Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Good Discussion on Alcohol

I still don't understand the whole "if someone sees me drinking it might cause them to sin" argument. Try and apply that same logic to any other issue, like materialism or eating food.

How many people are enslaved by materialism? How many of us worship our technology? This is a serious idol in our lives these day. What if I have a guy in my church who is enslaved by the need to always buy the newest and greatest new gadget everytime is comes out? What if he spends his money so poorly that he can't pay his rent but he sure has great tech gear?

Say we have this discussion and I pastorally counsel him amidst this idolatry.  Should I refrain form answering a call on my iPhone in his presence?

We could create a scenario like this with any number of issues.  Why don't we?  It is just because alcohol has such a history of abuse in our culture?  But couldn't we make a case for hundreds of other issues being abused as well?  Why do we single out alcohol?  Should we refrain from eating in the presence of people who abuse food and can't control their eating to the point where it's killing them?

I am not advocating for lack of sensitivity but it seems like there is a serious double standard going on.  Am I missing something?


Mark J said...

D.A. Carson a few years back had a great response. (My paraphrase) If you are around a weaker brother don't drink. If you are around a Pharisee go get the bottle opener and down a few right in front of them.

-Mark J

Andrew Faris said...


One of the things that I've been surprised at as I've thought about this issue recently has been that the Bible pretty regularly associates wine with joy. So here's my question: how is that even possible if wine isn't having some effect on one's senses?

Jn. 2 is especially fascinating for this reason and probably gets to the point you're making here, fast: not only does Jesus presumably drink there, but he supplies the alcohol. Not only that, but excellent alcohol. Why would he do that? Probably because he wants people to have a great time drinking it. Is there really another reasonable explanation for the purpose of the physical act itself (aside from the many theological implications, that is)?

If I came to a party today with a bunch of top shelf alcohol and set it on a table and said, "Enjoy, guys, let's have a great time together!" I'd probably get fired. And that actually might be reasonable- we should pay attention to cultural views on these kinds of things, and there is a big cultural difference between bringing a 24 pack of Bud Light and a bottle of Cuervo to a 21st century party and turning water into amazing wine in a 1st century Jewish wedding.

But the point is still there: Jesus brought the booze. Incredibly huge portions of it (120-180 gallons in all likelihood). And an incredibly good version of it. So he apparently wasn't worried about it in the same way we are.

Andrew Faris
Someone Tell Me the Story

Peter said...

You don't understand the argument because you have a glib understanding of addiction.

I've seen you mildly admonished a few times as to addiction on your blog, and each time you 'repudiate' the warnings with shallow comparisons and lines of logic. (see the interaction you previously had with J.MacDonald's teaching)

Not intended as a put down, just an fyi.

Anonymous said...

(Rom 14:21 NIV) It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

Tyler Smith said...


I don't see how Zach's comparisons are weak. Could you please explain?



LG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LG said...

You'd have to be in deeper community with someone to know if alcohol or materialism or pornography was their main sin issue. If you had a cousin who almost ruined his life from addiction, when you threw a party, I'm betting you wouldn't have wine.

But this "I won't drink cause someone might stumble" seems like the reason people use to NEVER drink. I think that's a foolish hermeneutic. Romans 14 also references food, I don't see anyone abstaining from food forever.

Addiction is the problem and you only know that in community, so apply it to those you would call your community not to the standard you make every decision every day by.

David said...

"Am I missing something?"

No, I'd say you get it.

jeff in ok said...

yes, you are missing something.

John said...

I think for all the talk of contextualization, many of the missional guys miss the mark here. Does the Bible forbid drinking? No. does it forbid drunkness? Yes. So, care is needed when drinking. That a universal norm. But different cultures struggle with different issues. Our culture struggles with alcohol abuse. Add up all the examples you gave of sinful activities and it still pales in comparison to the devastation done by alcohol abuse in this country. This is what the big deal is about.

I would never tell someone in my church not to drink. But when I am surrounded by former alcoholics--one of which almost killed someone and destroyed his marriage--there's no way I'm taking a drink around him.

Has anyone asked me to give it up? Nope. And if someone insisted I do, I would have a problem with that. Nevertheless, I'm willing to forgo the drinking. That being said, if I'm visiting friends in France, though, my behavior might be different.

Just my two cents. Blessings!

Robb said...


I don't know of any missional guys who don't caution against abuse of alcohol. And I can't think of any missional leaders who think it's smart to drink around struggling alcoholics... As someone who used to go to Mars Hill, these two points were really hammered in by Mark Driscoll.

One of the best studies of alcohol in the Bible, in my opinion, is here. The author basically makes the point that the idea of abstaining from anything just because it might offend a weaker brother doesn't make sense because of our freedom in Christ and from a plain reading of Romans 14.

