Frequently Asked Questions
In this section I address questions that I am frequently asked in my ministry. I continually add new questions to the list as they come up. I also revise and update the responses as I come up with better or more concise ways of formulating my responses. As I believe everyone is continually a student and should be open to growing in knowledge of God through the guidance of God’s spirit, in some cases I may change my opinion on an issue after further reflection or in light of evidence I had not previously considered or been aware of. With that said, the views expressed in this section have each been given a considerable amount of thought and research. As you read through my responses to the questions, I ask that you keep an open mind and an attitude of willingness to grow in your understanding of God.
Table of Contents
(Questions are numbered purely for sake of ease of use.)
- What is salvation?
- What is the gospel message?
- What is sin?
- Is Jesus God?
- Is the holy spirit God?
- Is the Bible inspired by God?
- Why did God favor Abel’s gift but not Cain’s?
- Why in Acts 10 did God tell Peter, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat”?
- Does God want us to be vegan?
- Does animal abuse hinder the gospel message?
- Does God ever test us?
- Did God change his mind about animals after the flood?
- Didn’t God kill the first animal when he clothed Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:21?
- Why vegan instead of vegetarian?
- Jesus said not to judge, so should we not judge those who harm animals?
- Who were the Essenes? Was Jesus part of this group?
- Why is it necessary to be like a little child to enter the kingdom?
- Is male headship God’s plan?
- Did God ever desire/require animal sacrifices?
- What does it mean in Ezekiel 20:6 for a land to be flowing with milk and honey?
- What about Deuteronomy 12:20 where God tells us we may freely eat as much meat as our heart desires?
- Why do some vegans compare animal agriculture to the Holocaust?
- Will animals be resurrected? / Will they be in heaven?
- What is your position on transgenderism and homosexuality?
- But isn’t the law against shellfish consumption part of the Mosaic Law, which was replaced by the New Covenant?
- In 1 Timothy 4 it warns about anyone who forbids eating certain foods and says they are possessed by a demon. Does that mean Christian Vegans are following a demon?
- Doesn’t the Bible teach that patriarchy is God’s arrangement? It seems like egalitarians have an agenda.
- What is dominion and do we have dominion over the earth and over all God’s creatures?
- Why did God ask for animal sacrifices?
- What is required to get into the kingdom of heaven?
- Shouldn’t we defend people’s right to hurt animals instead of defending animals
- Does God want us to be childless or to bear children?
- Does the Bible teach that we should sacrifice animals?
- Doesn’t Romans 14 say there is no problem with eating meat?
- Why are vegans so concerned about what people eat? Doesn’t it say that the kingdom is more than food?
- Doesn’t the Bible say we are more valuable than animals?
- Can animals such as dogs and cats be vegan? Aren’t they obligate carnivores?
- Doesn’t God permit us to eat animals? Isn’t it lawful to do so?
- What actually happened at the fall? Why is it significant?
- How can I ever be forgiven for something horrible I did in my past?
- What is God’s view of transgender people and others who don’t accept the roles of the gender they were born with?
- If Jesus ate fish, shouldn’t we follow his example and likewise eat fish?
- What does it mean in Genesis 3:16 that a woman’s desire will be for her husband?
- Why did Jesus cause a herd of pigs to drown?
- Isn’t it unrealistic to believe that the whole world will ever be at peace? Shouldn’t we just continue with our lives until Jesus returns to fix everything?
- With so much scripture showing that Jesus supported fishing and eating fish, why do you think God wants us to live vegan?
- Why should the number of times something is mentioned in the bible matter? If it’s in the bible at all, isn’t it truth?
- Doesn’t it say in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that man should have authority over woman?
- Is it acceptable to practice yoga or meditation?
- Isn’t it insensitive to compare the plight of people to the plight of animals?
- Doesn’t Genesis 2:7 say only humans have a soul, not animals?
- Unlike humans, aren’t animals incapable of praising God?
- Didn’t God create lions and other animals to eat meat?
- Can humans become gods?
- If God didn’t want us to eat meat, then why did he give us permission to do so in Genesis 9:3?
- What does Paul mean when he says we are saved by grace through faith?
- I don’t believe how I treat animals has any bearing on my salvation, so why should I care about them?
- Animals kill each other, humans kill animals. It’s survival of the fittest. That’s just the way the world is, right?
- Is it more important to teach people about Jesus or to teach people about being vegan?
- My family claims to be Christian, but they mock me for being vegan as they mercilessly torture and slaughter animals for pleasure. Can such heartless people really be doing God’s will? What should I do?
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is salvation?
The definition of salvation is in Matthew 1:21 when Jesus is named and his purpose is “to save his people from their sins”. Paul said that salvation comes by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) and James added that our faith is made evident by our works (James 2:18).
2. What is the gospel message?
The gospel (meaning “good news”) message is to repent and turn back to God because God is all merciful and ready to forgive and wants you to live with him in his kingdom. It is also a warning of disastrous consequences for those who refuse to repent.
3. What is sin?
Sin doesn’t have a clear definition in the bible, but if we piece together what is said about sin, we can get a general idea of what it is. First and foremost, it encompasses anything not from faith (Romans 14:23). It is also identified in 1 John 3:4 as “lawlessness”. And given that love is the fulfilment of the law (Romans 13:10), lawlessness would be acting without love. Thus, roughly speaking, to sin is to act without love. In most contexts within the bible though, it specifically refers to breaking a law.
4. Is Jesus God?
Jesus is who he says he is.
5. Is the holy spirit God?
The holy spirit is not some entity distinct from God. God’s holy spirit serves various functions throughout the bible, including: animating us with life, teaching us God’s ways, drawing us closer to God, and revealing God’s character. For a more detailed explanation, see my blog post entitled, “God is Love.”
6. Is the Bible inspired by God?
Yes, the bible is inspired by God and I have no reason to believe it contains any errors, even in its present form. The danger comes with interpretation. People quite often take scripture out of context, highlight one passage while ignoring others, and use the bible to justify all kinds of oppression that run contrary to the will of God and to the gospel message. The bible is a complicated series of books that are not easy to understand, but the underlying message is clear to those who are willing to listen with an open mind and an open heart. Love is the lens by which scripture is illuminated.
7. Why did God favor Abel’s gift but not Cain’s?
God instructed us to till the ground in Genesis 2:15, so it wasn’t the case that Cain’s offering of fruit was rejected on the basis that God did not want him to be a tiller of the soil. Rather, I believe it had to do with his motive, in contrast to Abel’s motive, whose offering was favored. Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel’s gift was favored because it was offered from faith. Abel offered to God “the firstborn and fattest” of his flock. In other words, he offered the very best of what he had. It doesn’t specify anything about Cain’s gift other than it being “some of the fruits of the soil”. The lack of qualifier suggests that Cain may not have offered his best to God. Some translations obscure this distinction when trying to make sense of the Hebrew phrase: וּמֵֽחֶלְבֵהֶ֑ן צֹאנ֖וֹ מִבְּכֹר֥וֹת, roughly translated as “the firstborn of the fat of his flock,” which only appears in the scripture this one time. The idea is that God wants us to always give our best to him. Anything short is wrong and unacceptable. God says to Cain in Genesis 4:7, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” Instead of humbly repenting and wholeheartedly offering his best, Cain became angry and killed his brother, which made matters worse for him.
