March 20, 2014

A Practical Understanding of the Sufficiency of Scripture – Part 2

by Lyndon Unger

Now in my last post (which is here), I wrote about the sufficiency of scripture and explored that topic a bit, taking a look at what Isaiah 65:8-16 teaches us about gambling/playing the lottery.  Now even though I tossed out the “please don’t ask me every sort of hypothetical question” line, they still came.  I understand that, honestly.  It’s only natural for people who are thinking about things to toss out questions and attempt to feel out the boundaries of an answer.


What about gambling for fun?

What about supporting the local hospital by buying a lottery ticket with no expectation of winning?

What about this?

What about that?

Now believe me, I am headed towards delivering some principles to address all those questions…but not quite yet.

Please be patient with me as this is a Cripplegate original mini-series, and I’m making the posts more concise in order to maintain an expected standard of quality.

That being said, let’s get on with the show.

So last time we talked about gambling and looked at a passage that many of you may not have known applied to gambling.  The whole point there was to point to the idea that the scripture often addresses matters more clearly than we may think.  Now, I’m going to point out a similar idea: the Bible directly speaks about far more issues than we often expect.  Today I’ll illustrate that by giving an issue that has come up for me several times, but initially caught me wildly off guard.  What is it?  Well, let me keep you hanging for a second or two.

When I was single, I had a sister and many female friends and I thought I was fairly well aware of the issues that women faced.  I was horribly mistaken, and once I got married I learned just how many mysteries of femininity are systematically hidden from guys.  As if to ad insult to injury, my wife regularly asked me questions that were so unexpected that they left me somewhat stunned.

Stunned Baby

But then, my wife started talking about having children and the unexpected question quotient went to an all time high and those unexpected  questions got out there.  Questions about water retention, birth control, nutrition, emotions, whether we should homeschool, etc. (you know, the types of questions that guys talk about while their chatting around a barbeque).  I was searching desperately through the Bible for help on those questions, and many times I was tossed a question that I was utterly unprepared for.  One night, after she had been reading a tsunami of stuff, she gave me the look and the “honey, can we talk?”.  The look told me it was time to sit down, so I sat down and she shared that she had been reading about a new practice that was somewhat growing in popularity and I simply couldn’t believe; eating one’s placenta.

That’s right.  Eating the other thing that emerges with a baby.

Not only had I never heard of that, but I couldn’t even imagine why in the world someone would want to eat their placenta.  How in the world would that even work?


I apologize if this is somewhat gross but I don’t mean to be disgusting.  In truth, this question has come up for me several times after my wife and I initially discussed it.  At the time, apparently women at church were talking about it and it was becoming the thing to do.  Apparently there were amazing health benefits (and 1 Cor. 6:19-20 was getting tossed around with all the standard guilt-inducing metaphors).  Apparently it increased the milk supply in nursing mothers (and Heb. 5:12-13 and 1 Pet. 2:2 obviously command all mothers to breastfeed their children until they’re functionally literate, right?).  Apparently, it was a preventative cure for postpartum depression (and Matt. 6:25 clearly suggests that postpartum depression is a sin, right?).  Apparently, it’s a rather old practice that is found all over history (and if we’ve been doing it for centuries or millennia, what’s the worry, right?).  Apparently, all the other mammals are doing it (and we don’t want to be the nerds of the animal world, right?).

Now none of those arguments are terribly convincing, even on a surface level, but tearing down weak arguments doesn’t establish a positive strong argument (i.e. proving that you’re wrong doesn’t make me right).  What’s more is that I couldn’t really find any help in building up a positive case short of some mediocre articles written by Christians who were well meaning but not exactly Bible scholars (if I had a dime for every good idea defended badly on the internet…). I also couldn’t think of a scripture that directly addressed the issue of placenta eating (off the top of my head) so this appeared to be a bit of a conundrum.

So, we had a conversation that continued on for an hour or so, and covered the popular reasoning for why someone would even think about eating their placenta (apparently you dried it and made it into pills, not a PLT like I was thinking) and we talked about whether or not eating any part of a human being was synonymous with cannibalism.  I also sat down, prayed like a frantic man, and started desperately doing some research .  Allow me to show my steps of sorting through what I (secretly) thought was an issue that scripture did not mention:

Step One: Try to find the appropriate and relevant biblical terminology.


