Is the food we eat a complex moral issue. For many people who identify as vegetarian or vegan, what food we eat can be one of the most important issues of our time. There can be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding on the topic. Is it morally wrong to meat? Is the ideology of veganism contrary to the Christian worldview? As our culture becomes more concerned with this issue, it’s time for us to consider; Should Christians be vegetarians?
What Does the Bible Say About Vegetarianism?
In Daniel chapter one we see Daniel and other Israelites become strong and healthy by eating only vegetables and water. This could be seen as an endorsement, but it hardly comes across as a command. Going back to Genesis, it is at the very least implied that Adam and Eve were vegetarians before the Fall. This is the closest we get to making the eating of meat an immoral act. It is still pretty vague. Perhaps this was the original intent in the garden, but given that God designed man with the capability to eat meat, and we see Jesus, the perfect man with no sin, eating fish, it seems pretty clear that meat is not inherently the problem.
When looking at Old Testament laws about not eating unclean meat, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one, it could never be a command for total vegetarianism. While some meats were off limits, others were literally provided by God for them to eat. And of course, the issue is resolved in Acts chapter eleven when God speaks to Peter about cleanliness. Lastly, Paul talks a few times about not eating meat sacrificed to idols. However, when Paul warns to not eat meat, such as in Romans 14, he is talking about not causing division among fellow Christians, not the morality of eating meat.
A Difference in Worldview
From the Christian worldview, God made man higher than other animals, and thus we have dominion over them. This does come with moral responsibilities as with other issues of stewardship, such as not being needlessly cruel or wasteful. Ultimately it is not a moral evil to kill and eat them.
From a non-Christian perspective, this diet is often taken for ideological reasons. The view is that humans are animals just like any other. Wanting to avoid any kind of speciesism, people conclude that they can’t justify eating chickens any more than eating their cousin Joe. I applaud this kind of deep thought. I just wish they would think a little further about why they believe in rights at all. If we are simply higher evolved animals surviving by natural selection, what objective grounding or morality is there for not eating lesser creatures? We are stronger, and nature rewards that with delicious steak.
Conclusion: Should Christians be Vegetarians?
Should Christians be vegetarians? It’s pretty clear, at least to me, that being a vegetarian or vegan is not commanded. It takes a respectable amount of discipline, and can have benefits, but there is no moral or Biblical command to do it. There is nothing wrong with it either, however the motivation for it can have a moral or worldview problem behind it.
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