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Below is a revision of the SDA Health Message article posted previously.  I had published it quickly to meet an immediate resource need, but had no idea it needed so much editing till I went over it again.  Hope this one is more user friendly!

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SDA Health Message

Ellen G. White on the importance of diet in your spiritual life:

“Those who have received instruction regarding the evils of the use of flesh foods, tea and coffee, and rich and unhealthful food preparations, and who are determined to make a covenant with God by sacrifice, will not continue to indulge their appetite for food that they know to be unhealthful. God demands that the appetites be cleansed, and that self-denial be practiced in regard to those things which are not good. This is a work that will have to be done before His people can stand before Him a perfected people.” (Testimonies for the Church, Volume Nine, page 153, paragraph 4.)

“Greater reforms should be seen among the people who claim to be looking for the soon appearing of Christ. Health reform is to do among our people a work which it has not yet done. There are those who ought to be awake to the danger of meat eating, who are still eating the flesh of animals, thus endangering the physical, mental, and spiritual health. Many who are now only half converted on the question of meat eating will go from God’s people to walk no more with them.” (Counsels on Diet and Foods, page 382, paragraph 1.)

“We have seen the poor wrecks of humanity come to our sanitariums to be cured of the liquor habit. We have seen those who have ruined their health by wrong habits of diet, and by the use of flesh meats. This is why we need to lift up the voice like a trumpet, and show ‘My people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins.'” (The Medical Evangelist, 01-01-1910, paragraph 16.)

What the Bible Says:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:1-5

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.  One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.  Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.  Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Rom 14:1-4

To begin, I have no quarrel with anyone who wishes to be a vegan or vegetarian just because this is their preference.  As the verse above states, each to their own.  This is a discussion explaining why I personally don’t believe this lifestyle is ordained by God as taught by the SDA denomination.  The scriptures above give us clear instruction to not ever make food an issue between believers.  I cannot find any scriptural foundation for teaching your choice of diet and level of health will affect your ability to be holy.  The Seventh-day Adventist church, from its very origins, has made this a monumental issue.  Ellen White presented this as a vital part of process of sanctification, without which your very soul could be in danger.  I heard more than once as an Adventist that the health message was the “right arm of the gospel” and this avenue is often used to gain proselytes, using health seminars as a way to get their foot in the front door of people’s acceptance.

We left the SDA church several years ago, but long after we left I was still absolutely convinced a vegan diet was the most healthy, even if I wasn’t following the regimen.  I had constant guilt and fear that I was damaging my health by eating animal products.  A few years after we left the church we were introduced to the Hallelujah Diet which we tried for several months.  We tried for a second time to follow a vegan diet, but this time it called for 80% raw food.  We soon discovered what many people find on this diet.  We were hungry!!  We were in a constant war with our bodies which were screaming for more substantial meals.  I found an article by a former teacher of this diet who did the math on the calorie intake and concluded it was far below a normal person’s nutritional needs, and deficient in some important areas.  The same research shows that cheating is a common way to cope with such a diet, and we certainly did our share of that! Read the full article here

“58% of the Hallelujah vegetarians ate animal products, and that food cravings appear to be quite severe on the diet suggest that cheating is being driven by the deficient nature of the diet.”

–Greg Westbrook, former Hallelujah Diet Health Minister

Soon after this failed attempt, I began to notice passages in Scripture which contradicted my indoctrination about food.   I also noted that except for a chapter in Leviticus, diet and health are not an issue at all in the rest of the Bible.  Here are a few examples that prompted me to re-evaluate my convictions.

God gave Noah everything that moves as food. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.  Genesis 9:1 I know some people think everything doesn’t mean everything, but Jews who have had the scriptures longer than anyone have always understood it to mean exactly that.  Nowhere does God imply this is a temporary situation until the crops were grown, as demonstrated by the relationship of Israel to meat.

God commanded the Israelites to eat meat.However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your towns, as much as you desire, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you. The unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the deer. Deuteronomy 12:15  Here God is actually calling meat a blessing.  Why would God put his chosen people in this kind of a relationship with a food source that creates all manner of chronic disease?  In fact, He promised them health, wealth and prosperity for their obedience to the covenant He made with them.

The promised land was called  “The land of milk and honey”.   Milk, a delicacy used describe the most desirable land God promised His people, now gets bad press as well.   I guess God didn’t get the memo about how milk was only made for baby cows or goats.  Maybe we should rephrase it to “I will give you the land of milk and honey, but since they both come from animals I know you will be satisfied to use soy milk and stevia instead.”   Instead of being thankful for this very versatile food source we can culture and preserve many different ways, we now think can do better with processed substitutes from soy and rice.

Jesus called an egg a good gift .  If eggs were unhealthy, would Jesus refer to it as a good gift for your child?  Do you know an egg yolk is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet?   What an amazing, easily-sustainable, quickly- reproducing food source!!  An egg is a good gift indeed, from our heavenly Father!

Jesus ate animal foods! The first thing to notice about Jesus and food is how the gospels are very uninterested in what Jesus ate.  In the few examples we do have, food is mentioned merely in passing unless it involves a miracle.  At the Last Supper, actually a Passover meal, I am fairly sure he would have eaten of the Passover lamb that symbolized his own impending death.  He ate fish.  He not only ate it, but he cooked some for breakfast for His disciples after His resurrection.   He multiplied it thousands of times over when feeding the 5000.   He came “eating and drinking” as opposed to John the Baptist who lived on locusts and honey.  (Now that’s a Biblical diet I have not heard anyone try to promote!).