This means that the English term(s) used to describe something might not be the Biblical term(s), but this is sometimes difficult as finding technical terms can be frustrating if you don’t even know what to look for.  I knew that the term “placenta” probably didn’t appear in the Bible, so I hopped on Google and BibleGateway and attempted to search a bunch of somewhat related terms in an effort to find a relevant direct reference in scripture.  You always want to go with direct references to an issue or topic if you can, and only move on to the second tier of “applying relevant principles” if you cannot find a direct reference.

On that particular day, the Lord was wonderfully gracious.  I found one relevant term; “afterbirth” in one verse.  Finding one term and one passage made my work quite quick and easy (and that is amazingly rare).

If I had not found any relevant terms, I would have moved on to searching for relevant principles.  Let’s take the related example of “cannibalism”.

The Bible doesn’t include the term “cannibalism” but it does talk about the concept.  A quick Google search gives me some scriptures to jump off from, and I can grab relevant terminology (i.e. “eat” + “sons” or “eat” + “child”) from the verses I find and search BibleGateway (i.e. Lev. 26:29; Deut. 28:53-57, 2 Ki. 6:28-29; Ps. 27:2; Ecc. 4:5; Is. 9:20, 49:26; Jer. 19:9; Lam. 2:20, 4:10; Ez. 5:10, 24:10-12; Mic. 3:3; Zech. 11:9).

Step Two: Make a list of the passages with the relevant terms/principles.


This means looking up all the passages with the term/principle in it and making two lists: one of direct references and one of passing/indirect reference.  A direct reference is basically when the term/principle is the topic of the passage, and an indirect reference is when the term appears but is not the focus/topic of the passage.  Here’s an example if you’re looking for a biblical understanding of the concept of “forgiveness”.

Indirect reference = “And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” – Luke 3:3.  The verse is not teaching on the topic of forgiveness.

Direct Reference = “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” – John 20:23.  The verse is teaching on the topic of forgiveness.

I found one passage that included an indirect reference – Deut. 28:57.

Step three: Examine the scriptures you’ve listed and analyze your data.

This is the part where biblical interpretation comes into play, but the interpretive task here was relatively easy since I only had one verse: Deut. 28:57.  What do we see there?  Deut. 28:52-57 is part of a curse for disobedience to the law that they’ve received.  The whole thrust of the passage is that if Israel disobeys God’s commands, God will bring a curse on Israel so utterly horrid that women will violate every natural inhibition they have and behave in ways that are absolutely unthinkable to them.  God promises Israel that he would curse them to the point that they would engage in actions that, even under siege and suffering to the point of being near death, they would still find shameful.

The eating of both the children and the afterbirth will be done in secret because it’s absolutely shameful.

Think about that for a second.

Deut. 28:56-57 speaks of a woman who, before the curse of the siege, was so refined and well mannered that she wouldn’t step barefoot on the ground. During the curse of the siege, that same women will eat both her afterbirth and children in hiding (in an effort to hide the fact that Miss Manners has become Miss Mongrel) and not even share her food with her own family.  The eating of her children and her afterbirth is the bottom of the barrel for her; it’s the unthinkable action that demonstrates the shameful depths to which she has plunged.

Given that is the only mention of the afterbirth in the OT (including the Hebrew term), there’s not a whole lot of question about what God thinks about eating the afterbirth.


So if you’re thinking about eating your placenta, you simply need to ask yourself one question: Why would I willfully choose to participate in an action that is the mark of being on the receiving end of a divine curse?

With our hypothetical example of cannibalism, we would extract some helpful principles and patterns from the list of scriptures we found previously; a rather obvious one is that every instance of cannibalism is a result of divine judgment.  That’s gives us a good enough trajectory to get that God’s not a fan of cannibalism at all.  There are more principles one could pull out (like in order to eat someone, you’d have to kill them…and Ex. 20:13 makes it clear that all cannibalism outside of some form of “morgue raid” is automatically sin), but we probably don’t really need to dig too deep into the scriptures to get the general gist of God’s opinion on the matter:

Do NOT do it.