Paul says in 14:3 that there is to be mutual respect of one another's personal convictions, so merely being "offended" in the way we think of the word in the English language is not enough to prohibit the stronger brother from partaking. To cause the weaker brother to stumble (Romans 14:21) is to cause him to violate his own conscience (Romans 14:23), not just to "offend" him.

So if the weaker brother is convinced that he should abstain, the stronger brother should abstain in any situation that puts pressure on the weaker brother to violate his conviction. This would include struggling alcoholics where the sight and smell of alcohol would cause them to stumble, but also any weaker brother who would be easily be persuaded to drink and so violate their conscience.

In all other cases, we have freedom to follow our conscience about the appropriateness of partaking or abstaining.

John said...


Thanks for the info from your church experience, Robb. That's helpful.

After reading my comment, I'm a little worried that it comes off as sarcastic. I didn't mean it to be, especially as I would consider myself in some sense a "missional guy!"

That being said, I've noticed what seems to be an imbalance in the amount of talk about drinking among the reformed, missional group. Alcohol seems to come up a lot. And my point is, if they are trying to combat legalism, I get it. But I also think they might have failed to exegete their culture as we sometimes make a point of doing. Why is it helpful to flaunt your liberty to drink alcohol in a country that is devastated by abuse of it?

More than that, it seems like they've failed to carefully consider the biblical culture as well. Yes, wine makes the heart glad, but the amount of alcohol in a cup of wine in biblical times and our own are vastly different. More than that, the wine itself would have been cut with water 2 parts to 1. I don't see anyone drinking that way today, or even talking about how different alcohol would have been and is perceived between our two cultures.

My original point was beyond a typical weaker brother/offend/injure conscience scenario. I'm saying in this culture, alcohol is so closely associated with sin and misery and brokenness, that I feel it unwise to go around making a point of my right to drink all the time. (I sometimes get the impression that certain people think Jesus commands we drink, when the reality is we have a simple permission.) I'm not advocating or mandating abstinence for everyone. I'm just asking why can't we give up our freedom in an effort to be more pastorally sensitive? Would that be so bad? I just don't get why drinking and talking about it on a regular basis is so seemingly important to some people.


khc said...

As an alcoholic who, by the grace of God, has not had a drink in over 4 years, I've had to think long and hard about this issue. Doesn't make me an expert, but has given me some thoughts.

A basic rule I came up with for anything is "Does it increase a community that glorifies God?" Can alcohol do that? Yes. Can overindulgence of alcohol do that? No. Can indulgence in front of someone that has struggled with that substance do that? Depends.

People that struggle with a substance have to be treated on an individual basis. For those that say, "You can't ever drink around a particularly bad alcoholic", I wonder how that person drives down a highway (billboards) or ever goes to a sporting event. Are they a shut in? Weaker brothers are always going to face temptation, and the answer is to trust other brothers and sisters, not decimate community through their own needs.

So whereas Romans 14:21 is a good starting point, the question isn't "is this a person that struggles with this", but should be the more personal, "Joe, would it cause you to stumble if I drink around you?" And then, of course, you need the discretion of whether to go with their answer.

There are friends that can drink around me. When I move in to a new place, I put up my guard and won't be around much drinking for a while, until I can learn to trust some brothers and sisters to understand my situation.

Robb said...

Why is it helpful to flaunt your liberty to drink alcohol in a country that is devastated by abuse of it?

I agree that some talk so much about alcohol that it just becomes awkward and unhelpful. Alcohol is a gift from God, and in a society that abuses it, even the God-ordained use of it is radical and causes heads to turn.

For instance, I am well-known among my co-workers for brewing beer as a hobby. I bring my beer to work parties and so on. The other day, several of my co-workers were very surprised to know that I have never been drunk.

To them it had never occurred that someone would not abuse alcohol if given the chance. We have had conversations in the past about my faith and I know that someone who is neither a hypocrite or a legalist with regard to alcohol is perplexing for them in a good way.

I'm not advocating or mandating abstinence for everyone. I'm just asking why can't we give up our freedom in an effort to be more pastorally sensitive? Would that be so bad?

I am completely in agreement with this. This issue should be dictated solely by personal conscience and everyone has freedom in Christ to partake or not to partake.

There are clearly people one both sides who are perceived as strongly advocating their point such that it turns people off and seems disrespectful to those who hold different convictions. People on all sides of the issue should be respectful and not try to pressure anyone to violate their conscience.

Jack Hager said...

As an alcoholic, I hate alcohol. I wish the Bible forbad drinking; of course it does not. But I also wish my brothers and sisters who drink in moderation would thing about it perhaps a bit deeper. I wrote an open letter: that may be of interest to some. I deeply appreciate your blog,and will disagree agreeably on this subject.