Alcholism Vs Legalism

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If you’ve read my testimony you’ll see that I grew up in a legalistic religion.  I could never be good enough.  I was the on the receiving end of the the never ending road of legalism.  Whether it was a cuss word or a beer, I was done.  However, even Christians are prone to legalism, especially, when it comes to alcohol.  Not every Christian who disagrees with moderation is a legalist, but those tendencies may be present. Especially, when forbidding alcohol becomes a sanctification issue.

The debate of whether or not Christians should or may drink any alcohol whatsoever will go on until we get to share a glass of wine with Jesus in the Kingdom(Matt. 26:29).  This is especially true in the Southern Baptist Convention.  Just look at Dealing with Legalism which has 95 comments thus far.

I do have a question that goes beyond moderate use of alcohol by Christians.

Who would you rather have in your church, alcoholics or legalists?  How would you answer and why?  Eventually, an alcoholic will easily see his sin.  It’s not hard to see the addiction in his life.  The legalist actually embraces his sin as righteousness.

Let us not be deceived by outward appearances.  Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14).  He keeps his deadliest diseases most sanitary.  He clothes his captains in religious garments and houses his weapons in temples.  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 the church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in church. Piper, John. Brothers We Are Not Professionals. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2002. 155.

While the alcoholic may see his problem, how do we show the chains of legalism?  Legalism introduces new laws.  New rules to follow.  What really changes though?  For example, the Moral Majority got their guy elected. Even so the world was still lost, the Gospel absent and the only real change was the name of the office holder.  It was a campaign for morality, which is a good thing, but without the Gospel true change cannot come.  A change in habit does not change the heart.

Total abstinence as an entrance requirement may secure a church membership with one common attitude toward alcohol, but it is of no help in making us a pure people who do not live according to the flesh. Ibid. 158.

To invite someone to a new set of rules without the life changing Gospel of love is to offer nothing.  See, the alcoholic already knows he needs to stop.  So to bring him to a church where someone else just tells him to stop isn’t very helpful.  They need to see their sin and helplessness.  They need Jesus who can change the heart and work forward from there.

Some days I wish I just carried my own sin in a bottle.  It would be much easier to see.

For what it’s worth…

Mark

Let's connect!

tagged as in Church Issues,Gospel,morality,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Grady Bauer June 15, 2009 at 10:48 am

Great post. Excellent question about who we would prefer in our church….I’ll take the alcoholics any day of the week. First I don’t think there is anything wrong with drinking…drunkenness is a sin however. Those who get drunk usually do so for a reason…that’s what we should be concerned with…help them to heal and the behaviors will change. Only treat the behavior and the hurt will manifest in some other way.

2 selahV June 15, 2009 at 10:52 am

Hello Mark, You’re right….”A change in habit does not change the heart.”

Neither does a change in one’s mind. Only a change in the heart changes the habit and the mind. selahV
.-= selahV´s last blog ..WHAT ABOUT YOU? Are You Typical? TEXT THIS… =-.

3 Frank Turk June 15, 2009 at 11:19 am

I think your question reveals what’s wrong with our thinking here, Mark.

See: we think, “The Gospel can reform the sinful, but not the righteous.” I think if we were really preaching the Gospel, we’d reform both the sinful and the self-righteous. It would break them both. And we would also have a high view of holiness which would beat down our tendancy to be self-righteous, becaue we would know that we should strive for holiness but are not prone to go there without the Gospel clearing away our brush.
.-= Frank Turk´s last blog ..Prohibition season =-.

4 Mark|HereIBlog June 15, 2009 at 11:20 am

Matt, it’s funny. I used to be a grace killer until grace killed me.

5 Mark|HereIBlog June 15, 2009 at 11:22 am

Grady, thanks for dropping by. I agree. Helping them heal with Jesus. No band-aids or re-adjustments.

6 Mark|HereIBlog June 15, 2009 at 11:23 am

selahV, thanks for stopping by and agreeing again. 🙂

7 Mark|HereIBlog June 15, 2009 at 11:32 am

Franklin, I don’t disagree as I’m sure you know. (I hope.) I’m speaking about those who more easily recognize their sinfulness. Those who are self-righteous tend to think that their legalism is their strive for holiness. The Gospel does take care of this, but it’s also worth pointing out as we hold each other accountable. I mean, the Gospel takes care of all manner of sins and sinfulness, but we still deal with them individually at any given time.

