Thursday, December 03, 2009

James MacDonald - Wise Up About Alcohol - Part 3

Today I will continue to interact with Pastor James MacDonald's sermon called "Wise Up About Alcohol" (here and here). Here is his fourth reason for his belief that total abstinence is the wisest choice for all believers.

4. Because alcohol is destructive.

I disagree. Alcohol is NOT destructive. The ABUSE of alcohol is very destructive. This is an extremely important distinction that unfortunately Pastor MacDonald does not make. The wine sitting on my kitchen counter right now has never rose up and punched me in the face. If I drank a whole bottle of it in an hour I might rise up and punch myself in the face, but this would stem from my own stupidity and not alcohol in and of itself. Alcohol has zero power to do anything unless I choose to give it that power through my destructive use of it.

Pastor MacDonald gives many statistics about the abuse of alcohol, but again, he does not qualify these statements as abuse, but rather, as alcohol in general having the power to do these things. But in response to these stats, I could give you many counter examples of the healthy use of alcohol from my life and the lives of many of my Christian friends. Again, alcohol has no power for destruction in an of itself.

The problem with the statement, “Alcohol is destructive” is that is fails to make careful distinctions. What would you think if I said, “Sex is destructive”? I hope you would pause and think about that for a second. It seems that sex taken out of it’s God-ordained context is very destructive, but sex in the right context is very beautiful and affirming.

So if we are going to say that alcohol is destructive then we better not stop there. That would be way too short sighted. We should add sex to the top of the list and abstain from that as well because the destruction done by it in our society dwarfs that of alcohol. We would have to add eating at McDonalds to the list (ever seen the movie, Super Size Me?). And who in their right mind would ever set foot in an automobile again? Just because some people use something amoral for destruction does not mean that is should be outlawed for all Christians.

I fully recognize that the abuse of alcohol does great damage in our society. The Bible clearly affirms this and so do I but from the example of Jesus alone we can know that responsible use of alcohol is clearly within the bounds of Christian freedom.

Pastor MacDonald cites the text below to support his view that the wisest choice for all Christians is to completely abstain from all alcohol.

Proverbs 23:29-35 -
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
30 Those who tarry long over wine;
those who go to try mixed wine.
31 Do not look at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
32 In the end it bites like a serpent
and stings like an adder.
33 Your eyes will see strange things,
and your heart utter perverse things.
34 You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
like one who lies on the top of a mast. [8]
35 “They struck me,” you will say, [9] “but I was not hurt;
they beat me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake?
I must have another drink.”
He sees this text as an argument for total abstinence but it seems that the Proverbs speak here of drunkenness and not wine in general. The key verse is verse 30 where is says, “tarry long over wine”. What does “tarry long over wine” mean? It means drunkenness. Causal drinking is not tarrying long over wine. If you read this text to the end it’s clear that the description given in this section of Proverbs is one of drunkenness.

So in sum, alcohol in and of itself is not destructive and the Bible does not teach this. It does certainly teach that drunkenness is a sin but this says nothing to the inherent power of alcohol in and of itself. This distinction is vital.

The previous two posts can be found here and here.


Scott Sterner said...

Pastor MacDonald is a wonderfully gifted teacher of the Word but with this sermon he has given us the perfect illustration of eisegesis, where one brings a presupposition to the text attempting to form the text around that presupposition. I'm saddened by how reckless his exposition is on this subject and fear that it will only fuel the fire for others who are as quick to abandon good methods of interpretation in order to advance their personal agenda.

Rafael said...

Sex is destructive, true. Sex is also good (procreation, intimacy, pleasure, etc.)

Fire is also destructive, but used wisely has many goods.

However, alcohol has no good, only potential destruction.

Why does freedom and liberty suggest playing with something that offers no (realized or potential) benefit to a believer?

Wise up!

Thanks again for interacting.

(For the record, I'm not a teetotaler. I'm just aghast that a Christian leader would promote (whether you think you are or not) a mind/mood altering substance under the guise of liberty.)

Gabe said...

"However, alcohol has no good, only potential destruction."

I'm wondering what you are basing this statement on? According to Psalm 104 wine was created by God to make the heart glad...that sounds like a good thing to me. The Bible I think is very clear that alcohol can be used for good. In Psalm 104 the following verses are in the context of the writer praising God for his good creation. If you read the entire chapter, there is no other conclusion that can be made but that not only is wine good, but it is one of the reasons we should praise God.

14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
15 and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man's heart.

D.J. Williams said...

You can throw Deuteronomy 14:24-26 onto the list of Scripture's teaching on alcohol's good.

Thanks for the good series. I am continually baffled by the arguments that are tossed around for total abstinence, as well as the attitude that the burden of proof somehow lies on the one who partakes, rather than the one who's adding an extrabiblical stipulation.

Anonymous said...

