Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review: Sabbath by Dan Allender

In his most recent book, Sabbath, counseling professor and seminary president Dan Allender explores the character and purpose of Sabbath observance for the Christian.  He reframes the discussion from the usual emphasis on what Sabbath excludes to an emphasis on what should fill it: the Hebrew word menuha, which he says means not only "rest" but "delight."

This book, which I received compliments of the Booksneeze blogger review program, is full of profound insights beautifully expressed.  It is learned but not pedantic.  I enjoyed it, and the ideas have returned to mind often.  That said, I could not embrace the ideas wholeheartedly as I wanted to.

The introduction and first chapter were especially well-done.  Dr. Allender discusses Sabbath as a commandment, not an option, and analyzes the reasons (sins) behind our failure to keep it.  His comments on Americans' cultural pride in busyness resonated with me deeply.  His musings on time and the nature of God also provided food for thought.

When the book shifted to what a "day of delight" would include, I became less certain of his conclusions.  There were still plenty of passages flagged and highlighted, and his recommendations often seem healthful and wise from a counseling perspective, but I am not confident that they pertain specifically to the discipline of Sabbath.  The wordcraft of the bulk of the book is excellent, but perhaps the thoughts would be more apropos to consideration of the spiritual disciplines of celebration, slowing, or rest.

The Hebrew word menuha, which Jewish commentators have associated with Sabbath observance, seems to support most of the weight of Dr. Allender's thesis, and I am not convinced that it is sturdy enough to do so.  He writes, "Menuha is the Hebrew word for rest, but it is better translated as joyous repose, tranquility, or delight" (p.28).  It may have delight as a nuance of meaning, but my limited Hebrew study tools make no mention of that.  What would seem the more hermeneutically important word, Sabbath itself, receives little attention.  (It means "ceasing" or "rest.")  In Scripture itself, menuha does not occur in direct relation to the Sabbath.

For another perspective, Lauren Winner in Mudhouse Sabbath describes Sabbath as the Jewish practice she has missed most since her conversion to Christianity.  She describes it as "queen of days," a phrase Dr. Allender also uses, but characterizes it as abstinence from creating.

In summary, this is a well-written book that would provide rich fodder for group interaction about what Sabbath means.  I appreciate Dr. Allender's assertion that the Sabbath should be a day of delight, but I am ambivalent about his elaboration of that idea.  If corporate worship, Bible study, and prayer (which the book minimizes) are not delightful to me as ways to spend the Sabbath, I suspect that the deficiency lies in myself and not in those practices.

I review for BookSneeze

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


  1. What a great review to read! I checked this book out from the library recently. My reading began strong, but then I ended up scanning much of the rest of the book. Which, could indicate I had too many books in my pile. However, what you wrote did resonate with me.

  2. @Tea Girl Thank you so much for your feedback! I've actually been feeling insecure about my book review skills (and this one in particular), so your kind words mean a lot to me today.

    May God's love beautify your week!


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