Article 5: On the Appetites

A series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.”

Most people desire immediate pleasure over delayed gratification, lower arts over the fine arts, and self-indulgence over self-control. For instance, our very makeup as humans demands that we naturally desire leisurely entertainment over sermons that require thought and argument.

 

This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.”

We affirm that manipulation of the visceral appetites is dangerous to rightly ordered worship and Christian piety (Phil 3:19).

We deny that the transmission of biblical truth can be rightly administered through the use of methods that appeal to the appetites. We further deny that holy affections may be expressed in worship employing aesthetic forms that by design stir the appetites.

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We believe that God created humankind to consist of two distinct but inter-influencing parts: a body and a soul.1 Christian theologians from Augustine of Hippo to Thomas Aquinas, from John Calvin to John Owen, for nearly seventeen and a half centuries generally believed that these two parts of man had corresponding desires. The higher desires corresponded to the will of the soul; they might be called the affections (Col 3:1-4). The lower desires corresponded to the body and might be called the passions (1 Cor 7:9). The Bible neither teaches that the desires of the body are necessarily evil (John 19:28), nor that the desires of the soul are necessarily good (e.g., 1 Cor 3:3).2 But, at the same time, Christian theology insists that the soul is the seat of religion.3 This (abbreviated) background is important to all that we are trying say in this article.

When we speak of the “visceral appetites,” we are referring to innate capacities created by God in humankind to preserve health and welfare. God gave humankind these capacities because the things the body desires, such as food, drink, and sleep, are necessary to live. The Bible condemns an inordinate attachment to these appetites. Paul speaks, inPhilippians 3, of those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” He explains in verse 19, “Their end is destruction, their God is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” And although Paul is continuing the athletic metaphor he had been using in the verses preceding, given that he speaks of his remuneration throughout the chapter, Paul certainly has corporeal needs in view when he says in 1 Cor 9:27: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” The things of this world are passing away, so it makes little sense for Christians to be devoted to these things. God expects believers to keep bodily appetites under control (Gal 5:16-24Eph 5:3-20Phil 3:20-211 Pet 4:3-52 Pet 1:3-4; 2:17-22).

This Biblical testimony makes it clear why we object to religious appeals directed to the visceral appetites. These appetites are easily abused, especially by the unregenerate. Too often, bodily appetites are much more “sensible” to and thereby powerful over us as corporeal creatures.

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