THE CLEAR WORD ON FOOD

 

BY STEPHEN PITCHER

 

This article is a chapter from a forthcoming book by Stephen Pitcher comparing the Seventh-day Adventist publication The Clear Word, “an expanded paraphrase” of the Bible written by the former chairman of the theology department at Southern Adventist University, Jack Blanco, with standard translations of Scripture. Comparisons are between The Clear Word (TCW) and the English Standard Version (ESV). Also included in some comparisons are The Easy English Clear Word (TEECW) and The Clear Word for Kids (TCWK).

 

In this article, we will show how The Clear Word reflects the Adventist teaching about clean and unclean foods and vegetarianism and compare The Clear Word’s rendering of God’s word with Scripture. To set the stage, we will begin by quoting from the Adventist’s Fundamental Belief #22 on Christian behavior:

Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures.1

Adventism’s 28 Fundamental Beliefs are published with “insider” commentary in the book Seventh-day Adventists Believe. This book is not primarily intended for public use but is distributed for Adventist members to be able to understand Adventism’s true interpretation of its carefully-worded statements of belief. On page 319 of this book, we find this explanation of Adventism’s requirement that members observe the Old Testament clean and unclean food laws as explained in Leviticus 11:

The New Testament did not abolish the distinction between the clean and unclean flesh foods. Some believe that because these dietary laws are mentioned in Leviticus, they are merely ceremonial or ritualistic, so are no longer valid for Christians. Yet the distinction between clean and unclean animals dates back to Noah’s day [we will deal with Noah later in this chapter]—long before Israel existed. As principles of health, these dietary laws carry with them an ongoing obligation.2

Adventists teach that God gave Moses the commands concerning clean and unclean foods for purposes of health. Admittedly, eating healthfully is a good practice, but God did not mandate the clean/unclean distinction to keep Israel healthy. The Lord specifically states in Leviticus 11:44–45:

For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.3

The purpose of identifying the clean from the unclean animals was to “consecrate” Israel, distinguishing them from the nations that surrounded them. The purpose was holiness, not health; God intentionally separated Israel from the surrounding cultures. Adventists, on the other hand, have confused eating healthfully with holy living, but biblical holiness involves being separated from the world and set apart for God. If Israel could not eat gentile foods, they would be forced to remain socially distant from the pagans. Intimate relationships would be impossible if they could not share table fellowship.

 

The Bible says

Because Adventists anchor their “health message” in the Garden of Eden, we begin our comparison of their teachings with Scripture by looking at Genesis. We will then conclude with a comparison of New Testament texts.

The original diet is recorded in Genesis 1:29, 2:9, 16–17. As the late Walter Martin stated in his lectures, “There weren’t any trees in the Garden of Eden that sprouted steaks.”4 Scripture, therefore, reveals the vegetarian diet Adam and Eve were given in their unfallen state:

Genesis 1:29: And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”

Genesis 2:9: And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:16: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Again, quoting from Seventh-day Adventists Believe we read:

The diet God ordained in the Garden of Eden—the vegetarian diet—is the ideal, but sometimes we cannot have the ideal. In those circumstances, in any given situation or locale, those who wish to stay in optimum health will eat the best food that they can obtain.5

The original diet given to mankind was vegetarian. One might even make a case they had a vegan diet, although we do not know whether or not Adam and Eve ate animal products such as milk and eggs.

As we know, however, Adam and Eve transgressed the command of the Lord (Gen. 2:17) by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They discovered that they were naked and ashamed, and they fashioned coverings for themselves. Their next encounter with God resulted in God’s providing clothes for the two made from the skin of an animal, and then He banished them from the Garden.

Following their expulsion, we see that Abel was a shepherd, tending flocks of sheep. Genesis 4:2 simply states:

And again, she [Eve] bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.

Although Scripture does not state whether or not Adam’s family ate meat, the context of the third and fourth chapters of Genesis suggests that they did use animals for sacrifices and for clothes. It is not impossible that they also ate the meat of the sheep that shepherds such as Abel tended; nevertheless, it is speculative to suggest that they did.

