There are many things we don't normally talk about here on Baylyblog, some of which we do talk about in person, in sermons and elders meetings, and at home. One of these is the diets and food fads regularly coursing through our congregations. Everything God created is good, and to be recevied from Him with thanksgiving. But try telling that to the daughters of Carrie Nation in our congregations whose purpose in life is to keep track of unclean foods.
Back in the late nineties it was Weigh Down. Evangelical women across the country jumped on board and began confessing their gluttony. They lost some weight for a few days, but the fad died when the heresy of Weigh Down's prophetess, Gwen Shamblin, was exposed. "People don't care about the Trinity," Shamblin said, and over the next couple months most of the pounds went back on.
Since then there have been a succession of foodie-spiritualie fads. Recently I've heard the quest for sanctification in some PCA churches has veered into the neo-vegan program, Forks over Knives ("ORDER NOW!"). Their name is an allusion to the spiritual superiority of food eaten with forks to food cut with knives. Think spinach and parsley over chicken and beef. Of course the souls caught up in these Quests for Higher Life deny their disciplines have anything to do with moral or spiritual purity, but the fervor of their evangelization of others and their testimonies of body purification belie their words. What awful church feasts their fellow congregants must endure!
The mother-of-all food fads today is, of course, gluten intolerance...
A couple days ago a PCA elder described his recent visit to the Acts 29 mother church, Mars Hill in Seattle. He said the sermon was a pre-recorded video by Mark Driscoll (he could tell the video had been edited), and the Lord's Supper was served by women who stood down in front holding two kinds of bread and two kinds of wine. The congregant could choose for himself either regular or gluten-free bread and either wine or grape juice.
A year or two ago, our session spent many hours dealing with this issue and we decided we were not going to offer a menu at the Lord's Table. It was our judgment that offering a menu could well turn the Lord's Supper from a meal of unity into a meal of individualism-bordering-on-division. We did our work diligently, assigning our elder-physician the task of researching gluten intolerance, gluten allergy, gluten withdrawal, gluten hyper-reactive syndrome, gluten alienation, glutenism, gluten reattachment degeneration disorder, and so on. He read and read. He consulted with our city's largest practice specializing in gastrointestinal diseases. The subject was on our session agenda for months, and in the end, we decided we would stick with one bread and one cup (which is to say one kind of bread and one kind of wine).
We lost a dear family as the result of this decision, and that was very sad. Yet it was our conviction there would be no end to the sort of food fads and sensitivities and intolerances we'd be asked to make allowances for in the future. And it was the combined wisdom of those we consulted that our practice presented no significant obstacle to someone with gluten intolerance or wheat allergies. Gluten intolerance could be addressed in ways other than offering options that divided the church at the Table of our Lord. We offered those options but they were declined. (It needs to be said that we were not dealing with celiac disease, although the options we proposed would have served well with those suffering from this malady, also.)
If your life is ordered around clean and unclean foods, may I prevail upon you to read this Scripture, please?
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1Timothy 4:1-8)