Published on June 13, 2016
1. Activism at the Altar: Use of Religion in the Animal Rights Debate The New Testament vs. Prescriptive Christian Vegetarianism Paul Copan Palm Beach Atlantic University, West Palm Beach, FL
2. Contents 1. A Note on Worldviews and Their Explanatory Power 2. Selectivity and Authority: Problems with Prescriptive Christian Vegetarianism (PCV) 3. Jesus’ Teaching and Example on Meat-Eating, Sacrifice, etc. 4. The Book of Acts on Meat-Eating, Sacrifice, etc. 5. The Writings of Paul on Meat-Eating, Sacrifice, etc. 6. Conclusion
3. 1. A Note on Worldviews and Explanatory Power • The term “religion” is difficult to define. • The biblical faith is a public knowledge tradition. • Better to use “worldview” or “philosophy of life”—not “secularist” vs. “religious.” No worldview is self-justifying, including the secularist. *Martin E. Marty with Jonathan Moore, Politics, Religion, and the Common Good (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000), 10.
4. Atheist philosopher Jürgen Habermas: “Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and a social solidarity, of an autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love…. To this day, there is no alternative to it.” Jürgen Habermas, Time of Transitions, ed. and trans. Ciaran Cronin and Max Pensky (Cambridge: Polity, 2006), 150-1.
5. Atheist thinker Jacques Derrida “Today the cornerstone of international law is the sacred, what is sacred in humanity. … In that sense, the concept of crime against humanity is a Christian concept and I think there would be no such thing in the law today without the Christian heritage, the Abrahamic heritage, the biblical heritage.” Jacques Derrida, "To Forgive: The Unforgivable and Imprescriptable," in Questioning God, ed. John D. Caupto, et al. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001), 70.
6. Agnostic philosopher Luc Ferry: The Christian idea of human equality was “unprecedented at the time, and one to which our world owes its entire democratic inheritance.” Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living (New York: Harper Perennial, 2011), 72.
7. 2. Problems with PCV: Selectivity and Authority Selectivity: Prescriptive Christian Vegetarian (PCV) writers tend to overplay certain biblical texts and ignore other ones that diminish their point. Authority: PCV writers often diminish the authority of Jesus and of Paul as deficient because they allow meat-eating.
8. Charles Camosy. For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action. Cincinnati Franciscan Media, 2013. Professor of Christian ethics, Fordham University
9. Camosy: “Not everything that Paul says in his letters is inspired by God” (p. 56). “Nonhuman animals are created to be companions—and not food—of human beings” (pp. 58, 129). BUT: Psalm 104—a creation psalm—refers to a food chain, which is “good” (v. 28).
10. A book endorsed by atheist animal- equality advocate Peter Singer (who strongly opposes “human rights”). Daniel Dombrowski, Christian Vegetarian Association Dombrowski: “the Hebrews viewed man as the crown of creation, a status which denigrates animals” (p. 5).
11. Dombrowski: “The New Testament seems to leave animals in the same situation as the Old. Jesus himself showed indifference (if not cruelty) to nonhumans when he unnecessarily forced 2,000 swine to hurl themselves into the sea” (Philosophy of Vegetarianism, p. 5).
12. Andrew Linzey, Anglican priest, theologian: “to stand for Jesus is to stand for active compassion for the weak, against the principle that might is right” (p. 12) Quoting Colossians 3:12: “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility.” But Colossians 2 denounces those making rules like “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” He rejects prohibitions against eating meat, which have “the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion…but are of not value against fleshly indulgence” (Col. 2:23). Animal Gospel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 12.
13. Note: Vegetarianism and the connection to paganism and certain Eastern religions, not the biblical faith. --In these views, there is no genuine distinction between humans and animals. --Reincarnation suggests a continuity between humans and animals (my soul could appear in an animal’s body in another life). James S. Reichmann, Evolution, Animal ‘Rights’, and the Environment (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2000), 368, 372.
14. 3. Jesus: The Paradigm Example of Meat-Eating, Meat- Distribution, Sacrificial System, and Keeping Animals
15. Jesus Presumes the Old Testament Enjoyment of Meat-Eating • Jesus takes for granted the teaching of the Old Testament and the goodness of eating meat (e.g., Deuteronomy 14:26: "You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household”). • The Old Testament itself looks forward to a day of feasting with meat prepared by the Lord in the new heavens and earth: “a lavish banquet...a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow” (cp. Isaiah 25:6-8).
16. • Jesus affirms meat-eating even in his resurrected state (Lk. 24:41)—and prepares meat for his disciples in this resurrected state (Jn. 21:9-13).
17. Mary and Joseph bring sacrificial animals to the temple (Luke 2:22-24).
18. Jesus eats meat—after his resurrection. Luke 24:43: They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them.
19. Jesus helps other people secure meat to eat. Two separate events—including one after the resurrection—where Jesus assists fisherman in catching fish. #1: Luke 5:4-7: He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.“….And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. #2: John 21:5-6: He said to them, "Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch." So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.”
20. Jesus cooks fish for his disciples. John 21:13: Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise.
21. Jesus multiplies fish for others to eat (feeding of the 5000). John 6:11 (and parallels): “Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.”
22. Jesus calls fishermen and gives all indication that this is a legitimate and blessed work. • Jesus does not call fishermen to “repent” and “leave your life of sin.” • Jesus eats what fishermen catch (Lk. 24:42). • Jesus encourages them to catch more fish on two separate occasions (Lk. 5; Jn. 21). • Jesus tells Peter to catch a fish, in whose mouth will be money for the temple tax (Mt. 17:23-37) • Jesus’ disciples temporarily return to fishing after the resurrection (Jn. 21).