Adventism teaches what Ellen White said: “Only after the Flood did God introduce flesh as food. With all vegetation destroyed, God gave Noah and his family permission to eat flesh foods, stipulating that they were not to eat the blood in the meat (Gen. 9:3–5)”.6 However, Ellen White’s reasoning is equally speculative. Nowhere does Scripture state that God allowed man to eat meat because vegetation had been destroyed, and nowhere does Scripture state that the antediluvian world did not eat meat.

Interestingly, Jack Blanco inserts many words into The Clear Word that are derived from Ellen White’s commentary—words that are not even suggested in Scripture—as he explains the supposed difference between Cain’s and Abel’s sacrifices.

 

Genesis 4:3-5

The Clear Word

As they worshiped week by week, Cain brought the fruits of the field as an offering to the Lord—symbolic of his own labor and given as a favor to God. He refused to ask his brother for a lamb in order to sacrifice an offering as the Lord had instructed his parents to do. But Abel brought a lamb to the Lord, and God accepted Abel’s offering because it pointed forward to the One who would give His life for man. Abel understood the principle of redemption and, by his obedience, showed faith in what God had promised to do.

But Cain’s offering was not acceptable to God. He saw no need for the sacrifice of blood. He believed that offering the fruit of his labor was all that mattered. When Cain realized that God was not pleased with his offering, he not only became upset with God, but blamed his brother as well. As time went on, he became increasingly angry.

English Standard Version

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.

Blanco’s addition does not make the word of God more “clear.” Instead, it adds information from Ellen White that makes the understanding of offerings more complicated. In fact, we find that Blanco took his ideas directly from Ellen White:

Cain brought his offering unto the Lord with murmuring and infidelity in his heart in regard to the promised Sacrifice. He was unwilling to strictly follow the plan of obedience, and procure a lamb and offer it with the fruit of the ground. He merely took of the fruit of the ground, and disregarded the requirement of God. God had made known to Adam that without shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin. Cain was not particular to bring even the best of the fruits. Abel advised his brother not to come before the Lord without the blood of a sacrifice. Cain being the eldest, would not listen to his brother. He despised his counsel, and with doubt and murmuring in regard to the necessity of the ceremonial offerings, he presented his offering. But God did not accept it.7

When Cain saw that his offering was rejected, he was angry with the Lord and with Abel; he was angry that God did not accept man’s substitute in place of the sacrifice divinely ordained, and angry with his brother for choosing to obey God instead of joining in rebellion against Him.8

 

When God added meat

In the story of Noah we find the text of The Clear Word modified to suit the purposes of the Adventist organization. Noah’s story is told in Genesis 6 through 9, including the account of the worldwide flood that wiped out all humanity except for the eight in the ark. Following the flood, God gave Noah new diet instructions which included “everything”. Notice the contrast between the way TCW tells of this new instruction and the way Scripture recounts it:

 

Genesis 9:3

The Easy English Clear Word and The Clear Word for Kids

Some animals will provide food for you and your families. So from now on you may eat meat as well as vegetables.

The Clear Word

Many of these animals will provide food for you, and from now on you may eat meat as well as vegetables.

English Standard Version

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

Rather than allowing Noah and his family to eat any “moving thing”, TCW has limited the animals to “many,” not all, while TEECW only states that “some animals will provide food for you.” This wording is intentional in order not to contradict the diet given in Leviticus 11. Adventism cannot allow Noah to eat “every moving thing” because Adventism teaches that the dietary restrictions are not only for Israel, but for all God’s people. Their reasoning goes something like this: prior to the flood, the whole world was vegetarian. After the flood, God allowed people to eat meat—but only clean meat. Because God designated that Noah take seven of every clean animal into the ark but only two of every unclean animal, Adventists say this detail shows that Noah had clean meat restrictions on his diet.

