Skip to content

The Bible and Meat: Sweet, Delicious Meat.

It is often claimed these days by Christians with a vegetarian bent that, in the scope of the biblical narrative, meat-eating occurs because of the Fall, and, as such should not be practiced by Christians who are called to live as a foretaste of the new creation. This is completely and utterly wrong and I’ll tell you why.

In contrast to the standard assumption that the Fall unleashed upon the world an era of murderous meat consumption, the actual point in the biblical narrative that animals are given by God to the human race for food is after the Noahic flood (Gen 9:3). In fact, the proclamation on the part of Yahweh that animals were now a source of food for humankind occurs in the context of God’s covenantal promises to humanity and the world as a whole. Indeed, the context for the remark is God’s own remembrance and care for animals themselves (cf. Gen 8:1). The rationale for eating meat, then, is not the rationale of fallenness, but of covenant. In biblical perspective then, meat is given to us to remind us of the contingency of our existence and of the world’s existence. It exists as a symbol, a sacrament if you will, of God’s promise of peace and preservation.

So in conclusion: Hah! That’s right, the Bible is pro-meat. There you go. It’s in there. Take that vegetarians. Now we not only have the best-tasting food, we also have the word of God to back us up.

43 Comments

  1. N. Dan Smith wrote:

    On the other hand, there may be circumstances in which Christian ethics might require us to refrain. That is, not all meat is created (grown/distributed/etc.) equal. So if raising livestock is not sustainable, or if it is cruel to animals, we might have to opt out in spite of theological commission.

    This is coming from the guy who ate five pieces of ham at Shrove Tuesday pancake supper.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 11:16 pm | Permalink
  2. D C Cramer wrote:

    As a carnivorous Christian, I was about to make the same comment as N. Dan. But I see that he beat me to it.

    I’m feeling convicted to eat free range exclusively (or at least in as much as I can help it), though I haven’t gotten around to acting on that conviction yet.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 11:26 pm | Permalink
  3. D C Cramer wrote:

    In other words, my hunch is that the biblical authors did not forsee our contemporary meat production situation. Otherwise, they might have had a slightly different message for us.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 11:27 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    This is all in fun, guys. I agree that industrial farming is quite problematic.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 11:37 pm | Permalink
  5. Colin wrote:

    I have found that after not eating meat for more than a year I have become utterly superstitious about it. It is a total superego thing – I really want it but I can’t because I will be punished. The only kind of meat I want to eat is sardines! You’ll end up as crazy as I am.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 11:50 pm | Permalink
  6. This is why theologians who stick to idealist arguments about whatever “the Church” is will have problems dealing with the real world. You have to actually look at the effect of farming (numbers! studies! actual, on the ground ethics!) rather than what some verse in the good book says. Theological ethics grounded in Christian scripture is ridiculous. Of course this ridiculousness becomes some kind of strange badge of its rightness, but that hardly makes sense.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 1:02 am | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    Anthony, if you note my comment above, you’ll see that I am being entirely facetious in this post. I had hoped that categorizing it under “humor” would make that somewhat clear as well. For the record I think that dealing with the real world is just dandy and we should all make sure to do so. If I was unclear, my apologies.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 1:06 am | Permalink
  8. poserorprophet wrote:

    Actually, Halden, the comments were even more humourous than your original post… so, please, don’t correct the misunderstandings!

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 2:04 am | Permalink
  9. The fact that it’s a joke just supports what I’m saying all the more (and, yes, I realized it was a joke before I posted). Because you use the exact same kind of language and arguments that a theological ethicist would!

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 3:26 am | Permalink
  10. saint egregious wrote:

    I’m convinced that heaven will smell like nothing so much as the sweet smoky tang of my tum tum’s favorite barbecue pit. And, ridiculous as it sounds (ethically speaking that is), the greatest partakers owill be the swine themselves, who will make glorious conversation partners over the holy trinity of ‘cue (I know that Halden, pitmaster that he is, needs no tutorial on this trinitarian spectacle).

    Oh, I think there must be a verse to back me up on this somewhere. After I repent in dust and ashes, I’ll look it up.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 4:08 am | Permalink
  11. saint egregious wrote:

    Oops, a typo. The first ‘o’ in the third line was, obviously, supposed to be an ‘s’.
    A scribal error that I trust does not make my airency stink. I myself subscribe to the Chicago Statement anyhoo.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 4:21 am | Permalink
  12. D C Cramer wrote:

    Hey, Jesus ate fish. Peter ate pork. You guys trying to be better than Jesus and the apostles? ;)

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 6:25 am | Permalink
  13. markvans wrote:

    Hey man, if there were tofu substitutes for fish (would that be pescafu?) or pork (Porkfu), then Jesus and Peter would have been vegans. The products simply weren’t available right now. I’m going to go chow down some vegan barbeque rib product now. ;)

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 7:08 am | Permalink
  14. N. Dan Smith wrote:

    When I read a humorous post of Halden’s, I still take it seriously. Well, except the bacon one.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 8:58 am | Permalink
  15. Hill wrote:

