Does The Bible Endorse Veganism?
I don’t know why, but for some reason, I felt like maybe I should write on this topic. There are people in this world that eat meat and there are those who do not. There are people who think that it’s morally wrong to kill an animal, kill it, cook it, and then eat it as your dinner. But what does The Bible say on this topic? Does The Bible prohibit people from eating meat? Is being an omnivore a sin? I don’t think it is and I will give you some scriptural evidence in support of it.
Someone may argue that carnivorous activity entered into creation at the fall when Adam and Eve sinned in the book of Genesis. This claim is often made by young earth creationists who seem troubled that God would create nature to be red in tooth and claw. Some might argue that since carnivorous activity is a result of the fall, you are therefore, in a way, kind of celebrating this event in human history whenever you eat meat of any kind. This food chain did not exist until after the fall, and it is therefore a sin, they would argue. They might argue that it’s not a sin when animals do it since animals are not spiritual creatures made in God’s image and therefore don’t have moral awareness (an awareness of good and evil) but since humans do, we need to avoid it. Now, I think this claim (that no carnivorous activity existed pre-fall) is false for both scientific reasons and biblical reasons, but I’d rather not go into this discussion on whether or not carnivorous activity existed pre-fall since I don’t think it makes a difference for to point I’m trying to make. Rather, let’s look at what The Bible says regarding meat AFTER the fall.
First, in the book of Genesis, after God destroys evil humanity with a massive flood, Noah gets off the ark and makes a sacrifice to God. He worships The Lord. The Lord then tells him “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” – Genesis 9:1-3 (Emphasis mine)
After the flood, after everyone has left the ark and before God makes a covenant with Noah to never destroy humanity with a flood again (Genesis 9:8-11), God tells Noah that the beasts of the earth, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea are all given to him as food to eat. If eating meat was a sin, why would God tell Noah that it’s ok for him to eat any of these creatures? God wouldn’t condone sin would He? Now, some might say “Yes, but God made this claim as a concession to humanity’s hard hearts. God does disapprove of eating meat, but He made a concession to their hard hearts in the same way He did with the issue of divorce. God hates divorce, but He allowed it because of man’s hard hearts”. For one, I’d like to see some biblical evidence that this was the case. What scripture does it state that God allowed it in the Old Testament as “a concession of their hard hearts” but that after Jesus came, it’s no longer allowed, in the same way that divorce used to be allowed but is no longer?
But moreover, Jesus Himself ate meat! The Bible teaches that Jesus was sinless (Isaiah 53:9, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22) and yet near the end of Luke’s Gospel, it says that when the risen Jesus appeared to some of His disciples, he took some fish and ate it in their midst! (See Luke 24:41-43). Certainly if Jesus was sinless, and Jesus ate meat, then it follows that eating meat is not a sin. Because if eating meat is a sin, then that would mean that Jesus sinned because he ate meat! Therefore, if you're a Christian who thinks eating meat is a sin, you must either give up that view or deny the claims of The Bible which claims Jesus' sinlessness.
In 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, the apostle Paul is addressing a concern that the church of Corinth had with regards to eating meat sacrificed to idols. While Paul says that he doesn't think eating meat offered to idols is a sin, what's noticeable is that Paul doesn't condemn the practice of eating meat in general. Nor did any of his readers think to ask him whether eating meat in general is a sin.
Therefore, on the basis of these biblical passages, I think that there is nothing wrong with eating meat.
I would also like to point out that while there's a good scriptural case that can be made that eating meat is not sinful, there's also nothing in scripture which prohibits a person from completely abstaining from eating meat. If for whatever reason you feel unsettled at the thought of eating an animal, by all means, abstain from eating meat. However, don't condemn others for not doing the same (as some vegans sometimes do).
One more thing; everyone should obey their conscience, and no one should force or put pressure on another believer to take part in something that they believe to be sinful. In 1 Corinthians 8 (the passage I referenced above), Paul says in verse 12 that if you compel believer to do something which he believes is a sin, you have sinned against Christ. It doesn't matter if it's actually a sin or not. The thing you're compelling your brother or sister to do may not be wrong at all. What matters is if they believe it's wrong. If they believe it's wrong, and you force or compel them to do it, they're likely to feel guilty later on. You've caused them to wound their conscience.
In the broader context of 1 Cortinthians 8, Paul was talking about whether or not it was OK to eat meat that’s been sacrificed to idols. Paul states his opinion on the matter. He says it’s not a sin to eat meat sacrificed to idols because the gods that those idols represent don’t really exist (1 Corinthians 8:4-6) and that we’re no better or worse off no matter what we decide to do with the meat (1 Corinthians 8:8). However, Paul then warns that not everyone believes as he does (i.e that eating meat sacrificed to idols is an alright thing to do) and that you shouldn’t eat such meat in front of those Christians because that might tempt them to do the same thing, and they might give into this temptation and they would therefore violate their conscience. He then says “And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ.” (1 Corinthians 8:12). So, for example, one should never drink alcohol in front of a recovering alcoholic because that might make him slide back into his alcoholism. Some Christians thing certain genres of music are inherently sinful, such as rock or rap. While I think the notion of any genre of music being sinful is silly, if I was ever in my car with such a Christian, I would not be blasting Metallica all the way down the road for the sake of his or her conscience. This rule applies to any situation, not just meat offered to idols. We should never put pressure on someone to violate their conscience.