August 8, 2020
“You can sin with food in many ways — by not sharing it, by eating way too much of it, by throwing it across the restaurant table… But you do not sin with food by bowing your head over it, saying grace with true gratitude in your heart, and tucking in.” – Doug Wilson, Confessions of a Food Catholic
In his sharp-edged but humorous title, Confessions of a Food Catholic, Doug addresses the unscriptural approach to food that many Christians have developed in recent years. (By the way, a “food catholic” is somebody who accepts all eaters of all foods, even if he or she doesn't actually eat quinoa.) Specifically, the book addresses divisive threats to Christian table fellowship, the know-it-all pride of newfangled “health food” rules, and the dislocated moralism that makes “organic” and “natural” the signs of righteousness while disdaining the brethren who buy their beef at Stuffmart.
On today's podcast, Doug and I get into his approach to how Christianity mingles with food choices, and much more—including longevity and anti-aging, nutrition, diet, fitness, and the ultimate source of the joy and happiness so many of us turn to these type of activities to fulfill. We also discuss Doug's take on Joel Salatin, the true cost of food, and how we care for the planet.
Doug is an old family friend and the minister of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, which is a member of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC) and the church I attended all throughout my childhood and during college. After his stint in the submarine service of the U.S. Navy, he attended the University of Idaho where he obtained an MA in philosophy.
As one of its founders, Doug has served on the board of Logos School, a classical and Christian school (K-12), since its inception. He is also a Senior Fellow of theology at New St. Andrews College, which I consider to be one of the better liberal arts institutions in the country. He is the author of numerous books, including Reforming Marriage, The Case for Classical Christian Education, Letter from a Christian Citizen, and Blackthorn Winter. Doug is also the general editor for the Omnibus textbook series. You can check out his blog here, and his metric ton of grandkids can be found spread across the planet with rapidly increasing frequency.
During this discussion, you'll discover:
-What a “food catholic” is…9:15
- A food catholic believes that all foods are acceptable for us to eat with regard to our spiritual condition
- People feel a “spiritual guilt” when they eat
- Food itself does not corrupt the soul; a lack of discipline does
- We want to blame the “stuff” rather than the root: a relationship with God
-How to identify what Doug calls “phood pharisees”…12:35
- A “phood pharisee” is someone who wants to feel superior to those who make, what they believe, are suboptimal food choices
- Everything is on a “dimmer switch”; the pharisee wants an “on/off” switch
- Relational roles: children, people hired to give advice, vs. the neighbor with whom you have no moral, legal, or contractual obligation to instruct
- Writing checks…relationships and responsibilities is akin to having sufficient “funds invested to address and/or correct poor food choices
-How people use diets as a substitute for true righteousness…16:50
- Post, Kellogg, Graham, etc. marketed their food products to confront sin, i.e., lust
- Evangelist Charles Finney founded Oberlin College and had all the students on the “Graham Diet” to “subdue animal urges”
- Charles Spurgeon: “People are praying for revival, when all they need is to open their window”
- “Bank shot”: your spirituality can be influenced by your diet, but the food itself is not made up of pure thoughts and you cannot get pure thoughts from food
- The most important thing about the table is who you're eating with; loving the people you're sharing a meal with; the food is celebratory
- God first, then our neighbor, then our food
- Book: The Atomic Power with God, Through Fasting and Prayer by Franklin Hall
-How to use food to assist in the pursuit of holiness…22:15
- A rigorous discipline of ascetic fasting attunes you more closely to the spiritual realm
- Being in the spiritual realm doesn't mean you're equipped to be there (drug use)
- Fasting without a relationship with God can actually derail your spirituality
- Spiritually attuned is not the same thing as spiritually right
-How food as an anti-aging tactic can enhance or detract from your spirituality…26:25
- It's a good thing to be fruitful and productive as long as possible
- Cost/benefit analysis: trading time on the earth for quality of life
- We're stewards of the bodies we've been given
- Do the best you know to do with the information you have and leave the results to God
- Your life is intended to be “spent”, i.e. active, with normal wear and tear
- Deuteronomy 29:29 – “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law”
-Advice for social situations where you're offered food you personally find objectionable… 36:50
- The Golden Rule: Do as you would be done by
- The loving thing is to make your host aware of any allergies
- If you simply don't like the food, it's your responsibility to act as though you do like it
- “Trust God, and love your neighbor”
- Being a good neighbor or guest is the priority over personal preferences or choices
-How to view food with respect to the humane treatment of God's creation…41:50
- BGF podcast with Joel Salatin
- Book: The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs by Joel Salatin
- Economies of scale: How much does Joel Salatin's bacon cost?
