To my mind, black pudding is one of the few great contributions the Brits have made to global cuisine. For the uninitiated, we’re not talking about pudding in the sense of a gelatinous dessert. Instead, black pudding is a sausage, a blood sausage to be more precise. It’s made with pork blood, fat, and some type of cereal, usually oats.
Some find the idea of black pudding repulsive, but there are also Christians who argue it is unlawful for believers to eat and enjoy it. I had a seminary professor who held this view.
Part of the rationale for this view is God’s command to Noah in Genesis 9:4, “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” The question is whether this was meant to be a binding restriction for all time or whether this was a restriction owing to the circumstances of that age. Most interpreters tend to the latter view. For example, John Calvin writes in his commentary, “Yet we must remember, that this restriction was part of the old law.” In other words, this restriction presaged the Mosaic dietary laws concerning the consumption of blood (Leviticus 17:10-12). Since Christ declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19), these sorts of laws are no longer relevant to us in the same way.
The other part of the rationale at first glance seems stronger. In Acts 15, the apostles met together in Jerusalem to resolve some issues vexing the Church. The issues had to do with the relationship between Christian Jews and Gentiles and observance of the Mosaic laws. After some debate, James made a proposal which found acceptance with all the apostles and elders. The adopted written judgment read as follows:
For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. (Acts 15:28-29)
My seminary professor believed this sealed the deal. Surely these are binding stipulations for the Church of Jesus Christ in all ages and places. Ergo, no black pudding.
But let’s think about this further. Not all the stipulations in Acts 15 are of the same nature. What was said about sexual immorality is obviously a matter of God’s abiding moral law — this is the seventh commandment. However, the three other matters are regulated as a matter of not giving offense to other believers.
In an essay entitled “From Dissension to Joy: Resources from Acts 15:1-35 for Global Presbyterianism” (in China’s Reforming Churches, ed. Bruce Baugus), Guy Prentiss Waters discusses the question of how we can “categorically assign normativity” to Scriptural examples or precepts. He notes James Bannerman’s insight that things are binding so long as we are in similar circumstances. The true test is in the question: “Am I in ‘like circumstances’ as the original audience?” (p.225). So, when it comes to the stipulation to abstain from blood, we conclude that we are not bound: “The reason is because the circumstances that occasioned the church’s exercise of the power of order in Jerusalem no longer exist today” (p. 238). In other words, we’re not faced with a significant Jewish population in the Church who would take offense at the eating of blood. John Calvin commented in a similar vein:
Wherefore, what Tertullian relates, that in his time it was unlawful among Christians to taste the blood of cattle, savours of superstition. For the apostles, in commanding the Gentiles to observe this rite, for a short time, did not intend to inject a scruple into their consciences, but only to prevent the liberty which was otherwise sacred, from proving an occasion of offence to the ignorant and the weak. (Commentary on Genesis 9:4)
Thus, I conclude that Acts 15:28-29 does not make it unlawful for Christians today to consume blood.
If you’re not convinced, I have some good news: even if you can’t/won’t eat black pudding, you can still enjoy your steak rare. Those red fluids coming out of a rare steak aren’t blood, but myoglobin. Myoglobin is a protein found in muscles — it turns red when it comes into contact with oxygen. So even if you believe Acts 15:28-29 to be binding on Christians today, go ahead and order that steak rare or medium rare. You’re not eating blood.
If you are convinced, then I have even better news: a great (but simple) recipe to enjoy black pudding. This is my favourite way to have it for breakfast, a Saturday morning treat!
FRIED BP AND WAFFLES
Serves two. The recipe is easy to adjust for more.
Prep time: less than 10 minutes.
One small black pudding (in Australia usually available from Coles’ deli section)
Two Belgian waffles
- Cut the black pudding into long, thin (1 cm) slices at an angle
- Put the waffles in the toaster
- Fry the black pudding till crispy on the outside (in a med-high fry pan, about 2 minutes each side)
- At the same time, fry the two eggs to your liking.
- By this time the waffles should be toasted, butter them to your liking and then add some maple syrup. I like to add just enough to fill all the little pockets.
- To complete, put a fried egg on each waffle, and then slices of fried black pudding on top. Enjoy!