Monday, November 12, 2012

Another case of Dispensationalist literalmindedness? -- the Jewish food laws

Got into a discussion about the food laws God gave the Israelites, the distinction between clean and unclean and why God forbade the eating of unclean animals.   Friend has the belief you sometimes hear preached these days that these laws were given in God's wisdom for their health and nutritional value.  I've always thought that idea to be one of those physicalistic interpretations that drag God down to our level, like those ideas that try to explain the parting of the Red Sea in some naturalistic terms.  But apparently this is a common way of thinking about the food laws among Christians these days, and I'm beginning to suspect this is another piece of nonsense out of Dispensationalism.

I've understood that the food laws were one of the ways God required that the Jews be separate from the nations surrounding them, partly because those nations used unclean animals in their sacrifices but at least as a way to make a distinction between God's people and the heathen.  There may be deeper explanations than I'm aware of, but to sum up my understanding, the food laws were a "type" or a picture, or a symbol, of holiness, the holiness of God's people, kept apart from the uncleanness of the world. 

When God told Peter in Acts 10 that he was now no longer to make a distinction between clean and unclean foods because God was accepting the Gentiles into His flock, the message to my mind is that the food laws never were a mere matter of what's the right thing to eat, but symbolized something else, and again, it would have to be the separateness or holiness of God's people from the heathen.  Now that the Gentiles are being brought into the fold there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile but all are one in Christ.  The distinction is now between the saved and the unsaved, believers and unbelievers.

 Here's what one source said:

Although God did not reveal the specific reasons some animals may be eaten and others must be avoided, we can make generalized conclusions based on the animals included in the two categories. In listing the animals that should not be eaten, God forbids the consumption of scavengers and carrion eaters, which devour other animals for their food.

...When it comes to sea creatures, bottom dwellers such as lobsters and crabs scavenge for dead animals on the sea floor. Shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels similarly consume decaying organic matter that sinks to the sea floor, including sewage.

A common denominator of many of the animals God designates as unclean is that they routinely eat flesh that would sicken or kill human beings. When we eat such animals we partake of a food chain that includes things harmful to people
There can't ever have been any health reason or nutritional reason for the food laws.  People have eaten pork and lobster forever without problems. When God told Peter he was no longer to regard foods as unclean that the Gentiles ate, do you think He was giving the Gentiles some kind of second rate form of salvation?  Shouldn't he have said that Peter should explain to the believing Gentiles that they shouldn't eat some of the foods they'd always eaten because they are part of a "chain that includes things harmful to people?"

Clearly not eating scavengers is symbolic of something, like touching dead bodies was also. It isn't ABOUT what's "suitable for human consumption," it never was. It was about keeping Israel separate from the unclean idolatrous heathen and their worship of demons.

The metabolic systems of the "unclean" animals clean up the stuff they eat, reduce it to its constituents, sugars, proteins, fats and so on, which happens with ALL the digestive systems of all the animals. That's why as far as mere food goes it's fine for us to eat it. Pork and shellfish are WONDERFUL foods. I wouldn't eat bugs myself but some cultures do apparently without harm and I'm not going to say they're wrong to do so even though the idea turns my stomach. Apparently it can be life-sustaining if necessary.

It's a kind of Judaizing to treat the Jewish food laws as nutritionally superior to what Gentiles normally ate. If it had anything to do with the value of the food itself then God would be at fault for depriving the Gentile believers of that supposed wisdom.

This kind of literal-minded teaching misses the whole spirit of the Bible.

Again, I'm supposing this is just another of those wrongheaded Dispensationalist "hermeneutics" that I've identified as the basis for the attacks on The Harbinger.