BTW, I LOVE Rachael’s comment (below) as it is EXACTLY our problem in the church today.

Our problem is not that we are filled too much with wine. Our problem is that we are not behaving in a way that indicates we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

And nonChristians totally see our hypocrisy in this!! When we get all purse-lipped over drinking a glass of good Cabernet,

but our speech is full of the same gossip and arrogance, and devoid of thankfulness to God for His goodness to us in saving us and making us His children,

our witness is far more tarnished than if we took the glass with thankfulness, and spent the time as we sipped it to emobdy and preach the gospel.

8 Thomas Twitchell June 15, 2009 at 12:19 pm

I had a friend named Dirk. He was an alcoholic who attended an SBC church with me. No matter how many times I tried to minister to him out of Romans 8, it was beaten back by the requirements that he quit being what he was so that he might come to the Lord. Funny how we would sing just as I am and nothing in my hands I bring then deny that it is true for any one else.

I’m just saying…

Dirk, well I lost track of him. My guess is that if he ever got away from performance based religion like that which he found in my old SBC church, and got in with the right bunch of scum he is better off today.

I wonder just how many legalists realize that dependence upon performance to merit rewards from God brings a curse: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death…”
.-= Thomas Twitchell´s last blog ..Should Congress Impeach Obama Now? =-.

9 Darrin June 15, 2009 at 4:48 pm

While I was having a beer at lunch with my wife once, a pastor friend came up to say hello. I said – “Hide the beer, the pastor’s here!” He said, “No, its a Reformed thing.” I appreciated that.

Interesting that I was just yesterday reading the following in Whitefield’s famed letter to Wesley, and I think Wesley’s perspective had similarities to the legalists (if he is not to be so labeled himself). I don’t by this imply that drinking in moderation is sin, or I wouldn’t do it (or at least admit it). But this is about standing by Christ’s righteousness vs. our own:

“For these five or six years I have received the witness of God’s Spirit; since that, blessed be God, I have not doubted a quarter of an hour of a saving interest in Jesus Christ: but with grief and humble shame I do acknowledge, I have fallen into sin often since that…

“I have been also in heaviness through manifold temptations, and expect to be often so before I die. Thus were the Apostles and primitive Christians themselves…

“And if I must speak freely, I believe your fighting so strenuously against the doctrine of election and pleading so vehemently for a sinless perfection are among the reasons or culpable causes, why you are kept out of the liberties of the gospel, and from that full assurance of faith which they enjoy, who have experimentally tasted, and daily feed upon God’s electing, everlasting love.” – George Whitefield

10 Mark|HereIBlog June 15, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Darrin, good stuff.

…pleading so vehemently for a sinless perfection are among the reasons or culpable causes, why you are kept out of the liberties of the gospel, and from that full assurance of faith which they enjoy…

So interesting that we forget just how sinful and imperfect the Apostles were. They even wrote about it! Perfectionism is certainly a danger to us. It clouds the Gospel and our true need for it.

11 Lane Chaplin June 15, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Great post, Mark. Thanks for dealing with this subject. It’s much needed in the church today.
.-= Lane Chaplin´s last blog ..June 2009 Resource of the Month (with a little surprise…) =-.

12 Jason June 15, 2009 at 8:25 pm

The common reasons to support abstinence are:

Protection of your testimony (avoiding the appearance of evil) and
Not causing your brother to stumble

I wonder if these are real issues. If you are not drinking in front of your alcoholic brother, who are you causing to stumble? Are there any non-Christians that would say because you occasionally drink that you have not been blessed by God? Does a glass of wine with dinner really scare anyone away from Christianity? Or maybe it shows freedom in Christ which should appeal to non-Christians. Thoughts?

No matter what your position on alcohol is, if your pastor advises against drinking in public, yet you do anyhow, is this unwillingness to submit to your pastor a sin?
.-= Jason´s last blog ..Vacation Bible School & New Christian Children =-.

13 Mark|HereIBlog June 15, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Bro. Lane, thanks for stopping by. With all the elder brothers in the church today we sure do need to deal with legalism. We always will until Christ returns. I just pray the Gospel minimizes it.

