Friday, October 29, 2010

A rumination on fasting, health, the Fall, evolutionism, and the head covering

Listening to Scott Johnson again. I really do get a lot out of most of his talks, although there are others that don't engage me much if at all. When he gets into his health concerns, for instance -- he is a doctor of some sort (chiropractor), dealing with alternative medicine and nutrition mostly -- he usually loses me. I have friends who follow alternative health advice and in at least one case I think it's done her a lot of good, but she has serious health problems to motivate her, while there's just no way I could get myself to learn all that without a similar dire need -- plus a faith in it that I just don't have. And I can't afford the products that are necessary to doing it right either. I just have to trust the Lord to take care of me on what is not a terrible diet but not the best either. So I usually skip that part of Johnson's talks.

In his talk for October 24 he has a section on fasting in the fourth part which I really wanted to hear because I need a good kick in that direction. I used to fast once in a while and got a lot out of it, but in the last few years I can't seem to get it coordinated with prayer times, partly because my sleep time is all over the place, plus I get distracted because of my irregular work schedule, and I just seem to have less tolerance for going without food. Anyway, I want to get back to it, and his talk really is quite good on it.

The point of fasting is spiritual and that's his emphasis, but he also gets into the health factors involved in fasting, how it's good for this or that organ, for detoxifying the system, and how you should take this or that supplement for various reasons connected with it. So that part I more or less tune out (except to note that it does appear that fasting alone, apart from all the nutritional concerns, is beneficial in itself, and that can be a motivating factor), but the spiritual advice is quite good.

But are we really what we were originally meant to be?
I do want to comment on a point of view that is very common among Christians and maybe especially among those who get into alternative health methods. That is the idea that we are physically perfect, as God made us to be, so we must assume that all the organs that don't appear to have a clearly defined function really do have one, it's just that we don't know enough about them. Such as the appendix and the gall bladder. Those who think along such lines must insist that they are exactly as God intended, so therefore we really can't do without them.

However, the evidence is that we do pretty well without them, at least not in any observable sense any worse, and that they have a tendency to disease that makes us better off without them in many cases. In my own case I had my gall bladder out over thirty years ago after a bout of extreme sharp pain from a gallstone that turned out to be a ball of cholesterol about the size and shape of a small bird's egg, and I was told about the same time that my appendix had shriveled up on its own and couldn't pose a threat. Now I'm not going to argue with Scott Johnson over his claim that he has remedies for the condition that led to losing my gall bladder, he may very well have, and I might have been better off had I had access to them, but it's been many years and apart from the occasional bout of digestive disturbances which I was told to expect from reduced ability to digest fats I don't miss my gall bladder at all.

To say this is to commit almost a sort of blasphemy in the minds of some, but in reality it's consistent with Biblical revelation whereas the idea of our physical perfection is not.

Yes, we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" according to scripture and that's true no matter what, but our wonderful machinery is ALSO losing efficiency over time and that is equally biblical. That is, we live in a fallen world according to the Bible, a world in which EVERYTHING is running down over time and would eventually run out altogether except that the Lord will intervene before that. We live in a world in which not only is our environment hostile to us in ways it wasn't before the Fall, but in which our own bodies are deficient in ways they weren't before the Fall, and increasingly so with every passing generation as sin and death are cumulative. The Fall brought death into the world, death and disease of every kind. The continuation of sin accumulates disease.

The idea of evolution is a huge deception on this very point as it requires increase where in fact there is ongoing decrease. I've argued this as well as I'm able on the Fantasy of Evolution blog. Evolutionists simply insist it's not so, they insist that mutations are the mechanism that drives evolution ever onward and upward, but the evidence is that mutations are overall destructive in spite of the very rare case of something they can point to that appears to be a positive effect -- though in reality it turns out to be a negative that happens to have a positive side effect (such as sickle cell which protects against malaria). We do get new "species" but this is nothing more than the natural shuffling of genetic possibilities that creates breeds and varieties, and in the process of this shuffling genetic material is LOST (lost to the "evolving" part of the population that is, not to the total population), and MUST be lost for a new variety to emerge, whereas if evolution were true there would have to be an increase in genetic potential, and there simply isn't. If it weren't for death this shuffling would only lead to wonderful creative variations, but because of death eventually it leads to extinction. But again, I've argued this on the evolution blog so enough said here.