- BGF podcast with Dr. Mark Hyman
- Being conscious of the environmental impact of food production practices
- We're operating “above our pay grade” in regards to food production
- P.J. O'Rourke: “There's way too much of you, and just the right amount of me”
- Politicians want to coercively set the boundaries of what is appropriate and what is not; let the market work out the issues
- The scalability of regenerative farming may be more practical than what we're led to believe by huge corporations
- Equal weights and measures: what applies to one, applies to all
-Balancing rigorous physical and spiritual disciplines…52:00
- Idolatry: relying on any finite thing to supply a need that only the infinite can supply
- The drive to be fit/healthy – If you're looking to that to satisfy a need in yourself that only God can supply, then the problem is you've slipped into idolatry
- Book: Desiring God by John Piper
- “Where are you finding your joy?”
- True spiritual joy will satisfy your inner desires
- “There's a God-shaped vacuum in every human heart.” – St. Augustine – Only God will fit there
- Like putting together a puzzle
- Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (God has put eternity in our hearts – we were made for communion with him)
- Infinite abyss can only be filled with an infinite object, that is God – Pensées by Blaise Pascal
-The one thing fitness buffs need to hear the most…1:00:15
- Doug Wilson's blog
- Don't focus on living long in such a way as to make you forget what life is about – the point is to have lived, not living a long time
- To journal:
- “The short life well lived is better than a long life frittered away”
- “Food does not make you holy”
- “Loving your neighbor is a lot more important than the food you are putting into your mouth”
Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.
Resources from this episode:
– Doug Wilson:
– BGF podcasts:
- Confessions of a Food Catholic by Doug Wilson
- Other books by Doug Wilson
- The Atomic Power with God, Through Fasting and Prayer by Franklin Hall
- The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs by Joel Salatin
- Desiring God by John Piper
- Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony de Mello
- Pensées by Blaise Pascal
– Other resources:
- Evangelist Charles Finney founder of Oberlin College
- Charles Spurgeon
- P.J. O'Rourke
- The Atlantic article: Looking to Quell Sexual Urges? Consider the Graham Cracker
- Doug's post: 7 Reasons For Unmasking The Masks
- Mark Hyman: The True Cost Of Food
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26 thoughts on “Why Your Pursuit Of A Better Body & The Perfect Diet Is Never Going To Make You Happy, How Christians Should Make Food Choices, The Ultimate Source Of Joy & Much More With Doug Wilson.”
Great guest , Great show. I really like Doug’s comment about if you spend 5 years of your life to add 6 months to it, that’s not a good trade.
So Here’s the question, If a Christian trying to maximize the stewardship of their earthly vessel, so that they can have a long fruitful life of service to God, what would be your list of the biggest bang for thine buck exercises, and fitness habits. You know, the things you could do that would take the least amount of time and effort(and money!) and produce the biggest longevity and healthy aging effects. how do you spend 6 months of your life gaining an extra 5 years of fruitful service?
I am familiar with Wilson. I’ve read most of his books and used to keep up with his blog. As they were for many, I suspect your father among them, his writings were a gateway to Orthodoxy for me, a fact which makes Wilson extremely uncomfortable.
