top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

John Wesley -- A Vegan Theologian or a Two-Faced Fence-Sitter? By Dr. Chapman Chen, HKBNews



 

Summary: John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of Methodism, was a vegan/vegetarian. He thought that knowing that God cares about all creatures, and that animals suffer terribly, and that we should treat them more kindly. Anyway, God will liberate them, and they will have a place in the New Heaven and New Earth, where all their sufferings will be compensated for. Paradoxically, Wesley, despite his doctor's advice, once interrupted his veganism in order to avoid offending his brothers, in particular, the Bishop of London, and to show that veganism is a health choice rather than a moral issue. ("Lest I make my brother to offend" comes straight from Paul the anti-vegan apostate (1 Corinthians 8:12-13).) Wesley was thus a cowardly two-faced fence-sitter instead of a vegan theologian.

 

 

1. Who's John Wesley

 

John Wesley (1703-1791) was an English cleric, theologian, and evangelist who was a leader of a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism. He and his brother Charles Wesley founded many societies and chapels that became the basis of the independent Methodist movement that continues to this day. He was also a prolific writer and preacher who traveled extensively and influenced many people with his message of salvation

 

2. God's has Compassion for All His Creatures!

 

Wesley believes that God has compassion for all His creatures:-

 

his mercy is over all his works [Psalms 145:9];" all that have sense, all that are capable of pleasure or pain, of happiness or misery. In consequence of this, "He openeth his hand, and filleth all things living with plenteousness. He prepareth food for cattle," as well as "herbs for the children of men." He provideth for the fowls of the air, "feeding the young ravens when they cry unto him." "He sendeth the springs into the rivers, that run among the hills, to give drink to every beast of the field," and that even "the wild asses may quench their thirst." And, suitably to this, he directs us to be tender of even the meaner creatures; to show mercy to these also. "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn:" (Wesley 1872b, Introd..1)

 

3. God Knows that the Animals Suffer Unspeakably

 

Wesley also believes that God is aware that His animal-creatures are caught in excruciating pain, that they eagerly wait for delivery by God:-

 

While his creatures "travail together in pain," he knoweth all their pain, and is bringing them nearer and nearer to the birth, which shall be accomplished in its season. He seeth "the earnest expectation" wherewith the whole animated creation "waiteth for" that final "manifestation of the sons of God;" in which "they themselves also shall be delivered" (not by annihilation; annihilation is not deliverance) "from the" present "bondage of corruption, into" a measure of "the glorious liberty of the children of God."[Romans 8:21](1872b III.1)

 

4. Animals Suffer mainly because of Humans, who should be Kinder to them

 

Meanwhile, Wesley confesses that most of the suffering of animals comes from persecution by humans, who are more atrocious and evil towards other animals than even strong predators like the lion and the tiger:- 6. During this season of vanity, not only the feebler creatures are continually destroyed by the stronger; not only the strong are frequently destroyed by those that are of equal strength; but both the one and the other are exposed to the violence and cruelty of him that is now their common enemy, -- man. And if his swiftness or strength is not equal to theirs, yet his art more than supplies that defect. By this he eludes all their force, how great soever it be; by this he defeats all their swiftness; and, notwithstanding their various shifts and contrivances, discovers all their retreats. He pursues them over the widest plains, and through the thickest forests. He overtakes them in the fields of air, he finds them out in the depths of the sea. Nor are the mild and friendly creatures who still own his sway, and are duteous to his commands, secured thereby from more than brutal violence; from outrage and abuse of various kinds. Is the generous horse, that serves his master''s necessity or pleasure with unwearied diligence, -- is the faithful dog, that waits the motion of his hand, or his eye, exempt from this? What returns for their long and faithful service do many of these poor creatures find? And what a dreadful difference is there, between What they suffer from their fellow-brutes, and what they suffer from the tyrant man! The lion, the tiger, or the shark, gives them pain from mere necessity, in order to prolong their own life; and puts them out of their pain at once: But the human shark, without any such necessity, torments them of his free choice; and perhaps continues their lingering pain till, after months or years, death signs their release.(Wesley 1872b, II.6)

 

Wesley reminds us that as God does not forget any single one of His creatures, we should follow suit and soften our heart towards all the animals:

 

One more excellent end may undoubtedly be answered by the preceding considerations. They may encourage us to imitate Him whose mercy is over all his works. They may soften our hearts towards the meaner creatures, knowing that the Lord careth for them. It may enlarge our hearts towards those poor creatures, to reflect that, as vile as they appear in our eyes, not one of them is forgotten in the sight of our Father which is in heaven. (Wesley 1872b, II.10)

 

5. God Shall Wipe All Tears from Animals' Eyes

 

Wesley is adamant that when Christ comes again, God will liberate all animals and wipe every tear from their eyes. 