14 Tony Higgins June 15, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Mark,
Two points:
First, as a former alcoholic–I guess, technically speaking, as a “recovering” alcoholic; and certainly, biblically speaking, as a redeemed alcoholic–I think you’re making a rather large assumption when you say: “Eventually, an alcoholic will easily see his sin.  It’s not hard to see the addiction in his life.”

The anecdotal experience of my own life, as well as the empirical experience I’ve gained working with the homeless and/or individuals addicted to drugs and/or alcohol tells me there is nothing “easy” about alcoholics becoming aware of their sinfulness before God. In fact, I would posit that the attitude and orientation of sin that manifests itself in the form of alcoholism is not that much different, if any different, from that which manifests itself in the form of legalism, self-righteousness, jealousy, anger, or any other sin; that attitude and orientation being one of pride and self-centerdness. Thus, the ease, or lack thereof, for any individual trapped in a life-style of sin coming to an affective appreciation for the need to turn from such a life-style is consistent, not relative. To press the issue further, I would say all sinners, not just legalists, in some way or another, actually embrace his or her sin as a form of self-righteousness.

Even from a secular perspective, it is seldom easy to move one to truly recognize and accept responsibility for one’s own self-centerdness or pridefulness, not to mention the disregard for others that generally results from such an orientation. Even further, from a biblical perspective, the noetic effects of sin causes the unregenerate individual even more difficulty in recognizing his or her slavery to sin. Indeed, the only remedy for any individual to recognize and truly appreciate his or her rebellion toward God is the effectual working of the Holy Spirit.

Second, I find it interesting that those who generally want to exercise their freedom in Christ by having an occasional drink or two also (again, generally) tie the label of “legalism” to those who might argue that the best practice for Christians to exercise, in regard to alcohol, is abstinence.

Here, I’m not denying the fact that many individuals do manifest a spirit of legalism toward those who chose to drink in moderation. I’m also not overlooking the fact there are good biblical arguments for, and against, Christians drinking alcohol, depending on your hermeneutic. Rather, what I’m pointing toward is the fact that some, myself included, would make this argument: whereas some might chose to exercise their freedom in Christ by drinking, some chose to exercise their freedom in Christ by not drinking. Indeed, when you’ve been released from the bondage of a given sin, true freedom in Christ is displayed by never having to “taste” that sin again.

Just a couple of thoughts . . .

15 Arthur Sido June 15, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Tony,

Excellent comment. That is precisely the question. No one advocates legalism, but what is the motivation to drink? It certainly is not a sin to have “a drink or two” but I wonder what the motivation is.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

16 Tony Higgins June 15, 2009 at 9:53 pm

Precisely . . .

17 Mark|HereIBlog June 15, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Hi Tony,

First, as a former alcoholic–I guess, technically speaking, as a “recovering” alcoholic; and certainly, biblically speaking, as a redeemed alcoholic–

Praise the Lord for your redemption and deliverance. I say this as a former abuser of alcohol.

I think you’re making a rather large assumption when you say: “Eventually, an alcoholic will easily see his sin. It’s not hard to see the addiction in his life.”

Yes, it is an assumption. I am positing that it is easier for an a alcoholic who is church member to see they have a problem with alcohol than it is for a legalist to see that they are a legalist.

The anecdotal experience of my own life, as well as the empirical experience I’ve gained working with the homeless and/or individuals addicted to drugs and/or alcohol tells me there is nothing “easy” about alcoholics becoming aware of their sinfulness before God.

This may be true in your experience. One the one hand I, nor Piper’s quote, is speaking about the homeless. Maybe “easily” was a poor choice of words. Granted those folks who are alcoholics may not see it as “sin”. From your experience would you say most of those addicted desire to be addicted? We can also speak of experiences with legalism in the church which is much easier to see, IMO.

You could be right that alcoholism manifests itself in not much of a different way than does legalism. However, I’ve never seen an alcoholic flaunt his alcohol in church as a form of piety that others should follow for their sanctification. I believe this is John Piper’s point whose quote set-up my idea for this post.

