Studies in Nutrition and Food

I. Making Natural Law Plain

By G. K. ABBOTT, M. D., Medical Director, St. Helena Sanitarium and Hospital, California

One of the most frequently quoted state­ments -from the Spirit of prophecy on the principles and objectives of healthful living is this: "To make plain natural law, and urge the obedience of it, is a work that accom­panies the third angel's message, to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord."—Testi­monies, Vol. III, p. 161. It is a statement that will bear careful analytic study. The objective stands out as the main feature—the preparation of a people for the second advent of Christ. The third angel's message is a message from Christ, to make ready His people to meet Him. It is Christ who knows what this preparation should be. "There was never a time when God instructed His people more earnestly than He instructs them now concerning His will, and the course that He would have them pursue."—Id., Vol. v, p. 661.

There is a special reason given for the place and purpose of health reform in the third angel's message : "God's people are not prepared for the loud cry of the third angel. They have a work to do for themselves which they should not leave for God to do for them. He has left this work for them to do. It is an individual work, one cannot do it for another. . . . In order to be fitted for translation, the people of God must know themselves. They must understand in regard to their own physical frames."— Counsels on Diet and Foods, pp. 32, 33. If such a statement were made by a physician, it could scarcely be regarded in any other light than as a fantastic exaggeration of the impor­tance of physical health in spiritual well-being, as if "biologic living" were the substance of salvation. Personally, I would not advance such an idea on any own initiative.

This statement is not intended to make health­ful living a means in itself of spiritual re­generation. This is self-evident from its stated relation to the third angel's message ; namely, that it is the work that accompanies this mes­sage, not the message itself.

This accompanying work is to make natural law plain. To do this means first of all to ascer­tain what are natural or physiologic laws. This is done by studying the operations of nature, the functions of the tissues and organs of the body. Only when it is ascertained that these tissues and structures invariably operate in pre­cisely the same way under the same conditions, is it considered that a physiologic law has been discovered. And moreover, this is not generally accepted as a scientific fact until others have made the study and found the same occurrences from the same causes. Phygiologic laws are fixed, invariable, constant—no change here, no working one way one day, and another the next. They do not produce one effect in one white rat, and an entirely different effect in an­other white rat under the same conditions. The laws of human physiology, though in some re­spects different from those of rats and other laboratory animals, are nevertheless just as fixed and constant.

The fact of this constancy of effects from given causes is clearly stated in the discussion in the Testimonies concerning the welfare of Daniel and his three associates.

"Right physical habits promote mental superiority. Intellectual power, physical strength, and longevity depend upon immutable laws. There is no happen-so, no chance, about this matter. Nature's God will not interfere to preserve men from the consequences of violating nature's laws."--/d., p. 29.

"God has not changed, neither does He propose to change our physical organism, in order that we may violate a single law without feeling the effects of its violation. But many willingly close their eyes to the light. . . . By indulging their inclinations and appe­tites, they violate the laws of life and health ; and if they obey conscience, they must be controlled by principle in their eating and dressing, rather than be led by inclination, fashion, and appetite."---/d., p. r6r.

"Our tables are frequently spread with luxuries not healthful nor necessary because we love these things more than we love freedom from disease and a sound mind."—Sufferings of Christ, p. 14.

A skilled physician who has spent his whole professional life in many lands in the work of disease. prevention, Victor Heiser of the Rocke­feller Foundation, evidently has the same il­logical situation in mind, when he exclaims: "Impounded rats, eating perforce what they are furnished, may thrive and grow vigorous. Reasoning man, with laboratory knowledge at his disposal, remains a slave to dietary habits, sacrificing his health and sometimes even his life."—"We Are What We Eat," Reader's Di­gest, March, 1938.

How alike are the messages which God sends to men and women today through the Spirit of prophecy, and some of those which come from men of scientific research. "The strange ab­sence of principle which characterizes this gen­eration, and which is shown in their disregard of the laws of life and health, is astonishing. Ignorance prevails upon this subject, while light is shining all around them."—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 119. Dr. Weston A. Price, in his monumental work Nutrition and Physical De­generation, several times mentions this character factor as the largest obstacle in the way of cor­recting physical degeneration, even when it is most obvious and rampant and when those afflicted have the needed knowledge. But he is unable to offer any suggestion for remedying this character defect, as dissemination of knowl­edge is, in this case, no help at all.