In fact, Noah was not an Israelite—nor was there yet a nation of Israel. Nowhere does Scripture hint that the distinction between clean and unclean animals on the ark means Noah was only allowed to eat clean ones. Moreover, Scripture is explicit: God gave Noah “every moving thing that lives” for food. Adventist teaching opposes this clear biblical provision, as we see in Seventh-day Adventists Believe:

Another stipulation Scripture implies that God gave Noah was that he and his family were to eat only what God identified as clean animals.9

The Seventh-day Adventist organization not only teaches that it was in Noah’s day when the clean and unclean animal “health laws” were given, but Adventists teach that those laws remain an obligation to believers today:

The New Testament did not abolish the distinction between the clean and unclean flesh foods. Some believe that because these dietary laws are mentioned in Leviticus, they are merely ceremonial or ritualistic, so are no longer valid for Christians. Yet the distinction between clean and unclean animals dates back to Noah’s day—long before Israel existed. As principles of health, these dietary laws carry with them an ongoing obligation.10

The above statement is simply untrue. First, as we have already discussed, the clean/unclean food laws were not principles of health. Second, the Bible is extremely clear that those laws do not “carry with them an ongoing obligation”. Those food laws were given as part of God’s covenant with Israel which is known as the Mosaic covenant. This covenant contained laws about which foods the Israelites could eat and which they could not for purposes of holiness and separation.

Moreover, the Mosaic covenant was only for Israel. It does not apply to Christians who are born again in Christ. In fact, when we look at the New Testament, we learn about food in ways that shocked both the Jews and Jesus’ disciples. Let’s look, for example, at Mark 7:19—the first instance in the New Testament where all foods are declared clean. This is a problematic passage for Adventism, so finding a problem with the rendering in The Clear Word is no surprise. We will compare this passage not only with the rendering in the ESV but also with that of the popular paraphrase, The Message:

 

Mark 7:18b,19

The Clear Word

“Can’t you see that whatever goes into a man from the outside, like dirt from his unwashed hands, cannot make him morally unclean? It doesn’t affect his relationship with God, because it goes into his stomach, passes through his intestines, then out of his body.”

The Message

“Don’t you see that what you swallow can’t contaminate you? It doesn’t enter your heart but your stomach, works its way through the intestines, and is finally flushed.” (That took care of dietary quibbling; Jesus was saying that all foods are fit to eat.)

English Standard Version

“Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

The context of this passage is that the Pharisees criticized the disciples for eating with unwashed hands. Jesus took the situation to a deeper level than anyone expected. He clarified that nothing that goes into a person from the outside—such as uncleanness from ritually unwashed hands or food itself—can make a person unclean. This shocking declaration is unacceptable to Adventists who insist people are contaminated by unclean food. Unable to explain away the passage, Jack Blanco has simply removed the parenthetical statement found in the oldest, most reliable manuscripts. (The King James Version lacks this sentence.) Ignoring this statement in the Gospels, however, does not make the problem go away, for there are a number of passages in the New Testament that present the same teaching that all foods are clean.

Jesus’ words recorded in Mark introduce the revolutionary truth that in the new covenant ushered in by His own blood, the Jewish laws and practices no longer applied to believers. All the shadows of the law were fulfilled in Him.

 

Believers’ requirements in Acts

The issue of what requirements of the law should be expected of Gentile Christians comes to a head in the book of Acts. The party of the circumcision (Christians converted from Judaism and, perhaps, some Jews) were insisting that the new Gentile believers must be circumcised. Along with circumcision came the requirements of the law, including the dietary restrictions expected of Israel. In Acts 15 the apostles and elders in the early church made a decision about circumcision and the law: they do not apply to Gentile believers. Acts 15:1, 2 tell us:

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.

The result of this meeting, often referred to as the first church council, was a list of things that the new Gentile believers were encouraged to avoid. Given the nature of the meeting it is significant to find that the Sabbath, clean and unclean foods, and other specifically important Jewish—and Adventist—teachings are not even mentioned in the letter that the leaders sent to the churches in the care of Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and Judas. We read the account of this delivery in Acts 15:2231:

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.

Not surprisingly, Blanco has tampered with the meaning of this passage. Verse 21 concludes the apostolic verdict that was then written into the declaration quoted above. In verse 21, James concludes his judgment on the matter by reminding those present that “from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” Adventists insist this verse endorses the law and means that Gentiles are to keep the law. In reality, James is saying that believing Gentiles have had enough knowledge of the law that they could have become Jews (being circumcised and legally qualified to keep the law) if they had wanted to do so. Adventism’s treatment of this single verse sets the stage for their completely missing the point of the apostolic decree quoted above. Blanco reflects the Adventist interpretation:

 

Acts 15:21

The Easy English Clear Word and The Clear Word for Kids

On the positive side, they should become better acquainted with the Bible, especially the writings of Moses that we read every Sabbath in church.

