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Food: Cornerstone of Christian Credibility by Joel Salatin; Part Two, Farming and Worldview

In the last installment reviewing Joel Salatin’s impactful message given at Patrick Henry College, we spoke about consistency in Christian attitudes towards our faith, farming, and food. Much of having a consistent approach to life issues comes from having the right worldview, something Salatin also addressed in his message.

Listen to the speech audio here.


He advocates looking at patterns in the Bible and in nature to give us wisdom for our agricultural actions. This is a simple method for evaluating the virtue of things that are done in commercial, industrialized agriculture. We don’t need to know the science behind everything, Joel Salatin says; we just need to know whether it is practical and natural. For instance, feeding carrion to herbivores breeds strange diseases and bacteria outbreaks—but we don’t need to do an experiment, or know all the data surrounding it, to know that it is unwise. Herbivores such as cows do not eat dead meat in their natural settings, so they should not be given dead meat in factory farms. If they are given dead meat, we can conjecture that there might be a problem, which there is—mad cow disease and more.

Without the philosophy of looking to Scripture and nature first, Joel Salatin declares that “we will never know what science to embrace.” Without being grounded by a paradigm, we would never know whether to wait decades for results to be realized and tests to be run. We would never limit ourselves to boundaries in genetic manipulation of animals, plants, and even human embryos. Science will run amuck at the least, and amoral at the worst, where there is no proper philosophy guiding the decisions made. Our paradigm, or our template, Joel Salatin says, “protects us from the amoral world of modern science.” 


Look at how chickens are raised in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). They are debeaked and declawed. Now think, did God create chickens with beaks and claws so that they could be debeaked and declawed? Perhaps something is wrong in a paradigm where chickens are debeaked and declawed! What do chickens normally do in their natural environment? Scratch and peck at the ground. Staying rooted in a proper philosophy will help us to see CAFOs for what they are: unnatural, unwise, harmful, and potentially dangerous ways to raise chickens.


While modern science wants to know everything and attempt everything, Joel Salatin asks if we shouldn’t leave room for mystery? While it is man’s honor to search out a matter, it is the glory of God to conceal it and to hold on to the secret things of His creation (Proverbs 25:2 and Deuteronomy 29:29). Man has manufactured "foods" that he literally cannot metabolize, as Salatin exclaims. Whatever happened to simplicity? Whatever happened to the wonder of appreciating complexity in nature without trying to imitate it or exploit it? Salatin shares that there are two creeds regarding food in our culture: 1) That food is inanimate, and 2) that food is life. Seeing it as the latter—as something that we might not fully understand but must respect and appreciate and cultivate—is the manifestation of having a proper worldview. Let’s build a paradigm that asks, “Just because we can, should we?” and a paradigm where what we do matches up to what we believe.


Read posts One and Three.

Food: Cornerstone of Christian Credibility by Joel Salatin, Part One

Some of the things for which the liberal left blames the religious right, really are true. Christians can be very inconsistent, especially in the realm of the natural environment—and others notice. Speaking at Patrick Henry College, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms begins a speech on this subject with a clarion call for consistency in the lives of Christian believers.  I will be reviewing the themes in this speech, in four parts here.

Listen to Joel Salatin's speech at Patrick Henry College on "Food: The Cornerstone of Christian Credibility"


Joel Salatin


Too often, Christians say that we love God’s world—then we go get a Happy Meal, the pinnacle of industrial exploitation. Christians say that we want to glorify God—then we compartmentalize our obedience, and pay no attention to the source of the food that we eat. Christians try to be moral by being upright citizens and church-going, but we often think farming and food are amoral. Christians love to read the Bible passage about being “fearfully and wonderfully made”—then care naught for messing with our intricate bodies by eating toxic food or poisonous medications. Christians say that we want God to be honored in the beauty of our households, and we do strive for that—right before supporting a farm system which scars the landscape and injures the people working in it.

Christians say we are pro-life (and we are, for little babies), yet in our actions we abuse living animals and pollute the living earth. Certainly, mankind is the crown of creation, and is eternal, unlike anything else in creation. Yet Joel Salatin points out that how we respect “the least of these”, animals, forms the foundation for how we respect “the greatest of these”, humankind. Unbelievers who respect animals but don’t respect unborn babies might not think it much different when Christians respect babies but don’t see anything wrong with factory feedlots. (While it is different, animals should still be viewed noble creatures that God made.) 

Where beef comes from.

Taking confidence in the truth that we were created by God rather than evolved from slurry, is not a license to pride ourselves in our power to exploit creation. While there is a fine line between taking dominion over the world versus exploiting it, the main distinction could be described by respect and stewardship. Joel Salatin said that unless Christians steward the earth—by giving heed to it and seeking to please God in our use of it—we have “squandered our credibility” to non-Christians. How can we as people command respect and act nobly when we don’t even remotely respect the God-created nobility of the animal kingdom? Harm to the world—and to Christian credibility—comes when we exercise dualism: removing the material world from its moral dimension. 1 Corinthians 10:31, however, tells us that God is glorified even by mundane, common things such as food and drink.

The main thrust of Joel Salatin’s message given to the students of Patrick Henry College was the following: View farming and food as an area to exercise consistency, such that in this—the only area in which some non-Christians will see our faith manifested—we are in harmony with our profession of serving God and believing He created the earth. If Christians, of all people, don’t value the world that was made by a Divine and Sovereign hand, what testimony at all do we have toward people who believe the world emerged out of a mat of bacteria? If Christians, who know the source of all the good gifts in nature, relinquish the use of those gifts entirely to unbelievers, we have no argument against unbelievers who appreciate the gifts without appreciating the God who gave them.

Meadow Cattle, Strumpshaw Fen

To help unbelievers to appreciate our God, we must appreciate all of His gifts, including those in the natural, material world. Having an answer for non-Christians that value the earth—and living by it ourselves—is the best way to witness to unbelievers who think the earth is worth stewarding. It is also the best way to bring the truth of God’s Word into every area of life—since farming and food are a major, significant area of our lives.

Joel Salatin shared a lot of wisdom in this message, and I look forward to reporting on more of it in coming installments of this short series. Your feedback is valued.


Read posts Two and Three.

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