Monday, April 05, 2004

Vegetarianism and the Bible, Part II (vs. Sogn Mill-Scout)

As before, my older comments will be in red, Sogn Mill-Scout's in blue, and my present comments in black.

* * * * *

This was all, of course, a precursor to the Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary (book of Hebrews). Jesus is even referred to as the Lamb of God, slain before the foundation of the world. That would be interesting, if God can call Himself a name which is a direct reference to acts which you find intrinsically immoral (and acts which He commanded the Israelites to do regularly as part and parcel of the regular system of animal sacrifice under the Law (itself a divine revelation given to Moses on Mt. Sinai).

I see you that apparent oddity and raise you the aforementioned evidence of Eden and Eschaton.

I explained what you think are discrepancies in my position. Now it is your turn.

In other words, there is some difficult explaining to do whichever side you approach it from.

There are exegetical problems to work out, but I don't see glaring inconsistency in my position. I do see it in yours (needless to say, for anyone who has been following my argument).

Given the alternatives, I feel much more secure on the side of the Peaceable Kingdom.

I'm on the side of the Biblical Kingdom, and that includes elements of both war and peace.

Furthermore, Jesus did not abolish this law at all, but rather, fulfilled it (Matt 5:17). He observed the law Himself, and attended synagogue (e.g., Matt 4:23, Acts 18:19, many others), as did the early Christians before the complete separation of Judaism and Christianity. So they accepted the Law.

I don't know how you can claim this when the gospels include cases of Jesus treating the Law rather cavalierly - that's what so enraged the Pharisees who bitterly opposed him.

It wasn't "cavalier" at all; it was simply a different application of the Law that was unfamiliar to the Pharisees. Jesus' understanding was infinitely deeper than theirs (as we would expect: He being God).

Furthermore, as a believer in the consistency of all scripture, how do you reconcile this claim with the teaching of Paul, who explicitly declared the Law defunct. He became apoplectic when another Christian sect insisted on strictly keeping the Law - he even wished they'd castrate themselves! (Galatians)

This is a huge discussion. What Paul (and early Christianity in general) say is that the Law is observed differently by Christians. The Law is good, and is not "defunct." But the New Covenant gives a quite-different understanding of how it affects Christian life. So the food restrictions and other binding observances were loosened. Circumcision becomes baptism (Paul explicitly makes this argument). The Saturday Sabbath became the Lord's Day. The Passover developed into the Sacrifice of the Mass. Etc.

Jesus and the disciples observed Passover (e.g., Jn 13:1, Mk 12:14).

The Mark verse doesn't say anything about Passover;

It was a typo: it should be Mark 14:14; sorry. And that verse is crystal-clear.

the John passage merely identifies the time of the events by reference to Passover.

We know it is Passover from context and comparisons to the synoptic Gospels. See, e.g., John 11:55-57 -- 12:1,12. 13:1 refers to the Passover being observed by Jesus because the next verse refers to the "supper." The subsequent discourse was delivered at the Last Supper, and we know that was definitely a Passover from the synoptics. You are grasping at straws. One must compare Scripture with Scripture.

Jesus went to Jerusalem specifically to observe Passover, because He was an observant Jew (Jn 2:13,23; 12:1,12; 13:1). Mark 12:14 reads,

Aha, I see you've committed a dyslexism: you mean Mark 14:12.

!!! LOL I usually don't make two mistakes on verses in a short time. That's weird. Yes, it is Mark 14:12!

"And on the first day of Unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the passover lamb, his disciples said to him, 'Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the passover?'"

Jesus ate the Passover lamb (Mk 14:14, Lk 22:8,11,15, Mt 26:17-19). He was not a vegetarian at all. According to you, then, he sinned against charity, against lambs. The Last Supper, where the Eucharist was instituted, was a Passover feast (Mk 12:14-25, Lk 22:1-20, Mt 26:17-29, Jn 13:1 [implied]). Jesus, Joseph, and Mary observed the Passover when our Lord was growing up (Lk 2:41-42). The Eucharist was a direct parallel to the system of animal sacrifice: applied to Jesus in a sacramental way (Lk 22:17-20). St. Paul calls Jesus "our Passover" (1 Cor 5:7).

Yes, the synoptics agree that Jesus & company ate a Passover meal, but mention of the lamb is conspicuously missing.

Why would you think it was missing? That was part of the Passover. C'mon, Sogn. Some of these arguments are almost an insult to our intelligence. We know what Passover meals involve, both from history and Jews' observance of it today. See, e.g., Exodus 12:1-20; especially verses 8-10.

To me this is significant because it is difficult to reconcile Jesus' own image of Himself as the Good Shepherd with killing sheep. It would be as though, instead of Jesus saying "I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep", he had said "I am the Good Shepherd who slaughters his sheep."

Whatever you think of it, He did it. And that is your problem. Your sentiments and opinions as to what you think Jesus should be like, do not determine how He is. Revelation tells us that. So you're really avoiding this massive evidence. I have little patience with the selective, pick-and-choose approach to Scripture and exegesis.

He could not have made such an analogy if it was based on a practice itself wicked and indefensible and unloving. For that would mean that Jesus sinned and lacked charity, and that is not possible. If you say we should look forward to the coming kingdom and the lion laying down with the lamb, etc., then I immediately ask, "then why didn't Jesus do it and become our example to follow?"

I would turn your question around and submit that, since Jesus was faultless in His character, and since He was the Messiah destined to inaugurate the Peaceable Kingdom foreseen by Isaiah, it is therefore exceedingly implausible to suppose that Jesus killed and ate animals or sanctioned their killing.

Whatever is "plausible" to you is irrelevant. We are trying to deal with the biblical RECORD here. And that record is abundantly clear. It expressly contradicts your viewpoint.

You need to address your own question, given your assertion that Jesus was a killer, i.e. why didn't Jesus behave as Isaiah and other prophets described the Messiah?

Because this was His first coming, not His second. Take it up with God. I am merely describing how the Bible describes Jesus in relation to meat-eating.

Paul urged abstention from meat and wine not because they were evil or because it was uncharitable to the animals from which the meat came, but in cases of making a brother stumble (Rom 14:20-21). In other words, if meat-eating itself were wrong, Paul did not think so.

Fortunately, Paul is not the Christ, nor was he sinless, as he admitted with great gusto.

Paul is the inspired author of a great deal of the New Testament, and Apostle, and a model of Christian behavior. The fact that this is your only comeback -- basically to run down Paul and minimize his importance --shows how exceedingly weak your case is.

He thought it could only voluntarily be renounced for the sake of others (precisely as I believe; I would never eat meat in front of you, on these very grounds, knowing that you were severely offended by it).

While I appreciate the sentiment, I don't make such demands on those with whom I dine. Of course, if I bought your dinner it would have to be vegetarian. And I admit I would be uncomfortable dining with someone who tactlessly kept raving about how delicious the steak is (which, I know, you would not do).

But this is inconsistent with the absolute nature of your ethical charges elsewhere, as I have already noted.

In the same passage, he says "everything is clean." He expands upon this understanding in 1 Cor 10:25-26: "Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For 'the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.'" The only meat that was to be avoided by command was that which was sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 10:19-21,27-29; Acts 15:28-29).

I concede that Paul didn't see meat-eating as immoral. He also didn't see slavery and female subjection as immoral. Again, Paul was not perfect.

Neither did Jesus, and so that pretty much dooms your whole "biblical case." I've dealt with slavery, and you simply don't understand the biblical concept of subjection. Jesus subjected Himself to Mary and Joseph as a child. Does that mean He was lesser than them, simply because of the subjection? Jesus said "the greatest among you shall be your servant." And Paul told husbands and wives also to submit to each other.

If you try to argue that the Old Testament meat-eating and sacrificing system was somehow changed in the New Testament, I answer that God allowed even more meat to be eaten than was before. This is shown in St. Peter's vision at Joppa (Acts 10:12-13): "[in the vision, Peter saw]. . . all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.'" Peter protests that he had never eaten ritually unclean foods under the Law (10:14). But he is answered, "What God has cleansed, you must not call common." (Acts 10:15). So much for biblically harmonious ethically-obligatory vegetarianism ...

