Question on Rutherford on abstaining from meats

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TryingToLearn

Puritan Board Freshman
So I was reading this https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A92138.0001.001/1:8?rgn=div1;view=fulltext and from page 70-73, I've become very confused by Rutherford's argument. If I understand him correctly, he's arguing that one should not abstain from eating meat in front of a Jew so as not to scandalize him, but instead it is necessary to eat such meats in front of Jews. So he writes:

Conclus. 2. As some things Physically necessarie must be ab∣stained* from, when the unseasonable using of them is a stum∣bling block to our weak brother, in the case of the morall in∣differencie of the thing, as it was in the eating, or not eating of meats once forbidden by Gods law, but then indifferent. Rom. 14. 14. 1 Cor. 8. 8. for then it was true, (But meat commendeth us not to Godfor neither if we eat are we the better, neither if we eat not, are we the worse) So in the case of physicall indifferen∣cie, but of Moral and Theologicall necessitie, when an Evange∣like law of Christian libertie has passed a determination upon eating, or not eating; Then to abstaine from eating upon a pretended feare of not offending a weak Iew, is actively to •ay a sinfull stumbling block before a weak Iew, and to harden him in Iudaisme,and here using of such meats, and the affirma∣tive, to wit, to eat is lawfull and necessarie, the things being now morally necessarie, not morally indifferent, where as be∣fore the negative, to wit, not to eat was lawfull and necessarie. Hence to eat Rom 14. 1 Cor. 8. before a weak Iew, was unlaw∣full and an active scandall, the eating or not eating then of the owne nature being morally indifferent, and to abstaine from eating before a weak Jew, Col. 2. 16. 17. Gal. 2. v. 5. 11. 12. Gal. 5. 1. 2. 3. is unlawfull and an active scandall, because now eating is morally necessarie, and a standing in, and an asserting of the libertie wherewith Christ has made us free.

...

Ans. These meats▪ Rom. 14. and 1 Cor. 8. 10. were then in∣different, but they are not so now, when the Gospell is fully promulgate, for we may not now to abstaine from Meats for∣bidden in the Ceremonial law, for feare to offend a weake Iew, for our abstinence should harden them in their ••beliefe, that Christ is not yet come in the flesh.

I'm confused as to how this fits at all with what Paul says in Romans 14? What is the point of what Paul says there about abstaining for the sake of the weak if we are supposed to do the opposite? How can accommodating weaker brothers and avoiding scandal even still apply?
 
I'm confused as to how this fits at all with what Paul says in Romans 14? What is the point of what Paul says there about abstaining for the sake of the weak if we are supposed to do the opposite? How can accommodating weaker brothers and avoiding scandal even still apply?

Without necessarily endorsing his conclusion, the two situations aren't similar. Paul is speaking of Jewish Christians within the one body of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Rutherford has in mind non-Christian Jews. In all likelihood, I doubt Rutherford ever saw a Jew. Cromwell had only recently lifted the ban on Jews living in England (established at the time of Edward I).
 
Without necessarily endorsing his conclusion, the two situations aren't similar. Paul is speaking of Jewish Christians within the one body of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Rutherford has in mind non-Christian Jews. In all likelihood, I doubt Rutherford ever saw a Jew. Cromwell had only recently lifted the ban on Jews living in England (established at the time of Edward I).
True, but I guess I'm then wondering: 1) would Paul say that if we're in the presence of one who is a Jew and not a Christian, then we should in fact eat in front of him? 2) would Rutherford say that if a Christian had an incorrect opinion about meats, then we should not eat in front of him (this seems unlikely as I would imagine he would say this would harden them in their error, even as the Jew would be)?
 
Without necessarily endorsing his conclusion, the two situations aren't similar. Paul is speaking of Jewish Christians within the one body of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Rutherford has in mind non-Christian Jews. In all likelihood, I doubt Rutherford ever saw a Jew. Cromwell had only recently lifted the ban on Jews living in England (established at the time of Edward I).
This is likely true, since the first record of a Jew living in Scotland dates from 1691, 30 years after Rutherford's death. However, given the regular trade with the Continent, it is likely that Rutherford knew people who had encountered them on their travels.

Rutherford's point here is reminiscent of "the affair of the sausages" when Ulrich Zwingli publicly advocated eating sausages during the Lenten fast in 1522, when the Catholics forbade meat eating. It has the same kind of "in your face" approach to Christian liberty, when encountering people who are religiously legalistic.
 
