Clean or Down the Drain?

Many students of  Scripture consider Mark 7:19 to be a slam dunk indicating that God considers all food clean and available for eating. Rabbi Dr. John Fischer provided the most succinct analysis of Mark 7:19 that I’ve ever encountered. This is significant because analyzing the passage can be a very complicated exercise.

His article “Jesus Through Jewish Eyes” is excellent it’s entirety, but the Appendix “Are All Foods Clean? or Down the Drain!” can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the page.

A Strictly Literal Rendering of Mark 7:19

"…because it enters not of him into the heart but into the belly, and into the drain goes out, purging all the food."

Contextual Analysis of Mark 7:19

1.  "Food" by definition in Yeshua’s context is only what is kosher!

2. The context of this text deals with hand-washing not eating food or what is kosher.

3. The point of the passage (as emphasized by Mt. 15:20b) is "eating with unwashed hands—not eating non-kosher food—does not make a person unclean."

The American Dream is Dangerous

I heard this morning that the United States is now the third largest mission field in the world. How did this happen? Amazingly to most of us, the Torah anticipated just such a scenario:

[T]he author [of Deuteronomy] was writing to well-to-do landowners. He was concerned that they remember from whence they came and on whom they needed to rely. He treated their economic prosperity as a threat to their required humility before God. He sought to counter this tendency to self-sufficiency by reminding them of their past slavery; and of their dependence on God for a bountiful harvest. He limited their ambitions by emphasizing the need for sabbath rest, and sabbath years. The requirement to rejoice and hold feasts also served to restrict their utilitarianism. He believed that they themselves were not ultimately responsible for their prosperity, and that they would be in the position of the widow, fatherless and alien if tragedy befell them.[1]

Something about the way I’m wired means that everywhere I look I see the consequences of bad theology. To me it’s like looking at heat under infrared, the connections are so glaring and direct. America was settled on the basis of a dangerous and diabolic theology called Manifest Destiny (more on that in another post), and when the impetus of that cooled a new twist was thrown into our lives during the 1950s. Having driven men to misinterpret the Torah, the Adversary now drove them to ignore it. Loosed from our moorings, without an eternal standard of morality, we lost any ability to accurately recognize injustice, and lost the benefit of the practical life instruction God had included for His people.

These days, gratitude is a thing of the past; I see more athletes pound their own chest after a great play than point a finger toward heaven. I hear even pastors talk about how they were a “champion for Jesus” and you can be one too, if you’ll just pull yourself up by your own boot straps and take the initiative like they did.

Today overwhelming percentages even of the well-to-do can be described as fatherless, and waves and waves of people feel lost and alien in their own culture. We have lost our way and substituted the American Dream for the biblical prescriptions; often by reinterpreting biblical language to support our misguided priorities.


[1]Christiana van Houten, The Alien in Israelite Law (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), 106.

Cultural Relevance

I have often heard Ron Allen discuss how dangerous it is to adopt a cultural rather than a biblical hermeneutic, and I entirely agree.

On the other hand, I also highly value the following statement from Alan Mann.

[T]he gospel narrative should not become a museum piece, and neither should the theology and cultural awareness that we derive from them. We need to read and reread the atonement [among other theological issues – NL] as time and place change the context in which we are called to communicate the salvific work of Christ.

What would one call or how would one express the appropriate balance between those two seeming extremes?[1]


[1] Alan Mann, Atonement for a ‘Sinless’ Society (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2008 reprint) 3

Explaining My Life

“The test of each story is the sort of person it shapes,”[1] and (as the authors of that comment would grant) the sort of community it shapes. “The practice of community establishment and maintenance was at the center of the social ethic of earliest Christianity”[2] as it has been of the First Testament’s social ethic.[3]

There in a single, two-sentence, paragraph is an excellent description of what is, perhaps, my cardinal conviction regarding the nature and purpose of Scripture (and God’s intention for it); a conviction that shapes my life, the expenditure of my time and energy, and is the goal of my pursuits.


[1] Stanley Hauerwas and David Burrell, “From System to Story,” in Why Narrative? ed. Stanley Hauerwas and L. Gregory Jones (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), pp. 158–90; see p. 185; reprinted from Stanley Hauerwas, Truthfulness and Tragedy (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), pp. 15–39; see p. 35.

[2] James W. McClendon, “The Practice of Community Formation,” in Virtues and Practices in the Christian Tradition: Christian Ethics after MacIntyre, ed. Nancey Murphy et al. (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity, 1997), pp. 86–110, see p. 102.

[3] John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Volume 3: Israel’s Life (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 14.

