June 16, 2012

Author Interview {Peter Bringe}

In this the third and final installment of this interview, Peter and I discuss chapters 4 and 5, and the economic and multi-generational aspects of food and health.  Enjoy!


 
1. I love your discussion about multi-generational family economics, and how our view of God will set the tone for how we view work. You quote Rushdoony on page 44.  
 
“[N]ot only work but life apart from God is meaningless. Work then becomes a question of survival economics, gaining enough food and shelter to live. For all too many people in history, work has had this connotation. Its goal has been survival, and hence it has had a sad and burdensome aura. Escape from work is then a much desired goal.”


Could you discuss what a multi-generational business might look like?
 
A multi-generational business needs several things to work well. For example, it is hard to step into a multi-generational business if the generations have been separated in thinking and culture by years of dis-integration in life. But more importantly, to have a multi-generational business, people must like to work. If one only does work as a means for survival, then when he is old enough to get out of working and live off his children’s work (or in today’s society, other’s children’s work), he will do so. Children should still support their parents in their older age, but they can integrate their parents in their businesses and make use of the parents’ wisdom. As people get older, their valuable contribution is less a contribution of activity and energy, but of wisdom, training, and example. There are many ways for the generations to work together in business, the classic example being something like on the TV show The Waltons where grandfather, father, and son all work together on the same business, doing the work together, and living in the same household. But there many other ways (especially when you have many children in different households that want to work with their parents), where the parents still work with and instruct their children to the very end of their life. The basic point is that the children should not cast off their parents as useless when it comes to work and the parents should not act useless when it comes to using their skills and wisdom in later life.
 
2. Work has been around since the time of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15), why do you think it is that so many Christians view work as being something to avoid or get around?
 
I think it is because we are still learning how to live in the constant awareness of God. It is so easy for us to think humanistically when it comes to our day-to-day work and only think of the immediate human causes and effects. When we forget that our work should be done unto God and is only done by His grace, our work it loses purpose and becomes vain. It is then relegated to survival and necessary evil. It is only when we recognize the meaning that God gives work that it becomes a joy and a fulfilling task.
 ”There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 ESV, see also verses 1-11)
 
3. You talk about the importance of work and our work as being a form of worship. Elaborate a bit on this please (e.g. Gen. 2:15, 2 Thess. 3:10-12; 1 Tim. 5:8, Eph. 6:5-7).
 
I would encourage people to look up those verses you mention. Dominion work is given to us by God as a fundamental duty of humanity (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15). First and foremost we ought to work unto God (Eph. 6:5-7), and it is a way to love those around us by supplying their needs (1 Tim 5:8). Work, like the rest of life, is always done as service for some ultimate purpose and “god,” sometimes more conscientiously and consistently than other times. As Christians our whole life ought to be given in service and worship to God, as our whole life has been redeemed by Him (see Rom. 12:1-2, 1 Peter 2:5, and 1 Cor. 6:19-20).
 
4. I really enjoyed the section “Food as Part of the Family Economy”; could you talk a bit about Government guidelines, food safety, and family economics?
 
There are two related problems with the civil government being as involved as it is in food. First, there is the problem of centralization. This applies to society in general, as well as the civil sphere. Basically put, authority and power goes (or should go) alongside relationships. God is the Creator of the world and has a comprehensive relationship with everything, and an even deeper saving relation with His people. Thus He has ultimate authority and power over everything, with His covenant people being even more accountable to His reign. This follows for human relationships as well. This is how we get the idea of representative and graduated government, where more specific things are covered at a local scale where there is more local accountability. Thus the government, especially the centralized federal and state governments, are unfit for regulating diets. Second, there is the problem of the civil government getting involved in our diets in the first place. While I might allow for some restricted civil involvement in  special cases (i.e. in negligence cases, Exod. 21:28-36), the civil government is given the duty to punished the law-breaker (Rom. 13:1-7), not to run our diets. That is not to say that we can eat whatever we want, but the civil government is not the only government ordained by God. The regulation of our diets is left primarily in the jurisdictions of the family and self government. These are the spheres that have the close enough relationship that is able to manage the task of food choices. A similar thing can be said concerning agriculture and business in general where the civil government has overstepped its bounds and the family government is often lacking.
 