Here you're way off. Not only is this clearly a symbolic story, i.e. symbolism intended to convey the message that Peter should not shun Gentiles, but Peter himself describes it as such!

Acts 10

[1] At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, [2] a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. ... [9] The next day ... Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. [10] And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance [11] and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. [12] In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. [13] And there came a voice to him: "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." [14] But Peter said, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." [15] And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has made clean, do not call common." 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. ... [19] And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you. [20] Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them." ... [25] When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. [26] But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man." ... [28] And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. [29] So when I was sent for, I came without objection. ... [34] So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, [35] but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

"God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean." That's what the vision was about; it wasn't an anti-PETA campaign. It wasn't about animals at all.

It had a double application, sure. But what you fail to see, again, is that even a parable or vision or purely symbolic writing in Scripture would not use something wrong to illustrate a righteous cause. How (in your worldview) can God tell Peter in the vision to eat all the animals (which is a wicked thing, according to you; so God in the symbolic story commands an unethical thing), and yet this represents a great thing: equality of Jews and Gentiles? This is desperate exegesis and special pleading, in order to bolster up a nonexistent biblical case.

Secondly, Peter at the Council of Jerusalem authoritatively states what Christians should be allowed to eat: he only prohibited food associated with idols and that which was strangled, and from blood (Acts 15:20,28-29). Not a word about vegetarianism. And this was the place to do it: an official council of the New Church, right when the New Covenant was in the process of being instituted; a proclamation guided by the Holy Spirit Himself (15:28).

Of course we all know how Jesus ate fish, even after His Resurrection (Jn 21:9-11). He performed the miracles of the feeding of the four thousand and five thousand, including fish (Mk 8:2-8; Mt 15:32-38). He chose several fishermen to be His disciples; He helped them have a good catch (Jn 21:4-8). he even compares the kingdom of God in one parable to a great catch of fish. Fishing involves suffering for the fish (though far less than what pigs and bulls (or minks) go through. They flop around before they die and are in obvious discomfort. If they are caught with a hook, they suffer that pain as well. So Jesus and many of His disciples were big sinners, being cruel to all these fish?

Assuming the gospels are reliable on these points, it seems incontestable that Jesus ate fish. It cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that He ate any other sentient beings, your Passover inference notwithstanding. I admit that it disturbs me that Jesus is reported to have eaten fish.

It disturbs me that you are disturbed by anything Jesus does.

But it's also very disturbing to me that Jesus never condemned slavery, never explicitly condemned the brutal Roman Empire, and didn't include any women in His inner circle of twelve disciples.

So He was a pretty bad sinner and a lousy liberal to boot, lacking the proper compassion and politically-correct, fashionable feminist views, huh? Thanks for your refreshing honesty. Not many people have the guts to flat-out call Jesus a sinner, and in a Christian forum such as this.

Of course I know you have no problem with that last item as a Catholic defending the male-exclusive priesthood, but I assume that the other two items would be at least a little troubling for you.

They were dealt with in due course, and both crumbled precisely because of the Bible and Christianity.

I feel safe in assuming that you condemn slavery as unequivocally immoral,

There is a continuum. I don't see indentured servanthood with the servant treated with dignity and charity "unequivocally immoral." If all slavery were like that, then it would have been condemned in no uncertain terms in the Bible, just like pride, greed, fornication, stealing, etc.

and you know the Romans were oppressors of many people, and exceedingly cruel - as so graphically depicted by Mel Gibson currently.

Yes, Jesus in due course learned that quite well from firsthand experience, didn't He? Perhaps that was His punishment for not speaking out against Roman cruelty?

Lastly, God gave the Jews in the wilderness quail to eat (Numbers 11:18-33).

I deal with this as I did with the general meat-eating references discussed above.

I see.

The biblical evidence seems compelling then: meat may be eaten and it is no sin at all.

And yet it was a sin before the Fall and will again be a sin in heaven, or in the New Jerusalem. Curious!

Where does it say that it was a sin or will be? I don't believe it is there, but maybe I missed it.

Jesus gave no indication that this was to cease.

And yet it WILL cease in God's Kingdom, even though it's supposedly innocuous. Curious!

It was a simple enough matter, if this stuff was so immoral, for Jesus to be our example, just like He is in all other areas. But He says nothing about any requirement for vegetarianism. He isn't vegetarian Himself. When will you give this effort up? It's completely futile. You only try it at all in the first place because you are a Christian. If you weren't a Christian you would be like those radical ethical vegetarians that Keith Akers talked about, most of whom have rejected orthodox Christianity because they saw the two worldviews could not be reconciled.

But I see no indication of mistreatment of animals, unless you include what fish experience when they are caught.

I see no reason to doubt the suffering of asphyxiated fish,

I figured you would say this. So Jesus is definitely a sinner, big-time, as He participated in the murder of thousands of fish on more than one occasion: causing a bigger catch and feeding the 4000 and/or 5000.

and I would call slitting a lamb's throat mistreatment - assuming Jesus partook of that practice as you claim.

God the Father commanded that, so He is a sinner too. And since Jesus observed Passover and took sacrificial offerings to the Temple, He was mean to animals and unethical and lacking in compassion too.

On the matter of the biblical evidence you cite, I quote a fellow Christian vegetarian: "Anyone who believes that animal exploitation is ethically acceptable because the Bible approves of it should, if they are to be consistent in their use of the Bible, also believe that human slavery is ethically acceptable not to mention ethnic cleansing, genocide and rape." - Norm Phelps, *The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible*

This guy is a liberal, with higher-critical views of the Bible, too, no doubt. Why should we care what he thinks of the Bible? He obviously doesn't have a clue as to how to interpret Scripture.

As I showed, God and the disciples explicitly sanctioned meat-eating. Paul even says, "eat whatever you find at the meat market." Christianity moved towards an even wider range of meat-eating than Judaism, with its prohibition of pig-meat and other unclean foods.

So much the worse for Christian history.

Why not? You refuse to submit to what the Bible clearly teaches on this, so there is little reason to not ditch the witness of Christian Tradition too.

But you miss my point. It's irrelevant because modern American meat consumption, in the vast majority of cases, supports an extremely cruel industry, as can be - and has been - easily documented. It is, however, probable that nowhere near as much mistreatment was typical in obtaining meat in biblical history. When you buy meat at Safeway the bible is irrelevant.

It's not irrelevant because it does not show meat-eating to be wrong in and of itself, apart from the treatment of the animals. Obviously, for you, all killing of animals is cruel. So if you catch a fish, you are a heartless sadist. If you slaughter a Turkey for Thanksgiving, the same applies. Jesus ate fish and lamb, and chose fishermen for His first disciples and used fishing as illustrations in His parables. so He was a cruel person. You can't escape this, no matter how hard you try.

If you want to argue that it doesn't matter how Jesus acted; He was a sinner like the rest of us and didn't understand some things, then I truly wonder if you are a Christian, because you can't say that about Jesus and continue to believe He was God. If He was not God and not raised from the dead, then your faith is in vain, and you have denied essential truths of Christianity. So you are willing to pay a high price indeed for your vegetarianism.

He [Jesus] would recommend, I think, that a quick method of killing these poor creatures was adopted, regardless of the loss of profit. But He would not recommend a total cessation of all killing of animals, nor vegetarianism.

This image of Jesus is repugnant to me. It portrays Him as less merciful and compassionate than many people, including me. And I know how abysmally far I am from sainthood!

Then this conversation is near its end. And you have some extremely serious problems in your Christianity that you better deal with quickly (I say in love, as a person who wants to see you thrive in your spiritual life). You have dismantled your own case, point-by-point, in your replies. The last nail in the coffin was your contention that fish suffer when they are caught, aso that we are being cruel to them. That implicated Jesus, and you can't avoid that fact, even with by butchering the Bible (you think butchering a lamb is worse than tearing the Bible apart).

