33. Is it true that the SDA Church teaches eating ‘unclean meat’ such as pork is a sin, even though it is merely a Mosaic Law found in Leviticus?

No. It is true that the SDA Church discourages the eating of certain foods as a matter of practical health, notably pork, crayfish and other ‘unclean’ meat (Lev 11:26-28).  Whilst some individual Adventists may see eating such ‘unclean’ meat a sin, this is not the historic or official position.  The Mosaic civil or sundry laws are not morally binding on Christians but clearly contain universal principles of ‘general equity.’ A concept Roman Catholic readers might understand is to say that a healthy diet and lifestyle are in accordance with 'natural law' as established in Eden.
As noted in the SDA publication Questions on Doctrine:
“It is true we refrain from eating certain articles, as indicated in the query, but not because the law of Moses has any binding claims upon us. Far from it. We stand fast in the liberty with which God has set us free. It must be remembered that God recognized "clean" and "unclean" animals at the time of the Flood, long before there was a law of Moses. We reason that if God saw fit at that time to counsel His people against certain articles of diet, these things were not best for human consumption; and since we are physically constituted in the same way as are the Jews and all other peoples, we believe such things are not the best for us to use today.” (emphasis added)
Even as officially acknowledged by the Roman Catholic Church:
“Many Adventists insist that, as a matter of discipline (not doctrine), one must not eat meats considered unclean under the Mosaic Law (many endorse total vegetarianism)” (emphasis added)
Firstly, it should be acknowledged that many other Christians are happy to quote Leviticus and other Mosaic Laws when it suits them, whether rightly or wrongly.  This is especially the case with those passages that condemn homosexuality. 
Furthermore, one should remember that the Law of Moses contained many civil or sundry laws.  As generally accepted by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Adventists, these Mosaic Laws were given primarily for the running of ancient Israel and are not binding on Christians today.  For example, Adventists would generally agree with the Presbyterian (Calvinist) Westminster Confession of Faith (1643), which states:
19.4 To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people; not obliging any further than the general equity thereof may require. (emphasis added)
The principles found in many of these civil or sundry laws, especially as they relate to unchanging human bodies, such as regulations on infectious diseases (Lev 13) or the disposal of human excrement (Deut 23:12-14), clearly contain universal principles of ‘general equity’.  For example, few would argue that as Christians in the liberty of Christ, people with highly infectious diseases should be free to roam the airports of the world – or that we should dispense with proper sanitation, leaving our feces in our living-room floors, on the sidewalk or wherever we may fancy! 
Likewise, as noted on the official SDA theological website:
“Health laws are timeless and universal because human bodies continue to function in the same way.” (emphasis added)
God simply doesn’t say things for no reason. Similarly, Adventists believe scriptural instructions, regarding what animals mankind should and should not eat, have universal practical application as a matter of health - even today.  For example, one will notice that most of the 'clean' animals are herbivores, whilst the 'unclean' animals are carnivores or scavengers. Scientific studies, such as Winston J. Craig, "Pork and Shellfish—How Safe Are They?" Health and Healing 12, No. 1 (1988), have noted the increased health risks involved in eating such foods:
            See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pork#Nutrition
Moreover, the oft-cited ‘proof texts’ of Mark 7, Acts 10 and Romans 14 are also of little assistance because these passages are not about consuming ‘unclean’ animal flesh at all.  Mark 7 is addressing the Pharisee-imposed ritual of washing one’s hands before eating, Acts 10 is clearly a metaphorical vision about Jews mixing with Gentiles, and Romans 14 is about meat sacrificed to idols (i.e. ‘clean’ meat, such as lamb and beef).
For a further examination of these texts, see:
Further to the whole point, whilst Jesus may have clarified that eating with unwashed hands was not sinful in a moral sense, few Christian parents (of any denomination) would allow their children to eat dinner with filthy hands as a matter of practical living.  Jesus Christ was not some kind of Ronald McDonald, encouraging us to eat whatever we like whenever like. Even if something is not morally sinful in negative sense, this does not mean Jesus was advocating that behaviour in a positive, practical sense either. Rather, the human body is recognised as the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:20) and as such, "whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31).
The real ‘proof of the pudding’ of the SDA lifestyle is the scientific fact that Adventists are among the longest living people in the world, and the longest living people in the developed Western world:
In conclusion, the distinction between a moral (doctrine) and practical (discipline) application of Mosaic civil and sundry laws is perhaps difficult for critics to understand.  However, in defence of many outsiders, this issue is probably not well understood by many Adventists themselves.   

35 comments:

  1. I think the issue is admittedly tricky. I do have some sympathy for most critics, because I believe most Adventists don't really understanding properly why they don't eacy pork or shellfish.

