Saturday, July 11, 2015

Can We Eat Meat?

I saw a meme recently that criticized the livestock industry for animal cruelty, and it got me thinking. When you look at the Bible, you can see both sides of the argument for vegetarianism and understand the reason in each.

 In the account of creation, God describes all animal life as “good” (Genesis 1:21, 25). When everything was new, there was no death, and therefore no meat eating. All animal life was created to be vegetarian, and humanity was made to care for the world (Genesis 1:26-30).

So vegetarianism does represent a biblical ideal. But meat eating represents a biblical reality. It is a result of human sin. The first animal to be killed is in Genesis 3:21, and it died to provide clothing for Adam and Eve when they were thrown out of the Garden of Eden. Next came the sacrifice of Abel in Genesis 4, given as an offering for sin because “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). And as the last proof I will offer, in Genesis 9:2-3, God gives all animal life to human beings for food after the Flood. The Flood, of course, that had occurred because of the sinfulness of humanity.

All of this goes to the point that carnivorism is a result of sin, because death is. This is one of the meanings of Romans 8:20-22, where Paul speaks of the suffering of all creation at the hands of humanity. Animals die not just because we kill them, but because we caused death itself.

Vegetarianism is, as I already said, an ideal. But it is not an attainable one. We need meat now. And though that is our fault, we do not have to feel guilty about it precisely because God gave it to us. I already pointed out Genesis 9, and Acts 9:10-16 has a similar connotation. Meat is a fact of human life, and an aspect of human nature. Nowhere in Scripture is it condemned outright.

I have written all of this to offer up the Bible’s clearest teaching on what we should eat. Found in Romans 14, it is that we should each look to our own conscience without condemning others for following theirs. If you are a vegetarian, good. You are promoting the ideal, and the promise of that to which we will return. Nothing in biblical prophecy suggests we will continue to eat meat when the world is made new at the end of time. But do not judge me as doing something wrong because I do not follow your example. We meat eaters are only living in the world as we find it, and as God has freed us to do. In return for your grace, we will (or at least, should) not mock you for your conviction. And with this truly small matter out of the way, we can move on to more important things.    

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