Language Can Change the World

It is important to be aware of the principle that, as the American philosopher, Peter Kreeft, noted recently, ‘Control the language and you control thought; control thought and you control action; control action and you control the world.’ [1] In the last few decades there has been a covert emptying-out, and re-filling of certain key words with new meanings. This process subtly modifies how we perceive and deploy the original word, and also how we consider the matter to which it pertains.

The most obvious example is the term ‘partner’, which is now the only acceptable term in the public realm for ‘wife’ or ‘husband’. But far more is at stake here. Referring to a wife or husband as a ‘partner’ in effect neuters the concepts of ‘wife’ and ‘husband’, stripping them of the whole range of meanings, including those of sex, gender, permanence and sexual exculsivity. ‘Partner’ simply means ‘my present domestic (including sexual) VIP’. However, this meaning rides on the back of the traditional meanings associated with the words ‘wife’ or ‘husband’ and, in so doing, loosens the moorings of collective meaning and value which used to be attached to them. [2]

What does this mean? What is another example of the changing of the definition of a word? Consider the word “natural”

Let’s differentiate between two meanings of the word natural. The first … is ‘what we can infer from the design of Creation.’ The second is ‘anything that occurs in Nature’ … Whatever people do with these body parts can be termed ‘natural’ in that second definition, a label that appears to hallow whatever it touches. But there’s a problem. If ‘natural’ means ‘anything that happens’, there are absolutely no limits. Anything that anyone can think of doing with his sex organs has to be called natural. [3]

We must resist the re-defining of language. We already face a world where “unity” has been redefined as uniformity; where “dissent” has been called “intolerant” and where peace is defined as the absence of dissent.

The truth is that, as Adlai Stevenson said, “A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular.”, and in trying to make themselves more popular the homosexual agenda has made us all less safe.

Evil people exploit good people by persuading them that it is wrong to call evil by its name. – James Hitchcock

_______________________

[1] Peter Kreeft, Boston College Observer, April 2004

As a philosopher the thing that strikes me most is the brilliant strategy of the gay marriage movement. Like Orwell in 1984 it sees that the main battlefield is language. If [gay advocates] can redefine a key term like ‘marriage’ they win. Control language and you control thought; control though and you control action; control action and you control the world.

[2] Noland, Sugden & Finch, eds. God, Gays and the Church: Human Sexuality and Experience in Christian Thinking (London: The Latimer Trust, 2008), 234.

[3] Frederica Matthewes-Green, “Bodies of Evidence”, June 2005; http://touchstonemage.com/archives/articles.php?id=18-05-027-f

Post-Kantian “Reality”

There is probably a remarkably small audience interested in what I’m about to post, but the importance of this information cannot be overemphasized.

Few people have read the writings of [Immanuel] Kant; nonetheless his philosophical views underpin much of modern culture’s discourse. Not only does this background help explain Judith Butler’s presentation of gender as performative linguistic discourse, it also explains why her writing (and that of other Queer theorists and the gay/lesbian movement generally) is so reluctant to make appeals to ontological realities.

That is, Butler represents a narrative in which traditional Christian gender ethics is portrayed as naive and unintelligible because it bases itself upon some sort of appeal to an ontological reality e.g. A man ought not to seek to become a woman because he was born a physical man; or homosexual acts are immoral because God designed sex to function between a male and female. Both of the preceding statements are making an appeal to some sort of ontological reality, from which implications are then drawn. Such ontological based claims are resisted by Queer writers such as Butler. They are presented as totalising, enslaving and heterosexist frameworks of thought.

Rather than appealing to ontology, Queer theorists prefer to utilise the rhetoric of autonomy, slavery and freedom. They identify their movement with other groups who have sought freedom from repression, such as women or slaves. Most gay/lesbian activists are so resistant to ontological claims, that even when one comes along which may be a support to their cause, they will feel uncomfortable with it and eventually reject it. The most notable example of this was the ‘gay gene’ theory. Many Queer writers now say that even were a ‘gay gene’ demonstrated, they would not want to use it as par of their defence of their lifestyle. It would limit their freedom too much, and conflict with a presentation of homosexuality as a free choice….

The influence of Kant together with the remarkable political and cultural success of apparently non-ontologically based appeals to freedom, has made many Christians doubt the validity of their more ontologically grounded ethics system. Certainly, presenting ontologically based claims, to a person gripped by a system of thought which is influenced by Kant, will be ineffective. This is surely part of the reason that clear and frequent re-statement of traditional Christian teaching on gender related issues tends to not result in many people actually changing their views. Rather than giving up on our ontologically based ethics, or merely repeating our views ineffectually, we ought to expose the fact that writers such as Judith Butler are in fact themselves making ontologically based arguments.[1]

Some readers may need a refresher on what “ontological” means…ontology is the study of that which exists; the study of being. If something is “ontological” it is an evident reality, a tangible truth. The fact that I am is an ontological reality; that I own a Honda Accord is an ontological reality. I was born male; I have brown hair; these are ontological realities.

