In 1 Corinthians 10:27-29, the Apostle Paul tells his church that, if someone goes to the house of an unbliever and meat is set before him, he is to eat it without asking questions, but, if the meat is sacrificed to an idol and if someone mentions this fact to them, they should not partake, both of these actions for conscience’s sake.
In the first case, when you ask without questions, I presume that Paul is meaning the conscience of the person not asking any questions. However, in the second case, where the person is not to take the meat if he is informed that it is sacrifcied to idols, whose conscience is he trying to satisfy and why?
I would say that, in this case, Paul is looking to the conscience of the other person who informed the Christian. However, almost in the very next breath, Paul basically says “what should I care about another man’s conscience?” What does Paul mean by all this?
In any case, I would also argue that Paul is, in some sense, advocating insincerity toward unbelievers about what we really do and do not believe. After all, we are told elsewhere that an idol is nothing in the world so that it is fine for us to eat meat sacrificed to idols as long as it does not cause a brother with a weak conscience to stumble. However, in this case, Paul seems to be saying that, even though we believe this, we are still to act like it is a sin forus to eat meat sacrificed to idols just because an unbeliever thinks it is sinful for us to do so. After all, I am taking the motivation for an unbeliever saying that meat is sacrificed to idols as indicating that he is concerned that would would be sinning if we partook in it.
Why couldn’t we just, if an unbeliever told us that meat is sacrificed to idols, simply explain that we don’t believe that an idol s anything in the world and so, then, it is all right for us to eat that meat, instead of not eating it, and, thus, play acting that we shouldn’t?
Or, rather, does the word “unbeliever” have some special meaning here? In other words, could Paul here not be talking about non-Christians but actually about “those Christians who do not believe/have faith that it is all right to eat meat sacrificed to idols”? What do folks think of this? Is this a valid interpretation? Has it ever been suggested before? If this is what is going on, then it would indeed go right along with Paul’s advice elsewhere not to stir things up with people who may not be a strong of conscience as you.
If Paul is advocating being insincere to non-Christian “unbelievers” in this case, in what other cases, both ancient and modern, should we convey an insincere notion of what we do and do not believe, possibly(?) to help our witness in some way? In what other ways is our freedom limited by this?
In antiquity, for example, (since that is my specialty and contemporary to when Paul is writing), would a Christian, by implication from this passage in question, not be permitted, say, to read pagan literature because non-Christians may have the idea that God does not permit us to read them since they have various associations with idolatry? Would this even be the case today with modern non-Christians who might think that we are technically not supposed to do thsi because of the pagan elements? But, getting back to antiquity, let us say a Christian goes into a pagan library and reads a scroll of, say, Vergil’s Aeneid simply because he enjoys and is edified by the literature, but not because he believes in the gods. But, let us say that there are pagans around who may assume that Christians are not permitted to do so. (The Christian wouldn’t know this for sure, of course) Should the Christian not take the risk of being seen to disobey God then and therefore should he not go into the library to read such scrolls? Or, rather, should he only not do this if someone definitely raises objections (as in the case of tthe earlier idolatry example) but is he permitted to do so as long as no-one asks him anything? Indeed, I do wonder how commonly a pagan would assume that a Christian was being disobedient if the former saw the latter reading pagan literature?