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.

 

Mob Rule as Science

I’ve been researching the philosophy, history, science, and politics of transgenderism in order to create a more comprehensive series of posts that deal with topic. This is still something I’d like to complete soon, but while going through the process I discovered some surprising things.

In every article discussing changes to mental health guidelines (whether the APA’s or the WHO’s), the driving force to rewrite sections on transgenderism was liberal politicians in countries that held sway over the respective guidelines.For instance, in Denmark, politicians declared that they would legislate new guidelines for a presumably scientific document:

“I think it’s really time to push the WHO in the direction of changing now,” Flemming Møller Mortensen, a Social Democrat member of Parliament and deputy chairman of the health committee, told STAT in an interview.

“Now we give them a little kick and we say: ‘If you do not finish in the autumn of this year, we will go by ourselves by the first of January.’’’

And what was the motivating factor?

Rights group LGBT Denmark also welcomed the move.

“To remove transgender from the section of mental disorders means removing an institutionalised stigmatisation of trans people,” spokeswoman Linda Thor Pedersen said.

That’s right. The reason it is no longer scientific to call a man wrong for thinking he is a woman is because professional agitators want to “remove an institutionalized stigmatization”. I wonder if physics has a history of change due to the feelings of people impacted by physics. This is “science” by legislative dictate in order to appease the mob. Which is to say, it isn’t science.

There are thousands of LGBT blogs advocating to what they call transgender rights. The word “right” has been bastardized beyond meaning, but the gist of the articles on these blogs is that the science really doesn’t matter when it comes to transgenderism. What matters is the stigma. So whether people are objectively wrong about their own bodies or not, the only important concern is the feelings those people have. And this at least is consistent. If feelings are more important than the human body, why wouldn’t they be more important than a human intellectual pursuit like science?

Not a single article I could find articulated a case for transgenderism based on logic or biological factors. The closest I could find were articles discussing the structure of brains in those who are mistaken about their sex, but by nature these arguments can say little about the merits of treating transgenderism as normal and healthy. Just as the presence of people born without legs can say little about the merits of treating such a condition as normal and healthy. In both cases, it is the incredible rarity of both that negates the claim to normalcy, and frustration of natural ends that negates the claim to health.

I expected to come across something that resembled an argument, and the closest I got was a few self-described “mental health workers” talking about their experience treating people who believed themselves to be the opposite sex. Even in these cases, there was no argumentation. There was simply an irritated reaction.

Even on the topic of hormone blockers, I found people simply defending the practice of disrupting human health on the basis of dignity. Why is it dignified to take hormone blockers? No one seems to know.

So, in the end, I discovered that the transgender movement is based on assertions, is propagated by force and threat of force, and is justified by sentimentality. This isn’t too far off from what I had expected, but to find nothing at all outside of this shallowness was a little surprising.

The Gnostic Genderbread Man

I came upon a piece of propaganda at work last week during a fascist re-education seminar. I present it here, inherent contradictions and anti-realist statements and all:

Garbage

v3.3, because pseudoscience is hard to pin down.

There are apparently an infinite variety of positions to take on the various slider bars. This is especially strange given that biological sex is, by definition, a binary choice: either male or female. The alternative to sexual creatures are asexual creatures, and human beings are not asexual. This is a universally accepted biological fact, and an inconvenient thing to ignore if you are a gender theorist, so there are plenty of pseudoscientific reports that say nothing but try to compel people to doubt this easily observed fact.

I’m sure more revisions of this are in store, given that “sexual attracted to” seems like it should have a number of sliders equal, at least, to the number of all other sliders multiplied together. It gets a measly two. And the more sliders the better, right? This image is unknowingly a perfect reflection of the postmodern West, where reality is subject to consumerist choice. What better expression of infinite consumerist choice than a buffet?

Instead of pointing out the absurdities inherent in this image bit by bit, I thought a nice comparison image might be nice. So, for the first time, I present the Gingerbody Man:

Garbage

This can be done for every other aspect of human life one can imagine. It doesn’t take much to transform obviously simple things into artificially complex nonsense.

