Is it acceptable for Christians to eat meat today? God first commanded people to eat only plants.1 However, after the flood, God allowed the eating of meat:
Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. "But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. (Genesis 9:3-4)
Later, laws were instituted that declared certain meats to be "clean" and others to be "unclean."2 The system provided a means of proving one's obedience to God and had some health benefits. After Jesus Christ came, God declared all meats to be clean.3
Current slaughterhouse practices comply with the dictate to remove the blood, so virtually all meat today is acceptable to eat according to God.
God was the one who instituted the sacrificial system for the forgiveness of sin. The blood of the Passover lamb was symbol chosen to cleanse from sin and to cause the Lord to pass over the first-borns.4 The New Testament calls Jesus Christ the Lamb of God,5 a clear symbol of the sacrificial system set up by God.
One major premise of Christianity is that we are free from the Old Testament ceremonial laws, since Christ is the fulfillment of symbols they represent.6 Paul addresses the question directly in the book of Romans:
One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:5-6)
Therefore, the Christian is free to eat or not eat meat according to his own conscience. However, all eating should be done giving thanks to God.
Some people may feel called to be vegetarians. God does not call all people to be identical. Paul warns us not to violate our conscience when we eat:
Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:20-23)
Is it better to be a vegetarian? The unqualified answer is 'yes." Vegetarians generally have a healthier diet. They can expect to live longer, since they tend to have a significantly lower incidence of heart disease. In addition to health benefits, there are benefits to the environment. It takes much more energy to produce meat than plants, since the animals that are raised for meat must be fed plants - in addition to all the energy required for meat processing and storage.
- Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. (Genesis 1:29)
- This is the law regarding the animal, and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters, and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten. (Leviticus 11:46-47)
- and he beheld the sky opened up, and a certain object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, "Arise, Peter, kill and eat!" But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." And again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." (Acts 10:11-15)
- Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said to them, "Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you." (Exodus 12:21-23)
- The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
- Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)
We are what we think.
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In a sense, philosophy is just hard thinking about the important issues of life. — Louis P. Pojman, Philosophy: The Pursuit of Wisdom (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1994),12.
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Last Modified June 21, 2008