However, I frankly concede the difficulty of a panzoist Christian dealing with a fish-eating yet putatively faultless Lord and Savior. One attempt to grapple with it was represented in that piece you posted on Keith Akers to which I had pointed you. I'm not sure how to deal with the issue, but I try to keep in mind the broader view, as I've pointed out here, to wit, that meat-eating isn't the only thing on which one can call Jesus into question. Most Christians aren't noticeably troubled by His slavery silence, or His Roman silence, or (for non-fundamentalist Protestants) His exclusion of women from the Apostle roster, but why not? What is the non-arbitrary, morally relevant difference between these quirks of the sinless Jesus and His recorded consumption of fish (and lamb if you're correct)? One can just ignore what is troubling if one is able and willing to compartmentalize one's mind that way, but that's not an option for me, or for you or any Christian inclined to be reflective and honest about her faith.

I fail to see any longer how you can be a Christian and believe in a Jesus Who is a sinner and not even as holy as you are (!!!). God cannot sin. Jesus is God; therefore He cannot sin. And He is perfectly holy and righteous, so these scenarios you posit are not possible with Him.

You have, therefore, denied that deity of Christ, and no one who does so can be considered a Christian, because that is a fundamental that cannot be given up. It's part of the Nicene Creed. I am always willing to grant a great deal of latitude for who is a Christian and who isn't, but when it comes to denying Who Jesus was, that is extremely serious and potentially soul-destroying.

He [Jesus] would oppose mistreatment, I firmly believe.

That is reason enough - in the situation that applies to almost all Americans - to either adopt vegetarianism or, at the very least, incorporate some degree of regular fasting from meat into one's lifestyle. You haven't provided any reason to contest this relatively modest claim. On the contrary, some of your own admissions seem to confirm it. It seems therefore appropriate to say that your only substantive disagreement with me is whether meat-eating, or killing sentient beings, is morally permissible under SOME ('humane') circumstances. Do you agree that our dispute reduces to that issue?

Our dispute, as we have sadly seen, "reduces" to whether Jesus was God or not, and whether the Bible is inspired revelation or not. This is classic theological liberalism. it is always opposed to traditional Christian orthodoxy (as conceived in either a Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox sense). I have agreed all along that animals should not be mistreated. I don't agree that it is immoral to kill them. You don't seem to be able to imagine any humane way to kill them.

I can live with that if only it issues in SOME degree of lifestyle modification. We will then have to agree to disagree on whether God finds unnecessary (i.e. for survival) meat-eating innocuous under the specified ('humane') conditions. Again, if I can only persuade some Christians to make some dent in the meat industry, I can feel pretty good about that.

I have no problem with that. Your problems in how you approach the Bible and Jesus are far more serious.

The Bible gives the principles which would eventually render slavery obsolete.

Yes! And by the same token it gives the principles which should (and according to prophecy, eventually will) render meat-eating obsolete. What's the difference?

We've been through that.

And even the slavery it did sanction was under many ethical injunctions as to proper treatment (this was not followed by many American slaveholders, needless to say). With meat-eating, however, there is no indication at all that it is a sin or that it would or should eventually be abolished.

Then you haven't read Isaiah!

I love Isaiah. I listed it as my favorite book in the Bible. Where does it say that eating meat is a sin? You have this silly notion that the prophets were somehow some bleeding-heart liberal vegetarians. This is untrue. One wearies of having to argue these self-evident things.

Jeremiah records that if the people "listen" to the LORD (17:24), and keep the Sabbath holy (17:24,27), then among other things, there will be (by God's sanction): "burnt offerings and sacrifices . . . [brought to] the house of the LORD" (Jer 17:26). Elsewhere, in referring to the messianic kingdom (Jer 33:14-16), Jeremiah speaks of the continued sacrificial system "for ever" (33:18). Yet you tried to argue that "the sacrificial system was condemned by some of the prophets!" and cited Jeremiah 7:22-23 as a supposed instance of this. It's poppycock. I get the feeling that you are simply pulling proof texts up from your various books without bothering to check to see what these prophets wrote elsewhere.

The prophet Ezekiel also joins the ranks of sinners like Jesus, Paul, and Jeremiah. He writes about the sacrificial offerings being eaten by the priests in the Temple (42:13, 44:29), and reiterates the sacrifice of sheep under the Law (45:15-17,23-25; 46:5-7,11-15). This is six verses after God says through Ezekiel, "Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness" (45:9). So what is Ezekiel? a split personality? The Wolfman?

Is Isaiah (whom you thought offered your "biblical" silver bullet against meat-eating) any different? Of course not. When God (through Isaiah) is condemning Israel for disobedience, He says:
You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices.

(Isaiah 43:23)
Speaking of the messianic age, and the kingdom of Israel as God desires it, in the context of keeping the covenant and the Sabbath (56:6), God states:
. . . their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer.

(Isaiah 56:7)
Speaking of Egypt, Isaiah writes:
And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and burnt offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them . . . and they will return to the LORD, and he will heed their supplications and heal them.

(Isaiah 19:21-22)
In a passage about the day of judgment (Isaiah chapter 34), Isaiah refers to the "sword" of the LORD, "gorged with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams" (Isaiah 34:6). Hopefully, you will think twice (and consult a Concordance) before again making such foolish claims about what the prophets believe.

Quite the contrary; it is positively recommended, as shown. Peter is virtually commanded to kill animals and eat them, in a supernatural vision.

That is a transparent misreading of the story, as PETER himself interpreted it, as I've already shown.

Nothing in this story suggests vegetarianism. Quite the contrary.

In general I find that the use of Scripture in defense of one's preferences or habits is extremely selective.
Oftentimes it is, yes.

Actually, so far as I have been able to tell, it is almost always selective.

As we have clearly seen in your "selectivity" in Isaiah, vainly trying to make out that he condemned the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant, when he did precisely the opposite.

I find that most Christians pick and choose what they like and don't like in Scripture, but most are disingenuous about it and mask their selectivity behind this or that system of hermeneutics. This is called "exegesis."

Your "exegesis" is very much of this variety, as I have been demonstrating repeatedly. You neglect context and the background thought involved; you don't even look to see what the writer expressed elsewhere, so as to present a coherent version of their beliefs.

The bible is not a book, but a library of books, and while some fairly prominent themes may be traced through most of the collection, I think it's an exercise in futility to try to harmonize all that material into one, single, consistent, coherent message.

That's why you're a theological liberal! This is a classic expression of it. And we see where it ends up: a sinning Jesus, Who is not the biblical Jesus at all.

The fixation on finding THE SINGLE FLAWLESSLY CONSISTENT message of the bible leads to sectarianism and perpetual strife among Christians. It leads, IMO, to idolatry, virtually worshiping the bible rather than God.

That's an interesting thought: belief in biblical inspiration and self-harmony leads inexorably to strife, division, and bibliolatry. Well, we have no choice but to become good liberals, huh?! It's either idolizing Scripture or worshiping a sinful Jesus. Any sane person would choose the latter as the preferable course, right Sogn?

Christians ought to be characterized primarily by how much we love each other (according to our Lord's instructions),

His instructions are considerably watered-down if we think He was a sinner and couldn't even get "self-evident" things right like cruelty to fish and so forth . . . why should we care about what someone thinks who is on a lower ethical plane than we are?

as well as by our compassion for the poor and weak of the world, rather than for our capacity to agree on THE meaning of the bible.

Why do I have to make this choice? The liberals chose to separate the "social gospel" from the "doctrinal Bible." The Bible itself doesn't teach that. All this wonderful liberal "compassion" has brought us abortion and Leninism and Stalinism (both stemming from Karl Marx: a backslidden Jew).

Well, that's a sermonesque tangent to the issue of panzoism, I guess.

Thanks for showing us where your ultimate allegiances lie! "If the Bible contradicts our little system, so much for the Bible . . ."

. . . I cannot hope to match you in typing speed, nor, lacking your two decades or so of apologetics experience, can I think on my feet with anything like your alacrity in matters biblical or theological. You are the Isaac Asimov* of apologetics, sir! I doff my cap to you.

Well, thanks! If you acknowledge that I know something about the Bible, then perhaps counter-examples like those I gave from Isaiah will cause you to reconsider your position.

No, we are vegans under normal (domestic) circumstances, though we make exceptions for some social situations. It isn't that hard to live this way, but that's a matter of individual judgement. As I keep reiterating, there are many degrees of lifestyle adjustment that could collectively impact the meat and dairy industries. It isn't all or nothing.

