Good Eating

Article excerpt

Good Eating. By Stephen H. Webb. The Christian Practice of Everyday Life Series. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2001. 272 pp. $21.99 (paper).

In Good Eating, Stephen Webb offers a Christian framework for making sense of vegetarianism, Webb acknowledges that most apologies for vegetarianism are non-Christian, and that most Christians assume that a carnivorous diet best aligns with their biblical and theological tradition. In response, Webb presents what he claims to be "the first modern systematic theology of diet" (p. 14). Christian vegetarianism, for Webb, is a practice that reflects a joyful hope for the coming peaceable kingdom of God.

In ten chapters, Webb explores how a vegetarian diet reflects a biblical theology of human compassion for animals, from creation's mandate that we manage and care for animals in a vegetarian Eden, through meat-eating limited by kosher laws, through the Last Supper and beyond. He cites patristic sources that equate vegetarianism with fasting, considers later attempts to distinguish orthodox from heretical diets, and proposes vegetarianism as a biblical ideal. He presents his material in an accessible, conversational style, without footnotes. Readers who would like more context can read the appendix, which supplies Webb's assessments of how some theologians have discussed our relation to animals. A bibliography and a Scripture index complete the book.

Webb argues that what we eat matters. He posits that secular animalrights arguments for vegetarianism do not adequately explain how those rights might be negotiated. Further, animal-rights positions often suggest that animals are equal to (or more nearly divine than) humans, thus diverging from the biblical creation stories' emphasis on the shared createdness of humans and animals, and undermining human responsibility to care for animals. According to Webb, God's call to "dominate" the creation entails a perpetual connectedness in the eschatological expectation that one day we will live side by side with all creatures. The Fall makes this vocation more difficult, but our actions should demonstrate our orientation toward such a harmonious relationship with animals. …