    For example, if asked, most Adventists would probably say they don't eat these foods because they are 'unclean' as noted in Leviticus. Most Adventists might also see eating these foods were somehow wrong or sinful. Of course, this gives the wrong impression that Adventists still keep Jewish ceremonial and civil laws, which as noted in the passage again is not actually the official SDA position.

    The above passage is very good in explaining Adventists don't eat pork or shellfish because it is a 'sin', but rather it is a practical suggestion of health, like keeping infected people quarantined or disposing of one's excrement.

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    1. I was taught as well that eating unclean meats is a sin never saw it as explained above. I need to study this topic again.

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    2. The Bible has NEVER clearly commanded vegetarianism and eating meat is certainly permitted in New Testament times. We know that Jesus, when He appeared to his disciples after His resurrection, ate fish (Luke 24:41 - 43).

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  2. I believe its a sin according to Isaiah 66. Also, Revelations 18 speaks of Babylon which has become an inhabitant of every unclean bird.

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    1. I disagree - those two 'proof texts' are a very long bow in light of both other proof texts and clear understanding of NT application of OT Mosaic Law. These texts against eating unclean meat clearly are intended to have symbolic meaning, just as the texts in say Acts 10 in favour of eating unclean meat are also clearly symbolic.

      As cited above, the SDA Church in facts holds the same view as other 'orthodox' or 'mainstream' Churches as to the division of the Mosaic Law into moral, ceremonial or civil components.

      Whilst most mainstream Churches wrongly put say the Sabbath (4th Commandment) in the 'ceremonial' category, many SDAs (but note not the historic Church itself) wrongly put food laws in the moral category. I believe food laws belong in the civil category, but just like other Levitical ordinances about hygiene and quarantine, they have timeless principles that are relevant for us today.

      To use another example, God prescribed circumcision. The early Church in Acts 15 concluded that circumcision was not required as matter of salvation and being uncircumcised certainly was not a sin in a moral sense. However, even today, the latest scientific evidence is that circumcision helps protect men against infectious diseases such as Aids. For this reason, the World Health Organisation is advocating the practice, especially in Aids-prone areas. It just shows that God doesn't say things for nothing!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumsision#Positions_of_medical_associations

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    2. This further argument amongst (presumably) two Adventists just highlights further: i) there is no such thing as 'the' Adventist belief on something but rather Adventism is a theological spectrum, which outside critics probably fail to appreciate; ii) there is a lack of understanding by the average Adventist about why they do not eat 'unclean' meats, and about the inherent distinctions between the moral, ceremonial and civil/sundry aspects of the OT.

      I agree that if eating 'unclean' meat is a sin, then that it would suggest the rest of the OT Mosaic law is still applicable, including regulations about Jewish feasts, temple ceremonies, the sacraficial system, having ear-locks etc etc. If that were the case, Adventists would really be Messianic Jews, not Christians. Of course, Adventists are Christians, not Jews.

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    3. It is sin. All law is still applicable. Adventists want to avoid feast days so they give up saying pork is sin. So they end up sounding like Sunday keeping Thomas.https://www.reddit.com/r/BeyondAdventists/comments/77xssu/sunday_keeping_thomas_id_do_anything_for_god/

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  3. Non SDA sources affirm the validity of clean and unclean foods:

    http://everlasting-gospel.blogspot.com/2012/01/non-sda-authors-on-clean-and-unclean.html

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  4. Given by the Holy Spirit thru Ellen White in 2T: "God has given you light and knowledge, which you have professed to believe came direct from Him, instructing you to deny appetite. You know that the use of swine's flesh is contrary to His express command, given not because He wished to especially show His authority, but because it would be injurious to those who should eat it."

    Ron Graybill wrote a short summary of SDA thinking on the unclean meat question in this article:
    http://www.whiteestate.org/issues/Clean-Uncl.html

    In summary, the same Jesus who gave the instructions to not eat certain animals is the same Jesus today. Shouldn't we follow what he said to do?

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    1. When did Jesus ever give instruction not to eat certain animals? I read what Jesus said, 'For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)' (Mar. 7:19). Or do you mean in the Law of Moses? Because the only thing Jesus (i.e. as the theophany of Yahweh) wrote was the 10 Commandments, the eternal moral law, and I can't see unclean meat in there? I am pretty sure Moses wrote that, and he actually wrote a whole bunch of stuff God didn't want, and in fact, which Jesus condemned, such as divorce (Matt. 19).

