Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Karl Barth on Vegetarians

I have never met so many vegetarians since coming to the UK. I'm more of Peteresque, "kill and eat" kind of a guy. If found interesting then, Barth's comments on Romans 14 about vegetarians:

"Contrasted with the strong man is the weak man who – eateth only vegetables. This, at any rate, is a clear, concrete standpoint. The uninstructed, non-Pauline man has this advantage at least. His ambiguity is not at once obvious; he does, at any rate, do something. Party-men, Sectarians, Churchmen, are vigorous and full of life. They occupy a position. They have pronounce characteristics. Their lives form a proper subject for the biographer. They are concerned with ‘deeds and facts’. Ranged behind the vegetable eaters at Rome we see the devotees of Orpheus and of Dionysus, the Neo-Pythagoreans, the Therapeutes, and the Essences, of the Ancient World; the Monks of the Middle Ages; the Baptists of the Age of the Reformation; the Total Abstainers, the Open-Air Enthusiasts and the Vegetarians of the Present Day."

This passage needs to be put in context of what Barth says about freedom, detachment, and the true Paulinist; however, Pagans and Baptists and Vegetarians are just different manifestations of the same problem.

1 comment:

David W. Congdon said...

This statement from the early Barth really needs to be heard in light of Barth's later statement in Church Dogmatics III/4:

"The slaying of animals is really possible only as an appeal to God's reconciling grace, as its representation and proclamation. It undoubtedly means making use of the offering of an alien and innocent victim and claiming its life for ours. Man must have good reasons for seriously making such a claim. His real and supposed needs certainly do not justify it. He must be authorised to do so by his acknowledgement of the faithfulness and goodness of God, who in spite of and in his guilt keeps him from falling as He saved Noah's generation from the flood and kept it even though it was no better as a result. Man sins if he does it without this authorisation. He sins if he presumes to do it on his own authority. He is already on his way to homocide if he sins in the killing of animals, if he murders an animal. He must not murder an animal. He can only kill it, knowing that it does not belong to him but to God, and that in killing it he surrenders it to God in order to receive it back from Him as something he needs and desires. The killing of animals in obedience is possible only as a deeply reverential act of repentance, gratitude and praise on the part of the forgiven sinner in face of the One who is the Creator and Lord of man and beast." (CD III.4, 354-55)