The Clear Word

On the positive side, we should also ask them to familiarize themselves with the writings of Moses, of which we read a portion every Sabbath in the synagogue.

English Standard Version

For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.

Jack Blanco has completely changed the meaning of this verse from a statement of fact indicating existing understanding of the law to a mandate requiring Gentiles to come under the law’s demands. The fact is that Moses “has had in every city those who proclaim him,” whereas Blanco says, “ask them to familiarize themselves with the writings of Moses.” In fact, it is the following of the Mosaic law that the Gentiles are warned to avoid, as passages in Galatians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, 2 Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 7 clearly state.

Also, In TEECW and TCWK the word “synagogue” has been changed to “church,” providing deceptive comfort to new speakers of English who hear the law being preached in Adventist churches.

If new Gentile believers were to observe the Mosaic laws regarding diet, Sabbath, or other concerns, they would have been instructed in this letter to do so. The restrictions against strangled meat and blood draw on the laws God gave to Noah, pre-dating the law. These prohibitions would make it possible for Jewish Christians, with their long-standing aversion to non-kosher food, to share table fellowship with Gentile Christians. Believers were asked to eat whatever was put before them, but bloody food was excepted. Well-cooked pork would be far less upsetting to see than a plate of rare meat or blood pudding.

The fact is the Mosaic law has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and is no longer a barrier between Jewish and Gentile believers. Ephesians 2:14–17 states:

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both [Jews and Gentiles] one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off [Gentiles] and peace to those who were near [Jews].

 

More Evidence

As we continue through the New Testament we again find Paul correcting the Judaizing influence that required Gentiles’ observance of Jewish laws and customs. For example, Colossians 2:11–17 tell us:

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

The Colossians were Gentiles, and in his letter to the Colossians Paul emphasizes that they were to let no one pass judgment on what they were eating and drinking.

In a surprisingly strong passage in 1 Timothy, we again find Paul dealing with the issue of following dietary laws and their requirements. Notice that the Bible regards these restrictive food laws as “teachings of demons,” and those who teach these ascetic requirements have seared consciences. The Clear Word, however, completely reinterprets the passage:

 

1 Tim. 4:1–5

The Clear Word

The Holy Spirit has explicitly told us that in the last days, people will give up their faith and turn away from Christ. They will listen to deceiving spirits and end up following doctrines of demons. Some will pretend to be loyal to the truth while teaching lies. Their consciences will be as insensitive as if they had been seared with a hot iron. Others will say that it’s wrong to marry and to eat the good things God created which we should receive with gratitude. God created everything. Nothing should be rejected which He has said we can eat, and we should do so by offering thanksgiving and praise. These foods not only have the approval of the word of God, but will also be blessed by Him through our prayers.

English Standard Version

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

The Clear Word demonstrates again that Adventism cannot allow “everything” to be used for food; a plain reading of the text would violate the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. On the contrary, the TCW version of 1 Timothy 4:1–5 states that “Nothing should be rejected which He has said we can eat.” Blanco used these words because Adventism insists that the words “He has said we can eat” used in Leviticus 11 apply universally to mankind. They ignore both the passage in Genesis 9 discussed earlier and the Lord’s reversal of the Mosaic food laws in the New Testament.

Notice that Blanco says that “These foods … have the approval of the word of God”—an approval which is found in the Old Testament law of Moses. Moreover, the New Testament clearly removes the Mosaic restriction; the ESV states that “nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” This inclusive acceptance includes not only the foods that Jews eat, but also foods that Gentiles from many different cultures eat as well.