      I have no problems with refraining from pork out of health reasons, but I am not sure if it is truthful (and arguably quite blasphemous), to suggest that Jesus said it. By that same reasoning, Jesus of the past who said you had to be circumcised is the same Jesus of today. Yet, Acts 15 is very clear you don't have to be circumcised. How do you explain that?

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    2. d the entire chapter. 'The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.' - In Hebraic understanding unclean flesh was not called food. Read what Peter said to Jesus in his vision, "Get up, Peter, kill and eat!" 14But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." Again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy."…
      Surly Peter knew exactly what Jesus was saying. If so then why was he confused..? 'While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate.'... - What about these gentiles who came just after the vision. Let Peter explain - “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean."... - Do you see..? The vision is about not thinking gentiles are 'unclean' not that forbidden flesh is 'clean'. Ask yourself. If Jesus declared all flesh as clean for food in Mark 7: 19 before he was crucified, then why didn't Peter of all Apostles know it. Many scriptures prove that the instruction of Torah still stand. Jesus himself declared it, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (fully live as an example) "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." - Note Heaven and Earth are still here...

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    3. Anonymous3 May 2012 at 08:25 says that Moseds wrote the Lev. 11 food laws not Jesus/YHVH.

      Let's see what the bible really says!

      Lev 11:1

      And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,

      Lev 11:2
      Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.


      Feel free to lie and misconstrue the facts but it was Jesus/YHVH/the Lord that gave Moses these commands.


      Kevin McMillen
      Morgantown, WV
      kljcmc@comcast.net

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  5. The point of the E White quote being, we don't eat pork because 'it would be injurious to those who should eat it'. Furthermore, in the link from Ron Graybill, 'Unlike the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, which pointed to Christ, or the civil laws, which governed the theocracy, these health laws were based on natural law and thus not merely applicable to one age and time.'

    I totally agree. Scientific evidence shows eating pork is really bad for one's health. Whilst most Christians see an inherent divide in the Mosaic Law between moral, civil or ceremonial, I also have no problems with seeing a fourth divide of natural law (which ironically only Roman Catholics also hold as well as Adventists). Adventist scholars and theologians also commonly do a divide just in two - moral and ceremonial.

    Some other points from the link from Ron Graybill were quite interesting:

    - "We do not, by any means, believe that the Bible teaches that its [pork] proper use, in the gospel dispensation, is sinful," James White wrote in 1850

    - It is significant that she and other Adventists who wrote against the use of pork up until 1866, argued strictly from a health standpoint. In other words, just because some Biblical arguments were used to reinforce the ban on pork, we cannot conclude that at that point Adventists were well on their way to a full-blown teaching on the distinction between clean and unclean meats.

    - This distinction "between articles of food as clean and unclean" was not, she said, "a merely ceremonial and arbitrary regulation, but was based upon sanitary principles."

    - In 1864 she did note in passing that Noah was allowed to eat "clean" beasts after the Flood.

    - in summary it can be said that Mrs. White never explicitly declared that the general distinction between clean and unclean meats was one which Seventh-day Adventists were still bound to observe.

    There is a slight but very important difference between saying you don't eat pork because it is a matter of health found in natural law, based on the pre-Jewish example of Noah, versus incorrectly telling people you don't eat it because it is 'unclean' as outlined in Leviticus, which wrongly suggests Adventists are following the Jewish ceremonial law, which was abolished at the Cross (Acts 15).

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  6. I know some Adventists who quite weirdly thought you had to circumcise your son. Sure, there is nothing with doing it, and like pork, recent UN World suggests it actually helps protect someone from sexually-transmitted disease. However, the NT makes it very, very clear that getting circumcised isn't strictly required (Acts 15). Perhaps Adventists who don't even know their own religion and giving the rest of us a bad name?

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    1. Actually there is no scientific reason for male circumcision at birth and the AMA no longer endorse the procedure. http://www.intactamerica.org/learnmore

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    2. Yeh in western countries circumcision isn't really needed. But in Africa the WHO still recommends it, in combating HIV Aids. The point is circumcision is not "needed" for salvation, as Acts 15 showed. But circumcising isn't a sin either, as Paul has Timothy circumcised. I guess I would be fairly tolerant of other's applications of these civil-sundry biblical principles.

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  7. SDA did not condemn anyone who eat unlclean food, however the scripture suggest to refrain from eating unclean foods as define in Lev. 11, for health reasons SDA advocate refraining eating unclean meat

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  8. The SDA church does make eating unclean foods sound like a sin. I was raised in the church and my dad has been an Adventist for over 50 years.

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    1. That's the problem Kyra. Many Adventists don't know the "why" just the "what" of their religion.

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  9. I was raised SDA and the church makes eating Pork or other so called unclean meat out to be a sin. They do call on Levitical law as a justification and plenty of Ellen White to drive it home.