I admitted as much to Frank that the Gospel is the only answer to both situations. I’ve never denied that the only answer is the effectual working of the Holy Spirit. I was speaking experientially as you did above. Now, if you’d like to posit that your experience is more valid for whatever reason, be my guest. There are those who’ve been badly affected by both alcohol and legalism who would still rather have the alcoholic in their church.

Second, I find it interesting that those who generally want to exercise their freedom in Christ by having an occasional drink or two also (again, generally) tie the label of “legalism” to those who might argue that the best practice for Christians to exercise, in regard to alcohol, is abstinence.

I agree and this position is wrong. There are plenty of legalists around the blogs and even in our SBC seminaries. They are those who beleive that having a drink vs. not having one is a sanctification issue for all.

whereas some might chose to exercise their freedom in Christ by drinking, some chose to exercise their freedom in Christ by not drinking.

I agree. And the key is that those on either side not condemn the other as if they are in sin.

Indeed, when you’ve been released from the bondage of a given sin, true freedom in Christ is displayed by never having to “taste” that sin again.

Or, true freedom in Christ is knowing that even if you did “taste” that former sin again it has absolutely no control over you. You can take it or leave it.

I appreciate your thoughts.

Mark

P.s. Maybe we should have a Sunday School class on this. 😉 (I’m kidding.)

18 Mark|HereIBlog June 15, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Arthur,

So now we are questioning motives of something that is admitted is not biblically a sin? Is that biblical?

What is the motivation for anything in life? The dessert? Extra dessert? Double cheese burger? A movie? Steak? And on and on…

19 Jason June 15, 2009 at 10:50 pm

I agree. And the key is that those on either side not condemn the other as if they are in sin.

What if they are sinning?
.-= Jason´s last blog ..Vacation Bible School & New Christian Children =-.

20 Mark|HereIBlog June 15, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Jason,

Just like any sin regardless of what it is you try to restore your brother.

21 Carl Gobelman June 18, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Mark,

Excellent post! The question about whether or not we would want our church filled with alcoholics or legalists is a poignant one. Reminiscent of the accusations the Pharisees flung at Jesus about being a friend of wine bibbers and sinners.

22 Mark|HereIBlog June 18, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Carl,

Thanks for dropping by. It certainly interesting way to look at it. I got the point from Piper. 🙂

23 Rhology June 22, 2009 at 10:13 am

I go to an SBC church and abstinence is preached from the pulpit. But in actual practice, it’s no big deal, but maybe that’s b/c I hang out mostly with people in their 30s and younger, and I can’t think of even one of us who freaks out about alcohol.
That said, I recently heard a fairly convincing sermon, from a good friend and former roommate actually, who made a really good argument that drinking is not a sin, but it’s not the best situation, and even might have gone so far as to convince me that elders should not imbibe.

But yes, I pray that the SBC will let go of their dumb legalism regarding this issue. Let it go, good ol’ boys!

24 Jack June 24, 2009 at 1:26 am

Classic case of logical fallacy in setting up false choices. Legalism is not the only response to alcoholism. But, to answer your question: I’d take legalism to deal with in regard to a family member rather than alcoholism. Watching my brother bleed out of every opening in his body as he died from alcoholism makes this a much more poignant and important discussion than just an opportunity to bash a denomination one doesn’t care about anyway. Last time I checked, being a Southern Baptist was a voluntary choice.

25 Mark|HereIBlog June 24, 2009 at 7:38 am

Jack,

I’m sorry to hear about your brother. I fear though that alcohol was not his problem. Sin was. You answer that you’d take legalism over alcoholism is just fine. I’ve interacted with people who’ve had bad experience with both and they still chose alcoholism.

Who was bashing a denomination? Who doesn’t care about the SBC? Also, the quotes came from a book by John Piper who is not a Southern Baptist.

The Bible is what makes the point of discussion important. The Gospel is the answer to all these problems not unbiblical rules made due to life experiences.

Thanks for stopping by.

26 Red and Black Redneck June 24, 2009 at 4:07 pm

The gift of wine is a gift from God. To reject it out of hand is to reject a gift of God, given to “gladden[] the heart of man.” Psalm 104:15.

27 Mark|HereIBlog June 24, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Alan (Rho),

I’m about half way through your friend’s sermon. I will let you know my thoughts once I finish and have time. Your friend has a gracious approach for which I’m thankful. I do, however, think he is not presenting anything new in his argument.