I just found out that the Episcopal church into which I'm being baptized during the Great Vigil Easter service on the 10th, is having a quasi-Passover seder meal with lamb stew. There are times when I wish I were a Jain. ;-)

Yet above you tried to deny that Jesus ate lamb because it wasn't specifically mentioned. You again contradict yourself. Be sure to tell them that you think Jesus was a sinner. They may not be willing to baptize you.

I do eat fish and chicken and turkey occasionally. How much do turkeys and chickens suffer during their "processing"?

Plenty. Easily documented, though certainly not here and now!

. . . Vegetarianism may be an ideal that not everyone, due to health or geographical limitations, can realize.

. . . Medical testing is the final frontier of animal liberation. If animals were no longer exploited as food and clothing it would be a monumental, nay, eschatological advance.

But you offer no reason for us to accept banning these practices.

Vivisection is the old term for experimentation on animals. Much experimentation is done to further pharmaceutical research, but a considerable amount is frivolous at best, such as the infamous testing of motorcycle helmets by smashing chimpanzees' skulls. There's no doubt a special place in hell reserved for people who would do that.

People who deny that Jesus is God are in danger of going to hell too. Don't lose your own soul while worrying (even if rightly) about monkeys.

Preventing their suffering is the very least that should be done in the context of experimentation. On that we can agree. I would go further and say we have no right to use the animals for our purposes. But what you describe would be a definite advance.

... nature itself is every bit as cruel to all sorts of animals as men are to them.

People invariably say this, yet it's completely irrelevant to our obligations as God's stewards. God didn't tell us to lower ourselves to the level of the beasts or imitate brutal behavior! The ethic of Jesus is as unnatural as anything could possibly be!

This doesn't answer the question. If God made a world which included the brutality of the animal kingdom (post-Fall, but He knew what would happen), then it is not wrong for us to kill an animal quickly to eat it, seeing that fellow animals might eat it alive (and slowly).

All you're doing is calling attention to the problem of evil. I don't see what special relevance it has to panzoism, since we have the capacity to choose to behave differently than impersonal nature.

The argument pertains more to the radical vegetarians, where there is no God or standard of absolute ethics to appeal to.

Here's a question you might be willing to answer: Why do you WANT to kill animals (or have them killed for you)?

I don't (I have never hunted; nor do I wish to). At best I want to eat meat. And since it is allowed by God (even commanded, in the case of the Jews, as part of religious ritual, with soteriological significance), then there is nothing wrong with it.

Even if the bible unequivocally and consistently supported meat-eating, why would you - or any Christian - WANT to kill if it isn't essential to your survival?

Obviously, because it tastes good. Why would God make it taste so good to us if it was such a terrible thing to eat meat in the first place? He could have made all meat and poultry and fish taste like throw-up or sewer water. But He didn't. Interesting, isn't it?

The only answer I can think of is that flesh tastes good and you can get away with it according to your interpretation of the bible.

It is improper to speak of "getting away with" something if it is not wrong to do that thing in the first place. You keep trying to have it both ways. You will make concessions implying that you don't see this as an absolute, yet when push comes to shove, your language betrays that you either do think it is absolutely wrong or wish you could, if you had good enough reason. If it's wrong, it's wrong. PERIOD. Then no one could eat meat under any circumstance, even if they were starving. But if it isn't wrong, then it is silly to speak of "getting away with it." That would be like saying "you play baseball because you can get away with it according to your interpretation of the Bible" or "you tie your shoes because you can get away with it according to your interpretation of the Bible."

Which really just reduces to "flesh tastes good, so I kill."

Don't forget the end: "and killing animals is not wrong."

I remember the years when I persisted in eating meat despite my love of animals, and I was acutely and embarrassingly aware that I had nothing more than my culinary habits to cite in my defense.

But it didn't occur to you that abortion was a far greater inconsistency (to the extent that you were obliged to oppose almost all cases of it) until the last three weeks or so. I submit that if you couldn't even see THAT glaring inconsistency, that perhaps you should be a little less ready to charge inconsistency in others (even Jesus Himself). You don't know if you will change this view of yours eventually, just as you did with regard to abortion.

I was immensely relieved when I was finally able to drop that specious rationalization. I don't know why it doesn't bother other people - at least people who love (some) animals.

I have tried to explain. But if everything is based on mere feelings and sentiment rather than reason and biblical revelation, it won't suffice.

Speaking of which, you had mentioned to me privately that you hoped to have a diverse discussion of this subject, but I can't recall anyone posting who didn't support meat-eating. What happened?

I don't know. It was Keith Rickert who said he knew a bunch of people who might want to come join in. It's probably the usual reluctance that people have, discussing stuff with Christians. They are more than welcome. I wrote to Keith Akers, and he wrote a nice letter back, but apparently didn't have time to comment.

I guess my ministry, such as it is, is to persuade people - especially fellow Christians - to think more carefully and compassionately about nonhumans, and to act accordingly.

I have said repeatedly that I agree and commend you for this. I'm infinitely more concerned about how you regard Jesus and the Bible. I never doubted for a second that you were a Christian before. Now I do. You simply can't deny that Jesus is God and be a Christian. That's like trying to be a race car driver while denying that race cars exist. God by definition is holy and sinless. Whomever is not that is not God.

You seem to agree that people, especially Christians, should make at least SOME modification of their casual meat-industry-supportive lifestyles. That's pretty significant agreement. Do you think many Christians are willing to go even that far (e.g. a weekly meat-fast)?


If not, why?

Because it is too inconvenient. Convenience is one of our idols.

What would that say about Christianity?

Nothing. But it says plenty about human beings who are Christians.

Then at least some degree of practical change should be implemented, right?

Yes. But frankly, unless I could see the wanton slaughter of tiny human beings ended, I doubt that I would ever go on a crusade to reform the meat industry (though I would not oppose that). First things first . . .

And because you are a Christian yourself, and need to synthesize your beliefs with biblical revelation and almost universal Christian practice in eating.

I need to come to terms with biblical revelation, yes.

You sure do.

I don't need to concern myself with "almost universal Christian practice in eating" if such habits are largely a reflection of thoughtlessness.

They obviously stem from the biblical teaching. If Christianity had been vegetarian, then Christians would have followed suit by and large, because we seek to put into practice the teachings of Jesus.

Other Christians' eating habits are not normative for me or any Christian.

Put that way, no. But you can't say they are wrong, according to the Bible, unless they are gluttonous or eating food sacrificed to idols, or stolen food, or only junk food, etc.

I will make that determination as I observe how you deal with the biblical texts I produced. :-) If you try to dismiss them at every turn, then I will conclude that you 1) reject biblical inspiration, and/or 2) that non-Christian philosophies have overcome Christian ones in you, with regard to this matter.

I didn't dismiss them, but I don't treat all parts of the bible as equally authoritative. (Nor does any Christian to my knowledge.) For instance, I don't learn how to treat my neighbors from reading Joshua and Judges! If I did, I'd no doubt be in prison by now. Instead I go to the source, Jesus, and try to love my enemies instead of raping and killing them.

I've seen enough of your exegesis to be greatly alarmed.

God has a big ethical problem then (which becomes your problem in defending this).

No more of a problem than He has by virtue of overlooking slavery and - apparently - sanctioning genocide on the part of the Hebrews.

Here we go again. Do you wish to equate God with Hitler and Stalin? If so, why do you try to follow Him at all?

Furthermore, surely all Christians agree that the heart and apotheosis of all divine revelation is found in Jesus - the Word made flesh. And Jesus, even if He ate fish, certainly taught an ethic of self-sacrifice and servanthood for the good of those who are weak and powerless. And His image of Himself as the Good Shepherd who sacrifices Himself for his sheep, as well as His statement that God cares about individual sparrows, suggests that He didn't limit His compassion to humans.

Then why did He eat lamb and fish if to do so necessarily involves a lack of compassion?

I "discovered" another good proof of the biblical (and Jesus') sanction of meat-eating in the readings at Mass yesterday. It's in the parable of the prodigal son, told, of course, by Jesus (Luke 15:11-32).

