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An interesting discussion took place in the comments to yesterday’s post on the Guinness Brewing Company. It seems that some think brewing beer is either an illegitimate vocation, and immoral activity, or unwise as a witness for Christ.

It’s not possible in one post to address all concerns. I’d just say, for my own part, that I do not advocate alcohol consumption and I don’t particularly like the taste of alcohol. Further, I find it slightly annoying when those who enjoy adult beverages talk about it a lot. (Sort of like the younger pastors who tend to work into conversation how much they enjoy a good cigar, or the occasional pipe. Good for you, bro!)

But the fact of the matter is that though alcohol can be abused, and is often abused, it is still part of God’s good creation—and Jesus partook of it enough that some falsely accused him of being a drunkard (Matt. 11:19 and parallels), and in fact he created “good wine” at a wedding celebration (John 2:1-6).

One of the reasons I think it’s worth returning to the issue is not because I care about alcohol per se, but rather because this issue is a good test case for hemeneutics, application, and ethics.

Again, with no attempt to be comprehensive, here are a few things that have been helpful to me throughout the years:

A Latin phrase to keep in mind:

abusus usum non tollit (“Abuse does not take away proper use”)

Ryan Kelly explains why Romans 14 has less application to this issue than most people think. Here’s the conclusion:

What we should conclude from all of this is that it is the abuse of a thing that is sin, not its use. Sin is that which violates God’s biblical commandments, not the additions and inventions we make. No man can bind the conscience of another. As Sola Scriptura Christians, our minds, wills, and hearts are directed by God’s revealed will in the Scriptures alone. On issues not forbidden or condemned by Scripture, we cannot invent a morality, or, worse, impose those inventions on others. We cannot be holier than Jesus, can we?

D.A. Carson:

Paul refuses to circumcise Titus, even when it was demanded by many in the Jerusalem crowd, not because it didn’t matter to them, but because it mattered so much that if he acquiesced, he would have been giving the impression that faith in Jesus is not enough for salvation: one has to become a Jew first, before one can become a Christian. That would jeopardize the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus.

To create a contemporary analogy: If I’m called to preach the gospel among a lot of people who are cultural teetotallers, I’ll give up alcohol for the sake of the gospel. But if they start saying, “You cannot be a Christian and drink alcohol,” I’ll reply, “Pass the port” or “I’ll think I’ll have a glass of Beaujolais with my meal.” Paul is flexible and therefore prepared to circumcise Timothy when the exclusive sufficiency of Christ is not at stake and when a little cultural accommodation will advance the gospel; he is rigidly inflexible and therefore refuses to circumcise Titus when people are saying that Gentiles must be circumcised and become Jews to accept the Jewish Messiah.

The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, p. 145.

And here is John Piper, a teetotaller and an advocate of teetotalling, putting his young pastoral ministry on the line at Bethlehem Baptist Church in 1982 in order to argue against a provision requiring teetotalling for church membership

I want to hate what God hates and love what God loves.

And this I know beyond the shadow of a doubt: God hates legalism as much as he hates alcoholism.

If any of you still wonders why I go on supporting this amendment after hearing all the tragic stories about lives ruined through alcohol, the reason is that when I go home at night and close my eyes and let eternity rise in my mind, I see ten million more people in hell because of legalism than because of alcoholism. And I think that is a literal understatement. Satan is so sly. “He disguises himself as an angel of light,” the apostle says in 2 Corinthians 11:14. He keeps his deadliest diseases most sanitary. He clothes his captains in religious garments and houses his weapons in temples. O don’t you want to see his plots uncovered? . . .

Legalism is a more dangerous disease than alcoholism because it doesn’t look like one.

Alcoholism makes men fail; legalism helps them succeed in the world.

Alcoholism makes men depend on the bottle; legalism makes them self-sufficient, depending on no one.

Alcoholism destroys moral resolve; legalism gives it strength.

Alcoholics don’t feel welcome in church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in church.

Therefore, what we need in this church is not front-end regulations to try to keep ourselves pure. We need to preach and pray and believe that “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither teetotalism nor social drinking, neither legalism nor alcoholism is of any avail with God, but only a new creation (a new heart)” (Galatians 6:15; 5:6).

The enemy is sending against us every day the Sherman tank of the flesh with its cannons of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. If we try to defend ourselves or our church with peashooter regulations, we will be defeated, even in our apparent success. The only defense is to “be rooted and built up in Christ and established in faith” (Colossians 2:6); “Strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11); “holding fast to the head from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together, . . . grows with a growth that is from God” (Colossians 2:19). From God! From God! And not from ourselves.


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163 thoughts on “Alcohol, Liberty, and Legalism”

  1. Joshua B. Henson says:

    Thanks for the post Justin. It’s good to hear this from your camp. I’ve run into some dear brethren in the Lord who love Piper and all that he’s done/doing that seem to take a very hard (I would say unbiblical and unhelpful) line on the alcohol issue. I understand where they’re coming from but the “dry” position on alcohol is by no means the exclusive “universal” Protestant view (or the Universal Christian view for that matter). The “dry” position also forces folk to take silly positions on the alcohol that Jesus drank (“it wasn’t fermented” or “yeah Jesus drank but it wasn’t sinful for him to do so but it is now sinful for Christians to do so”).

    Balance is the key here. It is equally annoying when folk flaunt their “liberty” all the while stepping on the weak consciences of their brethren. I truly believe love is the foundation here. If it causes my brother to stumble then far be it from me to carry it out in front of them. But the balance is that I don’t live the rest of my life as if before them. Rather I live the rest of my life in the face of God with the revelation of God guiding my conscience.

    Thanks again

  2. Heath Lloyd says:

    This is a really good post on an ongoing topic. Thanks.

  3. Tim Born says:

    I guess I’m the young guy who talks about alcohol and cigars often. I may annoy you but I am enjoying the good things given to me. In addition, it’s freeing to talk about it openly after growing up in legalism.

    1. Tim,

      The issue is not that some people drink or smoke but that some people seem to drink or smoke for the joy of telling others that they drink or smoke. In particular, many on the younger side seem to take great delight in sharing with others that they are believers who drink and smoke. It’s like the kid with the new drivers license showing off to everyone that he can now drive; there is some joy in the driving, but he seems to derive even more joy from everyone knowing that he can now drive. So there are those who seem to take more pleasure in others knowing they drink alcohol than in the fact that Christ has brought forgiveness of sins and freedom from dead works.

      1. Tim Born says:

        I understand. But is it not a mere preference that you and JT do not like people doing that? Or are you like the proud person who has been driving for a long time that is the first person to shoot down the excited new driver.

        1. A wise parent weens his child away from such talk. Do you need to be treated like such a child?

          1. Doug Flynn says:

            I used to have a young pastor who would occassionaly mention the fact that he masturbated. So, it could be worse. Count your blessings. And all you young Spurgeon wanna-be’s get a life. Nobody is impressed.

            1. Spurgeon had not crossed my mind, so if you’re comparing me to him I’ll take that as a compliment. :)

              1. Doug Flynn says:

                Actually, I was making reference to young preachers that smoke cigars and seem to think they are something for being so enlightened. My attitude is, “just shut up and smoke it”. Who cares? All that being said, I figure you’re a pretty swell guy anyway. I assume you know that Spurgeon smoked many a cigar.

              2. One of my favorite Spurgeon stories (may be apocryphal, but I saw it on some blog; Justin’s, perhaps?): he was once asked when he would stop smoking. “Why,” he said, “I will stop when I am smoking too much!” “And when will you decide it is too much?” He replied: “When I start smoking two at once.”

    2. Doug says:

      I agree, but how annoying would it be to you if you were single and your friend kept bragging to you about all the great sex he was having with his wife? I’m glad your enjoying yourself but after a while I might begin to think that you were trying to provoke me to envy. I would also wonder why you would feel the need to bring it up at all.

      “The faith [conviction] you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves” (Rom. 14:22).

      C.S. Lewis sums up my view:

      “Temperance . . . now usually means teetotalism. But in the days when the second Cardinal virtue was christened ‘Temperance’, it meant nothing of the sort. Temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further. It is a mistake to think that Christians ought to all be teetotallers; Mohammedanism, not Christianity, is the teetotal religion. Of course it may be the duty of a particular Christian, or of any Christian at a particular time, to abstain from strong drink, either because he is the sort of man who cannot drink at all without drinking too much, or because he wants to give money to the poor, or because he is with people who are inclined to drunkenness and must not encourage them by drinking himself. But the whole point is that he is abstaining, for a good reason, from something which he does not condemn and which he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons – marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying that the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turn” (Mere Christianity; The “Cardinal Virtues”).

      1. Don says:

        Excellent comments from Lewis. Two other comments stand out from this post: (1) the Latin phrase abusus usum non tollit, (2) the Spurgeon statement on smoking, and (3) this C. S. Lewis quote, especially, “One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up.” Sage words on this topic.

      2. John Thomson says:

        Justin’s comments seem to me to convey the proper biblical balance as does this comment by Doug.

        Re alcohol we must also bear in mind that the OT regularly warns caution about alcohol while never forbidding it. The balance must be maintained.

  4. Tom McCall says:

    Good words, Justin.

  5. JMH says:

    Good word, JT.

    I think the tendency of some of us (note my pronoun choice) who enjoy wine, beer, cigars, etc. to go on about it has to do with 1) a reaction to having grown up in settings where it was prohibited or frowned upon* and/or 2) a desire to be edgy/hip/not-like-traditional-Christians and make sure everybody knows it.

    It’s one thing to talk about a common interest with those who share it, but if we’re doing it to show how cool we are, we’re acting like adolescents.

    *Incidentally, we tend to call these legalistic, which they might or might not have been. They could have just been more culturally conservative than we now prefer to be.

    1. Brice Bohrer says:

      very mature response. thank you.

    2. Andrew Rustad says:

      Good point. Satan is sly, and legalism can come in many forms. There is a form of legalism that rigidly states that any abstinence from alcohol is bad per se, because it represents a loss of Christian liberty. This was my heart for many years, and I proudly looked down on those who weren’t as enlightened as I was. But now I see that I was just “hitting the other ditch”. Many, many people have good reasons to abstain from alcohol.

