Why are Christians allowed to eat shellfish but not allowed to have sex before marriage?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

Here’s a wonderful article from Peter Saunders.

The challenge:

An argument frequently advanced by those attempting to defend homosexual practice is that Christians ‘cherry pick’ the commands in the Bible – that is, they chose to emphasise some commands while ignoring others.

The Old Testament may forbid homosexual acts (Leviticus 18:2; 20:13) but it also forbids eating seafood without fins and scales (Leviticus 11:9-12; Deuteronomy 14:9, 10).

So how can Christians then justify upholding laws on sexual morality whilst at the same time ignoring the food laws from the very same books of the Bible? Why may they eat shellfish but not be allowed to have sex outside marriage? Isn’t this inconsistent and hypocritical?

The solution is that God enters into “covenants” with his people, and the terms of those covenants change.

Especially dietary laws:

The answer to this question lies in an understanding of biblical covenants.

A covenant is a binding solemn agreement made between two parties. It generally leaves each with obligations. But it holds only between the parties involved.

There are a number of biblical covenants: Noahic, Abrahamic, Sinaitic (Old), Davidic and New.

Under the Noahic covenant, which God made with all living human beings (Genesis 9:8-17), people were able to eat anything:

‘Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything’ (Genesis 9:3).

But under the Sinaitic (Old) Covenant, which God made with the nation of Israel, people were able to eat certain foods, but not others.

Jesus clearly created a new covenant with his followers, where the dietary laws are lifted:

Jesus said that he had come to fulfil the ‘Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44). He would establish this new covenant with new laws, with himself as high priest based on his own sacrificial death on the cross.

This new covenant would completely deal with sin (Hebrews 10:1-18) and protect all those who put their faith in him from God’s wrath and judgement…

[…]‘In the same way, after the supper (Jesus) took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”’ (Luke 22:20). ‘…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ (Hebrews 10:10)

People would come under the protection of this new covenant, not by virtue of belonging to the nation of Israel, but through faith in Christ. In fact the function of the Old Testament Law (Sinaitic covenant) was to point to Christ as its fulfilment.

[…]So what then did Christ say about foods? He pronounced all foods clean for his followers to eat:

‘ “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?  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.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:18-23)

Jesus was making that point that under the new covenant God required purity of the heart. Internal thoughts and attitudes were as important as external actions.

Food is OK for Christians, but sexual immorality – which includes premarital sex and adultery – are NOT OK for Christians.

I think sometimes when you are talking to people whose motivation is just to get rid of any objective moral law entirely, they tend to ask questions without really wanting a good answer. This is especially true when it comes to the morality of sex. They ask the question not to get an answer, but to justify getting rid of the moral rules governing sexuality. The answers are there for people who are willing to respect God in their decision-making to find. The answers are not found only by people who have a reason to not want to find them.

In case you’re wondering, I am one of those Christian men who takes chastity seriously. Marriage is about having a close connection with your spouse. Sure, I could break the rules and have a lot of fun now. A lot of Christians have a hard time turning down fun. But when I look at Jesus, I don’t see a man who is pursuing fun and thrills. I see a man who sees a need and then sacrifices his own interests to rescue others from peril.

4 thoughts on “Why are Christians allowed to eat shellfish but not allowed to have sex before marriage?”

  1. But the food that we eat does defile you, the body absorbs certain things such as fats,carbohydrates etc from food and as we know today not all fats and etc are good for the human body. Swine was one of the things forbidden,I don’t eat pork because it is an unclean animal. Pigs will eat anything you give it and what that pig eats you eat. So if a pig eats some feces then what?

    1. Yes, the food we eat does have an impact on us physically, but I think what the New Testament teaches is that the defiling of spirit comes from spiritual things rather than physical things. Our body is harmed when we eat things that aren’t nutritional, but not necessarily our spirit. Salvation is not a matter of eat/drink, but a matter of faith. The Old Testament laws regarding food are, I think, like the one pertaining to the Sabbath. Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man; man was not made for the dietary restrictions, but the dietary restrictions were made for man. God’s intention was to help for the sake of health, as He knows how we are made, not to restrict for the sake of spiritual purity. Avoiding those “unclean” foods helps us honor God in our physical selves and helps us attain the longevity He surely wants for us, but has nothing to do with our Salvation in Christ. Good on you for being conscious of what’s healthy for you; I aspire to be more mindful of such things myself.

      1. Thank you, and yes our bodies are harmed if we eat bad things but i always felt that what we eat also pours out into other aspects of our being. For example if you see someone smile or laugh and suddenly you find yourself doing the same thing- i meant something among those lines

  2. I like the argument about the food laws. However, a messianic Jew would reply a to the Mark 7 reference. “Jesus made all foods clean” They say that Jesus was talking to Jews and Jews would not have seen unclean animals as food. I’m really curious about this because I struggle with whether or not we should follow the old law. Not to rely on it but to practice what is in it.

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