Comments by Richard C. Nickels
Congratulations, if you have completed reading The Dugger-Porter Debate. It has probably not been an easy book for you to read. As a Sabbatarian, I thought Dugger was relatively weak in the first half of the book, on the Sabbath, whereas Porter was more effective in many of his initial arguments. I was waiting for Dugger to “lower the boom,” and he failed to do so. Dugger did not seem to have a clear understanding of the Law of God, and what it means to be “under the Law.” But then neither did Porter. After the first half of the book, I was about to say “a pox on both houses!”
However, Dugger did very well in the second half of the book, which covered Sunday, and he ended on a confident, high note. Porter failed to present convincing arguments in favor of Sunday worship. The Sabbath being firmly established in the Old Testament, and favorably mentioned throughout the New Testament, the weight of the arguments must be in favor of Sabbath-keeping.
It is obvious from this book that neither man convinced the other of the correctness of his position. Debates rarely do that. However, many of the significant issues were raised. Although you may or may not have liked all of the arguments of your favorite debater, you have probably been stimulated to do more personal study, and if so, that would be a positive fruit of the book.
For we Sabbatarians, it may have come as a rude shock, that Sunday-keeping scholars such as W. Curtis Porter, are not pushovers. Scriptures which have convinced us of the validity of the seventh day Sabbath are not accepted by Porter, and he presents some arguments that we might not have considered.
In 1969, when I as about to be baptized into the Worldwide Church of God, my eldest sister gave me a tract which attacked many of the doctrines that I had come to accept. Since she is a respected Ph.D. and now a college professor who lectures across the country, I did not take her challenge lightly. I took the time to make sure I was not going to make a serious mistake, in committing my life to a false way. This helped me to build a strong foundation for my faith, at a very early stage of my spiritual development.
With the repudiation of the seventh day Sabbath by the Worldwide Church of God in 1995, The Dugger-Porter Debate could well provide a helpful tool for those confronted again with the Sabbath/Sunday and related issues. It should make both Sabbatarians and Sunday keepers squirm.
There are a couple of areas of the Sabbath/Sunday debate that this book covers in depth, that are often overlooked.
First, one must understand the nature of the Law of God, what is and what is not carried over from the Old Covenant to the New. Though a Sabbatarian, Dugger’s position on this issue was not well grounded. Paradoxically, Sabbatarians have largely been inept in their understanding of the Law of God. Neither debater understood well the piviotal scriptures, Colossians 2:14-17, or Matthew 22:36-40. Two sources which may help you are, Larry Walker’s paper, “Colossians 2:16-17,” and Biblical Law, published by Giving & Sharing. Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi has covered Colossians 2 very well in his book, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, Part 2, The Fall Festivals, pages 95-98. In my opinion, unless one supports keeping the Sabbath, annual Holy Days, and New Moons, he has a very weak position on Colossians 2, and gives too much ground away to Sunday-keepers such as Porter. Dugger, while affirming the seventh day Sabbath, denied the continuation of the annual Holy Days and New Moons, and in my view, in so doing, he greatly weakened his case.
Second, it should be noted how much the debate on Sunday centered around the timing of the Lord’s Supper, the resurrection of Jesus, and the proper date of Pentecost. Dugger was strong in affirming an annual Nisan 14 Lord’s Supper, a Wednesday crucifixion, Saturday resurrection of Christ, and was against a Sunday Pentecost (he favored a fixed date Pentecost). However, Seventh Day Adventists such as Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, agree with the Friday-Sunday conventional belief. See his book, The Time of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. I believe Dugger’s position on these issues left Porter reeling. Many Sabbath-keepers do not understand how important a Sunday resurrection and a Sunday Pentecost are to the Sunday position. Porter did not even start to prove his “part of a day” counting of the three days and three nights of Matthew 12:40.
Those Sabbatarians who hold to a Sunday Pentecost do not seem to realize how ridiculous their position is to count fifty days beginning with a Sunday, and end up with the beginning of a Sunday (see Lev. 23:15-16), yet also count eight days from a Sunday and end up with another Sunday (John 20:19, 26). Dugger demolished this kind of mathematical illiteracy. Dugger shows that John 20:26 had to be a Monday. By similar logic, then Pentecost should also be on a Monday. And, as Dugger shows, Sunday on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) was the third day since these things were done (including the sealing of the tomb on the previous Thursday), i.e. the day when three full days had passed, the fourth day in progress, yet still termed “the third day.” My Sunday Pentecost friends ridicule me for keeping a Monday Pentecost as “the 51st day” when it is really the “fiftieth day,” the day when fifty days have been fully counted. Pentecost is the fiftieth day exactly as the Sunday on the road to Emmaus was “the third day” but also the fourth day in progress. But then, I am starting another debate, which is outside the scope of this book.
It was also interesting that Porter did not agree with the Catholic Church that there is no Bible authority for Sunday keeping, that they changed from Sabbath to Sunday by Church authority, and not Bible authority. Porter tried to establish Bible authority for something that does not exist. The Catholic Church has a much better reason for their Sunday observance than Porter does for his. The Catholic Church, like Porter, uses a supposed Sunday resurrection AND a supposed Sunday Pentecost as pivotal points for supporting their Sunday worship.
Sabbatarians can come to their Bible Sabbath position through various means. Sunday keepers likewise come to their conclusions differently. It is rare that such a book as The Dugger-Porter Debate brings such strong points on both sides of the issue. I was surprised to discover that I liked and disliked arguments of both the debaters.
I suggest that the reader use this book as a springboard for further study. Additional resource materials are available from The Bible Sabbath Association which may help you. Write: The Bible Sabbath Association, 3316 Alberta Drive, Gillette, WY 82718, or call (307) 686-5191.