Now this isn’t any sort of comprehensive guide to biblical study or sorting through biblical issues, but it’s a very simple set of steps for getting a general impression of the biblical teaching on a topic.  Of course, on many research projects you’ll run into difficult passages and where more serious problems of biblical interpretation come into play, but that’s far beyond the scope of this post.

In this example, God was gracious and I found a direct reference to the topic at hand that was helpful enough to formulate a fairly solid opinion on the matter.  When my wife asked me about whether or not she should eat her placenta, I thought we would be struggling through the issue and weighing various biblical principles against each other to see which ones best applied to the issue at hand… but it’s often amazing to me just how much the scripture directly or straightforwardly addresses.  That’s definitely a good reason to never give up studying the scripture; you’ll never fully exhaust the “Wait a minute!  That’s in here?!” moments that the Lord will bring to you.  The scripture truly is a storehouse of endless treasure.

Also, at many other times when I’m digging to find mention of a specific topic in the scripture, I don’t find direct references to the topic at hand.  In the next post, we’ll look at another question that came up where I definitely didn’t find any direct reference in the scripture, but still found more than sufficient enough to come to a general position on the issue because, well, the Bible offers sufficient divine guidance, either in prescription or principle, for the man of God to be equipped for every good work.

Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him didn’t.
  • Philip

    So among those who placed a wager on what the second topic in this series would be, who guessed placenta eating?

    • Lyndon Unger

      It’s a sad day when there is organized gambling built around the topic selection for posts on the Crippleg…OH WAIT! I see what you did there!

      • David

        “The scripture truly is a storehouse of endless treasure”. What a strong statement! I’m challenged by the reminder to systematically seek the scripture-
        Having successfully ‘pressed the ticket’ of tact and appropriate breakfast conversation in this post, I’m not sure that your instruction into the sufficiency of Scripture shines through particularly well by using this excessively protracted ‘afterbirth’ analogy.
        I’m guessing that there must have been a context where this made more sense…such as a devotional for those pregnant women of your church fellowship.
        Perhaps, next time, choosing images other than bacon sandwiches and chubby babies for your graphics or another analogy would help focus us onto the actual point of the adequacy of the Word for daily instruction and away from the nuances of cannibalistic mothers or how one is to produce ‘placenta pills’ right in their own home…

        Eph.4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. NASB

        • Lyndon Unger


          Thanks for your thoughts. I was honestly attempting to find a suitable balance between immature trivialization and showboating sobriety. Everyone has different places along that continuum where they are comfortable, and we’re obviously not resting in the same place. Truthfully, I was more worried about the kickback from last picture than the first three.

          I’m sorry that you were so distracted by the three initial pictures…but Ephesians 4:29? Is the reference some sort of subtle suggestion that I violated that?

          • Dennis HC

            Have to admit, I laughed out loud at PLT.

            FWIW, although it’s a somewhat queasy and sensitive topic, I think you wrote about it very well.

          • Lyndon Unger

            Thanks Dennis!

          • David

            Mr. Unger,

            I’m just not sure how extended discussions on these topics help your assertion-
            “if you’re thinking of eating your placenta”,
            glib references to the horrific judgement of national disobedience in Israel resulting in both men and women eating their children and ‘afterbirth’,
            “Miss Manners becomes Miss Mongrel” as she eats her child in hiding,
            quips about “cannibalism outside of some form of “morgue raid” being automatic sin… (so “morgue raids” maybe ain’t so bad? )

            ….how does a discussion riddled with such distracting imagery and flippancy lend to mature and credible biblical admonition for us to search the scripture systematically? Certainly, your point is in there, but as another reader commented, one is left with the desire to ‘wash up’ after reading this. What purpose does that serve?

            If my use of Eph 4:29 as an encouragement of us to speak wisely and with attention to edification and grace doesn’t suit you, I apologize. Perhaps Eph 5:4 might have been better (Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving).
            My intent was to suggest that using crass examples and vile practices to make your point about scripture study may be novel and ‘edgy’, but is distracting, far-fetched and unnecessary.
            Please understand, I get the ‘humor’, appreciate the puns and (living in a rural culture and in the healthcare professions) could ‘wow you’ with some great one liners on the topic…I just hope to raise the question as to whether such a vital topic and teaching needs to call on such abhorrent and distracting topics to make the point.
            I remain appreciative of the point and instruction of your blog- systematic study of the Word reaps help and life!