When He that "sitteth on the great white throne" hath pronounced, "Behold, I make all things new;" when the word is fulfilled, " [Revelation 21: 5] The tabernacle of God is with men, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God;" -- then the following blessing shall take place (not only on the children of men; there is no such restriction in the text; but) on every creature according to its capacity: "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying. Neither shall there be any more pain: For the former things are passed away." [Revelation 21:4] (Wesley 1872b, III.2)

 

6. The Liberty of the Animals will be Restored

 

And then these poor creatures "shall... receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings"; the freedom and happiness of all of them will be reinstated, and they will live with each other and with humans in peace, harmony, joy, and love; there will no longer be any violence, nor rage, nor pain, nor bloodshed:-

 

The whole brute creation will then, undoubtedly, be restored, not only to the vigour, strength, and swiftness which they had at their creation, but to a far higher degree of each than they ever enjoyed. They will be restored, not only to that measure of understanding which they had in paradise, but to a degree of it as much higher than that, as the understanding of an elephant is beyond that of a worm. And whatever affections they had in the garden of God, will be restored with vast increase; being exalted and refined in a manner which we ourselves are not now able to comprehend. The liberty they then had will be completely restored, and they will be free in all their motions. They will be delivered from all irregular appetites, from all unruly passions, from every disposition that is either evil in itself, or has any tendency to evil. No rage will be found in any creature, no fierceness, no cruelty, or thirst for blood. So far from it that "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain." [Isaiah 11:6]....  (Wesley 1872b, III.3)Thus, in that day, all the vanity to which they are now helplessly subject will be abolished; they will suffer no more, either from within or without; the days of their groaning are ended. At the same time, there can be no reasonable doubt, but all the horridness of their appearance, and all the deformity of their aspect, will vanish away, and be exchanged for their primeval beauty. And with their beauty their happiness will return; to which there can then be no obstruction. (Wesley 1872b, III.4)

 

My question is: Why shouldn't we humans go vegan, stop eating animal flesh and stop using animal products NOW, so that most sufferings of the animals can be put to an end straightaway?  Why should their liberation from enslavement by humans wait for the Second Coming?

 

 

7. Why do Innocent Non-human Animals have to Suffer?

 

According to Wesley, animals have to suffer because they have been implicated by Adam's original sin, despite the fact that not being moral agents, they are never able to sin. This seeming unfairness will, however, fade away when it is taken into consideration that in the New Heaven and New Earth, their present sufferings will be amply amended for:-

 

as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; even so death passed upon all men;" and not on man only, but on those creatures also that "did not sin after the similitude of Adam''s transgression." And not death alone came upon them, but all of its train of preparatory evils; pain, and ten thousand sufferings.... 9. May it not answer another end; namely, furnish us with a full answer to a plausible objection against the justice of God, in suffering numberless creatures that never had sinned to be so severely punished? They could not sin, for they were not moral agents. Yet how severely do they suffer! -- yea, many of them, beasts of burden in particular, almost the whole time of their abode on earth; So that they can have no retribution here below. But the objection vanishes away, if we consider that something better remains after death for these poor creatures also; that these, likewise, shall one day be delivered from this bondage of corruption, and shall then receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings. (Wesley 1872b, III.9)Again, my question is: why do animals have to wait for the Second Coming of Christ when we, humans, can already put an end to most of their suffering right now by going vegan?