Note how when the son returns, the father is jubilant, and celebrates in the following manner: "... bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry." (Luke 11:23; cf. 11:27)

This shows a lot of things:

1. One could kill an animal for the reason of celebration (in addition to nutrition).
2. By implication, Jews (including Jesus Himself) ate beef.

This is almost as embarrassing as your "proof" from Peter's vision regarding Cornelius and the Gentiles . . .

This [#2] does not follow by any logic I know.

I didn't claim that it did. It is not an airtight proof. What it is, is weird and strange if it is wrong to eat meat.

3. The calf was prepared specifically for human consumption ("fatted"). I believe that is what this means, though I might be mistaken.

One might quibble that this is simply a story, so what does that prove?

That's exactly what I would say. It's no more significant than if I were to illustrate some point by telling a story about one of my early Thanksgivings when I feasted on turkey flesh.

But you are not God telling the story. You could sin in the past. God cannot sin, nor can He use an example of sin as a perfectly proper practice, even in a parable. You either get this or you don't. It's self-evident.

If I used the story to make some point, say, about my family life, it would scarcely imply my current approval of my past consumption of turkey.

That's irrelevant. God can't change and He can't sin. He has no "change of opinions" as men do.

That would be incidental, though it would be a detail that most people in our culture could easily relate to, and there lies another point relevant to Jesus' parable. It's a story His audience could relate to, as all His stories were intended to be.

That's irrelevant, too. To show how silly your reasoning is, imagine if Jesus had used an example of something we all consider sin: "To celebrate the fact that his son had returned, the father said, 'let's go and kill the fatted son who was loyal to the father, since he was jealous about the prodigal son.' " You and I would agree that this is nonsensical and Jesus would never say it. He simply wouldn't use something intrinsically wrong like that in his parable. Therefore, killing the fatted calf is not something he considers intrinsically wrong. Nor should you.

Your interpretation runs afoul of the pan-pacifistic Eschaton. The father's joy and celebratory mood represents God's grace toward us wayward sinners. It is overly literalistic to draw the inference (in conflict with prophecy) that God will be slaughtering cows and serving them to us when we come into His Kingdom.

Isaiah and Jeremiah already stated practically as much concerning the messianic kingdom, which is sort of a prefigure of the heavenly kingdom. So it is not inconceivable at all, biblically-speaking. In fact, in Revelation, Jesus is shown as a "Lamb slain" after His Resurrection and Ascension.

Sogn has already indicated his way out of all this: he will simply assume a critical stance towards the Bible where it disagrees with his view.

I assume a critical stance, if you wish to call it that, toward anything that flagrantly violates my conscience.

Even if God tells you otherwise . . .

The most blatant biblical example is the aforementioned stories (in Joshua and elsewhere) of God commanding His people to commit genocide. You and I and every morally decent person know that such behavior is depraved. I've read various desperate attempts to reconcile those actions with God's goodness as revealed in Jesus and, without exception, these attempts at "exegesis" are embarrassing, and only serve to give non-Christians further ammunition against Christianity.

So did God really command this, which makes Him (according to you) evil, or do you just rip this out of the Bible? If the latter, on what non-arbitrary basis?

I refuse to argue that in this context, as biblical inspiration and inerrancy is an entirely separate discussion (involving examination of the usual unsavory and incoherent liberal so-called "higher critical" methodologies).

It definitely should be a separate subject, if only because it's huge.

I won't be the main one to argue it, because I have nothing but disdain for these theories. They are intellectually bankrupt, and the people who hold them oftentimes lack faith. They have adopted wholesale rationalism.

I will close with a statement of "A Christian Credo for Animals" as formulated by Reverend Andrew Linzey in one of the greatest Christian books I've read - Animal Gospel:
I affirm the One Creator God from whom all existence flows. I celebrate the common origin of all life in God. I undertake to cherish and love all creatures whose life belongs to God and exists for God's glory.

I affirm the life of Jesus as the true pattern of service to the weak. I promise my solidarity with all suffering creatures. I join hands with Jesus in his ministry to the least of all, knowing that it is the vocation of the strong to be gentle.

I see in the face of the Crucified the faces of all innocent, suffering creatures. I hear their cries for a new creation. I thank God for the grace to feel their suffering and give voice to their pain.

I affirm the Word made flesh as the new covenant between God and all sentient creatures. I seek to live out that covenant in acts of moral generosity, kindness and gentleness to all those creatures that God has gathered together into unity.

I affirm the life-giving Spirit, source of all that is wonderful, who animates every creature. I pledge myself to honor life because of the Lord of life.

I affirm the hope of the world to come for all God's creatures. I believe in the Cross as the symbol of liberation for every creature suffering from bondage. I will daily trust in the redeeming power of God to transform the universe.

I pray that the community of Christ may be blessed with a new vision of God's creation. I will turn away from my hardness of heart and seek to become a living sign of the Gospel for which all creatures long.

I rejoice in animals as fellow-creatures: loved by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and enlivened by the Holy Spirit.

May God the Holy Trinity give me strength to live out my commitment this day.

-- Andrew Linzey,
Animals are not "redeemed by the Son" because they did not rebel against God like man did. And most Christian theologians hold that they do not possess a soul.

Thanks again for the stimulating discussion.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Dialogue on the Bible and Vegetarianism (vs. Sogn Mill-Scout)

My older comments will be in red, Sogn's will be in blue, and my present comments in black.

* * * * *

I wholeheartedly agree with that. I also don't see torture and other infliction of suffering on animals in the Bible. But I see the permissibility of swiftly killing them (and eating them, and using their fur, etc.) all over the place, and sanctioned by God, Who cannot (by nature) sanction something that is intrinsically sinful and evil. That's why much of this has to rest on an optional, non-obligatory idealism (much like pacifism).

God sanctioned, nay commanded, genocidal slaughter of the Canaanites according to the early books of the bible. God even punished his people for sparing some of their enemies! Is the fact that you and I are too nice to even contemplate mass-slaughter of our enemies (including women and children!) merely a matter of our "optional, non-obligatory idealism"?

Rather than explain how vegetarianism is wrong according to the Bible (which, of course, can't be done), you switch to "hard cases" which you think cast doubt upon the Bible itself. This will not do. You need to either square the two things or state outright that you don't care what the Bible teaches about vegetarianism. You intend to ignore it due to prior dispositions. The middle ground you are attempting just does not succeed.

Now, for a brief response to your "dilemma," the short answer is that God has power over life and death, and He is the Judge. This is consistent biblical teaching: Old and New Testaments alike. When God judged the entire world (or a great deal of it, depending on how the language is interpreted) with a flood, that was entirely just and deserved. When He judged Sodom and Gomorrah, they deserved that. When He judged even His own chosen people, the Jews, by the Babylonians, they, of course, deserved it. We all deserve death and hellfire for our rebellion, but God has mercy on us. In some instances, however, He decides that the rebellion and wickedness is such that it demands immediate judgment.

For specific material relating to this issue of the Canaanites, see these links:

How Could a God of Love Order the Massacre of the Canaanites?

Shouldn't the Butchering of the Amalekite Children be Considered War Crimes?

God sanctioned slavery throughout the bible and never explicitly revoked it, yet the 19th century abolitionists, whom you and I revere, selectively invoked the bible in the service of their cause. Were they merely fighting for an optional, non-obligatory idealism? Kind of takes the wind out of their sails when you put it that way.

American slavery is not biblical slavery, which was governed by a code of conduct and was much closer to indentured servanthood. The Bible did not condemn slavery per se; yet the code of ethics taught in the New Testament eventually made it obsolete. It became practically non-existent in Christian medieval Europe, only to be revived again later on, under protest of the Catholic Church. For further reading on this complex topic, see:

Let My People Go: The Catholic Church and Slavery (Mark Brumley)

The Popes and Slavery - Book Review (Leonard A. Kennedy)

A Response to John Noonan, Jr. Concerning the Development of Catholic Moral Doctrine (Usury, Marriage, Slavery, Religious freedom) (Patrick M. O'Neil)


Catholic Encyclopedia: ETHICAL ASPECT OF SLAVERY

On Slavery in the Old Testament (Luke Wadel)

Are slavery and genocide merely options we modern sophisticated Christians just don't happen to opt for?

