Are We What We Eat

By Dr. George Matzko
In a previous article (Wellsprings, January-March 2004) I discussed the cause of sickness and aging and God’s purpose in illness from a Biblical perspective. In this article I would like to deal with the main points of contention between alternative medicine and traditional western scientific medicine. I come to this discussion, not as a medical practitioner, but as a member of the scientific community, thankful for God’s gift to mankind of western scientific medicine and the diversity of foods we have to enjoy from all over the world.
There are a number of myths about health that are in circulation in many fundamental churches, including the idea that people are sicker today than they have been in the past due to our modern diet of processed foods. However, the truth is that those of us who live in the West are living longer and healthier than ever in human history. It is true that diseases of old age and overeating, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease have increased, but deaths from infectious diseases have decreased dramatically. However, adjusting for our increased life span, deaths from all types of cancer except those related to lifestyle (lung, skin, genital) have decreased year by year.
As far as diet is concerned, our Lord placed the emphasis where it belongs in Matt. 15:16-20, “And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”
Today we see an unhealthy overemphasis on diet to the extent that some would say, “You are what you eat.” This ignores the fact that God designed the stomach and intestines as a chemical processing factory, and very few substances are able to pass through the digestive system unchanged. Most foods are either turned into glucose (sugar) for immediate use or fat for later use. Harmful substances are either detoxified by the stomach or the liver or are “cast out into the draught” as our Lord said.
Then there is the widespread misunderstanding that insists that natural chemicals are better for you than synthetic ones. However, I believe that Psalm 8:6 includes mankind’s future scientific achievements: “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” Man’s dominion over nature certainly includes the production of synthetic chemicals.
Even some well-meaning Christian people are guilty of spreading confusion in this area. For example, the promoter of the Hallelujah diet, speaking of processed foods states, “Most consumers do not know that there are no nutrients in these products because they often add coal-tar derived, synthetic vitamins that contain no food value for the body, but rather are carcinogenic and cause further breakdown in the body.” Now, it is true that some processed foods may not be as nutritious as fresh food, but on the other hand, the nutrients present are clearly listed on the label and fresh foods usually do not come with nutrient labels attached. If a particular “natural” food is chemically identical to a “synthetic” one, the body is unable to distinguish its origin. If they are somewhat different chemically, like different types of margarines or spreads, many of the differences vanish as the digestive system breaks them down into their component molecules.
The natural=good and synthetic=bad paradigm breaks down when we examine the facts. For example, the presence of petroleum-based food preservatives such as BHT and BHA have contributed to a lowering of the incidence of stomach cancer. On the other hand, natural food toxins (such as afla-toxin in peanuts) introduce more carcinogens into our diets than synthetic chemicals because the synthetic materials are required to be tested before they can be added into the food supply. For the record, of all the chemicals tested, both natural and synthetic, about 50% have been found to be carcinogens regardless of the source. This is usually not a problem if our God-given detoxification system is working properly.
Actually, the whole argument that “natural” is better than “synthetic” derives from evolutionary ideas. Evolutionists, in concert with the environmentalists, commonly argue that synthetic food additives are harmful because they were introduced into the human diet very late in terms of homosapien evolution and thus the body is unable to detoxify them or derive proper nutrition from them. It is for this reason that the environmentalists usually oppose the introduction of genetically engineered foods into our diets and they define “natural foods” as those that we evolved with over millions of years. But contrary to this false premise of evolution, man did not evolve for millions of years on “natural foods” but was created fully formed by an all-knowing God. Our Creator certainly had knowledge about synthetic substances that would someday be derived from petroleum for man’s good and was well able to design the human body to make use of them!
A similar claim is made for raw foods being better for you than cooked foods. Again I quote from the founder of the Hallelujah diet: “There is no life and practically nutrition in anything that comes in a box, package, can, jar or container of any kind because it has been processed, devitalized and its God-given life has been taken away.” However, the Bible makes it clear that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11). It is the blood that contains the “life principle,” not our food. For that reason the Israelites were enjoined from eating the blood of animals. Putting it another way, there are very few living cells that are able to make it intact through the digestive system. With the exception of some parasites and germs, etc., if a cell was still alive when it entered the stomach, it certainly will be dead when it leaves—ripped to pieces to be used as fuel for the body! Most drug addicts have figured this out and eventually descend to injecting the drug of abuse directly into the blood stream. They do this in order to get the drugs unaltered into their bodies. However in doing so, they place themselves at great risk by using shared needles. Blood to blood contact is the easiest way to transmit disease because no detoxification or digestive process intervenes.
Should we avoid eating meat? That question is a common but odd one for Christians to ask since the Bible has so much to say on that subject. Here we are able to follow Lord’s example. Abraham prepared a meal for the preincarnate Christ that had meat at the center: “And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat” (Gen. 18:8). And when our Lord was on Earth, he was certainly no vegetarian eating both mutton and fish.
  • Luke 22:15: “And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:”
  • Luke 24:42: “And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.”
  • John 21:9: “As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.”
We are cautioned in Scripture about our attitude of humility in all of this.
  • Romans 14:2-3: “For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.”
  • Colossians 2:16: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:”
The sad fact is that what we eat has become a cause for division among God’s people and, in these last days, a doctrine promoted by demons. 1 Timothy 4:1-5 states, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (emphasis added).
So then what is the best diet according to the Bible? The answer is simple: whatever the Lord provides to sustain us and is enjoyable to eat.
  • Proverbs 30:8: “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me” (emphasis added).
  • Acts 14:17: “Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (emphasis added).
Sometimes born-again believers act more like Seventh-Day Adventists than thankful children of a good God who gives us all foods to enjoy in moderation and as a part of a balanced diet.
Dr. George Matzko, a gifted scientist and dedicated Christian, is Chairman of the Division of Natural Science at Bob Jones University. This article is used by permission. All rights reserved.