Tuesday, December 01, 2009

James MacDonald - Wise Up About Alcohol - Part 2

Yesterday I posted part one of a series of reflections on a recent message (here and here) called, "Wise Up About Alcohol" from Pastor James MacDonald. In his message he gives six reasons why he believes that total abstinence should be the norm for all Christians. Yesterday I addressed his first reason and today I'll address his second reason.

2. Alcohol impairs wisdom.

Pastor MacDonald bases his argument on the following verses from Proverbs 31. In this section of Proverbs, Lemuel is remembering and recounting what his mother taught him.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to take strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Pastor McDonald makes the case from this text and others that the Bible teaches that people of prominent position or influence (like Kings) should not engage in drinking alcohol of any sort. But that is clearly not what this passage is teaching. It is important to ask, what type of drinking would cause you to forget “what has been decreed”? Certainly not drinking in moderation. When Lemuel’s mother exhorts him to not drink wine, this certainly points to drunkenness and not having a glass of nice wine with dinner. I have consulted many commentaries on this verse and did not find one that said that this verse is teaching total abstinence.

Ponder the previous verses.
What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb?
What are you doing, son of my vows?
Do not give your strength to women,
your ways to those who destroy kings.
The mother implores his son to “not give his strength to women.” If we are following the interpretation from Pastor MacDonald, it would seem that he was supposed to stay away from all women. Don’t drink and don’t engage with women. Do the Proverbs really teach this? Based on the context of these verses, I think it would be more appropriate to assume that the mother is saying that he needs to be careful not to be consumed with passion for sexual relationships with women. This can be seen in the plural form of the word “women” which leads one to think of various mistresses. So these verses are not teaching that one should be completely free from alcohol or sex but rather, if one is to pursue them it should be within the appropriate boundaries.

Consider The Lord’s Supper and the example of Jesus. Should we assume the only time that Jesus and his disciples drank alcohol was in a very unique and sacred moment when Jesus ushered in the New Covenant and they never before nor never after participated in alcohol? Was this just a ceremonial one time event? I should think not.

If you want to make the case (like Pastor MacDonald) that alcohol is never fit for those in prominent positions of leadership then the disciples who where given the responsibility to usher in a whole new epoch in Christian history would certainly have had to observe total abstinence. Obviously, this seems to have not been the case.

Certainly drinking alcohol in excess can impair wisdom, but there is a reason why you can drink one beer and then get in the car and legally drive. It’s the excess of drinking and not alcohol itself that can impair wisdom. Unfortunately, Pastor MacDonald does not offer this qualification in his message.

Tomorrow we’ll look at this third reason for total abstinence.


amy Romero said...

Psalm 104 14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
15 And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart.

Very well put, Zach. Good study. I think about this a lot.

Rafael said...

how the young reformed love their booze!

Vitamin Z said...

I'm not sure this is completely about booze, but rather Christian freedom. More of this will come out in my posts in the next few days.

Kel said...

Alcohol is, beyond debate, a mind altering chemical.

And, alcohol in its singular form, is not for kings.

So you're suggesting leaders should only alter their minds in moderation?

Vitamin Z said...


Thanks for the comment. Can you elaborate?


Rafael said...

If its only about Christian freedom, why not promote something without any potentially dangerous consequences?

Why suggest there's 'freedom' in playing with fire?

Vitamin Z said...

Simply because we shouldn't forbid what the Bible doesn't forbid. We should promote it in within the right boundaries.


Rafael said...

Alcohol offers no benefit to the believer, the leader in particular.

MacDonald, Piper, and Carson (even if he "publicly masquerades as a teetotaler in America") are leaders suggesting and living a wise approach to alcohol, even if they do not claim the Bible demands total abstinence.

How is it that under the cry of liberty you would endorse something that offers only destruction, and no benefit, to other believers?

thanks for interacting!

Vitamin Z said...

I don't endorse it for you. If you think it is sin, then for you it is (Romans 14). But that is not my conviction and the Bible never says that I have to abstain. Keep reading my posts in the next few days and my views will become clearer to you I think.


Rafael said...

The issue doesn't appear to be sin or no sin.

Dr. MacDonald's issue is wisdom.

"Wise Up About Alcohol"

Wisdom doesn't endorse an item with no constructive attribute.

Vitamin Z said...

But why does Jesus disagree with you then?


Vitamin Z said...

This link might be instructive:



My concerns will be further outlined in a couple more posts on this sermon. My fear is that MacDonald has bound the conscience of the huge number of people how are influenced by him. I think this is a real problem. Drawing lines that the Bible does not draw. He makes some statements that to me are very troubling in reference to this issue. Again, I'll address these in a few days.

Jesus never said it was wiser and he clearly drank alcohol. It may be wiser too to home school your kids, but I would never get up in front of my church and say that.


Anonymous said...

Rafael is trying to reason his way to a position of abstinence, even as MacDonald appears to be doing. MacDonald's arguments sound to me like those of someone who has gone looking for Scripture references to back up his preconceived notions. But the question is: What does the Bible teach? The answer to that question must overrule whatever seems wise to me in my own thinking. The Psalm Amy quoted in the first comment above would seem to fly in the face of both MacDonald's and Rafael's assertions. But of course, for anyone who struggles with alcoholism on any level, the prudent choice would be abstinence.

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