Questions & Answers – Animals and Stewardship
In this section I address questions that I am frequently asked in my ministry regarding animals and our divinely appointed stewardship over the earth and its inhabitants. 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 of the bible and should be open to growing in knowledge of God through the guidance of God’s holy 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 for ease of reference)
- Will animals be resurrected? / Will they be in heaven?
- When we’re in heaven, will we be able to communicate with animals?
- What is dominion and do we have dominion over the earth and over all God’s creatures?
- 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?
- Given all the horrible things God does in the Bible, how can we say God is love?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- Why did God ask for animal sacrifices?
- 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?
- If Jesus ate fish, shouldn’t we follow his example and likewise eat fish?
- Why did Jesus cause a herd of pigs to drown?
- With so much scripture showing that Jesus supported fishing and eating fish, why do you think God wants us to live vegan?
- 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?
- If God didn’t want us to eat meat, then why did he give us permission to do so in Genesis 9:3?
- 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 and humans kill animals. It’s survival of the fittest. Isn’t that just the way the world is?
- 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?
- How do we know it was God’s permissive will for us to eat meat due to the flood?
- If God doesn’t want us to eat animals, then why did God tell Peter to eat meat?
- If God doesn’t want harm to come to animals, then why would Jesus have cast demons into a herd of pigs to harm them?
- Is it a sin to eat animals and are people going to hell for it?
- Is it possible to live according to the spirit while consuming animal flesh and committing similar acts of cruelty toward animals?
- What does it means in Isaiah 11:6 that the wolf will live with the lamb? Isn’t that a bit too fantastic to be taken literally?
- Why in 1 Corinthians 8 does Paul say he will never again eat meat?
- Did Jesus eat lamb?
- Doesn’t veganism make animals an idol?
- Why the name Swords to Plowshares?
- If God does not delight in animal sacrifices, then why does it say that God was pleased by the aroma of burnt offerings?
- Was Jesus an animal liberator?
- How did nature get the way it is if predation wasn’t God’s design?
- In Genesis 49:6 is Jacob talking about people who engage in animal cruelty?
- Why in Mark 1:40-1:45 did Jesus command a leper to bring an animal sacrifice offering to the temple?
- Is it a sin to eat animals?
- Why do professed believers mock me for encouraging compassion toward animals, citing passages such as 1 Timothy as proof that I am following a demon?
- How can so many professed believers be so strongly convinced that animals are just here for us to eat or to harm or to do whatever else we want to them?
- Can companion animals such as dogs and cats thrive on entirely plant-based diets?
- Why in Genesis 27 does Isaac tell his son Esau to go out and hunt for him? Since Isaac is considered a righteous man, does this mean that God approves of hunting?
- What does Jesus mean when he says we cannot enter the kingdom unless we change and become like little children?
- Why did Jesus eat fish?
- If I am Catholic and believe scripture interpretation belongs exclusively to the Pope, what does the Pope say about dominion and our stewardship over animals?
- What is your position on lab-grown meat?
- Didn’t Jesus declare all foods clean when he said what goes into a person does not defile them?
- Is being vegan consistent with having faith in the God of scripture?
Questions & Answers – Animals and Stewardship
1. 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!
2. When we’re in heaven, will we be able to communicate with animals?
We can communicate with animals on earth, so why not also in heaven? I’m not even talking about Balaam’s donkey (Numbers 22:28) or the serpent in Eden (Genesis 3:1), nor am I talking about gorillas and chimpanzees being taught sign language, or dogs learning commands, or the many other instances of animals learning human languages. Animals also have their own languages of varying complexities, and if you listen closely enough, any animal will teach you their language. “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you” (Job 12:7). You may be disappointed if you expect the animals in heaven to all be speaking Hebrew or English or whatever other language you prefer, but as long as you are willing to listen, any animal in heaven or on earth will teach you their language.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Given all the horrible things God does in the Bible, how can we say God is love?
One of the most frequent ways in which the bible is misunderstood is by misreading God’s warnings as God’s desires. When God warns us of the consequences of following our own imaginations, it is because God loves us and wants us to turn away from our self-destructive ways. So many convoluted theories about God and distorted views of God’s character are rooted in this misreading of scripture. People want to say God destroys people when it is more fitting to say we destroy ourselves by failing to following God’s instructions on how to live.
