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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Meats - Conclusion

This is the last post (that I had planned) on the topic of meats. I had planned one last investigation into the subject, but instead I'm just going to review some highlights of what I've learned on this subject over the last 3/4 year.

I'd like to start at the very beginning. I theorize the problem with meats begins like this: 
It starts innocently enough with a growing desire to be closer to God. Somehow one becomes confused over some point of the Bible - usually the use of the English word "commandments" in the N.T. (for example in I John). Down whatever path, one comes to the eventual conclusion that the 10 Commandments survived unchanged into the New Covenant (most especially the 4th). I actually hear that a lot. When asked, "What led you to [Armstrongism]?" people have most often responded, "I knew the true church would be keeping the Sabbath." Compounding problems then arise with verses like (MATT. 5: 17-18) or (MATT. 23: 23), which lead people to search for more answers and this leads to meeting up with one religious group or the other. Depending on which religious  group one finds, such things as tithing and holy days will be taught until eventually a person is so hopelessly deep into legalism that accepting the meats laws becomes almost logical. Afterwards, anything that is described in the O.T. as "forever" or "perpetual" is fair game. The border between the Old and New Covenants is destroyed, but group-think prevents people from realizing the truth that they are now a part of neither Covenant. Unfortunately, at the very start, the grace of the New Covenant was set aside and reliance on one's own righteousness set in. That is a perfect recipe for going astray. Hence Paul uses terms like "ministry of death". And ultimately, while a person claims to be "the elect", Jesus' sacrifice is lessened to the point where Paul describes it as being "of no effect". The unsatisfiable chase after personal perfection, along with the obligatory fear and doubt that comes from it, betrays this to be horribly true.

Many things are said to be for a ‘perpetual covenant’ between God and Israel, like for example the avoidance of fat. Whenever I mention that food law to any Armstrongist, they dismiss it. The law! Just not THAT law! I actually had a person tell me "No one can do that!" As if that makes any difference in the world. The law is the law is the law. If you start to keep food laws, then keep the food laws. The law has no middle ground (JAS. 2: 10). Just because something says it is a ‘perpetual covenant’, it does not follow that it is valid for the New Covenant.
The challenge is to realize these two items: 
(MATT. 5: 17-18) "17 Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” 
(2 TIM. 3: 16-17) “16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 
both declare the the amazing work Christ finished (JOHN 19: 30) when He fulfilled all the law and the prophets. It is a grave error to believe these verses say "keep the Old Covenant" because that is contrary to the salvation of Christ. It is the very error Paul fought so hard against. In fact, to keep a cherry-picked version of the Old Covenant, like the one taught by HWA, will without question cost you everything you think to save.

(GAL 5: 1-4) 1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised [in other words, set out to keep the law - circumcision is Torah not Talmud], Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised [in other words, set out to keep the Torah law] that he is a debtor to keep the whole law [not a cherry-picked version of it]. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

I argue that meats laws are not a weightier matter of the law whatsoever but were wholly ceremonial and wholly abolished by the New Covenant. Look, it's really quite simple. Jesus was party to the Old Covenant. He died. No amount of scriptural misinterpretation should confuse people about this one all-important point.
Once I simply accepted that fact, I came to believe Jesus Christ when He said “What goes into a man cannot defile him”, and “What God has cleansed you must not call common”, which blends with Paul who said “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself”, and “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving”.
To preach anything else is to say Christ's sacrifice is insufficient. So answer, in what way was Christ's sacrifice insufficient?

Contrary to what may appear overtly obvious, I did not write the posts on meats to get people to eat pork. 
If one believes the meats are a sin, then to them it is a sin -- but not because of law. If one eats and defiles their conscience, God forbid. I do not in any way promote that! The real issue I address here is condemnation and judgment. I exhort all who keep the food laws (to whatever degree) to stop judging and condemning people who do not keep the food laws. If someone loves God by having faith in Christ and keeping a high standard of moral excellence, then where is the excuse for breaking the clear commandments against judging another? We have One Judge. Do not call His brothers and sisters for whom He died “self-willed”, “disobedient”, “uncalled”, “condemned”, nor any other such thing, for, as Paul said, "Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died" (ROM. 14: 15).  My number one, primary, el numero uno complaint about the COGs is the judgment and condemnation. Meats or no, that has got to stop.