We are not God. Our designs to wipe out entire races has nothing to do with God's prerogative to judge. Christian just war theory obviously rules out such hideous genocides. Slavery as it was in America was rightly opposed by the abolitionists. It was not biblical slavery. And we see that its basis was often explicitly racist. Stupid stuff like the "cure of Ham" and so forth was sometimes used to justify it.

The Nazis chose the other (biblically sanctioned) option, however. Talk about situationalism and relativism!

Not at all. All you have shown is that you have not sufficiently thought about how God's perspective (and position in the scheme of things) is vastly different from ours, and the distinction between ancient slavery and American slavery.

It is impossible, I will argue, to make this entire argument and also accept a Bible which is an inspired revelation from God. You are a Christian, so your task is to harmonize biblical teaching with your beliefs on this score. Frankly, what I've seen thus far has done a very poor and insufficient job of doing that.

I'm not sure whether I bear that obligation or not,

Of course you do, if you are a Christian. If you care little about synthesizing your views with the Bible, I don't see how you can claim to be a Christian, as all Christians accept it as God's revelation.

but I do know that you've voluntarily saddled yourself with it,

That's right. I'm very proud to be "saddled" with the Bible.

so perhaps you can explain how you maneuver around the genocide and slavery issues before you conclude that I'm in an unusually untenable position vis-a-vis vegetarianism and panzoism.

Just did . . .

I think what this really boils down to is not that we're both Christians (followers/worshipers of Christ) and therefore share the same burden regarding scripture. I think at least one important part of the issue is that you're Catholic and I'm not.

That has nothing to do with this particular issue. My argument wouldn't have been the slightest bit different if I was still Protestant. Protestants (at least traditional, "conservative" ones) have -- it should go without saying -- just as high a view of Scripture and its inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy as the Catholic Church does. This is common ground, so it is nonsensical for you to try to turn it into a "Catholic thing." At best, you can only speak as a Protestant liberal, when you do this, but that is not historic Protestantism. It's a departure from it, and at times, arguably a different religion altogether.

Being a Catholic means, more or less, that the entire interpretation of the bible is prefabricated by centuries of accumulated dogma sanctioned by the Magisterium.

That's not true. We are merely constrained by certain dogmas, just as Protestants are by theirs. The Church has only officially declared on less than ten verses, in terms of compulsory meaning.

I suppose there must be some individual latitude on minor points, but on all major issues you essentially get your biblical interpretation out of the Catechism or the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Not true (but this is a widespread stereotype). See my "Freedom of the Catholic Biblical Exegete."

I, however, being outside both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches with their well-defined, inherited, traditional reading of scripture, along with entire systems of dogmatic theology, am flying solo, more or less, and just have to do the best I can with the material at hand.

No Protestant worth his salt would stand for a minute and let you pick and choose what parts of the Bible you would accept and which you jettison because of prior ideological commitments. I'm sure one or more of the Protestants who frequent this blog can verify this. As I said, this is not a "Catholic thing" at all.

That means that I try to treat the bible, on the whole, reverentially, diligently, and honestly, and try not to treat it cavalierly or capriciously. What I can't do, being neither Catholic nor Orthodox, is simply look up the answers in the back of the book, so to speak. I have to try to find some middle ground that allows for individual interpretation and progressive revelation (or development of doctrine), along with respect for tradition, i.e. all the wise Christians that have come before me - the "great cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 11), and the "Democracy of the Dead" (Chesterton). Believe me, this is no picnic!

Development or progressive revelation is not what you are talking about here: but wholesale biblical skepticism. Apples and oranges. This will become more clear if you actually tried to counter-respond to my many biblical examples contra "ethical vegetarianism."

What if we discovered that plants feel pain, too? I vaguely remembering reading something along those lines. "The Secret Life of Plants" sort of thing ... If that were proven scientifically, what would you do then? Make an exception for plants? Otherwise, we would all have to starve to death in order to consistently live out this vision, as all food is organic. Only water is non-organic, and we can't survive on water only.

This is a classic recourse when avoiding vegetarianism. Four points suffice to answer it:

1. Plant pain would serve no evolutionary purpose: the primary purpose of pain is to warn the organism of danger, thus prompting it to fight or flee the threat if possible. Plants cannot flee and are pretty helpless in a fight. If we look to evolution to explain life, plant pain is pointless.

All of a sudden, pain is a non-issue if it doesn't serve an "evolutionary purpose"? I thought the leading idea was compassion. My argument was "IF plants feel pain, THEN what do you do?" The above reply seems to me to be a complete non sequitur.

2. Plant pain would serve no theistic purpose for the same reason; the primary purpose of pain - warning to fight or flee predation - is the same whether naturalistic evolution or God's creative agency is the ultimate explanation of life. If we look to God to explain life, plant pain is sadistic.


3. We can only be responsible for causing or preventing suffering we KNOW as such. The only suffering we can be sure about, based on similarity to us in both behavior and internal structure, is that of vertebrates. Anything beyond that is conjectural at best.

My example was a hypothetical one.

Is chopping down a tree violence? If so, that would take out all wood products.

'Violence' is a word that could be used in that context, depending on the attitude of the tree-choppers, but it does not denote the capacity to inflict suffering, so far as we have any reason to believe.

Okay, good. I rather like the nice wood stuff we have in our house, so this is good news.

If you wanna really get radical with this, we would all have to make massive changes in our lives; some entailing considerable financial sacrifices. What about all the stuff made in China? I believe they have slave labor camps there. Every utility company or credit card company or bank, etc., which invests in, or supports the abortion industry or Planned Parenthood, or supports or does business with other companies which do the same, would have to be off limits for our business, as they are participating in the slaughter of the preborn. Arguably, we are helping maintain the culture of death in supporting them. People make this argument a lot. If we extend it to animals, that would introduce a host of new complications. It gets to the point where you would have to live in an igloo in Siberia in order to avoid all unethical or immoral entanglements with the "world" (Greek: cosmos, or world-system).

This is an excellent point; thanks for raising it. My wife, in the interim since my essay was posted, has chided me for my stridency in placing what could be perceived as unsupportable burdens on people in the quest for moral purity. She made much the same point as you do here, and it was my oversight to omit it.

Living an upright life in our twisted, depraved, and unfathomably complicated world is far from a case of either/or, saint or evildoer. If we life a live of any significant or normal engagement with the world, i.e. with our civilization, as opposed to becoming a self-sufficient hermit, we must necessarily be content with finding a manageable place on the continuum between depraved indifference to suffering and saintly, heroic, constant amelioration of suffering.

My advocacy of panzoism is an attempt to persuade people to exert SOME effort to move SOME distance, even if a small distance, along that continuum of entanglement and complicity in adding to the world's suffering. Thus, although I hope that some people will be persuaded to completely eschew supporting the meat industry, I would be happy even if people would, for example, modify their lives to include one or two meatless days a week. If millions of people took that relatively easy action it would have a substantial negative impact on the meat industry. Perhaps it would even lead to 'reforms' in the atrocious treatment of captive animals destined for killing.

This is why I have stressed, especially in my replies to comments on my essay, that it isn't necessary to believe that killing and eating of animals is intrinsically wrong in order to be obliged to become vegetarian, or at least a part-time vegetarian (a reduced consumer of meat). As I've noted, and have not been gainsaid, the policy I advocate follows only from the (commonly professed Christian) belief that unnecessary cruel treatment of animals is immoral. If this principle alone were strictly adhered to, it would be necessary to procure your meat only from small independent suppliers whose treatment of animals you could personally vouch for, or else hunt and kill animals yourself, using the quickest and most painless methods available. This logic is unassailable. However, as I just observed, understanding the practical exigencies of life, especially managing a family, I would be heartened if people would even make a noticeable reduction in their purchase of meat from supermarkets and their industrial suppliers.

