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Torah Food Laws & Gentile Lobsters

lobster plate sxc smallOne of the challenges of being a Biblical theologian rather than a systematic theologian (no disrespect to Systematic theology or Systematic Theologians intended) is to speak about theological issues rooted in particular texts without being drawn unwilling into the systematic entanglements of most informed Christian’s existing mental categories. The Christian’s approach to Scripture is often based on mental categories that have developed over millennia through philosophical discussions rooted in the churches ongoing confrontation of Scripture & their own curiosity in the face of an ever changing world and ever blossoming heresies.

When asked if I am a Calvinist or Arminianist, the answers 1. “Neither.” 2. “Yes.” 3. “Depends what text I’m reading,” are rarely satisfactory. I have to choose don’t I? No, in point of fact, I don’t.

Just so, I must, in most people’s mind, be either a dispensationalist or Covenant theologian.

Everyone organizes their thoughts according to received theological categories and they expect everything they hear from a teacher to fit into one of those categories. Then a biblical theologian comes along and throws a monkey wrench into the works.

So in my recent series on Torah food laws and the Christian, in which I examined those texts which most Christians turn to in their defense of lobster, pork chops, and every other variety of these types of creatures in western culture, I’ve found that people’s responses are often rather predictable.

I cannot show that a text does not actually condemn Torah food laws to oblivion without also, in the mind of most readers, condemning all gentile eaters as hopeless law breakers under some kind of divine displeasure.  I, of course, have done no such thing, but even my constant attempts to ward off those conclusions are not enough to overcome the tendency to fall to known categories—Law Keeper or Gospel Believer.

Those associated with aggressive messianic synagogues on the other hand take my praise of scallops in a creamy garlic butter sauce and crispy fried bacon as some betrayal of the Torah as obsolete altogether. Of course, I’ve done no such thing, though I believe the relationship of the Gentile Christian to Torah is different than the Jewish relationship to it… without being a dispensationalist.

Oh the drama of it all.

I have two points that I would like to address as concerns the gentile Christian’s relationship to the legal exactitude of the Torah legal codes: One here, and another in a future post. 1. The stuff of true religion is not food & clothes & ritual acts or annunciations. 2. The First Church counsel established the nature of gentile Christianity as an entrance into the New Covenant without requiring an entrance into the Abrahamic & Mosaic covenants.

Let’s consider #1.

Paul is rather plain about the nature of true worship, not adhering to the letter of the Law, but to the spirit of the law. (Romans 2:24-29)

One is not acceptable to God because he puts on the right hat, calls God by the properly pronounced ancient vocal insignia, or uses the perfect movements, gestures and words on just the right day according to ancient calendars. This is not to say that symbolism doesn’t matter, that our words don’t matter. The denial of one does not necessitate the denial of the other. It is, and always has been a matter of the heart expressed properly among men.

So, when people begin to grow anxious over clothes, food, calendar days, ritual pronouncements like “I baptize you in the name of Jesus” vs. “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit,” I cringe in my heart and think, Whatever you decide to do about these things, you do know that the heart of true religion is not found here, right?

[1] Pic from freeimages.com

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