Monday, January 23, 2012

Are vegetarians heretics?

I like vegetables. As far as I can remember I always have. And there are few that I will absolutely refuse to eat. I will even confess to enjoying the occasional Boca or black bean burger. But I won't eat tofu and I certainly won't eat anything containing tofu masquerading as meat. Tofurkey not only sounds bad, it tastes bad too. So I guess if there is a vegetable I don't like it is soy beans. No matter how you hide it, yuck!

But I also like meat! And just about any kind. It is hard to beat a nice steak, a sloppy burger, or a really good piece of chicken or pork. If I had been on the roof in Joppa that day praying next to Peter, saw a sheet full of animals and the voice of God telling me "get up, kill, eat" the only questions I would have is "do you have any BBQ sauce and a napkin?" So the idea of being a vegetarian is pretty far removed from my lifestyle choices.

Some vegetarians are "evangelists" for the cause and go so far as to turn it into a theology of creation suggesting that we should not eat anything that must be killed in order to consume it. They suggest that this is somehow a violation of the created order and makes the consumer of meat akin to the murderer.

It is interesting, however, that in the history of Christianity vegetarianism is one of the hallmarks of some the more famous heretical groups. Over at The Bible and Interpretation, Sebastian Moll has a short essay looking at the connections between vegetarianism and heresy. He has an interesting take on the issue.

Here is a bit of what he has to say.

Modern vegetarians often refer to theological terminology such as “reverence for life” or “respecting creation” when defending their position. Ironically, in the Early Church the situation is exactly the other way around. Abstaining from meat is considered a sign of heresy. In the Canons of the Council of Ancyra (314), it is stated: “It is decreed that among the clergy, presbyters and deacons who abstain from meat shall taste of it, and afterwards, if they shall so please, may abstain. But if they disdain it, and will not even eat herbs served with meat, but disobey the canon, let them be removed from their order.” While never included into Church Law, this anathema is confirmed by several later councils, such as the Council of Braga (Portugal, 561), at which the anathema is expanded to include clergy and lay people alike.

Many heretical groups in early Christianity indeed practiced vegetarianism, for example the Marcionites and the Manicheans. Traditional scholarship attributes this behavior to just another form of asceticism. But if the councils wanted to condemn radical asceticism, why is there no anathema for people who abstain from alcohol, for example? What is the reason for the special concern with the question of eating meat? Are vegetarians really a threat to Christian orthodoxy?

You can read the whole article here.


  1. Hilarious! I've gone the whole gamut, from thoroughly enjoying the roast bear and bison hunted by my dad's best buddy, when I was a child, to rarely eating meat of any kind as an adult, but not from a change in theology but just health issues. Nothing beats the fragrance of a BBQ ... I'm no heretic!

    Enjoy being a carnivore, John.

  2. Many heretics read the Bible, this was discouraged by church authorities - so don't do it.

  3. Don't know whether you'd call it "veggie evangelism", but there are some thoughtful points made in this brief "repentant carnivore" post:


  4. I don't eat meat or dairy; you call this being vegan, even though I don't refer to myself as vegan but someone who eats the starch based meal plan. However, morally I don't have a problem eating meat if I wanted to. But we in the west have many health problems that stem from the high fat, high protein, and low fiber eating plan. And I think we have been mislead by the medical establishment for the most part. If you want to really know what it feels like to have tons of energy and be healthy check out this site:
    Also, I never knew that the Bible was a book on nutrition. Kinda of thought it was soteriological in nature and not anti-cultural. Never did agree with anyone who uses the Bible to advocate either vegetarianism or the western diet or any other diet for that matter!

  5. Animals are my friends, and I don't eat my friends. Quote by George Bernard Shaw. Next time you want to eat meat, look into the eyes of the animal, and remember that it's a living creature. I've been a vegetarian for over a year now and it was the best decision I made ever. Never again will I ever dine on the 2-5 day old carcass of a dead animal. Eating meat=eating death !! Not only is the slaughter of animals wrong and deplorable, think of the damage it does to the environment in producing meat on a commercial basis. Not only am I happier for being a vegetarian, I am also much healthier !! The idea of being a flesh eater, which is really akin to cannabilism, is very much far from my lifestyle choices. Viva vegetarianism !! Animals have just as much a right to life as the greatest enemy of our planet.. Man !

    1. How hard is it to recognize the meat man enjoys at the d