Sunday: more than meets the eye
What is the subject?
A Brief History of Sunday traces how Christians have understood the purpose and meaning of Sundays from the early church to present day. As the title states, the book is brief and – better yet – very readable.
Who is the author?
Justo González is a prominent historian and probably most well known in MB circles for his textbook The Story of Christianity. González is from the Methodist denomination and has made significant contributions to Latin American history and theology.
What appealed to you about this book?
It can be so easy to take a weekly activity for granted, which is why taking time to stop and think and learn about our regular patterns is beneficial. González’s description of the development of Sunday over time is thorough for its purpose, relevant and convincing.
I enjoyed González’s easy writing style and inclusion of an ample amount of primary resources. It is a refreshing read.
Comment on the book’s theological outlook in light of the MB Confession of Faith
Justo González writes history that speaks to the heart and mind; this is no dry tome. The chapters on the early church were especially insightful and would appeal to an MB audience. One thing held in common between González and MBs is an awareness of the issues surrounding Constantine. While he dispassionately summarizes the changes Constantine brought about in regards to Sunday, it is clear they were often made for political and unbiblical reasons.
It may surprise some readers how Sunday has changed over time. This book may also be challenging for some readers as González paints a picture of the church moving from Sunday as a time of joy and celebration to solemnity and rule keeping. If one comes from a more austere tradition, one may read this book as deprecating these traditions. But González reminds the reader often that it is Jesus who constantly stands at the centre despite the differences in Sunday services.
What you disagreed with
Though the book is brief, it drags at parts. For instance, there are a number of long quotes from primary material, which may not keep everyone’s attention.
It may also be difficult to see the importance of this book since Sunday and its meaning are often taken for granted. I can imagine people may look at the title of this book and pass it over because they don’t immediately see the book’s relevance.
Who should read it
This is a must-read for anyone desiring to know more about why denominations celebrate Sunday in their own unique way. The book is easy-to-read with very little unexplained technical language while maintaining a high level of scholarly rigour.
“Even though the coming decades may contradict all our predictions, there is one future we cannot deny. This is the future that Sunday itself promises, the eight day of creation when, as Augustine puts it, ‘we shall rest and see: see and love: love and praise.’”
[Nick Toews grew up in the MB world and discovered his passion for MB history at Columbia Bible College. He worked as a youth pastor at an MB church for 5 years and currently working on a thesis in MB history at Regent College.