8. Why in Acts 10 did God tell Peter, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat”?
This passage is showing Peter that God doesn’t see anyone as unclean and that salvation is not only for Jews but also for Gentiles (Romans 3:29). The meaning of the vision became clear to Peter when he went and visited Cornelius, who is a Gentile, given that Jews were forbidden to eat with Gentiles because they were seen as “unclean”. Peter explains the vision within the text when he says to Cornelius and his household, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean” (Acts 10:28). The reason the vision makes sense and was significant is because Peter saw it as unclean to kill and eat the animals in the vision. Notice he did not kill the animals but instead preached that Jesus died not only for Jews but also for Gentiles. He understood the purpose of the vision, that it had nothing to do with food and everything to do with people. This is why God did not show any sign of displeasure in Peter’s refusal to kill and eat. Peter passed God’s test, understood the vision, and fulfilled the inspired calling which had enormous significance for salvation of Gentiles. Even on that visit to the home of Cornelius, all who heard Peter’s words received the holy spirit.
9. Does God want us to be vegan?
Lisa Ervin said it beautifully:
It’s clear from scripture that God created a vegan world (Genesis 1:29-30) and Hosea and Isaiah state there will be no violence in His future peaceable kingdom (Isaiah 11:9). God made a covenant with animals that they will one day live in safety, without fear (Hosea 2:18). So clearly, nonviolence towards animals is God’s desire. Animals were created for their own purpose and for God’s glory (Psalm 150:6, Revelation 5:13). Why, as God’s children, should we perpetuate unnecessary violence towards animals?
For a more detailed account, see Restoring the Garden Paradise Ideal.
10. Does animal abuse hinder the gospel message?
It seems like clockwork, every time I talk to an atheist animal advocate, they tell me they know in their heart that the way of love and mercy is the way of truth. And they are absolutely correct! But then they look at the Christians of the world and instead of us taking the lead in matters of love and mercy, we are trying to sell them on a false idea that God is a merciless God who creates animals capable of suffering and then shows no love for them and who even tells us to be merciless tyrants over them! There is no wonder why so many are turned away from the church. And it is not just because they have other issues going on. It’s that they know that the way of mercy is the way of Truth (and Jesus declares this in John 14:6), just as we know Jesus is the way and the truth.
As ambassadors of Christ, I believe the burden should be on us to conform ourselves into the image of mercy that they know is real (and that we know is real too!) and that they fail to find in the world. Are we not called to be the shepherds of this world? If we are called to guide people to God, we can’t allow ourselves to be blind to the mercy of God when it comes to animals. As Jesus said, if the guides are blind, they will only lead into a ditch (Luke 6:39). If the atheist is arguing on the side of love and compassion and the Christian is living and arguing from the opposite side, how in the world is the Christian going to communicate the love of God to the atheist?
I stopped eating meat nearly fifteen years ago, shortly after I became baptized as a believer, and I have since talked to literally thousands of animal advocates and nearly every one of them has turned to atheism or some other form of new age spirituality as a direct result of the church’s refusal to be concerned with the suffering it inflicts on animals. I hear over and over again from people who grew up in the church and then fell away, saying that if we serve a merciful God whose essence is love, then why do we not extend that love to animals? My only response is that we absolutely should and that we are falling short! We are causing people to fall away from the faith because we use scripture to justify our acts of cruelty toward animals. We would do better to follow the advice Paul suggested when he says, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall” (Romans 14:21).
For a more detailed explanation of how lack of concern for animals works against the gospel message, read Permission and Going the Extra Mile.
11. Does God ever test us?
Yes, many times throughout the Bible God tests his servants in various ways. God said, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10). Again in Psalm 11:5 it says, “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” God’s ways are and have always been love and mercy. As the passage from Psalm 11 states, God does not want us to be lovers of violence but lovers of mercy and peace. We should seek to glorify God in everything we do and in how we treat all of his creatures.
12. Did God change his mind about animals after the flood?
No. God’s original plan was for us to eat only fruit and vegetation (Genesis 1:29). In Malachi 3:6 it states that God does not change. God has never changed and even now he wants us to show mercy to animals and obedience to his original instructions. You have the power right now in this life to change. With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). For a more detailed explanation, read Love God, Love Animals.
13. Didn’t God kill the first animal when he clothed Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:21?
Where in that passage does it say God killed an animal? If God can fashion Eve from a rib, Adam from dust, and the whole world from waters, he can surely create skin without needing to kill an animal. Re-read the text more closely. Also God made it clear that our disobedience is what brought death into the world (Romans 5:12), so even if an animal did die for the skin, it was due to our actions, not God’s. God even warned us in Genesis 2:17 that our disobedience would result in death entering the world.
14. Why vegan instead of vegetarian?
There are a few reasons. First, cows are forcibly impregnated and their babies taken from them to slaughter. Then after a few years of this cycle the mothers are also slaughtered. The same with hens who no longer produce eggs. This is why vegans say things like “The egg and dairy industry IS the meat industry.” Second, animals are bred to be unhealthy machines. Turkeys so fat they can’t naturally mate, hens that produce 5x as many eggs as they naturally would, rapidly depleting all the hen’s resources, sheep that produce way more wool than they would, cows with udders so big they can barely stand, etc. We see the same with dogs bred to be attractive to customers but unable to breathe properly (pugs). Christian Veganism takes all these things to be irresponsible stewardship over the earth and its inhabitants. Thirdly, even if we did not breed the animals this way or treat them badly for selfish gain as we presently do, it comes down to faith and obedience to God’s original design and instructions for us. He said in Genesis 1:29 our food should be fruit and vegetation and then in verse 31 that he saw everything and it was “very good”. Ever since the fall God has called us to repent and turn back to his ways. Nowhere else does God call creation “very good,” and he promises in Isaiah, Hosea, Genesis, and elsewhere of a future kingdom of peace for people and animals alike. He even makes covenant promises about it with the animals. So even if there were a way to circumvent all the animal cruelty and exploitation, it would still come down to faith in God’s original design and in his promises of the restoration of that original design.
15. Jesus said not to judge, so should we not judge those who harm animals?
If we love our animal neighbors as ourselves, should we stand by and watch them be slain and oppressed or should we stand up for them with the same passion Jesus exhibited when he overturned the tables in the temple courts in Mark 11:15?
There is a difference between judging and admonishing. To judge someone implies a desire to see them punished or to seek vengeance on them for some misdeed. Admonishment aims to get the person to change, without the associated desire for vengeance. Jesus’ entire Sermon on the Mount aimed to admonish, yet he judges no one. He wants people to repent, not suffer for their past mistakes. In my estimation most vegans are admonishing rather than judging. They just want people to stop hurting animals. In this way they are acting Christ-like.
16. Who were the Essenes? Was Jesus part of this group?
From what I’ve read, the Essenes were a Jewish sect that broke from traditional Judaism because they felt mainstream Judaism was not living the way God wanted people to live. So they started their own community based on the values they believed God wanted. They refused to eat meat or slaughter animals, seeing such practices as ungodly and contrary to what God wanted. This made them heretics in the eyes of mainstream Jews who believed God desired animal sacrifices.