    3. Philip Wilson says:

      Actually, traditional Christianity has always advocated the enjoyment of alcohol and tobacco in moderation. The puritanical “dry” position is the novelty.

      But I agree with your statement for the most part. I also think people like me enjoy talking about a good drink or a good pipe of tobacco because these things, along with all of God’s creation, can genuinely help us appreciate the life God has given to us and we want to share that joy with others.

      1. David says:

        For what its worth, I wouldn’t call the “dry” position puritanical as much as anabaptistic. The puritans enjoyed a lot more of the ‘good life’ than modern secular history lets on.

  6. Very well stated, Justin. Thanks for your wise and balanced perspective.

  7. chuck shanks says:

    I echo the sentiments of the posts from JMH and Tim Born. It is very difficult to grow up in a highly legalistic environment, then be set free by grace, and then not over-rejoice in the freedom. In other words, it might be easy to speak in a somewhat academic tone about legalism unless you were once up to your neck in it.

    I have often been unwise in my “in your face” exercise of liberty, and it is easy to rationalize… but the wiser option seems to be enjoyment of liberties with discretion and consideration for the weaker brothers.

  8. Steve says:

    Thanks Justin.

  9. Dan Erickson says:

    Thanks Justin for an excellent post. As a life long teetotaller, I have to remind myself of these truths often. Thanks for highlighting that: What the Bible says is our authority, not our traditions and preferences; there is an important distinction between use and abuse; the “older brother sins” (legalism) are just as serious, and perhaps more dangerous than the “younger brother sins” (alcohol abuse).

  10. Chris says:

    where does Southern Seminary’s student covenant fit into this issue?

    1. Dave says:

      Honestly, I think Southern’s covenant’s prohibition on alcohol is a political move. Because it is funded by the SBC, they include it. I disagree with its inclusion but will say that they are not calling it a sin but only asking you to asbstain. Maybe Mohler would say something like “It’s more prudent in the party culture we live in to abstain from alchohol.”

    2. You can listen to Mohler and Moore address the policy in their own words here…

      http://www.sbts.edu/resources/lectures/school-council/alcohol-and-the-ministry/

      Personally, I find their defense of it pretty sad, even though I greatly admire both men.

  11. Jack Hager says:

    I am an alcoholic. I have been “dry” for over three decades, and serve in vocational ministry as a home missionary to primarily teens and prisoners. That audience struggles with alcohol. I wish wish wish the Bible condemned drinking, of course it does not.
    Thus I thank you, and the men cited, for this article; because I hate legalism more than I hate alcohol.
    That being said, I recently wrote an open letter to my friends who drink…don’t know how to include the link to make it clickable, but here it is if anyone wants to cut/paste: http://midlandjack.blogspot.com/2010/04/open-letter-to-my-friends-who-drink.html

  12. Andrew Faris says:

    JT,

    An honest question: do you think you’d be more apt to “advocate alcohol consumption” if you did, in fact, like alcohol? I honestly think that part of the issue with some teetotalers is that they simply don’t think it tastes good, so while that doesn’t determine their whole position, it does make it quite easy to write off drinking.

    I also think cultural perception is huge here. I remember reading C. S. Lewis somewhere (Mere Christianity I think) where he uses “two friends sharing a pint in a pub” as an image for innocence. British pubs were and are mostly quite different from American bars, but still, can you imagine any American Christian writer using that as an image for innocence?

    I really do think there is also a broader issue at base here that touches directly on your post: we need to teach Christians more about moderation than abstinence with many things. We are far too apt to become the weaker brother (in the way Carson et. al. understand those texts) on issues like this.

    Andrew Faris
    Christians in Context

    1. I’ll speak as a teetotaler who enjoys alcohol. While I detest beer, there are other drinks that I have enjoyed quite a bit. Yet I haven’t had any alcohol for several years now. I believe it wise, but not essential, to abstain.

      My own abstaining is due in part to knowing myself – when I did drink, I had the tendency to drink too much. I imagine that would continue.

      But my abstaining is also due to my example. As a Baptist pastor, it would make my ministry much more difficult if I had to defend alcohol consumption in my own life. This is like Paul circumcising Timothy – it was not essential, but it removed an obstacle from witnessing to the Jews.

      Despite arguments to the contrary, drinking alcohol does not remove obstacles. No one accepts someone just because of alcohol. But there are many who would (wrongly) write you off because of drinking alcohol.

  13. Dave says:

    Honestly, I think Southern’s covenant’s prohibition on alcohol is a political move. Because it is funded by the SBC, they include it. I disagree with its inclusion but will say that they are not calling it a sin but only asking you to asbstain. Maybe Mohler would say something like “It’s more prudent in the party culture we live in to abstain from alchohol.”

  14. Jared Wilson says:

    Sort of like the younger pastors who tend to work into conversation how much they enjoy a good cigar

    My ears are burning. :-)

  15. Dean says:

    Bravo Justin! Never have I seen a blog posting written with such a strong and forceful argument (Almost angry) without it coming across as mean spirited or vitrolic. If only more bloggers who were so passionate about what they believed in could come across in such a balanced way as this. You neither wavered in your convictions or the emotion in how you communicated those convictions. But you didn’t tear anyone apart of demean anyone either. Once again Bravo!

  16. Michael says:

    I did not grow up in legalism, but witnessed it in later years (10th-college?). I was never really “under” it yet I saw the effects of it. My parents were not legalists and that I feel has made all the difference. Many of my friends who were under legalism are now drinkers and smokers. While I do not partake of alcohol It seems as though many of those who were under legalism then and are now “free” seem to be almost in bondage to their “freedom.”

    What I mean is it’s kind of like a “reverse” legalism. Yes it is definitely annoying how they work it into virtually every conversation, but I feel sad for them that they almost feel as though they must partake or else they are not free, but rather in bondage. But I understand. Legalism is a horrible thing!

    Can I add… I am so annoyed too at the people who have to show off their colorful language by saying “pardon my french” too!

  17. Carson…port/beaujolais… natch :)

  18. Chris says:

    Social drinking starts in the church. In my opinion, many do not like the taste of alcohol because the church has gone for the box, rather than the best.

    Given how much cash is spent on massive buildings and programs, I am incredulous at how little cash is spent on wine. Seriously, the one thing the Lord actually DID institute comes in about 30th place to a million dollar sound system and projection systems. Bring on the twenty year old wine, and I guarantee, all this tee-to-taller talk will end. A thousand dollars a week on wine is nothing compared to what some spend on band-width.

    1. Evan says:

      Chris, you’re way ahead of the game here. First we need to actually get churches to use real wine!

      1. Chris says:

        Evan,
        True, true. Maybe getting churches to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week would be a good start. It is easy enough to grapple with this stuff at a distance, with questions that are not really present, because there is no weekly celebration.

        Sadly, the conversation starts at the level of the pub rather than the pew. My daughters have been drinking wine since they could drink because the Lord’s Supper is theirs and the ministers of our church understood their place in the Body. They do not look at wine as a forbidden temptation, but rather as part of God’s good creation, and the sign and seal of Christ’s atoning work.

        The sacraments are not adjustable either.

        1. Evan says:

          I agree. I am an advocate for both weekly communion and for paedocommunion. My church practices paedocommunion and we have communion every other week.

    2. Nate says:

      Perhaps a deep thankfulness for the gift of wine produces a maturity superior to teetotaling that better guards against drunkenness.

  19. Mark says:

    Thanks, Justin.

    This makes me wonder concerning seminary covenants. If a seminary requires students to sign that they will not drink any alcohol while in school, is this legalism? If not, then what is the seminary basing it’s moral positions on?

    Is a seminary tempting a student who is not convinced drinking alcohol is a sin to sin by going against his conscience by signing such a covenant?

    1. Josh C says:

      Mark,
      If a seminary requires students to attend 90% of classes or turn in assignments or (perhaps) follow some dress code at classes, is this legalism?

      Is it a violation of conscience to submit to authorities in your life whose rules may be tighter than your own? Probably not.

      1. Mark says:

        Josh,

        Please don’t get polemic on me. I’m asking for conversation and further thought.

        By further example, Dr. Mohler as I recall believes it is not a sin to drink alcohol although he abstains. Yet, he presides over a school which implicitly imposes greater requirements than the Bible. They are treating something that is admittedly not sin, in essence, as sin.

        1. Josh C says:

          i’m sorry if I came across as “polemic.” That wasn’t my intention.

          There is a certain point where schools have rules because it enables them to function better as schools, and these rules are often “extra-biblical” in the sense that they address things Scripture does not mention. Now, the legalism issue, for me, sets in when Christian schools confuse their rationale for enforcing the extrabiblical (but necessary or at least helpful) rules with behavior Scripture commands. I’ve grown up in Christian education and I’ve seen the worst of this confusion where tardiness to class wasn’t considered just immaturity or poor planning, but treated as rebellion against God. That’s a petri dish for legalism if you ask me!

          And obviously, at the undergraduate level, many Christian schools hold to a no Alcohol policy because of campus safety issues and the fact that 3/4 of students cannot legally drink anyways.

          I think the one of the things some might say is if you feel like it violates your conscience to attend a school where alcohol consumption is prohibited, then don’t attend. Yes, maybe the school needs to work out their policies and have a good reason (especially if they’re holding to the position that use of alchohol is not against the Bible, but only the abuse) for maintaing a rule that’s “extrabiblical.” But I wouldn’t have much consideration for someone who chose to attend said school playing conscience victim, having known the school’s stance.

          I hope that is more conversation and thought than I was able to give earlier.

          1. Mark says:

            Josh,

            Sorry for being a bit reactionary. Given some recent debates and people not wanting to address the actual issues I took you the wrong way.

            Thanks for your further insight. For me, it comes down to prohibiting what the Bible does not. I see a tension here for seminaries. They are not a church, but they still find biblical guidance for their policies and such.

            I agree one can sign off on a policy not to consume while in school. I did. :) I was bringing it up for discussion.

            1. Josh C says:

              And the question is certainly relevant for those schools where the leadership says, “Drunkenness is a sin; drinking is not in itself.” Then what reasons legitimize having requiring students to abstain from something that isn’t sinful?-That is the question such a school should answer.