    One more thing… I think this requires no facetiousness at all and is completely true.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  16. parishioner wrote:

    Egregious–

    Sorry, man, you’ll have lost your appetite for flesh in heaven:

    In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
    the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
    The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
    and a little child will lead them all. Isaiah 11:6

    The wolf and the lamb will feed together.
    The lion will eat hay like a cow.
    But the snakes will eat dust.
    In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain.
    I, the Lord, have spoken! Isaiah 65:25

    No more chowing down on each other, both for animals and for us. Don’t worry–it’s Paradise! Jesus said he’s going to serve us at the wedding feast. If his wine at Cana was the best ever, just imagine what tasty vegan treats he’s preparing for carnivores who love him. I know Bacon-free Paradise is an oxymoron for you, Halden, but you’ll just have to walk by faith . . .

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink
  17. The fact that God gave humans meat to eat after the Flood is definitely a gift and a sign of God’s covenantal providence. However, we must not forget that this situation arose only out of humanity’s extreme falleness. Therefore, this gift of meat is not part of God’s original intention but a provisional providence because of our sin and God’s just retribution. Your BBQs do smell and taste awesome but we need to seek the Spirit for discernment in how to actually live our lives.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 1:18 pm | Permalink
  18. Colin wrote:

    Parishioner, white people are going to love heaven.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Permalink
  19. Doug Harink wrote:

    Parishioner,

    Isaiah 25:6. “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.”

    Marrow… mmmmm! Bring on the osso bucco and a bottle of wine!

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  20. Halden wrote:

    Oh, snap! Well done, Doug. Now we have a distinctly apocalyptic validation for the eternality of meat-eating.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
  21. Jin-roh wrote:

    Cute humor.

    IMHO, the best argument for vegetarianism is not from the fall. After all, there is some question about whether there existed predators in the garden.

    The best argument, I think, is that our eating habits as Americans is not sustainable. Producing meat is wasteful. Better to feed humans than cows.

    This is not enough to make me a vegetarian, but is enough to make me avoid meat on Sundays.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permalink
  22. saint egregious wrote:

    Damn, parishioner, my bible says ‘and a little child shall eat them all!’ I knew I shouldn’t have trusted that greasy bible salesmen. Come to think of it, he did smell like hickory!

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink
  23. Chris Donato wrote:

    Agreed, Jin-roh, it’s neither sustainable economically or ethically. See this link for more information. If eating meat, free-range seems to be the best way to go.

    But what do we do in such a culture as ours? What small steps can we take to make a differerence in our own small ways? Especially in light of our incessant dining out?

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink
  24. Colin wrote:

    Chris,

    Speaking as a vegetarian (as I mentioned above, a superstitious one), I generally agree with your diagnosis about the ethics and sustainability of meat eating. Yet I do think there are some challenges: for example, what about milk producing cows? I assume that a decrease in meat-eating would necessarily be accompanied by a decrease in milk consumption just because milk would not be as readily available – unless farmers sustained the birth rate of cattle. There would just be too many cows!

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink
  25. saint egregious wrote:

    if I hadn’t already gorged myself on hot dogs and cereal tonight (the latter undoubtedly made with GMO corn product by government propped, pesticide soaked industrial farms which have mercilessly driven the small farmer into oblivion), I would be tempted to eat Jin-roh, Chris Donato and Colin, whose humorless sanctimony has already killed my lenten buzz joy. And I’d do it with a clean conscience–cannibalism, praise be, has an ancient Christian pedigree.

    Burp.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 7:16 pm | Permalink
  26. Colin wrote:

    Dear St. Egregious,

    When I get hungry for meat, I take a bite out of my own arm. Its only happened three times so far.

    Best,
    Colin M.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Permalink
  27. Derrick wrote:

    Hilarious post Halden! Nothing too substantive for me to add except to say that those of us who find roots in the Reformation would do well to remember that a major event in the Swiss reformation was the eating of nice, juicy sausages during Lent, now thats praxis I can get behind!

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 10:19 pm | Permalink
  28. saint egregious wrote:

    Colin,
    May I implore you, in the spirit of St. Paul, to take a tip from the Swiss and try the sausage. You might enjoy it more and more often,

    In His Holy Name,
    Saint Egregious

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 3:37 am | Permalink
  29. Doug Harink wrote:

    Just a word from a farm boy to Colin. Cows we milk and cows we eat are generally speaking different breeds altogether. When cows we milk become cows to eat (due to old age, usually), they are most likely to get eaten in the form of pet food.

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink
  30. I know I am to late into this debate, I just want to say that I strongly disagree with Haldens post, and that I think it`s below your theological standard. This is a serious issue, and I am very surprised to see you handle this question in this way. To begin with, I think you should look into the questions of sustainability and the resources that goes into the meat industry, compared to other alternatives, and view this matter in light of how the world´s resources are divided. I also think you should study the question of how the meat industry affects the climate issue. I also think there are strong biblical reasons for treating the animal (even those that we kill) in a good way, and I suppose you are familiar with how animals are treated in the meat industry.