5. There are several examples from the Bible of industrious agrarian individuals, or families.  I am especially drawn to what the Proverbs 31 woman was able to accomplish.  Agriculture is another fundamental in the Bible, why do you think it is that a lot of Christians have shied away from wanting to take dominion over the earth and own land, cultivate it, grow their own food, etc?
 
Probably because it is hard. Make no mistake, while gardening and farming is good work, it is also hard work. Add to that, that our society as a whole has moved inside to the technological realm. We are simply not outside very much. It is not that big of a priority for most people, so we are often satisfied with a large house with a tiny bit of land. When we do want to occasionally use the outdoors, we often go to the civil government-owned parks and lands. (Again, when families and individuals stop taking responsibility, the civil government will take it.) We have lost a sense of responsibility and stewardship that should motivate to improve whatever land we are given. It doesn’t have to be a farm. If you have a quarter-acre, then use it! Ideally, our land ought to be beautiful and productive. (This is something I am preaching to myself on. A lot of my work is indoor and computer related, like writing these words, and it is easy for me to fall short in this matter.)
 
6. I was really glad you covered food and popular worldviews and how they view food.  Very insightful.  Could you tell us what you said in that section? (p. 64-66)
 
Read the book! :) 
 
Ok, I guess I’ll try to summarize. Our broader philosophies and beliefs about our surroundings have great influence on science and food. We were created to exercise dominion over the creation of our loving God, but sin entered the world and we were alienated from God and a proper relation to His creation. Thus autonomous man has often had a negative reaction to nature and a great reliance on his own reason and science. But then they find out after a while that this doesn’t work, and will then react against science and exalt nature, instinct, irrationality, mystery, and emotion. This is true when talking of the Rationalists/Empiricists and the Romantics of the 1800s, the humanistic scientists and the hippies in the 1900s, or their equivalent groups today. As Christians we recognize the important place science has, we as God’s image bearers taking dominion over His orderly creation. We also recognize the limited nature science has under God, the wisdom already in creation that we can develop, and the sinfulness of man that should cause us to be humble in our work.
 
7. I was fascinated by what you said about the design of food – on four levels (visible, microscopic, molecular, and atomic), isn’t it amazing how each food was created to bring healthfulness and nutrition to our bodies?  Why is is that so many Christians, as you pointed out, much to our shame, have adopted the world’s way of eating. The Biblical example of Daniel and his friends vs. the other young men, comes to mind.  Could you talk a bit about that?
 
We have often adopted the world’s way of eating because we have rarely taught a distinctly Christian view on the subject. If we don’t teach the world, the world will teach us. There has been quite a few “Christian” books on the topic of food, but they rarely have transcended the current fads of the day. This a trap that I hope my book has avoided to some extent. Our faithfulness to Scripture is of the upmost importance when it come to life. Without the Word of God we will live by the words of the world.
 
8. In conclusion, is there anything else you’d like to share with us about food?
 
As I say in my conclusion to my book (p. 74-75),
“And in John 6:35, ‘Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’’ In Jesus we are fulfilled, and in him we lack nothing. Just as a good meal will fill you up for a time and give you enjoyment and thankfulness, so Jesus fills us for eternity, and in Him we find full enjoyment and thankfulness. God is often referred to as life-giving, cleansing, and refreshing water (Isa. 44:2–5; Jer. 17:13; John 4:10; etc.). When our food is beautiful and nutritious, it helps us remember better that we have a great and almighty God.
“The end of the matter is this: God is almighty and God is good. God has given us great food to explore and enjoy, and He has given us the way to enjoy it. Oh, peoples of the earth, ‘taste and see that the Lord is good!’ (Ps. 34:8) Give God glory and honor for Who He is and for His wonderful works that he has blessed us with, and never take His blessings for granted. Let us love Him and eat His way, by His power, and for His glory.”
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
−1 Corinthians 10:31
 
Thank you so much Peter for agreeing to this interview.  Your book is very insightful and easy to read and comprehend.

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Thank you for sharing!