              Perhaps the legal issue of students under 21 might be brought in. Also, campus safety statistics might have some weigh-in. There might even be some insurance advantage (I don’t know) to having a dry campus. Obviously, a denominational affiliation might be another consideration. But should these be the reasons, the staff of that school should work hard to distinguish why their institutional rules have gone beyond what Scripture itself teaches for the individual, and should do so in a way that is clear to students before they choose to attend.

              1. Mark B says:

                I think it also comes down to their /teaching/. These rules don’t exist in a vacuum. If the teachers/administration/etc are making it a moral issue outside of whatever rules are in place then you have an issue.

                But if a school opts for the pragmatic option of banning it for students, but openly notes that there is no biblical prohibition then you don’t really have an issue in my opinion. As you note, they’re not a church, they’re a school, regardless of whether or not they derive most of their rules from scripture.

                As a father I derive most of my rules from Scripture, but some are simply pragmatic. What is permissible, is not always beneficial, and as a parent I have additional responsibilities.

                I am not binding the conscience of my children, or requiring them to believe that those things are wrong, but only to accept that I have ruled it is unwise, and unnecessary and therefore prohibited to them (at least for the time being/at their current age/etc).

  20. Matt Jacobs says:

    Thank you, Justin, for your post.

    As I read the comment thread last night, I contemplated how I could write a thoughtful response to all sides. I just couldn’t come up with the right words. Your post is spot-on, and a perfect, and gracious, response.

    Sometimes I think those of us who advocate our Christian freedom in these issues tend to poke that freedom in the face of those who disagree. I think we get so caught up in the “debate” sometimes, thinking only of responding to those on the other side, that we lose sight of the fact that there are others who don’t have a clear opinion (or who quietly struggle with these issues) who are watching us. These aren’t just theological topics or seminary class debates; they are real issues that affect real individual people’s lives. Sometimes our zeal for right doctrine overshadows our Christian charity, which is sad because it IS possible to have both at the same time.

    Paul’s actions regarding Timothy and Titus are perfect illustrations, as is Dr. Carson’s teaching. I pray that our love, as well as our doctrine, sets us apart from the world.

    Blessings to all of you,
    Matt Jacobs

  21. Evan says:

    JT, what do you say to somebody who says that Jesus commands that we drink wine in the Lord’s Supper?

  22. Eugene says:

    It is permissible, just don’t talk about it a lot? So believers like to talk about their favorite delights, but those who enjoy the delights of a favorite cocktail, cigar, or pipe are excluded? That is a form of legalism.

    Say if someone does not like the taste of coffee, should believers not talk about it when around this person? I have a friend who is addicted to coffee—she NEEDS it every day. But this person does not drink, and discourages me for my moderated drinking. Something is not right there.

    In addition, the abuse of food is vastly more a problem in the church since 75% of believers are overweight and snack every day. The majority of believers are snack and coffee toxic.

    1. Tim Born says:

      I think you have made the best point on here Eugene! I think you over-did it by imposing your preferences JT.

    2. Whitney says:

      Thank you Eugene! I’m from a legalistic background (including my school), but we drink now occasionally. It’s not something we proclaim from the rooftops, but we do talk about it with friends, especially if we know they also drink.

      YES, more christians are food/coffee dependent – it’s very true. Yet, those are “ok” by most standards. Food and coffee are enjoyed and discussed to the umpth degree and yet talking about my favorite drink causes problems?

  23. Jeff Straub says:

    Justin:

    Normally I like your stuff . . . but here I must take umbrage. It is simply a non sequitor to argue that because God created something which was inherently good according to Genesis, that it’s use today is ok, permitted or allowed as fallen man uses it. Cannabis is also part of God’s good creation as is the opium poppy. Humanity has a way of taking all that is very good and corrupting it.

    Nor is the argument against tee-totalism necessarily legalism. I do wish we would use that term more precisely. Legalism is attempting to gain favor with God by keeping the law, usually the OT legal code. So expand it to any law if you like and still call it legalism.

    Why, however, when one insists that Christians abstain, is that touted as legalism? Am I a legalist if I forbid pot-smokers and heroin users in my church or does the legality of something rest on the official pronouncement of the civil magistrate? In a society where pot smoking is legalized, would it then become acceptable to be a church member if one uses it recreationally? So long as I do not argue that tee-totalism gains favor with God to some salvific advantage, I am no legalist.

    The following comment would be of great use 150 years ago as many Christians justified slavery. “On issues not forbidden or condemned by Scripture, we cannot invent a morality, or, worse, impose those inventions on others. We cannot be holier than Jesus, can we?” I am doing a paper for ETS this year of the proslavery argument among Baptists of the early 19th century. I am amazed at the similarity of reasoning that exists between those who argued FOR slavery in then to those who argue FOR alcohol today. Same kind of argumentation. This is just the kind of thing they used in the defense of slavery. Soooo . . . would you allow me to join your church today if I owned a slave or two?

    Maybe you might want to tighten your argument a bit. Do you really want to de facto defend the use of alcohol today? Really?

    Jeff Straub

    1. Tyler H says:

      I would say that if you create a moral standard that even Jesus didn’t live up to – then legalism is a good word for it.

      1. Dave says:

        Yeah, I think your definition of legalism is reductionistic. Legalism is also adding to the Word of God. Saying that it is sinful to drink wine period is legalism. And yes, Jesus did drink wine.

        1. Jeff Straub says:

          Herein lies the problem with discussion in this format. Our brother Dave reduces my argument to a simple “it is sinful to drink wine period.” A careful perusal of what I wrote says that nowhere. One may believe that abstinence is the best position and still use alcohol or even wine in medicine or at communion. No one has bothered to think through the comparison between the use of alcohol today and slavery in the 19th century. What might the reason for this be?

          Simple ignorance of the proslavery arguments, and thus not having the ability to answer this objection.

          An unwillingness to consider an alternate opinion, and thus not caring to answer this objection.

          Determination to drink no matter what and thus determined not to think about this objection.

          There is no discussion here. Only pontification.

          It is a non sequitor to say that because Jesus drank wine (whatever that was in the 1st century), I am free to drink Guinness. Unless you can demonstrate that Jesus drank anything similar to modern, commercially produced alcoholic beverages, you have no argument. Only rhetoric.

          If you want to discuss this, let’s do so thoughtfully. Rhetoric takes us nowhere.

          1. Tyler H says:

            If first century wine contained alcohol then I don’t see how it is in a non sequitor.

            And as far as alcohol=slavery, I’m just going to go back to my first statement of Jesus drank wine (alcohol) but there is no record of Jesus owning slaves. If we did we would have a lot of problems. I think throwing slavery out there as your comparison is the non sequitor.

      2. Dave says:

        That was supposed to be a reply to Jeff, not Tyler.

    2. Tim Born says:

      Jeff, you have yet to use Scripture with your arguments. Stop adding to the Word. Live in peace with other believers whether they drink or not. The Bible allows drinking and condemns drunkenness. Therefore, you have that much limitation on your view. If you simply prefer not to drink, that is fine and everyone will still love you. If you follow through with your philosophy that man can abuse any good thing then I come back to you with Luther’s response: “Shall we then forbid wine and women?” and I add to it that you must also stop eating out, watching tv etc.

      1. Jeff Straub says:

        Tim:

        You have chided me for NOT using Scripture, but all you offer in rebuttal is Martin Luther. You want Scripture . . . 1 Cor 8, 1 Cor. 6:12 and 10:23. You will reply that these texts do not prohibit alcohol. To which I will agree. But do they address issues like the use of alcohol?

        I can neither point to a Scripture that prohibits slavery nor can you. This is the nub of the proslavery argument. Still you miss my point. Why? It seems to me that you do not want to engage it.

        There is no verse that prohibits either the use of alcohol or slavery. There are numerous texts that seem to sustain the limited use of both. Paul does not condemn slavery but regulates it. Jesus does not condemn alcohol but regulates it. In the first century world, both were a part of the warp and woof of society.

        19th century Christians decided despite what the Scripture seems to allow that slavery is both unbiblical and sinful. Were they wrong? They had no VERSE to proof text its prohibition. They made a theological argument.

        When abstainers try to make a theological argument, which I have not attempted to do here, they are charged with legalism.

        My original comment was that Justin was that he had not carefully considered his argument. I have not in any post tried to make a reasoned defense of the nonuse of alcohol. Thus, I have not used Scripture. But I doubt it would matter as I am free to admit that I have no verse. What I have is the tenor of the Holy Writ which I think argues against its use in the end. But as this has not been my purpose, you cannot chide me for not doing what i never set out to do.

        1. christopher says:

          Jeff,
          The Bible supports slavery of a certain kind. It regulates men in a fallen world. Maybe you are staring out on the wrong foot by bringing your hermeneutic of slavery into the discussion.

          Slavery is the red herring that is confusing your argument.

          1. Tim Born says:

            That’s exactly how I felt Christopher. Thanks for summing it up. I need not say anything else Jeff.

          2. Jeff Straub says:

            “The Bible permits slavery of a certain kind.” Ok Chris, this is what the saints said in the 19th century. My hermeneutic of slavery? What is this gobbledy gook? I am drawing a comparison between the way Christians defended slavery in the 19th century to the way many defend the use of alcohol today. This seems a bit sophisticated for this audience since no one wants to even ponder the comparison.

            Slavery is hardly a red herring. The point that was made was that you could not say something was wrong that the Bible did not condemn as sin. As Chris has conceded, the Bible seems to permit slavery. Why does the church today call all slavery sin? Would any form of slavery today be acceptable? I think this is rhetorical question. We would answer the issue of slavery by talking about the ancient world, etc. and the fact that in Christ (Gal. 3:28) there is neither bond nor free. We make a theological argument against slavery.

            Whether you like it or not, many make theological arguments against alcohol. These I will not go into for that is not my burden. My burden is one thing alone–refuting the notion that something cannot be called sin unless the Bible specifically identifies it as such. Therefore, it is possible, contra Justin’s original post, to say something is wrong and sinful that the Bible does not specifically call sinful, even if a form was practiced in the biblical world.

