Cafeteria Christianity Part II: You Can’t Have Your Pudding If You Don’t Eat Your Meat

Posted on March 9, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , |

Last week, I claimed Christians unnecessarily treat the Bible as a type of ‘mystery meat.’ In doing so, I wanted to encourage Christians to know we can trust in it’s authority.

But I’ve also noticed the Church treats the Bible itself as a buffet. We often skip over the vegetable scriptures that aren’t so pleasing to the pallet, no matter how nutritious, and go straight for the soft-serve machine.  We are happy to take bites of the Psalms sprinkled with Proverbs.  If we eat anything with substance, it’s almost always the Gospels.  The Old Testament and the letters of Paul give us acid reflux (especially Leviticus).  I mean, if we are only going to eat out once a week (or just Christmas and Easter), might as well indulge on a nice Christian ‘meal’ complete with all our favorite goodies, rather than that other stuff.

I’m definitely guilty of this selective reading. I probably wouldn’t have thought anything of it up until a few years ago. That was when I realized that I had been a Christian for about a decade, but I didn’t really have a ‘well-balanced’ understanding of what the Word of God actually said. Instead, I had been spending my whole time at my personal dessert tray. As a result, my walk with Christ could have been described as a series ‘sugar highs’ followed by crashes. Surely, this couldn’t be healthy way of spiritual living.

Why do we treat the Bible as a buffet rather than a well-balanced specialty-made meal?

I used to think it was because I didn’t understand how to read it, that it was just over my head because I didn’t go to seminary. Or perhaps it was because it was written for a different culture, one that looked very different than modern America, therefore not applicable. Better yet, it was itself written by men who were fallible. After all, God figured out how to organically store 20 gigabytes of information inside a nucleus that is 6 microns (or .000006 meters) in diameter, but surely writing a book correctly was too hard for Him.

Hebrews 4:12 reads, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” I was picking and choosing the verses I lived by. I thought I had better ideas about right, wrong, and how to live life than the Creator of the universe. Talk about pride.

I recently heard my pastor say that we try to filter the Bible through our cultural world-view rather than filtering our cultural world-view through the Bible. I don’t think that this is something new, especially considering Paul wrote Hebrews almost 2,000 years ago. When God gave the Israelites the Law, He did so to set them apart from other nations. Living according to the Bible will only cause inter-relational problems, not solve them (Luke 12:51-53). When Jesus came to fulfill the Law, his teachings were so counter-cultural they crucified him for it. Like I’ve said before, people don’t crucify Mr. Rogers.

“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). Thankfully, we don’t live in Iran where following Christ will get you killed, but it will undoubtedly bring ridicule, even from others who claim they are Christians. The lives of the “the few” should include fighting creatures that shame Tolkien villains. They should also look different than the lives of those around us who are not living for Christ. If not, we’re probably doing it wrong (Mat 7:13).

Here was the sobering thought that changed me: what about my life defines me as a Christian? My life didn’t look any different than those around me. People could only have assumed I was a Christian because I wore a cross around my neck, gave presents to people in December, and attended church. I was a Christian 2% of the year, applying 2% of the Bible. I knew I wasn’t “doing it right,” but it just wasn’t convenient for me to do anything about it, especially in college! But Jesus didn’t say, “if you love me, keep my commands when when it works for you, when they align with your views and your culture, and when it won’t cost you anything” (compare to John 14:15).

So, now I am trying to do it “right”. Do I still fail? Hourly (minutely just sounds weird). Has it cost me anything? Sadly, yes. But my understanding of Scripture and Christ has exploded (in the good way), my life has been blessed ten-fold, and my heart has aligned closer to God, rather than to the world. I’ve grown more as a Christian in the past 3 years than I did in the ten before that.

I encourage all 3 of you reading this to remember God revealed Himself to us as in a well-balance, high-protein, low-carb meal made especially for us rather than a Golden Corral special for $9.99. As tempting as it is, don’t skip right to your specialized dessert tray and ignore the nutrition God knew we would need. After all,  if you are really ‘in Christ’, how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?


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11 Responses to “Cafeteria Christianity Part II: You Can’t Have Your Pudding If You Don’t Eat Your Meat”

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CORRECTION: There are “4” of us reading now. 🙂 Great points. And I love the Pink Floyd reference! Thanks for sharing.

Thanks for reading, Jonathan. Congratulations on being one of ‘the few’!


There’s more than 4!
I think you’re right about not being able to understand how to read it. I know that is a lot of it for me. And all the generational stuff. I have no idea why that is in the Bible.

As far as not knowing how to read it, I can completely relate. Simply changing to and NIV or NLT translations can clear up a lot of that. I also highly recommend buying a commentary and/or study guides on a specific books, which can help bring out nuances.

As far as the generational stuff, I’m guessing you’re referring to genealogy? Some of that is in there because that’s one way most Near and Far Eastern cultures identify who someone is (son of, son of…) along with tribe and/or location. Who and where you came from meant (and still does) mean a lot to those cultures. It also proved prophecy – for example, the Messiah was to be a decedent of David. Other family relatives like Tamar and Judah also show us that Jesus didn’t come from ‘the best of the best’ – there were plenty of *those* relatives that Jews didn’t think too highly of. For me, this demonstrates that God will make something great from what the world deems ‘undesirable.’ Just more proof of God’s grace.

Awesome! Really enjoyed it!

This is really well thought out, well written, humorous and so, so true. I especially liked the “sugar high” analogy. It illustrates why, it seems to me, Christians seem so scripturally malnurished. I also liked Part 1. Well done

Thanks for reading and posting – so glad you got something out of it

[…] doctrine, I would say two things: If the ‘doctrine’ is the Bible, check out my post on cafeteria Christianity. If the doctrine conflicts with the Bible, try correcting your brothers as Scripture calls us to do […]

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[…] doctrine, I would say two things: If the ‘doctrine’ is the Bible, check out my post on cafeteria Christianity. If the doctrine conflicts with the Bible, try correcting your brothers as Scripture calls us to do […]

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