The Essenes celebrated holy days without the sacrificing of animals, such as Passover with bread instead of lamb. Given the similarity between this practice and the one Jesus instituted to replace the Passover lamb sacrifice, it makes sense that Jesus and the Essenes were connected in some way, but the historical record is far from clear if or to what extent Jesus was associated with the Essenes. Regardless, Jesus clearly advocated serving the Jewish God just as the Essenes did and both radically broke from traditional Judaism and both sought to end animal sacrifice, the Essenes by explicitly forbidding it and Jesus by freeing the animals from the temple market and acting as the sacrifice to end all animal sacrifices. Given these connections, I personally believe God was guiding the Essenes (or at least I have no reason to disbelieve it) just as I believe God guides present day movements that seek to live a more authentic and pleasing life of servitude toward God and who question cruel traditions that are carried out in the name of God.
17. Why is it necessary to be like a little child to enter the kingdom?
Speaking of the day when God’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven, the bible says: “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” (Isaiah 11:6). So in what way will a little child lead all the animals? The child will lead the way Jesus leads – through love. We all know how eager children are to run up and hug an animal and to show love toward them. This is true dominion and how we ought to lead. We must change and return to God’s way of dominion through love. As Jesus put it, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
18. Is male headship God’s plan?
I used to accept the idea of male headship until I came across what I take to be a better understanding. In 1 Corinthians 11:2-3 Paul explicitly says that he’s talking about tradition, not some eternal arrangement decreed by God. In contrast, the eternal arrangement decreed by God can be found in the beginning when God gave dominion over the whole earth to man and woman jointly (Genesis 1:26-28). Then when mankind disobeyed God by trying to live by their own ways instead of by faith, part of God’s warning was that man will seek to rule over woman (Genesis 3:16). If you look at the matter from the time of Eden it is clear that man ruling over woman has its origin in disobedience to God, not in obedience to God. Patriarchy therefore is a fallen behavior and has no place in God’s kingdom. Genesis is clear on this.
19. Did God ever desire/require animal sacrifices?
No. God said repeatedly that he has no pleasure in animal slaughter and that he never required it. Look at: Psalm 51:16, Jeremiah 7:22, Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13, Isaiah 1:11, Hebrews 10:8, Psalm 40:6, Mark 12:33, and Jeremiah 32:30. For a more detailed explanation, see my blog post Mercy and Animal Sacrifice.
20. What does it mean in Ezekiel 20:6 for a land to be flowing with milk and honey?
“On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of Egypt into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands.” Ezekiel 20:6
If a land is flowing with honey it means the bees are present and thriving, which means the vegetation is also flourishing since bees pollinate the plants. And if the land is flowing with milk it means the animals are thriving and giving birth. So a land flowing with milk and honey signifies abundant and thriving plant and animal life, a land full of vitality and devoid of famine or scarcity. As long as humans take proper care of the earth by following the blueprint God laid out in Eden for them, including not eating animals and taking care of the land, the whole earth will be flowing with milk and honey just as God has promised since the beginning. All that is required is to put our faith in God and to follow his ways.
21. What about Deuteronomy 12:20 where God tells us we may freely eat as much meat as our heart desires?
In Deuteronomy 12:20 it says if you crave meat, eat as much as you want. But if someone loves mercy more than the satisfaction of the lusts of the flesh, then “as much as you want” will be none. A similar account is in Numbers 11 where Israel complained of the manna and craved meat, so God told them to eat quail “until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it” (Numbers 11:20). Then when they did so, it says, “while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague” (Numbers 11:33). So there are certainly still consequences and it in no way suggests that God wants or even is ok with the meat-eating. The key parts of the passage are “crave meat” and “as much as you want.” The takeaway is to desire the things of God rather than those of the flesh and to want what God wants (mercy) rather than what the flesh wants (to eat flesh).
22. Why do some vegans compare animal agriculture to the Holocaust?
Etymologically, the term ‘holocaust’ (holokauston in Greek) originally referred to the Jewish ideological practice in which animals were slaughtered and their bodies burnt on a large scale. The term was later used to describe what the Nazis did to Jewish people on a large scale in the 1930s and 1940s because of the striking similarities between the two practices. The word ‘victim’ (victima in Latin) also originally referred to the animal being slaughtered in such practices. The attitude “My victim’s life does not matter because I am more important” is exactly the attitude that gives rise to such atrocities, whether carried out on animals or on people. Jesus showed the only way out when in Matthew 9:13 he said to go and learn what is meant in Hosea 6:6, which reads: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” The answer is to humble yourself and live mercifully instead of justifying acts of cruelty by arrogantly asserting your superiority to the victim.
Here are some perspectives from Jewish Holocaust survivors that went vegan:
23. Will animals be resurrected? / Will they be in heaven?
In Genesis 2:7 it says, “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” So God breathes into our bodies and that is what brings us to life. Describing what happens at death, Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, “and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the life’s breath returns to God who gave it.” In other words, at death the life that animates us returns to God. Animals too are described as having this same breath when it says in Genesis 7:15, “Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark.” So if God’s breath is what animates humans and animals alike and it says this breath returns to God upon our death, I see no reason why the fate of animals is any different than the fate of humans. Ecclesiastes 3:19 confirms this when it says, “Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals.” As our neighbors and fellowship partners, animals have the same hope and promise we do!
It is also worth mentioning that some bible translations obscure otherwise clear depictions of animals in heaven. For instance, Revelation 4:8 is often translated as “beasts” or “living creatures” when the same exact word is translated as “animals” elsewhere in the same translation. The idea that animals sit at the throne of God praising and worshiping God would seriously call into question our traditions that involve eating animals. Yet that’s exactly what the bible tells us happens!
24. What is your position on transgenderism and homosexuality?
When it comes to LGBTQ issues, the bible is not nearly as clear as most anti-LGBTQ people make it out to be. There is more evidence against shellfish consumption in the bible than there is against being LGBTQ, yet I don’t see any of these “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” people standing outside Red Lobster protesting shellfish consumption. Instead I see them eating shellfish and pointing to some other passage in the bible to justify it. This leads me to believe they are motivated by hatred for their neighbor rather than reverence for God. I don’t claim to have every answer when it comes to God, but I know Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself and that is the principle I live by. You won’t ever see me using the bible to justify and perpetuate hatred, cruelty, or oppression. Instead you’ll see me doing the opposite, using it to show love and to liberate the oppressed. That’s been the basis of my ministry for the past 15 years.
25. But isn’t the law against shellfish consumption part of the Mosaic Law, which was replaced by the New Covenant?
Shellfish are animals. We have been called since the beginning to have dominion over the animals. We have repeatedly failed to live up to this instruction, instead chasing after our own lusts for meat like the Israelites during the exodus (Numbers 11) and being too stiff necked and hardhearted to humble ourselves and live mercifully. Jesus said those in authority should serve and love those under them (Mark 9:35, Matthew 20:28). When will we stop using scripture to justify our cruelty and our ungodly pursuit of our own lusts? When will we repent and live mercifully, exercising our authority over animals the way Jesus exercises his over us? With LOVE. I’ve written several articles explaining the importance of this. There are far more instances in the bible of God calling us to live mercifully than there is against sexual conduct at all, let alone a specific kind of sexual conduct. Yet why ignore the thousands of passages regarding mercy and then point to some obscure passage to justify a lack of mercy? My response in the previous question is essentially to first remove the plank from your own eye, then you will see clearly how to handle the issue regarding someone else’s choice of partner.