The book of Galatians contains one of the clearest validations of the fact that the food laws became obsolete in the new covenant. Paul tells of the time Peter (Cephas) came to Antioch, the city that became the headquarters of the Gentile church and the place where believers were first called Christians. At first Peter ate with the Gentiles, enjoying both their company and their food. In fact, Peter clearly understood that God had removed the food restrictions, because Peter had been the one to receive the vision of the sheet full of unclean animals with the instruction, “Kill and eat!” (Acts 10:9-–6) before being sent to the home of Cornelius the Roman (Acts 10:17–48). Nevertheless, Paul eventually had to rebuke Peter because he became intimidated by the Judaizers, the “party of the circumcision”, who arrived in Antioch and began pressuring Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the whole law. Afraid of the Judaizers who insisted that Gentiles could not be truly Christians without becoming Jewish first, Peter withdrew from the Gentile believers and their food. We find the account in Galatians 2:11–16:

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

We see in this passage that Peter was sharing food with Gentiles—something that offended the Judaizers to the point that they pressured Peter to stop. We also see that Paul validated the table fellowship between Jewish and Gentile believers when he rebuked Peter for withdrawing from it.

 

What About Romans 14?

Romans 14 makes a clear statement about food and the believer. In a nutshell, this chapter exhorts us not to stand in judgment against fellow Christians who do not share our eating practices or preferences for days of worship. At the same time, we are to be sensitive to the believer whose conscience is weak, and we are not to exercise our freedom in a way that leads another to stumble because he indulges in something that causes him to go against his conscience before the Lord.

Before we compare TCW’s rendering of passages from Romans 14 with that of the ESV, however, we need to understand the circumstances behind Paul’s emphasis on this issue. Many Christians read this chapter and assume that the argument about food is no longer relevant in the church. Significantly, however, Paul’s repeated warnings in the books of Galatians, Colossians, Titus, and 1 Timothy about not being enslaved to food restrictions emphasizes that these concerns remain real stumbling blocks within the church.

False teachers have repeatedly infiltrated the body of Christ, trying to make Christians subject to the law of the Old Testament with its practices of observing days and abstaining from certain foods. Sometimes they overtly preach that the Old Testament law is binding on Christians; other times restrictions on foods and other practices are taught as spiritual disciplines which enhance one’s relationship with God. Paul, however, was unequivocal: the law was fulfilled in Christ; righteousness and sanctification are the work of God and not of ourselves, and we now live by the Spirit and in submission to the word of God implanted in our hearts (Jas. 1:21).

In the case of the book of Romans, Paul was writing to a metropolitan group of Gentile Christians and Jews who had become Christians. Quite possibly there were some unconverted Jews and Gentiles in the Roman congregations as well. Chapter 14 and its admonishment not to judge others in matters of food and drink is specifically addressing the food issues that resulted from new Jewish Christians sharing fellowship with new Gentile Christians. Each had completely different eating practices and traditions. In the new covenant, however, they had to learn to embrace the freedom bought by Jesus’ blood while considering each other’s vulnerabilities established by their previous beliefs.

Paul’s other epistles were written to congregations of Gentile Christians. Significantly, however, the message in Romans is the same as that in the rest of his letters: as Christians, we must not subject ourselves—nor subject others—to the dietary rules of the law. We as Gentiles must take Paul’s warnings seriously. We must not become subject to the law, even in matters of diet. For example, Paul writes in Galatians 5:1–4 (ESV):

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

If we substitute diet, Sabbath-keeping, or any other requirement of the law for the word “circumcision”, we do not change the meaning of the passage. From the Jews’ perspective, being circumcised was the requirement for a Gentile’s being ushered into the law, becoming subject to the law, and being effectively Jewish. From our perspective today, as Gentile Christians, we are not to subject ourselves to any of the ritual requirements of the law. By putting ourselves under any of the law’s requirements, we become subject to the whole law.

Righteousness before God is entirely an act of God’s grace to us by faith through Jesus’ death and resurrection. It has nothing at all to do with diet, with Sabbath-keeping, or with circumcision. The whole law, not merely specific rituals, is in view in this warning from Paul.

