Nathan, in regard to your article Contradictions in Scripture: Clean and Unclean Meats, I cannot agree more. I agree with the dispensational principle that all foods are okay to eat and that no foods should be forbidden. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (I Timothy 4:4,5).
However, that said I have always had reservations about eating foods that God had forbidden in the past. There must have been reasons for why He had done so. These health reasons did not change through the dispensational change that happened at Acts 28:28. A lot of the animals on God’s list in Leviticus to abstain from are scavenger animals which were never meant for human consumption. Almost all of the animals on the list we would not consider eating. For instance, we don’t ever hear about people eating vultures, eagles, camels, owls, etc. In my mind the only debate over animals I would eat (unless my family and I were starving) are rabbits, shellfish and pig. In my studies, I found out that many Americans saved themselves from starvation during the Great Depression because of eating rabbits. Rabbits have an amazing ability to reproduce which really helped many families during that period. I think 2 rabbits can multiply into like 800 rabbits in 9 months or some crazy number like that. I obviously have personally thought about the consumption of rabbits, especially in regard to our future economic problems facing the United States.
Anyway, since so many animals are on the list that we wouldn’t even eat, I pause when I am eating bacon or shellfish. As you know, we eat on the majority organic foods. I was reading an article from Mercola warning his readers about eating pig. He talked about how the majority of pigs that Americans would eat come from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and that “these inhumane environments are typically toxic breeding grounds for pathogens.” He talks about the majority of them being filled with parasites that could be very dangerous for human consumption. He seems to be okay eating pigs that are grown organically without antibiotics. Mercola is a huge advocate of eating raw foods and he warns about never eating pig raw even if they were organically raised, etc. As Jordan Reuben talks about in The Maker’s Diet, “Pigs or swine…never limit their diet to vegetation. They will eat anything they can find—including their own young and sick or dead pigs from the same pen.” The pig has one stomach and cannot be compared to animals with multiple stomachs. Therefore, “four hours after the pig has eaten his polluted swill and other putrid, offensive matter, man may eat the same swill second handed off the ribs of the pig.” The question that is put in the book is “Did anything biologically happen to the swine [since Bible times], or did the digestive tract of man have some kind of miracle transformation?”
Shellfish is another hard issues. Many people have a zinc deficiency in their bodies. One of the main sources of zinc in foods is shellfish. Sally Fallon talks about how the toxins in the shellfish can be minimized by certain cooking techniques. But should these bottom-feeders be consumed? Reuben tells us that every spring and summer there are warning about toxic “crabs, clams, and oysters on the East Coast.” He continues talking about “scientists literally gauge the contaminate levels of our oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes by measuring the mercury.”
This of course has nothing to do with salvation. I agree one should NOT be iron fisted in their opinion on this topic but the healthful consumption of foods should be considered on a personal basis. Eating the Standard American Diet (term from Maker’s Diet) is definitely SAD. If you ate all fast food, you would be putting yourself in an early grave. As we know, it is the living who praise the LORD. It would be better
for the believer to eat better. They would feel better. They would be in better health. They would probably be more energized to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Whether, then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).
You are getting here into areas of speculation that I cannot provide any definite answers on. However, I will give you some of my thoughts.
As far as health reasons why God gave certain animals as unclean, these are pure speculation on the part of those who study these animals. God did not say that these animals were unclean inherently, only that they were to be unclean to the Israelites. It may well be that He chose the animals that were less healthful to thus forbid, but this was not His stated reason for doing so. As Paul writes in Romans 14:14, “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself.” “Health reasons” for the unclean commands are purely speculative. He did not HAVE to choose less healthy animals to forbid.
I don’t think you can say that scavenger animals were never meant for human consumption. If you would go back to the beginning, no animals were meant for human consumption, only every herb that yields seed and every fruit tree that yields seed. (Genesis 1:29) When God changed that after the flood, He said, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” (Genesis 9:3) This would include all the animals, including insects, scavengers, vultures, etc. There is no prohibition. If it lives and moves, it is food.
Just because we don’t care to eat certain animals doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. The horse was a very popular meat in Europe, but the pope didn’t like it since it was used in a lot of pagan festivals, so he let out that God didn’t like people to eat horse. The result is that Europeans don’t eat horse to this day. We don’t care to eat it, but this is because of the pope, not God. The same is true of a lot of the other animals. The ones we eat tend to be the best tasting, the easiest to raise, etc. Sometimes it just is what grows best in our climate. In Europe they eat a lot of mutton, whereas we eat a lot of beef. Why? Because that is better shepherding country, and we have better cattle country. What is right to eat has nothing to do with it. If I was starving in the desert, I would eat a rat, a crow, anything I could get my hands on, and I don’t think there would be anything wrong with it. Since I’m not starving in the desert, I’d rather not.
I know that pork can be a dangerous meat to eat. I read one time that 20% of Americans will get worms from poorly cooked pork at some point in their lives, which is a really high number. The key is to cook it properly. I wouldn’t get pork from just any restaurant, certainly not at a fair or something like that.
Pigs are really disgusting when it comes to diet. I have personally watched a pig drink another pig’s urine. However, it is rather silly to suggest that everything a pig eats somehow ends up in its meat. Is the meat the body’s dumping ground for waste? I don’t think your body stores food in the muscles, polluted or otherwise. It is true that certain chemicals can find their way into the meat. Yet for the majority of things it is still true what Christ said, that food “does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods.” (Mark 7:19) To suggest that a pig’s diet ends up on his ribs is just emotionalist poppycock.
Their silly statement about swine changing or the human body changing assumes what the Bible does not state: that the prohibition for eating swine was for all men (which it was not, but only for Israel,) and that it was because the meat was somehow unhealthy (which was not why God forbade it.) While it might be true that pigs have health risks, so do cows (mad cow disease, anyone?) Cows are incredibly dirty and disgusting, though they are not scavengers to the extent that pigs are. Goats are scavengers, even eating things like tin cans, and yet they are clean! Why, if being a scavenger is the problem?
Since all fish swim in the same ocean, it is hard to say that there is mercury pollution, so we should not eat shellfish, but eating other fish is fine. There are plenty of clean fish that will swim along the bottom of the lake or ocean, and they will not refuse to eat when there. Of course bottom feeders are more likely to eat there. I tend to eat such things more rarely.
As you know, I entirely agree that we should eat healthily. Fast food is not healthy, and everyone knows it, though many ignore that fact. We eat many things we know are not that good for us. Convenience has won out over health for most. Well, a chronic ailment is not convenient, but we do not seem to take that kind of long view. As you say, I think even without this eating better makes you feel better in the short term as well. It would be good if everyone, including of course God’s people, would make the effort to eat better.
Thanks for the interesting issues.