About the Text: Observe, Look, and Observe Some More

Fish

This is one of my favourite stories, on observation. Apply this approach to Bible study before giving up on it.

The Student, the Fish, and Agassiz
By the Student

It was more than fifteen years ago that I entered the laboratory of Professor Agassiz, and told him I had enrolled my name in the scientific school as a student of natural history. He asked me a few questions about my object in coming, my antecedents generally, the mode in which I afterwards proposed to use the knowledge I might acquire, and finally, whether I wished to study any special branch. To the latter I replied that as I wished to be well grounded in all departments of zoology, I purposed to devote myself specially to insects.

‘When do you wish to begin?’ he asked.
‘Now,’ I replied.

This seemed to please him, and with an energetic ‘Very well,’ he reached from a shelf a huge jar of specimens in yellow alcohol.
‘Take this fish,’ said he, ‘and look at it; we call it a Haemulon [pronounced Hem-yu lon]; by and by I will ask what you have.’
With that he left me, but in a moment returned with explicit instructions as to the care of the object entrusted to me.
‘No man is fit to be a naturalist,’ said he, ‘who does not know how to take care of specimens.’

I was to keep the fish before me in a tin tray, and occasionally moisten the surface with alcohol from the jar, always taking care to replace the stopper tightly. Those were not the days of ground glass stoppers, and elegantly shaped exhibition jars; all the old students will recall the huge, neckless glass bottles with their leaky, wax-besmeared corks half eaten by insects and begrimed with cellar dust. Entomology was a cleaner science than ichthyology, but the example of the professor, who had unhesitatingly plunged to the bottom of the jar to produce the fish, was infectious; and though this alcohol had ‘a very ancient and fishlike smell,’ I really dared not show any aversion within these sacred precincts, and treated the alcohol as though it were pure water. Still I was conscious of a passing feeling of disappointment, for gazing at a fish did not commend itself to an ardent entomologist. My friends at home, too, were annoyed, when they discovered that no amount of eau de cologne would drown the perfume which haunted me like a shadow.
In ten minutes I had seen all that could be seen in that fish, and started in search of the professor, who had, however, left the museum; and when I returned, after lingering over some of the odd animals stored in the upper apartment, my specimen was dry all over. I dashed the fluid over the fish as if to resuscitate it from a fainting-fit, and looked with anxiety for a return of the normal, sloppy appearance. This little excitement over, nothing was to be done but return to a steadfast gaze at my mute companion. Half an hour passed, an hour, another hour; the fish began to look loathsome. I turned it over and around; looked it in the face—ghastly; from behind, beneath, above, sideways, at a three-quarters’ view—just as ghastly. I was in despair; at an early hour I concluded that lunch was necessary; so, with infinite relief, the fish was carefully placed in the jar, and for an hour I was free.

On my return, I learned that Professor Agassiz had been at the museum, but had gone and would not return for several hours. My fellow students were too busy to be disturbed by continued conversation. Slowly I drew forth that hideous fish, and with a feeling of desperation again looked at it. I might not use a magnifying glass; instruments of all kinds were interdicted. My two hands, my two eyes, and the fish; it seemed a most limited field. I pushed my finger down its throat to feel how sharp its teeth were. I began to count the scales in the different rows until I was convinced that that was nonsense. At last a happy thought struck me—I would draw the fish; and now with surprise I began to discover new features in the creature. Just then the professor returned.

‘That is right,’ he said, ‘a pencil is one of the best of eyes. I am glad to notice, too, that you keep your specimen wet and your bottle corked.’
With these encouraging words he added,—
‘Well, what is it like?’
He listened attentively to my brief rehearsal of the structure of parts whose names were still unknown to me: the fringed gill—arches and movable operculum; the pores of the head, fleshy lips, and lidless eyes; the lateral line, the spinous fin, and forked tail; the compressed and arched body. When I had finished, he waited as if expecting more, and then, with an air of disappointment,—
‘You have not looked very carefully; why,’ he continued, more earnestly, ‘you haven’t seen one of the most conspicuous features of the animal, which is as plainly before your eyes as the fish itself; look again, look again!’ and he left me to my misery.

I was piqued; I was mortified. Still more of the wretched fish! But now I set myself to my task with a will, and discovered one new thing after another, until I saw how just the professor’s criticism had been. The afternoon passed quickly, and when, towards its close, the professor inquired,—
‘Do you see it yet?’
‘No,’ I replied, ‘I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before.’
‘That is next best,’ said he earnestly, ‘but I won’t hear you now; put away your fish and go home; perhaps you will be ready with a better answer in the morning. I will examine you before you look at the fish.’

This was disconcerting; not only must I think of my fish all night, studying, without the object before me, what this unknown but most visible feature might be; but also, without reviewing my new discoveries, I must give an exact account of them the next day. I had a bad memory; so I walked home by Charles River in a distracted state, with my two perplexities.

The cordial greeting from the professor the next morning was reassuring; here was a man who seemed to be quite as anxious as I that I should see for myself what he saw.
‘Do you perhaps mean,’ I asked, ‘that the fish has symmetrical sides with paired organs?’
His thoroughly pleased, ‘Of course, of course!’ repaid the wakeful hours of the previous night. After he had discoursed most happily and enthusiastically—as he always did—upon the importance of the point, I ventured to ask what I should do next.

‘Oh, look at your fish!’ he said, and left me again to my own devices. In a little more than an hour he returned and heard my new catalogue.
‘That is good, that is good!’ he repeated, ‘but that is not all; go on.’ And so, for three long days, he placed that fish before my eyes, forbidding me to look at anything else, or to use any artificial aid. ‘Look, look, look,’ was his repeated injunction.

This was the best entomological lesson I ever had—a lesson whose influence has extend to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy the professor has left to me, as he has left it to many others, of inestimable value, which we could not buy, with which we cannot part.

A year afterwards, some of us were amusing ourselves with chalking outlandish beasts upon the museum blackboard. We drew prancing star-fishes; frogs in mortal combat; hydra-headed worms; stately craw-fishes, standing on their tails, bearing aloft umbrellas; and grotesque fishes, with gaping mouths and staring eyes. The professor came in shortly after, and was as amused as any at our experiments. He looked at the fishes.
‘Haemulons, every one of them,’ he said. ‘Mr … drew them.’
True; and to this day, if I attempt a fish, I can draw nothing but Haemulons.

The fourth day, a second fish of the same group was placed beside the first, and I was bidden to point out the resemblances and differences between the two; another and another followed, until the entire family lay before me, and a whole legion of jars covered the table and surrounding shelves; the odour had become a pleasant perfume; and even now, the sight of an old, six-inch, worm-eaten cork brings fragrant memories!

The whole group of Haemulons was thus brought in review; and, whether engaged upon the dissection of the internal organs, the preparation and examination of the bony framework, or the description of the various parts, Agassiz’s training in the method of observing facts and their orderly arrangements was ever accompanied by the urgent exhortation not to be content with them.

‘Facts are stupid things,’ he would say, ‘until brought into connection with some general law.’

At the end of eight months, it was almost with reluctance that I left these friends and turned to insects; but what I had gained by this outside experience has been of greater value than years of later investigation in my favourite groups.

Richard L. Mayhue, How to Study the Bible (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 1997), 65–69.

Fact and Faith

Johann_Peter_Lange

“The grand distinction between Christianity and all systems of philosophy, and all other religions, so called, consists in this, that it is not a mere system of notions, but a series of facts. Its first promulgators could all adopt, as their own, the words of John: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you” (1 John 1:1–3). It is this that makes it everlasting; for deeds once done can never be altered: it is this that makes it universal; for duly accredited facts fall within the reach of those also who could not follow a chain of abstract reasoning: it is this that makes it so mighty; for simple facts are stronger than the most elaborate arguments. That a thorough investigation of these facts is a duty, may be taught us by Luke; but their reality being once ascertained, it results, from his words to Theophilus, that the ἀσφάλεια of the faith can no longer be called in question. Would that they who, in reading the Gospel narratives, have continually in their mouths the words, myth, tradition, legend, might enter into the spirit of Luke’s prologue, and, after due research, might feel and experience that here, if anywhere, they are treading on the firm ground of the most unquestionable reality!”

J. P. Lange, 1802-1884

John Peter Lange and J. J. van Oosterzee, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Luke, trans. Philip Schaff and Charles C. Starbuck (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 13.

Either the Empire Saves, or the Saviour Saves: the Politics of the Gospel of Luke

Luke’s Gospel is a political challenge to the Roman Empire:

The angel declares to the shepherds that “a savior” is born (Lk 2:11) in the city of David, but theAugustus of Prima Porta unspoken fact is that a “saviour” is already enthroned in Rome-Caesar Augustus, whose monuments declare him “saviour of the world.” Against this backdrop the anticipation of a savior within Israel seems fraught with danger, as the pious figures we meet in Luke’s Gospel invoke OT promises of deliverance. Zechariah speaks of a “mighty saviour” and of being “saved from our enemies” (Lk 1:69, 71 NRSV). Simeon, who has been looking for the “consolation of Israel,” thanks God that he has lived to see God’s “salvation” (Lk 2:30) in the face of the infant Jesus. And the aged Anna rejoices over the child in the presence of all who are “looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk 2:38 NRSV). John the Baptist also speaks of a great judgment and renewal within Israel associated with the coming of the Lord. Luke summarizes John’s activity with the biblical image of preparing a highway for the divine warrior so that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk 3:6 NRSV; cf. Is 40:5 LXX).

Leland Ryken et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 441.

Blameless In Your Lifetime

Luke describes the parents of John the Baptist, Zechariah and Elizabeth, as “righteous before God, walking blamelessly (ἄμεμπτος) in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” (Luke 1:6)

Paul, describing himself before his conversion, describes himself likewise: “as to righteousness under the law, blameless (ἄμεμπτος) (Philippians 3:6).
Prior to the cross, that is, before Christ’s death and resurrection, Zechariah and Elizabeth are commended for their righteousness.
After the cross (the historical death and resurrection of Christ), but yet before he is converted, Paul’s blamelessness under the law serves as a foundation, a reason, for his rejecting Christ and for his persecution of the church.
Then, after his conversion, Paul counts it all as loss:
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11).
Before a man is converted to Christ, his blamelessness under the Law is fuel for his hatred of the church; following the cross, his blamelessness under the Law is understood as an impossibility, and a loss.
Following his conversion to Christ, a man in Christ knows his blamelessness before God has a different foundation.
Paul still claims that to be blameless is a Christian’s virtue (Philippians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:13).
It is expected that the Christian will be “blameless,” but not under the Law. No one alive today can, be in Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s position. If we are to be blameless, it is by grace, and not by Law.
The Law will show us what righteousness looks like, but, because of our weakness, cannot get us there. Only God’s grace can:
Romans 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh

 

We are still accountable and expected to be blameless. Are you? How are you?

On Gaining a Market Share of People Hungry for the Word of God

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The question of Biblical literacy came up in a recent Facebook conversation, and it is a concern for many of us here. I wonder if we are not a victim of our own success, in a way. In the earlier years of the RM, and in the first half of the last century, many Americans were well-read in the Scriptures. Theological liberalism began to attack the Bible, but many Christians doubled-down on the Bible during that time, and Bible teaching demonstrated to be very important, by its frequency: Sunday School, Biblical preaching, Sunday night, Wednesday night, etc.

The RM took the Bible seriously. That is why I am no longer a Lutheran. I was raised in the liberal LCA synod, was confirmed, but was introduced to the Bible by other high school students from First Christian Church in Council Bluffs. These students told me what the Bible said about being saved, and how. That’s something I never heard in the Lutheran church.

I became a Christian there, and without knowing it, a member of the RM (Restoration Movement). I might add that it was High School students, and their college friends, who recruited me to attend Manhattan Christian College.

What impressed me, at age 15, was that the Bible was so important, and this church took it seriously. I wonder if that is so much the case today. We have taken the Bible seriously for so long, that we assume we are still doing it, without remembering that each new generation must be taught to have that same concern.

Don Carson, in speaking of the Gospel, says that though a generation or two take the Gospel very seriously, later generations begin to ASSUME the Gospel. So the Gospel is less proclaimed, but assumed, as other things are done: arts, music, counselling, social work, other ministries, etc., etc.

So I wonder if we, sometime in the 70s or 80s, began to do “other things,” and tacitly set aside the Bible. In the 1800s, philosophy is said to have taken “a hermeneutical turn” which has changed the course of philosophy from that time to the present.

In evangelical churches, not only the RM, I think we have taken a “relationship turn,” in our approach to all things, including Deity and Man. This is marked by a move away from propositional Revelation to feeling, from Word to deed, from foundations to structure. Relationships became the main thing–and it was around that time that we heard that “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” Interestingly, my liberal Lutheran church national youth group was called “Lutheran Youth Encounter.”

Some call it Neo-orthodoxy, a move to separate “fact” from “truth,” but I’ll stop digressing.

In the rush to keep people coming back to church, there has been a subtle change to treat disciples of Christ as the customers of Christ, so that people who profess Christ as Lord must be constantly wooed back to Him. We want them to like us. My take on the entertainment-as-worship phenomena is that is not so much that non-Christians won’t come if they’re not entertained, but it takes a circus to keep people, who are supposedly Christians, coming back. A man or woman who understands the seriousness of their lost-ness will be put off by levity, not drawn to it. How can a person who truly understands their guilt before God, be beholden to silliness in preaching? Is it the Word of God and His Spirit that draws a man to Christ or the band?

It takes a special kind of immaturity to be captive to entertainment, and that especially so when the consequences of falling short are eternal.

Staying with this consumer motif for a moment, we can see then that churches simply aren’t selling what people are buying. If there are faithful, Bible-preaching empty churches on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights, it could mean that there is an oversupply of Bible. That overstock is not  fault of the church. There is, indeed, a famine for the Word of God, but no felt hunger among the starving (Amos 8:11). People need the Bible, but aren’t aware of that need. Replacing what is needed, the Word of God, with other business will save no one.

If we are trying to gather a shrinking market share of people who want Bible, and entertainment works, then that will be what is done; I think that this has been the trend for over 30 years now. If “Christianity lite” edges out the gravitas of the Faith, Sunday after Sunday, there will be few left who really do hunger for the Bible.

When I say “doing other things,” I’d like to offer some examples, and ask some questions:

  1. How often does preaching get set aside for other things on Sunday mornings? Special services, reports from missionaries (which do need the time, but need a longer time), skits from the youth group, all are used to replace preaching.
  1. I have seen advertised, from all sorts of churches, “An Evening of Praise” or “An Evening of Worship.” Are you aware of the success of anything like, “An evening of preaching” or “A night of teaching,” with back-to-back Scriptural exposition? Why would this not gather as large a group of people as would something involving music and drama?
  1. Has our preaching shifted from Scripture to needs based subjects? I firmly believe in the need to address needs, but from what I can tell, much preaching is no longer exegeting the Bible and applying it to life as the text brings them up, but first looking at problems faced by many and then finding texts to address those problems. This, though, tends to fragment our understand of Scripture, and makes the Bible more of a go-to book of advice.
  1. If you preach, in sermon planning do you start with Scripture, or your audience? Why?
  1. I assume that if you are reading this that you are a preacher or an elder. How many times have you read the Bible through in your life? Have you done so?
  1. Are students graduating from our colleges and seminaries Biblically literate? Have they read the Bible through? In what things are they literate?
  1. How soon after becoming a Christian did you read the Bible?
  1. If you were to start publically reading the Bible each Sunday (1 Timothy 4:13), and assuming you followed a plan or lectionary so you don’t just cycle through favourite texts, would your church push-back, and say that’s too much Scripture, or that it takes too much time?
  1. Can you imagine a worship service with no preaching, but just worship, offering, music and the Lord’s Supper? Can you imagine a worship service with only the Lord’s supper, offering, and preaching, but with no music? Which of these two are harder to accept?

I can think of others, but the few I listed above give some hint as to the kind of trouble we have in our churches now.

I do believe that the average preacher,  elder, deacon, and church member knows much less of the Bible, is reading it less, and comprehends much less of the Biblical worldview than even 30 or 40 years ago.

Speaking now to the older preachers: Do you remember in the 70s, the Baker Book House catalogue that came out two or three times annually? Almost all the books sold in that catalogue were reference works about the Bible or theology. Even the early Christian Book Distributors catalogues leaned heavily upon doctrine, theology, Biblical studies, commentaries and Biblical languages. Now consider the top-selling books today: Christian fiction, relationship repair, and Bible study guides that state the painfully obvious that could be gleaned by a simple reading of the Bible (Lucado and Warren come to mind). Among Christian bestsellers are few books that actually enable one to understand Scripture better. We are awash in books, but know the Bible less.

If the pool of people who really respond to the preaching of the Bible is small, and shrinking, it is our duty to cultivate and grow that pool.

I think that elders and preachers need to encourage the reading of Scripture, in their entirety, more. This means that Christians ought to expect to read the Bible through, repeatedly, for the rest of their lives. Preachers and teachers must be reading more than what is necessary for the next lesson or sermon.

I also think that preachers and elders ought to model, and encourage, the “plucking out the eye” and “cutting off the hand” of much of popular culture. It simply is not that important to be up on every song, movie, play, novel, trend or sporting event. We only have so many hours in our lives, and we need to get past the entitlement mentality when it comes to our entertainment.

So, are we doing other things, or doing what matters?

Taking Up the Cause of Satan

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We are most likely familiar with the Devil’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. The third temptation I understand as a sort of peace treaty offer from Satan. It is if he is saying, “Look, Jesus, you are here to claim ownership over the all the kingdoms of the world, and I’m willing to put an offer on the table. Jesus could rule the world with the Devil’s blessing. There could have been a truce between Jesus and the Devil on earth. But under such a truce, every human being must subsequently die in their sins and go to hell.

It is here that Jesus says, “Scram, Satan!” (ὕπαγε, σατανᾶ, hypage satana). The ESV has it right, “Be gone!” It is a strong command to “Go away!” (Matthew 4:10).

Notice though, that Jesus has to say the same thing to a disciple, a disciple who had just had something great revealed to him: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). Jesus blesses Peter by affirming that this revelation was directly from the Father in heaven, and that upon that same confession the church will be built (in the four gospels, only Matthew speaks of “the church”).

This disciple, recipient of divine-direct revelation, immediately begins to reject the mission of Jesus:
Matthew 16:21–22 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Notice Jesus’ reply:

Matthew 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

The phrase I underlined, ὕπαγε ὀπίσω μου, σατανᾶ· (hypage Go! opiso Behind! mou, satana) has the same strong command, but with an important difference: while the Devil, as Satan was told to “go away” in Matthew 4:10, Peter, addressed as Satan, is told to “go behind.” Same stern command, but to a very different location. Peter is told to get behind Jesus.

Jesus chose Peter, but Peter was thinking as a man, and his thoughts were not on the things of God, even though he had received divine revelation as to the identity of Jesus as the Christ. Indeed, knowing that Jesus was the Christ, made it all the more urgent, in Peter’s understanding, to save His life. He was certain that he could save the Saviour.

Unlike Satan, Peter was not cast out, nor told to go away, but to get behind Jesus. Peter could only think like a man; he needed to put his thoughts behind God’s thoughts. He needed to let Jesus do the thinking. We must understand that our understanding of the will of God, our comprehension of what God is doing, must always be placed behind Jesus.
The importance of this can be driven home by comparing the motivations both of the Devil and of Peter. Satan’s motivation and Peter’s were very different. Satan sought to divert Jesus from His mission, to gain Christ’s allegiance and end His mission before the cross. Peter sought to save Jesus from the cross out of his ignorance, his imperfect and uninformed love for Him.
But regardless of motivation, the result is the same: if the will of the Devil or of Peter had prevailed, Christ would never have met the cross, and no human being could survive the wrath of God.

If a Christian Doesn’t Eat Meat, He Still Isn’t a Vegetarian (or Vegan for that Matter).

A Christian may or may not eat meat. That’s a matter of preference. But Vegetarianism and Veganism are religious worldviews set against the Biblical worldview. Those holding to these positions are attempting to enforce a religion of paganism upon those who do not share that view. Please view this animal rights video by Dr. Mealanie Joy, then consider my response, to a non-meat-eating Christian. Happily, the person to whom I addressed this note sees through the paganism of the video.

Re the Dr. Melanie Joy video.

Dear,                 

I can understand there are health arguments against eating meat, as well as issues regarding cruelty to animals in modern farming. But the main argument in this video betrays a thoroughly pagan worldview. I’ll leave the health issue aside for now, but the worldview of the presenter worries me.

Shortly into the video, she refers to animals as “individuals,” a term in normal use is reserved for people. Yes, each animal is an individual animal, but not an individual person, as we usually use the word, by itself, of people. Her comparisons between pigs, chickens, cows, and human infants are jarring. This is the same approach to human infants that the pro-abortion movement takes—that the infant is no more than an animal. Ironically, the same people who have no problem aborting a human infant are very often opposed to any use of animals. I am 99% certain that she considers herself “prochoice.” What “heterosexism” has to do with vegetarianism and veganism is beyond me, but it rounds out my perception of her worldview.

The problem with a pagan worldview is that it reduces man to nature, and denies, first of all, the existence of a God who is an uncreated creator of all things. Paganism identifies nature with God—pantheism, so God is a part of nature and by extension, all of nature is a part of God. Secondly, paganism denies the Biblical teaching that man is uniquely created in the image of God, and by virtue of that image, man has dominion over creation (there are very important implications in this doctrine, read Genesis 1:26-31). Without this uniqueness, law, judgement, sin, salvation, and holiness are meaningless, because man is an animal with no unique stature nor responsibility before God.

Dr. Joy raises the issue of animal rights, a phrase which is rarely thought out. In the traditions of Western societies, humans have rights; and humans have responsibilities to animals. If animal rights were the case (and she brings the term “social justice” to her argument), then animals are a part of society such as a human is.

To speak of human rights, means that a human must not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process. So if animals have rights, it means that an animal can never be deprived of its life or liberty without due process, that is, without a court order, such as is the case when a human is tried and found guilty of a crime. Nor can humans be used for slavery or experimentation, but these things are seen as inhumane (the Nazis and Planned Parenthood are modern examples of the horrors of such abuse).

If animals are afforded “rights,” it must be asked, “who grants these rights?” Is it God? Not in paganism. It is always man who grants rights in paganism, and as history shows, man can take rights away from those he deems unfit. Thus in pagan America and Canada, man has determined that the unborn have no rights and are not human.

Quite practically, if animals are given the same rights as humans, all elimination of disease-carrying pests must be made illegal: rats, mice, mosquitoes, etc., all have a right to life. Antibiotics are also forbidden, as they kill of entire populations of bacteria.

This may seem like an extreme example, but once rights are afforded to a class, the size, age, intelligence, or perceived value of that class must be deemed irrelevant. An animal is an animal.

This also holds true for animal testing for life-saving medications. While I think that cosmetic testing is cruel (and cosmetics don’t help most of those who use them anyway), I am in full favour of using an animal to test a drug or medication for effectiveness or harmful side effects. Pigs have been bread for the sole purpose of harvesting their skin for burn transplants. Paganism may see that as illegitimate, but it is illegitimate only if the Biblical doctrine of man created in the image of God is ignored.

So if one wishes to be a vegetarian or vegan from a Christian viewpoint, it must be done so without confusing man and animal. The Bible does teach, by the way, compassionate animal husbandry. The vegetarian does, however, have to deal with passages throughout the Bible that permits the eating of meat (and commands it in the case of the priests—see Leviticus and Deuteronomy). The Old Testament has strict limits on diet, as is well known.

In the New Testament, Jesus made it clear that the dietary restrictions were a thing of the past (note vss 18-19):

Mark 7:14–23 (ESV)

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

It might also be good to remember that Jesus served fish (John 6:9; Luke 9:16; Mark 6:38; John 21:9)!

Furthermore, when the Gospel is preached, food is used to convince a faithful Hebrew Christian (Peter) that if foods are not to be rejected as unclean, neither should people (Acts 10:9-16 and Acts 11). Galatians 2:11-14 only makes sense if we understand that Paul allowed eating any kind of meat. His prohibitions on meat eating in his other letters are about the unique sense of where the meat was purchased, that is, a pagan temple. He did not allow it if it violated a Christian’s conscience.

So in summary,

  1. The Biblical worldview says that man is created in the image of God, and therefore separate from animal, and any appeal to vegetarianism must not cross those boundaries.
  2. Animals, while under the care, stewardship, and dominion of man, do not have human rights.
  3. Advocating for animal rights is an act of sinful rebellion, worshipping the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:18—32). In this manner, vegetarianism and veganism is very dangerous to the Christian.
  4. The Bible advocates the eating of meat, and does not forbid it. Therefore, vegetarianism or veganism cannot be made a law to which Christians are subject. It is a matter of Christian liberty.

 

46schaeffer

I’ve attached a chart, from Francis Schaeffer, which explains the nature of the “chasm” between God and creation, and between man and the rest of creation. The first slide shows what the Biblical worldview teaches, that there is a “chasm” between God and His creation; that is, He is entirely separate from and not dependent upon, in any way, what He created. The second slide shows that there is also, within creation itself, a separation between man and all other entities, living or otherwise, in creation.

God, Creation, Chasm God, Creation, and us

I hope this helps you in your evaluation of this video. Eating meat or not is a choice you can make. But to call oneself a vegetarian or vegan is to be aligned with a movement that is opposed to the Kingdom of God. This is by no means meant to be a rebuke, but a way to help you see the implications of the worldview of this particular presentation.

In the Lamb,

Scott

 

If a Christian Doesn't Eat Meat, He Still Isn't a Vegetarian (or Vegan for that Matter).

A Christian may or may not eat meat. That’s a matter of preference. But Vegetarianism and Veganism are religious worldviews set against the Biblical worldview. Those holding to these positions are attempting to enforce a religion of paganism upon those who do not share that view. Please view this animal rights video by Dr. Mealanie Joy, then consider my response, to a non-meat-eating Christian. Happily, the person to whom I addressed this note sees through the paganism of the video.

Re the Dr. Melanie Joy video.

Dear,                 

I can understand there are health arguments against eating meat, as well as issues regarding cruelty to animals in modern farming. But the main argument in this video betrays a thoroughly pagan worldview. I’ll leave the health issue aside for now, but the worldview of the presenter worries me.

Shortly into the video, she refers to animals as “individuals,” a term in normal use is reserved for people. Yes, each animal is an individual animal, but not an individual person, as we usually use the word, by itself, of people. Her comparisons between pigs, chickens, cows, and human infants are jarring. This is the same approach to human infants that the pro-abortion movement takes—that the infant is no more than an animal. Ironically, the same people who have no problem aborting a human infant are very often opposed to any use of animals. I am 99% certain that she considers herself “prochoice.” What “heterosexism” has to do with vegetarianism and veganism is beyond me, but it rounds out my perception of her worldview.

The problem with a pagan worldview is that it reduces man to nature, and denies, first of all, the existence of a God who is an uncreated creator of all things. Paganism identifies nature with God—pantheism, so God is a part of nature and by extension, all of nature is a part of God. Secondly, paganism denies the Biblical teaching that man is uniquely created in the image of God, and by virtue of that image, man has dominion over creation (there are very important implications in this doctrine, read Genesis 1:26-31). Without this uniqueness, law, judgement, sin, salvation, and holiness are meaningless, because man is an animal with no unique stature nor responsibility before God.

