Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why I'll Be Eating Steak In Heaven

Greg Boyd is an author and pastor whom I much admire. I have really enjoyed reading his perspective on open theism and the warfare motif of scripture. I recently discovered his blog with which I was impressed by the range of topics under discussion. However, I do wish to pick a bone with Boyd's own theological position on vegetarianism.

First of all, I have no objection whatsoever to anyone becoming a vegetarian for ethical, cultural, or dietary reasons. Boyd even tells us that "God told him" to stop eating meat, and I have no beef with that at all. However I do wish to warm-heartedly push back on Boyd's assertion that Christians should seriously consider becoming vegetarians because in the New Creation we will only eat vegetables (and therefore we should anticipate that and prophetically embody that now).

The first thing that comes to mind is Isaiah:

The Lord who commands armies will hold a banquet for all the nations on this mountain. At this banquet there will be plenty of meat and aged wine – tender meat and choicest wine.
-- Isa 25:6 (NET)

So it seems the the Lord himself will serving prime steak and vintage red wine in the New Creation. If its good enough for God, its good enough for me. The only way we can get round this is to argue that it won't be real meat, which is surely the same as arguing that the wine at the Lord's banquet, or indeed the water that Jesus turned into wine, isn't alcoholic. Which is so brain-dead I can't even be bothered to waste my time to argue with! Face it, God knew in advance that one of life's most pleasurable experiences is eating a medium-rare steak with a glass of fine vintage wine in good company. :-)

(As a footnote, I am completely for animal welfare, I am appalled at the Western food industry, and I do my very best to ensure that all my meat, fish and dairy products I consume are either organically farmed or wild. I also sure that such standards are still below the Lord's, and that Christians should be at the forefront of the organic and fair-trade movements, pushing standards onward and upwards. A heavenly ethic on meat is not to abolish it but to kindly subdue and rule over animal creation.)

PS: Also see Greg Wahl's satirical take on Boyd's position.


James said...

I'm going to go with my gut :) on this one and say there will be steak in heaven, but possibly not like we have it now.

What do you make of Isaiah 65:25
"The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox".
This appears to imply to me the end of the carnivour driven food chain. If the wolf is no threat to the lamb, then it surely no longer eats it, and indeed the lion is now a herbivore.

This leads me to the conjecture that perhaps the meat eating world is part of the fallen world.

Perhaps death will not be necessary in heaven or the new creation.

God provided manna for the Israelites, so perhaps he just creates the food in heaven.

re. wine - I expect a pretty good vintage in heaven and it certianly won't be grape juice!!

Alastair said...

Good pushback, James. Its clear that the animal kingdom will be a complete peace (shalom) both with itself and with the rest of the world, including humankind.

I accept that God created the manna for the Israelites, which I think elsewhere is described as angel's food (anyone know where I got that impression?)

It does seem strange to me that in the New Creation the best food that the Old Creation had to offer will no longer be available.

Given that both of us are quoting the same prophet to make opposite points, perhaps there is a third viewpoint, that the animals willingly give themselves up to be humanely killed for food.

The greater question this raises is the nature of death, and whether death is part of the fall. Tempting though it is to say that, its hard to explain the current biological world which seems to rely on death. Did evolution/God re-engineer the entire world post-fall? Seems a bit much to believe that.

BTW if there is a real wine in heaven won't the grapes have died in order to produce it? Isn't fermentation a process of decay and death?

Anonymous said...

I'll take the bait and push back as well.
Do what you will with Isaiah, what do you do with Genesis? And if you accept that we see through a glass darkly, why not be lenient with Isaiah, and take the suffering of animals seriously?
Animal death and suffering is a result of the fall. This theological truth can perhaps be tinkered with for historical purposes, but God's ultimate aim should be clear...

Perhaps we should expect BETTER food than meat after the Resurrection... Just a thought. :-)