A Question I Was Asked:

Isn't Halal Meat 'Meat Offered to Idols'?

Can Halal meat be considered as 'meat offered to idols,' as apparently moslem prayers are spoken over it? Acts 15 v.20 and v 29 state pretty clearly that meat offered for idols is unclean and may not be eaten, yet Paul in 1 Cor. 8 v 1-11 does not condemn this, indeed, he might even be said to be helping the "weaker brother" to eat it in view of his remarks.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay let us look at this.

"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." (Acts 15:19-20).

'It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.' (verses 28-29).

Halal meat is still just meat. I think it would really be stretching the point to describe it as 'meat offered to idols' in the Pauline New Testament sense, although I suppose one could make that connection. Regarding the Jerusalem conference of AD49/50, the leaders had to make some judgments in view of the fact that so many Gentiles were becoming Christians. People coming to Christ were, henceforth, expected to conform to these standards, at least as a starting point. These specific points get mentioned because they represented problem areas of common Gentile behaviour of that time. But now let us check what Paul the Apostle was later able to say. We now go from about AD50 to somewhere around AD55:

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that "We all possess knowledge." But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God. So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that "An idol is nothing at all in the world" and that "There is no God but one." For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol's temple, won't that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall. (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).

Paul is now making the very valid point that, at the end of the day, meat is just meat and every Christian knows there is only one God, so - for the mature Christian - there is little problem with this. However, some have weaker faith and weaker understanding and do not 'get' this point very easily. So the more mature Christian must consider the weaker understanding of these people and not cause any offence to them, nor any occasion of stumbling to their consciences. This is the mature approach. So the more rigid starting point on this topic for those Gentiles who first came to Christ could be relaxed as and when their understanding deepened and they matured in the Faith.

I think we all recognise and note that many of those coming to Christ can initially be somewhat 'picky,' legalistic and literalistic in their understanding, also very prone to judging other believers. Paul was concerned that these people should not be offended or confused until their understanding broadened and their faith further developed.

Hopefully, the mature Christian in our day will take note that halal meat is still just meat and there is but One True God so why be concerned about this? Another problem, however, is that many believe that halal slaughter is more cruel and should not become the normal practice.

Robin A. Brace. May 17th, 2014.