Monday, December 31, 2012

John Calvin on How to Use the Comforts of the Present Life

In his book, Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin lays down some excellent, biblical principles for the godly enjoyment of earthly things like food, art, fabrics, etc... I'm a little late for most of the traditional Christmas feasting, but these are good things to keep in mind especially during these kinds of events.

Book 3, Chapter 10, Sections 1-3:
"...I indeed confess that here consciences neither can nor ought to be bound by fixed and definite laws; but that Scripture having laid down general rules for the legitimate uses we should keep within the limits which they prescribe. 
"2. Let this be our principle, that we err not in the use of the gifts of Providence when we refer them to the end for which their author made and destined them, since he created them for our good, and not for our destruction. No man will keep the true path better than he who shall have this end carefully in view. Now then, if we consider for what end he created food, we shall find that he consulted not only for our necessity, but also for our enjoyment and delight. Thus, in clothing, the end was, in addition to necessity, comeliness and honour; and in herbs, fruits, and trees, besides their various uses, gracefulness of appearance and sweetness of smell. Were it not so, the Prophet would not enumerate among the mercies of God “wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine,” (Ps. 104:15). The Scriptures would not everywhere mention, in commendation of his benignity, that he had given such things to men. The natural qualities of things themselves demonstrate to what end, and how far, they may be lawfully enjoyed. Has the Lord adorned flowers with all the beauty which spontaneously presents itself to the eye, and the sweet odour which delights the sense of smell, and shall it be unlawful for us to enjoy that beauty and this odour? What? Has he not so distinguished colours as to make some more agreeable than others? Has he not given qualities to gold and silver, ivory and marble, thereby rendering them precious above other metals or stones? In short, has he not given many things a value without having any necessary use? 
"3. Have done, then, with that inhuman philosophy which, in allowing no use of the creatures but for necessity, not only maliciously deprives us of the lawful fruit of the divine beneficence, but cannot be realised without depriving man of all his senses, and reducing him to a block. But, on the other hand, let us with no less care guard against the lusts of the flesh, which, if not kept in order, break through all bounds, and are, as I have said, advocated by those who, under pretence of liberty, allow themselves every sort of license. First one restraint is imposed when we hold that the object of creating all things was to teach us to know their author, and feel grateful for his indulgence. Where is the gratitude if you so gorge or stupify yourself with feasting and wine as to be unfit for offices of piety, or the duties of your calling? Where the recognition of God, if the flesh, boiling forth in lust through excessive indulgences infects the mind with its impurity, so as to lose the discernment of honour and rectitude? Where thankfulness to God for clothing, if on account of sumptuous raiment we both admire ourselves and disdain others? if, from a love of show and splendour, we pave the way for immodesty? Where our recognition of God, if the glare of these things captivates our minds? For many are so devoted to luxury in all their senses that their mind lies buried: many are so delighted with marble, gold, and pictures, that they become marble-hearted—are changed as it were into metal, and made like painted figures. The kitchen, with its savoury smells, so engrosses them that they have no spiritual savour. The same thing may be seen in other matters. Wherefore, it is plain that there is here great necessity for curbing licentious abuse, and conforming to the rule of Paul, “make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof,” (Rom. 13:14). Where too much liberty is given to them, they break forth without measure or restraint."
In short, we ought to enjoy the gifts God has given to us, while not being so engrossed in them so as to forget the God that gave them. Don't be an ungrateful ascetic block, and don't be a selfish marble-hearted painted figure.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Irish Story of Cultural Transformation

Here is a great article written by Geoffrey Botkin concerning a story of cultural transformation and family vision in the realm of food and drink:

Alcohol, Movies, and Other "Toxins"
"I am frequently asked questions about the wisdom of training Christians to produce movies. Is it right? Is it merely trying to “Christianize” the things of the world? 
One sincere critic recently wrote in (via the technology of the Internet) with a comment. He compared Christian involvement in filmmaking to this: walking into a room of alcoholics and giving them a list of rules on how they should drink. Then he posed this perfectly legitimate question: 
“Why bother fooling around with alcohol or movies at all? We do not need them. Rather than trying to copy the culture around us, would it not be a better witness to follow the directions in 1 Timothy 2:1-4?” 
In attempting to formulate an answer, I was reminded of a story of a great entrepreneur who once “fooled around” with alcohol in the same way I am working with media. This young entrepreneur believed it was possible to turn the poisonous custom of binge drinking against itself, creating a replacement culture from a lawful institution..."


Friday, December 7, 2012

Rushdoony on the Dietary Laws

R.J. Rushdoony had some insightful things to say concerning the Old Testament dietary laws in his Institutes of Biblical Law, Volume One:

"The [biblical] laws of diet, or kosher laws, are generally well known, but, unfortunately, here as elsewhere man in his perversity sees law, which was ordained as a principle of life, instead as a restraint on life. Moreover, the Biblical principle of eating and drinking is not ascetic: the purpose of food and drink is not merely to maintain life, important as that is, but is a part of the enjoyment of life." [p. 297]

"Ninth, although very obvious rules of health appear in the legal prohibitions, the primary principle of division is religious, of which the medical and hygienic is a subordinate aspect. The terms used are clean and unclean, and the forbidden foods are an abomination; religious and moral purity is clearly in mind, of which hygienic purity is a part." [p. 300]

" Colossians 2:16, 17, there is a clear reference to the dietary laws: 'Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days; Which are a shadow of things to come: but the body is of Christ'...The dietary laws are not legally binding on us, but they do provide us with a principle of operation. The apostles, as they moved into a Gentile world, did not allow diet to be a barrier between them and the Gentiles. If they were served pork or shrimp, they ate it....We do not regard the [biblical] kosher legislation as law today, but we do observe it as a sound rule for health....Our observance of these dietary rules should never be to place a barrier between ourselves and other men but for our health and prosperity in Christ." [p. 301, 302]

Monday, December 3, 2012

Paul's Health Advice

I find this interesting...

While there are various principles in the Bible that refer to health and nutrition, one of the the very few direct instructions concerning health specifically is one that certain Christians in the last two hundred years have directly contradicted:

(Paul writing to Timothy) "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (1 Timothy 5:23).