            Was slavery practiced in the biblical world? Absolutely. Was it sanctioned? Apparently. Is it acceptable today? Who would say it is? The church for the past 150 years has called slavery a sin.

            What about alcohol? Was it consumed in the biblical world? Without a doubt. Does this mean we can consume alcohol today? Not necessarily. As I have argued elsewhere, the biblical use of alcohol hardly compares to the use of alcohol in today’s world. But that discussion is for another time.

            1. Christopher says:

              Jeff,
              Here is some more gobbledy gook. The church has been wrong in the past, it is wrong about slavery. Although racism and certain kinds of slavery are sinful, the Bible does not call all slavery sinful (cf. Exodus 21). The church should not either. She has been cowed by the historical situation of the American system and the fallout of the Civil War to jump all over a slavery as it is identified with racism. But the two things are separate issues.

              The Gal. 3:28 passage is making a social statement about the inner life of the church, it is not making any kind of statement that would imply an overthrow of the Greek-Roman system of slavery. No person should be treated differently within the church because of their social status outside of the church- that is Paul’s point. The new, egalitarian, even elevated social status within the church did not relieve them of their obligation to obey their masters. If the Christian masters had been sinning in keeping slaves, it would have been addressed.

              I am not making an argument from silence, as the Word speaks quite a bit about the issue. In order to call it sinful, it would need to be shown that the particular expression of it is sinful. Which is always a possibility. But to attack slavery wholesale, and to assert that as a practice it is sinful in and of itself requires the contradiction of God. As hard as this is to swallow, it is part of living in a world of fallen men- God is not a failure at giving us rules to manage ourselves, we just fail to see and understand. This doesn’t make the rules bad.

              Signed,
              Unsophisticated

  24. Nate says:

    Of course the elephant in the room that could be brought into this conversation is marijuana. With states moving quickly to de-crimminalize it for personal use this will become an issue in local churches. Can/should a christian partake in this liberty? At what point is intoxication? Can/should a church require its leaders and/or members from partaking? The interesting thing about alcohol is that while the bible speaks about wine and beer, distillation wasn’t invented until the Middle Ages. I would be interested to hear from those who partake as to whether there are any reservations about distilled spirits. The bible warns against strong drink; do distilled spirits qualify?

    Michael’s point about legalizing non-legalism is valid and thought-provoking as well. Others have stated similar thoughts. At what point do the pro wine/beer, cigar/pipe-smoking (why not cigarettes?) group legalize their liberty?

    Do seminary’s and church’s have biblical warrant to ask students and members to abstain from certain liberties? I think Acts 15 provides some clues to that.

    1. I really don’t see marijuana being the “elephant in the room.” I do not believe that there is any way for one to partake of it without becoming “intoxicated,” and that condition is prohibited clearly. I would not, however, have any ethical problem with marijuana as prescribed for certain proven medical reliefs.

      1. Nate says:

        So what is your definition of intoxication? I hear many who drink state that they do not become intoxicated, but what is their standard of measure; their own perception? They certainly aren’t sitting around blowing into a breathalizer to measure themselves against the state’s protocol. So, do you believe that alcohol doesn’t begin to have an effect on you until you consume a certain amount? Or do you define intoxication as when the effect keeps you from being able to perform certain tasks, etc. To make a blanket statement that smoking a joint will make you intoxicated, but drinking a beer will not is pretty thin.

        1. Mark says:

          Nate,

          What is your definition of sinning? When does the appreciation of the opposite sex become a sinful lust? How much food is too much too often? How far does righteous anger go before it become sinful anger? When does gratefulness become sinful pride?

          These types of questions do not just apply to alcohol. Every area of our lives contain sin and we must guard against it. Our repentant conscience must be clear before God. Even in repentance, as Piper said at T4G, we still sin.

          1. Nate says:

            Mark, I agree! I was responding to Brad’s statement that any consumption of marijuana caused intoxication. That was my point!

            1. Mark says:

              Nate, I misunderstood. :)

              1. Nate,

                The entire point of smoking marijuana, unless you consider the medical aspect, is to get high. This is not the case for alcoholic beverages. Further, the Bible, without telling us blood levels, assumes that there is a difference between enjoying wine and being intoxicated by it. People who say that they drink and do not become intoxicated may be telling the truth, as long as they aren’t over the legal level. Marijuana, not so much. And no, it is not dictated by one’s own perception. We have laws about what constitutes intoxication.

                Seriously, if you take away the buzz from marijuana, what do you have left? Marlboros, I suppose. Beer and marijuana is comparing apples to oranges.

              2. Nate says:

                Brad,

                I don’t disagree with your line of thinking. I am not arguing for marijuana use by the way. But I think drinking in today’s culture where there are so many options available that were not in biblical times begs the question you just posed. I think you can make an argument that drinking alcohol is all about the buzz as well. And yes, states do set limits, but they are blood-alcohol counts, not the number of beers consumed. So the question might be, “Why are people drinking alcohol, other than to cop a buzz?” Simply to be cool, or anti-establishment. As you said, if you take away the buzz from wine all you have left is grape juice.

              3. Nate Alderson says:

                Nate, Brad,

                I’ve been assuming that wine as a gift to gladden the heart of man included the buzz. Am I mistaken?

              4. Nate says:

                Interesting question. Certainly the alcohol has some effect on a person no matter how many drinks have been consumed. I guess I go ahead and throw this bomb since Brad alluded to the point that smoking pot is only about getting intoxicated. That might be difficult to back up statistically since we know that drinking causes you inabilities to perform skills like driving. However, there are few, if any citations for driving under the influence of marijuana. I’m not saying that pot doesnt affect you, but it certainly doesn’t do the damage on the roads that alcohol does.

                Okay, for the record, I am against smoking pot.. Just saying…

  25. Alec says:

    I abstain, not because I do not enjoy a cold beer, but because drinking alcohol is not something I want to model for my kids. They have enough peer pressure and temptation in the world without getting “mental permission” from me. I have explained this to my kids as well. I don’t want alcoholic beverages to seem a normal part of life to them. They range in age from 22 to 15, and so far so good. They are much better kids than I was. :)

    1. Dave says:

      Is that going to cause them to be less likely to abuse alcohol? Socialogy research (e.g.) seems to suggest that the likelihood of alcohol abuse is not significantly correlated with belonging to a denomination holding a particular position on alcohol. (I’ve even heard people making claims that there’s a higher percentage of people drinking excessively in denominations banning it, but haven’t been able to dig up those studies with just a quick search).

      Could one rephrase your argument by changing just a few words – noting that human sexuality is often used in a sinful fashion – and use it as an argument against marriage? (as some throughout Christian history seem to have done)

      1. Alec says:

        Dave, One could rephrase the argument, but then it wouldn’t make any sense at all. The Bible is very clear right use of human sexuality and the sanctity of marriage.

        As for whether belonging to a denomination means anything regarding alcohol abuse, I wouldn’t know. We don’t identify with any particular denomination and even if we did, I would not slavishly follow their dictates on liberty issues. My kids know my past and the choices I made before I knew Christ. They have all chosen to serve Christ and represent Him in their peer group. God’s grace has been strong in them.

  26. Nate says:

    I wonder if there is anyone out there that enjoys wine, tobacco, coffee, etc. apart from the taste. I like coffee because I brew and drink while chatting with my coworkers. I like tobacco when I smoke it with my buddies. I like wine when I drink it with my wife. Of course, I also think they all taste nice so maybe I’ve got some immature rationalizing going on.

  27. James Collins says:

    Thank you for this post. I have recently been training to be a Deacon for a Southern Baptist Church. I was never convicted that drinking was a sin. I have been convicted that I shouldn’t drink since I am working in the youth program. I feel that even though we are free to drink in moderation as Jesus did we are not required to partake in this freedom to be free. In America we have freedom of speech to say what we feel. It doesn’t mean we have to say what we feel to be free.

    This post sums up for me the question I had for my Pastor when I was praying and considering what I should do when it came to my choice to accept the nomination of being a Deacon. My Pastors main response about why we must agree to not drink was the “Weaker Brother” response that I am sure is common among southern Baptist pastors. Jesus is who my role model is first and foremost. He drank in public with sinners and tax collectors so I feel it is an example that we can follow without sinning as long as it is not against our conscience. God may tell you to not drink but allow another to drink. That isn’t legalism that is God’s plan and purpose for your life. Seek Gods will first! I believe that fulfilling his will can end this argument (to drink or not to drink)in your life.

    ~In His Service,
    James Collins

  28. J. K. Jones says:

    Prudence requires me to avoid alcohol. For me, it’s non-negotiable. I can’t see to drink in moderation.

    Prudence also requires me to let others be with respect to this issue. “To his own Lord he stands or falls” (Romans 14).

    But there is a warning. I know people who appear to be headed for failure before their Lord over this issue. I try to influence them by telling them my story: the problems and issues which lead me to avoid drinking altogether. I hope they learn from my story. I have found it to have impact.

    I watched my grandfather smoke himself into lung cancer and death at age 61. He was a wonderful Baptist Deacon with much to offer the Kingdom that his pre-mature death cut off. His story needs to be told too.

    Don’t avoid sharing the stories when they can help, just don’t give ‘hard and fast,’ simplistic rules.

  29. Eugene says:

    One other point.

    The more we “whisper” about drinking, hoping not to offend others, the more it is perpetuated in the Church that there is something wrong with drinking. Instead, talking about it normally can be a great faith lesson for those who are weak in the faith and think that drinking is unspiritual. If believers talk about drinking as they talk about their favorite brand of chocolate, perhaps that will communicate to weak-faith believers that there is liberty in this issue–and thus, help them emerge from their legalism. But as long as we walk on egg shells about drinking, is will confirm in the weak minded that there is something spiritually taboo.

  30. Mark says:

    Does the issue of drinking alcohol rise or fall based upon how we think of marijuana?

    1. Josh C says:

      Very good question, Mark.