I have also come to see that even if the food laws are no longer in effect, they are a wonderful lesson for us. They hold meaning. They are not without value. Jesus did not destroy any of the laws; He fulfilled them. He fulfilled all things. “Clean” and “unclean” are spiritual now, as opposed to symbolic/physical. Circumcision is of the heart. A good study into the physical symbolism of the spiritual reality will be fulfilling whether you eat or not.

I was surprised to learn that no animal was shown to be given to man to eat until Noah left the Ark. The distinction of the clean from the unclean animals that he took on that Ark were for sacrificial purposes, not for food. 
Sacrifice was there from the days of Adam, circumcision from the days of Abraham – both are now gone. Therefore, just because we see something before Sinai it does not follow that such thing is still valid today. The COGs would do well to answer, in what way are they valid today? Then perhaps they would see that all things are fulfilled. The sacrifices, Levitical priesthood, washings, and temple (among other things) some say will return in the future. But they are not here now. Therefore, just because we think we see something in prophecy for the Millennium (all prophetic interpretation is speculation) it does not follow that it is valid today. "For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed" (MAL. 3: 6). It is the Lord's nature that 'changes not', but clearly His requirements for us do. 

I was surprised to learn that my Armstrongist beliefs caused me to unknowingly hold that all Christians had to become Jews in order to be Christians. I didn't realize that I believed that way. Recognizing it helped me to understand. And immediately God said "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you" (GEN. 9: 3). That is everything. All. Total. "...Every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea" (GEN. 9: 2). No exceptions.
And still people use reasoning to nullify the clear an inescapable words of the Bible. This is not because of any Biblical evidence (as their argument is designed to nullify the words of the Bible) but by an emotional attachment to ideology alone. And this is idolatry - a violation of the very Commandments they claim to uphold.

There are two groups of Christians in the early church: the Jewish converts that were zealous for the law, and the Gentile converts that were instructed to keep no such thing. This was obviously for their conscience’s sake. Exactly as the Pharisees who troubled Paul, Herbert Armstrong commanded the Gentiles to be Jews in order to be Christians. This is contrary to the decree of the Apostles, even while HWA quite plainly did not keep the whole law. A great many things had to be erased from Jewish law for God to cleanse the gentiles; not just the food laws. If it were not so then no Jew could effectively preach to a Gentile or vice versa. The unclean meats were a shadow. Jesus Christ who casts the shadow is clean; the shadow is therefore cleansed. 
Peter didn’t understand this at first. It was not something Jesus taught Him while He was alive because they simply could not handle it then. Jesus taught Peter through the Holy Spirit when the time had come, after the calling of Cornelius. These things were confirmed through Paul and Barnabas through miracles. Peter and a few other Apostles just seemed to have a problem accepting it. We can see that the Apostles did mind the Talmud traditions, and that became a stumbling block for them. Old habits are hard to break. HWA's clever comment "Why didn't Peter understand a change in meats laws 10 years later?" drew me in. It wasn't 10 years, for one thing. And Peter was the very first Apostle sent to a Gentile. By that same logic, if he didn't understand that Gentiles were cleansed x years later, then they must not be! Ergo, none of us are Christians anyhow.

I also came to disagree that the basis of this debate should be health, seeing as properly cooked pork is much more healthful than fresh scallions (or jalapenos or peanuts or blueberries, etc) with salmonella. If meats are health laws it should say so somewhere in the Bible, but it does not. Nowhere in the Bible are food laws explained to be health laws. They are symbolically unclean in relation to sacrifice, and that's it. Oh, how very many times do I hear "God didn't give us poison ivy to eat." Perhaps not. But He didn't designate clean/unclean plants either. Trying to force meats into a health issue via cleverly worded arguments does not Biblical truth make. The fact remains - meats are not a health issue.
I was at first confused by the meanings of some verses. They seemed to be plain and without need of interpretation. Peter was right to say some of Paul’s writings are hard to understand (2 PET. 3: 15-16). But if it’s health we’re so worried about, then we must begin to treat fast food, hydrogenated oils, food allergies, and laziness with much greater seriousness.
I was also surprised to learn what little agreement there is among the COGs about any of this. Armstrong taught one thing at one time, another thing at another time, and yet another thing at a third time. One group says this, another group says that, another group says the other thing. I even recall hearing one minister describe the issue in terms of "lobsters are gross." (And that's entirely a matter of personal preference. I used to think potatoes were gross.) If it were all so plain, why the confusion?

