In a recent exchange here at SharperIron, I was asked what I thought 1 Corinthians 8:8 meant. I had just asserted that a being bearing the image of God could not possibly do anything that is morally neutral — neither right nor wrong, because such a being must either express that imago dei, or in some way insult it (or both at once, in different ways).
1 Corinthians 8:8 seems to say otherwise.
After offering a brief explanation of how Paul’s meaning there could be understood as consistent with the view that human actions are always moral, the question continued to nag me. My answer felt inadequate. And, since any answer to the question could have a lot of implications, it seems important to be confident.
Hence, this brief study.
First, a bit of context. The apostle Paul is helping the Corinthian congregation work through how to behave in the matter of consumption of meat that had been offered to idols. He has just asserted that idols are not really real (1 Cor. 8:4), in the sense of representing or connecting to some deity (but cf. 1 Cor. 10:21, another study for another day). He then points out that not everybody understands this (1 Cor. 8:7), and 8:8 comes as further explanation of the true nature of eating this idol-associated food.
Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. (ESV, 1 Cor. 8:8)
"67 percent approve of homosexuality, compared to 40 percent in 2001; 69 percent approve of premarital sex, compared to 53 percent in 2001; 76 percent of Americans say divorce is morally acceptable, compared to 59 percent in 2001; and 65 percent of Americans approve of childbirth outside of marriage, compared to 45 percent in 2002 when Gallup added the practice to its poll." BPNews
"While 63 percent of the 65+ crowd agreed that right and wrong was objective, or does not change, only 36 percent of the 18-24 age group thought the same. In other words, two-thirds of the next generation believe standards of right and wrong are relative to the individual." Intellectual Takeout
"Neither of these ideas is connected with any religious notion, much less any orthodox version of Christianity, in which pride is the sin of preferring a self-chosen world to a God-made world and where sin itself consists in rebellion against and alienation from God." AC
“In other words, we cannot preach the gospel without preaching morality. People cannot receive the good news without first believing the bad news, and that bad news is that they are lawbreakers and rebels. They must understand that morality is not an arbitrary convention, but that it stands over them in judgment and that it is a matter of divine imposition.