While his Christian critique of the obsession with longevity and biological optimization is legitimate, frankly his book on the subject of food is awful. For a man who has authored popular logic textbooks, his writing on food is a ridiculous mish mash of equivocation, inconsistancy, straw man argumentation, selective citation, and really, really bad science. I read it because my wife was reading it for a book club. I filled legal pages with the notes on the errors.
It’s interesting that you linked Saletin’s book “The Pigness of Pigs.” Wilson, a good Nominalist, would deny that there is any such essential nature of “pigness.” From his perspective, as he states in his book, if we want to put snake genes in corn to make it “better,” the Dominion mandate gives us the right to do so. If we CAN do something with creation, God wills we do it, or at worst, He’s neutral on the topic.
The absolute best Christian critique of Wilson’s position is from a former CREC member you might even know, Robin Phillips.
There is a thoughtful Christian position between the modern materialist obsession with looks and longevity and Wilson’s thundering denunciation of any Christian holding the notion that God’s creation, including tje part we eat, has an imparted but innate and essential nature which we ought to respect and steward. Saletin and Phillips get it. Sadly, Wilson does not.
Phillips makes good points.
thanks for this. I believe it is an important topic and a question and one i have been asking myself lately. I like to eat well and follow many of your practises for myself and my family. I would also like to get the dna testing completed, dutch tests etc I also get supplements which vary over different members of my family. At the same the time, the reality of the world is that – so many people dont have any food, fullstop. And thinking about what flavour of gut health probiotic i may purchase compared to another person in the world wondering where their next meal is coming from should bring about a conversation that leads to action (for myself). There is a spiritual God pleasing balance in there somewhere. I also know for you it is your work, and industry so you obviously have to turn up the volume when it comes to ‘indulging’ and experimenting into the fitness/health world.
Just a practise my family have started that someone else may find helpful – one week a month we do a leftovers week. We dont buy any foods like we used to and just use up cans, canned fish, leftover veg and salad, eggs etc and get creative and make do. We then save that week of shopping money to support charities that provide food to the needy. Anyway I appreciate you Ben, your philosophy of life, your expression of faith, for stimulating thought and conversation and for your thorough approach you took to boundless. Thanks from Sydney, Australia
Love Doug Wilson! Totally blessed by his works. Confessions of a Food Catholic is a great one. Way to go Ben! Makes me enjoy BGF all the more!
As if your pseudo scientific flip flopping was not already enough. Now also this religious bullshit. WTF is wrong with you?
It’s sad we’re at a place where your livelihood’s at stake simply for having a conversation with a “controversial” person like Doug. But cancel culture has brought us here. So, Ben, I’m warmed by your courage. Looks like you’ve already lost some followers. I’d love to know how many you will GAIN through this: people like me who know you can’t separate the physical from the immaterial without doing damage to both. The admonition to “stick to science” is actually a demand that you present their malnourished (Godless) version of what optimal wellness is. It is not at all contrary to your podcast’s mission to include the Creator in your exploration of his pinnacle masterpiece, the human being.
Ben, I do not usually listen to many podcasts, but this one flashed across my screen and caught my eye. I am a certified health coach, licensed doctor of physical therapy and pelvic health specialist, former collegiate athlete, pastor’s wife, and Christian. I have been trying to figure out how to gear my private health coaching practice, how to include my faith in it, and how to best honor God with my work. This podcast was an encouragement to me on a few fronts: 1. That there is a theologian actually thinking through these items (I think through them all the time but have yet to find many worthwhile resources to consider in these matters) and 2. That you yourself are incorporating your faith into your health and wellness work, whatever the consequences may be. Know that you now have one more person tuning in because you have allowed your faith to show, and that I will certainly be more likely to refer you as a resource to my clients, patients, family and friends. Thank you.
Great interview. Thanks for this!
Thanks Ben for having the courage to cover this topic and to bring on Dr. Wilson. Doug, i have been a long-time fan, and it is so neat to hear you and Ben on the same page! A short life well lived is indeed better than a long life frittered away. I love fitness and yet it leaves us empty and lacking if we don’t keep things in perspective, and Doug’s very simple yet powerful point about that longing we all have for something more, something meaningful, something that satisfies. It is tough to explain that with secular science alone, yet it is undeniable. Keep it up Ben and Doug, and thanks again to each of you for your many, valuable contributions!
