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Is God a Vegetarian?: Christianity, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights [Paperback]

By Richard Alan Young (Author)
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Item description for Is God a Vegetarian?: Christianity, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights by Richard Alan Young...

Close readings of key biblical texts pertaining to dietary customs, vegetarianism, and animal rights comprise the substance of this book. Rather than ignoring or offering a literal, 20th-century interpretation of the passages, Young analyzes the voices of these conflicting dietary motifs within their own social contexts.

Publishers Description
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. An epilogueincludes 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.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Is God a Vegetarian?: Christianity, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights by Richard Alan Young has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Publishers Weekly - 08/17/1998 page 64
  • Library Journal - 09/15/1998 page 84

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Open Court Publishing Company
Pages   208
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.04" Width: 6.2" Height: 0.55"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 30, 1998
Publisher   Open Court Publishing Company
ISBN  0812693930  
ISBN13  9780812693935  

Availability  59 units.
Availability accurate as of Jul 25, 2017 09:08.
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More About Richard Alan Young

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Young is professor of New Testament studies at Temple Baptist Seminary, and founder and board member of EarthCare, and ecumenical Christian environmental organization.

Richard Alan Young currently resides in the state of Pennsylvania. Richard Alan Young was born in 1944 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Temple Universitu.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > General
9Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism
10Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Ethics
11Books > Subjects > Science > Nature & Ecology > Animal Rights

Reviews - What do customers think about Is God a Vegetarian?: Christianity, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights?

Could have been great, but author's thesis is misfocused.  Mar 26, 2007
I agree with the author's overarching view of biblical hermeneutics -- searching for "directional markers" that build an internally consistent perspective, rather than (non-contextual) "proof texting," a generally paroxysmal and frivolous approach to scriptural study and application. But it seems unfortunate that, given this broadly impacting issue of meat production and consumption, Young has 'hung his hat' so specifically on the concept of 'cruelty' against animals, and of their 'rights', as these issues are, at best, an aside to the far larger moral/ethical, logical, economic, ecological, health related, theological, and human stewardship considerations attached to flesh-foundering. The real ethical questions cannot be reduced sloppily to 'was Jesus a vegetarian?' or 'did Noah eat meat?' (Young sees this much). The deeper ethical issues of today relate to the 21st century world we live in, and should not be reduced to 'muskrat love', they are larger than that, and ask to be considered with 'the wisdom of serpents' (Matt 10:16).

Many in wealthy western culture, uneducated in the science and ethics of meat, think most easily of vegetarians as being equally soft hearted and soft headed; that vegetarians are teary-eyed cow huggers. But the 'animal rights' approach to the meat market culture is the least relevant and persuasive tack toward dealing with the truer, larger picture. In terms of Christian ethics urging the world toward a proactive "peaceable kingdom" (I have no argument against this), the 'animal rights' focus is rather like 'the tail wagging the dog.' More significant moral/ethical issues, relative to vegetarianism, are:

1.) Environmental degradation concomitant to the modern animal-based diet may be the most significant (and popularly overlooked) global assault on nature; an assault featuring deforestation for the production of commercial livestock, loss of biodiversity (plant and animal, terrestrial and aquatic), unnecessary burning of fossil fuels, air and water pollution, loss of topsoil and arable land, desertification, the list goes on. A single east coast factory hog farm constantly produces more raw sewage than the city of Los Angeles, sewage containing harmful bacteria and disease that is simply introduced to ground water (the related ecological and public health problems were briefly presented on the television news magazine 60 Minutes). Neither laws demanding nicer treatment of little piggies nor regulations on the treatment of pig pee are going to alleviate the problem. The only solution is for Americans to rethink their diet of bacon double cheeseburgers and pork sausage. The ecological issues of modern meat are far too large to discuss adequately here, they stretch from the factory farm to the open ocean to the upper atmosphere.