    According to the article SDA's say dietary laws are timeless... if that's the case many of their so called laws have been disproven by modern science. There is nothing more harmful in eating pork than there is in eating beef or lamb. The entire rule is to exercise control over the members. In fact if Levitical and OT law is no longer in effect then why worship on Saturday?

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    1. Andre I don't think the science is so clear cut in approving your pork eating. The dangers of trichinosis from pork is well known. Adventists believe God didn't say something for nothing, just as he gave principles about sanitation and quarantine.

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    2. All meat (including pork) can be safely prepared by cooking to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) or higher for 15 seconds or more.

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    3. Andre you may have been taught wrong if you were taught eating pork is a sin.

      As for the Sabbath, it is a different kettle of fish, because it is part of the eternal moral law found in the Ten Commandments. That is very different from the rules about say cutting the corners of her hair or wearing blue tassels. All the historic creeds of Christianity say basically the same.

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    4. Science completely agrees with you Andre.

      The only problem is the fact that Adventists as a group live longer than other westerners.

      Science of course needs to answer that question first as despite their statement on health implications of the "unclean foods" the facts say different.

      Also remember that Adventism is a voluntary organisation, nobody is trying to exercise control.

      On the Sabbath you have already been answered sufficiently and I will leave it at that.

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  10. I believe in Romans 14, I am an Adventist but eat pork occasionally. I strongly believe that what you eat or don't eat does not grant us Salvation...

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  11. Our New Testament overrides the old, Our God is the Christian God, whose compound redemptive name is Lord Jesus Christ.

    Matthew 15:11
    It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
    Matthew 15:17-20
    Mark 7:15-19
    1 Timothy 4:1-5

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    1. These passages are all talking about washing hands. But you are right. I don't think you are being immoral or sinning by eating pork. Likewise, not disposing of your excrement is not a sin either, or quarantining people with infectious diseases, although the Bible suggests that too.

      But God never said those things for nothing. And vegetarianism was mankind's original diet. Mandatory vegetarianism is certainly wrong and Gnostic. But voluntary vegetarianism has a long Christian history, mostly as forms of fasting days, going back to the "Church Fathers".

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. Reposted below, couldn't edit and correct a misspelling....

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  12. The new testament dies not override, it merely expands the foundation laid by the old.

    Read Timothy where Paul writes, in the new testament, that all scripture is good for teaching, rebuking, training and instruction.

    Then remember that Paul is talking about the old testament, not the new. So the new testament specifically underpins and elevates the old. This simple and clear verse is seldom understood when read by Christians trying to negate the old testament.

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  13. Isn't it more important to magnify what you are putting into your spiritual being, instead of your fleshly being. Your body is of this world and will not go with you when Jesus comes back. Pharisees liked to state "the law" ALL the time and Jesus was more about a relationship and fellowship. Discipline is great but sectioning certain parts of the Bible for a whole religion is silly to me. You are making a relationship with God far too difficult. He wants a faithful follower of the way Jesus walked not what you celebrate and how you eat. It makes no difference. It actually separates the body of Christ and after all that is the whole goal of the enemy.

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  14. Yes, the main focus is and always must be on Gods Moral Law, the 10 commandments.

    Consider the following statement:
    "Eat and drink what you like. High saturated fat foods if you want. Plenty of sugar rich food with it if that is your fancy. Ignore vegetables and eat lots of well marbled red meat. Exercise is for sissies, and besides it wastes valuable TV time. A good cigar after dinner will make you feel much happier. Eat, drink and be merry, life is too short for this silly health focus nonsense."

    Well very few will consider that a good statement. How many mothers would say that to their children?

    Adventists take the other route. We consider a human soul in a holistic light, and, like Jesus, recommend healthful living.

    The alternative is of course to say nothing, and many churches do follow this easier road.

    Sadly, this makes the Adventist church a target for the unstable who think that this is the main focus. It isn't, it is just a small part of what the bible teaches. Like the bible, we teach it as well, not as the main focus, but just like in the bible, we are not silent on the subject. Our belief is that all scripture is good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Even the parts about healthy living. All scripture.

    Adventists are now reaping the benefits of over a century of this health message. No other church is. After all, as it is said - the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

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    1. God bless you real good. Theres always a conterfeit to an original. Its being that way from the beginning but the original would always endure the test of time. Our bodies are the temple of God and He expects that we treat it so. Everyone must appear in Judgement and each one would be held accountable for whats done to the body given us.

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  15. The reason we (SDa)church abstain from eating pork is because God fi=orbided it. Remember the God allow Noah and his family to eat meat, He was already seperate the clean and the unclean animals.

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