Lael Caesar

is an associate editor of Adventist Review.

​Health and Immortality

Healthful living does not make anybody immortal. Spirit of Prophecy-toting-and-quoting Adventists may find fellowship with observant Jains because “among those who are waiting for the coming of the Lord, meat eating will eventually be done away.”1 But avoiding meat does not prove that anyone is waiting for the coming of the Lord. Not the Jains at any rate, for whom the very idea of a loving God is proof of false doctrine. Any deity who cares must be a false god. Living as a vegetarian may be living healthfully, but healthful living does not make anybody immortal.

On the other hand, vegetarian reformers may be astonished at a recent Austrian Health Interview Survey, “The Association Between Eating Behavior and Various Health Parameters: A Matched Sample Study.”2 The study found “that a vegetarian diet is associated with poorer health (higher incidences of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders), a higher need for health care, and poorer quality of life.”3 Researchers recommended “public health programs . . . in order to reduce the health risk due to nutritional factors.”4 A report at CBS online5 generated furious pro and con postings from the faithful and their enemies about the validity of the study, of vegetarianism, and of any opponent’s right to post comments.

Meanwhile, Dr. Fred Hardinge’s 2014 Annual Council presentation on the findings of the Adventist Health Study 2 extolled the health benefits of a vegetarian diet over even a diet that averaged one ounce of red meat per day. The difference he reported was so dramatic that an average of three ounces of red meat per day more than doubled the incidence of risk of death from all causes and colon cancer compared to those who consume no red meat. But lower mortality than red-meat eaters does not equate to immortality.

The Jains’ total opposition to killing animals, whether for sport or food or even sacrifice, has made vegetarianism widespread in India. The Austrian scholarship seems to say they may be very wrong. But Jain Svetambara works versus refereed scholarship is not an immortality question. Salvation versus damnation is. And its resolution depends on more than whether Jains cover their mouths and nostrils or not, and whether scholarly research affirms or denounces us.

Vegetarianism, or health-reform practice, or ahimsa, the Jain philosophy of nonviolence, is no path to immortality. What shall it profit a man if he shall sacrifice his shirt and gain our gaze upon his six-pack abdominals, and lose his soul? And what shall it profit if a woman lead many marketing charm offensives, strut many catwalks, be crowned with many crowns for beauty, and lose her soul? Narcissism is no road to heaven. Nor are any of even its most noble body beautiful companions.

And immortality comes from more than the current finding or disconfirmation of science. What shall it profit a saint if she shall hold to her faith when science affirms it and abandons God where human genius cannot find Him?

Truth seekers need be neither deceived nor bewildered by world religions’ appearances or science’s discord. Neither willpower, nor indulgence, nor sound science, nor PLos One publications6 hold the secret of immortality. Only Jesus does and is, He who so loved a world of lost sinners that He sacrificed Himself that by His death we might have life and have it in abundance. It is Jesus who saves, not science—not even healthful living. Healthful living does not make anybody immortal.

  1. Ellen G. White, Child Guidance (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1954), p. 383.
  2. Nathalie T. Burkert, Johanna Muckenhuber, Franziska Großschädl, Éva Rásky, and Wolfgang Freidl, “The Association Between Eating Behavior and Various Health Parameters: A Matched Sample Study,” published Feb. 7, 2014; www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0088278.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. http://atlanta.cbslocal.com/2014/04/01/study-vegetarians-less-healthy-lower-quality-of-life-than-meat-eaters/
  6. With their philosophy of “publish first, judge later.” Jim Giles, in Nature 445 (Jan. 4, 2007): 9.
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