2.) The moral/ethical problems of meat eating are not only environmental, they are economic. Pandering to the palette of the wealthy beefeater demands [anti-human] misdirection of economic assets. Generally speaking, it takes 16 pounds of vegetable protein to produce 1 pound of animal protein. With that comes much more than 16 times the water and fuel! At the height of the 1984-85 Ethiopian famine, while more than a million people were dying of hunger, European meat producers were buying feed grains from -- Ethiopia! Will humanity's natural, agricultural, and economic assets serve humanity, or will they serve the gluttony of the wealthy? Along these same lines, the respected Christian author Richard J Foster touched very briefly on important aspects of the meat focused diet in his book Freedom of Simplicity (1981): "A million hogs in Indiana have superior housing to a billion humans on this planet." And those "million hogs" are degrading ground water, proliferating disease and ultimately creating cancers and premature human deaths (see below). Lest you think there'd be a net deficit of jobs if we eliminated meat packers and cowboys' livelihoods in favor of a plant based diet, assuredly that is not the case. No industry provides fewer jobs per unit of land used than does cattle ranching; a nation with a vegetable based diet would have the potential to create more net jobs while actually reducing costs for the consumer. That may sound contradictory, but federal meat industry subsidies prop up this meat-mad system. Here's one maddening example of these subsidies: If I go for a hike in nearby Cleveland National Forest, I won't see any of the once native pronghorn antelope, instead I'll probably see cows, ranching long ago extirpated the antelope. And guess who pays for these cattle grazing on public lands. As an American taxpayer, I do! The US government builds access roads, digs wells, pipes water, and provides other products and services for the cattle industry that uses public lands. Ranchers theoretically "lease" these land accesses, but the "leases" are laughable, do not cover the public expenditure that underwrites them, and amount to government giveaways. I may not eat beef, but as a US taxpayer, I pay for wealthy beefeaters to eat beef!

3.) The animal based diet is finally a disease and death centered diet. Billions of Chinese have a long tradition of a vegetable based diet, and they have virtually no incidence of obesity, heart disease, GI tract cancers, osteoporosis, or scores of other meat-related maladies -- UNLESS they move to the west and take up the animal based diet. Several excellent medical studies make the point clearly, meat kills (not just cute little lambs, meat kills people!). The health-related issues of the animal based diet are obviously bound to the economic issues as well (for example, health care asset allocation). Will we feed starving people or spend our financial assets first supplementing and then trying to deal with fat people's self-inflicted meat-based sicknesses? The human health issue looms as large as the ecological and economic issues, and is too great to be treated adequately here. These are all highly moral and ethical Christian stewardship questions. How can Christians turn a blind eye?

There are still other ethical issues tied to the animal based diet, and "animal rights" MAY be one of them. But this is not so clear. Is it rational or meaningful to suggest that because animals sense pain that they have any sense of "cruelty"? That they have any sense of their "rights" being violated or of some "injustice" being imposed on them? These are surly sentient concepts well beyond the ken of the animal mind, whatever it may be. The "animal rights" approach to the question of meat appeals to 'warm fuzzy' ideas but what is needed is a serious, hardheaded treatment (by the way, if we begin to do the right things, for the right reasons, the "animal rights" question will begin to go away!). Excepting perhaps Adventists, most Christians have been sadly silent on the matter of meat-mongering (some have even embarrassed themselves with goofy "proof texting" attempts to define vegetarianism as a biblical heresy!).

Young's thesis aspires to a robust view of biblical hermeneutics, which is a good thing. It aspires to treat an important topic. But the "animal rights" focus is misplaced. An outstanding book on the moral/ethical and health issues surrounding the animal based diet is Howard F. Lyman's 'Mad Cowboy'. Christians should have been publishing books like Lyman's decades ago; being shining beacons of conscience in the material darkness, not hiding in that darkness in blissful ignorance and self-indulgence. It's not too late to start doing the right thing.
Clear, Concise, and Compelling  Apr 6, 2006
Young's purpose in "Is God a Vegetarian?" is simple: to explore the biblical foundations for Christian vegetarianism. Young chooses to listen to "the entire story" of Scripture to make a case for Christian vegetarianism rather than relying on certain "proof-texts".

The core of Young's argument is that the story of Scripture reveals that God is moving humans and animals towards a "peaceable kingdom" where they live together in harmony. Considering this, Christians should structure their lives and daily practices (including their diet) in such a way that it reflects this ultimate destiny.

As a Christian who is exploring the theological and ethical issues of vegetarianism, I found this book to be extremely helpful and informative. Young manages to be balanced, and not biased; simple, and yet not simplistic.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is searching for more information on the biblical basis for Christian vegetarianism.
Excellent Treatise on the Basis for Christian Vegetarianism  Mar 21, 2006
I must say that I was initially put off by the title of this book. I assumed from the title that this must be another one of "those" Christian arguments for vegetarianism--you know, the ones that use out of context prooftexts to argue that Jesus really was a vegetarian. However, one of my colleagues did his Ph.D. work with Richard Alan Young, and he told me that Young was not only an excellent scholar, but a person who lived his convictions. So I decided to give the book a try, in spite of the title.

I am so glad I did. Young deals with the major issues and texts which arise when the question of vegetarianism is posed. Each chapter heading is a question which leads the author into a discussion of the relevant texts and historical background. He addresses questions like "Was Jesus a Vegetarian?" "Didn't God Permit Us to Eat Meat?" and "Didn't Paul Condemn Vegetarianism as Heresy?" with honesty and theological integrity. He does not try to force intepretations out of the texts, but lets them speak for themselves, offering a balanced and evenhanded treatment.