          • Lyndon Unger


            I cannot change how you take something, though I don’t think you were tracking with why I used the example that I did or what was going on in the article.

            I did not attempt to make light of divine judgment, I have no interest in being novel and edgy, and I wasn’t recommending a morgue raid. We’ll just be on very separate pages and leave it there.

        • pearlbaker

          With all due respect for your plea for decency and decorum, it seems to me that Ephesians 4:29 was followed to the letter in this post. To me, it is always good to expose a practice which clearly angers God, and to warn the violators, who may well be unaware of what they are doing, then to edify them with what the Word of God has to say about it. Just because a particular subject matter is not palatable (sorry) to you, does not mean it should not be explicitly exposed for what it is, and certainly it is a need of the moment, as young mothers are currently being duped into unintentional sin, but sin nevertheless, the wages of which are death.

          • David

            Please understand, the point is not the palatability of the topic, but appropriate use of that topic in the context of this article.
            Discussions about placenta ingestion or cannibalism or the judgement of Israel may all be important, but why mix cheap humor about marginalized topics (how many discussions have you had in your life about eating placentas) with the necessary and life-giving strategy for becoming adept in learning to tap the sufficiency of the scriptures!?
            If the point is to chastise/teach/challenge us not to eat our children or ‘afterbirth’, then bring it on, but that wasn’t what this article was about…I wonder if by trying to do both (encourage scriptural discernment and use examples of sensationalistic topics); we end up doing neither well.

          • Jenny

            You say that the palatability of the topic isn’t the problem
            but I find that suspicious since I don’t see you making these complaints against using gambling in a bible lesson.

            And there’s a difference between cheap humor and clever
            writing. Just because the author doesn’t write in a tedious fashion doesn’t make his humor cheap or crass. You don’t appear to agree, but he seems to be taking the Bible quite seriously.

            And DAVID, I’m guessing that you don’t have a whole lot of
            talks about eating placentas. I’m a woman, and I actually do because it’s actually an issue that is growing in popularity in the church. I’ve had dozens of conversations about it with moms-to-be who have searched online and couldn’t find any answers except from Christian mommy bloggers who only extol the virtues of the health benefits delivered, never knowing the Bible actually addresses it. Just because this issue is so far from YOUR radar does NOT make an issue that should not be addressed, ESPECIALLY in a lesson of how the Bible applies to all manners of life.

            I’m sorry you couldn’t take anything away from this article
            because of the real life example used in the article. I hope you’re not so unforgiving with your own pastor.

          • David

            Dear Jenny,
            Thanks for your passionate response. The main point of my objection to the use of topics like this one to illustrate a foundational and valuable point of biblical study and interpretation is stunningly illustrated by the focus of your posting…

            This wasn’t intended to be a post about placentas…or gambling…or your guesses about my exposure to conversations about placentas, or sadly, your accusation that I “couldn’t take anything away from this article”!
            Rather, the piece was an instructive essay on how to access the truth of scripture in every situation, and that the Word of God is applicable and unflinchingly practical to our daily lives. The article DID impact me, and challenged my discipline in pursuing the Word. I spoke out of concern that the distraction that this type of illustration tends to catch our attention and we veer away from the intent of credible teaching… A point that appears to be illustrated in your comments.

            The list of topics that we find palatable or distasteful would be interesting and pointless. Yet, there are certain topics which may be better discussed in an appropriate forum (the disfigurement and fatality of intestinal parasites, female infibulation, serial rapes of child brides or ongoing infant sacrifice that I recently encountered while working overseas are topics that I’d discuss only with appropriately chosen audiences- being careful before having frank discussions without discretion).
            The use of discretion and intentionality to season our speech with grace was the point I was making.

            Blessings to you as you spend time with “moms to be”, I pray that your interaction will be supportive, positive and redemptive.