Whether you believe clean and unclean meats to be a physical law of health, a spiritual sin, a ceremonial sacrifice ritual, or just something you arbitrarily do, I hope you can agree with me that our understanding of the Bible is not open to personal interpretation. The Bible should interpret the Bible. Nor either can any man change the law as I often found HWA had done (what disturbs me most is people are fully aware of that yet go along none the less). I did this study because I thought if my Armstrongist preconceptions were true then they could stand up to scrutiny. I will leave it up to the reader to decide the outcome. Our relationship with God is on an individual basis. Much of how I was taught seemed to be an attempt to make me too afraid to read the Bible for myself. I never realized that I accepted much of what I did because Herbert W. Armstrong claimed he taught the truth and said I would go to the second resurrection (or worse) if I didn’t agree. Simply taking the word of a person because they claim to be some end-time celebrity is most definitely NOT Biblical. The old fallback “that’s not how I was taught” is probably the most dangerous position of all. Only after much study and prayer can we come to have a deep and mature understanding of God’s Word. Sometimes what the Bible is saying is not immediately obvious. A Christian walk is a growth process. It is dangerous to read into the Bible without a humble and teachable attitude. It is dangerous to use phrases like "non-negotiable". If something is true, it will be true every time you revisit the subject. And revisit you should. One must be ready to prove what is good or disprove even long standing beliefs.


xHWA said...

OK. I messed up really bad here. Somehow *sigh* AGAIN, I managed to delete a comment when I fully intended to allow it. Someone was asking me about why I don't claim that we must follow the meats laws in Leviticus.

My answer as far as I can take it is written out in my multiple posts on meats laws. If that doesn't explain it, I don't know what else to say.
I'll sum up, though:
The Old Covenant says keep meats, the rest of the Bible shows plainly that the Old Covenant began with Moses at Sinai and ended with Christ at Calvary. I can find many things besides just avoidance of a list of animals that is included in the meats laws that not a single person has said to me yet that they are observing, though Paul clearly shows that the law is an all or nothing agreement.

Anyways, my apologies for rejecting the comment. If you wish to re-comment, feel free. Perhaps this time I won't goof it up.

Robert said...

Your arguments fall down that if the food laws do not exist what source are you going to use to determine what can and cannot be eaten? And if Jesus declared all foods clean, then He is a liar because some foods kill.
And in any case if you bothered to do any research you will realise the New Testament added an extra 1050 commands! In the old, there are 613. So you have abolished 613 laws, but gained 1050!

xHWA said...

Thanks for the kind comments, Robert. Perhaps a study of meats shouldn't be your focus right now. Just a suggestion.

"Your arguments fall down"

That's an absolute declaration: my arguements fall down. And you declare they fall down based on what? The close reading you did of my entire study on meats?

"if the food laws do not exist what source are you going to use to determine what can and cannot be eaten?"

My answer to that would be the Bible; New Testament. Do not eat foods offered to idols, meats strangled, or meats with blood in them. After that, don't eat what 6,000 years of food consumption has proven will make you sick.

"And if Jesus declared all foods clean, then He is a liar because some foods kill."

IF you have read my study then I can only conclude you paid absolutely no attention to it whatsoever.
Had you read, you would know that "clean" and "healthy" are not synonymous. Nowhere in the Bible is "clean" or "unclean" meat likened to a health issue. Jesus did not declare all foods "healthy".
But I repeat myself.

How many people do you know that ate pork and died? I submit for my evidence the vast majority of humanity who eat pork and shellfish regularly; many of whom will outlive you. Do you have any supporting evidence for pigs being deadly poisonous? If so, don't waste time here. Please speak to the Japanese, Germans, Italians, French, etc...

"In the old, there are 613. So you have abolished 613 laws, but gained 1050!"

It is entirely arguable how many laws are in the Old Testament. I like 632. It could be 630. It could be 613. Depends on who you ask. But if I gain anything in the New Covenant, praise God!!

Here is a list of those 1,050 laws that you mention. Many of them are clearly duplicates of ideas, worded differently. Some are outrightly added to bloat the list's numbers, such as the "laws" to "consider the lillies", or "feed the lambs" or to "take a purse and script". Perhaps there is a genuine reason why I chose to ignore this list completely.

I will point out to everyone the absence in that list of any law of clean and unclean meats. So Robert's reference to the list proves nothing for his point.

I would completely disagree that my not previously mentioning that list is definitive proof that I have done no reasearch at all. Especially since it is clear that you didn't bother yourself to research what I wrote before you condemned it.