Monday, October 10, 2011

food theology

Lately I've been getting increasingly frustrated with all the food hoopla that's been going around on the internet - largely of the "Don't eat x" crowd with "x" increasingly coming to mean sugar, flour, dairy, coffee, alcohol - basically all the stuff that makes eating fun. Now I've read the blogs, and I know that most people would jump on here telling me how much better they feel and how they really don't miss whatever it is I'm not supposed to be eating and that if they do miss it they just remember the days when they couldn't leap tall buildings and bench press cars and tell me that it's all worth it. The problem is that I don't buy it. That is to say, I don't buy the philosophy that seems to be behind it. A lot of it seems to be driven by speculative forms of evolutionary biology and theories about so called primitive man and doesn't take into account some of the Bible's rather clear teachings on food. For instance, you'll find a whole group of people who will tell you (loudly) that gluten/wheat/grains are bad for you, and I have absolutely no doubt that for some people they are extremely harmful. However, when Christ instituted the Lord's Supper He did it with a baked product made (to the best of my knowledge) from some type of ground grains. Throughout the Bible bread is a powerful image of comfort and provision. God could have chose root vegetables or goat cheese or various other images, but He chooses to tell us about salvation with bread. So, I can't reject bread out of hand. Even if I got to a point where it seemed wise to avoid grains altogether I would have to admit that the problem is with my body and not with the bread. Ditto for things like wine. People who argue for this or that sort of diet (particularly Christians) point out that we have a duty to care for our bodies and keep them in good running order - Christians trot out that old verse about our body being a temple to justify any number of strange eating habits. And yet, few of them consider passages like Colossians 2:16 in which the Church is warned against people who judge other based on what they eat or another passage in Timothy 4 where God talks about the food He's made to be received with thanksgiving. Now I don't want to get simplistic here. Clearly there are some things we shouldn't be eating every day. There are other things we should only be ingesting after careful consideration and for clearly defined reasons (such as prescribed drugs of various kinds). This isn't carte blanche to go and be stupid about a mushroom patch in the woods. There's a whole lot of wisdom to be applied here. What I dislike are the repeated statements about how God designed people to eat as though God handed Eve a poached egg topped with grated carrots and told her to have fun. So maybe Adam and Eve didn't enjoy dark chocolate stout or a creme brulee after their pasta primavera. They also didn't have orthotic footwear, refrigeration, and paved roads. When Adam and Eve set out to cultivate the world I think there's an implied call to growth and maturity that wasn't confined solely to things like architecture and metal working. In fact, I think things like whiskey and soda and pumpernickel bread and chocolate chip cookies are part of that maturation process since they all result from exploring and probing God's creation to get all the goodness out of it that we can. The person who makes chocolate chip cookies takes God's bounty and through grace is allowed to transform that bounty into something even more desirable. It's the same way with babies and iron ore and sheep's wool. God gives us something and gives us the chance to transform it. It's a beautiful thing. That's why it irks me whenever I hear talk about what we were "designed" to eat or how we "evolved" on a certain diet and need to stick with it. We were designed to explore God's creation and shepherd it and transform it against Christ's return. This means, among other things, not acting as though the earth was a library book we had to return in the same condition it was issued.

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