Scholars on either side of the table discuss their eating habits and their implications for their Christian faith.

The recent release of What Would Jesus Really Eat?: The Biblical Case for Eating Meat sparks a conversation about what we put into our body how it impacts our spiritual growth.

Dr. Wes Jamison, Professor of Public Relations at Palm Beach Atlantic University and lead editor of What Would Jesus Really Eat? says the book is written in light of animal activists making the case to Christians that "meat-eating is wrong and against God's will."

Jamison and his co-editor, Dr. Paul Copan, have brought together a broad group of scholars who have applied their expertise in a wide range of fields including biblical studies, theology, philosophy, resource management, communication, and generational animal farming, to write an accessible response for all Christians.

"The book was written to give an easy resource for people who know that it is okay to eat meat, but don't know why, to defend themselves," Jamison says.

Jamison says the belief that going meatless is any more Christ-like or holy is false as "animals are a gift from God" as they can process things we cannot use like grass into things we can use like milk, meat, and other animal by-products. 

"In God's infinite wisdom He created animals to convert things in nature - water we can't drink, the food we can't eat - convert that into things we can use. They are almost like a walking bank account of vitamins, minerals, fur, and tissue that we can use," he says.

Dr. Michael Gilmour, Associate Professor of New Testament and English Literature at Providence University College, and his wife adopted a vegetarian diet 15 years ago and transitioned to veganism 10 years ago.

"Ultimately it's a kind of harm reduction approach to Christian living," Gilmour says, "I always think of it as a voluntary fast."

While Jamison and contributors to What Would Jesus Really Eat? reference scripture from the New Testament, Gilmour refers to the Old Testament for his choice to go vegan.

"The Bible is quite clear about animal cruelty being a bad thing," Gilmour says. "Our decision is based on the basic premise that animals are good, according to Genesis 1, cruelty to them is bad, according to Numbers 22 or Proverbs 12.

"When I go to the grocery store, I don't know where that meat comes from and how those animals were treated. It is a way for me to avoid animal cruelty through my consumer choices."

Jamison, along with other authors in the book, argues that a plant-based diet isn't any more spiritual or moral than eating meat.

Gilmour says veganism, for him and his family, "is a way for us to celebrate God's good world.

"It's also an acknowledgment that I am not the only thing in the world that matters - it isn't all about me. I might prefer to eat steak for dinner on the level of taste, but that is a very selfish consideration in my view. God made that cow and for me to simply ignore the interest of another creature is to sort of turn all the focus on myself. I think that is one of the benefits: I am able to look at the world around me and appreciate it more."

There is also a human angle to Gilmour's eating habits: "Meat consumption is very hard on the environment. The meat processing industry is also very harmful to many of the people that work in it."

Many are calling the decision to abstain from meat, "just a new bondage." Jamison refers to Paul's letter in 1 Timothy 4: "It is not what goes into you that defiles you, it's what comes out of you. He talks about the new bondage being somehow that if you change your lifestyle you somehow become holier.

"You are set free from bondage through Christ and then you don't have to worry about forgoing things because Paul himself said, 'All things are good and may be consumed as long as they are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.'"

Gilmour says, "I don't feel I am missing anything. There is a lot of good food in the world.

"I am not a martyr at any stretch. I eat more food than I should, as most of us do."

In the debate of meat versus meatless, Genesis 1:26 is often referenced.

"Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'"

Gilmour says, "The language of dominion gets thrown around a lot.

"They tend to overlook the fact that in the very next verse, in Genesis chapter one, God gives plants to humans to eat. So, the kind of dominion and vision in Genesis chapter is clearly a nonviolent dominion over the earth. It is not until Genesis chapter nine after the world has collapsed into sin after the destruction of the flood that we have meat as an option for people. It is clearly a concession to human sinfulness that the world has collapsed into sin and God is simply accommodating."

Jamison does not discourage Christians from adopting a meatless diet: "If your conscience convicts you that you should not eat animals, then, by all means, become vegetarian, but that is not the normative view for everyone in the Bible.

"So. don't make you convictions somebody else's commandments."

For anyone interested in attempting vegetarianism or veganism, Gilmour suggests, "An easy transition into it: there is a lot of good food and restaurants. I found it to be an adventure - a food adventure - to discover new ways of eating."