1. I like James MacDonald. I think he is a great Bible teacher and has been greatly gifted by God as a leader of God’s people. I think he is profoundly mistaken in reference to the topic of alcohol, but I celebrate his overall ministry and pray that the Lord would continue to sustain it.
2. I don’t think that everyone should drink alcohol. Usually in these types of discussions people assume one of two things or both. 1) That I think everyone should participate in the consumption of alcohol or 2) that I am diminishing the horrific effects of drunkenness in our society. Both are false in reference to my view. I want to fully acknowledge that you are certainly free not to drink alcohol and I know full well the damage that is done by those who abuse it.
3. I don’t feel the need to flaunt my Christian liberty. If you firmly believe that, for you, alcohol is sinful to consume, I would abstain out of love if you were to come over to my house for a meal. But if you believe that you can’t be a Christian and drink alcohol, then I would certainly seek to teach you otherwise and probably openly drink in your presence. The Gospel is NOT Jesus plus teetotalism. Consider what D.A. Carson writes in The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World:
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.4. How many times in the Gospels did Jesus and his disciples offend religious people? If you are a person who is offended by all consumption of alcohol by fellow Christians, are you also offended when you read in the Bible that Jesus turned water into wine, drank wine at the Last Supper, and that he clearly spent much time with those who consumed alcohol (Luke 7:34)?
To create a contemporary analogy: If I’m called to preach the gospel among a lot of people who are cultural teetotalers, 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.
5. When Paul talks about these types of amoral matters in Romans 14, he writes that we should not pass judgment on one another. Love should reign. We should respect the varying opinions of others, because that is what they are: opinions. What you are convinced of about alcohol is your business and I will not look down on you for your view. Consider verses 1-4:
“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”Unfortunately, some folks in the comment sections of these posts have done the exact opposite of what the verses above require.
6. This is not all about alcohol per se. I would be writing the same series of posts if Pastor MacDonald got up in front of his people and said "Christians should never send their kids to public school! I can't understand how any Christian parent would do such a thing. It's simply not a wise choice." And our kids don't go to public school, by the way. If the issue was Christians and yoga, or Christians and eschatology, or Christians and rated R movies. You get the point.