    I also think there are strong theological reasons for viewing vegetarianism as the more in line with God´s vision than meat consumption and killing of the animals. The story doesn´t start with 1 Mos 9, and it doesn´t end there either, but rather with the prophets vision of a world peace that reaches even into the animal kingdom. (Isaiah 65:25 and a number of other texts.)

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  31. Sorry, I read and reacted too fast and on my gut feelings. It was a joke? If yes, should we really have understood this, since 95% of all christians reasons along the same lines…

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  32. Chris Donato wrote:

    In contradistinction, I clearly saw Halden’s post as an attempt at humor, and I appreciated it as such. I don’t mean to sound like a fuddy-duddy, throwing around links that attempt to expose factory farming, etc. But the comments and the post diverged long ago…

    Being a carnivore, I do indeed try to buy only free-range meats (and eggs, etc.). But still I find a host of processed foods in my pantry, not to mention those instances when I venture out to eat. What to do? In the meantime, I’ll take mine medium rare, please.

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  33. parishioner wrote:

    Hey Doug

    Try sprinkling gremolata on other things. That’s what I do. You do know that osso bucco is veal, right? Baby cows? Hmmm, that’s probably why you said it, you naughty man . . .

    By the way, Halden might resent me for bringing this up, but blood sausage is against our religion. Prods can snausage on other kinds during Lent if they’re feeling it, but they can’t have the blood kind without some splaining to do . . .

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  34. Roger Flyer wrote:

    Me like beef. My wife like de chicken

    1 You can broil it, You can bake it, You can boil it, You can shake it
    You can bread it, You can fill it, You can spread it in a skillet…
    You can slice it, You can skew it, You can dice it, Barbeque it
    You can stuff it, You can cream it, You can fluff it, you can steam it…
    You can broast it, Texas toast it, You can roast it on a spit
    Kentucky fry it, Bet you tried it, Chicken corn dog on a stick?!

    Chorus: Chicken ….Chicken everynight, Chicken…a culinary delight.
    What spectacular variety, You and me, chicken and hdtv

    O yi yi yi yi…chicken everynight…

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink
  35. Roger Flyer wrote:

    Halden-

    be sure to file this blog under ‘meat ‘ and ‘humor’ when we go to look for recipes and jokes to tell..

    ; )

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink
  36. Colin wrote:

    I wonder if the doctrine of the Real Presence excludes vegetarians from partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Permalink
  37. Halden wrote:

    Or perhaps it just requires all of them to be free church protestants.

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink
  38. Colin wrote:

    Doug,

    Thanks for the info. I am sure it is obvious that I don’t know anything about it, I was just speculating. What about the cows that are birthed to sustain milk production? Or is this generally achieved with hormone treatment?

    I have been looking for arguments against the ethics of vegetarianism but I haven’t found anything convincing enough for me to start eating meat again. I would be happy to entertain serious suggestions – but be warned, I am a bit of an idealist.

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  39. Well, even though it was a joke, I´m not sure I think it was funny, since we live in a world (as the comments shows) that treat the animals as products to be used at our free disposal. The one who treats animals without compassion is cruel, not cool. I guess no one would have made a “joke” like this about abortion, the war in Iraq or exploited women… Oppression isn´t very funny.

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 11:47 pm | Permalink
  40. saint egregious wrote:

    Okay, here goes:

    A hooker, a war amputee and a grade A delectable black angus walk into an abortion clinic.
    Sitting behind the reception desk is an anabaptist vegetarian. (How can you tell, you ask? To which the proper response is, isn’t it obvious?) …

    Oh, shit, I’ve got to go take the burning kasha pilaf off the wood stove. Feel free to finish this for me…

    Friday, February 27, 2009 at 7:35 am | Permalink
  41. Doug Harink wrote:

    Farm lore on a theology blog — who’da thought it! But I feel I need to give Colin just a bit more info on cows. As I mentioned, Colin, milk cows are generally different breeds than meat cows. Milk breeds include Holsteins, Jerseys, and Guernseys (and others). Over centuries they have been selectively bred (I suppose) for large udders and maximum milk production, though the latter two named breeds are more known for producing milk with high fat content (aka, cream). They usually don’t have a lot of meat on their bones. Meat breeds include Herefords, Black and Red Angus, Charolais (and others). They are bred for maximum meat, and so in contrast to bony milk breeds, these are nice and round and fat.

    Where I live there is now readily available organic, humanely raised beef and (Parishioner, take note) veal.

    But right now, back to that ham sandwich…

    Cheers.

    Friday, February 27, 2009 at 8:53 am | Permalink
  42. scott wrote:

    So is this not your actual position? Barth’s argument in III.1 is kind of on the side of the position you caricatured, and I this his account of scripture is more adequate – and a challenge for christian ethics – biblically and theologically. It’d be interesting to see an engagment with his position if you genuinely find that rationale problematic.

    Saturday, February 28, 2009 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  43. parishioner wrote:

    Thanks, Scott. I think we’d all forgotten Barth’s position on this:

    Dr. Barth thought for a moment, then said,

    “Jesus loves meat, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

    Sunday, March 1, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

Switch to our mobile site