Sometimes, people ask me questions about God that I feel like I ought to know the answer to. But sometime the best answer is, "I don't know."
Case in point: not that long ago, I was asked if I thought God originally intended man to eat meat.
The question wasn't posed by a vegetarian, or even someone interested in the vegetarian lifestyle. It came from a woman who wanted to know more about how God intended His creation to interact with itself. It's hard to answer these sorts of questions because I've only ever lived in a fallen body in a fallen world; I don't know what Creation was like. I don't know what God meant to happen. So in these cases, I base my answer on what I do know and humbly acknowledge that I don't know it all.
I know that in the original creation, there was no death. Or at least, there was no talk of death. The first death we have recorded in Scripture is the death of the animals God skinned to make Adam and Eve's garments. Assuming, of course, that God would have to kill an animal to make use of its skin for such a sewing project. We hear that death entered the world through sin, that when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they condemned themselves to death, a concept unheard of up to this point.
Yet, we also know that there was also a Tree of Life, about which God said if Adam and Eve happened to eat that fruit, they would live forever in their fallen state. So given that life is embodied in the fruit of a tree, was death - or at least some concept of death - a natural part of creation?
It's not an easy question. On the one hand, if death is a natural part of creation, what are we to do with a God who created man and is content to let him die? On the other hand, if death is not a natural part of creation, how are we to conceptualize the fruit of this second tree? (And this is not, by the way, the only appearance this tree makes in the Bible. It is also mentioned in Revelation, in the center of God's re-created universe. So it's not as clear-cut as the issue may seem.)
Death is the first part of the conversation because death is, presumedly, necessary for man to eat meat. There is, of course, that one episode of the Simpsons which spoofs the original creation where Homer pulls a side of meat off a pig, the pig graciously exchanges a few words with the man, and both continue on their own merry way as the pig regenerates its side in a land in which death is not natural. But that's the Simpsons, not the Scriptures.
The woman who asked me this question asked about population control, about how God intended the world to continue in harmony if the animals weren't somehow dying. And if they must have been dying, what was this world to do with their deaths? Just let them rot? Or....? Again, I don't know.
A little later, we see God ordaining the eating of meat as part of the ritual sacrifice He expects from His people. He tells them which part of the meat they can eat, how to prepare it, what to do with the rest of it. How, even, to kill the animal in the first place. He tells them which animals they may eat the meat from and which they may not. But all of these are the instructions in the covenant with a broken people. It's hard to say what here is as man was designed and what is concession to his fallen nature.
So what's the answer? Was man designed to eat meat or no? I don't know. I don't know how the world was meant to work. I don't know what God intended. I only know how to live in a fallen body in a fallen world. And in this fallen body in this fallen world, I'm a meat eater. And I think God's okay with that. I don't know if that's how He intended it to be, but it is how it is. I don't think I offend God when I enjoy His creation. Whether that's the beautiful color of a sunrise, the sound of the songbird, the delicate tenderness of a flower....or eggs with a side of bacon.