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:
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.
Posted by Unknown