Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Interconnectedness of Sin

The Importance of Disciplined Eating

It is good to note that sins do not come as isolated incidents in people's lives. All sin is unified in its rebellion against God and His law. When a person is rebellious in one area it often overflows into other areas as well. Thus the lists of sins that are often given in the epistles of the Bible, for example, "Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy" (Rom. 13:13, also Gal. 5:19-21, etc...).

One of these connections is that of gluttony and drunkenness (lack of self-control and thankfulness in food) and that of sexual immortality (lack of self-control and thankfulness in sexual relations). It is easy to think being undisciplined in eating habits isn't a big deal, and the only result is that you might gain a few pounds. But being undisciplined in eating often comes from the same foundational problem that may manifest itself in sins (like sexual immortality) with more immediately drastic consequences (like death, Prov. 2:18-19; 7:21-27). We see this connection of sins in 1 Corinthians 10:7-8, "Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.' We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day."

As Christians our response ought to be one like Paul when he said, "But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:27). Because of the Spirit's work in our lives, instead of manifesting the fruits of our fallen nature such as "sexual immorality...sensuality...drunkenness, orgies, and things like these" (Gal. 5:19-21), we ought to manifest the fruits of the Spirit such as "joy" and "self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23). May we realize the importance of the habits we form on a day-to-day basis with our diets. May we be intentional with what we do and thankful for what God has given us. May our eating and drinking be done in the fear and joy of God.

-Peter Bringe
 D.V.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Beauty

On that day the LORD their God will save them,
as the flock of his people;
for like the jewels of a crown
they shall shine on his land.
For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty!
Grain shall make the young men flourish,
and new wine the young women.
(Zechariah 9:16-17)

When discussing almost anything, especially when discussing the arts, the subject of aesthetics and beauty can arise. The culinary arts are no exception. The problem with aesthetics is that we often rely on our instincts to determine beauty. This actually has worked somewhat, in a large part because the Western world has been very influenced by Christian presuppositions and values. But as Christendom and even as the Modern world fades away into post-modernistic relativism, objective beauty can no longer be decided on the assumptions of the general culture. In short, we need to recover and build a Christian philosophy of beauty.

The first starting point we have is that God is the determiner of beauty. God created us and the world we live in. To seek beauty without God, to seek autonomous beauty, to seek self-centered beauty, is to rebel against God, to stir up His wrath, and is actually to destroy beauty. Take the example of Tyre in the book of Ezekiel. The LORD GOD address Tyre and the king of Tyre by saying, 
“O Tyre, you have said, ‘I am perfect in beauty’...Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god...yet you are but a man, and no god...Because you make your heart like the heart of a god, therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon you, the most ruthless of the nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendor." (Ezekiel 27:3; 28:2; 28:6-7)
Conversely, when God favors and saves His people, He gives them beauty. In Psalm 50:2 God shines forth from "Zion, the perfection of beauty." When God address His people with the promise of their salvation in Isaiah 62:3, He says, "You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God." In Isaiah 28:5, right after Isaiah proclaims the fading flower of apostate Ephraim's glorious beauty, He declares that "In that day the LORD of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people." One of the ways God blessed Job after Job's sufferings was that "in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job's daughters" (Job 42:15). In short, beauty is something we receive from God, and humility is needed in our pursuit of it. We seek beauty from God and we do it in relation to Him.

As we see in the verse at the top (Zech. 9:16-17), when God saves us, He gives us not merely beauty, but His beauty. We are made beautiful because He is beautiful. We imitate His beauty as we become godly. We are His image. We were created like Him and beauty is found in His works of creation, but sin has corrupted us. God, in His "common grace" has allowed ungodly civilizations to imitate His creational beauty to an extent, at least until they, like Tyre, become more consistently rebellious against God and His attributes and become ugly. It is in redemption that we recover God's beauty.

So how do we define beauty? I would suggest we define it as that which is the earthly reflection of God's nature. As R.C. Sproul Sr. has said, "God is the ultimate standard of beauty, just as He is the ultimate standard of truth. Works of art that somehow reflect His nature are more beautiful than works that do not."1 In my book I give the example of how the mix of unity and diversity in art reflects God's triune nature. And we can also see how order (which is also an attribute of God, 1 Cor. 14:33) brings unity, and how zeal (which also is an attribute of God, Is. 42:13) brings diversity, and how they are not conflicting considerations, but build on each other. "If we only have zeal, that zeal will become chaotic and will lose meaning. Let our food not be like a bunch of people shouting 'I love you!' at the top of their lungs, but let it be like a beautifully crafted song of love with melody and harmony."2 There are many considerations that can be used to connect art with God. R.C. Sproul Sr. comments, "Historically, Christian thinkers have evaluated art according to four criteria: proportion, harmony, simplicity, and complexity. Such criteria reflect the criteria of God and the world as He made it, a complex creation reflecting proportion and harmony."3 It would be good to mention that good art will reflect God's moral nature as well, and so even though some perverse Greek sculpture might have been done with excellent proportion, etc... and be beautiful in some respects, it still is ugly in the sense of the immorality it portrays.

With all that said, I am not saying that everything we make or do must be perfectly beautiful in all respects. Our greatest creations will still be defective and imperfect. And please, do not tear apart your brother's creations because of their imperfections. Humility and love ought to be used. But beauty ought to be pursued and valued by us, and having a basic criteria for what beauty is helps us greatly in doing that.

If there is any aspect of art that has been cheapened, it is food. Especially in the realm of fast food, but really in most food that people eat today, beauty has often been surrendered to the demands of expediency and "pleasure." Not that pleasure is a bad thing, but self-pleasure as the criteria for good food is, well, selfish. It is arbitrary and often is merely a contest of what can stimulate you more than last time. Godly pleasure involves enjoying God and all that He is. Godly pleasure is taken in beauty (which includes tasty food); self-centered pleasure is taken in drunkenness and gluttony.

Thank God for beauty!

-Peter B.
  D.V.

1. Sproul Sr., R.C. Tabletalk September 2012 p. 60
2. Bringe, Peter The Christian Philosophy of Food p. 61
3. Sproul Sr., R.C. Tabletalk September 2012 p. 60