Note that a person who “identifies” as too fat but is actually too thin and so doesn’t eat is called an anorexic, and is extremely unhealthy. But a person who “identifies” as a woman but is actually a man and so takes testosterone-blockers is considered sacred, and not to be questioned, even though testosterone is required for health in a male body and deficiencies are considered a medical condition.

Essential in both of these images is the idea that the human body is subservient, in every way, to the human mind. The body is considered a mere shell that hides a person’s true self from getting out. As a well-timed article put it, this whole thing has its roots in therapy culture and the cult of Freud.

This sort of thing is not entirely new, however. Treating one’s body with contempt is nothing more or less than Gnosticism. In demanding that Christians follow the orders of gender theorists, the US Government and businesses that join in are demanding that Christians adopt not only an insane and anti-scientific view of the world, but a heretical one.

The Insanity of Gender Theory

Think fast.

A person with short, combed hair, and no makeup walks up to you wearing a suit. What gender is this person.

The person’s sex cannot be in doubt. There are two sexes; it is in the nature of sexual reproduction to have two sexes. One is male, and the other is female.

No, my question is to which gender a person is. The answer is that it is impossible to tell, given the fact that the term, when not used in linguistics, is for all practical purposes the greatest example of intellectual fuzziness and ambiguity available.

The person could identify as a man and be a biological male. The person could identify as a female and be a biological male and wear male clothes and act like a male. In fact, a man could simply be living a normal and say “I identify as a woman” without changing in a single way, and it would fall within the category of transgendered.

One would suspect that it would be difficult to build a punitive framework around this concept for anyone who did not find purchase in it. After all, how can someone be penalized for not fully understanding something that, by its own nature, cannot be understood? But one would be wrong. Utterly wrong.

Not only are there penalties for those who do not adhere to a philosophy grounded on ambiguous nothingness, the penalties themselves are severe. Social ostracism, losing a job, and dealing with financial penalties are not uncommon. Simply not being enthusiastic enough about the anti-philosophy of Gender Theory is sufficient in many cases.

Large companies across the United States are, in order to cater to the sexual radicals that make up the bulk of the cultural elite, increasingly enforcing the proclamations of Gender Theorists on anyone and everyone. Within a year of the first efforts to allow biological men into the biological women’s restroom (and mind you, the restrooms are divided by biological sex and not gender, else there would be urinals in both or neither), there are now boycotts of entire states who do not comply with the newly enhanced Gender Theory proclamation that requires it be permitted.

The United States is treading some familiar territory to those who lived in the fascist pits of despair popularized in the 20th century. Freedom of speech and conscience are not only limited, but are limited precisely where they ought to be most free: in the expression of true statements. “Men are men and cannot conceivably feel like women” is anathema. Despite the fact that no human being can ever feel like another in total, because we are ourselves and not someone else, it is taken for granted that a man can know what a woman feels like so thoroughly that he himself becomes one. In a sane society, this might be seen as a severe mental illness, but in an insane society, it is normalized just as one would expect. In order for a civilization to go insane, it must normalize insanity and institutionalize sanity.

Church Music

At a rehearsal this week for the church band – of which I am a member – there was a discussion about a few churchgoers who, having seen the new acoustic devices mounted along the walls of the sanctuary, are concerned with the volume of the band. When this information reached the ears of the various musicians that make up the band, the reaction was nearly in unison: these complainers need to stop complaining; louder music is here, it’s good, and it’s here for good.

Nearly in unison, because I dissented, although I didn’t make my opinion known. Since I had not thought through what precisely had led me to disagree, I felt it best to refrain from saying from what would have been an enjoyable thing to say: I’m the band’s lone and proud curmudgeon.

Aside from the obvious critique of “louder is better”, which is simply that such a statement is not an argument, there seems to be a deeper response available.

Beauty is objective, but our experience of it is subjective. Put into more common language, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder, if and only if the beholder is a neophyte”. Just as with good food, good art becomes easier to distinguish as one learns how to do the work of making the right distinctions. This is not a popular opinion today. In fact, the idea of purely subjective art is ubiquitous in art schools. Such art schools seem to be blinded to the contradiction of teaching a topic that is purely subjective. What can be learned if a person already possesses the fullest possible extent of understanding?