Jesus' death for us reversed all this but the reversal isn't going to become a full reality until He returns. His presence in the world through the Holy Spirit in His people does also mean that we are blessed with methods of healing that would otherwise not be available to us, even occasional miraculous healings, but the world as a whole is still running down. It is perfectly consistent with the Fall that some of our organs have lost their full functioning to the extent that we don't even miss them if they are taken out. That has to be because we are living at an inferior level of health overall of course, because those organs must originally have had functions. Therefore they must have lost them over the centuries for the vast majority of the human population. They must have originally contributed to the efficiency of our bodies in ways we can barely imagine now, for instance in ways that supported the amazing longevity of the first generations of humanity right after the Fall. Any remedies that either mainstream medicine or alternative medicine come up with can't correct our deteriorating condition, though they may improve function to some extent and be valuable for that reason -- remedies that help stave off the worst effects of the Fall. But the usual idea that we are the way God made us and it's only bad products in our environment that are the problem is just wrong.

Speaking of products in the environment, in one of Chuck Missler's talks I heard recently, he was saying something along the same lines I'm arguing here, and he claimed that grains of wheat found in ancient Egyptian pyramids turned out to be sproutable, and when the resultant wheat was studied it was found to have "amino acids we've never even heard of." I have no trouble believing that, as the understanding that everything on this planet is degenerating would of course also include everything we eat as well as our own bodies. (But I do wonder, if such a super wheat has been found to exist, why it isn't being widely cultivated -- he neglected to explain that).

The Woman's Head Covering
Scott Johnson also brought up another issue I have to comment on, because it's one of my pet topics -- the woman's head covering of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. He was talking about prayer and mentioned that men should uncover their heads for prayer, referencing this same passage where that is also taught, but went on to say that while women ARE required to cover their heads, women's natural hair is that covering, so they don't have to do anything to be presentable for prayer.

I gather that some of Johnson's Christian theology derives from fundamental Baptist teaching, and that branch of the church is probably the main source of the idea that the head covering Paul was advocating is the woman's hair. It's sprinkled through so many other denominations by now, however, that it's hard to be sure of its origin. The Reformed branches of the church reject the head covering in a different way, by claiming Paul was only talking about dressing according to cultural standards of femininity, the head covering being merely the cultural standard of his time and place. So by both reasonings, patently false reasonings it seems to me, women are not required to cover our heads in church.

I have to say that people who conclude that the woman's head covering is her hair must have a big problem with reading -- or they just don't think about the passage at all and take somebody else's word for it. Certainly the passage is a bit difficult to understand, but to believe Paul would spend fifteen verses arguing in favor of a woman's needing to have long hair for proper prayer, in a culture in which long hair was already the norm and short hair considered to be a shameful condition -- which is clearly spelled out in the passage -- just makes one wonder if they have actually read the passage, or given it any real thought.

As in most of this letter to the Corinthians Paul was writing to resolve a CONTROVERSY in the church, something they were disputing about, and long hair was NOT A CONTROVERSY -- that's why he could use it as an example in verse 15 that he would expect them to recognize.

But covering the head -- with a length of cloth -- WAS CONTROVERSIAL, probably partly because there was a mix of cultures in the Corinthian church, some women -- Jewish women for sure -- always having their heads covered, and others -- Greeks and Romans and maybe even some northern Europeans, either not covering their heads or doing so but according to a different standard than Paul was advocating.

Culturally, covering or not covering was not about differentiating the sexes! It had various meanings, mostly concerning the idea of feminine modesty with the Jewish women and any Arab women who might have been present, but even men in Jewish culture covered their heads when shamed (see Haman in the Book of Esther for one example), and of course the Jewish priests wore a headdress, and Arab men always covered their heads. For cultures that did not consistently cover it did not have anything to do with defining femininity OR modesty. Both men and women covered their heads in the presence of their pagan deities in some cultures for instance, implying something more about humility than modesty as related to sex.

But ALL OF THE WOMEN IN ALL OF THE CULTURES HAD LONG HAIR!. The only time women did NOT have long hair was when in mourning, or when their hair was cut off as a form of punishment, as for adultery. It's plain ridiculous to think Paul needed to construct such a lengthy refined argument in order to tell women to do what they normally did anyway and not do what they already considered to be a humiliation or a deprivation!

Paul was teaching SOMETHING COMPLETELY NEW, something apart from the inconsistent practices of culture, something specifically related to the revelation of the Savior Messiah -- that men should be UNCOVERED in His presence, but women covered.

And as with all scripture, no matter how little is said on this subject it's important because it's God's word, which means that getting it wrong is going to have negative consequences. If the reason women are to cover our heads is to allow the glory of Christ embodied in the head of the man to shine without competition from the glory of man, which is woman (verse 7), then women's mistaken display of their long hair as if it were the covering is in reality exactly what Paul is teaching against. And the angels are watching, he says in verse 10, so they are being offended as Christ's glory is being affronted. By mistake, yes, but that doesn't change the fact.

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