          • Jenny

            Ha, no. I wasn’t responding to the article; I directly responded to your previous comment, point for point (you were the one trying to make a point about how marginalized the placenta topic was…remember?). So, I don’t see how your point was stunningly illustrated, unless you’re trying to make more points than you seem to realize.

            Maybe this author’s series isn’t for you. The way I read this series, it is the author’s INTENT to look at gambling, placentas, and whatever other real-life-but-tricky questions and answer those from the Bible. Has the author not made it clear from his writing that he is actually answering
            questions he personally has encountered in his life/pastoring? …Which actually DOES make this article
            partly about placenta consumption.

            If you want to go and write an article strictly focusing on
            Bible study without any distracting real life examples, you can go and do that. But just because this author is not writing to your specifications for learning how to apply the Bible to life doesn’t mean you must comment up and down that he’s, and I quote, “doing neither well.”

          • David

            Thanks for your reply.
            My intent was not to cause controversy or incite retort, rather to encourage discretion and focus in the use of topical illustrations which might be distracting or distasteful to some. I apologize for causing the very distraction I was addressing.

  • Jonathan

    It’s not often I want to wash my mouth out after reading one of your posts, but…..

    • Lyndon Unger

      Ah. The mixed bag of readers that is the Cripplegate. One guy rebukes me and one guy makes a pun!

  • Perplexed


    The Scripture is absolutely sufficient. Amen. However, I pray this article does not have the unintentionally consequence of undermining this blessed principle, because it seems to attempt to prove that the Bible speaks specifically to an issue that it does not explicitely address.

    It seems that just because God says that something is shameful (Though Dt. 28 never says that about eating placentia) and is a result of His curse for Israel, does not mean that it is always sinful for christians. The rest of the chapter seems to make this clear (Dt. 28). Would we say that groping around during the daytime is always sinful? Would we say that if a sojourner gets promoted above us that we are sinning? Would we say that taking a loan from a foreigner is always sin? Those actions “are the mark of being on the receiving end of a divine curse” for Israel in Dt 28, but do not apply to us directly since we are not in a Theocracy with Jehovah.

    So, it seems like we should realize that Dt. 28 describes the fact that God would remove his physical blessing from Israel if she persevered in disobedience. It describes the desperation that they would fall to. There would be no food, they would be desperate, they would do terrible things, like eating their children, and that is sinful (Because many Scripture speak to that issue). But the fact that they also eat the placentia is not
    explicitely stated to be sin, but rather is a description of their starvation because of their sin.

    Cannibalism is one thing, but the inference that eating a placentia is sinful solely on the basis of Dt. 28:57 seems like a bit of a stretch.

    • Dennis HC

      Lyndon can speak for himself, I’m sure, but I’m not sure he’s labeling it sin. He’s asking why anyone would want to do something that God associates with shame.

      This is just my perspective, but far too often, I see Christians attempting to justify their own actions with the mindset of, “Well, if it’s not sin, I can do it!” A better mindset, I believe, would be, “What is the most God-glorifying course of action I can do?”

      People do this with foolishness and folly (see Clint’s excellent article below, on that), they do it with things associated with shame as Lyndon points out, and they do it in other ways, too.

      A recent article on TGC that I appreciated was this brief discourse on what Paul meant by saying all things were lawful for him.

      Anyway, just my $0.02. Grace and peace to you, Perplexed.

    • David

      Wasn’t this article suppose to be about learning techniques to successfully mine the sufficiency of the scriptures?

      The discussion about Dt.28…conversations about whether cannibalism vs placenta ingestion is shameful vs sinful, whether scripture applies to those of us not living in a Theocracy, or the motivation of starvation in shameful acts is very interesting, but not the point… simply a distraction from the 3 clear points Mr. Unger brought for our consideration.

    • Lyndon Unger

      I agree Perplexed. I didn’t infer nor suggest that the eating of a placenta was sinful. I was careful to parse my language: The only mention we have of the practice is one in the context of a divine curse and the question then needs to be asked:

      Why would I willfully choose to participate in an action that is the mark of being on the receiving end of a divine curse?

