Consider The Oyster, Consider Justification By Faith
It does sound very pouncey to declare lobsters and oysters amongst one’s favourite meat. But I feel vaguely justified that this preference surfaced only recently; specifically, through the mediation of Travis Masiero’s Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chop House.
Previously, lobster seemed to be nothing more than a large amount of defrosted prawn – both clammy and powdery in texture, with a taste that you needed to drown in loads of strong tasting sauce. The contents of Luke’s lobster rolls, however, were firm, succulent and even, in its shellfish way, sweet. The meat was set off nicely in a warm buttered roll that was toasted to be just crisp at the edges while still soft inside.
And formerly, oysters had to be forced upon me by the parentals – nutritious bivalve molluscs whose rank smell, even in very reputable establishments, was to be drowned with half a lemon and Tabasco, and then swallowed with only enough chewing as might be necessary to prevent choking. The oysters at Luke’s however smelled clean, and they seemed so fresh that a squeeze of lemon, I thought, adulterated its taste.
The Wiannos were farm-raised in Cape Cod – slightly salty but predominantly clean and sweet; the Malpeques, from somewhere in the Malpeque Bay, Prince Edward Island, Canada I guess, were much brinier but in a clean-tasting crystal cold water and not a grown-next-to-oil-tanker-parking-lot way; the Katama was sweet too but with a slightly more complex taste; and the little Onset, small and smokily? sweet. According to the Chow article on The Taste of an Oyster, real oyster tasting vocabulary references fruits. Intriguing.
Now i must stop reading Ms. M.F.K. Fisher’s Consider The Oyster with all her drool-inducing prose about hot tureens of rich oysters stews made with milk, butter, salt and pepper; well-dressed oyster rockerfellers; boarding school midnight feasts of rich cooked oysters nestled in a hollowed-out bread loaf from the best baker in the village…
The concept of justification is interesting: being asked to justify something suggests there is something dubious about the thing in the first place. Having to justify the expense of indulging in oysters, might suggest that the questioner finds the use of money for such food extravagant, in which case one might answer that half a dozen in a half shell actually costs “only” S$25 during Luke’s 4-7pm happy hour.
John Woodhouse was just speaking about Justification By Faith at the Ministry Matters Conference at Thomson Road Baptist Church today. His passage for the second talk was Romans 3:19-26, though perhaps starting at Romans 3:10 is more useful for context:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 9:10-26)
Do we think of ourselves as good or bad people? Most of us think we are the former, though, of course, not perfect. So there are many theories that all we need to do is to try harder or be more disciplined to be more good – perhaps a few more ranks up the meditation rungs might do it, or sessions on a psychologist’s couch, or eating the right food for our type. Or perhaps we think that any acknowledgment that we are at all bad is detrimental to our self-esteem and self-confidence so we try to convince ourselves that we really are good already by dwelling on our good points and hope that everyone else will see only the good stuff too. I rather prefer the realism of the Bible that matter-of-factly states what we all know: none of us is good, not even one. Because we have all turned away from our Creator, we lie, cheat, envy, murder and commit adultery and rape (in mind if not in deed).
God’s law as set out in the Old Testament, including but not limited to the famous Ten Commandments, was summed by Jesus as “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbour as yourself”. This is something no human has ever done perfectly, not even someone as saintly as Mother Teresa, who gave up her life of privilege to care for the poor and dying in Calcutta. This failure is critical because the whole world will be held accountable to God their Creator for not having lived as he made humans to live (that is, according to his laws), and their destination is ultimate destruction. No one can make it to heaven.
What is to be done? God had said constantly throughout the hundreds of years in which the various books of the Old Testament was written, that he would give mankind a way out. The escape route would be apart from obedience to the law – it would have to be since no human can never obey his law fully. When human history trundled round to New Testamental times, it was revealed that Jesus (who fulfilled all the little detailed promises of the Old Testament) was the free pass – specifically, God sent his son to die for all our sins, thereby paying the penalty on our behalf. Jesus’ resurrection on the third day (Easter) demonstrated that his payment was successful and that all who believed (and who would in the future believe) in God’s promise that Jesus paid for our transgressions would be saved (see eg Romans 4).
As it was with the oysters, I’d always resented having Christian friends attempt to shove the gospel down my throat: I wished they weren’t so pushy and didn’t see the need to believe in their Jesus Christ. Now however, I understand why Jesus is good news (which is what “gospel” means). And it’s not just about raving to everyone how good oysters are: there, the analogy ends. Trusting or ignoring God’s solution to our certain dire fate is a life and death issue of eternal consequence. Failing to say anything would be worse than smiling politely (with horrific foreknowledge that these would soon crash into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York) while loved ones and strangers boarded American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175.