Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does the Bible say about the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle? It seems that In Genesis 1 there is evidence that God intended for us to be vegetarians. Is there other evidence? I know as a Texan this might be a tough one for you but I would love to have your Biblical teaching perspective.
I have become vegetarian in the last two months. I can no longer stand the thought of eating anything which is slaughtered. I have seen the atrocities of the slaughterhouses of cow, pig, chicken and for the life of me I can't believe a God would say that is okay to eat a creature he created.
The slaughtering process for the most part is inhumane. And the treatment of the poor animals is barbaric. My conscious will not let me eat any of it anymore. So, I am not sure I agree with that it's all right for us as Christians.
Dear Tom and Audrey,
Have you ever eaten pigeon? You may be surprised, but, they taste quite good. Young pigeons are called squabs. They are a delicacy in many places--like our pigeon coop. My brother Ronnie and I began with one male and one female. Three years later we had over fifty. We had rollers, tumblers, muff tumblers, fantails and numerous just plain old pigeons. One of our fantails came in third in a local pigeon contest. That was the closest we came to winning a contest; but competing was fun!
The day came to do them all in. Ronnie and I were tired of the upkeep; and besides, dad made us pay for the grain and we were broke. So, the day before school began for the fall semester mom started boiling water for defeathering. Ron and I got a trash can and started ringing necks. We ate squab for the next six months. Ron and I often looked at the cooked squabs on our plates and tried to guess which ones we were eating. Mom thought we were barbaric. But, you know, boys will be boys!
As one who loves to eat Texas Bar-B-Q without pangs of conscience, the idea of vegan and vegetarian diets seem mighty strange to me. When I was growing up, mom and dad filled a special freezer with half a cow of butchered meat every year. (She also stocked it with Twinkies and Fried Pies for desert in our school lunches.) We ate a lot of steak when I was growing up. Imagine my surprise when a recent angiogram revealed that my arteries were the size of “tree trunks” (doctor’s words). I had a 16 oz slice of prime rib to celebrate.
Now, Tom and Audrey, let’s get down to business. I believe that God's original intention was for us to be vegetarians. In Genesis before the fall into sin, God gave Adam and Eve the responsibility of caring for the Earth. He specifically He gave them plants and vegetables to eat.
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. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day (Genesis 1:27-31).
Man and Woman were to procreate and populate the earth. God gave them dominion over the birds and animals. God prescribed a vegetarian or vegan diet. Adam and Eve were free to eat all the plants and vegetation they wanted. The Creator made no mention of allowing them to eat animal flesh.
The earliest record of an animal giving its life for the good of mankind is found in Genesis 3:21: “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Many suppose that one of the results of Adam’s and Eve’s fall into sin (Genesis Three) is that men and women may now eat meat. The healthiest diets—vegetarian and vegan—are no longer mandatory.
Unfortunately, Adam and Eve disobeyed God's instructions and everything fell apart. Sin entered the world; God's perfect world was devastated and God slaughtered the first animal.
Covering human private parts with fig leaves for modesty and then keeping them in place is not practical. Animal skins work much better. God slaughtered one of His precious animals to cover mans' sin. By the way, God used this as a picture symbol of Jesus one day giving His life on the cross.
Man has eaten meat ever since.
Vegetarians are categorized into four levels.
Level One: Someone who is cutting back on red meat but still eats chicken and fish.
Level Two: Someone who avoids meat but eats dairy products including eggs, cheese, ice cream, milk and yogurt.
Level Three: Someone with the same diet as Level Two but excludes eggs while still consuming products like milk, yogurt and cheese.
Level Four: Someone who is considered a true vegan who has the same diet as Level Three but who refuses to use any animal products such as wool, silk and leather.
Both well-planned—and followed—vegetarian diets offer protection against obesity, heart and renal diseases, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. The American Dietetic Association considers both vegetarian and vegan diets to be appropriate for every stage of life. The Association also warns that a poorly planned vegetarian or vegan diet can be deficient in multiple areas. For example, a vegetarian diet is often deficient in protein. Not enough protein may cause serious health problems as well as create agitation and anxiety.
Now that I’ve said all that, let’s be clear about this: Meat Eaters are not sinning by enjoying a good steak—or fish or chicken or whatever. Neither are vegetations closer to God or more spiritual than meat eaters.
The Apostle Paul was in the process of settling a dispute between those Christians that he identified as “weaker brothers” who were refraining from eating meat that had earlier been offered to an idol, and those who had no pangs of conscience about eating idol-offered meat. Paul counseled both groups to eat the meat and not worry about it: “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, ‘The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.’” (1 Corinthians 10:25-26).
Thanks to both of you for your questions. I hope that you really enjoy eating—whether your plate has meat on it or not.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.