Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Food Does Not Bring Us Near to God"

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live (1 Cor. 8:4-6)

After hearing this reading in church, my wife whispered in my ear, "That was a strange one." And indeed, the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols is not one that we frequently encounter in 21st century America. However, this text deals with serious matters, and it almost begs to be "demythologized" in the style of Bultmann. And guess what? In 1934, Bultmann delivered a sermon on this text that was later included in Existence and Faith. The sermon, entitled "Faith in God the Creator", is a great example of Bultmann's extraordinary ability to preach the Gospel in context. He notes that the central thrust of Paul's argument is that "Christian freedom has its own limit in loving consideration for the anxious brother." He goes on to say that:
"Paul knows very well that there are many gods and lords; that there are many powers in the world which claim us and whose claim is accepted by men as divine. Ancient men generally thought of this world as the realm in which gods and demons hold sway... Now have all of these ceased to be powers for us? Certainly for us the images of bands of demons and divine figures have come to an end. But have the powers also come to an end whose efficacy and claim once found expression in these images? By no means!

"The gods and lords still hold sway. This is true whether the power in question is the unbending action of natural laws or the vital impulse of the life of nature... It is true whether the power be the world of ideas and ideals, of timeless spirit. Wherever the ultimate reality that gives meaning to our life and demands our worship is seen to lie in these powers, the many gods and lords still hold sway.

"But Paul says of all these powers that they are nothing in the face of the one and only God. He does not say that they are simply nothing and that therefore they could have nothing to do with us; rather he says that they are nothing divine, that they do not have anything decisive to do with us, that they are not what constitutes the basis and meaning of our life."

1 comment:

Patty Lunz said...

But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.