Kosher, part 1: The Root of Obedience

Althoughmy primary topicis diet, first I should address the question of obedience to Torah in general. Actually, I should say “obedience to God,” because that’s really what this is about.The Torah holds no power of its own. It cannot condemn me or any other believer in Yeshua. (Forgive my use of the more Hebraic pronounciation. I’ve been using it so long that “Jesus” sounds too unnatural to me.) Our allegiance–our obligation of obedience–is to God and not to any written code. I do not obey out of a desire to earn salvation or to be righteous on my own merit. That would be impossible. No one can save himself or make himself righteous. I obey, because that’s what I believe God wants me to do. (Does that make me more righteous? Well, perhaps more righteous than I would be otherwise, but it’s a bit like trying to light the dark side of the moon with a pen light.) I just finished reading Ecclesiastes through a couple of times, and Solomon said it much better than I ever could. He wrote that all the sacrifice, all the upright living, all the generosity, all the kindness one could ever do amounts to nothing next to obedience to God. So if anyone is tempted to tell warn me that my salvation is in jeapordy because of my obedience, just relax. Take a cue from Triton, and don’t get so excited.You don’t have to agree with me, but at least acknowledge that stricter obedience is my prerogative.

Every major Christian denomination for the last 1800 years has believed that God’s dietary laws were repealed by Jesus. Therefore, when I say the opposite, I realize that I am making an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary proof. I have a great deal of respect for the early church fathers, and I believe that their testimony is important, but theirwritings are not on a par with previous scripture. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits to see if they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Perhaps “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,” but not everyone who confesses so teaches accurate theology. Everything the church fathers said and wrote must be weighed against God’s words. Where there is a contradiction, God’s words must take precedence.

In fact, I will go one step further. All scripture must be understood in light of previous scripture. Samuel will not contradict Moses, Jeremiah will not contradict Samuel, and Paul will not contradict Jeremiah. The one might clarify the other, for example, Yeshua clarified Moses’ writings on divorce, punishment, and life-after-death. He did not, however, contradict. If Paul ever taught contrary to Yeshua, then Paul was a false teacher, at least on that topic. The same goes for Ignatius or Origen or Augustine.

The Torah makes no distinction between moral, civil, and ceremonial law. At best, these are abstract, logical distinctions. They are not found in the Torah nor anywhere else in the Bible, but only in the writings of theologians. The truth is that all of the individual statues–every single one of them–are outgrowths of one: “Love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your spirit, and with all your mind,” which Yeshua called the first and greatest commandment. The second commandment is a corollary of the first: Love your neighbor as yourself, because you and he are both made in the image of God. If I love God, I must also love my neighbor. These are the overriding principles of the Torah. The first commandment leads to the second. Those two lead to the Ten Commandments and all the rest. With sufficient knowledge of the workings of the spiritual and physical universes, all of the rules contained in the Torah could be derived by reason from the first two. (With a few possible exceptions, but those aren’t relevant to my purposes.) Yeshua said that all of the Law and the Prophets (aka the Tanakh) depends on the two great commands, and Paul said that all of us have sinned. James told us that anyone who breaks one small point of the law is guilty of breaking the entire thing. Every commandment loves your neighbor, respects God, draws you closer to God, so that they each make up small parts of a unified whole.

If I do not obey for salvation, and I do not obey to make myself righteous, then why do I bother to obey at all? Partly out of self interest (The Torah teaches us how to live at peace with ourselves and each other.), partly because of tradition (I was brought up to keep most of the ten commandments and much of the rest of God’s Law.), but most importantly, I obey because I love God. So when I say that Christians are required to abstain from pork, you have to understand me from this perspective and ask yourself, “Required for what?” The answer is deceptively simple and cliche in ourculture of feel-good new-agism, but it’s still true: love.

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

If you love God, keep his commandments.

Kosher, part 2: Are Dietary Laws Obsolete?…later.

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2 Responses to Kosher, part 1: The Root of Obedience

  1. MikeT says:

    I would urge you to be cautious on one point. If Paul is wrong on something, and that something is in the canonical Bible, it sets a dangerous precedent. How do you know, then, that **any** of that writing of Paul’s was written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
    I prefer to believe that the Holy Spirit only reveals on the basis of pure truth. Now, my understanding of the outcome of the debates in Jerusalem is a tad fuzzy, since it’s been a while since I’ve read Acts, but gentiles are the ones who don’t have to abide by kosher dietary rules. A good argument could be made that messianic Jews have to keep kosher, but gentiles were told that they didn’t have to follow all of the Mosaic Law.
    Now, if that ruling is wrong, well, I guess we ought to reconsider whether Acts is canonical, eh?
    Lastly, I would also remind you that the gospels were written down by Jesus’ disciples, not Jesus. If we cannot trust their later writings to be 100% Holy Spirit-approved, we cannot trust that the gospels are anything other than a load of bumkiss either.

  2. jay c says:

    I agree. I do not believe any of Paul’s writings recorded in the canonical Scriptures to be in error.
    As for gentile converts keeping Torah, see my comments on Acts 15, and James’ reference to Moses’ being read in the synagogues on every shabbat. I do not believe he ruled that gentiles do not need to keep kosher, only that it is not necessary for salvation and that it could wait on each believer’s personal progress.

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