      There are possible scenarios where a person may actually choose to participate in the action (though I cannot think of any at the moment), but the reasoning would have to face the full weight of the text of scripture and overcome it. I cannot realistically see that happening, but I also cannot unequivocally call the eating of a placenta “sin” (at least not in the same way as murder, theft, bearing false witness, idolatry, etc.)

  • Link Hudson

    There are passages that much MORE DIRECTLY address the issue of eating a human placenta. It is eating meat with the blood still in it, which is forbidden according to the apostles.

    Jesus told His disciples that the Spirit would lead them into all truth. I think we can assume that He was addressing the twelve apostles if not others.

    What epistle in the Bible was sent from eleven of the twelve, Paul, Barnabas, and James the Lord’s brother? …… It’s found in Acts 15. There were men writing this letter who were right there in the room when Jesus said the Spirit would lead them into all truth. So when they wrote that ‘it seemed good to us, and to the Holy Ghost’, we should pay close attention to that.

    Their admonition to Gentiles included this one, “…abstain from things strangled and from blood.” The issue under discussion had to do with the Gentiles. These Jewish apostles tried to keep the Torah. They grew up not eating pork or blood. But could Gentiles eat these things? What does the Bible say. James point out that the book of Amos showed that in the future, the name of the Yahweh would be called upon ‘man’– which he interpreted to refer to the nations. If we think about that, that’s a real solution to the issue from the perspective of those whose scriptures were the Old Testament. One could be one of God’s people without being a part of Israel, without partaking of the covenant made with Israel through Moses. So they didn’t have to be circumcised and commanded to obey the Law of Moses.

    But, like non-Christian Jews of that generation or maybe one generation later, they realized that the Torah implied that several things were required of Gentiles who wished to walk righteously before the God who created them. Those Jews came up with seven Noachide principles. One of them had to do with the restriction not to eat blood. Fornication and idolatry was also in their list.

    Why use Noah as a model? God gave Noah meat to eat, including the ‘creeping things.’ So Noah’s descendants could eat these things, unless God revealed otherwise as he did to the people of Israel. But they couldn’t eat the life-blood, since that was forbidden to Noah when he gave Noah, and mankind, animal flesh to eat. Eating meat with the blood still in it is not an issue of whether steak is raw or cooked

    I’ll admit I’m taking a leap here. People don’t seem to be categorized as animals. So maybe I’m taking a bit of a leap to apply that also to not eating or drinking human blood. But like the article points out, cannibalism is presented as a shameful thing done when Israel was under judgment. Human flesh is not specifically forbidden in the kosher laws, though humans don’t have the traits of kosher animals. If you wanted to eat humans, you’d have to slaughter them properly and drain the blood like at a slaughterhouse, which would usually require someone to be murdered.
    When it comes to eating animal placenta, I suppose you could slaughter the animal fully, but only the mother, only the unborn offspring? It’s just nasty anyway.

    The placenta thing is pretty sick. I saw human placenta tablets for sale in Indonesia several years back, and wondered why there wasn’t a law or a religious outcry against it, especially if they get upset if their MSG was made indirectly using pork byproduct enzymes. It’s weird because they even bury the placenta over there and consider it to be like a dead twin baby, but women will buy it to eat?

    I think women want it for softer smoother skin. There are people who claim all kinds of health benefits from drinking snake blood. Goths into vampirism think they get some kind of power from drinking blood. I’d rather have acne or rough skin than eat human placenta. If I were a woman, I think I’d rather suffer through several months of the agony of post-partum blues than eat something that came out of the human body. That’s just nasty. The worst of it is if women resort to cannibalism and still end up with the same problems. I don’t think most people have to open the Bible to know they don’t want to eat that stuff. Of course you do if you want to discuss whether it is a sin to do so.

    If you don’t have a verse, I suppose you could resort to asking your wife not eat placentat out of love for you or submission to you. Would you really want to kiss her after that. The same goes for ‘urine therapy’. Don’t look that up. You don’t want to know.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for that all Link. Is there a single point you’d like me to respond to?

      • Link Hudson

        No, I’m just saying since there is scripture against eating blood, this isn’t a good example of something unclear the Bible doesn’t really directly address that we have to sort out and address with indirect biblical reasoning.

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