Most importantly, Young offers one of the best arguments for Christian vegetarianism I've read to date. He does not resort to prooftexting or spurious arguments based on scant biblical evidence. Instead he builds the case for vegetarianism upon a much broader biblical perspective--the peaceable kingdom. In sum, Genesis 1 and 2 offer the ideal view of human existence: humans and animals are vegetarians, humans are the caregivers of God's creation, the world and all creation are at peace. Unfortunately, all that is shattered in Genesis 3. However, the biblical material looks forward to a reinstatement of that original harmony. Examining the prophets vision of the peaceable kingdom, Young concludes that the role of Christians is to do God's will on earth as it is in heaven. In other words, Jesus' vision of the kingdom of heaven is a here and now concept, not a concept that will occur only in heaven. "The peaceable kingdom encompasses the full range of human moral aspirations, depicts peaceful coexistence between humans and nonhumans, and represents the goal toward which God is guiding history" (150).

Our job as Christians is to envision the peaceable kingdom and work to bring it about. Christ's act on the cross was an act of restoration, not just between humans and God, but between humans and other humans, and humans and all creation. Thus, Christians are to be actively involved in that restorative vision. If the peaceable kingdom is to be established, one fundamental step toward that outcome is refraining from eating meat. There can be no peace between animals and humans if we continue consuming animals.

Additional touches set this book apart as well: each chapter concludes with a wholesome vegetarian recipe; the last chapter offers a basic discussion of how to "go vegetarian;" and Young provides a bibliography for further reading.

Don't be put off by the title of the book--I found out that the publisher insisted upon it to make the book more "provocative." This book is a must read for any Christian who desires to investigate Christianity's relationship to animal rights and vegetarianism. It is well written, thoroughly researched, and easily accessible to anyone interested in the subject.
Excellent book, not what I expected  Oct 21, 2005
The title of this book scared me. I thought it would be one of those fanatic books about how Jesus could possibly be a vegetarian, etc. However once I started reading this book I found myself laughing at the chapter titles: "Was God the First Tanner", "will there be slaughterhouses in heaven."

Young thoroughly answers questions that vegetarians and nonvegetarians alike grapple with in using the Bible as guide for life. While at times I felt he took passages out of context, the overall meaning behind his words seemed to speak the biblical truth. Young concludes that vegetarianism cannot be a universal moral truth, yet it is closer to God's vision. I highly reccomend this book for those questioning how Christians are to respond to todays treatment of animals.
a poignant book for vegetarians or non-vegetarians  May 20, 2004
A very thoughtful friend (who is a vegetarian) recommended this book to me. Though a meat-eater for nearly 30 years, I decided to give this book a try. I was pleasantly surprised.

First, Young writes in a cool, level-headed fashion that doesn't come across as angry or accusatory. Unlike other books on the subject, this feels more scholarly and balanced.

Second, Young takes you through the Bible with remarkable insight. It is a deeply Christian work throughout. His arguments mainly depend on understanding the whole story, and what he calls "directional markers." This is a very powerful idea that I think really illuminates many modern ethical issues. To his credit, he does not try to argue that Jesus and the apostles were vegetarians, and that this message was somehow corrupted later on. He brilliantly argues that the situations of modern slaughterhouses did not exist in biblical times, and that the fundamental values of Christianity are in opposition to them. He does point out that human history in the bible is bracketed by vegetarian behavior (cf Genesis 1-2 and the Isaiah description of the "peaceable kingdom"). Why then should we not move toward this goal?

My one cavil with the book is that it is not written for the evangelical Christian (which I am). His view of Scripture would certainly make many evangelicals uncomfortable (for example his understanding of several authors writing the Pentateuch, his sometimes fuzzy statements on the nature of Jesus ministry, etc.). Occassionally I thought he cited verses out of context such that their true meaning was obscured by his intentions. Despite these flaws, I think overall his biblical exegesis is sound (Professor Young is a professor of New Testament, so this is no surprise).

I do appreciate his numerous statements along the lines of "I'm not saying everyone must stopping eating all meat in all circumstances." Instead, he thoughtfully and gently tries to challenge the reader to reconsider their own practices. I know that my own meat consumption has gone way down and am contemplating becoming a vegetarian. He encourages the reader to make slow changes, such as finding one meatless main dish per week to add into your diet. Who cannot do that? I also think much more deeply about the conditions that animals are kept in today and how they should live. Would you eat that piece of chicken or beef if you could see the animal's death? What is gluttony if not eating on more than you need? These and more questions are powerful thoughts that will challenge you throughout the book.


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