Can Christians Be Vegan?

You may be the type of person who hears the word “vegan” and turns away with a scoff and a roll of the eyes. That’s certainly how I used to respond before I began seriously considering the vegan* way of life.

I, like many others, thought that vegans were crazy hippies or yoga freaks or people that were just “out there” with no grounding in reality. I had certainly never met a Christian Vegan. To my surprise, I discovered that someone close to me was genuinely considering this lifestyle—my very own pastor! Having much respect for my pastor, I knew he wasn’t simply being foolish in overhauling his life and diet. And I wanted to know what those reasons were.

 

Food is Deep

As I spoke with him, I found that everything he was saying aligned accurately with Scripture and common sense. He showed me a simple yet profound truth—that food is deep. It is deep in the sense that it is much more than mere nourishment for our bodies, a necessary substance to keep us alive. For instance, why was food created in the first place? It couldn’t simply be to keep humans alive because there was food in the Garden of Eden before the fall. So would Adam and Eve have died if they had not eaten food? Logically no, since death had not entered into earthly existence.

Also, there are numerous references in the Bible about foods that are otherworldly such as Elijah’s angelic food in 1 Kings 19 and the heavenly manna during the Exodus. What’s more, the Bible even ascribes deep metaphorical meaning to food like when Christ refers to Himself as the “bread of life” or to His disciples as the “salt of the earth.” In short, I think that food deserves much more thought and respect than is often given to it.

When my pastor explained his transition to veganism, he did more than simply open my eyes to the spiritual, metaphorical, and philosophical depth of food. He showed me several points that directly tied veganism to God’s Word.

First, he pointed out that humans were not originally created to eat meat. A fully plant-based diet was the original fuel that God gave for our bodies to run on. It was not until after the Flood that people began eating meat (see Genesis 9:3). That’s roughly 1,600 years after the Fall! Clearly, humans were able to perform work and live life while being sustained on a meatless diet.

Now, if God originally created the human body to be fueled by a plant-based diet, one would expect plants to contain high levels of nutrients and low levels of toxic elements—and that is exactly what we see. The vegan diet has strong scientific support as a superior diet for health and wellness. Now, I will happily admit that there are studies and scientists and research articles that claim that meat is good for individuals to consume regularly, but that misses my point. The debate seems to be whether or not meat is healthy. To my knowledge, there are no credible claims that state vegetables are unhealthy.

And that is precisely what one would expect when reading the biblical narrative and the original human diet. Vegans simply take the good foods and choose to consume only those. There’s nothing unbiblical about that.

Further, since food is deeper than the physical, I began to realize that food affects my mood, mindset, ability to concentrate, etc. When I am in a mental rut or am feeling down or just don’t seem to care about challenging myself to be productive, I can often link it to a series of poor dietary choices. Conversely, when I eat good, healthy food, I usually find that I feel more upbeat and happier in my approach to life. God made us as holistic beings—mind, body, and spirit. When I’ve attempted to compartmentalize these parts in the past, God has shown me that it can’t be done. They each leak into the other. So when I treat my body right, my mind and spirit also benefit.

 

Bodies are temples of God

Aside from the practical reasons to treat one’s body appropriately, God mandates that His children place great importance on the treatment of their bodies. 1 Corinthians tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that we are to honor it with worthy actions . . . and that means worthy food too.

I remember watching an episode of A&E’s Duck Dynasty. Some of the guys in the episode were making hamburgers and one of them made a burger that didn’t look too appetizing. When it was offered to Uncle Si, his response was remarkable. He said, “This body is my temple. I ain’t puttin’ that crap in this temple.” His bluntness encouraged me to always remember the importance of my body and to treat it with the high standards of a king’s palace. Veganism is just another way that one can treat his or her body in such a way.