26. In 1 Timothy 4 it warns about anyone who forbids eating certain foods and says they are possessed by a demon. Does that mean Christian Vegans are following a demon?
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will abandon the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
The warning starts by saying in verse 4:1 “some will abandon the faith and…” which means they will no longer believe in God or follow the example of Jesus. A Christian Vegan who shows love for their animal neighbors BECAUSE OF THEIR FAITH would therefore not be included in this warning. People often misinterpret this passage to mean that anyone who forbids eating certain foods is possessed by a demon, but if this were true, then God would be condemned because in Eden that was in fact the one thing God did – forbid from eating from a particular tree. Clearly God is not possessed by a demon. Therefore the forbidding of certain foods is not sufficient to prove the person has a demon. It only refers to people who have “abandoned the faith” as it explicitly states at the beginning of the passage.
27. Doesn’t the Bible teach that patriarchy is God’s arrangement? It seems like egalitarians have an agenda.
The first instance in the Bible of man ruling over woman is Genesis 3:16 where God warns Adam and Eve of the consequences of sin. Before that, God made man and woman each in the image of God and gave each dominion over the whole earth (Genesis 1:26-28). Quite literally, the serpent has been the one with the patriarchal agenda since the beginning.
28. What is dominion and do we have dominion over the earth and over all God’s creatures?
No, not anymore. Dominion means to have authority over. For instance, God has authority over all creation, Jesus has authority over the church, and parents have authority over their young children. In the beginning, God said it was good for man and woman to have authority over all the earth (Genesis 1:27-31). The instructions for how to exercise that authority were to “tend and keep the garden” (Genesis 2:15) while eating only fruit and vegetation (Genesis 1:29), except for that which grows from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17).
Instead of exercising our divinely appointed authority by following God’s instructions to maintain and take care of the garden, we tried to establish our own authority by eating from the one tree we were told not to eat from. This led to a cascade of events the caused the world to fall into ruin, eventually resulting in God flooding the whole earth and restarting with Noah and those aboard the ark.
When Noah got off the ark and started killing animals, God responded by saying “the imagination of the human heart is evil from youth” (Genesis 8:21). Nevertheless he blessed us and told us to multiply, along with all the animals, exactly as he did after first creating us in the beginning, except with one marked difference. Instead of granting us dominion over all the animals and over the whole earth, he tells us animals will be afraid of us and that we will see them as food (Genesis 9:1-2).
So by going against God’s instructions and instead attempting to establish our own authority, we lost our divinely appointed dominion that was given to us in the beginning. God calls us to repent and to turn back to him, to “remember from where we have fallen and to do the first works” (Revelation 2:5). Only by turning back to God and living according to his ways can we regain our divinely appointed authority over it. God is ready to forgive and to give us to eat from the tree of life. All that is required is to submit to his authority instead of stubbornly insisting on doing things our own way.
29. Why did God ask for animal sacrifices?
The short answer is that he was teaching us mercy. For a more thorough explanation, see Mercy and Animal Sacrifice.
30. What is required to get into the kingdom of heaven?
Some passages suggest a very high requirement for admission into the kingdom while others suggest a very low requirement. It comes down to which interpretation is correct and which is misguided. For instance, some passages suggest you must give up everything you have and serve God fully (Luke 14:33) or that we must be perfect, just as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48). And there is potentially a very big cost to downplaying the importance of these passages, as Jesus says, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:22-23).
On the other hand, there are passages that suggest a low requirement. For instance, in Acts 16:31 it says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.” Similarly in Romans 10:9 when it says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Or as Jesus says in Matthew 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” Many interpret these passages to mean all it takes is a simple belief and acknowledgement of the tongue and you get a free ticket into the promise land. So which is it?
Well, to “believe” may not be as straightforward as many make it out to be. A belief may not simply be an emotionally reinforced convincing of yourself of the truth of something. Only God knows our hearts, so how can we know our own heart and whether we actually believe or are merely deceiving ourselves into thinking we truly believe when in fact we do not? Fortunately the scripture gives us a few indicators to let us know if we truly believe. It says in Matthew 7:20 that we know a tree by its fruits, and in James 2:18 that our faith is made evident by our works. So if our life does not reflect true belief, there is a danger that we may not truly believe in the sense described in the passages that say all that is required is belief. We may still be in need of repentance and at risk of being told by Jesus, “I never knew you!” Similarly, to “acknowledge” Jesus may not merely be acknowledgment in word; it may also mean acknowledgement of his authority over us by living according to the love he instructs us to live by.
Whenever I’m unsure about which interpretation of scripture is correct, I find it helpful to examine the logical possibilities and corresponding consequences of each interpretation. This tends to give me a better idea of what is at stake with each reading. In this case there are exactly four possibilities:
- The requirement is low but I live my life as if the requirement were high. In this case I gave more than was required, which is what Jesus calls us to do in Matthew 5:41 anyway. In this scenario, we would make it into the kingdom alongside everyone who only did the minimum, much like in the story of the vineyard workers in Matthew 20.
- The requirement is low and I lived my life as if the requirement were low. In this case we get into the kingdom alongside all the saints and martyrs and everyone else who gave much more than we gave, but we still get in all the same. In this case we are not punished and we are fortunate that we were not misinterpreting what it means to believe in and acknowledge Jesus.
- The requirement is high and I live my life as if the requirement were high. In this case we give God our all and we forsake everything in life to follow him wholeheartedly. And as it turns out, all that we did was required to enter the kingdom. The path ended up being narrow and few found it, just as Jesus said would happen (Matthew 7:13). In this case it was a good thing we didn’t rely on our understanding of the low requirement and deceive ourselves into thinking belief was a small and effortless thing.
- The requirement is high but I live my life as if the requirement were low. This is essentially the nightmare scenario. We don’t give God our all because we lean on our interpretation of the requirement being low. Jesus tells us to depart from him and that he never knew us, despite us being “a good Christian” in the eyes of everyone around us and despite our doing many great things in his name.
Given the logical possibilities and their corresponding consequences, I find the cost to be far too high that I may be misunderstanding what it takes to enter the kingdom. I would much rather give more of myself to God than is required as opposed to not giving enough. By assuming the low requirement, we run the risk of being wrong and the consequences are disastrous. The only logical way to for sure avoid the nightmare scenario is to assume the high requirement and to live accordingly, i.e. to give your best to God, always striving to give more, and never holding anything back.
31. Shouldn’t we defend people’s right to hurt animals instead of defending animals?
That’s not what the bible tells us to do. Jesus says to put the last first and to be a servant of all (Mark 9:35). We should humble ourselves and obey God’s command to care for all his creatures (Genesis 1:28-30). And we should encourage each other to do the same instead of reinforcing the attitude that seeks to tighten the yokes of the animals that we’ve been instructed by God to loosen (Isaiah 58:6).
32. Does God want us to be childless or to bear children?
On the one hand, Paul and Jesus suggest it is better not to be married, which entails not procreating since procreation in a biblical sense is a function of marriage. In 1 Corinthians 7:8 Paul says, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.” Jesus also suggested in Matthew 19:10-12 that it is good not to marry “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” On the other hand, the divine command in the beginning was “to be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Based on these passages, my reading is that God finds it acceptable to have children or to not have children as long as whichever you do, you do it for God. Adoption can also be a way to glorify God (James 1:27).
