What then shall we eat?
Animal rights and vegan protesters recently shut down Melbourne’s CBD. Roy Morgan research now claims that nearly 2.25 million Australian’s are vegetarian. The number of Australians with a diabetic condition has reached epidemic proportions whilst numerous food segments and programmes with close-up imaging on free-to-air TV set out to arouse our appetite. Today many fall victim to over eating, others search for an easy diet formula to arrest their weight problem.
How then do Christian people who derive their world view and values from a biblical perspective live?
One thing is certain,-- we must be careful of a simplistic approach that turns the Bible into a scientific or culinary text book. How we manage food or our eating habits can hardly claim to be one of the core central issues of the Christian message. Like many other topics such as evolution, party-politics, prophecy or lifestyle issues we can easily be distracted from the central issue of the Christian faith that focuses on the importance of a person’s relationship with God. However, having said that, in the course of unpacking redemption-history the special revealed insights of the Scriptures can enlighten us on secondary issues and kept in proper perspective they can open windows into creational principles and ontological realities that are ‘practical and pastoral.’ In other words the Word of God becomes a very practical ‘lamp unto our feet and a light to our path.’
For example every aspect of Israel’s life was to be lived in relationship to God. They were to be holy (Lev. 19.2) They were to recognise a distinction between what was holy and unholy, between what was clean and unclean (Lev.10:10). It is clear that the food typical of the Hebrew family was mainly vegetarian. Dietary laws were strictly enforced so that life and health was to be experienced in a holy, clean way. Today the Seventh Day Adventist Church with their Sanitarium products still respect the health insights of the Old Covenant but their stance is largely regarded as blurring the clear distinction that Jesus made between ritual and spiritual cleanliness (Mark 7:18-21)
Under the Old Covenant tradition had ceased to be the life-vehicle of the Word of God (Matt. 15:3-20) The early church experienced the intense struggle in dealing with the formal Levitical traditions of cleansing and the new message of proclaiming that Christ was the perfect sacrifice. (Acts 10:1-16). The New Testament makes it clear that the Christian life is a life made clean once and for all by the death of Jesus. It is a life set free from food rules and yet it is comparable to the life of an athlete who exercises discipline and is always in training. Paul uses this metaphor as a way of describing Christian discipline for the Gospel’s sake.
Here is the nexus of the issue. If as individual people we loose sight of the Gospel and our discipline or fasting becomes a mere work of law, an attempt in some way to earn merit,-- it ceases to be a Christian discipline. Neither can the church corporately control how society will live. The calling of the church is not to enforce a code, to be a political party or to make our culture Christian.--The church’s calling is to be loyal to Christ and to be Christian itself.
After years of exacting scientific evidence and field work Dr T. Campbell, in his book “The China Study”, examined the food-health issue. Eventually his study ruled out environmental and heredity factors and concluded with researchers around the world that diet itself was good for the prevention of cancer. A “wholefoods, plant-based diet” is also good for the prevention of heart disease, as well as obesity, diabetes, cataracts, Alzheimers and many other diseases -- People who lived in China’s rural areas ate a whole food plant based diet, while people packed into China’s bulging cities didn’t. Campbell says, “We have reached a point in our history where our bad habits can no longer be tolerated. We, as a society are on the edge of a great precipice: we can fall to sickness or embrace health---and all it takes is the courage to change.”
Charles Mills in an article, “Does God Care what we eat” says, “Genesis makes it clear that animals were an important part of the human experience (Gen 2:19-20) Then the Creator opened the doors of the Eden grocery store. “I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth, and every tree that has fruit with seed init. They will be yours for food ” (Gen 1:29)
We have developed an attitude that says, “If it tastes good, eat it!” and sadly as a result health deteriorates. Paul encouraged the church in Corinth to understand their bodies as God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lived in them. In Jesus time the people of God and the temple system needed cleansing and today the church not only needs a spiritual cleansing but our temple-bodies need a new physical cleansing. Christian people are not bound by food laws but as the vehicle and dwelling place of the Holy Spirit we have every reason to exercise self-discipline, to eat the best foods and to remain healthy.
Rev E.A. (Ted) Curnow.