I’ve thought of becoming a vegetarian for many years. Well, I’ve not exactly thought extremely hard about it, but the thought has been there many times over the past 10 years or so. I bought a good Christian book about vegetarianism years back but have yet to read it. I’ve probably avoided reading up on this issue simply because I knew it would be hard for me to let go eating meat! Not that I’m crazy over meat. I’m not fussy at all about what I eat and can refrain from eating meat if I really want to. But maybe it’s more of the inconvenience. It’s not easy to live as a vegetarian in Singapore. And perhaps harder to do so in many parts of the developing world where I hope to live in in future.
But I’ve always known deep down inside that I should strive to become a vegetarian because of my faith. Well, I should do many things, shouldn’t I? I should get the hell out of Singapore and serve the poor in the developing world. I should go and do all I can to reach the unreached peoples. And ya, I should really think about becoming a vegetarian. If not now, then soon. If not dogmatically, then at least more fully.
Greg Boyd has recently written on his blog the reasons as to why he’s a vegetarian. His reasoning is quite simple. I summarize it here:
1) God originally intended for humans and all other creatures to eat plants for food (Genesis 1:29-30). This is confirmed by Genesis 9:1-4, where God said:
Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.
Notice how God’s allowance for fallen humanity to eat animals was something new: “I now give you everything.” Why did God now allow man to eat animals? Because the “fear and dread” of man that now falls on the animals (due to the fallenness of all creation) has disrupted the peaceful and non-violent nature of creation. I think this means that animals will no longer act peaceful towards man and so God allowed man to eat animals.
2) The non-violent and peaceful nature of God’s kingdom which existed before the fall will be restored at the end of this age:
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. Infants will play near the hole of the cobra; young children will put their hands into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isa 11:6-9).
3) Therefore, in the past before the fall, humans did not eat animals. In the future when we dwell with God, we will not eat animals. But, what ought we to do now? I’ll end with Boyd’s own conclusion:
Now, the most fundamental job of followers of Jesus is to manifest the reign of God. I take this to mean that we’re called to put on display now what the world will look like when God fully reigns over it in the future. In theological terms we’re to be “the eschatological community.”
One way the New Testament expresses this truth is by referring to Kingdom people as the “first fruits” of a coming harvest (2 Thess 2:13; Ja 1:18; Rev. 14:4). The “first fruits” referred to fruit that ripened and was picked before others. In the Old Testament, first fruits were consecrated (set apart) to God and were a sign that God will faithfully bring the remainder of the harvest to fruition (e.g. Ex. 23:19). In the same way, Kingdom people are consecrated to God as a sign that God will faithfully bring his Kingdom to complete fruition.
As the “first fruits” of the Kingdom, our call is to be in the present what the entire world will be in the future, when the Kingdom is fully manifested. In a world that is yet under bondage to the rebel Powers, we’re to display what it looks like to live in the reign of God. Our lives are to reflect God’s will being done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). We’re to be, as much as possible, heaven on earth and thus a window through which people can see the future into which God is leading the world.
If God’s original ideal of a creation free of violence will be achieved in the future, it seems to me that the job of Kingdom people is to manifest this ideal now, as much as possible. Which to me suggests that since humans won’t be killing animals and eating them in heaven, we shouldn’t be killing them and eating them now.