      I know of one very pro-abstentionist Southern Baptist author whose case for teaching total abstinence for all from alchohol hinges largely on the “what do you do with marijuana then” argument. I think it’s a straw man to base one’s argument on that, but there does seem to be some relevance between the two. But caffeine is also a drug, so the “slippery slope” argument would also reach back and wipe out sweet tea and coffee if followed logically. Better to base one’s position on the Bible and then let it deal with the tough questions, rather than asking tough questions, answering them, and then trying to make the Bible fit, as many abstentionists seem to do.

      so I guess for me that’s a “No, it doesn’t rise or fall on that issue.”

    2. Josh C says:

      JT,
      Do you know of any good resources that address this issue of alcohol and the marijuana debates?

  31. Good post, Justin. It is interesting to read all of the different views in these comments though.

  32. Mark Fuss says:

    Justin,

    While I do appreciate your gentle and irenic spirit, I completely disagree with your conclusions. In fact, I am horrified that so many Christians defend the use of intoxicating alcoholic beverages.

    I have posted a response on my blog to this post:

    http://markfuss.com/2010/05/18/liberty-or-license/

    1. Tim Born says:

      Mark, this is a defense for drinking in moderation, what the BIBLE TEACHES. How can you read Scripture and say that drinking is prohibited? In addition, to “play it safe” like many Christians suggest is to bind one’s conscience and have higher ethics than God. You may want to tone it down a bit.

  33. Dean says:

    I always find it hilarious how often the guys who site “the weaker brother” passage the most, are often times usually not actually a weaker brother at all. But in fact they are usually very strong in their beliefs and convictions. Dave Swavely wrote a great book on the subject that covers the whole spectrum of legalism and how it is defined biblically and how it applies to us now. I recommend it to everybody.

    http://www.amazon.com/Who-Are-You-Judge-Legalism/dp/159638011X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1274199788&sr=8-2

    1. Tim Born says:

      It’s very simple Dean. The “weaker brother” is one who is weaker in their faith. They don’t believe they have the freedom to have a drink and their conscience bears against it. They literally are weaker. Therefore they are weak.

  34. Jon says:

    I would like to see a substantive (including some reasoning from the Scripture) response to Jeff Straub. The weak in Romans 14 were not trusting in their abstinence to gain favor with God, but I’m convinced that many in today’s church would have branded them legalists (though they were not).

  35. Dustin says:

    Are we to be different from this world? I see the same arguments here as I do anytime this subjects is brought up. The ones that approve of drinking say the other side is being legalistic. The ones that don’t say that all the others are doomed. There is a question that we should all ask ourselves, am I glorifying my savior in my actions no matter what it is that I am doing? If you are a Christian , you will be called legalistic by this world. If you tell someone of their sins, they will say you a being legalistic.
    We should all be careful not to call everything “legal” that refers to God. If I lie, steal, commit adultery,use God’s name in vain, covet my brothers stuff, and you confront me with it are you being legalistic or are you coming to me in love to show me what I need to change in my life to be more like Christ? Be very careful that we don’t use the word “legalistic” to excuse sin in our life and I am not talking about alcohol.

  36. Rich says:

    “If the devil should say, “Do not drink,” you should reply to him, “On this very account, because you forbid it, I shall drink, and what is more, I shall drink a generous amount.” Thus one must always do the opposite of that which Satan prohibits. What do you think is my reason for drinking wine undiluted, talking freely, and eating more often, if it is not to torment and vex the devil who made up his mind to torment and vex me.” -Martin Luther

  37. Rich says:

    “God does not forbid you to drink, as do the Turks; he permits you to drink wine and beer: he does not make a law of it. But do not make a pig of yourself; remain a human being. If you are a human being, then keep your human self-control. Even though we do not have a command of God, we should nevertheless be ashamed that we are thus spit upon by other peoples. If you want to be a Christian, do not argue in this way: Nobody reproaches me, therefore God does not reproach me. So it has been from the time of Noah. And so it was with the Sodomites, who wanted to rape the angels; they were all so drunk they could not find the door. Sodom and Gomorrah perished because of a flood of drunkenness; this vice was punished. God does not tolerate such confusion and inordinate use of his creatures.” -Martin Luther

  38. Mark says:

    This argument can get very heated. Just look at this drive-by comment to me by a pastor (if JT doesn’t mind the link). He doesn’t know me nor I him. Yet, read the charges he puts to me. Very “gracious”. ;)

    1. Mark says:

      I forgot that I actually did reply to the guy –
      Of Cavalier Attitudes

  39. Nate says:

    Acts 15:28-31, “28For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. 30So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.”

    Interesting that the Antioch church’s Gentile believers gave up their liberty (eating meat sacrificed to idols and from things strangled) so that they wouldn’t offend their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ and keep the peace in their congregation. It doesn’t appear that there is nearly as much deference from the pro-alcohol crowd today towards those who see alcohol consumption with similar disdain.

    Even Paul, after rigorously defending Titus in Jerusalem, from being circumcised, he comes back with this letter and submits to the “legalism” of the edict. Is this because this issue is not about salvation, but about living in harmony with other believers? I think so!

    So, church’s that have abstinence statements are no better or worse than those that do not. It also shows that the church trumps individual liberty.

    1. Eugene says:

      Nate,

      There is a flaw to your argument. You presuppose that there was a time under the Old Covenant that alcohol was banned. It was not.

      And why is alcohol singled out? Most Churches promote snack and caffeine toxicity. Should we ban snacks and coffee from all church property?

      Moderation.

      1. Nate says:

        I never presupposed that alcohol was banned under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant, while the premise of the Jewish believer’s issue, is not in play here. It is the perception still lingering over their difficulty in seeing the liberty that the Gentiles had. There are many church’s today that ban cigarette smoking for their leadership under similar protocols. I have not seen one person argue for its inclusion in the church using the arguments they are making for alcohol.

        Moderation is not the issue in the church at Antioch, nor with Paul writing on the subject in Romans. It is about how one person’s liberty affects other believer’s and what is the church going to prescribe as a solution.

        1. christopher says:

          Nate,
          The Gentiles didn’t have liberty, they had no clue. The laws that you call “legalistic” were ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic covenant that were still a part of the worship of the church prior to 70 AD- from Moses until the destruction of Jerusalem.

          The apostles participated in these until the prior covenantal form was changed. Read Acts and it becomes apparent how important the temple was to the apostles until they were forced out, and eventually Matthew 24 was fulfilled.

          The law was never legalistic in a negative sense. It is full of Christ, of types and shadows of His reality. Wine is now the sign and seal of that reality.

          1. christopher says:

            Or I should say, wine has always been a part of the reality. It’s significance has only increased since the last supper.

          2. Nate says:

            Of course they had the liberty. As soon as they were saved they were free in Christ. Paul certainly had taught them about this and other OT laws (circumcision, etc). Also, Peter and Barnabas were scolded by Paul for acting one way (eating with Gentiles) while their Jewish comrades weren’t around and excluding themselves from the Gentiles and their customs when they were. So all Jews were not compliant with all Mosaic laws after Pentecost all the time. Furthermore, Paul did not keep this edict (Acts 15) everywhere he went because the issue came up again (Rom 14) and Paul did not refer to this letter in addressing it.

            1. Christopher says:

              Nate,
              Moses was free in Christ too. That is another issue. The ceremonial law was passing away because of the reality of Christ’s incarnation and resurrection, but the forms were still practiced when they could be. The physical requirement to do so was ending, and therefore the Gentiles were treated differently. But the spiritual requirement is still binding, just in a new form. I believe we are Israel now, but we worship at the temple that is the model for the earthly one.

              If nothing else, this whole thread proves that the old dispensational views of Moses and the place of the law are still in heavy effect, despite all the “Reformed” shouting. Nate, your handling of the Old Covenant is awkward, and betrays a dispensational bent.

            2. Nate says:

              Wow, I never knew I was a dispensationalist. Thanks for letting me know. Seriously, of course the Law was still weighing heavy on the Jewish beleivers. And the Jerusalem Council was sensitive to that and asked the Gentile believers to abstain to maintain community. That has been my point all along. Many in the American Christian community have serious issues with alcohol deu to many reasons. The point was to show that just because one has a liberty (the Gentiles DID have the liberty to eat meat sacrificed to idols) didn’t mean they should do it and cause consternation and division within the body.

              So my only point was to show that the church set forth protocols to deny some liberty for the sake of others. In almost all the arguments made today on this, I have heard very few who say that they will set aside their liberty for another. It is always, I am free, they should not place burdens on me, etc. The gospel isn’t about us, but about Christ. That is why if one church agrees to abstain, great! If another doesn’t great! But then it becomes about the body of Christ, not about individuals.

              1. Chris says:

                Nate,
                I take the notion that the Gentiles were “now free”, ie free to eat meat sacrificed to idols, as implying that the Jews who did not do so were un-free. But freedom in action is different than freedom from a particular God-given law. The Gentiles had always eaten meat sacrificed to idols- that was not freedom when they did so, it was just paganism.

                The law — having never been intended as slavery — is not a problem to be eradicated. And the so-called freedom of the Gentiles was just a matter of their ignorance, not of understanding the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic covenant. The Jerusalem council decided to bring them in line with the Mosaic ceremonial law in order to maintain unity, but in so doing no one was giving up their freedom, just submitting to the typological law of Moses. The time would come when this would no longer be necessary, but the temple and the old order — in its physical manifestation—still stood until 70AD.

                My main point is that so much of this discussion, about wine, etc, hinges on one’s understanding of the covenant, and is not some ethical issue that can be abstracted from the whole cloth.

                The Lord’s Supper cannot be Adjusted to alleviate wine without making into something other than the Lord’s Supper. If the church wanted to fight Christ, this is one place She has done a tremendous job. And if a weaker brother says he cannot handle the wine — and demands that the sacrament be changed for his sake— then maybe he can’t handle the strong medicine of Christ.

                Alcoholism needs to be questioned as some kind of disease, and the Lord’s table is where the healing begins. Watering down Christ starts with the wine. Time to grow up.

        2. Eugene says:

          The text in Acts 15 does not apply to alcohol since it is in a OT vis-a-vis NT context. It applies as much as arguing for believers to stop drinking coffee, chocolate, or having sanctioned sex.

          And there are Christians out there, such as myself, that are displeased by the head-in-sand gluttonous epidemic in the Church. And that is not an issue of liberty, but simply sin.