The "in your face" approach confuses me and I really hope someone can help explain it to me here. How does this fit with Paul's argument about abstaining so as not to destroy a weaker brother? if the rule is never to confirm someone in an error, then how can there ever be scandal in which we are supposed to abstain from something so as not to violate a misinformed conscience? And how would such an approach fit with the common argument used by the Puritans against the English church for instance that even if the ceremonies imposed upon them were indifferent, they ought to have abstained from them to accommodate the weaker brother? It seems on the contrary, they should have imposed them all the more.
 
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You can't "cause your weaker brother to sin," a) if he isn't a brother, b) if he isn't weaker, according to the definition Paul is employing and analogous circumstances.

In the case of a Jewish person, he is a) not a fellow believer and b) his kosher beliefs and actions are not a demonstration of his "weakness;" rather they are a display (comparatively) of strength (of conviction). He will not eat X because he "knows" what God has commanded in the Law, and he is a good law-keeper. He may even condemn those who do not share his covenant or his commitment.

Paul circumcised Timothy when it was prudent for the sake of gospel witness to carry through with that purpose. The same apostle REFUSED to circumcise Titus, when it was apparently suggested he have done in order to salve the consciences of some and keep the peace with others. Both cases had a gospel-priority--but in the first, it was not a case of protecting Jewish consciences but of avoiding needless offense of unbelievers; and the second was a needful rebuke of those in power or who wished to exercise power, who desired to burden others with the yoke they so casually bore.

Wisdom is required, not one-solution to every problem. Sometimes a display of religious fervor is a "power move," that should be met with righteous power subject to the will of God. Sometimes, a soft answer turns away wrath. Sometimes, one can do both at once.
 
b) his kosher beliefs and actions are not a demonstration of his "weakness;" rather they are a display (comparatively) of strength (of conviction). He will not eat X because he "knows" what God has commanded in the Law, and he is a good law-keeper. He may even condemn those who do not share his covenant or his commitment.
This seems to be a helpful way of thinking about it, although I’m not sure all the questions in my head are answered yet.

In applying this, say you’re in a place where many Christians condemn alcohol. As I’m sure you know, many can be quite legalistic in this. Is this then comparable to the situation with the Jew Rutherford speaks of where one should drink so as not to confirm them in their error? And if so, what would be a comparable situation where one should rather abstain from drinking?

You see, up until now I would have said that in such a situation one must always abstain. But now I see Rutherford telling me there’s this other obligation where one must not abstain because to do so confirms others in error. So in my mind, it’s now hard for me to figure out what my moral duty is here.
 
This seems to be a helpful way of thinking about it, although I’m not sure all the questions in my head are answered yet.

In applying this, say you’re in a place where many Christians condemn alcohol. As I’m sure you know, many can be quite legalistic in this. Is this then comparable to the situation with the Jew Rutherford speaks of where one should drink so as not to confirm them in their error? And if so, what would be a comparable situation where one should rather abstain from drinking?

You see, up until now I would have said that in such a situation one must always abstain. But now I see Rutherford telling me there’s this other obligation where one must not abstain because to do so confirms others in error. So in my mind, it’s now hard for me to figure out what my moral duty is here.
In answer of the first Q, as I pointed out in the previous reply the answer is: it depends. Not every person is obliged to the same course in comparable circumstances. Some men are obliged to lead by example, others are inclined by their meek disposition. All are duty bound to obey the dictates of conscience, which will sometimes direct one to "order a beer" in defense of the gospel (as Mike Horton famously described a situation he found himself in).

The situation where one should abstain is where YOUR exercise of liberty will encourage (not in a good way) a person of weak will and conscience to violate the present set and dictate of his conscience. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Person A is unpersuaded he may "eat this meat," but he sees you eating and though he has not come around to recognizing "it's only meat," he is compelled in a sense to partake. And eating thus wounds him: the meat does him more spiritual harm than bodily good.

Person B is unpersuaded he may drink this alcohol, and in fact he condemns you or anyone who would. He makes not-drinking a public badge of his allegiance to God (even though God nowhere forbids it). Suppose God did forbid it; we would then refrain, but B would still be full of pride and self-righteousness, and his outward obedience would be disobedience of the heart. The person now observing kosher is in a real sense--after so long a time of old-covenant dissolution--maintaining those forms in defiance of God setting aside that institution, assuming a man acts out of anything other than a cultural habit or preference, of no more value than another nation's traditional pastime (neither boasting in his, or condemning another's).

