Vegetarianism?

In some churches vegetarianism is preached as a doctrine. The members of the group do not eat any animal meat at all. Is this right? Does the Bible indeed teach us not to eat any animal meat? We will investigate this throughout the whole Bible, and arrive at a right conclusion. 

Initially in the Garden of Eden it appears that Adam and Eve would not have eaten any animals, but only fruit and seed bearing plants. 

“29 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, NIV) 

Simplistically seen, this would have been the case forever, and since Adam and Eve sinned and our situation has deteriorated since then, we should strive to return to that state. This is the viewpoint of many vegetarians. 

Is this right? What about the rest of the Bible? 

If our goal should be to return to the state before the initial sin in the Garden of Eden, then we should all walk naked as well. We should not live in homes, for that can also be seen as deterioration in our existence. 

Let's face it. Things have changed. Let’s see how. We are children of Adam and Eve, and we still live under the curses our first parents brought on us. Much of the biodiversity of the Garden of Eden does not exist today in that area. Those fruit trees and plants are not readily available in that mix across the world. Most people in the world do not have the means to recreate that biodiversity. 

Notice a curse on the living conditions since then. We will look at two different translations. 

"14And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:”
(Genesis 3:14, KJV)

"14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all the livestock
and all the wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
(Genesis 3:14, NIV) 

Notice the use of the word “livestock”, or “cattle”. Here is an indication of a distinction between livestock and wild animals. But we will continue. 

“17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,'
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food.” 

Our situation has most certainly deteriorated. Whereas we could have lived from the fruits of paradise, we will now have to work to produce food. We would live with occasional hunger, and face droughts and even starvation. 

After several generations, God decided to destroy people off the face of the earth, but save Noah and his family, to start over. In the process the earth's atmosphere may have changed as well. 

“11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month-on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.”
(Genesis 7:11, NIV) 

There were three sources of water: springs, rain and floodgates of heaven. This third source is somewhat unknown. Scientists have speculated that the pre-flood atmosphere may have contained a vapor canopy that circled the earth, but that collapsed during the flood. We know that after the flood a new phenomena was evident, supporting the theory that we have more sunlight penetrating the atmosphere ever since. Since then we can sometimes see a rainbow in the clouds. 

“12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.”
(Genesis 9:12-15, NIV) 

The balance in the food chain has certainly been altered. Notice God's instruction to Noah: 

“Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.”
(Genesis 9:1-4, NIV) 

Ever since the flood we are told specifically to eat animals as well, even fish. But there are stipulations in terms of when we may eat a dead animal. Noah also understood laws in terms of clean and unclean animals. 

“The LORD then said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate,’”
(Genesis 7:1-2, NIV) 

Seven pairs of clean animals were taken, obviously for food for Noah and his family after the flood. Initially there would have been no crop from the land! 

When the Law of Moses was given, the family of the priests was also told to eat some of the meat of the sacrifices. 

"15 The meat of his fellowship offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the day it is offered; he must leave none of it till morning.
16 ”`If, however, his offering is the result of a vow or is a freewill offering, the sacrifice shall be eaten on the day he offers it, but anything left over may be eaten on the next day. 17 Any meat of the sacrifice left over till the third day must be burned up.”
(Leviticus 7:15-17, NIV) 

Meat left for three days will certainly go bad. This ruling that the family may eat the meat has implications further on. Let’s go to the New Testament; for some may feel that eating meat was only applicable in the Old Testament. 

At the Jerusalem Conference in Acts 15 a decision was made that gentile Christians does not have to obey the ritual of the Law of Moses. However, certain of the Noahide laws were still considered required universally. 

19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.
20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.”
(Acts 15:19-20, NIV) 

We see again some of the instructions given to Noah, which obviously applies universally to all peoples, being descendants of Noah. Meat was part of the daily diet, but meat from strangled animals were prohibited, as the stress of the animal cause blood to be constricted in the body, and the blood may not be eaten. It can contain deadly viruses, particularly if it was still warm and eaten soon after strangulation. 

The question is this: Why the reference to the qualification of meat, if the understanding should have been that we are to eat no meat at all? Obviously the Christians were allowed to eat meat according to the decisions of the Jerusalem Conference, but with certain reservations and qualifications. 

Let’s notice instructions from one of the Apostle Paul's letters to the Churches: 

We are commanded not to eat meat offered to idols, as was the case in many gentile areas in those days. However, a situation arrived where some of the meat was sold in the meat market, without any indication of whether it was used in idol sacrifice. There probably was no tag on it, and the general public would not have known the difference. The Christians were concerned that they may inadvertently be eating meat coming from the pagan temple.  The apostle Paul shows that if we can't discern the difference, there is no problem. Meat coming from livestock or cattle is fit for human consumption, and if we don't know it came from the pagan temple, but was killed orderly and the blood drained as required, there is no problem. Ultimately we know that Idols are nothing, and cannot have any influence on meat God created. 

“25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience,
26 for, “The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.”
27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.
28 But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake”
(1 Corinthians 10:25-28, NIV) 

While there may be disagreements concerning the precise correct translation in this case, one fact can't be denied: Christians were permitted to eat meat, otherwise this discussion would not have been necessary. 

Obviously it is easy to discern between clean and unclean animal flesh, but it is not possible to discern between clean meat sacrificed in a pagan temple and those that were killed in the city abettor. If we can see it is flesh from a clean animal, we can purchase it without enquiring what route it took. 

While some people may debate the health benefits of vegetarianism, it is clear from the Bible that it is not a sin to eat meat. Meat eaters sometimes are mistaken in thinking that they may neglect on eating other fruit, vegetables and salads. Eating meat excessively is not healthy. On the other hand, vegetarians may suffer protein deficiency diseases in the long run. It is well known that fish meat helps replenish brain cells. Children that lack meat in their diet may also have difficulties in school. God desires that you are prosperous and in good health. 

The Church suggests a balanced diet that includes meat from clean animals from the land, sea and air.