A good rule of thumb to employ when reading accounts of bloodshed and violence in the Bible is to keep in mind the underlying message of repentance that runs throughout the whole Bible. Every horrible tragedy is the result of following our own evil imaginations instead of following God’s instructions that were given to us in the beginning. And at every turn, God’s message is the same: to return to God and to live by faith and God will save us from our own imaginations. God’s way is the way of life; every other way is the way of death. God gives us this choice, as it says in Deuteronomy 30:19, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” God has always wanted us to repent and live and does not delight in anyone perishing (Ezekiel 18:23, 2 Peter 3:9), yet we must stop following our own imaginations and return to God’s instructions. God is love and God’s ways are love (1 John 3:8, 16).
9. 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). Also in 2 Chronicles 32:31 where it says, “But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.” 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.
10. 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 about what transpired between God and Noah just after the flood, read Permission and Going the Extra Mile. For a more general understanding of God’s unchanging attitude toward animals, read Love God, Love Animals.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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).
16. 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.
17. 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.
This phrase was commonly understood among Hebrew-speaking people at the time the scripture was being recorded. It meant the land was flourishing the way God had intended it to from the beginning (Genesis 1:31). It did not mean we are exploiting bees and cows to serve the desires of the flesh but instead that we are being the proper stewards of the earth that God instructed us to be, tilling the ground (Genesis 2:15) and caring for the animals (Genesis 1:28, 2:19), and that all the land is flourishing as a result (Genesis 1:31). It means we are maintaining the good kingdom God created the earth to be (Matthew 24:45) and we and this earthly home God gave us (Isaiah 45:18) are blessed as a result (Genesis 1:28, Proverbs 16:20, Deuteronomy 28, Luke 11:28).
18. 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).
19. 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:
20. 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.
21. 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.
22. 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).
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. 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).
28. 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).
29. 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).
30. 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.
31. 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.
32. 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?
33. 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 describing Jesus’ existence in a fishing village, in contrast to the hundreds of passages where he tells us to live by love (1 John 4:16), to always be merciful (Matthew 18:33), and to do even greater works than he did (John 14:12). Jesus said he wished the fire was already kindled (Luke 12:49) but that 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 if we truly seek God with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13), God’s spirit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23) will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). If we bear the opposite of these fruits in our attitude toward animals, we may or may not be in error, but if we are loving and merciful toward animals, we know for certain we are not in error because there is no law against love (Galatians 5:23).
34. 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 hardheartedness and to withhold your love from no one, all would have eyes to see and would know the love God has for all creation.
35. 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.
36. 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.
37. 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.
38. 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.
39. 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).
40. Animals kill each other and humans kill animals. It’s survival of the fittest. Isn’t that just the way the world is?
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).
41. 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.
42. 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).
43. How do we know it was God’s permissive will for us to eat meat due to the flood?
It was not God’s permissive will. It was not permission at all but rather a warning that animal fear and loss of dominion are the consequences of killing and eating animals (Genesis 9:1-2). We should instead follow God’s instructions, which were given in Genesis 1:28-31.
44. If God doesn’t want us to eat animals, then why did God tell Peter to eat meat?
God’s message to Peter was not that he wanted Peter to eat meat. It was that the gentiles are not unclean. Peter understood this and it transformed his ministry (Acts 11:1-18).
45. If God doesn’t want harm to come to animals, then why would Jesus have cast demons into a herd of pigs to harm them?
Jesus did not cast demons into pigs to harm the pigs. He cast them OUT of the man they were tormenting and they went into the pigs of their own will after begging Jesus not to cast them into the abyss (Luke 8:31).
46. Is it a sin to eat animals and are people going to hell for it?
It’s not about not going to hell. It’s about doing God’s will. His will was clearly stated in the beginning when he said fruit and vegetation is to be our food (Genesis 1:29). And God’s will does not change (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). We should be motivated to do God’s will regardless of what may or may not be in it for us. Eating animals is contrary to God’s stated will.
47. Is it possible to live according to the spirit while consuming animal flesh and committing similar acts of cruelty toward animals?
The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It is impossible to exhibit these fruits while slaughtering an animal, just as it is impossible to drain all the blood out of an animal’s flesh before consuming it (Genesis 9:4).
I recommend reading Dominion vs Tyranny in Genesis and other articles on this website. The message is simple. God is love (1 John 4:8;16). We should be motivated by love in everything we do (1 Corinthians 16:14). Cruelty and love are incompatible.
48. What does it means in Isaiah 11:6 that the wolf will live with the lamb? Isn’t that a bit too fantastic to be taken literally?