So far, I think he’s moved the goal posts from and question of use vs abuse of alcohol to whether or not the type of alcohol in biblical times was exactly like what we have today or not. I’m not sure what his reasoning is here, but I have my suspicions. What else in life do we use this type of hermeneutic with?

We don’t always have an exact one to one explicit comparison in Scripture for all decisions we make. The issue here is drunkenness not percentage of alcohol content.

For now, here are two posts detailing and answering most of your friend’s positions that I’ve heard and predict will hear. 🙂

Isaiah 16:10 and the Two-Wine Theory

Proverbs 23 And a Universal Prohibition of Alcohol

28 Rhology June 24, 2009 at 4:31 pm

jM,

I’ll be glad to hear your thoughts once you’ve listened to the whole thing.
One thing I do see in those 2 links (and thanks for them) is this idea of two-wine theory = fermented wine vs unfermented. As I understand it, what Wagner is saying is not that but rather fermented undiluted vs fermented diluted.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

29 Red and Black Redneck June 24, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Rhology – Your comment illustrates the problem with the SBC or any pastor taking a position from the pulpit on the “sinfulness of alcohol.” While your pastor preaches abstinence, portions of his flock ignore him. Taking a position that is not biblically supported denigrates the office of pastor and denigrates the pulpit and can cause the flock to doubt him about things which are correct.

The positions your friend took in his sermon are rehashing tired old arguments. Get a copy of Kenneth Gentry’s God Gave Wine for a detailed rebuttal. The most glaring logical error in your friend’s sermon is his failure to recognize that wine is given precisely for its ability to “gladden the hearts of men” and to enable the poor to forget their poverty and their misery.

Further, if Paul had thought that to be an elder one should not drink, he would have said do not drink rather than don’t be a drunkard in his instructions to Timothy and Titus.

It amazes me how a denomination that is “of the Book” so easily fails to understand the plain meaning of the text. It’s like people who deny the doctrine of election while yapping about how much they love the New Testament.

30 Rhology June 24, 2009 at 4:50 pm

RaBR,

While your pastor preaches abstinence, portions of his flock ignore him

1) Well, I don’t think it’s correct to say we IGNORE him. It’s just that we weigh the arguments and find them wanting.
2) Don’t Calvinists all over the place do the same in the non-Calvinist churches they attend?
3) Ditto for ppl who don’t prefer the worship style? Or the ecclesial gov’t structure? Or eschatology?
In short, this isn’t a problem specific to the issue of alcohol. It’s that we’re not perfect people, with imperfect understandings of Scr, and we’re not in Heaven yet. I think you’re being too harsh.

Taking a position that is not biblically supported denigrates the office of pastor

Well, sure, but some grace is called for too! My pastor doesn’t believe his position isn’t biblically supported. So yeah, it’s imperfect, but that’s the way it is.
Also, did you listen to my friend’s sermon? Just curious; you didn’t say you listened, but you are quick to shoot it down.

his failure to recognize that wine is given precisely for its ability to “gladden the hearts of men”

If you’d listened, you’d know he quoted and interacted with that very verse.

if Paul had thought that to be an elder one should not drink, he would have said do not drink rather than don’t be a drunkard in his instructions to Timothy and Titus.

If you’d listened, you’d know he quoted and interacted with that very verse.

All that to say, RaBR, I am trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and would imagine you’ve been provoked by teetotallers toward this near-anger you display here, but I really think your attitude is part of the problem. Nothing is gained by acting like you listen to the other side but in reality ignoring them and as a result misrepresenting their points.

Peace,
Rhology

31 Darrin June 24, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Elders at our church in the past had collectively agreed to abstain themselves, but did not impose it upon non-elders. I suppose if I don’t have a problem with an individual being convicted not to partake, I don’t have a problem with a small group of mature believers reaching that conclusion (for themselves) either. I really don’t take issue either way, drink or no drink.

Mark had an excellent point in his comment above about not questioning motives, and also about gluttony and other things that are generally overlooked.

Sad that the SBC elevated the issue of alcohol above the problem of unregenerate church membership in recent resolution adoptions. I’m still waiting for the one on abstinence from ice cream after Sunday buffet!

