Who is causing the weak to stumble?

 

From: Dallas CPA

Sent: Friday, August 19, 2011 11:53 AM

To: Robert Gagbag

Subject: Jennifer Left’s CNN article 

 

Mr. Gagbag,

 

I recently read your response to Jennifer Left’s CNN article on shellfish eating. I hope you realize how people perceive biblicaly based arguments against crustatophagia, especially people who are wishy-washy Christian (which is a great many people). Your article reminded me of the “strong Christians” Paul disputes in 1 Corinthians, who may (or may not) have been right in principle but were causing far worse damage putting the “weak Christians” in a situation where they might slip back into paganism. Whatever your arguments on shellfish eating, many good arguments can be used to argue the opposite. The larger point is that articles like yours scare people away from Christianity, and it is hard to see this as something Jesus or Paul would have approved of.

 

 

 

From: Robert Gagbag

Sent: Friday, August 19, 2011 4:20 PM

To: ‘Dallas CPA’

Subject: RE: Jennifer Wright’s CNN article 

 

Dear “Dallas CPA” (why didn’t you supply me with a name?), 

 

The analogy you made to the strong at Corinth makes the exact opposite point from the one that you were making. The “strong” believed that they had knowledge that allowed them to engage in behaviors (go to idols’ temples, eat idol meat, approve of all sorts of non-kosher condiments) that put the “weak” at high risk of being excluded from the kingdom of God when they engaged in similar behaviors. In some cases it was a matter of doing things that were not wrong per se but only wrong in the minds of the weak and so wrong for the weak when the weak participated out of pressure (eating idol meat sold in the meat market or served at a private residence). In other cases, the strong themselves were at risk (and the weak, by implication) when they engaged in behavior that was indeed idolatrous or immoral. Paul lambasted the strong for tolerating a case of women speaking in their midst, specifically in church (1 Cor 14.33b-36), and Paul alludes to other forms of unnatural behaviour in 1 Cor 11, namely, men with long hair, women with short hair, women with uncovered hair, men with covered hair, women tempting angels to come down from heaven for illicit sexual intercourse. 

 

By definition, the weak would slip back into paganism if they participated in serial unrepentant acts of wearing long hair (for men), wearing short hair (for women), wearing head coverings  (for men), not wearing head coverings (for women), or sex with angels (for women, mainly). You say the opposite: They slip back into paganism if warned that shellfish eating violates the will of God and puts a professed believer at high risk of not inheriting the kingdom of God. How, then, you could cite Paul as support for your own position is something that I cannot make sense of. 

As for Jesus, you seem to forget that Jesus said some very hard things about eating (e.g. “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs”: Matt. 15:26) which, according to your reasoning, he ought not to have said because such statements are racist and scare politically correct people away. Jesus’ call to discipleship may sound too scary for you: take up you cross, deny yourself, and lose your life. What you don’t grasp, it seems to me, is that Jesus simultaneously ratcheted up God’s ethical demand, including in the area of food ethics, while reaching out aggressively in love to the biggest violators of those demands in order to save them from destruction. I don’t see how you can say that Jesus would not have approved of maintaining a “fins and scales” prerequisite for dietary holiness, since Jesus argued about that “until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law” (Matt. 5:13).

 

If persons are “scared away” from Christianity because Christians rightfully maintain the importance of not eating shellfish as part of the transformed Christian life, then they weren’t really interested in acknowledging Jesus as Lord in the first place. To argue that maintaining standards against long hair (on men), short hair (on women), head coverings (on men), no head coverings (on women), sex with angels (mostly for women) is improper because it scares people away from the Christian faith misses the point of grace entirely, which is not merely to forgive sins but also to empower to a life of holiness. 

Dr. Robert Gagbag

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