Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lame Arguments Defending Alcohol Consumption

A good look at some of the reasons folks give for 'promoting' Christian liberty in consuming alcohol. There may be a legitimate place for it, but we must be careful not to flaunt the liberty we have, as mature Christian (in particular), to not create stumbling blocks as well. While I have an occasional drink, I do not think it is the best thing for all folks, and even for myself 15-20 years ago...In any case Fred Butler adds some good insight into this discussion.

Lame Arguments the YRR Should Avoid When Defending Alcohol Consumption

Whilst I was on my blog break, John MacArthur, stirred the dander of the 30-something pastor set who love to play like they are sophisticated metropolitans. He wrote an articlebasically telling them to put down their beer steins and wake up to the fact that there is more to Christian liberty than the unshackled, “William Wallace” freedom of drinking imported booze.
I know they were upset with him, because I read a lot of their blog posts and tweets. Not only did the bulk of them entirely miss the point John was making, a number of them would spiral off into left field with some lame arguments they put forth to defend their convictions.
I boiled those arguments down to the four or so lamest ones I encountered repeatedly, and I thought I would highlight them for our educational pleasure.
Before getting to them, however, let me offer some preemptive comments.
I am not a teetotaler. I would never advocate for being a teetotaler. I probably have just as much disdain, if not more, for the legalistic social mores hoisted upon undiscerning Christians by classic American fundamentalists as representing true, Christian virtue as the YRR folks do.
In fact, I like a good wine. I may have a glass if I am on vacation with my wife and we have opportunity to stay at one of those fancy Pacifica hotels dotting the coast of California. We sometimes splurge a little and buy a bottle of Bailey’s around Thanksgiving time that takes us a good couple of months to sip on.
However, I am also aware of the fact that alcohol in any form is viewed by the majority of American Christians as being “sinful.” Yes, I realize they are mistaken about that, but reality is reality, and that attitude is not changing anytime soon, in spite of YRR efforts to the contrary.
As long as beer and wine is perceived as a terrible vice used by party people on spring break, rowdy tailgaters at a football game, and tavern brawlers whose mugshots appear on the “Smoking Gun” website, it is not a wise idea for Christian ministers to promote alcohol consumption among their people.
My life is lived in front of many folks, and it is to those people I am responsible for ministering Christ. Making it a habit to flaunt my liberty with alcohol consumption is not helpful for them, and will only generate more confusion than is necessary.
Now, with that being stated, let’s look at the lame arguments the YRR make to defend their alcohol consumption.
Martin Luther and/or the Reformers and/or the Puritans brewed beer and consumed wine
This is generally the immediate response to my position of cautious moderation. “Well, Martin Luther and/or the Reformers drank beer, so why can’t we?”
Keep in mind that Martin Luther lived 500 YEARS AGO! While we certainly applaud Luther and express our heart-felt Christianly thanks for him defending the timeless truths of the Gospel, that does not mean we are to automatically emulate him, or any other Reformer for that matter, and his various social convictions.
Think about it. What is more important? That we reform ourselves according to biblicalstandards, or historical standards? Honestly, what was a normal part of society in Germany 500 years ago may had been acceptable, but was it necessarily biblical? Even if it is just American Christians who have weird hang-ups with alcohol because of the old prohibition days still doesn’t mean we need to be like German Christians today. It may not be the best use of liberty for them either just because they live in Europe and have no connection to our prohibition past.
The same can be said about the other Reformers as well. Do we adopt all the social conventions of the Reformers and the Puritans just because they did them? Several Reformers practiced astrology, like Phillip Melanchthon. That’s not to say everything Melanchthon wrote stinks of new age mysticism. He was just as much a complex sinner as the rest of us. But his belief in astrology does reflect a common, historic practice among many Protestants during his time. So, who is ready to reclaim horoscopes from the Fundies and reform them for the glory of God?
The more bizarre use of the “Luther drank beer” argument is the appeal to Puritans, who supposedly were quite the bar flies, or at least one would think so according to many of the YRR. But we’re talking about the Puritans. These were the guys who thought wedding rings were popish and outlawed Christmas during Cromwell’s Protectorate. Will we “reform” according to those convictions?
And just a closing word about Mark Driscoll’s absurd claim that a brewery was the first building the Pilgrims built upon arriving in the new world. This is an urban legend. If you and your people are sick and dying and winter is coming on in a strange land, do you waste time building a brewery? Or will it be basic shelter?
obesityFood is abused by way too many people, but you don’t hear Christians crying out about gluttony. Yet there are more people in churches who overeat than there are alcoholics and drunkards, and no one rebukes these brothers and sisters for their reckless overindulgence in food.
The biggest (no pun intended) problem with this argument is that gluttony is not just overeating. It is especially NOT overeating in the sense of a guy eating an entire large pizza in one sitting or scarfing down Chili’s 3,200 calorie “Freakin’ Onion” appetizer all by himself.