Some vegans would suggest it is ecologically better not to have children in this present age, but in my opinion the data is misleading. If you raise your children to suck up all the earth’s resources and to destroy the planet, then yes, their ecological impact is a net negative. But if instead you raise them to live minimally and to plant trees and responsibly “cultivate and take care of” the earth the way God instructed us to do from the beginning (Genesis 2:15), then your children could have a net positive ecological impact. Both paths can be ecologically beneficial and both paths can glorify God.
33. Does the Bible teach that we should sacrifice animals?
No, it does not. Christians acknowledge that Jesus put an end to the tradition of sacrificing animals that was being carried out in God’s name by some Jewish sects in his time and by their predecessors. He brought a new covenant and instead told us to break bread with each other as an act of fellowship and remembrance of him. If you look into the issue further, you’ll see that even the Old Testament prophets likewise sought to end the practice of animal slaughter, stating firmly that God does not nor ever desired animal sacrifices. Jesus similarly taught that what God wants is “mercy, not sacrifice.” For a more detailed explanation, read Mercy and Animal Sacrifice.
34. Doesn’t Romans 14 say there is no problem with eating meat?
“For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats” (Romans 14:2-3).
I hear this passage cited a lot as justification for withholding mercy toward animals. It amazes me how few people read the chapter to the end. Paul concludes his discourse on meat consumption (which, by the way, is actually a discussion about idolatry and eating food that had been sacrificed to idols) by saying, “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” Those who try to use this passage to justify their animal abuse are ignoring the fact that Paul said by doing so “you are no longer acting in love” (Romans 14:15) and therefore you should not only stop justifying your actions but also stop eating meat altogether! So while people often point to this chapter of Romans, believing it is their license to hurt animals, it is actually yet another exhortation to STOP hurting animals. For a deeper explanation of why it’s important to follow Paul’s advice to stop eating meat for the sake of the gospel, read Permission and Going the Extra Mile.
35. Why are vegans so concerned about what people eat? Doesn’t it say that the kingdom is more than food?
Yes, the kingdom is much more than food and I pray that non-vegans would stop prioritizing food over the spirit of God!
The exhortation to be vegan is not a food issue, it is a mercy issue. God doesn’t care if your food is offered (by others) to Buddha, to Krishna, or to Darth Vader, but he does care about who you withhold your mercy from. He wants us to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). If you kill someone to eat their dead body, you are not being merciful toward them.
36. Doesn’t the Bible say we are more valuable than animals?
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
This was said by Jesus in response to his disciples being needlessly overcome by worry. The purpose was to strengthen their faith by convincing them that God will take care of their needs, just as he does the needs of all his creatures. In fact, our role is more important than that of any other creature – he gave us the job of taking care of the whole earth and everyone in it (Genesis 1:28)! So there is no sense worrying. Instead we should put our faith in God to provide us with everything we need.
Unfortunately, as has been the case since the beginning, Satan deceives people by taking what God says out of context and uses it to encourage people to do the opposite. In this instance he uses the passage to make people arrogant, feeling “I am more valuable than anyone else!” God warns against this attitude when he says “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). And Jesus shows us that only by humbling ourselves before God can we ward off the allure of arrogance when he says, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him” (Matthew 4:10-11). We ought to follow Christ’s example and humble ourselves in servitude toward God, faithfully taking care of the whole earth and all its inhabitants. As Jesus put it, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
37. Can animals such as dogs and cats be vegan? Aren’t they obligate carnivores?
Yes, they absolutely can be vegan! And no, there is no such thing as an obligate carnivore. It is an outdated scientific hypothesis that has been disproven in laboratory studies. As it turns out, there is no magical property in meat. As is the case with any animal, what cats and dogs need is a collection of nutrients, whether obtained through meat or obtained elsewhere. The idea of an animal necessarily being a carnivore also contradicts scripture and should therefore never come out of a Christian’s mouth except to refute it, even if the Christian is not vegan. God created all animals as herbivores. It says so in the very first chapter of the Bible: “And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so” (Genesis 1:30).
V-dog is a popular brand of vegan dog food and Ami Cat is a popular brand of vegan cat food. There is a Facebook group called “Vegan Dogs”, another called “Vegan Cats”, and another called “Vegan Cats and Dogs”. There are lots of resources and advice and countless testimonies in each group. I encourage anyone looking for more information to go there and look around.
In my estimation fear is the primary motivation for most people who are otherwise vegan to feed their companion animal meat. They are afraid of potentially causing harm to their beloved friend, even at the expense of causing definite harm to the neighbor animals that are killed and made into food. For others it is simply a lack of knowledge. In either case, we ought to educate each other and encourage each other to have faith in the truth of Genesis 1:30 and to live in accordance with God’s purpose for the earth, without letting fear cripple our faith or hinder our good stewardship. It is my hope that enough people become motivated by love for our fellow creatures and for God’s plan for us that we put our efforts into being better stewards, cultivating food that is beneficial to the animals so they may sit down together in peace (Isaiah 11:6). If we as people have the ability to explore outer space, fly from one end of the earth to the other in a day, and instantly communicate with people on the other side of the world simply by clicking a button, then we absolutely possess the ability to find a way to grow healthy food for God’s creatures, given that we were designed for such purpose (Genesis 2:15). All that is necessary is a grain of faith and a willingness to trust in God’s plan. All things are possible with God for anyone who lives by faith (Matthew 19:26).
38. Doesn’t God permit us to eat animals? Isn’t it lawful to do so?
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).
I hear a lot of people within the church justifying their decision to abuse animals by saying “God permits it” while ignoring the many passages that exhort us to be merciful (Luke 6:36) and even passages telling us explicitly not to eat animals (1 Corinthians 8:13, Romans 14:21). As this passage indicates, we shouldn’t base our conduct on what is permissible but rather on what is good. And God has told us from the beginning what is “very good” (Genesis 1:29-31).
39. What actually happened at the fall? Why is it significant?
God created man and woman in his image (Gen 1:27), but then the serpent tempted the woman by saying she would be like God if she ate from the tree God warned not to eat from. So even though she was already like God (created in his image), she was tricked into believing she would gain something desirable that she didn’t already have. But instead the opposite happened – by following the guidance of the serpent (to eat from the tree) instead of the guidance of God (to not eat from the tree), the man and woman at that instant were no longer living by faith in God and instead were following the devil and his deception (and now living in fear). God warned the man and woman of the consequences (death) of eating from that tree and warned them of further consequences when he confronted them just after the fall (patriarchy, hardship, etc). Only by refusing the devil (through Christ), repenting of our fallen ways, and again living by faith in God can we eat from the tree of life, which is true wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 3:18-19), and live forever. The serpent made the fruit of the tree God warned not to eat from look “desirable as a way to gain wisdom” (Gen 3:6), but actually wisdom is found in following God, which was what man and woman were already doing before they ate from the tree God warned not to eat from. Eating from it caused them to lose wisdom they already had rather than gain wisdom they thought they lacked. This is the lie and the deception of the serpent from the beginning that Jesus spoke about in John 8:44.