          1. Nate says:

            The text in Acts 15 is speaking about Christian liberty and its effect on a congregation. By Acts 15 the Old Covenant is gone, the New Covenant had come, even though the Jews were still tied tightly to many of the Old Covenant’s aspects.

            As for the gluttony, if it is irritating you to point that it appears, have you gone to the leadership of your church and asked them why they are allowing sin to take place in the church. Have you personally confronted people in your church because you are concerned for their well-being and spoke with them about your thoughts about their gluttony? No offense, but I here the gluttony argument all the time, but never see any instances of people actually going to their brothers and sisters and asking them to repent of that sin. It appears it is just a line to throw out to not have to deal with the alcohol issue, which granted, is easier to thrown stones at.

            1. Eugene says:

              Nate,

              You misread my statement. I was making a statement about the Church as a whole, not my local church. I was showing your misuse of Scripture to support your preferences. My point is that there is a great inconsistency in discussing this issue. I don’t want to hear people discuss alcohol without also including coffee and snacks.

  40. Austin Brown says:

    I rarely comment on posts, but this one was excellent. Thank you.

  41. donsands says:

    Excellent post. Good thoughts JT. And three excellent quotes.

    Piper’s wisdom on this was superb.

    For Jeff, how do you interpret this passage:

    “…when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it [the tithe] into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.”

    And I’ll include this verse as well, so there is balance:

    ” Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
    and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”

  42. Luke Olson says:

    The consumption of alcohol is in a way a form of incarnational ministry. Jesus met people where they were (he didn’t meet them in the place of sin, like in drunkeness), and that is precisely what I do when I casually drink with my buddies.

    I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve gotten put in the box of “Holier than thou” when I mentioned to some of my friends, “Oh I don’t drink…I’m a Christian.” (which was a looong time ago thankfully). That instantly put a wedge between me and them. The church somehow is VERY good at communicating feelings of condemnation and judgement to unbleievers, and thats exactly what that wedge was.
    Somewhere down the line, I started drinking with unbelieving friends, and alcohol played into the Salvation of one of my friends. When he was saved, he later came to me and told me how appreciative he was of the times when I would come over and just have a beer with him. You see, his family didn’t agree with his habit, his “Christian” friends didn’t agree with him consuming alcohol…..but he found that the times we had and talked were so impactful, because I was willing to have a beer and have “guy time”. The gospel message doesn’t say, “Clean up first, talk to me later”. How do we unwork that except meeting people where they are, and save our judgments (though they may be with the best intentions).
    Now I know to say that alcohol can play into Incarnational ministry, is like putting grease on an already slippery slope. I would say meet people wherever they are, except when it leads to sin. Just thought of this. So, thank you so much JT for this article.

    1. Deven says:

      Great post.

    2. Ben Cheney says:

      Luke, it’s possible to just say “no thanks, I don’t drink”, without adding “I’m a Christian”. There’s simply no need to explicitly link the two. People generally don’t care, in my experience.

      fwiw I don’t drink at all, although I agree that drinking in moderation is fine for Christians if they choose to do it, and I am happy for friends to consume alcohol in my house, etc. I think you’re overdoing it to suggest that having a social drink has much affect at all on “incarnational ministry” though. It’s always the crazy pendulum swings with this topic – people can’t seem to find a middle-ground.

  43. Jeremy says:

    Liked the post JT as well as the Guinness post from yesterday, looks like a good read.

    Havent read all the comments, and if someone has already mentioned this then I apologize….but after browsing some of the “for/against advocates'” comments on this topic what I find many on this post to be forgetting is to compare their actions/beliefs with the scriptures and not with other “for/against advocates'”

    God Bless

  44. Brian says:

    Excellent post. Thank you, JT, for handling this with such clarity and humility. It seems that even among the biblically informed crowd there is still a bit of condescension on both sides of the issue. Many who abstain want to say, “Well even though drinking is not forbidden, on the whole, its still better not to do it…and I’ll certainly never let that nasty stuff touch my lips!” so they can still feel like they stand on the moral high ground. At the same time, those brothers who flaunt their new-found freedom often engage in a reverse legalism toward those who abstain, or become combative about their biblical right to drink.

    It’s interesting that whenever Paul dealt with issues of Christian liberty it was never ultimately about the substance itself, but about its implications for relationships in the body of Christ and the greater cause of the Gospel. Somehow, many Christians on both sides of the issue seem to have forgotten that.

    Thank you Justin for keeping the Gospel central!

  45. steve hays says:

    Haven’t there always been “weaker brethren”? Weren’t there weaker brethren in OT times? Yet Yahweh doesn’t advocate teetatolism. Weren’t there weaker brethren at the time Jesus changed the water into wine? Yet that didn’t stop Jesus.

    What about communion wine? Wine was used at the Last Supper. Wine was used in NT churches to celebrate the Eucharist. Weren’t there weaker brethren in some of those churches?

    This is a red herring.

    1. Josh L says:

      The idea that the weaker brother has a scriptural basis for using authority require that others follow his extra-Biblical practices even when not in his presence seems to come from a very fundamentalist or legalistic mindset*.

      On the contrary, I think that deference to the weaker brother has limits. In other words, one should not drink in the presence of, nor offer drinks to someone who has addiction issues or believes that it is inappropriate to drink. However, the presence of such weaker brothers in one’s church, town, state, country, or world does not mean that one must never drink at all (or that one must never go to a restaurant that serves alcohol even if one isn’t going to drink, or that one must never buy beer to make beer-battered fish, or wine to make many Mediterranean dishes, etc.).

  46. steve hays says:

    Another meme I see making the rounds of the combox goes something like this:

    Christians who support drinking in moderation grew up in repressive, legalistic, fundy churches. Having now seen the light, they overreact by “flaunting” their “new-found” freedom.

    No doubt there are some individuals who fit this profile. However, it’s clearly an overstatement:

    i) Not every Christian who supports drinking in moderation drinks regularly. He may support it merely as a point of principles. We shouldn’t forbid what the Bible permits.

    ii) Not every Christian who supports drinking in moderation grew up in repressive, legalistic, fundy churches. Don’t assume that represents a reaction, much less overreaction, to his religious background. Don’t assume that this represents a “new-found” freedom. That’s a very provincial assumption.

    Some Christians have been drinking in moderation since they were old enough to drink. This isn’t a “new-found freedom.”

    iii) Not every Christian who supports drinking in moderation even grew up in the church.

    Indeed, some individuals have gone in the opposite direction. They used to be unbelievers who were hard drinkers or binge drinkers. After they became Christian, they now drink in moderation.

  47. Dustin says:

    PLEASE, do not put caffeine and snacks in the same category as alcohol! I don’t care what your position is on this subject but I can’t sit back and let this one go by. I serve on the local Fire Department and I see the results of alcohol. the lives that are destroyed buy this drug are mindbogglingly! I have never seen someone run their car into another car and take out a family drinking a coke! I have seen more death caused by this drug than most of you will ever see in your lifetime. Follow the Lord, focus upon His Word and live in His Grace!

    1. Eugene says:

      Dustin,

      Don’t blame alcohol—blame the sinner. And snacks are not bad in themselves if done in moderation. But junk food over a lifetime has killed countless people, so as alcohol, it can be abused.

      1. Dustin says:

        I am not going to get into this debate because it has left the purpose for it starting along time ago but A man can drink all the Cokes he wants to and only hurt himself.

        1. Kevin says:

          Really?!

  48. Eugene says:

    Dustin you said:

    “I see the results of alcohol.” No, it is the results of irresponsibility (i.e. the person’s choices), not the alcohol.

  49. Brian says:

    Steve,

    Just to clarify, I was referring to those who “flaunt their new-found freedom” as an example of how SOME moderate drinkers tend to miss the centrality of the Gospel. By no means was I trying to classify all moderate drinkers (of which I am one) in this way. Nor was I suggesting that this practice is the result of growing up in a legalistic setting. There are many people who learned the responsible consumption of alcohol from godly parents who modeled how to consume it responsibly.

    I realize that you are responding to more than just my post. But since you latched on to a phrase that I used, and seemed rather bothered by it, I wanted to be sure to clarify that.

  50. Dean says:

    One point about the “Weaker Brother” passage that I have always been curious about, is that even with the word “weaker” there is an implication in the word itself that the “weaker brother’ will eventually grow into a “stronger” brother in their spiritual maturity in Christ. I know that for me at the beginning of my Christian life there were some things from my old life before Christ, such as alchahol, tobacco, rock’n’roll, movies, ect. that although were not necessarily things in of themselves directly condemned by scripture, but nevertheless were things that I had developed convictions about and at the time chose to avoid. Now, granted one could argue that I was letting legalistic man-made rules dictate my own convictions, but that is not my point. But my point is that I had to stop doing those things in order to have a clear conscience, and so I put them aside for a time, in order to grow in my new found faith. But then over time as I grew “stronger” in my faith and I realized that those things that I once associated with my old life were not in of themselves sinful or wrong, but were things I could not do out “of faith”. But as I grew in my knowledge and understanding my faith became “stronger” and I no longer saw those “grey issues” as things I could no longer do without having a conflicted conscience. Perhaps this point is something we need to take into account. We can’t always assume that the convictions that we had which were not specifically condemned by scripture at one time in our Christian lives, are always going to remain convictions throughout the rest of our lives as Christians.

  51. steve hays says:

    I also wonder what presumptive scenarios the weaker-brethren objection has reference to.

    For example, if my wife and I have some wine with dinner, how is that harming the weaker brethren? Or if my friends and I have some beer together, how is that harming the weaker brethren?

    If we were to consume alcohol in front of an alcoholic or recovering alcoholic, that would be tactless. And, of course, that would be tactless regardless of whether the alcoholic/recovering alcoholic was a believer or unbeliever.

    But under what situations is that a realistic objection to the moderate consumption of alcohol?

    And even if there were such situations, wouldn’t that justify a case-by-case policy rather than a blanket policy? Don’t Christians need to exercise rational discrimination rather than have a mechanical approach to issues like this, regardless of the specific circumstances?