As Dave correctly points out, the same entanglement in a corrupt world confronts us with regard to many evils besides those inflicted on nonhumans. If one's heart is large enough to care about all the innocent suffering in our world, human AND nonhuman, abortion clinics AND factory farms, one will want to take SOME steps, make SOME effort, enact SOME change in lifestyle related to those evils. But it may not be possible for anyone to live a completely pure, uncontaminated life with regard to any of these evils, much less all. I certainly don't claim to have succeeded in that ideal.

Fair enough. This seems reasonable. But often it appears that you regard killing of animals as tantamount to murder. If that is so, you can't sanction it, even on the grounds you just gave. If, on the other hand, it isn't murder, then at best you can call for reform of food processing and treatment of animals, but not vegetarianism, strictly-defined. Either way, you have a problem of internal consistency.

As a Christian, you have an obligation to explain your ethical system as consistent with biblical revelation.

Consistent with, yes; clearly and indubitably mandated therein, no.

Mandatory vegetarianism certainly isn't consistent with the biblical record.

You may have retained elements of a pagan philosophy (however praiseworthy in itself, and in intent) that are in disharmony with biblical revelation. Most of us do that in one way or another. You're certainly not alone in that.

I believe that if we had not already been panzoists, we would have been far less receptive to the claims of Christ.

That goes back to my point that you raise vegetarianism to such a high level on the ethical plane, that it would even cause you to not consider accepting Christ if you had not adopted it.

Our hearts, after all, would have been that much more cramped and hardened.

That doesn't follow. I agree with you about the treatment of animals (and I think many would), but merely the killing of animals and eating meat does not make one tend to be, or inevitably become, "cramped and hardened." This is the language, I'm afraid, of prejudice.

And the notion that Christ would have called us to become LESS loving than we already were is plainly absurd.

So Jesus was "LESS loving" when He helped the fishermen catch a greater load of fish? He helped murder several hundreds or thousands of fish. Was He then a mass murderer? This is the sort of silliness your position entails.

And if we already love an animal companion, such as a cat or dog, the haunting question is inevitable: why is it wrong to kill and eat my pet but appropriate to slaughter cows and pigs? (or pay people to do it for me!).
Because the Bible allows killing animals for food.

That's no answer to the specific question I posed.

Alright; how about this: there are times when it is proper to kill animals while we love and care for other animals, just as there are times (and you concede this) to kill people while we love and care for other people.

Secondly, one could argue that it is not wrong to kill your own pet, but rather, inappropriate or not fitting. The function of a pet is not for food, but for companionship and pleasure. But the function of a fish (in terms of our use of the fish) is to eat.

Thirdly, one could argue that with pets, there is sentimentality involved (the "Bambi syndrome"). We don't kill them because there is sentiment which precludes that behavior. But that is a different thing from claiming it would be unethical or "murder" to kill your pet and eat it. What about expeditions to the Antarctic where they were starving and slaughtered the dogs to eat? Did they commit murder? If killing animals is murder, one cannot even do the act when starving, anymore than they could kill a fellow human being to eat, when in danger of starvation. But if it's not murder, then you can't preclude the ethical possibility of killing and eating an animal.

I do agree that there is a certain disconnect between the two scenarios.

That's an understatement!

So will your counter-reply be, I suspect . . . :-)

But I would say that it is not inconsistent to love a being while killing them, anymore than it is inconsistent to kill an enemy in war without personally hating them.

I would hate to get sidetracked by pacifism, but while I can imagine killing people without hating them, I cannot imagine killing them while loving them.

Why is it so difficult to move from "not hate" to "love"? If you don't desire harm to come to a person, then you desire for good to come to them.

At least I have no idea what such love amounts to. Do you?

Sure; I need not have any malice towards an enemy in war; I can love them like I love all other people. But it so happens that he is fighting for his country or cause, and I am fighting for mine. So I can kill without ceasing to love the person, because I don't desire bad things for him as an individual. We're just in a sad situation that requires people getting killed. This is the human condition, unfortunately.

Let's try to keep that tangent under control. And bear in mind that I'm not a pacifist, I merely have a very strong attraction to it, partly because I don't see how to reconcile the Sermon on the Mount with war.

I've dealt with that elsewhere. The Sermon on the Mount is primarily about individual morality, not social. That's the short answer. You need go no further than Paul. When he was falsely accused, he didn't turn the other cheek. He appealed to his Roman citizenship and then to Caesar himself.

Getting back to the panzoism subject, your reply is irrelevant since based on a faulty analogy (if that was the intent). My point is that cows and pigs are no more my enemies than the cats who share my home.

That's correct. They don't have to be my "enemies." We are allowed by God to eat them. He calls the shots: not the radical vegetarianism crowd.

So again, why would I - or anyone - DESIRE to kill the former but not the latter? Saying "the bible permits us" doesn't answer the question, and comparing it to war is irrelevant. If you want to say you have a right to kill a cow or pig in self-defense (now there's an intriguing scenario!), I won't disagree, but again, it's beside the point.

I gave my reasoning. You yourself draw similar distinctions where people are involved. You have said self-defense is understandable. That is killing a person. Yet you wouldn't desire to kill your wife. So if the distinction holds with regard to people, then certainly we can comprehend that there could be differential situations with animals. But it is nonsensical to talk of "murdering" an animal, anyway. If it were murder, then God would have revealed that to us in His revelation.

Inflicting suffering is a much more clear-cut case than all killing or use of animal products for food.

Then I will be happy to focus on whether it's right to support the meat industry as we know it. If we can take even a small bite (pun intended) out of the systematically cruel meat industry, at the cost of a little inconvenience, shouldn't we do so? Is even one vegetarian day a week too much to ask - especially of Christians, who are, ideally, to be known by our love?

This at least is arguable, and I support you in it. How we changed our behavior would be related to what happens in the animal processing. I have asked about fish. Do you contend that they suffer so much after being caught that it is unethical to eat them? I asked about free-running Amish hens. Would that be permissible to eat them?

Again, I note that to kill an animal swiftly is ethically different from causing them to suffer for months or years in order to be used in some fashion.

Yes, it's different. But then the same could be said for preventing gestation of a human zygote versus ripping apart a third-trimester baby in the infamous partial-birth abortion. The huge difference does not imply that the former act is morally innocuous.

You can prevent gestation in Catholic thought, as long as you don't deliberately thwart THIS act of sexual intercourse by artificial means, which pervert the natural order of things. Natural Family Planning (with sufficiently serious reasons) does not do that.

There is also much biblical data that you have insufficiently grappled with, as I will show.

Nothing you can produce from the bible will justify the treatment of animals in the factory farming meat industry, as you have all but admitted. I'm disappointed if meat-craving Christians refuse to anticipate the Eschaton by renouncing meat altogether,

Why? Again, why do you even have this disappointment unless you think killing animals is murder and inherently wrong?

but, as I've said several times, I'll be gratified if they will renounce the cruelty of our meat industry and at least enact something like a weekly fast from flesh (cows, pigs, chickens). There is nothing you can possibly argue from the bible in support of unqualified, full-time support of our meat industry. Again, you've all but admitted this.

I have. That's not my beef with you (sorry!).

What I'm saying is that this discussion is not a zero-sum contest with only two possible outcomes: Either (a) I prove from scripture that all Christians must be strict vegetarians, OR ELSE (b) Christians can justify eating all the meat they can obtain by any available and convenient means.

It's two different issues. What I'm trying to get you to see is that you can't have it both ways. Either you should adopt the strict "ethical vegetarian" view that Keith Akers described, or you should simply stick to reform of processing methods and not object to anyone eating meat where the animal did not suffer. The turkey gets its head cut off for Thanksgiving dinner. It suffered for a split second at the most. I don't think this is an evil act.

No, on the contrary, even if Christians remain convinced that God permits them to inflict merciful death on animals and, given that condition, consume their flesh,

Of course we do, because this is what is clearly taught in Holy Scripture.

they are still morally obliged to respond in a biblical (i.e. merciful) manner to the way 'food' animals are ACTUALLY being treated in the ACTUAL meat industry. And this will require at least SOME limited modification of their lifestyle -whatever sacrifice they and their families feel they can bear, even if it's only the weekly meatless fast I suggested.

I've done that, but I can't really take credit for it on this basis, because it was mostly an aesthetic thing. I'm happy if it means that less animals suffer because of how I eat.

