Should Christians Be Vegan?
Question from a reader:
What is Randy's take on a Christian being vegan? I've seen some pretty horrible things considering animals at the slaughter. I'm curious to know what he thinks from an eternal perspective.
Answer from Julia (Stager) Mayo, former EPM research assistant:
Randy very much recognizes the importance of respecting God’s creation, both plants and animals. In the section “What Does God Show Us about Animals’ Importance?” of chapter 39 in Randy’s book Heaven he says:
God uses animals to fulfill his purposes. He ordered ravens to feed Elijah (1 Kings 17:4, 6). He “provided a great fish to swallow Jonah” (Jonah 1:17). He sent a fish with a coin in its mouth to teach his disciples a lesson (Matthew 17:27).
Consider the story of Balaam and his donkey (Numbers 22). God sends an angel to stop Balaam from doing evil. Balaam doesn’t see the angel, but the donkey does. She veers off the road, and Balaam beats her. The donkey sees the angel twice more. Each time she veers off, and each time Balaam beats her. “Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?’ ” (v. 28). Significantly, the wording doesn’t suggest God put words in the donkey’s mouth, as in ventriloquism; he “opened the donkey’s mouth,” permitting her to verbalize what appear to be actual thoughts and feelings.
Finally, God opens Balaam’s eyes to see the angel, who asks him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? . . . If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her” (Numbers 22:32-33).
Note that the angel says the donkey saved Balaam’s life. If she hadn’t, the angel would’ve killed Balaam while saving the donkey. God sometimes protects animals while judging their human masters. Animals, it appears, can have thoughts and feelings and can be responsive to realities in the spiritual realm that people are blind to. Furthermore, God cares about the welfare of his animals and holds us accountable for them.
When God sent Jonah to rescue Nineveh, God expressed his concern not only for the people in Nineveh but for its “many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11). After Jonah warned Nineveh of coming destruction, the king commanded his people: “Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God” (Jonah 3:7-8). Both people and animals were commanded to fast and put on sackcloth—explicitly spiritual rituals.
God’s care for animals appears even in the Ten Commandments: “Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any kind of work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you” (Exodus 20:9-10, NLT). Animals also need rest. God carved into stone his care for them.
Some people accuse God of disrespect for animals because of the sacrificial system. But it was only because animals, created with the breath of life, are so loved by God and mankind that they qualify for the highest representative role imaginable: symbolizing God’s messianic Redeemer. Lambs were often beloved pets (2 Samuel 12:3). It was because of their value that their sacrifice revealed sin’s horror and the exorbitant cost of redemption. Millions of lambs were slaughtered in Israel’s history, each pointing to Christ’s redemptive work.
(For more of Randy’s writings on animals see: http://www.epm.org/blog/tag/animals/)
As stewards of God’s creation it’s important for us to promote wholeness and healing on the earth. We are able to honor and glorify the Creator by respecting His creation. Randy is not himself a vegan or vegetarian, but cares about where his food comes from.
I, personally, have read some pretty horrific things about factory farms and the meat industry in America and have made the choice to only eat meat when I can verify that it was raised and slaughtered with respect for the creature and creation. This is an area of the Christian life that I see as a personal decision, and different believers will see and address this issue in different ways. I encourage you to continue developing your understanding of this issue, always working to bring your interaction with the world more and more in conformity with the Scriptures.
Julia (Stager) Mayo holds a Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies from Western Seminary, where she works as an administrative assistant. She was previously part of the Eternal Perspective Ministries staff, and still does occasional research work for Randy Alcorn.