“Throwing things into the abyss” is God one of those things? And if so, so what, as long as it’s satisfying. But don’t overlook that as a possibility and not an all encompassing answer. To love life, to look at people and see yourself, to understand that, as I speak, I’m not advocating for myself, power-seeking, but trying to satisfy my spiritual and whole self. Nature, the beauty of nature and us in it. Paradise, not to be forgotten.
Thank you for this podcast, Ben, It was a delight to listen to it. It’s super important to put practices as fitness, diet and biohacking in a spiritual perspective. All those things are meaningless and won’t bring any joy at all if you lack a firm spiritual grounding.
As religion is a rather touchy topic for many folks, I highly appreciate your courage to discuss spiritual matters on your podcast, Keep up the good work!
Unlike some of the other commenters, I welcome a discussion on religion, morals, and ethics on food (including views antithetical to my own). Though my interest in these topics is subject to the discussion not being limited strictly to Ben’s personal beliefs.
I see some value in the guest’s comments even though I disagree with his views on food. Some of the guest’s actions and commentary outside of this podcast seem to me to be on the periphery of hate speech.
I appreciate that Ben does not censor comments.
All good Ben. The hated Him and they will hate us for preaching His good news. If they really dig in and do an unbiased study about Jesus Christ, they will see the truth.
Ben, I appreciate your willingness to be real and honest with your own beliefs, and also your desire to figure out the line between idolatry and fitness (or food or whatever the issue is). I see the negative comments and just wanted to say kudos, keep it up. Every one of us gets to make our own choices, and we also get to deal with the consequences of those choices. I am grateful for someone with such a large platform that also uses it to stay true to who he is and what he believes. I am grateful for you, brother!
Ben, I have been a devoted listener and follower of your health wisdom for years, but lately I am turned off by the mixing of your religion with your health and fitness podcasts. This guy sounds like he’s just pulling shot out of his ass and nothing he said had a scientific basis. Please stick to the science like you used to. You’re going to loose a large portion of your listeners if you don’t. Remember, many many folks don’t even believe in religion. Peace brother.
I don’t know if Doug understands the nuances of regenerative ag. It costs more because the government isn’t subsidizing the small farmer. This movement and farms like Polyface aren’t going away. I choose to sacrifice and vote with my dollar by buying the best food I can afford.
Thank you so much for this episode! It was a great reminder to guard against the idolatry that is rampant in the fitness industry. I love the perspective of being a good steward of our bodies so that they are healthy and physically ready for the work God calls us to. It is always an inspiration when you share about your faith, keep it up :)
People’s food choices do affect society (health and health insurance costs), the environment, and the kindness and welfare towards animals. So I think it’s okay to have an opinion and to eat in a certain way. I don’t think one has to give up on their food principles in order to have respect for, or to be kind, to neighbors.
One could flip the script I suppose. As a host, to be gracious to your guests, you should not expect your guests to follow your dietary customs or your religious customs in your home. As an example, I am a vegetarian, but guests do bring meat into my house and consume it. It’s not a big deal to me. I do not judge or discourage food choices when I am eating with people in my home or at restaurants. We can have a good time and not eat the same things.
Old family friend eh? I’m out
Agreed! This is getting too preachy and non-scientific for me! Ugh!
Do you also agree with thoughts on LgBT , especially Trans Rights?
I was not particularly interested in this issue when reading the summary, but out of curiosity, your question turned me to Google.
Here is what I found
Well, in this instance, Pastor Wilson is not exactly refraining from passing judgement or conferring a loving message for neighbors. Though I suppose that one should expect Food Catholicism to only extend to food.
It’s probably more important in life to be non-judgemental over people with respect to race, religion, and sexuality, then to be non-judgemental over people with respect to their food choices.
Jesus fucking christ