Saturday, September 05, 2009

Foods and Other Strange Teachings

From Blog09

I like food. Food is a gift from the Lord...yet food cannot make me holy. If I eat only organic food, or eat only kosher food, or eat only local food, I won't be one bit more holy than if I eat a bacon cheeseburger at McDonald's. I may be more healthy, but I won't be more holy. Yet there are people who make following such rules a major part of their morality.

People follow other strange teachings. I met a lady who thought that the best way to understand the Bible was to read it backward: start at the back; read the last page, then the previous page, and so on. There are people who think you cannot worship properly without an organ. There are people who think you cannot worship properly with an organ. There are people who think the essence of Christianity is taking lots of airplane trips to distant places to tell people that they should conserve energy. I met two young men who seemed to think they were more holy because they read only a "good cleaned-out King James Bible" with no notes. There are people who think they should do "temple work" to save their ancestors.

All of these are missing the point: Holiness is in the Lord. He can make us holy; we can sanctify ourselves (set ourselves apart as holy) to him. All of the strange teachings and rules of men won't make us any more holy. They will only make us odd and enslave us.

Are you holy? If so, how? By following strange teachings? Or by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ?


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Excellent post, and so true.
This thing of making oneself holy by doing or not doing certain things, that is the essence of all false religion (some Orthodox would say "of ALL religion"), and philosophically (but not practically) there is such an incredibly fine line between this, and the life of true holiness, wherein one makes it a priority to never do anything to grieve God's Holy Spirit.

I am being severly tried by a Christian brother whom I am letting stay with me because he is homeless. His "spirituality" is very much of the first kind that I described above, and it is a daily source of irritation for me, because he won't eat the same sorts of things as I do, even when I meet him half-way. But his problem is mental illness, and because of that he is very unbalanced regarding his dividing of the Word, as well as very superstitious.

Having him live with me confirms in me even more that this attitude that one can become holy by one's own acts of self-denial or philanthropy or whatever, instead of relying on the Holiness of God, is actually a form of mental illness. I know this seems an extreme opinion, but looking back at those who use "religion" in this first sense, it really does seem to be a form of mental illness. Whereas remembering all those Christians whom I have admired and tried to imitate, not a single one of them had the least inclination to this weird kind of religion.

A Greek Orthodox philosopher who was also a priest and died recently, John Romanides, has written extensively on "religion is a sickness" and that real Orthodoxy is the cure. I agree with him only inasmuch as by "real Orthodoxy" he means the faith I profess and practice, which is to follow Jesus. That is at the heart of Orthodox Christianity, but there are a lot of expressions of Orthodoxy which are religious in the bad sense.

Forgive me for this long comment, but I want to stand behind the ideas you posted here with my strongest endorsement.

Thanks for putting in few, but meaningful, words what others write tomes on to less effect.

Jim Swindle said...

Thank you, Romanós, for these insightful comments. First, I pray that the Lord will protect you and will guide you in knowing how far to bend and how and when not to bend for your house-guest. I also pray for his deliverance from legalism.

Legalism and mental illness have been related in my own life. I lived the legalistic life for years, not thinking my legalism would save me, but thinking that it was essential if I was to please God. Getting (self-)medicated for the mental illness helped liberate me from that way of thinking about God. I still can lean that direction, especially when my body chemistry is off. (That is, when I've had too much sugar or when I have not taken my weekly prescription pill.)

There's a sense in which to be crazy is to believe things that aren't so. There's a sense in which to believe things that aren't so is crazy.

Yet there are many people who appear quite sane, but are caught up in various false belief systems.

The denomination formerly known as the Worldwide Church of God changed from a legalism-based church to a grace-based church a few years back. Their web site is here.