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.

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

  1. the food nay go out but the body absorbs certain things from the foods you eat. Majority of the foods that were forbidden were unclean, for example the pig will eat anything and its body doesnt filter anything so whatever that animal has eat stays in its body and when people eat this animal, you are eating what that pig ate. So if it ate feces then you are eating it too. The animals are basically the pigs of the sea, bottom feeders. You wouldn’t eat a vulture so why eat a pig?

  2. Shalom WK from Beer Sheva, Israel. You might want to review Mark 7:18-23 in the Greek. Nowhere is it mentioned that “(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)” – it is a translators addition.

    The Greek for your consideration:

    In regards to Acts 10:14, Peter mentioned he never eaten any thing “koinon” (same as Mark 7:2) and “akatharton” (impure).

    It is clear from what G-D has declared “ekatharisen” one is not to call “koinon” in Acts 10:15. This is further substantiated by the Septuagint where “koinon” is not used but “akatharton” is.
    G-D never gave the green light to eat “akatharton” food.
    The food that can be eaten is “ekatharisen” and “koinon” – not “akatharton”.

    This exist till this very day.
    A Torah approved food such as beef would be considered unclean or not Kosher if it wasn’t handled/ butchered / stored properly (ie the haredi would call “Glatt Kosher”). It is quite interesting to see the battle of Kosher approval process between the Orthodox and the Karite (there is fear of cross contamination between the knives used).

    Btw, might want to review Acts 15:19-21 of which 3 of the 9 instructions given to the non-Jews have to deal with food (killed, cooked, and celebrations).


  3. In Acts 10, Peter has a vision telling him to kill and eat any of a variety of animals, reptiles, and birds that were forbidden under Mosaic law. This is in the context of teaching Peter he can associate with Gentiles (also forbidden under Mosaic Law).

    In Romans 14, Paul writes that “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. (v. 14 NIV)”.

    If you think shellfish are “dirty”, don’t eat them, but they are allowed as is bacon.

  4. “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, exactly. This particularly true of atheists who troll religion sites sporting truncated bible verses and half-baked arguments in an effort to convert believers to an immorality-affirming position. You can explain the whole thing to them in painstaking detail only to have them offer the shellfish schtick the next day as if nothing ever happened. Because they are not seeking the truth of scripture (they don’t believe in it) but hope to win over those who believe but are scripturally ignorant.

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