Consider this:

Prior to Kant [1724-1804] philosophers sought continually to push back the boundaries of that which is known about the world. After Kant, what is known is merely the categories of our own thinking….

An often overlooked point is that both pre- and post-Kantian philosophy was human-centred; the difference was that while each pre-Kantian thinker put himself as the centre of the world, each post-Kantian thinker put himself at the centre of his or her own world. Before Kant, knowledge was assumed to lead to an appreciation of ontological realities. After Kant, with the mind hermetically sealed off from reality, the suggestion that something previously thought to be ontological (like gender), was actually merely linguistic or a category of thought, began to make sense.[2]

If the reality that simply is can be questioned than there truly is no absolute truth, but simply that which is your truth. The irony of all this is that the homosexual agenda’s search for freedom to exercise a perception of reality that justifies their chosen behavior simultaneously prevents those of a different opinion from exercising a freedom to disagree!

Irving’s parody is prescient [referring to a scene from John Irving’s The Cider House Rules]. It captures the oppressive sensation that Butler’s ideology creates in those who are heterosexual. She favours freedom for homosexuality, but frames her argument in such a way as to deny heterosexual identity real dignity. She is claiming to have a better, more accurate knowledge of what goes on inside a person than anybody who says they are not homosexual. In Butler’s world of genders formed by discourse, the homosexual discourse reigns. We see the cultural outworking of this in television shows where the gay man is thought to have some valuable insight into a topic, simply because he is gay. Homosexuality is not only given preferential treatment as a lifestyle; it is though to flow from deeper, more accurate self-understanding than heterosexuality.

In the end, Butler’s conception of freedom is an absolute freedom which forces itself upon people who may not want it, or may not realise they want it. As such it is a freedom which enslaves…. Butler builds on half-truths, and plays with concepts in a way that aims to subvert what she sees as the heterosexist oppressive regime of modern society…. The vision for society Butler offers is precisely the kind of oppressive system which she so passionately speaks against. She has Queered freedom into a system of thought which equates to freedom for all who agree with her, but how will the dissenters be viewed?[3]

The frightening reality is that this innate human longing for freedom is being misused by several powerful propagandist movements today. I will move from the homosexual agenda to other causes in a subsequent post.

But before we leave this particular topic, a final comment from Peter Sanlon is warranted:

The remarkable thing is that the argumentation made thereafter by Butler is identical in form to that put by traditional Christians. The only substantive difference is that the ontological reality she bases her argument upon is an unstable repressed homosexual desire, and the Christian bases their argument upon God’s physical creation of a gendered person.

Thus Judith Butler’s vision of gender is only as convincing as Freud’s view of melancholic gender….

Christians have no reason to fear using arguments which make appeals to a basis in ontology. Not only do Queer writers such as Judith Butler do so, the ontological realities appealed to by Christians are far more verifiable than Freud’s theories. In a post-Kantian word, we would do well to point these things out to those who portray traditional Christian appeals to ontological realities as repressive or philosophically passé.[4]


[1] Peter Sanlon, Plastic People: How Queer Theory is Changing Us (London: The Latimer Trust, 2010) pp 25-27.

[2] Ibid, 25.

[3] Ibid, 24.

[4] Ibid, 28.

Mature Christianity

J.I. Packer comments on mature evangelicals, but in many ways his comments apply more broadly to Christians in general.

Immature evangelicals have sometimes settled for a euphoric, man-centred pietism, concerned only with possessing and spreading the peace and joy of ‘knowing Christ as my personal Saviour’ (sadly, these precious words are nowadays a cant phrase), and never appreciating God’s revealed concern for truth and righteousness in church and community. Maturer evangelicals, however, have always recognized that though personal conversion is the starting-point, Christians must learn a biblical God-centredness and seek after ‘holiness to the Lord’ in all departments of the church’s worship, witness and work and in every activity and relationship of human life.*

Would that this understanding would permeate American churches!

*J.I. Packer, “A Kind of Noah’s Ark? The Anglican Commitment to Comprehensiveness” (1981) in J.I. Packer & N.T. Wright, Anglican Evangelical Identity: Yesterday and Today (London: The Latimer Trust, 2008) p. 126.