32 Red and Black Redneck June 25, 2009 at 11:14 am

Rhology:

Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt. My wife read my post and agreed my tone was not as light as I usually am when I comment on other blogs. And I admit to being frustrated by this whole argument over drinking within the SBC because it is simply a distraction from the gospel and, even if it were truly a sin, it is a sin focused on at the expense of other sins. But generally, I am not angered about it as I am biblically satisfied it is not a sin and no one is going to bind my conscience about it.

Anyway, to respond to your points: I did not listen to the sermon. However, I did read the thorough outline that accompanied it. I assume the sermon is consistent with the notes. And if not, then that is disingenuous on the part of the pastor/author. Keeping that assumption in mind, please note the following:

In the outline, the mention of Psalm 104 is given in the context of moderation. Exactly right. Yet, his conclusion from the verses he quotes is that alcohol was a part of the diet of ancient culture with the implication being that it is NOT now. That is simply faulty reasoning. It is a normal and regular part of diet around the world now.

In the outline, he overstates the conclusion to be drawn from Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus about elders and deacons by stating that they are to be “extremely cautious in their consumption of alcohol” (the verses simply say they must not be drunkards or addicted to much wine) and then his argument’s “bottom line” is that “those who want to wholeheartedly follow God and be an example of purity should abstain from alcohol.” That, simply is eisegesis of the text and not careful exegesis. Clearly if Paul had meant that elders and deacons were to abstain in totality he would have said that. It is a logical fallacy to argue that because deacons and elders are not to be drunks, therefore they should not drink. It is overreaching.

Finally, simply because one “doesn’t believe his position isn’t biblically supported” does not make that position biblically supported.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis has a great discussion about the meaning of temperance (which seems to be the biblical position) having been changed into meaning “teetotalism.” As he points out, it is the Muslims who are teetotalers (and mormons and other cults). We have been given gracious gifts in food, wine, sex, music, work, and any number of material things (and I even include tobacco with those) and activities to enjoy. But on the whole, scripture emphasizes moderation in the enjoyment lest one become a slave to any. Anytime one has to go through forced mental gymnastics to support his position biblically, then that person ought to carefully review his position in the light of the whole tenor of scripture and not in the light of his preconceived cultural predilections and prejudices.

The edification of the church would be best served if alcohol were not used as something from which to run, but, as Douglas Wilson, argues in Future Men, that church members were taught to drink in a biblically approved pattern of moderation and with thanksgiving for this small gift that does “gladden the hearts of men.”

Cheers!

33 Rhology June 25, 2009 at 11:49 am

Hi RaBR,

Believe me, I know how it is to be all fired up about sthg and get too harsh, especially on teh Interwebz. Don’t worry about it, but just recognise the tendency. It’s a lesson I’m always trying to learn in myself! And I just don’t see this issue as that big a deal, you know? But then again, when legalists get a hold of it, THEY make it a big deal when it’s not, and ARGH results. So I feel you. And I’m not a teetotaller in principle (but I never drink b/c I hate the taste and much prefer cheaper alternatives, such as Dr Pepper). So, just where I’m coming from.

I would say that the sermon is consistent with the notes, yes, though ISTM the sermon is a bit more detailed.
Actually, now that I look again, I had asked him about this a while back and he sent me another set of notes.
Here are a few of the things therein:

A. The Bible Condemns Strong Drink as a beverage.
B. Today’s Beer and Wine are Strong Drink.
C. Hence, Today’s Beer and Wine are Condemned by the Bible as a beverage.
D. We Should not do What God Condemns.
E. Therefore, we should not drink today’s beer and wine as a beverage.

I guess, to be fair, that is a version of the two-wine theory (or sthg) (and again, I’m not old-hat in this discussion, so sorry if I repeat things you’ve heard a million times; feel free to point it out). In this case, the issue is NOT non-alcy wine vs alcy wine, but RATHER DILUTED wine vs non-diluted wine. And he’s equating non-diluted wine with the strong drink that’s condemned in the Scr, and identifying the wine that makes the heart glad or is used medicinally or whatever as the diluted kind.