 

8. Wesley's Anthropocentrism

 

While Wesley asserts that God cares about animals and we should treat them kindly, his theology is still anthropocentric as far as animals are concerned; for he thinks that God has a bias towards humans for they're well made in His own image and only humans are capable of knowing God whereas animals are not:-

 

8.1. God is Biased?

 

the Father of All has a tender regard for even his lowest creatures, and that, in consequence of this, he will make them large amends for all they suffer while under their present bondage; yet I dare not affirm that he has an equal regard for them and for the children of men. I do not believe that He sees with equal eyes....chiefly he delights to bless His favourite creature, man. God regards his meanest creatures much; but he regards man much more.... (Wesley 1872b, III.5)

 

8.2. God Favours Humanity as they're Made in His Own Image?

 

Now, "man was made in the image of God." (Wesley 1872b, I.1) man was God''s vicegerent upon earth, the prince and governor of this lower world. (Wesley 1872b, I.3) Let it suffice, that God regards everything that he hath made, in its own order, and in proportion to that measure of his own image which he has stamped upon it. (Wesley 1872b, III.5)

 

8.2.1. Animals are at Least Partly Made in the Image of God

 

There is good reason to question whether Christians should think that only humans bear the image of God. Animals at least partly manifest God's image because of the following reasons:- Firstly, The Bible never denies that animals are made in the image of God. Secondly, both humanity and other animals were made out of dust by God. Thirdly, God made a covenant with not only humanity but also other animals (Genesis 9:9-11; Hosea 2:18). Fourthly, many verses in the Bible describe how different animals bear different characteristics of God (e.g. Isaiah 31:4; Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34; John 1:29; Matthew 3:16). Fifthly, not only humans but  other animals are gifted with a "living soul" (נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֔ה nephesh chayyah) (Genesis 1:21, 24; Genesis 1:30). It follows that animals are our fellow creatures, that we should go vegan and stop eating and abusing them.

 

8.3. The Impassable Gulf "between Men and Brutes"?

 

What then is the barrier between men and brutes? the line which they cannot pass? It was not reason. Set aside that ambiguous term: Exchange it for the plain word, understanding: and who can deny that brutes have this? We may as well deny that they have sight or hearing. But it is this: Man is capable of God; the inferior creatures are not. We have no ground to believe that they are, in any degree, capable of knowing, loving, or obeying God. (Wesley 1872b, I.5)

 

9. I will Eat Meat Lest I Offend my Brothers??!

 

Even more problematic than Wesley's anthropocentrism in his vegan theology is his reaction when accused by the Bishop of London of "pretensions to more exalted degrees of strictness" than required by the rules of Christians, of trying to captivate people by "professions and appearances of uncommon sanctity". In Allan Bevere's (2007) words, "it does not seem to be the case that Wesley refrained from eating meat for moral reasons, as some modern day vegetarians have suggested. He wrote to the Bishop of London, who criticized his vegetarian ways, mentioning that he did return to eating meat for a while in order to demonstrate to his detractors that moral scruples had nothing to do with his diet (quote below)":-

 

By “extraordinary strictnesses and severities,” I presume your Lordship means, the abstaining from wine and animal food; which, it is sure, Christianity does not require. But if you do, I fear your Lordship is not thoroughly informed of the matter of fact. I began to do this about twelve years ago, when I had no thought of “annoying parochial Ministers,” or of “captivating” any “people” thereby, unless it were the Chicasaw or Choctaw Indians. But I resumed the use of them both, about two years after, for the sake of some who thought I made it a point of conscience; telling them, “I will eat flesh while the world standeth,” rather than “make my brother to offend.” Dr. Cheyne advised me to leave them off again, assuring me, “Till you do, you will never be free from fevers.” And since I have taken his advice, I have been free (blessed be God!) from all bodily disorders. (Wesley 1747/1931:2-4)

 

"lest I make my brother to offend" comes straight from Paul the anti-vegan apostate (1 Corinthians 8:13). The context is as follows:-

 

4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall. (1 Corinthians 8:4-13 NIV)

 

10. Wesley the Cowardly Vegan vs Saint Paul the Anti-Vegan Apostate (Note 1)

 

