On Reading Labels

I live in Southern California, which is to say that I live in a land flowing with avocado toast, local pollen-laced acaia bowls and label-reading consumers. I am a slow adapter, but the label-reading, health-savvy spirit is slowly trickling into my life. I can proudly say that I have not purchased a can of cream of anything soup since leaving the Southeast and nary a casserole has come out of my oven.

I have even learned to distrust labels and broad-sweeping statements like organic and all-natural. If California has taught me anything in the health department, it is too look more carefully and critically at what I consume.

I find myself longing the the same attention to consumption would percolate into what we read and how we read it.

Unfortunately, books don’t come labeled with clear categories. It is not that one can look at the back of a book and quickly determine if it is laced with pluralism, antinomianism, humanism, secularism or any of the other -isms.

Just as we cannot blindly trust that the organic line of food at the local grocery store is actually healthy, we cannot trust that a book that declares itself it be broadly Christian actually falls in line with an orthodox view of the Scriptures.

The word orthodox has fallen on hard times and brings with it a broad spectrum of connotations. To some, it brings a smile of security and comfort. To others, it brings shudders of frustration. Taken at face value, the word literally comes from the Greek words ortho which means straight and doxa which means opinion or thinking.

Even the word orthodox implies and presumes a standard by which to measure our opinion and thinking. For the Christian, to be orthodox means to keep to the long-held though often poorly-received idea that the Scriptures are the rule of life, the inerrant, infallible Word of God.

Everything we read, whether within the camp of Christendom or without, must be passed through the sieve of the Scriptures.

With the sieve of Scriptures in place, we are able to clearly identify that which is not to be imbibed or received, as there are many tasty morsels that go down well but don’t actually square up with Scripture.  We are freed to enjoy the good, but identify the dangerous, whether it is overt or covert.

As an avid book lover and an advocate of reading broadly, I am not implying that we are to only read books from those who square up with our particular camp (or sub-camp or sub-sub-camp); however, I do have a deep concern that even within Christian circles, the sieve of Scripture has been replaced with the sieve of personal preference, experience or popularity.

When we begin to trust our experience or our feelings or how something makes us feel or lines up with popular culture, we are entering a dangerous space.

We would never allow our children to live on Twinkies and Starbursts, tasty though they are.  As parents and even as a society, we are more alert than ever before about healthy eating. We want to know what is in our food, where it comes from and its long and short-term effects.

We must begin to do the hard work of reading between the lines. We must dig underneath blanket statements to find the worldview from which they flow.  As the Church, we must do a better job equipping our people with knowledge of how to exegete both the Word of God and the culture in which we find ourselves living, playing and working.

Oh, may God give us eyes to examine what we eat both physically and spiritually!



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