The only force that can motivate this char­acter defect is a keen sense of moral obligation to the Creator who entrusted man with His, the Creator's, masterpiece, the human body, brain, and soul. The importance in the plan of redemption of awakening this responsibility is shown by the example and first work of Christ when He took upon Himself the body and nature of man. "Christ began the work of redemption just where the ruin began. The fall of our first parents was caused by the in­dulgence of appetite. In redemption, the denial of appetite is the first work of Christ."—Suf­ferings of Christ, p. 12.

In numerous places in the Testimonies we are told how God regards our relationship to physiologic law.

"Since the laws of nature are the laws of God, it is plainly our duty to give these laws careful study. We should study their requirements in regard to our own bodies and conform to them. Ignorance in these things is sin."—Testimonies, Vol. VI, p. 369.

"He who remains in willing ignorance of the laws of his physical being, and who violates them through ignorance, is sinning against God."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 348.

"Ignorance is no excuse now for the transgression of law. The light shines clearly, and none need be ignorant,"—Counsels on Health, p. 38.

"A practical knowledge of the science of human life is necessary in order to glorify God in our bodies."—Ibid.

While the Testimonies emphasize the impor­tance of physiologic law and give many broad principles pertaining to them, they do not give statement to these laws or constitute a textbook of laws of physiologic functions. In the creation of man. God devised the physiologic laws of his being which it is therefore plainly our duty to study. He would not state something in the Testimonies of His Spirit directly contrary to these laws which He Himself created. The two must and do agree.

"Rightly understood, science and the written Word agree, and each sheds light on the other."—Counsels to Teachers, p. 426.

"In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days He speaks to them by the Testimonies of His Spirit."—Testimonies, Vol. V, p. 661.

The Testimonies are not a replacement for the writings of the apostles and prophets but an amplification and explanation, the applying of truth to the needs of our times. As "the book of nature and the written Word shed light upon each other," they "make us acquainted with God by teaching us something of the laws through which He works."—Education, p. 528.

Let us enter, therefore, upon a careful, detailed study of the testimonies on healthful living, correlating them with scientific research into physiologic laws which God has pointed out as "plainly our duty." Since not all that purports to be science is actually scien­tific, nor all that is written by men of science is true factual science, we need some certain guid­ing principles if precious time is not wasted in the study of mere opinions and of impractical material. This guiding principle is plainly stated in Counsels to Teachers: "His Word is given for our instruction ; there is nothing in it that is defective or misleading. The Bible is not to be tested by men's ideas of science, but science is to be brought to the test of the un­erring standard."—Page 425.

As does the Bible, so do the Testimonies contain some things hard to understand, which those who are unstable and unlearned wrest (twist, misconstrue) to their own condemnation and harm to themselves and often to others. The Bible has statements which have been and still are contrary to many generally accepted or cur­rent ideas of physical phenomena, or science. The Bible is considered unreliable in matters of science by large numbers of modern peoples of civilized lands. The Testimonies are simi­larly regarded by some Adventists apparently in good and regular standing. Attempts at explanation of some statements in the Testi­monies on diet, foods, drugs, or causes of dis­ease, clearly show skepticism; others are strained out of their obvious normal setting, so that essentially they are explained away.

The great health importance of many, many facts and principles, which were . contrary to accepted ideas of the time in which they were written, have now been clearly and conclusively corroborated and explained by scientific re­search. Very little still remains unexplained. I know of but one that has not yet been demon­strated by modern medical science, or is not at least fully in accord with discovered facts of scientific research, even though these facts are not yet generally accepted by medical men. Such numerous scientifically demonstrated facts of statements written years ago by the mes­senger of the Lord should incline us to faith in the very little still left unexplained by science or at least unaccepted.

As is the Bible, so are the Testimonies a safe and reliable guide in the study of science. If I cannot understand it, I do not reject it and say it is wrong. I hold it as truth and wait to explain it until research makes it understand­able to me. "There are some professed be­lievers who accept certain portions of the Testi­monies as the message of God, while they reject _those portions that comdemn their favorite in­dulgences."—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 37.

