Is God a Vegetarian?: Christianity, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights / Edition 1

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Is God a Vegetarian? is one of the most complete explorations of vegetarianism in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Young, a linguistics and New Testament scholar, attempts to answer the question being asked with greater and greater frequency: "Are Christians morally obligated to be vegetarians?"

Many people are confused about the apparent mixed messages within the Bible. On the one hand, God prescribes a vegetarian diet in the Garden of Eden and the apocalyptic visions of Isaiah and John imply the restoration of a vegetarian diet. However, it is also clear that God permits, Jesus partakes in, and Paul sanctions the eating of flesh. Does the Bible give any clear guidance?

Close readings of key biblical texts pertaining to dietary customs, vegetarianism, and animal rights make up the substance of the book. Rather than ignoring or offering a literal, twentieth-century interpretation of the passages, the author analyzes the voices of these conflicting dietary motifs within their own social contexts. Interwoven throughout these readings are discussions of contemporary issues, such as animal testing and experimentation, the fur industry, raising animals in factories, and the effects of meat-eating on human health.

Thirteen chapters cover such topics as
-- the vegetarian diet in the Garden of Eden
-- the clothing of the first humans in animal skins
-- God's permitting humans to eat meat
-- animal sacrifice
-- the dietary habits of Jesus and the early apostles
-- Paul's condemnation of vegetarianism as heresy
-- the dietary views of the early church fathers
-- the peaceable kingdom.

The author provides two vegetarian recipes at the end of each chapter. Anepilogueincludes guidelines for becoming a vegetarian and a recommended reading list.

Insightful and challenging, Is God a Vegetarian? poses provocative questions for vegetarians, Christians, and anyone reflecting upon her personal choices and ethical role in our world today.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice Magazine
As a proponent of a narrative ethic of virtues, [Young] portrays the main biblical story as one of moving from the nonviolent peace of creation to the Peaceable Kingdom at the end with, in between, a divine permission of meat eating and sacrifices as a concession to human limitations and existing customs. He invites his readers to enter this story, he provides vegetarian recipes with each chapter and an epilogue on how to achieve a healthful vegetarian diet, and he answers the typical arguments of meat-eating biblical Christians. A valuable addition to any collection that deals with vegetarianism or Biblical studies.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Young, who teaches New Testament at Temple Baptist Seminary, is as concerned with how to read scripture as he is with vegetarianism. As a result, he offers an insightful account of biblical ethics combined with an accessible argument for vegetarianism. Rather than mining scripture for proof texts, he searches for "directional markers" that serve as "flexible guidelines" for Christians looking to make moral decisions about animal rights and vegetarianism. His argument against cruelty to animals is not grounded in an abstract set of rights but in a narrative account that depicts a God intimately related to the whole of creation. Not set simply on proving that Jesus was a vegetarian, Young describes a peaceable kingdom where harmonious relations among creatures is more consistent with the Hebrew understanding of God than is a world marked by violence. Young returns repeatedly to biblical images of a peaceable kingdom and asks how we can evoke similar images in our own places and times. Each of his 13 chapters ends with two vegetarian recipes, and the epilogue offers a simple but well-documented account of "going veggie." As a whole, the book is a practical introduction to ethics made particularly accessible by sustained attention to a single popular issue. It is also an articulate case for vegetarianism that is neither simply a popular treatise on health and diet nor a political treatise on animal rights. Young's book offers a thoughtful reflection on a world of peace and justice in which, though we may not be what we eat, what we eat, and why, is an integral part of who we are. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Religions have been used to justify variations of human behavior ranging from how to wage war to ways of preserving peace. The religious reasons why humans should restrain from eating meat are the concern of these two books. Berry, historical adviser to the North American Vegetarian Society, has compiled essays discussing how the world's religions (Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Judaism, Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity, and Sufism) have dealt with vegetarianism. Accompanying each essay is an interview with a vegetarian practitioner of that particular faith, usually a clergy member, monk, or self-proclaimed follower. The true value of this book is in these interviews, where the scholarly interpretations of religious texts come alive in the daily practices of the believers. Unlike Berry, Young (New Testament studies, Temple Baptist Seminary) restricts his perspective to biblical interpretations of text concerning the dietary laws and customs of Christians and Jews. It is through this careful reading of the Bible that he engages the reader in a discussion of the dilemma, both religious and social, of whether "real" Christians should be vegetarians. He expands his thesis to include animal testing and experimentation, the fur industry, and animal factories. Both books strongly advocate vegetarianism, and the theological arguments are biased toward non-meat eating, but this does not distract from the deep scholarship performed by both authors. For those who are seeking a religious basis for their vegetarianism, these two books are essential reading. Recommended for all libraries.--Glenn Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812693935
  • Publisher: Open Court Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 187
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Was Jesus a Vegetarian? 1
2 Would a Veggie Garfield Be a Happy Cat? 15
3 Was God the First Tanner? 28
4 Was Noah's Ark an Early Food Factory? 41
5 Didn't God Permit Us to Eat Meat? 53
6 Isn't Passover Lamb the Main Entree? 65
7 Was Jesus Kosher? 77
8 Didn't John the Baptist Snack on Locusts? 90
9 Doesn't God Care about Our Health? 102
10 Didn't Paul Condemn Vegetarianism as Heresy? 115
11 Is Christian Vegetarianism Only for Desert Monks? 127
12 Will There Be Slaughterhouses in Heaven? 140
13 What Then Shall We Eat? 153
Epilogue: Going Vegetarian 167
Further Reading 178
General Index 181
Recipe Index 187
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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted June 17, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Pros: Excellent discussion of concept, Intriguing read from begi