  52. steve hays says:

    I also don’t see the practical impact of teetotalism. Unless we return to Prohibition, teetotalism is a voluntary behavior. In the nature of the case, teetotalism is limited to teetotalers. It doesn’t inhibit barflies from blowing their play check at the local saloon, since they don’t subscribe to teetotalism. By definition, teetotalers aren’t barflies while barflies aren’t teetotalers. So as long as both behaviors are voluntary, how does teetotalism solve the problem it poses for itself?

  53. Lisa says:

    First – I am not the usual commenter here – I’m a 38 year old woman in a very small town with bars full of deadbeat dads, not pubs full of young hip professionals and pastors. That probably is not relevant except to highlight how out of water I feel in the comment pool. But I will dive in…

    I don’t have a problem with someone consuming alcohol – as long as it’s not my drunk parents. Sounds harsh – but that’s what it becomes. My mother played trumpet on the stage at Urbana in the ’60’s and almost died of pancreatitis in 2008. Along the way, many were hurt. Is that always where it leads? No. But we need to exercise caution. I don’t think that needs to be said, probably.

    As a christian, I am not opposed to alcohol use in moderation. I enjoy beer or wine myself from time to time. I have noticed that some people like to talk about how much they enjoy smoking and drinking and that those people tend to be young – younger than me anyway. There is the weaker brother argument and because of twitter, facebook, blogs, etc, you have no idea who the weaker brother is or his struggles. Your choices, when you put them on the internet, are very public choices. As leaders, and you are leaders if you have followers,commenters, readers, facebook fans… I think you need to be more careful. Enjoy what you enjoy with the people you love and care about in a context of responsibility and accountability.

    Great post JT.

  54. Michael says:

    Ben Roethlisberger and Gray Powell (iPhone dude) – Alcohol involved in both!
    Come on Christians – DRINK LIKE A CHAMPION!

  55. donsands says:

    “..when the Lord your God blesses you, ….. for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.””

    How do you interpret God’s Word here Michael? Just curious. And for anyone who takes the stance against drinking wine and strong drink, how do explain the Lord’s word here? Just wondering.

    1. Nate Alderson says:

      Would you be so kind as to offer your understanding of “strong drink.” Somewhere above the claim was made that distilled liquors were not yet invented and I’m wondering specifically about scotch. Mohler and Moore in the audio above seemed to think there is an important distinction.

    2. Michael says:

      I think it means just what it says! I do not believe it is a sin to drink alcohol. Scripture does not forbid it. God made it and allows it and even says to enjoy it. I will admit, and am not ashamed to do so, that I am a dispensationalist (gasp!) and that verse is in the context of clean and unclean foods, written to Israel and does not directly apply to the church. I am not saying principle cannot be found from it, but it is not binding. And v. 1 of that passages says “You are the sons of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead.” No hair cuts!

      But you have to admit many, many, many unfortunate things occur which would not normally due to alcohol. I just cited 2 present examples. However God’s children are free to partake. Yet that does not mean to do so unwisely. Christians must be careful to weigh the options. Nevertheless, everyone does what he or she does for the Lord and are answerable to Him alone. So I could care less whether one drinks or not.

      I answered your question, now Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise” Don, how do you interpret the Lord’s Word here? Just wondering.

  56. steve hays says:

    Jeff Straub:

    “Am I a legalist if I forbid pot-smokers and heroin users in my church or does the legality of something rest on the official pronouncement of the civil magistrate? In a society where pot smoking is legalized, would it then become acceptable to be a church member if one uses it recreationally?”

    Mood-altering substances range along a continuum of risk-factors. You can’t rationally propound a blanket policy on any and all mood-altering substances.

    To take a comparison, hospitals sometimes administer dangerous drugs. Potentially life-threatening medications. But that’s justified if the risk of not treating the patient outweighs the risk of treating him.

    “It is a non sequitor to say that because Jesus drank wine (whatever that was in the 1st century), I am free to drink Guinness. Unless you can demonstrate that Jesus drank anything similar to modern, commercially produced alcoholic beverages, you have no argument. Only rhetoric.”

    Except that teetotalers play both sides of the fence on this issue. When Scripture refers to alcoholic beverages in a negative context (i.e. inebriation), teetotalers assure us that the word denotes some type of intoxicant–but if the same word is used in a positive context, then it suddenly becomes root beer.

    “I can neither point to a Scripture that prohibits slavery nor can you.”

    i) To begin with, you equivocate. “Slavery” is a loaded word. Is indentured service “slavery”?

    ii) Rev 18:13 (cf. Ezk 27:13) is an example where Scripture condemns chattel slavery. Eschatological judgment, no less.

    “Jesus does not condemn alcohol but regulates it.”

    Where did Jesus regulate alcohol intake in Jn 2?

    “What I have is the tenor of the Holy Writ which I think argues against its use in the end.”

    Gene Robinson uses the same logic to justify catamites in the priesthood.

    “Would any form of slavery today be acceptable?”

    What about indentured service, whereby thieves make financial restitution for property crimes?

    “As I have argued elsewhere, the biblical use of alcohol hardly compares to the use of alcohol in today’s world.”

    So teetotalers should stop quoting biblical prohibitions against inebriation. OT drunks were getting plastered on root beer.

    1. Jeff Straub says:

      Steve:

      I really haven’t given anything like a reasoned argument for or against anything in this dialog today. [Repetition ad nauseum.] I attempted to argue one specific point–whether or not you could say something was sinful simply because the Bible did not condemn it. I drew the parallel between drinking and slavery. I have read 500-1000 pages of mostly primary source material in the past two months preparing for a paper I will deliver at ETS in November on the proslavery argument. Are there kinds of slavery? Maybe, but that is not the point. Indentured servitude may or may not be slavery. What was practiced in the 19th century and over which Northerners and Southerners (you rebs forget the “war of Northern aggression” comments for now) fought was chattel slavery. Many Christian (Thornwell, Strongfellow, Fuller, et al) used the Scripture to defended the right of one man to enslave another. They used arguments very similar, if not the same, to the kind of arguments I hear repeatedly proffered for the freedom to consume beverage alcohol. My own view is that abstinence is a wisdom issue. Is drinking sinful? I don’t think that I really came out and said that it was, though in most cases, (I will say it now) I think it is. For instance, I think that young evangelicals who drank for no other reason than because they can and they wish to flaunt their liberty in the face of those who thinking drinking to be wrong, sin by drinking arrogantly. Whatever Jesus did, he did not drink to flaunt anything, certainly not his liberty.

      Someone has asked in the discussion today if Southern stands to offend the conscience of a student by requiring abstinence while in school. Why would any rule offend anyone? Does the military offend someone by requiring a hair cut? Al Mohler has made the case for abstinence which has been linked to in this discussion. Was it political? Since I don’t judge his heart, how can I know? Any school is free to set whatever guidelines and rules it wishes for its students. If they don’t want them spitting on the sidewalk, they should be free to make a rule. Students who don’t like the rule can go elsewhere.

      I am simply amazed that whenever this topic comes up, it is impossible to have a reasoned discussion on it. I am told to live in peace with those who drink. Who said I don’t? I have unbelieving family who drink. Moreover, I have others, very close to me, who also do. And they are professing believers. We are not at war over this issue. I think they have chosen unwisely. I do think that our evangelical culture with its libertarianism is destroying its witness before the world. We look like the world, we sing like the world, we amuse ourselves like the world, we drink like the world, we dress like the world. And then we wonder why the face of God is turned away from us.

      Am I more spiritual because I do not drink? Who said I am? My goal is simply to honor the Savior. So I choose to abstain. Is this a bad choice? Why in the world would it be? Would I encourage other believers to do the same. Absolutely! Everyday, if i could. No one is any the less if he or she abstains. But I suspect that many will appear at the Bema or somewhere and give an account of their arrogance over this issue. Drink to your hearts content if this is your right. Do not call me a legalist if I chose a different path and encourage others to follow. This path is only virtuous as we seek to honor Christ. To the degree we do that, we may have His favor.

      The weight of 1 Cor. 10:31 should be felt in this discussion. How does alcohol consumption do this? Now some wit will quickly say that eating and drinking are put on the same plateau. But do not forget, Paul has just been speaking (in the recent context) about eating meat offered to idols. Wanna eat meat? Wanna drink . . . do it to glorify God or don’t do it.

      1. Christopher says:

        “Do not call me a legalist if I chose a different path and encourage others to follow. This path is only virtuous as we seek to honor Christ. To the degree we do that, we may have His favor”.

        Your intent does not change the law.

        Psalm 119:45; Isaiah 8:20

  57. Mark says:

    How about the weaker brother abstainer who is not tempted to drink in sin, yet demands the stronger brother never drink around him. Isn’t that passing judgment against what Romans 14 tells us?

    1. Ben Cheney says:

      I call that situation a “professional weaker brother”. If that truly is the case (which requires some discernment of course), then there’s no need to indulge their demands if you don’t want to.

  58. donsands says:

    “Would you be so kind as to offer your understanding of “strong drink.””

    From the context of Proverbs 20, and Leviticus 10:9, I would think it would be a more potent beverage than wine. Brandy perhaps. Perhaps a Liquor, or cordial. Shekar in the Hebrew means intensely alcoholic: Strong’s.
    It may even be Mead (honey-wine), or Hard-Cider. Not sure, but it most definitely is fermented, and so had alcohol in it.

  59. donsands says:

    Proverbs 20:1 that is. Sorry.

    1. Michael says:

      I looked up the hebrew word for “strong drink” to see if they were different (in Prov 20 and Lev. 10). You are correct in that the word is shekar and when used in verbal form has the idea of causing one to become drunk or intoxicating (Holladay). It would be easy if there were two different words for the two verses, but they are the same. I am going to do some more research on the word “shekar.” You are correct in that it is def. fermented and different from wine, I believe stronger. It is related to drunkenness in a way that wine (yayin) is not (more research needed to confirm). But the contexts are clear: Lev says to enjoy it (shekar)…. Prov says to beware!

  60. “I find it slightly annoying when those who enjoy adult beverages talk about it a lot. (Sort of like the younger pastors who tend to work into conversation how much they enjoy a good cigar, or the occasional pipe. Good for you, bro!)”

    JT,

    Why do you find this slightly annoying?

