by Clete Hux

Americans seem to care more about what kind of gas and oil they put in their cars than what foods they put in their bodies.  Many, however, including Christians, have joined an “image crazed” generation which has become obsessed with popular diet plans that are flooding the marketplace.  In recent years some of these have arisen supposedly from a Christian perspective.  Among these is Gwen Shamblin’s Weigh Down Workshop, which has been and continues to be promoted in some churches even though it has become quite cultic.  A book, What Would Jesus Eat?, by Dr. Don Colbert, encourages eating non-animal derived “living foods” and eschewing most “dead” or processed foods.  Add to this Jordan S. Rubin’s The Maker’s Diet, which draws from the book of Leviticus, encouraging the eating of certain meat and dairy products and warns against an all-raw, vegetarian diet.  However, the most popular Christian diet plan seems to be George Malkmus’s Hallelujah Diet which is a strict vegan diet that excludes all meat, dairy products, salt, sugar, white flour, and caffeine.

 

Malkmus’s Background

Born in 1934, George M. Malkmus claims to have eliminated his colon cancer and other serious health problems more than 25 years ago by following biblical principles for a natural diet and healthy lifestyle.  He and his wife Rhonda Jean operate Hallelujah Acres, their venue for holding seminars, selling products, and advocating this diet that features eating raw fruits and vegetables.

His newsletter Back to the Garden describes his history.  Upon graduating high school in 1952, Malkmus worked for a railroad, then was soon drafted into the army to serve in the Korean War.  When his military duty was completed he returned to work for the railroad.  He became a Christian in 1957after attending a Billy Graham crusade in New York City.  Deciding to become a gospel minister, he attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, but graduated from Elohim Bible Institute in New York.  He then pastored various churches in New York City, North Carolina, and Florida.

In his late twenties he found himself needing stronger and stronger prescription eyeglasses.  Then he began to have problems with hemorrhoids, sinus trouble, allergies, high blood pressure, fatigue and acne.  At the age of 42, Malkmus was told he had colon cancer.  It is unclear whether he actually had cancer because he never consulted a specialist.  Instead, he relied on nutritionists and chiropractors.  He even admitted that no biopsies had been performed and there was no knowledge of any malignancy.  However, Malkmus stated that he did have a tumor and there was bleeding.1

 

Malkmus’s Diet

Instead of using conventional medical treatment, he took the advice of Lester Roloff, an old preacher friend, who supposedly challenged him to turn from the standard American way of eating to the original diet God gave mankind in Genesis 1:29.  Accordingly, within a year, all of Malkmus’ physical problems (including his “baseball-sized” tumor) disappeared.  Seeing this as from God, Malkmus termed it the Hallelujah Diet and began teaching that the only nourishment God ever intended to enter our bodies is raw fruits and vegetables,2  which can be grown in one’s own garden.

Ironically, the most important element of the Hallelujah Diet cannot be grown in one’s garden.  Barley Green, a powder, was first created in the twentieth century from barley grass juice by Yoshihide Hagiwara, a Japanese researcher.  Malkmus sold this product—made by AIM, a multilevel marketing company in Nampa, Idaho—for a long time.3  According to Malkmus, Barley Green was the single most important food he put in his body, and he always consumed at least three tablespoons a day.4  Until 2002, Malkmus would only use Barley Green made and distributed by AIM because, according to Malkmus, it built new, strong, healthy, vital, and vibrant cells.5

Apparently, these claims are not validated by AIM.  In compliance with an FDA order in 1988 telling AIM to stop making unproven claims for Barley Green, they have consistently denied any health benefit derived from Barley green.  According to Dr. Stephen Barett of Quackwatch.org, AIM was glad to have the company’s relationship with Malkmus terminated in 2002, because the Hallelujah Acres membership often claimed that the product  healed many major ailments, a claim which went against the AIM Company’s member/company agreement.6   Now, Malkmus supposedly distributes a similar product, BarleyMax, produced by a different company.

 

His Teachings

The aforementioned Genesis 1:29 passage, along with Genesis 9:3, appear to be Malkmus’s proof texts for his vegan Hallelujah Diet.  Genesis 1:29 is straightforward about God handing to Adam and Eve a command to eat fruit and vegetables.  Malkmus is correct about this.  But, he also believes that man lived an average of 912 years on this 100% uncooked vegetarian diet without any recorded sickness for almost two thousand years before the flood.7   According to Malkmus, sickness did not begin with the Fall.8  It began after the flood when God allowed the eating of meat to be added to man’s diet.  Malkmus contends that God allowed meat-eating after the flood for the purpose of shortening man’s life rather than allowing him to live longer.  In so doing, God brought man’s average life span down from 912 to 110 years. 9  This, of course, is a far-fetched claim with no biblical support and no empirical evidence.

