Drinking Deeply

Monday, July 31, 2006 at 2:54 PM

On Drinking

You know, even though my blog is entitled "drinking deeply," I've never posted on drinking alcohol before. Well, time to break that tradition.

The following is an edited comment posted in response to a friend's post advocating abstainance from drinking and smoking. It adequately summarizes my position on drinking. In short, I believe drinking is not a sin (but drunkeness is), simply because the Bible doesn't call it such. There does seem to be a biblical place for godly enjoyment of all that God has given us, which includes wine and fermented drink.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I’m blessed and encouraged that people are willing to use a medium which is often filled with frivolous thoughts for the glory of God. That said, I must respectfully disagree with your position.

The primary reason why I don’t agree with your assertion that “if you are a Christian, especially one in leadership in the Church, smoking and drinking, whether privately or socially, are a sin,” is because I don’t see evidence of such in the Bible.

I would like to disagree primarily with the issue of “drinking,” leaving smoking for later, but I think much of what is said regarding drinking can also be said regarding smoking.

To begin with, I think it’s important to separate drinking from drunkenness. One of them is not spoken of, the other is sinful. You define drinking as that “which is the continuous consumption of alcohol without a worthy purpose,” but you argue against even “moderation for physical, social, and economical reasons, among others” as unworthy. I’m not entirely sure that characterization is supported by Scripture. I will agree that much of what alcohol does is detrimental to society, but just because something may have a negative impact when it’s abused doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used at all.

In the Bible, wine is talked of as a gift, Deut. 14:26; Ps. 104:15. Jesus came “eating and drinking” and people called him a glutton and a drunkard. Jesus turned water into wine at a dinner party. Yes, there are commands against drunkenness, and Jesus didn’t break any of them. But there isn’t a command against drinking in the Bible, and to say that it’s sinful anywhere and always for Christians to drink seems to go against the actions of Christ himself.

To honor God with our body requires primarily honoring God with our minds. While I am in agreement that much of alcohol abuse dishonors God, I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that even a taste of alcohol is dishonoring to God. After all, if that were the case, Jesus would not have used wine as part of the Lord’s Supper. It is primarily the mind (in spirit and in truth) that we honor God, and we do that by calling what is good, “good”, and what is evil, “evil.”

Regarding the command to be “above reproach,” that is an appropriate thing to cite for Christians, but it in itself does not make drinking sinful, but it may make drinking culturally inappropriate. Namely, because of the culture, people who drink are looked down upon, then it would behoove us to be “under the law in order to win those under the law.” But on the same token, if there is no such push in the culture, then there is no argument.

Thus I would agree with your argument – it is inappropriate to cause others to stumble, but I would disagree with your conclusion, “In short, even a small puff of smoke or a tiny sip of alcohol is a dangerous sin.” It’s only a sin if it causes someone else to stumble, as your argument establishes.
What I want to caution you about is the dangerous sin of legalism, speaking where the Bible is silent. Piper says it far better than I would when he gives a sermon on a proposed amendment to his church constitution that formerly required total abstinence from alcohol. A brief excerpt:
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)" (Gal. 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" (Col. 2:6); "Strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy" (Col. 1:11); "holding fast to the Head from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together … grows with a growth that is from God" (Col. 2:19). From God! From God! And not from ourselves.

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Blogger Joanna Martens said...

Legalism can be a dangerous trap.  

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