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.

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

  1. This is really well explained… I was just pondering and writing about how we often just don’t want to hear what God has to say because we’ve already set our hearts toward doing our own thing. The covenant study is so important for us to understand, thanks for sharing!


  2. There is a difference between moral laws and ceremonial laws. God is not going to decide it is suddenly ok to kill old white men simply for being old white men – despite the wishes of some people. That would be objectively evil. But other rules are not moral rules but rather rules we follow to demonstrate our faith or lack of faith and build our will generally. In those cases it is not really part of objective morality that we follow this rule as opposed to that one.

    God could say you must abstain from shellfish or he could say we must eat only shellfish on certain days. Both would serve the purpose because it is not an issue of objective morality.


  3. How about the simple retort that sexual sin is still condemned in the New Testament, but the dietary laws are not.

    Beyond the Christian faith, the Jewish one no longer holds most of the laws that are found in the Torah (OT) as applicable. Temple/ceremonial laws are out, but so are civic laws regarding governing the Jewish state under the Temple system. Out of the 613 commandments less than 300 were still consider applicable by the 12th century. Rick Brannan has a good book outlining the work of Maimonides (12th century) and Chofetz Chayim (Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, 1839-1933) that details the category and applicability of commandments to the Jews.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. If I am taking to a shallow Christian I won’t explain as much detail on grace and forgiveness because they will be looking for a minimal path to still enter heaven.

    Maximum selfish desires and a minimum of time spent on thoughts of God and service to him.

    Much of the ot in the Levitical law was for the state of Israel but things like adultery etc are still valid as good practises to avoid today.

    God sees all sin abhorrent as a holy God. Just because he is forgiving it does no mean we should live by greasy grace and dwell in all the sin we have been forgiven of.

    A Christian is forgiven of sin Son when we fail we don’t have to be ashamed to approach God and as a way to help us overcome as we learn how to live properly in a way that pleases God.

    But sadly thoughts of what will actually please God are ignored as many want to create their own idol Jesus that they can serve in their own way


  5. God gave us His commands/prohibitions on sexual activity for two reasons: to protect us and to provide for us. No matter how many lies the world/the Left/Hollywood may tell us, the following activities will ALWAYS hurt us and others, if engaged in:
    It makes no difference how we FEEL about the above behaviors. God made us, and He knows what is best for us.


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