40. How can I ever be forgiven for something horrible I did in my past?
“You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).
All God wants is for you to return to him and his ways (Isaiah 43:25). He is patient and merciful and he buries your past on the bottom of the ocean, far away from you (Micah 7:19). Each moment, you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). God will provide you the strength to overcome any temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Forgive yourself for yesterday as he already has, and trust in him today with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5).
41. What is God’s view of transgender people and others who don’t accept the roles of the gender they were born with?
There were no defined gender roles in Eden. Man and woman were each given the same roles and responsibilities by God in the beginning. Man and woman were each created in God’s image (Gen 1:27), each given dominion over the whole earth (Gen 1:28), each told to take care of the garden (Gen 2:15, 2:18), each told to eat a diet exclusively comprised of fruits and vegetation (Gen 1:29), and each told to unashamedly (Gen 2:25) live by faith in God (Gen 2:16-17). The only implied gender role was procreative. They were told to “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28) and to be joined together to fulfill these roles that were jointly given to man and woman by God (Gen 2:24).
Defined gender roles (outside of those implied by procreation) have their origin in sin. As a consequence of man and woman’s failure to live by faith in God (by not trusting in God’s warning about the tree that causes death and instead trusting in the deception of the serpent), God then warned the woman, “your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). In other words, this failure to live by faith in God resulted not only in death but also in patriarchy, which was the beginning of defined gender roles (outside of procreative necessity). The man attempting to deflect blame to the woman for his own failure to heed God’s warning (Gen 3:12) was the first recorded patriarchal act in human history, which we are told was motivated by fear (Gen 3:10).
Gender norms today and throughout history have differed widely across cultures and traditions. Defined gender roles outside of those strictly relating to the biological act of procreation are entirely a product of the human imagination, which God deems evil (Gen 6:5). God gave the same roles to man and woman, both of whom were created in his image. Since gender roles outside of procreation are not defined by God but instead by the human imagination, I take transgenderism to likewise be a product of the human imagination. Given that it is impossible to change your gender for the purposes of procreating, the only thing one can change by identifying as transgender is the culturally defined set of gender roles one identifies with. In the eyes of God, there is no gender difference outside of the anatomical differences necessary for procreating. This is why there is no gender difference whatsoever between angels, since they do not procreate. Similarly, since marrying and procreating will no longer exist after the resurrection, and everyone at that time will have returned to God and will live by the ways God established in Eden, gender roles will not exist in the future kingdom (Matt 22:30).
So to answer your question, God sees a transgender person exactly the way he sees any other person. Transgenderism is a reflection of the distorted gender roles humanity has created from its own imagination. Moreover, constructed gender differences (outside of procreation) are rooted in sin and deception, as opposed to the gender-neutral directives established in the beginning by God. Those who live according to defined gender roles are therefore living just as contrary to their true nature as those who live according to the opposite of those defined gender roles. The only way to avoid living a lie regarding gender identity is to live according to the image of God we were created in. And in that image there are no gender differences, aside from procreative purposes. In other words, none of us should live according to defined gender differences since they are all rooted in a false image of self. Instead we should live by faith in the gender-neutral directives established in the beginning by God.
Read this article to learn more on how gender roles hinder the gospel message.
42. If Jesus ate fish, shouldn’t we follow his example and likewise eat fish?
We should follow his example of humility (Philippians 2:7), of loving each other (John 15:12), and of being merciful (Luke 6:36). If we are supposed to do everything exactly the way he did, that would include: claiming to be the prophesied messiah spoken of in scripture, performing miracles to demonstrate to the Jews that you are God’s son, and making a new covenant with the world that replaces the existing covenant. Do you honestly feel that every follower of Jesus is called to do all these things? Of course not, which is why Jesus clarified what he wanted his followers to do in John 14:12 when he says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” In other words, he wants to use us to build on the things he has already done. Through Christ we have the strength to do all things (Philippians 4:13), so why use that strength to justify hurting animals instead of using it to be merciful toward them? Jesus made it undeniably clear that those who believe in him will do greater things than he did. In what ways are you today doing greater things than Jesus did? One way to do greater things is to extend that humility, that love, and that mercy beyond just your human neighbors – to your animal neighbors. By doing so, you are doing the works of Jesus but also doing greater things because through you, Christ is drawing the kingdom of God ever closer to this fallen world.
43. What does it mean in Genesis 3:16 that a woman’s desire will be for her husband?
“To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you”” (Genesis 3:16).
The term desire (teshuqah) means to long for. In this passage God is describing the effects of the fall, warning that the husband will adopt a patriarchal attitude toward the woman and that the woman will long for her husband. But if she already has her husband, why would God warn her that she will desire or long for him?
My reading is that her desire is a longing for the husband God joined her with in the beginning, the one who longed for her before her creation (Genesis 2:18-20), the one who joyously declared her “bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh” upon first seeing her (Genesis 2:23). Her longing is for the way things were in the beginning when they both lived by faith, without fear or shame, together taking care of the garden and everyone in it. This longing is included as part of the warning of the consequences of sin because it will be unfulfilled longing. Instead of being joined as one flesh (Genesis 2:24), with joint dominion (Genesis 1:26-27) as God purposed from the beginning, the man now dominates the woman and the woman longs for the way things were, the way things are supposed to be – the “very good” way (Genesis 1:31). The only way (John 14:6) to restore the broken marriage relationship is to once again boldly live by faith as coequal partners in the image of God – that is, Christ must dwell in both bodies (Galatians 2:20, Colossians 2:9-10).
Similarly, the only way to restore the broken dominion relationship is to boldly live by faith as joint caretakers of the earth and all its inhabitants.
For additional information on teshuqah, see this commentary on the verse.
44. Why did Jesus cause a herd of pigs to drown?
“Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go!” So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water” (Matthew 8:30-32).
This account is offered in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. The accounts differ slightly in the details, but the broader message is the same in each. The context of the passage is Jesus coming upon some number of (one or more) demon-possessed person(s) to cast out the demons that are tormenting them. The demons acknowledge Jesus as the son of God and beg him to let them go into a herd of nearby pigs instead of destroying them. Jesus then commands the demons to leave the person(s) they are tormenting, and so they go out and enter into the pigs. The pigs then run down the hill into the sea and drown. And the person(s) that had been tormented by the demons become cured.
The demons (or “evil spirit” in Luke) are described in the Matthew and Mark accounts as violent and causing their host to be violent, whether person or pig. The demonic instigators (or evil spirit) of violence begged Jesus for mercy and so instead of casting them into the abyss, he merely commanded them to get out of their host, at which point they entered the pigs and caused the pigs to run violently down the hill into the sea to drown (Mark 5:13). It wasn’t Jesus that caused the pigs to drown but instead the demon(s), the instigators of violence. Jesus merely had mercy on the demons when they begged him for mercy, just as he had mercy on the person(s) being tormented by the demons whom Jesus healed by sending out the demons.
One takeaway from this story is that even the demons acknowledge Jesus as the son of God (Mark 5:7). Thus, mere acknowledgement of Jesus as son of God is not enough; we must also follow him and live by our faith. Another takeaway is that we should be merciful, just as our Father is merciful (Luke 6:36). Our mercy should not only extend to our friends, our neighbors, and those who love us – but also to the marginalized, the powerless, and even our enemies. If Jesus is merciful even to demons when they beg him for mercy, how much more merciful should we be toward anyone under our authority – including an animal that cries out to us for mercy?