  61. Matt says:

    I haven’t read many of these posts so forgive me if I’m repeating.

    Why single out alcohol. What about having buffets at church when there are people who might struggle with over eating. You know there are weaker brothers in that setting. Growing up in Baptist churches my whole life seeing overweight pastor’s or layman it seems to be excused as just having a love for food. If someone is going to be rigid on alcohol because they think it’s unhealthy or sinful. Maybe they should examine other areas of their diet to see if they’re honoring God.

    Although coffee may have some nutritional value, soda has none, but many Christians love both of them. If you can’t go a day without either of those because of the caffeine that’s something worth evaluating. You’re not going to go to jail for having too much coffee while driving, but you are chemically dependent on something.

    Obviously it’s a sin to drink alcohol to escape life or get trashed, but a bowl of ice cream can play the same role. Finding satisfaction after a long day of work in a bowl of ice cream may not seem sinful, but sometimes thats what people think they need to have in order to wind down after a long day.

    The same person to look down on someone for drinking alcohol should look at their own life to see what other kind of food and drinks are being abused?

  62. donsands says:

    “Don, how do you interpret the Lord’s Word here? Just wondering”

    I use your own words for my answer:

    “I think it means just what it says! I do not believe it is a sin to drink alcohol. Scripture does not forbid it. God made it and allows it and even says to enjoy it.”

    And add, don’t abuse this liberty.

    Have a great evening.

  63. Ryan S. says:

    when was 1st born again, about 6 wks in. I picked up a hitch hiker, a homeless man. I began telling he about God entering my heart/life, he was soaking up every word, then I reached over a grabbed a cigarette. To my much pain the man that was just moments before open to my testimony, now was completely closed due to my use of something he saw as hypocritical. It broke my heart that I could not witness the Love of God to this man because of a cigarette.

    I know it to be true of alcohol also, so what should I do? Just do it in the closet? No, I choose to leave it behind, to be pure in heart in this matter so that I would carry power in my testimony that God is a mighty Deliverer. And this is what alcoholics/all perishing need to hear, God is a mighty Deliverer! It’s hard for people hear what we say for the noise of what we are.

    1. Eric Tonjes says:

      Ryan,
      I know this thread is getting old, but I just wanted to push back a little on that story; might it be that the hitchhiker had a wrong view of what Christianity was that he needed to be disabused of? I know lots of unbelievers who have initially regarded me as hypocritical because I don’t conform to their expectation of what Christianity meant (basically asceticism – hating pleasure of any kind), but who become very receptive to the gospel when I challenge those expectations with the transformative grace found in Christ.
      There are lots of unbelievers who regard Christianity as simply a list of things you don’t do, and it is not Christians who violate this list who are keeping them out of the kingdom, it is the list itself. That list keeps them from seeing God as a mighty Deliverer.

  64. Chosen Clay says:

    Weaker brother = Immature brother, spiritually speaking.

  65. Excellent post Justin!

    God bless you!

  66. Dean says:

    Ryan, chances are your homeless friend had some prior experience with other Christians maybe either his family or a church of some kind that preached a legalistic and pietistic quasi-Christianity that in his mind had become synonymous with his prior understanding of Christianity. Unfortunately this prior understanding clouded his ability to discern between true biblical Gospel centered Christianity and works centered legalistic religion. I have encountered these kind of stories and situations before in prior experiences where this is indeed what happened. And I think that God will judge those who implanted these ideas into this poor man’s mind with the same veracity that he did the Pharisees who were told that they should tie a millstone around their necks.

  67. Good stuff. There are people who drink and smoke (and cuss) it seems for the sake of telling others that they drink and smoke. There are also others who abstain for the sake of telling others that they abstain. Both are equally wrong. We have no such freedom but that Christ gave his life.

    To flaunt freedom is to dishonor the gift of the life that Christ purchased with his submission to death, and to require undue restriction is to draw people away from holiness into legalism.

  68. Mark says:

    Jim said

    There are also others who abstain for the sake of telling others that they abstain.

    Love it!

  69. John says:

    I would add that the sinner without grace cannot handle anything strong or empowering, because it strengthens/empowers his sinful nature. Thus, for the unbeliever strong drink can end in misery. When believers drink in moderation, it is a much stronger testimony. When we abstain, we are telling our unbelieving neighbors that we have no power and are no different than they. Which is sadly often true.

  70. Chris M says:

    Reading a book by Ed Welch, “Addictions a Banquet In the Grave”. Very helpful in understanding how addictions are Idolatry and Idolatry is a problem with the heart.

  71. Dean says:

    Eric: You made my point way better than I did. Thank you. :)

  72. Henry S. A. Trocino Jr. says:

    Dear Justin,

    I’d like to comment on some of your comments on alcohol use.

    1. You seemed to call alcohol as part of God’s “creation.” Alcohol is the product of fermenting grapes, etc. Using the same analogy, the cigar is the product of using certain leaves and paper, etc. But we don’t call a cigar God’s creation, do we? I think alcohol is properly, man’s creation. It is a creation that has ruined more lives to this day.

    2. Rom. 14 clearly tells us that if, by our behavior, we cause others to stumble, better not do it. Applying it to alcohol use, if we cause others to stumble with drinking alcohol, we should stop it. The greater sin is to “announce” it.

    3. Ryan Kelly says, “On issues not forbidden or condemned by Scripture, we cannot invent a morality, or, worse, impose those inventions on others.” Amen. Okay. Let me ask, “Is watching x-rated movies forbidden in Scripture?” No. If it is not forbidden, and I tell believers not to watch pornography and the like, am I inventing a morality? Yes. Do I impose it? By telling them to stop watching x-rated movies, I do. Is my invented morality for the good of believers? I believe so. Is it legalistic? Perhaps. You see, there are legalistic rules that bless people and there are legalistic rules that curse them. It is the legalism that destroys that is unhealthy for believers, I think.

    4. It is unfortunate that D. A. Carson, whom I totally respect as a thorough exegete, seems to apply the salvation concern of Paul, in the matter of circumcision, to drinking alcohol when preaching to legalists. I think he just wants to drive home a figurative point, albeit dramatically, though not literally drinking alcohol before the legalists.

    5. I grew up with an alcoholic father. I drank alcohol when I was a kid, when he gave me a drink when I asked for it. Good thing my mom scolded him for it. What we all should remember is that what may be good for you as a believer may not be good for other believers, esp. the young in the faith. Drink your alcohol at home, perhaps. But what about your kids who see you doing it? In a culture that puts pressure on our kids to drink (alcohol commercials, parties, school functions, office parties,etc.), drinking in front of them, or at the very least, with their knowledge that it’s okay with you, already leads them to think that it’s okay to do so. When they grow older, nothing will stop them from following you, because dad did it anyway. And so the effect multiplies. More believers will stumble because you just want to have your drink.

    In short, drinking alcohol may not be prohibited by Scripture. But wine in the Bible is not the commercial wine we have today, where it has more alcohol content. WE should remember that. I think the wine of today makes you get drunk faster than the wine of the Bible. At what point can you honestly say that you’re not yet drunk with your wine, and sinned against the Lord?

    Henry

    1. taco says:

      1. Mind expanding, it seems to me that alcohol, cigars, mosquitoes, and viruses are all part of God’s good creation.

      2. You really didn’t get the point D.A. Carson was making of which also makes your point 4 a little odd.

      3. The Bible is silent on lust and lustful actions/thoughts? That is news to me. I seem to remember Jesus being quite specific about lust in the heart.

      4. re #3

      5. I’m sorry you had such a terrible experience as a child. But it is good to remember “abusus usum non tollit.”

      Just because something seems “good” does not always make it so. Much of the worlds worst oppression was done in the name of the good of the target of the “good.”

      Remember, when you blame substances for sin you are taking away from the truth of “Total Depravity.” You are allowing something other than MAN be responsible for MAN’s action.

      1. taco says:

        4. re #2

  73. Mike says:

    I find the text speaks loudly to the topic, but the debates will rage because of the detriment alcohol can bring. Here are what I see as very simply laid out principles…

    1. If it causes you to stumble – refrain
    2. If you encourage your brother to stumble through your consumption – refrain
    3. Do not get drunk
    4. If you do drink – Moderation
    5. If you are not given over to sin and you are not encouraging your brother to stumble – enjoy

    The whole topic boils down to the heart.

  74. donsands says:

    “I think the wine of today makes you get drunk faster than the wine of the Bible”

    Noah got drunk.

    What about this verse Henry:

    ““..when the Lord your God blesses you, ….. for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.””

    How do you interpret this truth from our Lord?

    And of course there is Proverbs 20 that shows us “wine is a mocker, and strong drink a brawler”.

  75. BJ Mora says:

    Can’t comment on this topic without mentioning West’s excellent book, “Drinking with Calvin and Luther.”

    If you have an upset stomach, a little wine will do, or even a few drops of bitters in club soda.

    Any argument against the use of alcohol which equates “the thing” (alcohol) with sin by definition reduces the concept of sin from a spiritual issue to a material issue.
    Lives ruined and affected by alcohol are by its ABUSE, not its proper use, by definition.
    Every Christian man can decide for himself what is proper re: alcohol use. And give counsel to others, believers and not, re: their use and abuse. Each will be answerable to the Lord if there is sin there.
    This is a fallen world, a hard world, and yet the Lord provides those things which we may need to survive and yet thrive in this world, temporarily. If alcohol be one of them for you, praise Him.

    The lack of proper observance of the sacraments within the Church, including the non-use of the proper element of wine in the Lord’s Supper, has likely diminished the means of grace available to us in those sacraments. They are (earthly) representations of a spiritual reality, and to the degree we dishonor those, we miss out on their blessings. Note that I am NOT saying there is something magical (ex opere operato) about wine at communion or sprinkled water on a baby. I do say that the reality of the Lord’s presence, of communion with us, of his promises to His people are diminished, especially in the context of theologically starved teachings.

    Yes, Jesus is the Savior of sinners. Yes, we all need desperately to hear the gospel, week after week. But without proper preaching, means of grace, and church discipline how are spiritual babes to become militant soldiers for Christ? There is so much more to our God than “just the gospel.”

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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