“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”
It means not only will humans not being killing or hurting animals but also that animals will not be killing or hurting each other. This is the way things were in Eden back when humans exercised dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). But ever since humans began following their own will instead of God’s will, we’ve not only corrupted ourselves and our own children but we’ve also corrupted the earth and the animals (Genesis 6:5). We teach animals to hunt; we breed them to be meat, milk, and egg machines, and we cause them to live in fear (Habakkuk 2:17, Genesis 9:2). We ignore their well-being and treat them as mere property to serve the corrupt desires of our own flesh. We basically do everything other than the instructions we were given by God to do – that is, to rule over them by the spirit of love (Galatians 5:22-23).
I would recommend first restoring your own heart to God’s way of love before worrying about our responsibility of leading the animals in God’s way of love. If I can’t even convince you that God wants us to live our lives in harmony with animals, then how am I supposed to convince you to fulfill your role of leading animals to live in harmony with other animals? Even a child could do it, but first there must be love in your heart and faith in God’s instructions (Matthew 18:3).
49. Why in 1 Corinthians 8 does Paul say he will never again eat meat?
“Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall” (1 Corinthians 8:13).
In this passage Paul is talking about eating food that had been offered to idols. Jewish converts grew up believing it is idolatry whereas Gentile converts grew up believing it was acceptable. So Paul was trying to reconcile this conflict within the early church. He said it is not idolatry but that if it causes the Jewish converts distress, the loving thing for the Gentile converts to do is to not eat food that was offered to idols (Romans 14:15). Given the word choices used here (meat) and again in Romans, people often cite this issue of idolatry as a parallel to hurting animals and I agree it is applicable. If hurting animals causes a fellow believer distress, you should stop hurting animals or you are no longer acting in love.
50. Did Jesus eat lamb?
“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”” (Mark 14:12)
This account is mentioned in Luke 22:8, Matthew 26:17, and Mark 14:12 and it is describing for a Gentile audience the Jewish custom that involves slaughtering a lamb. The passage does not, however, mention a lamb being slaughtered by the disciples or eaten by Jesus or any of the disciples. Instead it says they “ate the passover”. The only two food items mentioned in each of the gospel accounts are bread and the fruit of the vine. The only time a lamb is mentioned is in describing how “they” (most likely the Sadducees) customarily observe passover.
If we consider the context of what is happening in this passage, it does not make sense for a few reasons that Jesus and his disciples would be slaughtering and eating lamb in their observance of passover. First of all, according to scripture, the passover lamb is not to be sacrificed anywhere other than the temple (Deuteronomy 16:5), which existed in Jerusalem. Nowhere is a trip to the temple mentioned in this account. Secondly, not all Jews were observing passover the same way at that time. There is recorded evidence of at least three distinct Jewish sects existing in Israel at the time of Jesus and his disciples: the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Galileans (believed by some to be the Essenes). The Sadducees were in control of the temple and were the priestly class profiting from animal sacrifices in the temple. Jesus overturned their tables and set the animals free that they were selling for sacrifice (John 2:15). Jesus was also highly critical of the Pharisees, whom he refers to as “hypocrites, blind guides, and brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:13-36). The Galileans are the only sect that Jesus did not oppose throughout his ministry.
Interestingly enough, the Galileans were the group that did not believe in animal slaughter, motivated by the words of the prophets that God does not want animal sacrifices (Isaiah 1:11, Jeremiah 7:22-24, Hosea 6:6, Zechariah 11:4-6). Instead they observed passover by breaking bread and drinking the fruit of the vine. While a slaughtered lamb is not mentioned as one of the food items in the disciples’ passover observance, bread and the fruit of the vine are mentioned in each of the accounts. This provides fairly strong evidence that Jesus and his disciples were observing passover the way the Galilean sect observed it rather than the way the Sadducees (and possibly the Pharisees) observed it.
Lastly, Jesus is referred to as the passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7 when Paul says, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Also by John the Baptist who says in John 1:29, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” and by Peter in 1 Peter 1:18-19 when he says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” It would not make sense for Jesus to tell his followers, “eat my flesh, drink my blood” (John 6:56) unless he is the passover lamb being slaughtered. If Paul is correct in Hebrews 10:4 that it is impossible for the blood of sacrificed animals to take away sins, then why would Jesus and his disciples be sacrificing an animal? What sins did Jesus commit that he would need to sacrifice a lamb at passover to avoid the wrath of God? The much more plausible explanation is that the only sacrifice was Jesus giving up his own life to “redeem us from the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors” (1 Peter 1:18-19), including the empty tradition of animal slaughter.