Adventism, however, has developed its own syncretistic theology blending Old Testament and New Testament instruction. In fact, it takes food rules far beyond the Levitical laws of clean and unclean meat. The Ministerial Association of the General Conference actually explains acceptable practices for food preparation and meal planning and warns against the dangers of spices. Meat—even clean meat—is not the only food to be marginalized:

Furthermore, we should prepare the foods we eat in as simple and natural a way as possible, and for optimum benefit, should eat at regular intervals. Complex, stimulating diets are not the most healthful. Many condiments and spices irritate the digestive tract, and their habitual use is associated with a number of health problems.11

Ellen White actually classified condiments with stimulants and narcotics. Here is one of her many statements on the problem of spices:

Spices at first irritate the tender coating of the stomach, but finally destroy the natural sensitiveness of this delicate membrane. The blood becomes fevered, the animal propensities are aroused, while the moral and intellectual powers are weakened, and become servants to the baser passions. The mother should study to set a simple yet nutritious diet before her family.12

What a far cry these teachings are from the gospel in Scripture! Now that we have examined the underlying beliefs of Adventism related to foods, it is even more obvious that The Clear Word twists the words of Romans 14:7.

 

Romans 14:7

The Clear Word

On the other hand, we should not think that as long as we’re not hurting anyone, it doesn’t matter what we do. Everything we do in life affects others; even the way we accept death.

English Standard Version

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

It is obvious that TCW completely changes the meaning of this verse. The “kingdom”, “eating and drinking”, “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” have all been omitted, and a new meaning is inserted that makes little sense as a stand-alone verse. This rendering is not even a commentary on Scripture, as some supporters of The Clear Word would argue; it is simply a change of wording.

 

One more comparison

We will compare one last verse which demonstrates Adventism’s commitment to avoid the Bible’s clear warnings against being deceived by false teachings including food restrictions. As was the case with Romans 14:7 above, TCW has twisted Hebrews 13:9 so much that the meaning of the text has been changed:

 

Hebrews 13:9, 10

The Easy English Clear Word and The Clear Word for Kids

Don’t be deceived by wrong teachings. Our Christian life needs to grow by God’s grace. Don’t think that eating a piece of meat from a sacrifice offered at the Temple will make you holy. We already have a sacrifice. It’s Jesus.

The Clear Word

Don’t let your faith become unbalanced by every kind of strange doctrine that comes along. May your hearts be strengthened by God’s grace, not by eating ceremonial foods from the altar, which are of no help to anyone.

English Standard Version

Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

Here Blanco changes “foods” to “ceremonial foods from the altar”—a addition which eliminates a simple warning to avoid strange teachings and creates instead a strange teaching.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church spends a great deal of time and money on health, diet, and medical care. While commendable pursuits, it is a sad deception for an organization claiming to be a church to lure converts with promises of improved lifestyle through dietary restrictions without teaching the simple gospel of eternal life through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Adventism eclipses our eternal future by focusing on the issues of our brief earthly existence.

Peter tells us, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls” (1 Pet. 1:24).

Our earthly life is a brief, vapor-like existence. Our bodies will fade away, yet our spirits will go to be in the presence of the Lord if we are found to be in Him.

 

Conclusion

Scripture is clear about what foods we are permitted to eat. It tells us what Adam and Eve were given; it records God’s provision after the flood. Further, the Bible details Israel’s food restrictions designed to keep Israel separate from their pagan neighbors, and it explains the removal of those restrictions in the new covenant for the purpose of uniting the body of Christ. We may have food preferences, but as Christians we must never require them of others.

In fact, to ignore that the God-given diets found in Scripture mean what they say is to seriously tamper with the word of God. In changing Noah’s dietary restrictions and eliminating Jesus’ statement that all foods are clean, The Clear Word brings people under the dietary restrictions that were given for a period of time for Israel, thus subjecting the unsuspecting to the whole law.

As Christians, we must not become burdened with a yoke of slavery; instead, we live in the freedom of conscience that is ours in the gospel. †

 

Endnotes

  1. Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 2nd Ed., p. 311, 2005.
  2. Ibid., p. 319.
  3. All Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version, 2001, unless otherwise indicated.
  4. Martin, Walter from a lecture I attended in the mid-1970’s.
  5. Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 2nd Ed., p. 318, 2005.
  6. Ibid.
  7. White, Ellen G., The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1, p. 55, 1870.
  8. White, Ellen G., Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 73-74, 1890.
  9. Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 2nd Ed., 2005, p. 318.10.
  10. Ibid., p. 319.
  11. Ibid.
  12. White, Ellen G., Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 341, 1938.

Leave a Reply