23. Jesus celebrates the Passover each year, which includes eating the Passover lamb (Lk. 2:41; 22:25; Jn. 2:13; etc.).This is described in Deuteronomy 16:1-3
24. Jesus’ teaching expands—rather than limits— the array of meats that can be eaten. Old Testament: only kosher foods for Israelites (Lev. 11; Deut. 14). But now, with Jesus, all foods are “kosher”! Mark 7:18-19: “…whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him?… [Jesus] declared all foods clean.” Matthew 15:11, 18-20: "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth … [and] out of the heart….”
25. Jesus presumes keeping animals for various uses (non-free-roaming!). Matthew 12:11-12: “And He said to them, "What man is there among you who has a sheep…? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep!” Luke 13:15: “…does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him?”
26. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:26-30 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
27. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 10:29-31 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
28. Jesus affirms that God’s people are important to him—more important than birds…and flowers! Matthew 6:26: **God clothes the flowers/provides for birds; how much more will he care for us! Does God’s provision for flowers suggest “plant rights”? No! Matthew 10:29-31: **If God is aware that sparrows fall, how much more is he aware of you when your life is under threat! NOTE: Sparrows were considered food for the poor; they were sold and eaten. Joel B. Green The Gospel of Luke NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 483.
29. R.T. France on Mt. 6:26-30: God provides for both birds and plants, but are they then also on the same level of value? “…the contention of some more extreme proponents of animal rights that humanity has no special place in God’s order for his world finds little biblical support and is here clearly contradicted. [Cp. God’s care for flowers too, not just birds!] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 268.
30. Jesus urges his disciples to eat whatever is offered, which would certainly include meat. Luke 10:8: “Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you.”
31. Jesus’ parables assume feasting with meat. Mathew 22:4: "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.” Luke 15:23, 29: At the prodigal son’s return, the father says: “bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.” The older son tells his father: “you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends.”
32. Jesus shows far greater concern for one human than 2000 swine. Mark 5:12-20: The demons implored Him, saying, "Send us into the swine so that we may enter them. Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.
33. 4. The Book of Acts: The Permissibility of Animal Sacrifice and of Kosher and Non-Kosher Meat-Eating
34. Acts 10:9-16: Peter’s Vision—A Command to Eat Meat: [Peter] saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, "Get up, Peter, kill and eat!" But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." Again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.
35. Acts 15: The Jerusalem Council assumes meat- eating but issues specific restrictions (idol meat, bloody meat).
36. Acts 21:26: Paul’s participates in animal sacrifice in the temple. Acts 21:26: Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them. (Paul recounts this in Acts. 24:11-19) **This act—a Nazirite vow—involved sacrificing lambs and rams (Num. 6:14-17). Craig Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: 15:1-23:35, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), 3126-43.
37. 5. Paul’s Writings: The Strong Permission to Eat Meat and the Forceful Condemnation of Prescriptive Christian Vegetarianism
38. Romans 14: Eating meat, here, is to be enjoyed by the “strong” in conscience. Romans 14:1-3: Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him…. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself… Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.
39. 1 Corinthians 8:7-13: Eating idol meat sold in the open market is morally permissible for the strong in conscience. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
40. 1 Corinthians 9: As an apostle, Paul is free to eat without restriction—and those in the temple are too. 1 Corinthians 9:1, 3-4: Do we [apostles] not have a right to eat and drink? 1 Corinthians 9:13-14: Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar?
41. 1 Corinthians 10:23-31: It is permissible to eat former idol meat now sold in the market. Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake; FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORD'S, AND ALL IT CONTAINS. If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience' sake…. If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
42. Colossians 2:15-23: Paul prohibits pseudo- religious regulations against eating or drinking. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink…things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize…
43. Colossians 2:15-23 cont’d If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!“ …? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom… but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
44. 1 Timothy 4:1-5: Meat-denunciation is a “doctrine of demons.” But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, …men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
45. Question: “If there won’t be meat-eating in the new heavens and earth, why not start now?” • There won’t be marriage either (Mark 12:25)! Should we move toward that “ideal” now too? (Notice how both marriage and eating meat are viewed as good gifts from God in 1 Timothy 4; to prohibit them is condemned.) • The “lion with the lamb” scenario (Isaiah 11 and 65) suggests no danger. All potential threats will be “tamed” (Isaiah 65:25: “lion will eat straw like the ox”; cp. Isaiah 35:9: “There will be no lion there”).
46. 6. Concluding Remarks • Worldview/philosophy of life: Those who claim nature alone exists (‘naturalists”) or secularists must give reasons for their belief, not simply assume it. All worldviews need to be justified. • The biblical faith (value, dignity, rationality, free will, consciousness) offers strong support for these values.
47. • The “secularist” or “naturalist” borrows these values not available in their own view of reality. • Those claiming the Christian faith demands vegetarianism are borrowing from another worldview.
48. “Prescriptive Christian veganism” (PCV) undermines several key Christian doctrines: Dominion of Humanity: The assumed ongoing dominion of human beings as co-regents with God (Gen. 1:26-28)—stewardship and care. Restoration of Dominion: As the archetypal human, Jesus eats and provides meat in his resurrected state. Incarnation of God’s Son: PCV’s position entail’s Jesus’ moral wrongdoing by eating meat and providing meat for others. Liberty of Conscience: Paul condemns the PCV position since the believer has liberty to eat meat under God’s blessing (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 9). Image of God: PCV tends to diminish human uniqueness (God’s image) by elevating the status of animals.