Thursday, March 16, 2006

Meditation on Diet

Diet: A prescribed selection of foods
After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, "Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. "With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, `AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,' SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO.' Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. "For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath."
(Acts 15:13-21, NASB)
Accept those whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person's faith allows them to eat everything, but another person, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted that person. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To their own master they stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some consider one day more sacred than another; others consider every day alike. Everyone should be fully convinced in their own mind. Those who regard one day as special do so to the Lord. Those who eat meat do so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and those who abstain do so to the Lord and give thanks to God. For we do not live to ourselves alone and we do not die to ourselves alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat your brother or sister with contempt? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written:

"'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.'"

So then, we will all give an account of ourselves to God.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother or sister for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
(Romans 14, TNIV)
You say, "I am allowed to do anything" – but not everything is helpful. You say, "I am allowed to do anything" – but not everything is beneficial. Don't think only of your own good. Think of other Christians and what is best for them. Here's what you should do. You may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace. Don't ask whether or not it was offered to idols, and then your conscience won't be bothered. For "the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." If someone who isn't a Christian asks you home for dinner, go ahead; accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you and don't ask any questions about it. Your conscience should not be bothered by this. But suppose someone warns you that this meat has been offered to an idol. Don't eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person. Now, why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it? Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God. Don't give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. That is the plan I follow, too. I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don't just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved.
(1 Corinthians 10:23-33, NLT)
Lord, may we realize that You've called us to be healthy so that we may better serve each other; not just to build up ourselves.

UPDATE (3-17-06): Paul Whiting just posted on the early-Christian dispute over idol worship that precipitated these comments from the Apostle Paul (Paul and the Law 6).


  1. I guess maybe this is why I have such a problem with newer translations of the Bible. They make it so easy to take away the health message, to reduce the gospel to justification, leaving sanctification for after Jesus returns. In fact, using these newer translations, it becomes difficult to give a class on the 2300 day prophecy of Daniel, or even on the Sabbath - since there are "plain" texts about when we worship!

    I guess my main concern is that we, as Adventists, have jettisoned the health message given in a vision to Ellen White, and accepted a modern 'healthy lifestyle' version instead! I mean, do we really believe that those who will be fitted for translation will not partake of flesh meats? Do we believe there will come a time (don't look now, but it may already be here!) when it will not be safe to eat any meat products?

    Dave, you've quoted all the classic texts used against Adventists to prove that it doesn't matter what you eat ... so is that what you believe?


  2. First, I think that those texts I quoted say the same thing whether you read them in the KJV or not. (I prefer to go to the orriginal Greek myself, but not everyone has that opportunity.) So we have a duty to integrate a "plain reading" of them into our theology.

    Second, Acts 16 clearly lays out that health laws are an important part of Christian practice. I don't see how anyone could use it against our position.

    Third, I believe that the other two passages were put into the Bible to remind us that our motive for healthy eating is more important than the degree to which we eat healthfully. I believe that ignoring this fact is the root cause of much of the health "deform" within the Adventist church.

  3. I just realized I forgot to answer your central question about what I belive.

    Yes, I believe that what you eat mattters. I am a vegetarian. I believe that in the North American context the time when meat is not safe is now. But I also believe that the proper motive for eathing healthfully means sometimes, for the sake of another, we will chose not as healthfully as we could. Within the boundaries of Acts 16 and Leviticus 11 of course.

    On the issue of vegetarianism and translation. The EGW statment is this:

    Among those who are waiting for the coming of the Lord, meat eating will eventually be done away; flesh will cease to form a part of their diet. We should ever keep this end in view, and endeavor to work steadily toward it. (Counsels on Diet and Foods, quoted from Christian Temperance and Bible Health, 1890)

    She does not link vegetarianism with translation, but rather with waiting for the coming of the Lord. I believe that the vegetarian diet is and ideal for Adventists in the here and now, but not something that will bar anyone's way to heaven.

  4. Michael,

    you actually believe that the Sabbath is more difficult to teach out of the new trasnlations...Do you belive it is possible to teach the Sabbath and the 2300 days out of the NRSV or the NASB or perhaps the NIV?

    Dr. Maxwell used the RSV in his "God Cares" and he taught all of the above....Dr. Bacchiochi uses the RSV and he teaches the Sabbath...

    Are you overstating the case?

  5. Dave,

    So are you stating that you do belive that the unclean and clean meat distinction is "binding" on new testament Christians? Are you stating that you belive that it is not the law but the motive of being healthy to help others that is the real reason for why we should follow those health laws?

    Let me ask another question in a crude way..."Is eating Pork wrong." Or is it "not the best choice..."

    God bless....

  6. I believe I stated (See my second comment) that I see Leviticus 11 as "binding" on New Testament Christians. I do not think Paul was telling NT Christians not to worry about whether the meat they bought in the market was clean, but rather not to worry about whether it was sacrificed to idols.

    However, I can think of hypothetical situations where eating pork would be the right thing to do. For example, a desert island scenario where the only available food source is pork. In this situation the principle behind the "Thou shalt not kill" command takes precedence.

    So you can see that, philosophically I don't make much distinction between "wrong" and "not the best choice". They are the same thing in my oppinion.