Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to dispute over doubtful things.
For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.
Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.
Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. [Romans 14:1-4*]
More and more frequently, I am encountering an incursion of an ancient heresy I shall call for the sake of this blog, “Diet-ism.” Those who deal with eating disorders have a new name for it, “orthorexia.” It is a disorder in which people have a compulsion/obsession with only eating certain foods deemed to be correct.
It is nothing new in the experience of the church. Paul and Barnabas had to deal with it in the form of Judaizers in Antioch and Galatia who attempted to teach believers that they had to abide by the kisruth laws in the Mosaic code. They had to deal with it in the church of Rome because vegans were seating themselves in the judgment seat of Christ asserting their moral superiority over those who were not vegans, while the non-vegans were looking down their noses at the vegans for not enjoying their freedom in Christ.
“Diet-ism” takes many contemporary forms. One form, experienced in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [aka, the Mormons] follows a dictate from their founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., which dictates that, “And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.” [Doctrine and Covenants 89:9, Utah Edition]ŧ With this command, that group deems it inappropriate for members to drink coffee or tea. While some believe this is because coffee and tea contain caffeine, the rule specifically states “hot drinks,” and is inconsistently applied. For example, there is no prohibition against consuming other beverages served hot, such as cocoa, herbal teas, Postum [a coffee substitute made from roasted grain and chicory], or hot spiced apple cider. Nor is it caffeine which is cited as the reason for the prohibition because there is no proscription against drinking carbonated beverages which contain caffeine [such as most cola drinks, Doctor Pepper, Mountain Dew, and even some fruit-flavored carbonated beverages]. This leads to an interesting [yet trivial] conundrum for Mormons: since the proscription specifies “hot drinks” and not caffeinated beverages, could a Mormon consume iced tea or frappecino without violating their moral code?
And while Mormons may not be excommunicated for failing to follow these provisions, strict adherence to the provisions is a requirement if one wishes to participate in their temple ceremonies. Failure to participate or being banned from participation in temple ceremonies means one will not experience deification–at least according to their view.
Another form of “Diet-ism” is found in Sabbatarian sects like the Seventh Day Adventists, the Seventh Day Church of God, and the Worldwide Church of God, all of which espouse avoidance of pork, shellfish, and other meats deemed unclean under the Old Testament law—in a revival of the Judaizing which Paul condemned at Antioch and Galatia. Many Seventh Day Adventists go even further by insisting that ALL meat should be avoided and that God only approves of a vegan diet.
This latter form of the heresy is now surfacing in the “evangelical” church. Rick Warren, that guru of the gospel of self-actualization, now promotes what he calls “the Daniel Plan,” a plan he developed in partnership with a practitioner of witchcraft, Dr. Mahmet Oz.ŧŧ
Warren’s partnership with a practitioner of witchcraft directly disobeys New Testament teaching [2 Corinthians 6:14-17]–but disobedience to Scripture commands and teaching is nothing new for Warren since his entire ministry is built on promoting a thoroughly unbiblical view of man and the Person and Work of Christ.
But where Warren’s brand of diet-ism becomes heretical is the fact that he uses this man-made plan as a means for determining who is to be accepted as a “serious” [aka “spiritual”] believer—presumably those who do not participate are deemed to be unspiritual.
It is this latter view which makes Warren’s practice even more heretical. He places himself as a judge of others over the issue of food—a practice specifically prohibited by the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul in Romans 14:1-4, and again in Colossians 2:16: So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.
Yet another manifestation of diet-ism is the more recent view which claims people should only eat organic foods or should eschew any foods which might contain GMO ingredients. Proponents of this view make unfounded claims that organic/non-GMO foods are “better” [i.e., healthier] for people than non-organic/GMO foods.
There are two basic problems with this view. The first is that there is no objective, peer-reviewed research following accepted protocols which justifies the claims that foods grown/processed according to organic “standards” are nutritionally superior to non-organic foods. Nor is there any research to substantiate the claims that GMO foods are dangerous for human consumption. What is presented as “research” is anecdotal evidence which is non-verifiable, non-replicable, and cannot prove even a statistical correlation between health and consumption of organic/non-GMO foods vs. inorganic/GMO foods, let alone causation. And the so-called “experts” cited in such “studies” are not trained scientists in fields such as biochemistry, genetics, or other accepted disciplines—but instead have “doctorates” in such fields as “spiritual nutrition” and “zen biology” from diploma mill schools. The fact that Doctor Oz, the so-called “health professional” who advances this nonsense, is a noted practitioner of Reiki [a form of witchcraft], besides the fact that he also relies solely on anecdotal evidence, completely invalidates any statement he might have on the issues. As noted earlier, Doctor Oz is also the main architect behind the “Daniel Plan” being shilled by another huckster of occult name-it/claim-it nonsense, Rick Warren.
