A Question I Was Asked:

Should Christians Eat Unclean Meat?

The Question:

Leviticus, chapter eleven, states that believers in God should not eat many things which Christians now eat. These things include pork, ham, crabs, lobsters and so on. Other verses show that undercooked/still red meat should not be eaten. Is this why Christians are unhealthy?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, we need to be careful about how we use terms here. This law was given to Israelites but it is overturned in Acts:

9. About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.
10. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
11. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.
12. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.
13. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."
14. "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."
15. The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
16. This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. (Acts 10:9-15).

Now, of course, this was all about the Gentiles - not animals at all (as the following verses of Acts 10 make clear). God was showing Peter that the people of Israel must now start accepting Gentiles (the Jews had considered them little better than 'unclean' animals). Having said that, it is pretty much inconceivable that the ban on eating certain kinds of animal flesh could have remained after that; otherwise this was offering a misleading example. Indeed, verse 15 specifically states that that law no longer has authority.

Now that certainly does not mean that one has to eat animal flesh and many never do. Still others prefer to eat what had been regarded as 'clean' animal flesh (beef, lamb, scaled fish - but not shellfish, for instance). But - under the New Covenant - this is no longer about regulation, it is a matter of choice.

Yet we should now exercise good judgment in these areas. Shellfish, for example, are a primary cause of food poisoning. Personally I choose never to eat them, but that is my choice, I am not under any old covenant law in this matter as the New Testament makes clear. Neither do I eat pork or bacon, my wife, however, does.

Undercooked and still-red meat should not be eaten in my opinion, although many like to do so. There is a real possibility of various bad things being passed on through undercooked meat; the fact that it is now fashionable to eat rare meat does not make it good! Incidentally, steak tartare (which is raw steak) has been implicated in the recent death of Michael Winner, the British film director. Also, oysters started his final run of bad health. Read this:

"The director had experienced a run of ill-health since eating a bad oyster on holiday in Barbados in 2007. It gave him the rare bacterial infection Vibrio vulnificus, which kills about 50 per cent of its victims within 48 hours. He was on the brink of death five times and underwent a gruelling 19 operations, including the removal of three tendons, leaving him with mobility difficulties. ...... Later, he picked up the E coli infection from a steak tartare, and was hospitalised eight times in the last few months of his life." (end of quote, taken from BBC News here.).

It seems as though the Israelites would have opened themselves up to serious illnesses and infections if they had consumed 'unclean' meat whilst existing in a desert wilderness, so they were given these animal flesh laws for their own protection. Even today, pork is a far less healthy and nutricious meat than beef or lamb. However, some choose to eat it. Today we don't stand under old covenant laws but it is not wrong to see if they were teaching any worthwhile principles, or were purely for a particular time and place simply in order to teach obedience.

But are Christians unhealthy? No, I don't think we generally are. In fact some sort of health research was done a few years back, can't recall where now but I think it was in the States. It found that committed Christians enjoyed better health and bounced back quicker from more serious illnesses than non-believers. That is pretty much what I would have expected; that does not mean that Christians don't get serious illnesses: we do, but generally we fare better.

Obviously my advice about rare (under-cooked) meat is not spiritual advice but physical advice which I offer for what it's worth.

Robin A. Brace. February 14th, 2013.