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Does Scripture promote vegetarianism?

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Does Scripture promote vegetarianism?
Posted on August 10, 2021  - By Tom Horvat

A friend of mine believes vegetarianism is a much more accurate representation of how God originally designed man. Eating meat only came about after the Fall, but before that, God told Adam and Eve they could sustain themselves with the fruit of the trees in the garden. Also, in Revelation, lions will lie down with lambs, so she says it obviously means we will revert to that original plan before Adam and Eve sinned. Is she right?

Let’s first address this question in reference to the three time periods mentioned: (i) in the Garden of Eden before sin entered, (ii) the post-Fall era, (iii) and the new heavens and new earth.

From the Fall to the Flood

In the Garden, before sin entered, the food provided for man — and animals — was fruits, vegetables, and nuts. The consumption of meat necessitated the death of an animal, which could not have occurred until after the fall of Adam and Eve. 

There is now no commendation for a vegetarian diet nor for eating meat

Even after sin entered the world, it seems that there was no meat consumption until after the Flood. Included in the covenant to Noah, we see an addition made to their diets: the permission to eat meat (Genesis 9:2-3). Prior to this, the fear of man was non-existent.

The only animals that were slain from the Fall to the Flood were sacrificial, as per the example given by God Himself when man sinned. The skins used to clothe Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Genesis 3:21) necessitated the death of an animal. Abel’s offering (Genesis 4:4) was accepted because it followed this example — perhaps taught to him by Adam.

Now, the flesh of the sacrificed animals could have been consumed. But there is no record of this — which likely means it was offered as a whole burnt offering. The first mention of hunting is found in Genesis 10:8-9, where Nimrod is referred to as a mighty hunter.

Do diets really matter?

The only dietary laws Scripture records were those given by God to His chosen nation, Israel. These were meant to reflect their separation in the world from other nations. Those laws were in effect until the Messiah came and offered Himself as the supreme and final sacrifice for sin. 

And that cancels out all the ceremonial restrictions given in the Law. There is now no commendation for a vegetarian diet nor for eating meat. Spirituality is not defined by what we eat or don’t eat but by Christ in us, the hope of glory.

I believe that when this post-Fall era is consummated and God brings forth the new heavens and the new earth, the original intent for all of creation will be restored. We are told in Romans 8:19 that the whole creation groans in pain, together with us, waiting for redemption. Creation itself will be freed from the curse imposed upon it by Adam’s sin. Therefore, it seems highly likely that carnivores will have a change of diet!

Keep your focus on Christ

We must, however, be careful to distinguish between vegetarianism and its more extreme forms. 

A vegetarian is simply one who consumes no meat as a dietary discipline, especially for health reasons. It does not associate moral or spiritual efficacy with the discipline. However, there are those who take on an attitude of superiority towards those who do eat meat. 

Keep your focus on Jesus Christ alone, and you will fare well whether you eat vegetables or meat… or both

Of this, we are warned several times in Scripture. Peter struggled with spiritual pride over this issue until God used the “lessons of the sheet smorgasbord” in Acts 10 to convince him otherwise. I encourage the reader to carefully study the following passages also as part of this discussion: Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8:8; Colossians 2:20-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-5. 

In 2 Peter 3:6, we read that the world — i.e. the pre-diluvian world — had perished. The effects of the Fall have had many millennia to work out the effects of death. So estimating how possible it is to get close to the original intent for creation — in terms of diet — is anybody’s guess.

Rather, we are encouraged to wait for and look toward a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell forever. Keep your focus on Jesus Christ alone, and you will fare well whether you eat vegetables or meat… or both!



Tom Horvat

About Tom Horvat

Tom Horvat completed his BA in education and theology at Washington Bible College. He pastored a house church for 15 years and served as a volunteer chaplain in a local prison for 20 years. He is employed by the Department of Defense in the US, and works at a military installation in Maryland. He is passionate about ecology, and is a soon-to-be-published author. Tom has seven children and 12 grandchildren with his wife of over 40 years.

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