Has vegetarianism and veganism got a point?

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Originally at creation God gave mankind herbs e.g. grains and fruit to eat and though he was given dominion over all the brute creation he was not given sanction to kill and eat animals. After the fall when all creation fell and predation began animals began to kill and consume each other, but still man was eating vegetables. It must be remembered that man is separate from animals by being made in God’s image (having an eternal soul, being initially righteous and holy).

After the flood, God gave his clear approval to meat eating in Genesis 9:3.

A key chapter in the history of Israel was the Passover when a one year old lamb was sacrificed and its shed blood on the doorposts and lintel saved the family inside from losing their first born as the angel of death passed through the land. This necessary sacrifice was a type of Christ, the only sufficient sacrifice for sin. John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God” when speaking of Christ.

When the people of Israel redeemed from Egypt became God’s chosen he gave them strict food laws to distinguish them from the pagan nations and preclude them sitting down together—they are found in Leviticus 11. Animals like pigs, shellfish and birds of prey are not to be eaten and we would say for good reason because they are more likely to carry disease.

Psalm104:21 states that the predatory animals depend on God to supply their food.

Animal cruelty, and we are not denying that this takes place in the food chain, is a sin as Proverbs 12:10 states.

Christ himself through the apostles served up fish and bread in the feeding of the five thousand in John 6:11. He gave thanks for them.

Christ himself ate the Passover meal in Matthew 26:17ff showing he was not only in favour of meat eating but that it was part and parcel of a feast to honour God. When he died all the Old Testament types were abolished, so there was no need to continue animal sacrifices, which in any case cannot take away sin (Hebrews 10:4,8-12).

Paul has things to say about diets in Romans 14:2-3 and 17. He sees vegetarianism being the habit of the weaker Christian whereas eating anything is the habit of the stronger believer, whose conscience is less strict. Later in his epistle to Timothy he proclaims all foods good and to be received with thanks (I Tim.4:3-4).

We cannot know all that goes on in the farms and slaughterhouses of the world, all those who cruelly treat animals will be judged BUT we believers are free to eat the meat itself, even as those in Corinth were able, conscience-permitting, to eat meat offered to idols! Christian liberty means we can eat anything. Starving believers in labour camps or in extremis, will eat anything. Much of the distinguishing between pets, work animals and sources of meat is cultural. Our calling is to be thankful  to God for all food, to not judge others with different diets, and concentrate on loving speech, seeking righteousness, peace and joy in our relationship with God through Christ. God looks at our motives. If our special diet is for our own glory or self-righteousness it is wicked and vain–all must be done in faith, in obedience to the will of God as revealed in Scripture and for the glory of God.

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