Now, Wesley's eating meat "lest to make my brother to offend" and Paul's ostensibly refraining from eating meat "lest to make my brother to offend" are two sides of the same coin. Both care more about other people's opinions of themselves than the well-being of God's innocent creatures; while Isaiah tells us not to "fear the reproach of mere mortals or be terrified by their insults" (Isaiah 51:7 NIV). The real reason that Paul, who said on other occasions that we may eat any meat sold in the market without any questions of conscience (1 Corinthians 10:25) and that those who are weak eat only vegetables (Romans 14:2-3), said that he would not eat meat lest that it would wound weak brothers' conscience, was because he tried to perfunctorily appease the then still powerful vegan Jerusalem Council, whose leader James the Just, in a meeting with Paul around 50 A.D., issued the Apostolic decree that the gentiles be required to comply with Moses' Law on merely four points -- "to abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from thing strangled, and from blood" (Acts 15:20); Wesley resumes animal consumption in order to avoid offending the Bishop of London and to stop him seizing upon his (Wesley's) veganism to bad-mouth him.

 

My question is: Now that, as admitted by Wesley himself, God has compassion for all animals and we are supposed to do so, too, and that all animals are suffering terribly because of humans, how can veganism not be a spiritual, moral issue? {One of Wesley's admirers, Charles Spurgeon, does deem animal cruelty a serious spiritual issue. Animal cruelty, he asserts, "destroys the finer sensibilities of the soul. The most eminently spiritual men display great delicacy towards all living things…. The man who truly loves his Maker becomes tender towards all the creatures his Lord has made" (Spurgeon 1873).} The reason why Wesley refuses to admit that veganism is a spiritual, ethical issue is probably because he's under the insidious influence of Paul the anti-vegan apostate:- 

 

the Apostle declares, both here and in many other places, that true religion does not consist in meat and drink, or in any ritual observances.... they are applied only as occasional helps to human weakness. But let no man carry them farther. Let no man dream that they have any intrinsic worth; or that religion cannot subsist without them. This were to make them an abomination to the Lord. (Wesley 1872a)  

 

11. Conclusion

To put it in a nutshell, no doubt, Wesley sympathizes with animals, advises people to extend their love for humans to them on the ground that God loves all His creatures, and thinks that animals deserve to be compensated in the New Heaven and Earth for their current unspeakable sufferings. Nonetheless, he still maintains an anthropocentric belief that the human species is superior to animals because only humans, and not animals, are deemed capable of understanding God. Additionally, he never advocates for universal veganism to alleviate most of the suffering of animals here and now. Worst still, he once cowardly interrupted his vegetarian/vegan diet despite his doctor's advice, and emphasized that his vegetarian/vegan diet was purely for health reasons rather than for moral scruples, in order to placate the Bishop of London, who accused him of trying to captivate believers by way of unnecessarily severe asceticism. He did not have the moral courage to stand with animals in front of religious authorities. He could only play the role of a two-faced fence-sitter or chameleon. He's therefore not a vegan theologian per se, although many modern-day vegan advocates like to quote him.

 

Endnote:

1. Paul was Against the Vegan Christ

Here it is noteworthy that Paul the anti-vegan apostate's real stance in this regard is that we may eat any meat sold in the market without any questions of conscience. However, as the vegan Jerusalem Council was still in power in those days, Paul had to be diplomatic by making ostensible compromises when it came to animal flesh eating. 

Paul's teachings are in actuality diametrically opposed to Jesus the Vegan Christ's (Chen, 2021c), especially regarding veganism. In I Corinthians 8:4-13, Paul argues that eating meat offered to an idol is not immoral, because “an idol is nothing at all” (I Cor. 8:4 NIV). “Food,” he asserts, “does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” (I Corinthians 8:8 NIV). "To the pure, all things are pure" (Titus 1:15 NIV). On the other hand, in the letter to the church of Thyatira, Jesus rebukes them for tolerating a prophetess who "seduce[s] my servants to ... eat things sacrificed unto idols" (Revelation 2:20 KJV). And The Jerusalem Council led by James the Just, Jesus' natural brother, wrote to Gentile converts the Council's "decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals" (Acts 21:25 NIV). 

Moreover, Paul advises, "Eating anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience" (1 Corinthians 10:25 NIV). For two thousand years, this has (mis)led numerous Christians to think that it is alright to slaughter innocent animals and eat their flesh. Paul even defames vegans as weaklings in terms of faith:- "One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables" (Romans 14:2 NIV). By contrast, Jesus warns against meat-eating:- “Be on guard, so that your hearts do not become heavy with the eating of flesh" (Luke 21:34, Evangelion Da-Mepharreshe — Old Syriac-Aramaic Manuscript of the New Testament Gospels). And He admonishes the Pharisees, quoting Hosea 6:6, "Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13 CSB).   

