The eating disorders of the Church; The Anorectic Church

"You are what you eat"

If you have at all followed my writings here you will have noticed that I have a hobby horse. I insist in repeating over and over that the word of God, the bible as interpreted by the Spirit to the regenerate heart, is the sole needed food for the inner man. In this and all ages, in this nation and all other. In this time and in all times. That is what makes the Church built on a rock.

    In the last fifty years or so more and more eating disorders have made their debut and today any talk about food immediately awakes a series of neurotic responses to the very issue of food. The simple faith of the born again is expressed by the apostle Paul: Everything which is received with thanksgiving is sanctified by the grace that first provided the bounty of the earth and then made it suitable for the body. Or as in the  NET version: "They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.  For every creation of God is good and no food is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.
 For it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer." 1 Tim 4:3-5

    "Forbidding marriage and requiring abstinence from foods" are then prophetically seen as things to come. And we could spend "time, time and a half time" to describe how these two factors have created a world in which all sorts of marital and dietary abnormalities have replaced the sound mind approach to God's laws and creations. Everything from celibacy to same sex marriage, from ascetic starvation to the evangelical obesity of the present century is included in those two parameters. But although that would maybe have some interest for a few of my readers, I want to dwell a little while on the "eating disorders" of the Church in the 21st Century.

    The clear command of the Lord to Peter and all would be ministers is without any difficulty to understand. "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do? Yes, Lord you know that I love you. Jesus told him (if you do then:) Feed my lambs, Shepherd my sheep, Feed my sheep." John 21:15-17 in summary.  But when you look across the world and listen to what is served up to the people in the pews you cannot readily see what is on the menu for thousands. The matter of what is food for the sheep is one of the most obfuscated issue of all.  We have no trouble using Psalm 23 and somehow trusting that the sheep are being led to green pastures and still waters. If they are then a few things stand out as the consequence: they are well fed, they are not thirsty, they are safe, they know about the shadow of the valley of death, and they have a hope of dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever. Surely these are the essentials resulting from a well fed flock, and surely the starving sheep outside that fold would throng to know their secret and share in their abundance?

    Listen to any ten sermons, teachings, homilies or preachings from any single church and then ask the impertinent but necessary question: what was the quality of the ingredients, and how did they cook them? But even if we came up trumps on those issues there might still be lots of underfed sheep about. Neither the cook nor the food guarantee that the guests at the table eat what is prepared. Food served is not food appropriated. Food eaten may not be allowed to be digested by the eater, so how ever often they eat, they retain nothing of the nutrients. That is where the eating disorders come in. 

  The spiritual person in whom Christ dwells is familiar with the way that the life within puts eating in its place by learning: "I have food to eat that you know nothing of... My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to complete his work." But starvation and or fasting is not the norm for a believer. The born again grow by advancing in their eating habits, from pure spiritual milk to meat. But never does their eating become a goal in it self.  Paul was well aware of some whose misguided religious favour resulted in "them having their belly as their only God." There are sects of Chinese  House Church origin where eating and drinking together has been elevated to the major "divine worship that they know of". Anything in the word can be abused, and everything.

    The anorectic person has a totally wrong view of him or herself. Their perspective is not based on any objective standard but stems from some internal warping which in turn are caused by a variety of events or traumas. Common to them all is that they leave the person unable to see themselves in any other light than the warped image of what normality is, and their failure to meet some requirements of their own making. Once their self image is askew  there is no easy way to shift the mindset. So in pursuit of a false image they will starve themselves and they will live in compact denial of either their illness or their outward appearance.

     So far the poor anorectic. But our issue here is a larger. Can a whole Church be said to be anorectic? Can a fellowship of believers suffer from a wrong self image? And even elevate their gauntness to heights of spiritual pride and self righteousness? Listen to what the Head of the Church confides to us about one of the many local bodies in existence at the time of the last years of  the Apostle John.

“This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot!  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit  you out of my mouth!  Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,  take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see!  All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent!  Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me."

    The Church at Laodicea was in every conceivable aspect anorectic. It nurtured a totally false view of it self. It was lied to by itself and it allowed no voice from the outside to touch the core of its being. The lies about itself were self propagating, self justifying and self repeating. And until the day that the Head spoke to the church it had never listened to anyone else but the voice of the people. Laodicea is a composite of two Greek words. Laos= people, and dike=judgment, In other words: the very name of the Church in Laodicea hints  that it was one where the consensus of the people called the shots and ruled themselves entirely.
    The result? A massive fault in the self perception. "You say of yourself I am rich and need nothing."  But you are unable to perceive the truth: "You are wretched, pitiful, blind and naked." The accumulation of many people's ignorance never arrives at the truth. Not truth that can only be given by revelation. The work of the Spirit of God is a word from Him who judges the living and the dead. But to him the 'democratic' church is not used to listen. They decide truth by majority vote. Not by "it seemed good to the Spirit and us".

    Even the entire Trinity has only one vote in Laodicea. When the patient deems himself wiser than the Medical expert then the hope of recovery dwindles. The wisdom of the fool's justify themselves over and over again. The added catch phrase "let the churches hear what the Spirit says" are sadly not heeded, then and now.

The ominous signs

    When a human body is victim to the anorexia two things are prominent in the detection of the problem by outsiders and bystanders. Stunted growth, reduced body mass and such signs are telling, but what may not be apparent is that the reproductive vitals take a beating. In girls menstruation stops happening and pregnancy is rare. The body view of the sufferer tends to assure her of being unattractive and ugly. Not ideal for romance. The anorectic church likewise stops reproducing. And as older age groups disappear through natural causes the Church dwindles. It may still talk of evangelism but it simply lacks the ability.  It goes hand in hand with the second prominent anorectic effect: lack of power, being weak, lacking strength to withstand outward pressure except in one respect: that of clinging to the false self image. No strength for much else, but that is never allowed to be challenged.  Typically 
by its theology the anorectic Church is also  "cessationist" and has no room for more than a slim volume of the Gifts of the Spirit. The anorectic church may not be swayed much by the outside influences of the world, but will cling to its powerlessness as part of a self sought martyrdom. "We are weak, but ok."

    It may speak as if it was empowered but again, by their fruits you shall know them. The one significant effect and consequence of the Baptism of Christ in the Holy Ghost and Fire is empowerment. The Anorectic Church dreams of it but lacks it. It comes down to the reality of having a form of Godliness without any power.

    "I am the Lord your Healer."

But if the patient has no awareness of the true condition? "Jesus could not do his work there, because they did not believe."

    So where do we go from here?

Teddy Donobauer  Doncaster  August 6th 2021


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