45. Isn’t it unrealistic to believe that the whole world will ever be at peace? Shouldn’t we just continue with our lives until Jesus returns to fix everything?
Nothing in the bible suggests we should continue in error (Romans 6:1), doubting the power of God (James 1:6), nor sitting on our hands looking into the sky for Christ’s return (Acts 1:11). We are told to live by our faith (Hebrews 10:38) and Christ will come and make his home in us (John 14:23). We are told to make ourselves ready by doing his will (Luke 12:47). God promises the kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven (Micah 4:1-3) and Jesus prayed for it (Matthew 6:10). It will happen.
46. With so much scripture showing that Jesus supported fishing and eating fish, why do you think God wants us to live vegan?
By “so much” scripture you mean a handful of passages, in contrast to the hundreds of passages where he tells us to live by love (1 John 4:16) and to always be merciful (Matthew 18:33). He said he wished the fire was already kindled (Luke 12:49), but many, even his disciples, were not ready for what he wished to reveal (John 16:12). The bible is a complicated text to understand, but the spirit of love, peace, gentleness, self-control, etc (Galatians 5:22-23) will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). If we do the opposite toward animals, we may or may not be in error, but if we are loving and merciful to animals, we know for certain we are not in error because there is no law against love (Galatians 5:23).
47. Why should the number of times something is mentioned in the bible matter? If it’s in the bible at all, isn’t it truth?
Right, the bible is infallible, but our understanding of it isn’t. So if an idea is only mentioned once or a handful of times, it is more likely to be misunderstood or taken out of context. For instance, if we have hundreds of passages telling us to live by love (1 Corinthians 16:14) and to withhold our love from no one (Matthew 5:43-48) and a handful that we interpret as God telling us to do the opposite, it’s more likely we are misunderstanding the significance of those handful of passages rather than the hundreds that are very clear.
48. Doesn’t it say in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that man should have authority over woman?
“But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Even if we grant that patriarchy is God’s arrangement (which we shouldn’t, since it’s not and it would be unscriptural to do so, but for the sake of entertaining the patriarchs let’s pretend), wouldn’t the hierarchical arrangement (we’ve all seen the umbrella) be obsolete for a man or woman in whom Christ dwells? For instance, if it is no longer a woman who lives but Christ who lives in her, how are we supposed to say a man is to rule over Christ? Wouldn’t the patriarchs then have it backwards? Since Christ is above man, shouldn’t then the woman in whom Christ dwells rule over the man? But if it is also no longer the man who lives but Christ who lives in the man, then are we to say Christ should rule over Christ? Surely not since according to the hierarchy Christ is ruled only by God. Let us therefore put away all this foolishness of hierarchies and acknowledge that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in each of us. Let us follow God as equals created in his image. Let us lay down our umbrellas as Christ laid down his life for us, and let us pray for God’s grace to rain directly upon all our heads, uncovered and unashamed, as it was in the beginning.
49. Is it acceptable to practice yoga or meditation?
Yoga simply means “union,” which is not only acceptable but advisable since that is something Jesus prayed would happen in everyone who believes in him (John 17:21). One thing to be careful of, however, is if the yoga poses, meditations, or chants involve direct or indirect worship of another deity. In such cases, you want to be careful that it does not cause you to stumble from the first and greatest commandment (to love only God and no other gods, Luke 4:8). And you also want to be careful that it doesn’t cause someone else to stumble (Romans 14:13). So while there is nothing wrong with yoga in itself, some of the things that are often attached to or associated with yoga can be harmful if you are not careful.
One way to practice yoga in a beneficial way is to meditate on scripture in prayer, as we are called to do (Psalm 1:2). Here would be an example, for ease of reference we’ll call it the Ruach prayer:
Set aside some time to devote yourself entirely to prayer. Then start by praying to God that he draws you close to him (James 4:8). Stay in prayer but without words or thoughts, just breathing and focusing on God’s presence with you in this space of prayer. With each breath, be aware that it is the breath of life God breathed into you from the beginning (Genesis 2:7) and that he breathes into all creatures (Genesis 1:30). Focus on your body and how it is a temple for the holy spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Feel God’s presence all around you and inside you. Know that the all powerful creator of the universe protects you and fills you and is with you at all times (Psalm 139:7-10). He is perfect love and casts out all fear, all worry, all shame (1 John 4:18). Cast all your burdens on God (1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 55:22) and just be still and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10).
Stay in prayer for as long as you feel drawn to remain in prayer. If you feel pain or tension in a part of your body, know that God is able to heal all wounds and he does heal all who call out to him, just as Jesus healed all who came to him in faith (Luke 17:19, Mark 5:34). Allow the holy spirit to heal you by following its guidance, whether by stretching, massaging, breathing, or whatever else. Above all, stay focused on God and his nearness to you and your nearness to him. Fasting with an empty stomach could also help while praying in this way (Acts 13:3). Be aware of your hunger for spiritual food just as your stomach is hungry for physical food (Matthew 4:4). Be fully aware that God’s grace is all you need to be satisfied (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Setting aside time to pray in this way can be faith building and can deepen your relationship with God, as long it it does not become ritualized and thereby lose its meaning. God isn’t just a character in the bible to be intellectually believed in; he is real and all around you and inside you at every moment (Acts 17:28). Focusing on these truths (all taken from the bible) as you approach God in prayer can be a way to stay connected to the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Setting aside time to pray in this way may also help you to carry that divine peace with you for the rest of your day, keeping you equipped to do every good work in patience and love (2 Timothy 3:17, Hebrew 13:21).
50. Isn’t it insensitive to compare the plight of people to the plight of animals?
I think whenever a vegan compares the plight of animals to something someone cares about, the person gets appalled by the comparison because in their mind they take the vegan to be diminishing the thing they care about. In reality though it is the opposite; the vegan cares about both things and it is the one who is appalled by the comparison that is diminishing something they ought to care about but doesn’t, i.e. the plight of animals. If only people could grasp what it truly means to live without heartheartedness and to withhold your love from no one, all would have eyes to see and would know the love God has for all creation.
51. Doesn’t Genesis 2:7 say only humans have a soul, not animals?
“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
You are mistaken. In Gen 1:30 the exact same phrase is used to describe animals as is used in Genesis 2:7 for humans. The breath of life is given to animals and humans alike. And if you are referring to the “living being” part of Gen 2:7, that same phrase is used in Revelation 4:9 to describe animals praising God at the throne of God (i.e. in heaven). And Ecclesiastes 3:19 says humans and animals have the same fate. So the bible says that humans and animals are each made into living beings by the breath of life, that is – by the breath of God.
52. Unlike humans, aren’t animals incapable of praising God?
That’s not what the bible tells us. Animals and humans are each given the breath of life and are each thereby given the ability to praise God, as it says in Psalm 150, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.” (Psalm 150:6). Animals can and do praise God, whether in heaven or on earth, as it shows in Revelation, “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”” (Revelation 5:13). Animals can and do praise God. This is what the bible tells us.
