Drinking to the Glory of God

From a relatively obscure ministry website comes this article on alcohol. Or, more appropriately, on the evils of drinking it:

I write because I am terribly concerned with the approach to alcohol by my generation of pastors, and more, the approach to alcohol by the next generation of pastors. There appears to be a growing trend of young pastors embracing the use of alcohol.

It’s worth pointing out that we already have a case of fallacious equivocation. The author of the article uses the terms “alcohol abuse” and “use of alcohol” synonymous, which is then used as evidence for total abstinence of alcohol.

During a meeting at the Southern Baptist Convention there was a question asked of Al Mohler concerning the use of alcohol. He masterfully answered the question, informing everyone in the room that in order to be a part of the faculty or a student at Southern one must agree to abstain from alcohol. But during that same meeting a pastor many younger pastors admire quipped that he enjoyed a beer occasionally. Smiles all around.

What is left out is what else Mohler said, amounting to an admission that drinking alcohol is not inherently sinful and can be done in an appropriate way. We eventually get a bit of honesty, but what we discover is concerning:

I know all the arguments: having one drink is not a sin, having a drink will not send you to Hell, Jesus drank wine, the disciples drank wine, on and on it goes. I have heard them all. But I am convinced if one does a study of the Bible from beginning to end, he will find an overwhelmingly negative view of the use of alcohol.

The fact that Jesus turned water to wine, that Jesus drank wine, that Jesus passed a cup of wine at the Last Supper, that Paul recommended wine to Timothy, and that the Old Testament is filled with drinking and merriment are arguments the author already knows. Presumably, he’s also dismissed them, although he gives no reason to motivate this.

Consider Proverb 23:29 -31: “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. So do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper.”

We return to the fallacious equivocation, but not for the last time. Here, verses are cited from Scripture that condemn drinking in excess, and then these verse are applied to drinking in any quantity. But that’s poor exegesis. The purpose of these verses is to warn against excess, lingering “too long over wine”. If it applied to any alcohol in any quantity, you’d think Jesus Himself would have avoided it instead of creating and consuming it.

I know those verses to be true. Until I was 14 years old I had an alcoholic father. Though a very intelligent and talented person my father chose to drink alcohol. I have few memories of him when he was not intoxicated. I have lots of memories of him intoxicated.

This is a tragic situation, and it may be closer to the author’s conviction than any Scriptural, logical, or historical reason. Again, however, he commits his fallacy. A man who drinks alcohol is not an alcoholic. An alcoholic, like a drug addict, is someone who abuses the substance; just as a glutton is not a person who eats food, but a person who abuses his appetites.

The author goes on to cite a lot of statistics that result alcoholism or drunk driving, but they do not contribute to the overall case for abstinence of alcohol any more than statistics on obesity contribute to an overall case for abstinence of food.

When does drunkenness start? Drunkenness is sinful. Someone says “,I wasn’t drunk, I was a little buzzed.” Well, wouldn’t we have to say when someone’s state is altered it is drunkenness? If one never drinks alcohol, he never has to worry about becoming drunk or when being drunken starts.

Not drinking alcohol certainly implies not getting drunk, but not getting drunk does not imply not drinking alcohol. That is to say, there is a large margin where one can drink alcohol and not be drunk. Alcohol produces a relaxing and calming effect pretty quickly when consumed, but no one would argue that this is “drunkenness” any more than consuming a meal is gluttony. This parallel is important, because it demonstrates a key attribute about God and His Creation – many good things can become bad things when abused, but are not inherently bad as a result. Food, drink, exercise, and sleep are all excellent in the right amounts, but awful when abused to excess.

The Bible condemns gluttony and sloth in the same way it condemns drunkenness, but the author does not therefore conclude that one should abstain food and sleep in order to avoid worrying about where the line is.

Is it worth it? If drinking escalates and drinking alcohol costs your ministry, is it worth it? If your child sees you drinking and grows up with the view it is “OK to have a beer,” but he or she goes on to be an alcoholic, is it worth it? If your child drinks at the legal age but has just a hair too much, but just enough to cause an accident and it kills him or her, is your occasional beer worth it? If one of your congregants sees you or hears of you having a beer and is turned off from the Gospel or begins drinking assuming if you do it, it must be ok and it leads him or her to alcoholism, is it worth it?

What if taking pain killers causes a person to abuse drugs? Are occasional pain killers worth it? What if driving when just a hair too tired causes an accident?  Is occasional night driving worth it?

The fact is, alcoholism is an awful, terrible thing. But alcoholism is not defined as “drinking alcohol”.

The last example just seems silly. If a Christian sees another Christian drinking a beer and is thus turned off from the Gospel, they aren’t a Christian in the first place. I have a hard time even imagining a non-Christian being pushed away from the Gospel by seeing a Christian drink a beer, but I’ve actually witnessed some being attracted to the Gospel by seeing Christians drink reasonably.

Should we be ingesting anything God says bites like a serpent and stings like a viper?

God said drunkenness bites like a serpent and stings like a viper, not alcohol. The context was drunkenness, “lingering too long over wine”. The Bible condemns drunkenness. It does not condemn alcohol.

You would think if God had meant this to apply to alcohol itself, then God taking on human nature would have refrained from drinking it, let alone creating it for his friends.

Is Jesus not enough? So many say, “I have a drink to help me relax; I need a drink to help me relax.” What happened to presenting our requests to God and allowing the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension to guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus? Now that is relaxing!

I suspect the author does things to relax that are not limited to prayer. Does he sit down after doing a lot of hard, manual labor? Does he watch a little TV or read a book after a stressful week?

Why not present his request to God and allow God’s peace to guard his heart and mind instead?

If you are not drinking for an altered state, why drink alcohol? There is not a beer on earth (or any other alcoholic beverage for that matter) that tastes better than sweet tea or your favorite soda.

The author, abstaining from all alcohol, is probably not the best suited to tell others about the taste of alcohol. Scotch, bourbon, rum, whiskey, myriad beers and wines all taste incredible, and while I have never been intoxicated (which the Bible condemns), I’ve enjoyed small amounts of each of these.

Again, I do not write this to judge or criticize any pastor or believer. I write from experience and I write from concern. I encourage you to avoid the use and promotion of alcohol and I am convinced you will never regret not drinking alcohol. In fact I have never met anyone who said I wish I had drunk more. But I have met plenty who said they wished they had never tasted the stuff. You will never regret not drinking alcohol, but if you do drink alcohol, it is almost a certainty; you will have regrets about it.

I’ve met people who have wished they could try some of the more exotic and expensive alcoholic beverages, and I’ve met very few who have regretted drinking alcohol. Most drink in reasonable amounts and do not get drunk.

I think a different, more reasonable policy is in order.

Instead of avoiding great food, avoid gluttony. Instead of avoiding sleep and rest, avoid sloth. Instead of avoiding sex with your spouse, avoid sex with anyone else. Instead of avoiding exercise, avoid obsession with fitness. Instead of avoiding entertainment, avoid being consumed with it. Instead of avoiding conflict, avoid unnecessary conflict. Instead of avoiding medicine, avoid drug addiction.

Instead of avoiding alcohol, avoid alcoholism. Drinking alcohol can be done to the glory of God. Jesus, God Himself in human flesh, not only drank the stuff, but He created it in the first place and created it miraculously again from water. God’s disciples drank it, and their disciples and churches drank it, passing a cup of wine during communion for millennia.

Finally, avoid the fallacy of equivocation. It leads to long and otherwise unnecessary rebuttals.

 

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