 

Concerns/Responses

No doubt George Malkmus is a very sincere man who believes his way is God’s prescription for health.  And apparently, many people have become healthier with his more natural diet as evidence by the many testimonials he cites.  However, it is doubtful that much weight should be placed in these anecdotal testimonies.  Malkmus does not back up his dogmatic claims with any hard evidence.  Rather he relies on the testimonials of himself and others, and the obvious shortcomings of the standard American diet.  Testimonials alone can be quite subjective and unreliable sources of evidence.

Anything less than strict adherence to the Genesis 1:29 diet is disobedience to God according to Malkmus.  This is his message and it is a “gospel” of perfect health for the physical body.  Consider this statement by Malkmus on the inside cover of his newsletters:

 

If someone were to say they had found a way of eliminating sickness from the world, the world would say they were crazy.

Yet here at Hallelujah Acres, we have found a way of eliminating sickness from the world, and a few people are starting to listen.10

This should alarm any reader!  If one believes this, then one could easily be led into the bondage of legalism, believing that perfect health is attainable and that only Malkmus’ plan can deliver it.  Yet, if he can make such a claim to eliminating sickness from the world, why does Malkmus also state in his newsletters that he cannot assume responsibility for people who use the information contained in his newsletters? 11  This seems contradictory!

He seems to contradict himself in another way.  In pleading his case for a return to a Genesis 1:29 diet consisting of raw fruits and vegetables, he insists that Barleygreen (now Barley Max) is a required element of the Hallelujah Diet.  If that is the case, then it would have been impossible for anyone to follow God’s diet prior to the invention of Barleygreen, which didn’t happen until the late twentieth century.  Our first parents, Adam and Eve, certainly didn’t eat Barleygreen.

Lastly, Malkmus’s misapplications of the two Genesis texts and his ideas on sickness and death should concern every Christian.  He believes sickness and disease are not normal, but are the penalty one pays for violating God’s natural laws.12  He insists that sickness only came into the world when God gave man meat to eat after the flood, but he gives no consistent explanation as to why or how death was a part of the world before the flood.  The fact is, death came only as the result of sickness.  So, sickness and disease were present before the flood because death was present before the flood.

Malkmus thinks that one of the greatest tragedies in the world was mankind’s change from the original raw vegan/fruit diet God gave in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 1:29) to a diet of meat and cooked foods.13  If this is true, then God is credited with having made the greatest tragedy in the world, because God himself made the dietary change in Gen 9:3.  Far from being a tragedy, of course, the permission to eat meat was a blessing that God gave to Noah after the flood.  As a matter of fact, the first four words of Genesis nine are “And God blessed Noah” (Gen. 9:1).

Finally, we do not we see Jesus endorsing a totally meatless diet, either.  We see that he ate fish (John 21:9-15), fed the multitudes fish (Matt. 15:36; John 6:11), and even encouraged his disciples to catch fish (John 21:6).  And since he ate the traditional Passover meal with his disciples (cf. Luke 22:7-8), we can assume that he ate the Passover lamb. Moreover, we should not forget the permission that God gave his church to eat not only meat, but even previously forbidden meats when he spoke to Peter in Joppa and commanded, “Kill and eat” (Acts 10:13).

 

Clete Hux is the counter-cult specialist for the Apologetics Resource Center.

Notes

  1. See http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/malkmus.html
  2. George H. Malkmus, Why Christians Get Sick, 15th (1989:  Shippensburg, Pa:  Destiny Image Publishes, 2001), 5
  3. See http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/malkmus.html
  4. George H. Malkmus, God’s way to Ultimate Health. 17th printing (1995:  Shelby, C.:  Hallelujah Acres Publishing, 2001), 92
  5. George H. Malkmus, “The Hallelujah Diet,” Back to the Garden, Summer/Fall 2002 issue, 5.
  6. See http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/malkmus.html
  7. George H. Malkmus, Diets, diets, diets. Back to the Garden newsletter, Spring/Summer 1999, Issue 18, pp4-6, 17.
  8. Randall Birtell, Hallelujah! Another Diet!, Midwestern Christian Outreach Journal, Fall 2002, p. 9.
  9. Malkmus, Diets, diets, diets, pp 4-6, 17.
  10. Malkmus, Back to the Garden, Summer/Fall 2000 issue #20, p. 2.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Malkmus, Why Christians Get Sick, 99.
  13. Malkmus, God’s Way to Ultimate Health, 78.

 

 

First published in Areopagus Journal – Alternative Medicine Our Flight from the Conventional Vol. 6 No. 5