1. The Bible condemns using strong alcoholic beverages and drunkenness.
2. In Bible times, they used light alcoholic beverages in moderation.
3. Today, given the many harmful results of alcohol and the many non-alcoholic alternatives, total abstinence is the best policy.
He includes an enormous list of biblical references condemning wine and strong drink, and I guess the upshot is that these are undiluted.

As for pastors, I think he’s linking to the whole “higher position, more responsibility” thing, and don’t you think it really is the best policy, so you won’t cause a weaker sheep in the flock to stumble? You think there aren’t any struggling alcoholics in your congregation? Might want to think again.

You said:
simply because one “doesn’t believe his position isn’t biblically supported” does not make that position biblically supported.

I know, you’re right, but my point was that I’m asking you for a little grace. My pastor (not the guy who preached the sermon in question) is a great pastor, but one of his quirks is that he’s a teetotaller, but not a legalistic one. There are far worse quirks to have, and if one is a teetotaller by conviction but not a legalist about it, he’s on your team!

scripture emphasizes moderation in the enjoyment lest one become a slave to any.

Yes, definitely.

this small gift that does “gladden the hearts of men.”

I assume he dilutes it in the same manner as did the Psalter, then, when his heart is gladdened. 🙂

Grace and peace to you,
Rhology

PS – Sorry, but I’m cheering for the local team, OkState, on Sept 5 (even though I’m a Sooner fan).

34 Mark|HereIBlog June 25, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Redneck, 🙂

I’m glad you offer a kinder hand to Rhology. He is a friend. I agree with what you are saying.

Rhology,

There were several unhelpful things. Gentry’s book (and those links above) does answer the question of the two wine theory and the alcohol % of biblical wine. Strong drink isn’t condemned everywhere in Scripture.

Your friend states that it’s not a sin to drink alcohol and then goes on to give scenarios in which he claims abstinence is the best action. This is not a Scriptural approach. If something is not a sin then how can avoidance of such be the best?

Using the Lincoln assassination story as if it were the fault of alcohol is just disingenuous and unfair. Not to mention the question he proposed several times – How much can I get away with and not sin? What person who drink in moderation has that question as their motive? Show me one and I’m sure my other brothers who agree with me will rebuke him.

Again I ask, in shift the focus from moderation and drunkenness to percentage of alcohol, where else to we use this type of hermeneutic? Do we dismiss the Scripture of meat being sacrificed to idols since we really don’t do that anymore? Of course not because that’s not the driving principle of application for us. I could give him his position on alcohol percentage and just as easily say that since our drinks are stronger today the Bible doesn’t apply to us as such.

If I remember rightly he misused the Nazarite vows. They weren’t to abstain forever. Besides, we don’t have those vows anymore.

I recommend this article from the Criswell Theological Review – THE BIBLE AND THE QUESTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES It will answer many if not all of your friends biblical questions and positions.

When liberals and conservatives argue the conservatives often have to argue against the emotive rather than the factual. In a sense, this is what’s happening here.

A good debate on this issue to consider.

Gentry: Scripture Endorses a Moderate Use of Beverage Alcohol
Reynolds: Scripture Prohibits the Drinking of Alcoholic Beverages
Gentry Responds
Reynolds Responds
Gentry’s Concluding Remarks

35 Mark|HereIBlog June 25, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Darrin,

What do you think would have happened if one of the elders decided not to abstain? Would that have been accepted?

Curious…

36 Thomas Twitchell June 25, 2009 at 4:19 pm

The Bible Condemns Strong Drink as a beverage

Recently a comment at an SBC blog was pumping Pumkin’s book and quoted Proverbs 31. But there there is a direct paralell to what Paul is saying in Timothy. And also, the construction is a typical Hebrew parallelism where yayin and shekar are used as synonyms. The word drink connotes hard drinking and not simply imbibing. Paul makes use of this same construction in repeatedly admonishing soberness, right-mindedness, et cetera, and not abstinance. In fact Paul make the same inference that drinking is okay but addiction or drunkeness, or much, (shekah), drink is not. He makes the same allowance for wives of both deacons and elders. In Pr. 31 yayin does not stand alone but is called shekar yayin. So it says strong drink wine, or strong drinking of wine and then again repeats, strong drink drinking. In other words it is not the consumption of the liquid, but the manner and the amount. Now the parallel to Timothy in Proverbs 31:1-9 is found in this word: “desire,” also. The Hebrew is a word used for a Hebrew who takes an illicit wife. It is a compound that means unaccountable want. Or, a want that is not under control, or what James might say, a lust which arises within and carries one away.

