23), or
  • to kill homosexuals, the incestuous, adulterers, and those committing bestiality (Leviticus 20:10-17).

If these commandments are not to be observed by Christians, then what makes you think that the 7th day Sabbath is to be observed by them, especially since there is no formal decree in the New Testament imposing the Jewish Sabbath for Christian worship? Moreover, in Matthew 19:18 it is significant that the commandment to observe the Jewish Sabbath is not listed by Our Lord as necessary for salvation.

It is true that the Apostles attended the synagogues on the Jewish Sabbath (Acts 13:46; 17:2-3) but this was not an acknowledgment that the Jewish Sabbath was still in force. It was because they knew the Jews would be assembled there that they went to preach Christ and the New Testament dispensation to them. The New Covenant Christ established in His Blood abolished this obligation of the Mosaic Law as is evident that Christians met to worship on the first day of the week, called "the Lord's Day" in honor of the Resurrection of Christ.

When Christ rebuked the Pharisees, you will recall, He stated, "The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath", obviously asserting such complete and total authority over the Sabbath that:

<<< He could change it. >>>

As is evident from the earliest days of the Church built upon Peter and the Apostles, the Church was left to make whatever arrangements were necessary for Christian worship (and note, too, that their worship involved the liturgical ritual and offering of the Mass). Here, also, the Apostles exercised the power granted them to loose and bind, saying in effect (as with other major decisions) "It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" (Acts 15:28).

So the early Christians clearly believed as is evident at the beginning of the 2nd century.

St. Ignatius of Antioch refers in his writings to the drastic change that took place with the coming of Christ and the teaching of the Apostles:

"Those who walked in ancient customs came to a new hope, no longer sabbathing but living the Lord's Day, on which we came to life through Christ and through His Death... Sunday is the day on which we all gather in a common assembly, because it is the first day, the day on which God, changing darkness and matter, created the world; and it is the day on which Christ Our Savior rose from the dead."
– The Bishop, St. Ignatius of Antioch, died a martyr about 109 A.D.

This apostolic tradition of Sunday worship the Catholic Church observes to this day, together with all the other essential truths of the Gospel transmitted by Scripture AND Apostolic Tradition. The latter transmits also the Word of God which is not confined merely to the written Word of Scripture. But it is the Church itself which tells us about the contents of Scripture and Tradition and explicates the doctrines transmitted by them. For example, it is that Tradition that comes to us from the Apostles which informs us that Christ established 7 Sacraments, not 2, and that it is in conformity with the Gospel (and not contrary to Scripture) to pray for the dead and to venerate (not adore) the saints of God who see Him "face to face."

I have never understood why Protestants (and despite their disclaimers Seventh Day Adventists are as much Protestant as the other sects stemming from the ill-fated Reformation) prefer the human traditions and interpretations of self-appointed "prophets" like Ellen White to the Apostolic traditions preserved in the "ONE" and only Church Christ established.

Where Scripture does not appear to settle some questions one way or another, Catholics have Apostolic Tradition and the Teaching Authority of the Church to resolve questions like:

  • the number of books constituting the divinely-inspired written Word of God,
  • the sinlessness of the Blessed Virgin, Her perpetual virginity, Her Assumption body and soul into Heaven,
  • the existence of a place of purification after death (Purgatory),
  • the eternity of Hell,
  • the exact nature of the Sacraments through which Christ Himself acts upon the soul, and so many other traditional doctrines characteristic of mainstream Christianity.

In the last analysis, the Christian Religion is based on the Authority of Christ being available through the specific Church He founded. The Bible cannot be that authority because its existence, its exact contents, and its meaning cannot be settled by any individual separated from the Community of believers Christ instituted, [namely] the Catholic Church.

It has been my contention that the Catholic Church is that divine teaching authority through which Christ Himself teaches us all the truths necessary for salvation. Twenty centuries of Christianity supports that astonishing claim, and it is true. Not only does that Catholic Church clarify the meaning of the Scriptures that are in dispute between us, but nurtures the love of Jesus Christ in our minds and hearts. There is no other divine authority given by God to guide us regarding Christian faith and morals and to give us that certitude of faith which only a divinely guaranteed religion can assure.

I do think that if one reads carefully the new "CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH", and if one is truly open to the Spirit, he will grasp the splendor of the Catholic religion, with everything concerning its belief and practice falling into place (See, e.g. "The Catechism of The Catholic Church" on Sunday as "the fulfillment of the Sabbath", n. 2174-2176).

It is a matter of profound sorrow that the Catholic Church which is the same Church for which Christ shed His Precious Blood, should be so misunderstood. You know well, being a fervent reader of the Scriptures, that at the Last Supper, Christ prayed that His followers:

"May all be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me. And the glory that Thou has given Me, I have given to them, that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in Unity, and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and that Thou hast loved them even as Thou has loved Me." (John 17:20 ff.)

Clearly, the Unity of His followers would be a sign to the world of Christ's divinity and a remarkable inducement to believe in Him. We Catholics believe that Christ's prayer for His Apostles and subsequent followers was indeed granted by His Father. The indestructible Visible Unity of the Catholic Church across the centuries is the result of Christ's prayer. It is this wondrous world-wide Unity of the Catholic Church in faith, worship and government (under the Pope and Catholic Bishops) coupled with marks of Holiness and Apostolicity (i.e., fixity in the doctrine of the Apostles) which has attracted and continues to attract countless converts to Catholicism.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
—  James Likoudis
President Emeritus
Catholics United for the Faith (CUF)

Go to Part I of the above letter.


About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:  jlikoudis@cuf.org, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage