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Monday, February 2, 2009

Meats and I Timothy 4

This is another in my line of posts about clean and unclean meats. This time I would like to go over a few verses in I Timothy 4.

First and by necessity we have to get a little off-topic, then we will get back on topic again. 
Paul goes into a certain discussion with Timothy about a distortion of the truth to occur after their time (in the "latter times"). Nothing must be taken for granted because these two men had studied and practiced and worked in God’s Spirit for years.

(I TIM. 4: 1) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 

Paul is forewarning Timothy, who will continue after Paul is gone, to hold fast to the things he had already learned. Paul is not giving any new instruction here, or trying to insert any new law from God that Timothy didn’t already know from years of association with him. This verse is often used this as a stick to swat xCOG members with, causing them to fear when they read their Bibles. But “love casts out fear" (I JOHN 4: 18).
Pay close attention to what Paul says these people will fall into:

(I TIM. 4: 2) speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron

"Speaking lies in hypocrisy," Paul says. "In hypocrisy" would lead me to believe this is a "do what I say not what I do" crowd. "Lies" would lead me to believe these people are aware of their deceit, and perhaps even work to cover it up.
HWA does not escape this verse. If there is anything I have discussed on this blog (not that I am the only person to discuss such) it is the cherry-picking, deceitful, hypocritical nature of what Armstrong and his ministers teach. Should I ask you to read my other posts for more on this, or give a few examples? ...I will give a few examples. Actually, I'll do both. Examples first.

Armstrong preached the law, but he didn't keep the whole law -- When have the xCOGs built a booth at Tabernacles according to the design clearly laid out in scripture? Why does Deuteronomy 16 say you should travel three times in the year, but the COGs only travel once? Why do Armstrong's ministers claim to be "modern Levites" when tithes are involved, but not when the myriad other laws and rituals of the Levites are involved (eg. why don't they wear the required garments of a Levite)? The Jews count 613 laws in the Torah. What a small fraction Armstrong chose to keep!

Armstrong preached prophecy, but he failed in almost every single instance -- HWA predicted (on authority from scripture) the return of Christ in 1936, again in 1972, at various times between '36 and '72, and then the ever-shifting "within 3 to 4 years". HWA predicted (on authority from scripture) that the "Times of the Gentiles" ended previous to 1936, and again in 1982, and who can find all the references to the time when "the world" will be ended? There are hundreds of such examples!

Armstrong preached giving, but practiced taking (a salary of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually while his followers went without); preached faith healing (which killed his wife Loma), but made special exception for himself (when he had health issues he had no issue with visiting a doctor); taught only those who keep the whole law will be justified, but kept a fraction of the law (the rest he "changed"); taught the 10 Commandments, but made an idol of himself and his church organization; failed Paul's requirements for an elder (by my count) on 11 points; etc, etc, etc.

(I TIM. 4: 3) They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain food [Strong's 1033: food (literally or figuratively), especially (ceremonial) articles allowed or forbidden by the Jewish law], which God created to be received [Strong's 3336: participation] with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 

I have heard men argue that the word “foods” does not mean “foods”, but rather means some other thing. This is obviously not so. It means all foods; whatever is eaten. I have also heard men argue that "received" does not mean "eat". What else besides "eat" then? Are we to believe it is OK to receive a ham as a gift, then not eat it? What, then, put it on a shelf? The word “received” does not immediately mean “to eat”, so what they say about that is technically true, but it is clear from the context that foods will be eaten. You don’t just receive food for the sake of it, as if to put it on the shelf, or hang it over the fireplace. Which foods did God create to be received? To Adam only plants were given. To Noah all foods were given. To the Jews, only certain foods were given. To the Christian without conscience issues, the Jewish laws do not pertain. Do we not already know that Christ died to abolish the Old Covenant, with its regulations about meats and drinks, and restored us to the days of Abraham and Noah where He gave us all things as food?
The Kingdom is not in meat and drink (ROM. 14: 17).

Worldwide was quick to point out the Catholics abstain from meats at certain times of the year according to an ancient pagan tradition that you will never find in the Bible. And they forbid their priests to marry. On the surface this is a close match for the prophecy, I’ll admit. But, technically, the word "foods", which refers to all foods, can especially refer to Jewish ceremonially unclean foods, which the Catholics do not forbid. Worldwide abstains from Jewish ceremonially unclean foods all the time (according to their own unique cherry-picked version of the Old Covenant), and their divorce and remarriage rules were brutal. Could it mean the Catholics? It might. But could it mean men with teachings like Armstrong's? It might! In my opinion, Armstrongism is a closer match. I advise caution when concluding the only possible interpretation here is towards Catholics.

A little known implication of these verses is that they describe more about the details of the "Great Falling Away". Since the time of HWA's passing the great falling away has been said to be from within Armstrongism, but of the people who reject HWA. This is mere speculation, as is any prophetic interpretation. But let me offer to you a twist which you may not have contemplated before. 
Read this excerpt from the John Darby's Synopsis of the Bible: 
"But there would be some who departed from the faith, from this knowledge of the one Creator and Saviour-God — Him who was manifested in the flesh. They would attack precisely these points which we have named. It might be that they would pretend to carry the idea of christian privileges farther than all others had done, as well as that of profound knowledge of God; but they would sin against first principles, against the faith which connected the Saviour God revealed in Christianity with the one only Creator-God."

Now, what this says to me is, Herbert W. Armstrong may have promoted the falling away, as opposed to guarded against it. For all the times that ministers taught us to hold fast to what was taught at the beginning, they did not mean "the beginning of Christianity in 31 AD", no! They meant "the beginning of your time with Armstrong". For any first generation xCOG member, you would have to fall away from what you were taught in order to pick up this new teaching with Armstrong. So, you have indeed "gone away from what you were taught at the beginning", because you have switched the "beginning". Even HWA himself went away from what he taught at the beginning of his ministry. Many times he changed his policies. Read my article about "Church Government - Image of the Beast?" for more evidence. So, what is the real "beginning"? Mr. Raymond C. Cole fought long and hard in his own mind over this very question. Read my take on his solution in my article "More Following Men"

I ask you, who wonder why you remain in Armstrongism, loved by God, to seriously meditate on the possibility that you are following a cult, and perhaps one prophesied from the beginning --- the REAL beginning; specifically in I Timothy 4! Am I saying HWA has fulfilled this? No. I'm merely saying prophetic interpretation is speculation, hence I speculate on the possibility that this is a match. What if it isn't? I would rather contemplate it then dismiss it, than not contemplate it at all! ...but what if it is?

(I TIM. 4: 4-5) 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received [Strong's 2983: to take; take hold of] with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Worldwide taught the word ‘received’ has nothing to do with eating, then they would explain away the meaning of the verse with semantic acrobatics. God created pork and saw that it was good. If it’s ok to receive it, why isn’t it OK to eat the food which was received? That is never explained, however. While nit-picking the context of other sections to "prove" Armstrong's positions, they ignore the clear context of this section to "prove" Armstrong's positions. This is quite the double-standard. It most certainly is about food, and it most certainly is about eating.
As a matter of fact, the thing that is most surprising is that not once, not one single time in the entirety of the New Testament, is anything written that remotely resembles “food laws are in effect”. For all the times Paul says “everything is good for food”, despite that Jesus said “nothing that goes into a man can defile him”, time and time and time again, Armstrong always has a clever intellectual way to get around allowing the Bible to interpret the Bible. Not one time does it say “avoid foods ceremonially unclean,” or any such thing. Think about that.

What God created and gave to man is good. The animals are good. They were NOT unclean from the beginning, as some teach. See my post on "Clean/Unclean For Noah" for more on that subject. The faithful Gentiles are good (again, cleansed, as were the animals). Life is good. Truth is good! In fact, everything God created is good (GEN. 1: 31). God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (I COR. 14: 33). The Kingdom is not foods, but love. But that does not by any means or any interpretation tell us that disobeying God is good. We have already covered idolatry. That isn’t good.


Raccoon said...

I can't see how one could defend keeping food laws. I didn't agree with keeping them prior to reading the posts on your blog, but after reading all your posts on the matter, I REALLY don't know how you could think they apply now.

Something that should be so elementary has been through deception and twisting of logic become an unnecessary yoke on many.

Creating a system of gymnastics to bend yourself around until everything fits causes problems. Once you agree with the bent logic used, you are vested in it and it's hard to let it go. This prinicple should apply to more than just this issue, but it certainly fits this case for sure.

xHWA said...

And now for my witty yet biting response:

I donno.
I agree with you, Raccoon.

James Pate said...

XHWA, I have a question for you:

The I Timothy passage you interact with says the meats/food were created to be enjoyed and eaten. How would that be harmonized with the view that God only permitted Adam and Eve to eat plants? I ask this because many Adventists act as if God technically didn't make meat for human consumption, but he permitted us to eat it as a concession to our bloodthirsty nature. But the Timothy passage seems to say that God made animals intending for us to eat them.

Any thoughts on this?

Dan said...

To me Gen.1:29 helps me to understand the food laws. While God made every herb to be good, that doesn't mean they are all good for you. Same with meat.

xHWA said...

Hi James,
Excellent, excellent question!

Well, I have to preface anything I say with "I am not 100% sure God gave Adam only plants." It's just that the evidence as I see it appears to show that.

Let me ask two questions first to demonstrate what I mean:
Abel raised sheep, did he eat them? I donno. Were our digestive systems created to handle eating of meats, or was that a later alteration? I donno.

Here's what I base my original statement on:

At first, we see God giving Adam and Eve plants to eat.
(GEN. 2: 16) And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat

When God removed Adam and Eve from the garden, He cursed the ground, which was their source of food.
(GEN. 3: 17-19) ...Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread...

Now, contrast that with the next time God discusses what we are allowed to eat - when Noah has left the Ark:
(GEN. 9: 3-4) 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood

So, that is why I speculate Adam was only given plants. Meat was introduced at Noah's time. My post about "Cleant and Unclean for Noah" has more detail on this.

Now, you asked how that meshes. Here's what I think... do a Bible search on the phrase "foundation of the world", just look at how many things were ordained from the foundation of the world. I believe it meshes because it was what God knew would happen and He planned for it. (Perhaps He didn't prefer it to go this way, but He was prepared for it.) I also suspect that even though I don't understand it, there is a prophetic lesson to be learned hidden away in those verses.

I hope that answers your question? Let me know, we can go through it together. Perhaps we'll both learn something!
Thenks for sharing your questions and comment, BTW. They're always welcome!

James Pate said...

Yeah, I think that's a good answer. It's like Christ dying before the foundation of the world. Before God made everything good, he made provision for the sin problem. So he may be doing something similar with the meats: he preferred for man to eat only plants, but he knew man would fall and become bloodthirsty, so he made the animals to be edible too.

xHWA said...

Dan, thanks for commenting.

If you don't mind I would like to share with you that I used to agree with that understanding until recently. What dawned on me were a few ideas.

First, there are no clean/unclean plants, whether they are good for you or not. So we're not really comparing apples to apples.
Second, and related to the first, meats laws are never associated with health. They are ceremonially clean or unclean as associated with sacrifice. I agree with John Ritenbaugh of the CGG that health is not a Biblical factor in clean/unclean.
Third, and related to the second, if I eat something unhealthy, like poison ivy for instance, I will suffer the consequences. Meanwhile, the Japanese, Italians, and Germans eat "unclean" meat all the time - but they have the longevity records to prove those meats are not unhealthy. If the meats were truly not good for you, as an undeniable physical reality, these people must suffer ill health. Yet they do not. They will likely outlive us. Meanwhile, for all the promises we were taught came with a "clean" or in other words "good for you" diet, many people in the various COGs suffer the very ill health they were told they would not experience.

What I think the plants argument left out was the wording of Genesis 9: 3. In that verse, the word translated "moving thing" or in some versions "creeping thing" is one word, meaning "reptile or rapidly moving animal". Clearly, God gave Noah every, meaning all, creeping things for food, including reptiles -- an "unclean" meat.

In fact, we never see "unclean" in reference to food until after Sinai. Previous, it is only in reference to sacrifice. Animal sacrifice, as you already know, was abolished with the New Covenant. I think that speaks volumes.