 

Animal Welfare is a God-given duty

A last point that really piqued my interest was Christianity’s long history of caring for animals. The Bible tells us that “a righteous man regards the life of his animal . . . ” (Prov. 12:10a). Further, many accounts within Christian history reinforce this idea. There are claims that St. Francis of Assisi greatly loved animals and encouraged people to kindly care for them as well. The Christian politician William Wilberforce was an early pioneer in the animal welfare movement and was always concerned about legislation that dealt with the fair treatment of animals. Many believe that British theologian and apologist C.S. Lewis purposely ascribed significance to animals and speaking beasts in his beloved Narnia books in order to teach children to care for animals. In light of this, veganism further aligns with the principles of the Christian faith.

I must clarify one thing: I see no biblical justification for any claim that meat in and of itself is sinful under the New Covenant.

I do recall, however, that Paul had something to say about things being lawful but not beneficial (see 1 Cor. 10:23). I think meat is one of these things. It’s certainly not sinful but it may not be the best thing for us. And I’ll be honest, I sometimes find myself in phases where I eat enough meat-based products to not seriously consider myself a vegan. But I press on. I strive to live this way, not because of some weird hippie mentality or millennial trend, but because I think it is a better way to live. I think it honors my body, keeps me healthier, and prevents animal mistreatment.

So in the end, I trust my pastor is right. Veganism is biblical. It is certainly more biblical than I had anticipated it would be and I’ve come to see that Christians can undoubtedly be vegans. In fact, I actually think it makes more sense for a Christian to be a vegan than for anyone else to be one. This is my personal conviction, and I have no intention of forcing it on you or anyone else. I only ask that you ask yourself: is what I’m putting in my body good for me?

 

*“Veganism” traditionally refers to a lifestyle free of animal products. This includes animal free clothing, toiletries, and more. Today, many call themselves “vegan” when in reality, they merely adopted the vegan diet. I am referring to both groups here.

7 replies
  1. Christine
    Christine says:

    I think the final question isn’t so much “is what I’m eating good for me?” Ultimately, it’s a broader question of “Am I seeking to glorify God in what I eat/ how I eat it/ how I prepare and share it?” Following a certain diet or lifestyle for personal benefit is okay, but it is so much greater to see that diet or lifestyle as yet another way of witnessing God’s goodness.

    Reply
  2. Johnny
    Johnny says:

    I am a Christian Vegan.
    I think the biggest argument for being a Vegan, is simple…..
    Love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself.
    Veganism takes into account, not only the animals, but the people affected by this whole debate.
    There are Farmers and Ranchers, Hunters and Trappers waking up, they are in fact repenting.
    They are becoming transformed by the Holy Spirit into new creations.
    For a Hunter to put away his gun, and instead start to care and nurture the animals….. sounds an awful like Isaiah 2:4.

    Reply
  3. Sei Bee
    Sei Bee says:

    *“Veganism” traditionally refers to a lifestyle free of animal products. This includes animal free clothing, toiletries, and more. Today, many call themselves “vegan” when in reality, they merely adopted the vegan diet. I am referring to both groups here.

    *”Christianity” traditionally refers to salvation, acceptance of Christ as the risen Saviour, infilling with the Holy Spirit and a completely changed nature as a result. Today, many call themselves “Christian” when in reality, they merely adopted the Christian lifestyle, meet on Sundays but don’t know Jesus. Are you referring to both these groups here also?

    Reply
  4. Lindsay
    Lindsay says:

    I’m Christian and I have been eating vegan for only a few months in order to be healthier as a mother, wife, and for whatever God brings my way daily.
    I have been criticized and questioned by other Christians (some my own family), where they have even recited Scripture in an attempt to tell me I’m wrong for my choices. I don’t understand why they do this, but it kind of makes me feel like legalism can heavily come into play here. If I feel that I’m honoring God by putting healthier foods in my body and reaping results of feeling healthier and better able to take on what He has purposed me for, why am I criticized and laughed at? I’m not in any way trying to push anything on them nor do I criticize them for eating meat, dairy milk, etc.
    I guess what I’m searching for is, Does eating vegan really threaten the work that Jesus Christ has done on the cross? Does it change the gospel? Will it alter what I believe and Who I serve? Will eating vegan have me fall into sin? Would I be in sin for eating a plant based foods diet when I feel it’s helping me be healthier?
    If not, why all the criticism?
    I don’t see many other vegan Christians, or maybe it’s because they aren’t vocal.
    Just need some encouragement…
    Thank you!
    -Lindsay

