Daily Archives: April 14, 2021

Does being a vegan increase your chances of being saved?

An article in the March issue of Christianity Today caught my attention because of its title: “Many Adventists in Asia and Africa believe you must be vegan to be saved.” Often the title doesn’t quite cover the content of an article, and this is also true in this case. But the title triggered me enough to find out where the writer of this article got her information. It turns out to be a study by Dr. Duane C. McBride, who since 1986 has been a researcher and professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Andrews University in Berrien Springs (Michigan, USA).

If you want to read the entire report, which was recently published and runs to about 60 pages, you can easily find it on the Internet. McBride wanted to find out what the members of the Adventist Church worldwide think about the importance of the health message of their church and to what extent they actually adhere to its principles. But more importantly, he also wanted to know whether or not Adventists believe that adhering to the health principles affects their chances of being saved for eternity.

The survey was conducted in 2017 and 2018 among a population of over 63 thousand people in all “divisions” of the world church. The questionnaire was translated into approximately 60 languages. Over eighty per cent of those surveyed indicated that they believe the Adventist health message is one of the most important beliefs of the Church. Many survey participants admitted to being selective in their adherence to the health principles, but 91 per cent said they do not consume a drop of alcohol and only three per cent confessed to finding it difficult to abstain from tobacco. The results did differ significantly between divisions with regard to vegetarianism and veganism.

The results are surprisingly positive, but in interpreting them one must bear in mind that in most cases this questionnaire was completed by churchgoers during a church service. This means that the answers come mainly from active members and that a significant group is not represented. But what really surprised me about the results was that, according to this survey, some 47 per cent of church members believe that compliance with health principles in some way affects whether or not they will be saved. How exactly this fits together remains (at least for me) largely unclear. For, when asked, some 95 per cent of all participants also said that they believe that people are saved through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Here we encounter a contradiction that continues to define the profile of much of the Adventist Church. On the one hand, Adventists are Protestants who stand on the Reformation foundation of sola fide (by faith alone). At the same time, however, there seems to be a widely held notion that whether we are saved or not also depends on our own behavior. Throughout its history, the Adventist Church has always had to struggle against legalism, work-righteousness and perfectionism. This study shows that this is still the case, especially in the non-Western segments of the church. While in North America only 4.3 per cent of church members believe that their salvation depends in part on their adherence to the church’s health principles, and this percentage is similarly low in Europe, in South Asia and East Africa, respectively, 80 per cent and 74 per cent believe that this does affect whether or not they will inherit eternity. The percentages in the other divisions are somewhere in between.

To be honest, I was truly shocked reading this report. It raises the question: What can we do globally (but also near home) to correct this situation? How can we promote and apply the health principles in such a way that they can be a blessing, without feeding the idea that our salvation is not only through Christ, but that we ourselves must also lend a hand? This is an enormous challenge if we really want to be a Protestant church with people who believe for the full one hundred percent that their salvation comes from Christ.