With these examples and others I began to see a very different picture.  I realized I’d accepted all I had been told about nutrition as fact without question, and considered it “God’s way”.  When I just let the Bible speak,  I really did begin to see it God’s way.

***Common Arguments of Religious Vegetarians.

Some try to assert that because Adam and Eve were given only plant life for food, this diet must be ideal and God always intended for humans to eat this way.  The above examples already refute this stance, but I also believe Eden enjoyed a completely different ecology than we have today.  After the flood everything changed; climate, lifespan, the size of most creatures decreased, etc.. etc..  It doesn’t make sense to conclude we need to go back to a diet of a completely different environment we don’t live in anymore.   When God gave them plant life for food, death had not entered the picture yet, so a vegetarian diet makes complete sense.

I remember being taught the Israelites were sick in the wilderness from eating quail.  This also does not make sense when examined logically.   God allowed for them to eat these types of birds under the Law of Moses, so how could this be seen as the cause of their illness?  Their plague came from gluttony and grumbling against God for what He had initially provided.  Meat is not the offender in this story.

We often heard of  Daniel and his friends, probably my favorite food story as a vegetarian!   We believed  Daniel and his friends were the picture of health and wiser than all the King’s men because they had eaten only vegetables and water.  If you remember the story, they refused the rich food of the King’s table and implored their steward to give them only “pulse” and water.   Under the Law of Moses, Israelites could not eat meat from an unclean animal, or even a clean animal that had not been properly butchered.

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. Daniel 1:8

Another possible factor could be the idol worship associated with the King’s food.  In the ancient world, an animal killed to be eaten was nearly always done in association with worship, even in the case of the Israelites.  They were not avoiding food because they didn’t want to get sick, but because they did not want to sin against their God.  Circumcision, Sabbaths, and dietary restrictions were the three most notable marks of the Israelite nation, and remain so to this day.

I now see the above event as a miracle from God who sustained them as a blessing for their obedience.  Not only this, but it’s clear that Daniel did not eat this way the rest of his life.  If they had believed food made them superior, I think the diet would have become a permanent fixture considering their vulnerable circumstance.  But here we see later as Daniel describes a fast….

I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. Daniel 10:3

Not only was it evidently his custom to eat meat, but he was drinking wine as well.  The actual Hebrew word there for “meat” is flesh – not food.

Science and History

Disease has increased in affluent cultures beyond belief in the last 100 years or so.  But the truth is that nearly every culture group on earth has obtained nutrition from animal products since Noah’s flood.  This raises an obvious question.  How can animal products be at the root of modern human disease?

This question brought a final light-bulb moment which sent me searching for actual evidence.  I’d never read any argument from a scientific standpoint stating it was actually healthy to eat animal products – especially meat.  I had never before even considered it as a plausible alternative.  But at this point I realized there must be some research done with my new hypothesis in mind.

I found plenty.   When I weighed all the evidence from the Bible, my own (albeit limited) common sense, and other research – I came to agree with the findings supporting a diet that includes animal products.  The recent rise in chronic disease I believe can be easily explained by the high volume of refined, processed food, unnatural chemicals additives, poor farming and ranching practices, and many other changes to our food sources.  The scientific studies are beyond my scope of expertise to comment or report on, but I would encourage any vegan and vegetarian to honestly look at the opposing data.  The guidelines for good nutrition I now ascribe to can be found on the website for the Weston Price Foundation.  This is a great place to find volumes of information and resources.  I agree that a restricted diet can be helpful in times of severe illness, but not as a healthy ongoing lifestyle, and certainly not as a path to come closer to God.

I also don’t believe in being irresponsible.  If my decisions in life are motivated by love for God and man, I will want to be a good steward of my health in order to serve both to the fullest.  This is a natural desire for someone walking in love.  However, if the drive to be healthy is driven by a striving to reach closer to God, or to gain His approval, this lack of assurance and doubt that enters into a person’s relationship to God can in itself be very harmful to one’s health.  Stress and fear wreak havoc on the body.

I no longer believe God desires for me to be overly distracted with what I put in my mouth and make another religion out of it.  While I may suffer natural consequences for bad choices, my standing with God is in no way affected by what I eat and I trust Him in sickness, and in health.  I do not see my diet as having any affect on my relationship with God because I can find no Biblical basis for it whatsoever.

Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.

1 Corinthians 8:8

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17

(As Paul also wrote, many people may have a weak conscience  concerning some things, and we are to be patient and accommodating in these areas.  I am not advocating purposely offending anyone at the dinner table.)

In a modern marriage ceremony, brides and grooms often vow their commitment to each other “in sickness and in health”.  Our Savior, who we are also betrothed to and have the seal of His Spirit in us – the surety of His redemption and return (think engagement ring), will not waiver in His commitment to us based on “sickness or health”.  I pray for all those in bondage to a false obligation in their spiritual lives to come boldly before the throne of grace to receive freely all the spiritual blessing we have in Christ Jesus.

Excellent resource to begin further study:

Weston A. Price Foundation


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