THE question of health is of primary concern to every Christian minister; and Adventism has been the chief exponent of the concept that the physical, spiritual, and mental powers of man are inseparably interrelated. Fresh air, sunshine, rest, exercise, mental culture, spiritual progress, and diet all have their bearing on a minister's health and hence on his power for good. To neglect any one of these vital factors is to deprive oneself of the physical stamina so necessary to continued effective spiritual ministry.
All phases of the health question cannot be considered in this article, nor can this treatment of only one phase be exhausted. This article concerns itself with the effects of flesh eating on the minister's physical, moral, and mental health. To eat or not to eat, that is the question.
In this, as in all other questions of fact, some proponents claim too much. The extravagances of their claims have resulted in their being called fanatics. The truth is that not all who claim "too much" are fanatics. Some are conscientiously mistaken. Others have a zeal that is not according to knowledge. The overzealous have done much to hinder the acceptance of this counsel to the church.
The Bible reveals vegetarianism as the original diet of man. Furthermore, the health counsel of the church relative to diet is based on the fact that a balanced vegetable diet is the most healthful and hence best for man. However, those who claim that the eating of clean meats is a sin claim too much. The apostle Paul warned against this very thing in 1 Timothy 4: 1, 3. Moreover, the Bible is replete with biographies of the most God-fearing men to whom meat was permitted as an article of diet. Indeed, the Master Himself served fish to thousands of His listeners, and was Himself served fish by those who knew Him best. There is no Biblical hint that eating clean flesh was, is, or ever will be a sin.
Let the reader remember that in the counsels to the church on this matter mention is made that the flesh diet would be a continuing necessity for some. Those exceptions are (1) certain sick persons, (2) those living in areas where a balanced vegetable diet is not available, and (3) those who are uneducated in the matter of preparing balanced vegetarian meals. All others are urged to give this matter their prayerful attention. We all will agree that vegetarianism cannot assume the force of commandment. It must be taught, urged, and promoted, but never made a test of spirituality. Right and wrong are constant. They do not fluctuate from age to age. If eating clean flesh is a sin now, it always was and always will be. The fact is that it is no sin now, never was, and never will be.
From the foregoing it is clear that the eating of Biblically permitted flesh is lawful. However, 1 Corinthians 6:12 indicates that all things lawful are not expedient or profitable. Indeed, there is evidence in abundance that as the end approaches, many things that are not in themselves sinful will, because of sin, become inexpedient for us. This is true of the practice of flesh eating. Flesh eating has from its inception served to shorten man's life. But in later years diseases in animals have made flesh eating hazardous.
There are but few animals that are free from disease. . . . Many poor animals are left to breathe the poison of filth which is left in barns and stables. . . . Disease is conveyed to the liver, and the entire system of the animal is diseased. They are killed, and prepared for the market, and people eat freely of this poisonous animal food. Much disease is caused in this manner. But people cannot be made to believe that it is the meat they have eaten, which has poisoned their blood, and caused their sufferings. Many die of disease caused wholly by meat-eating, yet the world does not seem to be the wiser. —Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 418.
Those who are inclined to trust in modern sanitation and improved methods of processing meat need only consult the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bulletin on diseases in animals, or read some of the current magazine exposures on the subject to know that this condition among animals has become more aggravated. But the hazards of flesh eating are not purely physical.
By the use of flesh meat the animal nature is strengthened and the spiritual nature weakened.— Evangelism, p. 663.
In this era of moral apostasy the man of God can ill afford to increase the odds against his survival. Though vegetarianism does not guarantee chastity nor flesh eating destroy it, the latter does place undue strain upon it. Hence it is a weight. Says the Scriptures, "Let us lay aside every weight" (Heb. 12:1). On this subject the Advent ministry has access to great light. It is their privilege to become teaching examples o£ healthful living. It is true that the kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink. But who can deny that meat and drink have been stumbling blocks to the kingdom in many instances? Possessors of great light are strongly urged to practice healthful living.
If, in the face of the light God has given concerning the effect of meat eating on the system, you will still continue to eat meat, you must bear the consequences.—Ibid., p. 664.
Physical health is not the only part of man's life affected by flesh eating.
Would God for thirty years give His people the message that if they desire to have pure blood and clear minds, they must give up the use of flesh meat, if He did not want them to heed this message?— Ibid., p. 663.
This statement cannot mean that vegetarians have clear minds and flesh eaters do not. The reader is probably familiar with some abstainers who live in perpetual mental fog and meat eaters who are noted for their sharp, analytical minds. It is, rather, a challenge to the individual to attain to his own full potential, casting off all hindrances.
Finally, there is the question of ministerial influence. Does not this striking statement of the apostle apply here? "Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend" (1 Cor. 8:13).
Brethren, the laymen are reading the books published by the church. The writings of Ellen G. White are accepted by them as of divine origin. It does little to strengthen the confidence of laymen in these teachings when they see Heaven's counsel lightly regarded.
Be careful what attitude you assume, lest you be found causing division. ... Do not harm others by opposing the light God has given on this subject. . . . Do not take a position before the people that will permit them to think that it is not necessary to call for a reform in regard to meat eating, because the Lord is calling for reform. ... In counterworking the efforts of your fellow laborers who are teaching health reform, you are out of order, working on the wrong side.—Ibid., pp. 664, 665.
Fanatical groups within the church are creating havoc with this phase of the Lord's program. Is it not time that the ministry seize the initiative, organize classes, and teach total health reform to God's people? If not now, when?
It will go forward, for it is the Lord's means of lessening the suffering in our world and of purifying His people.—Ibid., p. 664.
The advent ministry is debtor to the world. Millions are being spent in experimentation to learn what God through His messenger has long ago revealed to His church. "My meat," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (John 4:34).