51. Doesn’t veganism make animals an idol?
No, in the same way loving your neighbor as yourself does not make your neighbor an idol. What veganism does is shows us how to live according to Proverbs 31:8 where it says, “Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, for the rights of all who need an advocate.” Oh how I wish more Christians would take this passage to heart!
52. Why the name Swords to Plowshares?
“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
The same passage is repeated nearly verbatim in Micah 4:3. The idea is that people stop making weapons and fighting each other and instead grow food and feed each other. The warriors become gardeners and all live at peace. It’s a vision of repentance and a return to God’s way of love, which is the purpose of this ministry.
53. If God does not delight in animal sacrifices, then why does it say that God was pleased by the aroma of burnt offerings?
This is a common misreading. What the scripture says is that God smelled the pleasing aroma and that the pleasing aromas were offered to God. Nowhere does it say God found the aromas pleasing.
“The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done”” (Genesis 8:21). In Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 2:2, Leviticus 23:18, and elsewhere it speaks of burnt offerings and their pleasing aromas being offered to God. I can see how someone would misunderstand these passages as saying God was pleased by the aromas, but if we consider a related passage in Ezekiel, it becomes clear that this is a misunderstanding.
Ezekiel 6:13 says: “And you shall know that I am the LORD, when their slain lie among their idols around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountaintops, under every green tree, and under every leafy oak, wherever they offered pleasing aroma to all their idols.”
In this passage people are making sacrifices and offering the pleasing aromas to the idols they worship. If we are to understand this passage as suggesting that the idols are pleased by the aromas, this would conflict with what David says about idols in Psalm 115:4-6, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.” If idols cannot smell (or see or hear or think or act or do anything), then how are the idols to determine that the aromas as pleasing? Simply put, they can’t. This idea of idols being inert and unaware is repeated in Habakkuk 2:18 and 1 Corinthians 12:2.
So why then are the aromas described as pleasing if not pleasing to the recipient of the offering? To answer this question, let us consider the description of the fruit from the tree God told Adam and Eve not to eat from: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Genesis 3:6). It was clearly not pleasing to God that they disobeyed God and ate from the tree they were instructed not to eat from, just as it was not pleasing to God that Noah deviated from God’s instructions and built an altar and began burning animals on it. Yet in both instances the object that allures humans away from God’s instructions is described as pleasing to the senses.
Unlike the interpretation that the recipient of the offering is pleased by the aromas, this reading of “pleasing aroma” as pleasing to the senses does not lead to a contradiction when considering the passage in Ezekiel about pleasing aromas being offered to idols. It also makes a lot more sense in the context of a theme throughout the New Testament of pitting the desires of the flesh against the will of the spirit (Galatians 5:17). As Paul puts it, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5). The pleasing aroma is pleasing to the flesh. What is pleasing to God is for us “to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).
54. Was Jesus an animal liberator?
Yes. It says in John 2:15, Jesus “made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” He was liberating the animals whom the Sadducees were selling for sacrifice. They had turned the temple into a business that profits off treating animals as merchandise, prompting Jesus to emphatically command, “Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!”
The connection runs even deeper too! Jesus was purchased with coins from Judas (Matthew 26:14-15) and taken by his purchasers to slaughter (Matthew 27:1). This is exactly what was happening to the animals in the temple by the Sadducees, of whom Jesus was very critical throughout his ministry. This was quite literally the hill Jesus died on, walking alongside the animals to his own slaughter at the hand of those same people who proclaimed to be shedding blood in the name of God but who, in reality, “do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34)”. So Jesus was not only an animal liberator but also died alongside the animals, just as he was born alongside them (Luke 2:7).
55. How did nature get the way it is if predation wasn’t God’s design?
At some point humans began breeding animals to serve our own misguided interests. We taught animals to help us hunt, we bred animals to have giant udders to be our milk machines. We bred hens to lay tons of eggs so we can eat them. We corrupted animals in so many ways by following our own evil imaginations (Jeremiah 18:11-12) and we continue to do so today. The first book of the bible gives an account of humans selectively breeding animals for profit (Genesis 30:37-43).
Most people don’t even believe the account of nature in Genesis 1:30 where all animals are herbivores and where everyone lives together in peace. Even many Christians buy into predation as the way the world always was instead of seeing it as a product of human corruption of God’s design, but the bible says otherwise. God is ready to restore creation to a state of love, joy, and peace if only we repent of our ways and turn our hearts back to God (2 Chronicles 7:14).