Dr. Joy raises the issue of animal rights, a phrase which is rarely thought out. In the traditions of Western societies, humans have rights; and humans have responsibilities to animals. If animal rights were the case (and she brings the term “social justice” to her argument), then animals are a part of society such as a human is.

To speak of human rights, means that a human must not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process. So if animals have rights, it means that an animal can never be deprived of its life or liberty without due process, that is, without a court order, such as is the case when a human is tried and found guilty of a crime. Nor can humans be used for slavery or experimentation, but these things are seen as inhumane (the Nazis and Planned Parenthood are modern examples of the horrors of such abuse).

If animals are afforded “rights,” it must be asked, “who grants these rights?” Is it God? Not in paganism. It is always man who grants rights in paganism, and as history shows, man can take rights away from those he deems unfit. Thus in pagan America and Canada, man has determined that the unborn have no rights and are not human.

Quite practically, if animals are given the same rights as humans, all elimination of disease-carrying pests must be made illegal: rats, mice, mosquitoes, etc., all have a right to life. Antibiotics are also forbidden, as they kill of entire populations of bacteria.

This may seem like an extreme example, but once rights are afforded to a class, the size, age, intelligence, or perceived value of that class must be deemed irrelevant. An animal is an animal.

This also holds true for animal testing for life-saving medications. While I think that cosmetic testing is cruel (and cosmetics don’t help most of those who use them anyway), I am in full favour of using an animal to test a drug or medication for effectiveness or harmful side effects. Pigs have been bread for the sole purpose of harvesting their skin for burn transplants. Paganism may see that as illegitimate, but it is illegitimate only if the Biblical doctrine of man created in the image of God is ignored.

So if one wishes to be a vegetarian or vegan from a Christian viewpoint, it must be done so without confusing man and animal. The Bible does teach, by the way, compassionate animal husbandry. The vegetarian does, however, have to deal with passages throughout the Bible that permits the eating of meat (and commands it in the case of the priests—see Leviticus and Deuteronomy). The Old Testament has strict limits on diet, as is well known.

In the New Testament, Jesus made it clear that the dietary restrictions were a thing of the past (note vss 18-19):

Mark 7:14–23 (ESV)

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

It might also be good to remember that Jesus served fish (John 6:9; Luke 9:16; Mark 6:38; John 21:9)!

Furthermore, when the Gospel is preached, food is used to convince a faithful Hebrew Christian (Peter) that if foods are not to be rejected as unclean, neither should people (Acts 10:9-16 and Acts 11). Galatians 2:11-14 only makes sense if we understand that Paul allowed eating any kind of meat. His prohibitions on meat eating in his other letters are about the unique sense of where the meat was purchased, that is, a pagan temple. He did not allow it if it violated a Christian’s conscience.

So in summary,

  1. The Biblical worldview says that man is created in the image of God, and therefore separate from animal, and any appeal to vegetarianism must not cross those boundaries.
  2. Animals, while under the care, stewardship, and dominion of man, do not have human rights.
  3. Advocating for animal rights is an act of sinful rebellion, worshipping the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:18—32). In this manner, vegetarianism and veganism is very dangerous to the Christian.
  4. The Bible advocates the eating of meat, and does not forbid it. Therefore, vegetarianism or veganism cannot be made a law to which Christians are subject. It is a matter of Christian liberty.

 

46schaeffer

I’ve attached a chart, from Francis Schaeffer, which explains the nature of the “chasm” between God and creation, and between man and the rest of creation. The first slide shows what the Biblical worldview teaches, that there is a “chasm” between God and His creation; that is, He is entirely separate from and not dependent upon, in any way, what He created. The second slide shows that there is also, within creation itself, a separation between man and all other entities, living or otherwise, in creation.

God, Creation, Chasm God, Creation, and us

I hope this helps you in your evaluation of this video. Eating meat or not is a choice you can make. But to call oneself a vegetarian or vegan is to be aligned with a movement that is opposed to the Kingdom of God. This is by no means meant to be a rebuke, but a way to help you see the implications of the worldview of this particular presentation.

In the Lamb,

Scott