As to your implied final Q, fortunately or unfortunately we live in the age of spiritual maturity or majority. Even in the Old Covenant era, there was a large swathe of life governed not by legal minutiae, but by wisdom. Even moreso now. As much as religious men would like for there to be a neat and simple Bible-verse diagnosis and prescription for every scenario, even less of our manners are dictated by our Authority. We have great liberty, but also much responsibility to act in ways according to God and his word. For some, this is too much; and they look for priests and pastors and other religious figures, or even irreligious gurus or politicians or charismatic leaders, to provide them with authoritative guidance. "Tell me the rules, so I will be successful by keeping the rules."

Scripture actually says we should expect hostility, persecution, and failure by the world's standards, for clinging to God and his word regardless of the "success" it brings (often none at all). Perhaps, if we are suffering for doing good, only then are we "doing it right." Christianity is not a covenant of works, not a recipe for making a modestly comfortable living for our season here. We aren't always going to "figure out" the optimal expression of our moral duty for every circumstance. What we do is act as best we may per God's will as we perceive it; understanding the results may be less than desired. Yet, happy that God is in control; and I have a right-relationship with God through my Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, even my errors and failures (regarded from earth's viewpoint) fall under his providence, and must finally work out for my good. Even my sins and persistent folly cannot separate me from the love of God and his kind intentions toward me. Thanks be to God! Carry on...
 
Huh. Maybe it’s because we were in the Army, but I’ve been in contexts where I’m eating and Jews are eating and we’ve all eaten whatever we wanted and no one cared. Granted, it’s not like I ordered a suckling hog and had it plopped on the table, but still.

If I was having a Jew over for dinner I’d be as accommodating as possible.
 
This seems to be a helpful way of thinking about it, although I’m not sure all the questions in my head are answered yet.

In applying this, say you’re in a place where many Christians condemn alcohol. As I’m sure you know, many can be quite legalistic in this. Is this then comparable to the situation with the Jew Rutherford speaks of where one should drink so as not to confirm them in their error? And if so, what would be a comparable situation where one should rather abstain from drinking?

You see, up until now I would have said that in such a situation one must always abstain. But now I see Rutherford telling me there’s this other obligation where one must not abstain because to do so confirms others in error. So in my mind, it’s now hard for me to figure out what my moral duty is here.
If I were in your position, I would first find out why a brother or sister is leery of alcohol. If it is because they believe all alcohol consumption is sinful, that is one issue to consider. But another could be that undeniably the Bible is littered with warnings of the negativity alcohol can bring. While one may focus on the passages that paint alcohol in a good light; to others, alcohol isnt a significant enough product to battle temperance for when they weigh the risks of possible attachment, and can easily live without it. I have heard some pastors preach that it is almost our Christian duty to partake, since in our liberty we can; and that it is somehow a bigger picture of grace that we can practice restraint unlike much of the world. I dont really agree with that take. While I dont think alcohol is sinful, it cracks me up kind of, that some will make this issue almost a "radical" stance; when I really think the issue is a lot of Christians see the harm alcohol does in the world, and are just content to live without it. If you find yourself in the presence of someone who is using discretion as their reason for abstinence, and not because they think it is sinful; it would seem kind of foolish to drink in front of them purposely "to prove a point" when honestly they could care less; as they dont abstain in regard to its sinfulness or non-sinfulness; but the potential that it can lead them into sin. In those cases, just be yourself. If you want a beer, get a beer, if not, dont. But those who are convinced alcohol is a sin, drinking in front of them is going to do little to change their minds.

In my personal life, I come into a lot of contact with people battling addictions. So to be able to tell them that I havent drank in so many years, in my opinion, is more beneficial as a beacon of hope that they too can overcome their addictions, then the profit I would get from occasionally drinking a beer or having a couple shots. That witness, that Jesus is enough, within the arena of addiction, steers me to exercise my freedom by abstaining; as, like weed, if alcohol is not sinful, I will have an eternity to partake within a frame where I will be unable to do so wrongly; so my abstinence is not so much giving something up, as it is putting it off for a more convenient time.
 
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