So what do we do when we are confronted by “believers” who promote orthorexia as an indication of Christian orthodoxy?
The first thing we must do is recognize that until and unless one has irrefutable scientific proof [not mere speculation or suspicions because one is truly ignorant of the science involved], that non-organic/GMO foods are toxic, the people touting any form of orthorexia are speaking in opposition to our liberty in Christ.
Jesus Himself spoke to the issue: So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” [Mark 7:18-19]
Of course, the argument could be made that Jesus was only referring to the issue of meat from animals previously deemed unclean—but that ignores the fact that orthorexics are, by and large, vegans. And I have encountered many such who vilify those of us who see no moral problem with consuming meat.
Paul went further to state in the passage cited above from Romans that those who are vegans are not to place themselves in judgment over those who choose not to be. And those who are not vegans are not to look down on those who are.
Unfortunately, orthorexics do just that. At a recent church family camp, I overheard one orthorexic telling people that GMOs are poisonous and anyone who eats GMO foods is killing themselves [and by implication–such people are sinning]. Now this person has no formal training in any scientific discipline—having only a high school education—and her knowledge is not based on any peer-reviewed research which supports her statements. Except for one study, all peer-reviewed research shows that GMOs are safe for human consumption—the only study which shows GMOs to be “possibly toxic” was rejected by the British Academy of Science because it was procedurally flawed, thereby rendering the conclusions worthless since the results have never been replicated.
Basically, the people who fall prey to this type of nutritional paranoia are scientifically illiterate and prone to gullibility when it comes to conspiracy theories. They hear or read something which fuels their paranoia, look up some articles via Google which support their paranoid conspiracy theories, and then build a pseudo-theological framework to rationalize their paranoia.
An example of this paranoia can be found at websites such as http://www.responsibletechnoloy.org, which regularly posts hysterical warnings of the dangers of GMO foods. The problem is that the person who operates this website, one Jeffrey Smith, has no scientific credentials, and the “evidence” he claims to support his paranoid conspiracy theories is undocumented and therefore unverifiable. The problem is compounded by the fact that this self-proclaimed expert is then the one cited as authoritative by the other conspiracy theorists to support their paranoia. Such paranoid thought processes steeped in conspiracy theories and presented in hysterical, apocalyptic tones are reminiscent of the King James Only cultists like Peter Ruckman and Tex Marr.
Contrary to the beliefs of orthorexics and those who promote orthorexia in the church—people like Rick Warren and Doctor Oz–eating meat does not make a person less spiritually mature, nor does eating a vegan diet bring one closer to God. [1 Corinthians 8:8]
If anything, the practice of orthorexia become in and of itself a sin, because it divides the body of Christ in a manner not justified in Scripture.
I cannot repeat this enough: As believers, we are commanded in Scripture not to hold in contempt or judge as unworthy anyone whose dietary practices differ from ours.
Those same people claim otherwise, but let me demonstrate how subtly the process works:
In 1 Corinthians 10:25-28, the principle is laid out that if we are invited to someone’s house for a meal, we are not to kick up a fuss about the source of the food. Paul’s specific reference here is to meat offered up as a sacrifice to an idol and then sold in the marketplace. But there is an application here for the “I only eat organic/non-GMO foods” cult: when someone invites you to their home for a meal, you do not ask whether or not the host/ess is only going to prepare organic/non-GMO foods. Now as a host, I would want to make certain there are no medical dietary restrictions such as whether or not a guest might have GIRD, Coeliac Disease, diabetes, lactose intolerance or food allergies, and plan accordingly. For friends who are vegans, I would of course, prepare a vegan meal—but I am not going to strain my bank account and consume massive amounts of time and energy to make sure every single item I prepare has been certified as organic and non-GMO just to assuage someone with orthorexia. My view here is, eat what’s set before you without question, or just don’t bother to come over.
Paul goes even further to say that those who promote orthorexia in the church are promoting a doctrine which originated with demons, not Scripture. [1 Timothy 4:1-5].
This means that when we are not under any compulsion to limit our diets to suit the orthorexics, who, by definition of Scripture, are manifesting a form of immaturity. However, we do not judge them or despise them, but we call them to respect our liberty in Christ.
*Unless otherwise noted, all passages are from the Holy Bible: New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
ŧTo be distinguished from the “Independence Edition,” followed by the Community of Christ [formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints]
ŧŧDr. Oz practices an occult art called “Reiki” in which he invokes a familiar spirit to control his body in order to diagnose diseases and perform surgeries.