(the opening paragraphs of my recent seminary paper on Food Theology)
The Church is mostly silent while its members suffer not only the same lifestyle related physical consequences of the world, but also succumb to the legalistic false teachings of today’s diet prophets. Some estimate that 350000 people die every year from obesity related disease (Soza 1999, 24) despite 50 billion dollars per year being spent on dieting. Food addictions to caffeine, fat, sugar, and salt are harming church members as much as the more recognized addictions of alcohol or drugs (Russell 2006, 33). Meanwhile, as the Church watches, false prophets are binding contemporary Christians with legalism, guilt, poor hermeneutics, and fear. Whole churches are being enlisted to promote views on health which contradict the Bible (Jacobson 2000, 36-37). Scripture is being twisted to support unproven scientific claims. The false prophets often follow the world’s view of health, that the purpose of life is to promote life rather than to glorify God (O’Mathuna 2001, 42). This leaves Christians in a quandary. The ill and suffering are confused by the conflicting advice. Parents are left with fear and guilt as they attempt to raise their children with good health. Families and churches are broken apart by equating health practices with spiritual maturity while neglecting hospitality. Where in the church is a Biblical worldview proclaimed instead of silence (Platinga)?
The Church Must Speak as a Shepherd
In response to the confusion, deceit, and false teaching prevalent in Christian society today, the church bears responsibility to speak prophetically as a shepherd, asserting a clear theology which frees the oppressed both from legalism and from antinomianism. This responsibility emanates from explicit and implicit Biblical instruction regarding food and the church’s authority over Christians. First, the Bible addresses the topic of food in a variety of settings and for a variety of reasons, giving the church ample guidance by which to declare truth. Second, food and our partaking of it are placed within the bounds of the church’s authority to instruct and to preach. Third, the church can teach on and exert its authority concerning food without transgressing the liberty of Christian conscience.
Food Theology complete paper.