Passing over the issue of "dominion" (Gen 1:28) for the time being, you may argue that Adam and Eve were possibly vegetarians (based on, e.g., Gen 1:29-31 and 2:16).

"Possibly"? There is no doubt about it:

[1:26] God said, "Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild animals and all the creatures that creep along the ground." [27] God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. [28] God blessed them, saying to them, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth." [29] God also said, "Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; THIS WILL BE YOUR FOOD. [30] And TO ALL THE WILD ANIMALS, all the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground, I GIVE ALL THE FOLIAGE OF THE PLANTS AS THEIR FOOD." And so it was. [31] God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good.

Fair enough. Without doing further study on this, it appears that it is vegetarianism, prima facie.

The first of the two creation stories in Genesis is unequivocal in its description of a completely vegetarian biosphere on the earth when humanity was created.

But I wonder: are you claiming there was no food chain whatsoever, even in nature? This is hard to imagine, from a scientific standpoint.

And even the second story (chapters 2-3), while not quite as explicit as the first, gives no indication that humans ate flesh at any time before the Fall, or even for some indeterminate time thereafter:

[3:17] To the man he said, "Because you listened to the voice of your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat, Accursed be the soil because of you! Painfully will you get your food from it as long as you live. [18] It will yield you brambles and thistles, as you eat the produce of the land. [19] By the sweat of your face will you earn your food, until you return to the ground, as you were taken from it. For dust you are and to dust you shall return."

It is not until Abel (4:4) that we see humans killing animals.

Well that didn't take long, did it? Four human beings . . .

I would hardly expect Jesus, then, to be among the fur protesters.

He certainly would be if He cared about cruelty.

Not if the animal was quickly killed and its fur used.

The entire system of animal sacrifice in the Old Testament presupposes that it is not wrong to kill animals. The priests were commanded to eat the lamb that was slaughtered (see. e.g., Lev 6:26, 7:6). That would mean that God was commanding an utter evil. The Jews ate lamb at every Passover, as commanded by God.

And yet the sacrificial system was condemned by some of the prophets!

Jeremiah 7:22-23
[22] For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. [23] But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’

Hosea 6:6
For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Quoted by Jesus in Matt. 9:13:
Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice.

Psalm 50:7-15
[7] "Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. [8] Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. [9] I will not accept a bull from your house, or goats from your folds. [10] For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. [11] I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine. [12] "If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine. [13] Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? [14] Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. [15] Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."

And the most unequivocal of all the prophets:

Isaiah 1:10-17
[10] Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! [11] What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. [12] When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; [13] bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation-- I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. [14] Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. [15] When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. [16] Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, [17] learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

"Your hands are full of blood." Indeed!

Isaiah 65:1-4
I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, "Here I am, here I am," to a nation that did not call on my name. [2] I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; [3] a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks; [4] who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine's flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels ...

Then there's Isaiah's eschatological capper:

Isaiah 11:1-9
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. [2] The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. [3] His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; [4] but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. [5] Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. [6] The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. [7] The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. [8] The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. [9] They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

This is reiterated by the prophet (the second Isaiah?) later on:

Isaiah 65:17-18; 24-25
[17] For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. [18] But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. ... [24] Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. [25] The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent--its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.

None of this condemns the sacrificial system per se. This is very shallow biblical exegesis; in fact it is eisegesis (reading into the text rather than out of it). Jeremiah 7 is God telling Israel that they followed Him before the Law was instituted (i.e., following God is prior to, and above the Law). It doesn't follow that the Law is worthless or rendered null and void. Hosea 6 makes a similar point: there are things higher than the Law: which points to them. Psalm 60, Isaiah 1 and 65:1-4 are teaching that sacrifice is useless without holiness. Isaiah 11 and 65:17-25 refer to the kingdom to come, not this one, so they don't (technically) apply to the present age.

Simple logic should show you that if God's original, pre-Fall creation was vegetarian, and if God's promised eschatological kingdom will be vegetarian, it follows that vegetarianism is God's ideal for humans, and indeed for all creatures.

I agree. So advocate it as an ideal and a worthy personal choice, or an ascetic option. It is only when you get legalistic and start frowning upon meat-eating that your case breaks up on the "rocks" of biblical revelation.

The only period of creation's history in which God is depicted as tolerating the killing and eating of His creatures is, by some strange coincidence, the age of the Fall and the universal sin that results from it. Shouldn't that tell you something?

It can't explain everything because Jesus isn't a fallen creature. He isn't a creature at all. He is God and He is without sin. So if He eats meat and fish and observes the Jewish sacrificial system, none of those things can be sins. Period. End of story. it all comes down to Jesus. He is our model.

Isaiah's idyllic words paint a vivid picture of how the inspired prophet believed things OUGHT to be, i.e. how God ideally wants things to be - how they once were, before the Fall, and how they will be restored some day.

Great. If God wanted this to be the case in our age, He would have said so. Adam and Eve were naked, too (as a normal, habitual state). Do you wish to advocate that as the norm for society? If you want to strictly apply their pre-Fall vegetarianism, why not their nakedness? That might be a fun conversation to have with your wife, since you mentioned she thought you were being too idealistic. :-) Here is a clear example of something else that was also before the Fall. They didn't even know they were naked, it was so natural to them.

Hosea was inspired to write essentially the same promise of things to come, when God's purpose is fulfilled:

Hosea 2:16-20
[16] On that day, says the LORD, you will call me, "My husband," and no longer will you call me, "My Baal." [17] For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. [18] I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. [19] And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. [20] I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD.

There is a clear Biblical implication that the world is not now as God intended it, and that human hope should be focused on the Eschaton when Creation will be transformed into its idea state. That state is a complete transformation of the relationship between humans and other species. For Christians who take prophecy seriously to trivialize vegetarianism as an "aesthetic" option, if not a dubious eccentricity, is unreasonable to say the least.

Not when God Himself partakes in the system of meat-eating. Your argument is with Jesus Himself. And that's why you will be forced to play around with the Bible, just as all liberal theologians and higher critics do.

The most plausible interpretation of God's attitude toward meat as expressed in the bible, taken as a whole, is that permitting humans to kill and eat animals was a concession to our fallen state.

God cannot give in to that. If it is a "concession" then He was in on it, meaning He is not perfect, and that Jesus was not God, since God is perfectly holy and cannot sin. I've already made this argument. If God is trying to show us the ideal, then certainly Jesus and Paul would have shown the way. But they did not in this regard. Therefore, it is not a sin. PERIOD.

An analogy might be the case of Israel when its people hankered for a king rather than the system of judges God had established. God very clearly expresses His dissatisfaction with the idea of human monarchy but permits the people to institute it in spite of God's clearly expressed preference.

Human government is not wrong. Having a king was not intrinsically wrong. What God was trying to say was that He was Israel's king. It was a true theocracy. So having an earthly king undermined that.

The original context in which God's permission to eat animals is expressed, coming immediately after the Flood, may also have reflected a dearth of arable land.

No particular comment . . .

Viewing God's tolerance of meat-eating as a temporary concession to various conditions in our fallen world seems to be the only way to make sense of the bible as a whole. Otherwise we have the bizarre and incoherent scenario of meat-eating being originally evil (Eden),

Saying it wasn't done is not the same as saying it was evil. That is an unwarranted logical jump that you make.

then somehow becoming good, as most Christians claim (history since the fall), and then somehow reverting to the status of evil when God fulfills His purpose in the restoration of creation in the next age. How do you propose to make sense of that?

By the preceding comment.

The system of animal sacrifice as described in the Jewish scriptures may also be viewed as a concession, inasmuch as the Hebrews seemed hopelessly bent on imitating the religions of their neighbors, some of which sacrificed humans. Perhaps, like the case of conceding kingship to Israel, God chose to channel the Hebrews' natural religious impulse toward propitiation of a deity or deities into a narrowly prescribed structure, which could later be redeemed by the only truly necessary sacrifice - Jesus.

This makes little sense to me. What was binding was not a "concession." This was God's chosen way to reveal the nature of sin and its cost. God instituted the sacrificial system. Therefore, it cannot be evil.