How about John 2:1-11 - Jesus turned the water to wine - his first miraculous sign. If every good and perfect gift comes from God - what conclusions might we draw from this??

Interestingly, this passage infers that those attending the wedding feast maybe already had too much to drink.

Thanks for the posts on this - thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

why'd you skip point 3?

Josh Otte said...

If alcohol is evil why is God serving it up in the New Heavens and New Earth, at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the Messianic Banquet?!

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples,the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,for the Lord has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
--Isaiah 25:6-9

If ever there was a day to celebrate, it will be THIS day! I think of this passage and promise every Lord's Supper. We do this until he comes, and when he comes again he will destroy Death and redemption will be completed and the Redeemed will recline at table and raise the holiest toast to King Jesus to the glory of God our Father!

Vitamin Z said...

I skipped point three because it was a non-issue in my view. Not worth the time. I had nothing to add or interact with.


Anonymous said...

It seems like most of you guys are assuming wine is euphemistic for all alcohol. That's sad. And naive.

Rafael said...

Point 3 is inline with the points I've been making.

Alcohol is mind/mood altering chemical with no necessity to human existence or benefit to the believer.

Calling it a non-issue doesn't change those facts.

Anonymous said...

Rafael - your arguments are laced with the presupposition that "alcohol has no good, only potential destruction." I have yet to hear you substantiate that argument. If you are going to make such a claim, at the very least back it up with some meat. You are essentially claiming that the scriptures presented in support of alcohol (or wine that has an alcoholic content) being acceptable when enjoyed to the glory of God are untrue. I'm fine with people taking a different stance than my own, but an "argument" such as yours is merely an unfounded statement of what you believe, not truth.

Rafael said...

Forgive my assumptions.

Alcohol negatives:
-impaired judgment
-stomach ulcers
-liver damage
-oral/internal cancers
-reduced immune system function
-heart disorders
-sleeping disorders
-sexual dysfunction


Vitamin Z said...

Sound like more of symptoms of abuse, not of my type of use. I drink probably around 2-3 glasses of red wine per week. Last I checked this was actually good for you.


asc said...

I love a good single malt scotch on occasion. Certainly stronger than wine...but when sipped over the course of an evening with the wife, no negatives there.

(There should be the 'of course' statement that if someone has a struggle with alcohol, they should avoid it.)

Sam said...

I love to mix diet dr. pepper with diet sierra mist cranberry splash

I'm free to mix aspartame and sucralose

you guys are sad

Anonymous said...

Whenever I encounter teetotallers, I usually get the stink of the "social gospel."

Study US history, look at the so-called "Progressive Era."

If you think the corruption of the "social gospel" is limited to Methodists and Rob Bell, be wary.

Even the "fundies" sometimes preach it from the pulpit.

Coffee is mind/mood altering chemical, as is chocolate, when are the crusade against that?


Anonymous said...

Rafael - not even close. As Z said, these are symptoms of abuse, which could easily be attributed to many many many other foods/substances put into our bodies in excess. You stated: "Alcohol is mind/mood altering chemical with no necessity to human existence or benefit to the believer." However, you still have yet to provide one ounce of support for your stance. You've merely stated what you "think." I challenge you to contend with the scriptural references that others have provided as support for their positions. It makes my skin crawl to hear you completely disregard scripture under the guise of Christianity.

Rafael said...

Thanks, anonymous, for the confused rebuke.

Are you looking for medical documentation as "proof"? What about rehabilitation center records?

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.
Prov. 20:1

Is that proof?

And I'd appreciate some of the benefits of alcohol that you know of that I'm apparently ignorant to.

Vitamin Z said...


The verse you quote has to do with drunkenness. No one is arguing in favor of that.

Did you read Psalm 104. What did you think of what it said about wine?

You may not think it is beneficial, but I certainly do. It tastes great!

You can be free to not think it's good, but it is a problem if you look down your nose on those who do think it is good. I'm not saying you are doing that, but just be careful not to. Romans 14.


Stephen Proctor said...

this is an old post, but i found it because i checked out a church that's part of dr. macdonald's planting network and noticed that it specifically said 'juice' when talking about communion, which struck me as odd, so i looked into it.

anyway, i just felt compelled to post...

studies are continually finding links to moderate alcohol use and health benefits.

also, good beer/wine/liquor tastes good, so to say there's no benefit is silly. deliciousness is a benefit. if i were at a stage in life that i could only afford cheap alcohol that tasted bad, i'd have to reevaluate my position.

additionally, a great christian friend and i used to (before i moved across the county) have some fantastic discussions about god and jesus and theology over cigars and gin/beer/whiskey/...whatever... a slight buzz can make the mind more fluid and lucid.

there's a time and a place for everything all kind of potentially unhealthy things, but this divisiveness over it is dangerous.

great series, z.