We seem to have no problem of objectivity when it comes to food. Children want McDonalds because McDonalds tastes good to their unrefined taste buds. This is not to say that McDonalds should never be consumed by adults. However, an adult should be able to tell the difference between a Big Mac with Coke and a $50 cut of steak with a $20 glass of wine.

This is not to say that good art is impossible to tell from bad art for a novice. In fact, just the opposite is true for those who study in modern art schools. As they grow in subjective nonsense, they become unable to make distinctions that are obvious to novices. If art schools taught beauty instead of ugliness, then students of such schools would be able to see beauty in ever more profound ways. Instead, it is the average person walking through an art museum on a day of free admission that is better equipped to tell the difference between beauty and ugliness. A trained artist will see an empty canvas and marvel, while a tourist will laugh. The artist will see the tourist as uncultured; the tourist will see the artist as an idiot. Neither is far off from the truth, but the culture the artist prides himself in is a dead and dying culture, and the tourist is all the better having never been inculcated with the same nonsense.

But all of this is a little off-topic. To summarize: Beauty is objective, primarily, and an understanding of beauty can be increased over time, just as an appreciation for good food can.

What does all of this have to do with a church band and loud music?

Loud music, especially with a driving beat, is the very definition of modern pop music. It’s also what most of the members of the band prefer. The volume and driving beat combine to produce a powerful reaction which seems irresistible. It leaves me bored.

In the past year, I’ve listened to more Bach than any other Christian music combined. Eine Feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) has been my favorite cantata. Yet, if any of the other members of the band were to listen to the Chorale, it would sound a bit like a cacophony. It isn’t a cacophony, but with so many independent musical forces moving together, it is a little difficult to put things into the right acoustic places. It would leave the rest of the band bored.

How could two completely different styles of music leave people bored if beauty is objective?

It takes work – lots of work – to appreciate older forms of music. It takes time to acquire the taste, and faith along the way to know that a deep appreciation is in store. Despite growing up encouraged to listen to classical music, it was a boring chore for me to listen to Bach consistently for the first time. The immediate gratification of loud, driving rhythms simply doesn’t exist in anything he wrote, but this gratification in modern popular music is like eating a McDonalds combo: it satisfies, but only barely.

I think that what is boring for the rest of the band, and for most people in the West today, is working towards seeing greater beauty in more fundamentally beautiful music. I think what is boring for me is repetitive loudness.

Perhaps thinking of things this way makes me come across as an elitist, but it isn’t intended to. Instead, my goal is to show how people – Christians who believe in a Beautiful God in particular – ought not to settle for cheap, instant gratification. It takes work to appreciate beauty if you are expecting something quickly, but that work pays off.

 

Weak Christianity

I encountered an unfortunate article on MereOrthodoxy this afternoon that had me remove the website from my subscription list. I have a big enough list as it is, so poorly thought and poorly written articles cause me to prune it down.

The article was about how bad Trump and Cruz are, and why the author would abstain from voting if Cruz were the nominee. I’m not sure why Trump was even brought up in the article, since the headline was about Cruz specifically. The author says, in essence, that a vote for Cruz is mere desperation of a dead “Religious Right” movement.

It had me thinking, though not about what it was supposed to have me think about. I thought instead about how today, Christians demand perfection in areas they will never get it (politics), while tolerating evil where they should never have it (in churches, accepting the sexual revolution, anti-intellectualism, etc).

We have a spineless church, unwilling to be involved in any part of the world unless that involvement is done through perfect ambassadors. We have a church that won’t vote for Cruz because he is imperfect, and will therefore help Hillary, who supports all sorts of evil. It’s the two-story view that separates the world of morals from the world of practicality taken to its most extreme.

Cruz is not a Savior. But he’ll probably fight government-funded abortions. He isn’t an Apostle. But he’ll probably stand up for religious freedom. He isn’t the way to God. But he will probably be a good president. If this isn’t good enough, nothing will ever be, and such Christians ought to just admit that they’d rather retire into a monastic order and just wait this whole pre-heaven thing out. Which, unfortunately, is an insult to monastic orders.