56. In Genesis 49:6 is Jacob talking about people who engage in animal cruelty?
“Let my soul not enter into their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly; Because in their anger they slew men, And in their self-will they lamed oxen” (Genesis 49:6).
Yes, he is. Other translations say “as they pleased” and that they were “self-willed” (i.e. following their own desires instead of God). In the preceding verses it says they keep “instruments of cruelty” in their place of residence and that their cruelty is what Jacob is denouncing. These were righteous Jacob’s dying words to his children, so they were intended to be the most important message he left to them – not to associate with those who practice cruelty toward humans or animals.
57. Why in Mark 1:40-1:45 did Jesus command a leper to bring an animal sacrifice offering to the temple?
According to the Jewish Law tradition written in Leviticus 14 any leper healed must bring two birds to the temple, one to be killed and the other to be set free. The Sadducees and Pharisees were looking for any way to charge Jesus with sin so they could kill him. If Jesus did not order the man to do this after healing him, then Jesus would be guilty of teaching something contrary to the law written in Leviticus 14 and thereby be guilty of sin. This would afford Jesus’ enemies the opportunity they were looking for to kill him in accordance with their laws. Now that you understand the motivation for Jesus ordering it, let’s consider what actually transpired.
Many times Jesus is said to have known people’s hearts as well as their pasts (woman at the well, John 4:17-18) and also their future actions (Peter denying Jesus three times in Mark 14:71-72, the tax coin in the fish’s mouth in Matthew 17:27, etc). And since it says in this story in Mark 1 that the leper who was healed did not follow Jesus’ instructions but instead spread the news of Jesus, I find it very likely that Jesus knew this would happen. So Jesus knew he wasn’t sending an innocent bird to its death for healing the leper. Instead Jesus healed the man and converted him into a believer who spread the news of Jesus, without Jesus breaking the law written in Leviticus.
This account mirrors the account of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) in a lot of ways, where Jesus would only permit the sinless among her accusers to stone her, despite stoning being the punishment written in the law for adultery. Jesus knew the Pharisees were just trying to catch him teaching something contrary to the law. But he found a way to show love without breaking the law, by saying “whoever is without sin cast the first stone (John 8:7),” knowing none of the accusers were without sin. This looks like the same type of thing happening.
58. Is it a sin to eat animals?
Sin has to do with the law. According to Romans 6:14 we are no longer under the law but under the grace of the spirit. And Galatians 5:22-23 tells us the “fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” We should therefore strive to embody the spirit in all that we do and to encourage each other to do likewise, looking forward to the kingdom, not backward.
59. Why do professed believers mock me for encouraging compassion toward animals, citing passages such as 1 Timothy as proof that I am following a demon?
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).
People who have their hearts set on cruelty cannot know God and they will only mock the spirit and those who embody it. If they interpret 1 Timothy as saying anyone who restricts food has a demon, then do they believe God had a demon when he restricted the food of Adam and Eve? Clearly they either don’t know the scripture, cannot reason, or only want to mock true believers. Remember the words Jesus told us in John 15, that if they mock you, they first mocked him. They are of the world and you are of God.
60. How can so many professed believers be so strongly convinced that animals are just here for us to eat or to harm or to do whatever else we want to them?
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Prior to his conversion, Paul felt he was doing God’s work by exterminating the early followers of Jesus. It wasn’t until he was literally blinded and Jesus came to him asking him why Paul is persecuting him that his eyes were opened to the truth of what he was doing (Acts 9:1-9). I see so many Christians today holding up faith as the highest virtue, while failing to even leave a place at all for love. But the scripture is clear that love is not only necessary but even more important than faith! If only people could see themselves as the church of Ephesus mentioned at the beginning of Revelation 2 (the one referred to in NKJ translation as “the loveless church”), the church that God says is in dire need of repentance. Instead I see people doggedly using faith as justification for excluding love from their actions, just as the teachers of law in Matthew 23:23 were doing. How backwards their thinking is!
61. Can companion animals such as dogs and cats thrive on entirely plant-based diets?
Yes, absolutely! God created every animal an herbivore. We should have faith in God’s word and resist any deceptions of the devil or theories of man that say otherwise. God said: “And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.” (Genesis 1:30). I suspect this will be a non-question in the next decade as scientists are creating and businesses are marketing such food on a growing scale. Nevertheless there is still much ignorance, fear, and deception surrounding animal diets. There is no magical property in meat that animals need, only nutrients. And these nutrients can be derived from plants instead.
62. Why in Genesis 27 does Isaac tell his son Esau to go out and hunt for him? Since Isaac is considered a righteous man, does this mean that God approves of hunting?
