I don't understand Christian vegetarians and vegans. That's not entirely true, I understand people who want to lead a healthy lifestyle and see vegetarianism and veganism as a pathway towards that. What I truly don't understand is how people who believe the Bible to be true can possibly have an ethical problem with the concept of eating meat.
Here's why: That cow/pig/chicken is dead. More than that, it has never been alive.
This isn't only livestock I'm talking about, but rather every member of the animal kingdom including man's best friend himself, your dog. Not only will your dog not go to heaven, I contend that it was never “alive” (at least for the purposes I’ll be making here) to begin with.
That's right, I'm that guy. I'm the guy who's going to tell his kids; no, our bearded dragon won't be waiting for you in heaven and neither will either of your fish or that butterfly we nursed from an egg. There are a couple reasons why I'm this kind of killjoy, this kind of spoilsport. The first is that it is the truth and I make it a policy not to lie to my kids. The second is a little more serious; believing that our pets will be in heaven devalues human life. But let's deal with the fun one first.
So why do I say these horrible things about our best friends? About our companions who never judge and only ever accept us? Besides, how can I say they're not alive when clearly, I mean, look at them...running around, jumping, eating, breathing! They “live” in the biological sense, yes, but I would argue that the “life” of a dog is closer to the “life” of a tree than a human. Let me explain.
In Genesis 1 God creates everything. He forms the world and then He fills it with stuff. He fills it with water, air, dirt, plants, animals, and, most importantly, with us. In Genesis 2, we get a bit of a closer look into that process. In the Genesis 2, we get an up close and personal description of the creation of Humans. Here's the interesting thing about that: God breathes life into humans and humanity. We get "the breath of life".
The breath of life was given to you and to me, we are the image bearers – the standard bearers of God. Your cat may believe it is a god, but that doesn’t make it so. We are 'alive' in a way that the rest of the animal kingdom is not. We possess the breath of life, the Imago Dei. That's worth something.
We live in a funny world now too. We live in a world that devalues the lives that it ought to protect and over-values lives that frankly do not have the same value as a human life. Life comes from God. He is the creator and sustainer of life. Shouldn't He also be the one to define it? God gives the breath of life to humans, and I'd argue that makes us special. It puts us above other created things (such as plants and animals) on an existential level. I am alive in a way that a dog, cow, or tree will never and can never be.
Now, none of this is ever to negate the responsibility we have to steward all of creation. It is wrong to mistreat or cause unnecessary suffering to an animal though not because of the outcome for the animal, rather because of what it says about the person. The person who takes pleasure in destruction—pleasure in causing pain is much more in need of rescue than the breath-of-life-less animal they are injuring.
But I'm biased. I'm a meat-eater. So I would love to have some dialogue with a Christian vegetarian or vegan. Help me to understand why you view life this way. Who knows? Unlikely as it is, you might convince me! Because as far as I understand life in the Bible, your dog is dead, and it always has been.
As a Biblical conservative, a cultural Liberal, a husband, a dad, and a pastor, I want to see the church act differently in the world. My big passion in ministry is to see how believers can bring the Gospel into the world around them while pursuing the lost art of winsomeness. It is what fuels me and drives me to write. Engaging culture with the truth of the Gospel in a way that is winsome, wise, and as Colossians 4:6 directs us: “seasoned with salt.” It’s my hope that what I say here helps you not only in your own faith, but helps you share it more effectively and fruitfully.
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