Sunday, February 04, 2007

Christians and Alcohol

Connected to a previous post, I've been having a discussion with an individual about Christians and alcohol. He takes the stance that Jesus drank (it certainly appears that he did--check out this verse and this verse) AND that it is entirely possible for Christians to drink and not be drunk (which is condemned by Scripture).

I take the view that, although I might not be able to make an argument against drinking from Scripture (although I think I could--condsider this verse), I find absolutely no benefit in having that "liberty."

In the course of our conversation, the gentleman I was engaging stated (re: the newspaper article that started this whole thing): "But to be fair, the newpaper article, written by a non-Christian outside, is not an accurate reflection of what happens." So his "defense" is that a non-Christian sees Christians drinking and makes a negative assumption about Christians and therefore, that's not fair. From where I'm sitting, his statment makes MY argument: if a non-Christian (or maybe a Christian) sees him drinking, they assume the "drinker" is not a Christian. That IS the point.

He can claim he has the liberty to drink because the Bible doesn't explicitly deem drinking a sin. He can claim that, in moderation, there is nothing wrong with having a drink with a meal or just for the sake of something to drink---BUT, people that THINK drinking is a sin or wrong aren't going to understand his "liberty."

Now--fair or not--why would he want someone to assume he is NOT a Christian when he really is?!!!

Even though he may have that "liberty", why would he want to engage in something that would cause people to assume something negative about him or his faith? Wouldn't it be easier just to NOT DRINK? And here's the bigger question: Why is it so important that he drink? That he be able to defend his right or liberty to drink? What is the benefit? I've asked the question, but no one will give me an answer.

I don't drink. Ever. It's easier and I don't have to defend myself. Incidently, I don't think that makes me better--it does mean I have more free time since I don't have to educate people about my "liberty."

I like what Phil Johnson said: "while we're not prudes or wouldn't automatically consider a stogie or beer "sinful," neither do we consider such things fitting emblems of Christian liberty. (Blog post, May 26, 2006)

15 comments:

Rick said...

I don't drink either, however I have become increasingly convinced that alcohol -- far from being sinful -- is a blessing of God to be enjoyed by men, in moderation like any other food or drink. Consider the repeated connections of wine & merriment in the Scriptures, that Jesus made wine not for Himself but for others (had it been sinful, He would not have encouraged them; nay, He would have rebuked them for drinking at that party), and the health benefits of drinking in moderation (Paul did advise Timothy to drink some wine for his stomach's sake, after all).

Even if I did drink, I wouldn't do so around those who felt it was sinful to do so. Likewise, I wouldn't eat meat around such people. Those of a weaker faith are to be catered to, Paul tells us, so that we do not cause them to stumble in their faith.

As for people assuming something negative about us, I humbly ask so what? Jesus drank wine and the people called Him a drunkard, but was that Jesus' fault? If it wasn't, then why would it be our fault if we drank and people assumed the same?

Jesus fulfilled all righteousness; His example ought to be trustworthy enough to live by ourselves.

Keith said...

Rick:

1) If you truly believe "alcohol" is a blessing from God, why don't you drink?

2) How do you reconcile these two statements: "Even if I did drink, I wouldn't do so around those who felt it was sinful to do so." AND "As for people assuming something negative about us, I humbly ask so what?"

3) Let's say I give you all of your "arguments", I have to beg the question: "Why does it seem to be so important to prove or indulge in a liberty that has so many negatives attached to it?"

I'm not trying to be argumentative...I'd really like someone to answer that question, because it seems that a LOT of time has been spent building a defense for the use of alcohol, but no one seems to be able to give me a reasonable benefit. (Paul's admonition to Timothy seems a little outdated what with all the medical advances we have today.)

Anthony said...

This is a perennial discussion on my blog where I have a beer tasting section. It has sparked few quesions by some people. It resulted in this discussion which involves a pastor from Seattle who has done a few sermons on the subject. One conclusion? The pastor just wants an excuse to drink (that's not what I think, though).

SelahV said...

Keith: liked this post. I agree wholeheartedly. Give me Liberty, but leave out the booze. SelahV

Joel Maners said...

I'm not sure that this is a question of whether or not you can drink a glass of wine. Wht's more important to me is how you treat brothers and sisters in Christ who take liberties that you would not. Perhaps this is a Romans 14 issue.

Neil said...

Good points. As I have studied the Bible I came away with these conclusions:

1. Drinking alcohol is not necessarily a sin (Jesus was a bartender for once, for goodness sake).

2. Getting drunk is always a sin.

3. Tempting a weaker brother should be avoided.

4. If you aren't sure if you should drink, then don't drink

I don't drink at all, but I don't make a big deal out of it with others.

Keith said...

Neil-- Good "rules" to live by.

Joel-- I must admit that there have been times I've been more of a "Pharisee" when it comes to this topic. I think you're right though; some people are more comfortable with certain liberties/things that are not explicitly condemned by Scripture while others are not. I do believe it is important to be aware of others, however, and not be a "stumbling block", etc. In our family, there is a history of alcohol abuse, so for us, just best to leave it alone.

St. Brianstine said...

Keith,

"you say, "Even though he may have that "liberty", why would he want to engage in something that would cause people to assume something negative about him or his faith?" Well they assumed the same thing about Jesus when He drank! I do drink beer because I love the taste (especially dark beers). I see nothing wrong with it, it's a beverage! Of course drunkenness is wrong or sinful but there is no conviction for me in drinking a few beers.