2 Isaac said [to his son Esau], “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death.3 Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. 4 Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.” (Genesis 27:2-4)
Most characters in the bible are complex characters. Even the prophets and heroes and other characters identified within the text as “good” or “righteous” often have flaws or make mistakes. Moses and Aaron failed to give glory to God when striking the rock for water when the Israelites were thirsty (Numbers 20:12). David committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12) and also shed much blood (1 Chronicles 28:3). Noah deviated from God’s instructions by building an altar and killing animals on it (Genesis 8:20). Peter was rebuked sharply by Jesus (Matthew 16:23), and all of the disciples lacked faith at one point or another (Luke 8:25, Luke 24:11). For Isaac to make this request to his son Esau definitely does not suggest that God approves of it, even though Isaac is counted among the righteous.
In my estimation, it sounds pretty clear from the language used to describe the request (“the tasty food that I like”) that Isaac was fulfilling the desires of his flesh. One of the takeaway messages from this account would therefore be to take up your cross daily and to always be vigilant, even to the end of life. As Jesus put it, “whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). It’s also possible Isaac was testing his son just as his father Abraham was tested by God when asked to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:12). It is not clear since Jacob deceived Isaac before Esau fulfilled the request and so we don’t know from the story whether Isaac would have blessed Esau or not. If we assume it wasn’t a test, it would still only mean that Isaac approves of hunting, not that God approves of it.
63. What does Jesus mean when he says we cannot enter the kingdom unless we change and become like little children?
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
Jesus often references prophecy in his teachings, especially when he speaks in parables without offering clear explanation. “You must be like a child to enter the kingdom” is a reference to Isaiah 11:6, where it 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.” This is a description of the kingdom and our leading through a childlike dominion of love. Jesus did not elaborate as such because the audience was not yet ready to hear it, but the spirit reveals to those whose hearts are ready to hear it (John 16:12-13) and who ask with an earnest heart (Matthew 7:7).
64. Why did Jesus eat fish?
The short answer, I believe, is that Jesus ate fish in order to leave room for his true followers to do more than what he explicitly asked them to do.
For the longer answer, read the blog post that elaborates on this point.
65. If I am Catholic and believe scripture interpretation belongs exclusively to the Pope, what does the Pope say about dominion and our stewardship over animals?
Here is the current Pope (Francis)’s position with respect to our stewardship of animals: “Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”
From Section 67 of Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home:
66. What is your position on lab-grown meat?
Killing animals to eat the flesh of their dead bodies is doing two things that are less than ideal. Producing animal flesh without having to kill animals might avoid one of those two suboptimal things, but it also makes someone less likely to stop doing the other suboptimal thing. It’s much better to stop killing animals AND stop eating animal flesh. This way you fulfill the command to be merciful (Luke 6:36) while also following God’s instructions on what is good to eat (Genesis 1:29). I will continue advocating for what is best instead of supporting this half measure of lab grown flesh.
For more faith-based perspectives on lab grown animal flesh, read this post.
67. Didn’t Jesus declare all foods clean when he said what goes into a person does not defile them?
“Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them” (Mark 7:15).
Jesus did not say every act is justified as long as the dead bodies that result from the act are eaten. Instead what he said is what comes out of a person is what defiles them. So ask yourself this: When it comes to how you treat God’s beloved animals (Psalm 147:9) that he has entrusted to humanity, do you exhibit “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)?
Or is what comes out of you instead: cruelty (Proverbs 12:10), indifference to the suffering of your animal neighbors (Luke 10:36-37), uncontrollable desire to consume flesh (Philippians 3:19), causing animals to be afraid (Habakkuk 2:17, Genesis 9:2), unconcern for the distress caused to others by your food choices (Romans 14:15), neglect of divinely ordained responsibility of earthly stewardship (Genesis 2:15), and tightening yokes rather than loosening them (Isaiah 58:6)?
Certainly what comes out of a person is what defiles a person. One must repent and do the first works (Revelation 2:5), the “very good” works that God instructed from the beginning (Genesis 2:15; 1:28;31). “Do everything in love,” including how you treat animals (1 Corinthians 16:14).
68. Is being vegan consistent with having faith in the God of scripture?
Absolutely! God is love (1 John 4:8). Extending love to animals instead of withholding it from them is not only consistent with faith but a more complete expression of it (Matthew 5:48).
For frequently asked questions regarding gender-related topics in the bible (including gender roles, patriarchy, headship, and sexuality) click here or for other general topic questions regarding God and the bible click here.