Gluttony is always tied to drinking in the Scriptures. What we know to be a drunken, debauched lifestyle. One may say overeating is a part of the debauched lifestyle, but it is the idea of out-of-control, riotous living that makes “gluttony” sinful. This is not super-sizing your McDonald’s order.
Consider Deuteronomy 21:20:
And they shall say to the elders of his city,`This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.
If you look at the entire context, you have parents – PARENTS; you know, mama and daddy – bringing their son before the elders to be judged because he is basically a thick-headed good for nothing who spends his time and money (family’s money) on riotous living. The word “glutton” has the idea of a vile, worthless person. Notice what happens with this son. He is brought before the elders of the town so they can pass judgment upon him and if they judge against him, he is stoned to death. That’s the death penalty, folks. He is not executed for being 60 pounds overweight and having lunch at Jack in the Box every other day.
scooterThe health consequences associated with eating recklessly is no joke. Just ask anyone with diabetes. Overeating should be treated just as seriously as alcoholism.
Related to the “gluttony” argument is the “obesity is just as bad if not worse than alcoholism” argument. This one is usually put forth in the combox after a teetotaler lists a bunch of statistics telling how many people die from alcohol related deaths, or how many women and children are abused by alcoholic husbands or parents. As a rebuttal, it’s dogmatically proclaimed that obesity is just as bad if not worse of an epidemic and social problem as alcohol.
This is a profoundly ridiculous comparison. The societal impact of alcoholism and obesity is incomparable. That is because alcoholism has the greatest potential to destroy innocent lives.
Many innocent lives.
In fact, alcohol has destroyed those lives unmercifully. There are no Mother’s Against Obese Driving organizations advocating against 350 pound people driving automobiles. There are no laws against driving under the influence of fried chicken. A cop won’t stop a guy and ask him if he has been eating, and then give him a breathalyzer to test his blood-gravy level. And there is a good reason for this: Obesity only hurts one person. No man, after leaving the Macaroni Grill, has ever gotten into his SUV, and under the influence of the chicken Alfredo platter he consumed 30 minutes before, ran a stop light and killed a family.
Now, just so I am clear. I am not saying obesity is a good thing. Being overweight does have considerable health problems for the individual. AND I would say Christians should make eating healthy a part of their spiritual lives. My point here is not to advocate overeating, but to merely show that obesity is no where near being the societal problem associated with the consumption of alcohol. No where in the ball park. Obesity is a result of bad lifestyle choices. Much like smoking, another vice the YRR tend to encourage.
Why do we want to be so legalistic about alcohol when it is such a blessing to mankind? God created wine for us to enjoy the bounty of His earth. The prohibition is against drunkenness, not consumption.
It is believed that because wine is processed from grapes, and alcohol is a natural derivative of fermented grapes, that places alcohol in a special category of blessing. Additionally, YRR argue that passages like Psalm 104:15 which says, And wine that makes glad the heart of man, Oil to make his face shine, And bread which strengthens man’s heart proves that God blesses the consumption of alcohol. After all, Psalm 104 is a psalm of praise to God who provides all good things for mankind.
Of course, this line of argumentation ignores the overwhelming multitude of biblical passages that warn against the consumption of alcohol. Certainly the prohibition is against drunkenness, not consumption, but seeing that the Bible speaks so pointedly against the dangers of drinking alcohol, why would God’s pastor want to use a tavern as a setting for a men’s Bible study?
Moreover, this is the exact same argument I have heard from Christians who seriously think it is God blessed to smoke pot. I kid you not. I once had one fellow, with a stern conviction in his voice and passion in his eyes, explain to me that God gave ALL the grass and green herb of the field for man to use, and that means cannabis. I reckon, by extension it would also include opium and the coca plant. And before anyone tries to “rebut” me by saying “but the grass and herbs were meant to be for FOOD, not SMOKING, duh,” keep in mind that pot can be baked in brownies.
And one final thought in response to the “the prohibition against drunkenness, not consumption” reasoning. There is no prohibition against slavery in the Bible either. Really. Go look it up. Paul never condemned slavery as a practice. The only thing condemned was “man stealing.” So, as long as your slave isn’t “stolen” there is no prohibition against owning him or her. Who is up to the challenge of defending slavery for the glory of God? Anyone?
You young, restless and reformed dudes, no one wants to stifle your fun. Yes, I realize a lot of you all were saved in one of those smothering, fundamentalist Baptist churches who regulated every behavior and activity with an iron fist of legalism like a draconian-driven HOA board of directors. I mean, you couldn’t even wear short pants in the church building, let alone even dream about drinking a beer. I sympathize with you. I really do. But honestly, is drinking beer really THAT important? Seriously?
I have a niece who, when we went to Sunday brunch at some fancy restaurant, would only eat macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. She had an entire buffet laid out before her, and she obsessed on the mac N’ cheese. I remember telling her, “You have this wonderful banquet of food and all you are eating is mac N’ cheese? You know, there is much more to life than mac N’ cheese.” YRR pastor, there is much more to Christian liberty than drinking imported beer.

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