Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The God of the Old Testament is a Butcher, because the Christ of the New is a Chef

I'm inherently suspicious of anything that claims to be a panacea, nevertheless, Mike Bull sums up our queezy feelings of confusion towards the Old Testament well and offers the beginnings of a solution. He has written a book called "God's Kitchen" to help us 21st Century people overcome our dreadful modern blindness...

In his introduction he says...
The Best Cuts
The Bible is a violent, bloody book, and modern Christians have a problem with that. Atheists are right to accuse us of being embarrassed by our own scriptures. 
Not only is the Bible a bloody book, it is "unscientific" and therefore an irrational vestige of an intolerant and inequitable religion as far as modern society is concerned. 
Without the Old Testament, however, it is impossible to interpret the world rightly. Science cuts things up and tells us what they are made of, but its scope is limited when it comes to telling us what they are actually for.

Modern theologians are not much better when it comes to the "world" of the Bible. The constraint of their scientistic mindset leaves them struggling, clueless, with what the Apostle Paul means by the term "flesh," and yet also struggling with the significance of the careful instructions for the head, skin, flesh, offal, fat and legs of the sacrificial animals in Leviticus. The relevance of the fact that these fleshly animals were blameless substitutes for sinful, fleshly men entirely escapes them. Darwinism didn't only rewrite history; it usurped the intended, holy purpose of homology
The emaciated theology that remains to us is divorced from the real world. Peter Leithart writes: 
"Theology is a 'Victorian' enterprise, neoclassically bright and neat and clean, nothing out of place. Whereas the Bible talks about hair, blood, sweat, entrails, menstruation and genital emissions... Ponder these questions: Do theologians talk about the world the same way the Bible does? Do theologians talk about the same world the Bible does?"

And yet, ironically, this divorce directly affects the real world. Cultus inevitably informs culture. Many Westerners anxiously strip the bloody flesh from their menus precisely because we Christians have stripped it from our religion.
Even the meatiest Christians, the respectable evangelicals, present a Christianity that is far cleaner and far leaner than the bloody history in the Book they claim to represent. They have developed a taste for cold, waxen theologies entirely distracted from the flesh-and-blood world of the Bible. They spend their time squabbling over the nuances of their own abstract definitions of isolated crumbs. They traffic in thickening agents and food extenders and package their pasty, bloated tomes for sale as royal feasts for the starving soul. 
Certainly, there is some meat to be thankful for, but modern congregations prefer their theology to be served precut, pre-marinated and even pre-digested where possible. It appears as if by magic in tidy cling-wrapped trays or microwaveable bags.

Our hearts desire--and require--meat, but we moderns are too squeamish to be concerned with the "primitive" processes of God. We are too busy, or too lazy, to cut and chew, and we wonder why our Gospel seems to have lost its teeth. Why is so much preaching so bad? Because only a blameless, bloodied, sacrificial lamb is worthy to open the scroll.
Just as urban school children take excursions to farms to discover the origins of the food in the supermarket, so modern Christians urgently need a raw experience of the Old Testament to truly understand the Gospel of Christ. 
The need of the hour is a fresh return to interpreting the world in the light of the Scriptures. Real theology deals with the physical, with milk and honey, flesh and blood, bread, oil and wine. It is nourishment for children, wisdom for kings, and courage for prophets.

Throughout history, the Word of God has been given to build the Church. As with our own fleshly bodies, we need not be ashamed of anything in the Bible. As with the Body of Christ, every part of it has a holy purpose.
This little book is spiritual meat, and it begins where all meat does: not at the dinner table, not in the kitchen, nor even at the market. It begins in the abattoir.

Its roots go back even further than the slaughterhouse to a very fruitful field. The ruminations of James Jordan, Peter Leithart and Douglas Wilson have cured me of the gnosticism I inherited from my culture, and given me a deeper appreciation of the Scriptures, the natural world, the activities of human life, and the salient Words built into every created thing. The following work may be less of a dish prepared from their raw materials than it is simply playing with my food. Or perhaps the discipline of writing has presented a means of chewing it up, of working out its implications. Whatever its faults, this material is served in the hope that it will further feed the biblical imagination.
None of the following articles is raw, but some might be half-baked, and other offerings may be overdone, however, God loves a messy kitchen. He withholds many certainties from us for good reason. We are called to unearth and to experiment with what He has provided; to discover (within biblical bounds) new tastes and novel combinations appropriate to the needs of the hour; to develop a mature sense (as His royal cupbearers) that discerns between good and evil; and, most importantly of all, to present or serve the results of our faithful labors at the Table of the Nations. Explorative theology is a form of gratitude to the Father, whom it pleased to give us freely His only Son as Bread and Wine, stature and wisdom, the foundation and celebration of all abundant living. 
In one way or another, all of the following essays are written in blood. Each is a variation on the fundamental theme of the Bible, which is the movement from Creation to Glorification. God speaks something (or someone) into being, sets it apart, cuts it up, and makes something (or someone) new out of it. We see this in the Creation Week, in the construction of Eve, in the building of the nation of Israel, in the Eucharist, in the death and resurrection of Christ, and of course, in the shape of the entire Bible. I call this the "Bible Matrix." Of necessity, this book contains occasional references to this structure because it is the way God does everything He does. For those who are unfamiliar with it, I have included some "kitchen utensils" at the end of this introduction. 
Perhaps more relevant is the fact that we see this same pattern in the process of sacrifice. God gave us food to teach us about life and death. God gave us sacrifice to teach us about death and resurrection. Jordan observes that the Ascension Offering in Leviticus 1 is a recapitulation of the Creation Week, but carried out in flesh and blood. Through the microcosmic world of Israel's priesthood and Tabernacle, God was indeed already making all things new. It was "liturgical surgery." The history of God's people is preparation for a macrocosmic feast. 
Every constructive process carried out by Man follows a similar pattern to that laid down by the Creator. This means that focusing on food as a foundation for biblical studies is not a perverse idea. The history of Man begins with two fruit trees, and a single commandment pertaining to food. We prepare food for ourselves as God prepares us for Himself. This book is not so much about food as it is about us as holy sacrificial food. The art of cooking is close to the heart of the God who is a consuming fire. At the very least, I hope this little book gives you a greater appetite for God, the original and final host. 
So, take a seat. Peruse the menu. The food here is unusual, and the chef is moody, but no one ever leaves without having tried something new.

The drinks waiter will be with you directly.

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