Martin Luther's wife brewed her own beer for him to drink! Drinking was never seen as so taboo until recently. And it's mostly an American Christian perception. In Europe, whole churches go out for pints after the Sunday service. For some reason in America people see drinking as wrong when it is not at all! Jesus drank, good enough for me.

I love beer. It is just like drinking coffee. Both contain drugs. Do people get worked up about Christians drinking coffee? Not really. Furthermore, the Word says about God, "You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart. (Psa 104:14-15 ESV)

It's God given. Boaz (see Book of Ruth) drank and he was a Godly man as well. Heck, even the Reformation was started in the pubs! Men used to sit down, have a few beers and talk theology. That is how the Reformation sprung forth (e.g the White Horse Tavern in Cambridge):

"The White Horse Tavern was the meeting place in Cambridge for English Protestant reformers who discussed Lutheran ideas. These discussions met as early as 1521 [1]. According to the historian Geoffrey Elton the group of university dons who met there were nick-named 'Little Germany' [2]; Luther was a German. Among those who attended these meetings were the future Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, the future Bishop of Worcester Hugh Latimer and the reformer Robert Barnes. The group was not confined to those associated with the reform movement of the next two decades, however, and also included future conservatives like Stephen Gardiner, the future Bishop of Winchester." (WIKI)

The problem, the only problem with Christians and alcohol is when they take it too far and get drunk. Period.

The benefit it brings? It makes merry the heart of men. And tastes good.

Keith said...

St. Brianstine-- you said: "The problem, the only problem with Christians and alcohol is when they take it too far and get drunk." True.

The rest of your post, generally speaking, all true. The difference?--and no disrespect intended--you drink and it takes you 5+ paragraphs to "defend" the practice. I don't--doesn't require any kind of explanation, really. Now, to be perfectly honest if I were asked, my not drinking is more tied to the fact that I can't control it (personally) and my brother and father are both alcoholics.

Thanks for the comments. I always enjoy your sometimes unique perspective. Some day, we'll meet and have some great one-on-one discussions...maybe over a beer and a cup of coffee!

Chance said...

Hi Keith,
I respect your opinion, but I disagree that we should refrain from activities of which there is not a unanimous decision in favor.

If you are basing it on explanation time, I feel that I would spend more time explaining why I DON'T drink to non-Christians, then explaining why I DO drink to Christians.

Christianity is what it is, and if someone would not become a Christian because of the idea that drinking is a sin, well, they are not that committed anyway. However, if we can avoid adding rules when possible, I think it may be to the aide of Christianity. If I tell a non-Christian that being a Christian means walking in love, refraining from sexual immorality, not being quick to anger, etc... that may challenge them, but it is a true representation of Christianity. If I tell them that being a Christian means not getting a tattoo, not drinking, etc... then I am giving them a picture of Christianity that, in my opinion, is not accurate.

Chance said...

By the way, I'm in Colorado now, but I'm originally from Oklahoma. State fan here.

Keith said...

Chance:

Thanks for stopping by. I graduated from OSU/Okmulgee. Go Pokes! I noticed that you listed "Ship of Fools" on your blog. That site really cracks me up. Now--on to the discussion at hand.

You said: If you are basing it on explanation time, I feel that I would spend more time explaining why I DON'T drink to non-Christians, then explaining why I DO drink to Christians. My explanation is VERY simple and I have yet to spend more than the amount of time it takes to say: "Why don't I drink? Well, my father and one of my brothers are alcoholics. I have a problem with drinking myself…I don't know when to quit, so for me, it's just safer." Ninety-nine percent of the people (Christians and non-Christians alike) I say that to respond with: "Oh, I understand." And we move on. Less than 30 seconds. No extra-Biblical condemnation, etc. They are free to drink if they wish. They asked me why I don't and I told them the truth. Sounds pretty easy to me, and not that time-consuming.

I agree with the sentiment (which I believe you expressed) that Christianity is NOT a set of specific rules centered around "don't do this" or "don't do that." (We can talk about the Ten Commandments and what they mean for us today at a later time). However, I'm still waiting for someone to give me a solid, logical, argument that consumption of alcohol is beneficial (and as some have commented/implied, to refrain from doing so is to miss out on a "gift" God has given.) In my book (not THE Book necessarily) there are just too many good reasons not to mess with something that has so many negative possibilities.

When is the last time you heard any of the following?:

• On the evening news: "Three people were killed this evening in a head on collision when a Ford Escort driven by John Public crossed the center median and struck their vehicle head on. Police at the scene attributed the accident to Mr. Public's being SOBER."
• Manager to employee: "Bob, we're going to have to let you go. This is the fourth time this week you've shown up at work SOBER. You know that's against the rules in the company handbook."
• Husband to wife: "Honest, honey. I didn't mean for it to happen this way. We just stopped off after work, DIDN'T have anything to drink and well, we were just SOBER and next thing I know, we're in bed."

Now I realize I'm making an argument based on drunkenness—which IS absolutely condemned in Scripture—but , again, if I don't drink AT ALL, I don't have to worry, EVER about that being a problem.

No one has answered my question: Why is it so important to be able to have and/or exercise the liberty of drinking? I'm still waiting.

St. Brianstine said...

"Why is it so important to be able to have and/or exercise the liberty of drinking? I'm still waiting."

It's not soimportant to me. I just like beer. I could live without it..

Keith said...

Thanks for the simple answer, Brian.

Ariel said...

Don't you think that it's important to consider that during Biblical times it was far safer to drink wine than the often contaminated water? The fermentation process kills bacteria and therefore wine did have a benefit in those days: It was safe to drink. Perhaps the perspective on drinking must change as wine loses that advantage now that we have purified water.