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Building a Biblical Foundation for Nutrition Courses

What makes our Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) colleges different from public universities? Both have excellent professors that care about their students, but with regards to faculty, one big difference is that professors have the opportunity to teach courses from a Biblical perspective. This is a sacred responsibility our Adventist university faculty need to take seriously.

A few years ago, I felt impressed to read the Bible in a new way, with the specific purpose of looking for anything related to what I teach – nutrition. I highlight, in green, all texts related to diet that might help students see the wisdom of the Bible and the loving character of God it portrays. This approach is ongoing and helps me personally as well. Here is a deeper look at the method I have found most useful for building a biblical foundation for nutrition classes at Adventist schools.

  • Study the Bible Prayerfully. Pray for the Holy Spirit to provide an inquisitive, teachable, and honest mind, and with the help of a couple of commentaries, dig into His word. The Andrews Study Bible has notes on each page with profound insights and historical perspectives. It is also easy to take to school when sharing with a class. Christ, Paul, John, Solomon, Moses, Daniel, the Jerusalem council, and many others offer sound advice on health that is filled with grace and encouragement. Some of these nutrition-related scriptures are discussed in a paper I wrote for The Journal of Biblical Foundations of Faith and Learning.
  • Connect to Specific Course Topics. Tying the discoveries to specific class topics is not too difficult because the Bible covers a wide range of topics that demonstrate His omniscient yet loving character. Ephesians 2:8 is the foundation of my classes. It emphasizes that salvation is totally a gift from God. No one is saved by what they eat or don’t eat. With that foundation, study of what benefits the health does not incur the burden of guilt.
  • Back up the Bible with Science. When discussing the Levitical laws or any other recommendation, we look at the reasons behind why they were so beneficial then and how they apply today. There is much debate in the field of nutrition so it is crucial to help students distinguish between fact and theory or opinion.
  • Ask and Listen. Encourage students to contemplate all things and ask questions because God invites us to reason with Him. Noting their reactions and carefully listening to them both in and out of class is crucial to helping nurture their relationship with us and most importantly with God.
  • Clarify E.G. White’s role and writings. Mrs. White considered herself a lesser light pointing to the greater light—the Bible. Her writings are insightful, but definitely not essential for salvation. Counsels on Diets and Foods compiled many years after her death, contains advice she gave to an array of individuals with varying medical conditions. The book was primarily intended to be a textbook for dietetic students at Loma Linda University. Each letter was to be studied with an explanation of whom the advice was being given to so the students could understand the medical significance. Specific advice to a few was never intended to be blanket advice for everyone.

What Biblical principles can you apply to the courses you teach?

Elizabeth Snyder

Elizabeth, MS, RD Associate Professor of Nutrition at Southern Adventist University, United States. I have
taught nutrition for over 20 years at SAU. Prior to that, I taught a mix of nutrition, chemistry and English
at Universitas Advent Indonesia for 7 years.
Elizabeth Snyder

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