Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Freedom, Liberty, and the Command to "Kill and Eat."

What did you have to eat on the Fourth of July? Here in South Carolina, it was pork barbeque, coleslaw, potato salad, etc. All kinds of things that are probably not healthy and likely to defile the coronary arteries. Freedom and liberty are two of the reasons why we overindulge as we do on holidays, but all that pork made me think about the O.T. prohibitions about certain foods and how these laws are often dragged out when someone tries to trash Biblical moral codes. The "shellfish argument" is one such track that people take when trying to justify the blessing of same sex marriages.

As far as eating pork or shellfish goes, in today's reading from Acts 10:1-16, Peter is commanded three times to "kill and eat" all manner of things.

About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.’ The voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.
If we did not have Peter's vision, how would Christians today feel about the liberty to indulge in pork products? Would there be a group of "orthodox" Christians who eat pulled turkey on the Fourth of July and another group of "liberal" Christians who eat barbequed pork and shrimp?

Would the "liberal" pork eaters ask the "orthodox" to bless their meal?

Would the pork eaters pass a resolution at a General Convention of the church to provide for liturgies for the blessing of their dinner?


  1. Those who trot out the dietary rules quickly run to the hills when you start talking about the (first) Council of Jerusalem.

    Some years ago, I read a book by a women who argued that Christians should follow Jewish dietary laws, so there are those "ultra orthodox" people out there.


  2. Such ultra-orthodox would go hungry around here.

  3. The pork and shellfish eaters would call for an open-ended listening process, that would keep the talking points flying for a decade or more. Canards of of Carideaphobe would fly. Sooner or later, blogs like Padre Charlie's clam bake on would be burnin' up the the web's bandwith.

  4. Andy,

    And imagine what kind of banner would they display, the swine!

  5. There is a reasonable debate from the Messianic crowd that Peter's vision should not be extended to literal dietary issues since the context makes clear other things were intended. A favorite takeaway comment is "You can't actually eat a vision." What's more, Peter does not do so in his dream. Instead: "while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate." So, the argument goes, the vision is about men, not food.

    More problematic (at least for blood products) for a liberal interpretation is the Council of Jerusalem (and I do so love black pudding).
    The proof text par excellence for abolishing all dietary restrictions is Mark 7:19 (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

  6. Eric,

    I had not heard that (first) argument before. Thanks for the inputand eat hearty!

  7. At the risk of beating a dead horse (which is more kosher than eating a dead horse), I note with interest that, even in the vision, Peter is told to "kill" and eat. Besides blood, there is a total prohibition against consuming still living animals and those who have died "of themselves." These three prohibitions are irrespective of the sort of animal eaten.
    Blood, death, and life tread very close to the mystery of salvation, both in typology and fulfillment. They seem to be big "no-go" areas throughout the Bible.
    Just wondering aloud.
    Does anyone have any thoughts?