    Pros: Excellent discussion of concept, Intriguing read from beginning to end. Covers vegetarian issue in the most through way that I have ever seen in a book on religion and diet. Provocative title

    Cons: Author's personal bias and conclusion may not be a good fit for some reasons. Author's openness may not be a good fit for others. More work needed on last section.

    Was Adam and his companion Eve vegetarian? (Check Genesis 1:29)

    If so, why was Noah and his family allowed to eat meat? (Genesis 9:3)

    Did Jesus say that dietary laws were no applicable? (Matthew 15:11)

    What was going on with those vegetarians in the New Testament (Romans 14_1-4)

    This book covered a lot of ground for me and changed my perspective on diet and the Bible more than any other book has. Some of the questions that are shown above were some of the same ones that I struggled with as I began to seriously study the Bible. Ever since 2007, I have sought to reconcile my beliefs about faith with my beliefs about food. That journey has led me to seek a diet that is organic and as close to nature as possible. In other words, I became a Paleo.

    I chose this book because of the provocative title and because it offered a chance to explore "the other side" of being healthy. As a Paleo, meat is encouraged (if not worshiped) in some circles. That can lead to a one-sided diet. What about vegetarians?

    In this book, Richard A. Young attempts to provide readers with a case supporting that vegetarianism was and is God's preferred diet for humans (and if I read correctly) animals. 

    That presents a problem...

    The Bible is replete with examples of animal sacrifice and eating meat (Jesus ate fish!). 

    The author seeks to solve this problem by walking the reader through almost every section in the Bible covering diet (from Old Testament to New Testament). He guides readers through Jewish history and philosophy as well as early Christian writing to come to support his surprising belief that vegetarianism is the preferred physical and spiritual diet for humans. Sprinkled throughout the book are recipes that can help a reader get started on the vegan and vegetarian path. There is a small section covering how to get started, but I didn't find it as useful as just following the recipes.

    If you are a person of the Christian faith who has questions or issues about eating meat (or just curious about veganism/vegetarianism), this is definitely the book for you. If you are not, you might find some interesting insights on diet and Bible, but you might be turned off by the author's conclusion and personal opinion that are sprinkled rather heavily in the text. The author does a decent job of showing opposing sides, but if you aren't looking to change diet, this book isn't for you.

    After reading this, I will never look at vegetables and fruit the same again! I don't know if I will go as far as vegan or vegetarian, but I certainly have more respect for them. I also plan on including some vegetarian days into my diet and will see how it goes.

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