We must not set ourselves up as judges of what is right and what is wrong in God's mes­sages to the people of this day, for thus we assume a wisdom superior to that of the Giver of these messages. There are still other ways by which we virtually reject or ignore vitally important instruction designed for the benefit of God's people. Some of these ways are con­sidering the messages as unimportant in some respects ; allowing our preconceived ideas to be put ahead of them ; feeling that they do not ap­ply to our particular case, because of defects in the translation of thought from written lan­guage or of just plain disregard or lack of care­ful study.

Some seem to feel that the testimonies on diet and food are good grandmotherly advice, but not at all to be taken seriously in these days of modern science. When I read The Desire of Ages alongside the four Gospels, I feel the same Spirit speaking to me and giving the gracious invitation that changes this heart of stone and makes it pulsate with a longing to know my Saviour better and give myself wholly to Him. When I read Ministry of Healing beside the books of Exodus and Leviticus, I sense that they were given by the same Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ, our Lord. I find no personal expression of my convictions and faith in the Testimonies as a reliable and practical guide to the science of physiologic law quite equal to this statement in the book Education regarding the Bible :

"It is one thing to treat the Bible as a book of good moral instruction, to be heeded so far as is con­sistent with the spirit of the times and our position in the world ; it is another thing to regard it as it really is,—the word of the living God,—the word that is our life, the word that is to mold our actions, our words, and our thoughts. To hold God's Word as anything less than this is to reject it. And this rejection by those who profess to believe it, is fore­most among the causes of skepticism and infidelity in the youth."—Page 260.

The book Medical Ministry gives the falling of the manna as an illustration of the way in which light is given on the food question:

"The light that God has given and will continue to give on the food question is to be to His people today what the manna was to the children of Israel. The manna fell from heaven, and the people were told to gather it, and prepare it to be eaten."—Page 267.

Here we are reminded that the manna fell from heaven. It is also from heaven that light on the nutritive values of food comes to us. Scientific research finds this light and makes it available. Yet, as in the case of manna, it is necessary that it be gathered. God does not spoon-feed us even though He does provide the food. The light He provides must also be gathered.

A little study of the human endeavor that must have been required to gather the manna helps us to better understand the illustration. Each one gathered an omer a day. The Rab­binists give an omer as equal to 0.45 of a gallon; Josephus, as o.86 of a gallon. To gather two to three quarts of manna like coriander seed would necessitate considerable time, as anything so small could not be scooped up with the hands-or utensil without getting sand and dirt along with it. The children of Israel must have had-to get up early in the morning, for it melted away when "the sun was hot." It was a big task of literally little things.

Also in this connection it might be well to point out that manna had a most delicious flavor —"it tasted like wafers made with honey." Food should be palatable. It is not necessary and it is very undesirable to prepare food of nauseating or unpalatable flavors, food that does not appeal to the unpampered appetite. Food-should taste good as well as be healthful. "With a lavish hand God has provided us with rich and varied bounties for our sustenance and en-. joyment."—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 160. "Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things ; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's."

To prepare the light on foods and nutrition into a practical, workable daily program is the task God expects of us now. It also is no small task, and here again it is made up of a multitude of little things.

Reasons as well as proper methods and technic must be made known. It is not uncommon for patients to say to the doctor, "Just tell me what to eat and I will follow it ; I don't want to bother with it." Now God does not do things for us that way. We must put forth our own en­deavors. He does not mark our menus for us.

"It is of great importance that individually we act well our part, and have an intelligent understanding of what we should eat and drink, and how we should-live to preserve health."—M., P. 34. "Men and women should inform themselves in regard to the philosophy of health. The minds of rational beings seem shrouded in darkness in regard to their own physical structure, and how to preserve it in a healthy condition. The present generation have trusted their bodies with the doctors, and their souls-with the ministers."—Counsels on Health, p. 37.

Certainly doctors and ministers have their place in human affairs, and a very useful place it is. It was Elbert Hubbard who said, "It is ignorance and sin that furnish the excuses for the existence of the learned professions." We should be teachers of the people, not simply menders of broken pottery. But this does not excuse men and women from diligent study of their own physical needs and welfare.

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By G. K. ABBOTT, M. D., Medical Director, St. Helena Sanitarium and Hospital, California

May 1944

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