Indeed, according to US President Thomas Jefferson, St. Paul was the "first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus" (Washington 1854). As pointed out by Albert Schweitzer (1910) in The Quest for the Historical Jesus, Paul perverted the discourse of Jesus and "displace[d]" it. As argued by Keith Akers (2020), Paul violated Jesus' vegan principle and the Jerusalem Council's vegan decree; as admitted by Paul himself, he was a relative of the Herodian family (Romans 16:11) and his real name was Saul (Acts 7:58, 8;1-3); as interpreted by Robert Eisenman (2012), Paul was the liar described in the Dead Sea Scrolls; according to Thijs Voskuilen (2005), Paul was a Roman spy sent to subvert Jesus' church from inside; as pointed out by Robert Mt. Sion (2013), Paul was the AntiChrist. Paul corrupted Jesus' vegan church and Pauline Christianity has hijacked the Vegan Christ for two thousand years (Chen 2023b).

 

References

 

Akers, Keith (2020). The Lost Religion of Jesus. NY: Lantern Publishing & Media/ Woodstock & Brooklyn. 

 

Chen, Chapman (2023a) "Animals are at least Partly Made in the Image of God. Go Vegan!" HKBNews, 25 Jan. https://www.hkbnews.net/post/animals-are-at-least-partly-made-in-the-image-of-god-go-vegan-by-dr-chapman-chen

 

Chen, Chapman (2023b). "Acts of the Anti-Vegan Paul." HKBNews, 5 July.

 

Chen, Chapman (2021a) " Did God Really Want Peter to Kill and Eat Animals? HKBNews, Jul 27. https://www.hkbnews.net/post/did-god-really-want-peter-to-kill-and-eat-animals-go-vegan-by-chapman-chen-hkbnews

 

Chen, Chapman (2021b) "Did Jesus Declare All Foods Clean? Go Vegan!" HKBNews, Aug. 30 https://www.hkbnews.net/post/did-jesus-declare-all-foods-clean-go-vegan-by-chapman-chen-hkbnews   

 

Chen, Chapman (2021c). "How St. Paul Perverted Jesus' Vegan Teachings." HKBNews,

 

Eisenman, Robert (2012). James the Brother of Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls I. London: The Way Publishing.

 

Oord, Thomas Jay (2015). "Are Animals Made in God’s Image?" ThomasJayOord, Sept. 10. https://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/animals-made-in-gods-image

 

Sion, Robert Mt. (2013). Paul the Antichrist. Saarbrucken: Bloggingbooks.

 

Tabor, James D. (2012). Paul and James. NY: Simon & Schuster.

 

Voskuilen, Thijs (2005) "Operation Messiah: Did Christianity Start as a Roman Psychological Counterinsurgency Operation?", Small Wars & Insurgencies, 16:2, 192-215, DOI: 10.1080/09592310500079940

 

Washington, H. A. (1854) (ed). The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Being his Autobiography, Correspondence, Reports, Messages, Addresses, and Other Writings, Official and Private. Vol. VII. Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Maury.

 

Wesley, John (1747, June 11/1931). Letter to Dr. Gibson, Bishop of London.  In John Telford (Ed.), The Letters of John Wesley (pp. 2-4). London: Epworth Press. Available online: http://wesley.nnu.edu/Letters/1747.htm as part of http://wesley.nnu.edu/Letters/

 

Wesley, John (1872a). The Way to the Kingdom (Sermon 7). In Thomas Jackson (Ed.), The Sermons of John Wesley (pp. 13-28). Wesleyan Conference Office. https://www.whdl.org/sites/default/files/resource/book/EN_John_Wesley_007_way_of_kingdom.pdf?language=en

 

Wesley, John (1872b). The General Deliverance (Sermon 60). In Thomas Jackson (Ed.), The Sermons of John Wesley (pp. 241-256). London: Wesleyan Conference Office. https://www.wordsofwesley.com/libtext.cfm?srm=60

 

 

 

7 views0 comments
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page