53. Didn’t God create lions and other animals to eat meat?
God did not create lions to eat meat. In Genesis 1:30 it says he created the animals to eat vegetation of the ground. And it says in Isaiah 65:25 that lions will eat straw like the ox. So it was never God’s intention for animals to eat each other. The world fell from grace when we stopped following God’s instructions and it will be restored again when we go back to living according to his ways. What is lacking is faith in God and trusting in his ways.
54. Can humans become gods?
God created humans in his image to take care of the whole earth as rulers over it (Genesis 1:27-28). We are to love the earth and all its creatures the way God does (John 15:12). That is our role. We should humble ourselves before God and give all glory to God (Colossians 3:17). We should not aspire to be gods or anything other than what God created us to be (Genesis 3:5). It’s our perfect place in his good creation (Genesis 1:31).
55. If God didn’t want us to eat meat, then why did he give us permission to do so in Genesis 9:3?
If you start a few verses earlier (Genesis 8:21) when God begins speaking, he starts off by observing Noah’s actions of killing the animals and burning their bodies and God responds by saying that every inclination of the human imagination is evil. Then he tells Noah and his family that the animals will be afraid of them and that they will see the animals as food. To me this sounds a lot more like a warning than permission. God even references the “pleasing aroma” much like the fruit from the forbidden tree that is described in Genesis 3:6 as “pleasing to the eye”. I think a much more genuine reading of Genesis 8-9 is that God is describing the consequences of us following our own sense pleasures and our own evil imaginations rather than following God’s “very good” instructions (Genesis 1:31).
Noah followed all God’s instructions to build the ark and include every kind of animal in it and God saved him and his family and all the animals aboard the ark (Genesis 6:22). But then upon exiting the ark, there is no instruction anywhere in the text for Noah to kill and burn the animals. In fact, this is the first time in Genesis (and therefore the first instance in the Bible) where mention is made of an altar being built and animals being burned on it. Instead of waiting for God to give him further instructions, as far as I can tell from the text, Noah took it upon himself to build an altar and to kill and burn the animals on it. And just like Abel’s slain blood “cried out to God” from the ground after Cain killed him (Genesis 4:10), the smell of the burning animals made its way to God’s nostrils after Noah killed and burned them (Genesis 8:21). Just as Cain’s action of killing his brother was a deviation from God’s instructions, so was Noah’s action of killing the animals.
Despite Noah being described as a “righteous man” who “walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9), his deviation from God’s instructions after exiting the ark prompted God to describe every inclination of his heart as evil (Genesis 8:21), which was exactly the same phrase God used to describe humanity just before the flood (Genesis 6:5). Given that Noah was described as righteous and faithful, yet still somehow had perpetually evil inclinations in his heart, it really brings to life the passage in 1 Corinthians 13:2 where Paul says, “If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” Based on this closer examination of Genesis 8-9, it seems clear to me that despite Noah’s faithfulness, something was lacking in him that caused him to kill all the animals without being instructed by God to do so, just as something is lacking in a person who points to God’s warnings in Genesis 8-9 as justification for withholding their love from any of our fellow covenant recipients – including the animals that were all mentioned by God as recipients of the covenant promise in Genesis 9:9-10.
56. What does Paul mean when he says we are saved by grace through faith?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
God’s grace is his extraordinary kindness. He is impartial in who he gives it to, extending it to everyone (Matthew 5:45). If we put our faith in God and in his extraordinary kindness, we will likewise exhibit extraordinary kindness toward everyone around us. We cannot earn God’s grace by any effort of our own. Rather, it is a free gift he gives to all. Only through trusting in God and his way of impartial and extraordinary kindness can we be saved from the sway sin has over us. Sin is the temptation to withhold kindness, whether born of fear or desire. Anything not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23), and perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
57. I don’t believe how I treat animals has any bearing on my salvation, so why should I care about them?
The serpent is cunning and its deceptions are subtle (Genesis 3:1). The attitude that you should only do the bare minimum to get into heaven reveals a selfish and obstinate heart. Jesus said to give to those who cannot repay you (Luke 14:13-14) and to go the extra mile when it comes to matters of kindness (Matthew 5:41). Jesus did not say the greatest commandment is to love God just enough to get into heaven. No, he said it is to love God with every ounce of your being – with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Luke 10:27). We should therefore set our attitudes on going far beyond what God requires of us, being motivated only by a desire to bring glory to God (Colossians 3:17). How or whether we are rewarded should be inconsequential. Be careful not to be deceived. We should love wholeheartedly and withhold our love from no one, just as God loves wholeheartedly and withholds his love from no one. In this way we are called to be perfect (or complete), just as our father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:45-48). Do not be deceived into following selfish motives (James 1:16). Love because God loves and because we are created in his image (Genesis 1:27), not because we stand to gain something from it. Selfish love is not true love. True love is selfless. True love is the only way to God (John 14:6) because God is true love (1 John 4:8) and his way is, always has been, and always will be the way of true love (Malachi 3:6).
58. Animals kill each other, humans kill animals. It’s survival of the fittest. That’s just the way the world is, right?
The way you describe is the way of the world in its fallen state where humans continue to stubbornly ignore God’s warnings and instructions and instead live according to their own misguided and destructive imaginations (Genesis 6:5). God did not create the world this way (Genesis 1), nor is it destined to remain this way (Isaiah 11). There will come a day where the way of the world will be rolled up like a scroll and will be replaced by the way of God (Isaiah 34:4, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 6:14). It starts with putting our faith in God and not doubting his way of love and kindness (James 1:6). We should live up to our divinely inspired image of loving dominion by living a life of kindness and humility (Genesis 1:27-28). This includes ceasing to arrogantly perceive ourselves as superior to creation or justifying our acts of cruelty in the name of God (Proverbs 12:10). The flesh is weak, but the spirit is strong (Mark 14:38). We should boldly and humbly live according to the spirit and rule over the appetites of the flesh that seek to harm God’s good creation (Genesis 4:7). We should teach and encourage others to do likewise, loving with a gentle and patient heart the way God loves us (Galatians 5:22-23).
59. Is it more important to teach people about Jesus or to teach people about being vegan?
This question is similar to the question of salvation through faith or through works. Jesus said the mark of his followers is love (John 13:35) and that the two greatest imperatives are to love (God and neighbor, Matthew 22). And Paul said if you have faith but not love, you are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). So if you’re preaching Jesus but diminishing the importance of love in what you teach, then what you are teaching is worthless because love is the essence of what Jesus taught and because God is love (1 John 4:8). The faith/works question is settled in James 2:18 when he says, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Similarly, we should teach the love of God by showing the love of God for his creation (including animals). If you say love is not important but only faith is important, then you have failed to understand the most important part of the gospel message.
60. My family claims to be Christian, but they mock me for being vegan as they mercilessly torture and slaughter animals for pleasure. Can such heartless people really be doing God’s will? What should I do?
“The arrogant mock me unmercifully, but I do not turn from your law.” (Psalm 119:51).
While you humble yourself and abide by God’s eternal law of love, others will be arrogant and act without mercy toward you and toward the animals. They can claim all they want, but by their fruits their hearts are known (Matthew 7:16). They first mocked Jesus (Matthew 27:31) and Jesus said they would likewise mock you (John 15:18). Give them clear warning to repent, and know that God is with you (Isaiah 41:10).