    Reply
    • Shelby
      Shelby says:

      Hi Lindsey,

      My name is Shelby, and I am a Christian vegan as well.
      To answer some of your questions, No. I do not think veganism takes anything away from or threatens the cross and salvation. To me, I honestly believe eating and living a vegan lifestyle to the best of my ability actually speaks volumes to His grace and great mercy. We were given the choice to, and each have our own convictions. Our degree of modesty, diet, to drink alcohol or abstain are all examples of our individual convictions. The gospel does not change, not at all. Nothing we can do or not do will ever change the Truth of His word. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Mathew 6:33 If you are focused and set on seeking His kingdom and His righteousness first, then no, it will not change on who you serve or what you believe. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4 What is sinful about not harming animals or paying others to do so? what is sinful about eating whole foods? I have received criticism too, as many if not all vegans have at one point. Most people with veganism, as with Christianity or religion, are not open to being told what they have always known is not okay and/or wrong. Traditions can be hard to break. My family is supportive now, even though they make jokes and still don’t understand. My husband has now decided to give it a try for his health, and he cannot believe how well he has felt. He once told me he would never eat a meal without meat and cheese… he has been without animal products for a few months now, (at least at home.) It took time for him to see my passion for veganism on a christian basis. After I stopped bugging him, he came around on his own. Again, like christianity, how is one won over to Christ? By sewing a seed and allowing God to speak in His time. He calls us. He leads us. We cannot force someone to be saved, although many have tried.
      I pray you all the best, Lindsey. Just an encouragement for not knowing other Christian vegans, I only knew one older couple at my church who were vegetarian before I became interested in learning more about it. Maybe you are that one in your area, you know? Shine The light <3
      Sincerely,
      Shelby

    • Danni
      Danni says:

      Lindsay,
      I just made the switch to being a vegan. I do not believe that any of those questions are true. We are fueling our bodies to with what God has made for us. Like the blog stated that we were meant for a plant based diet. With that anything be a sin if you allow it to take precedence over God. Is working out a sin no but if it becomes an idol then maybe one should ask why they are working out or eating plant based foods. Does this make sense? Hope this helps! I’m so excited to switch! Hopefully I will start feeling better.

      Danni

  5. Nadia
    Nadia says:

    Thank you for writing this article. It has inspired me to seriously consider the amount of crisps I eat everyday. I am a Christian vegan by conviction and thought it was okay to stuff my body with harsh chemicals everyday because at least it is vegan chemicals and I am not contributing to animal suffering. But even though I have read these Bible verses so many times, this article has just made them come alive for me. I cannot continue to treat my body like a dustbin. (I eat a party pack of crisps everyday!!!)

    On another note, I also need lots of encouragement. My entire family, friends and coworker community is Christian, and not vegan. Not only that, they mock me and laugh at my convictions. They argue with me that the Bible says we must eat animals and tell me how unhealthy I will become if I continue with this diet. They also tell me that God doesn’t care about what we eat or drink and I am following a cult. I am having a hard time continuously explaining myself at different dinner tables. I never have a meal in peace. I don’t know if I seeing things in perspective, but sometimes it feels like they are ganging up against me to overrule my conviction and biblically proof that I am on the wrong path and must just admit it, apologize and start eatinf animals again. I do not want to exclude myself from society as I feel that we are all called to do God’s work and save souls and make a difference in this planet. So I would like to continue to socialize with people, engage with them in discussion. I just get really emotionally worn out by it and need some encouragement. My own husband has attacked me many times for the lifestyle I chose, so I cannot even chat to him about my feelings.

    Reply

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