Lemuel is being instructed on what it will mean to be an elder, just as Paul is instructing his true son in the faith who is already an elder. Of course that has been the theme of Proverbs all along: how to rule well as an elder; a king; to live long and posper; upholding the commandment to honor mother and father which is the first commandment with promise. It does not honor them to deny the things they taught, and the one thing that they did not teach was abstinance according to Proverbs. This passage like that in Timothy makes ruling over inordinate desire to goal and the key to kingly living. It is not fear of it, for we were not called into bondage but to liberty. So certainly they did not teach abstinance, for God has granted us not to be judged by what we eat or drink, instead has called us into the glorious freedom of the sons of God.

I was an alcoholic and drug addict for years and I have found in counseling alcoholics the hardest thing to get them away from is the teaching that once and alcoholic always one. That is not true. The truth is that as believers we can know the truth and the truth can set us free. We know that God answers according to grace. That is my testimony, it does not have to be others. My liberty is my liberty and I will not surrender it to any one. It is God’s gift to me and I honor it. I will not flaunt it, but I will not be brought again into captivity by those who say taste not, touch not, either.
.-= Thomas Twitchell´s last blog ..Regeneration By The Spirit Preceeds The Preaching Of The Word To The Will =-.

37 Mark|HereIBlog June 25, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Thanks Thomas.

Question, why in the world is the word “imbibing” used so frequently towards those who hold to the moderationist position? I have never heard anyone use that word in person. And I don’t see the word as being one that is frequently used in other writings either.

Any ideas?

38 Rhology June 25, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Thanks jM and RaBR.
I’ll see about those links in a bit. Could you tell me whether they deal with the issue of whether the Bible always condemns strong drink? If yes, I’ll be sure to read them. If not, I’ll still try to fit it in, but with less interest. 🙂

Let me deal here with a few points; y’all may consider that I doubt I could, or don’t feel like, defending the ones I leave aside.

If something is not a sin then how can avoidance of such be the best?

If it’s permitted, but not particularly commended. Wouldn’t divorce in the case of sexual adultery be one example of that? It’s not the best, but it’s not sinful.

Do we dismiss the Scripture of meat being sacrificed to idols since we really don’t do that anymore? …since our drinks are stronger today the Bible doesn’t apply to us as such.

Wouldn’t we take it into acct in principle?
But I don’t see where you’re going with this, since the problems discussed here are twofold: drunkenness and alcohol consumption. Both of those are still questions today. That may not be the best analogy…

They weren’t to abstain forever.

Hmm, I thought they were. Or maybe until they de-Nazirited themselves later in life?

argue against the emotive rather than the factual

I have no doubt that this is the case, much like KJVO, for most of these interactions. But rest assured that I have no dog in this fight; it is merely interesting to me, and I don’t really care one way or th’other, so long as I understand the sides. Thank you for any and all time you’ve spent and will spend interacting with me on this.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

39 Mark|HereIBlog June 25, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Concerning strong drink I will give one quote from the first article which is not part of the debate.

3. Positive blessing. In various places in Scripture wine appears as a positive, divine blessing. In Deut 14:22–27 we read legislation governing the tithe of Rejoicing. There we discover that God invited Israel to purchase both wine (yayin) and strong drink (shēkār) with their Tithe of Rejoicing: ―And you may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household‖ (Deut 14:26). Not only does God himself specifically allow the purchase of these fermented beverages, but they are to be consumed ―in the presence of the Lord your God – as the people ― rejoiced with their whole household.

What I meant about something being the best action is that he really didn’t give any way for Christian liberty and conscience per Romans 14.

As far as the Nazirite I want to say “see, you’re only going by what your friend said” but I won’t. 😉

Num 6:20 and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. They are a holy portion for the priest, together with the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed. And after that the Nazirite may drink wine.

I agree with you that the issues are drunkenness and alcohol consumption. In addition, these are the issues and not percentage of alcohol in the wine which is also addressed in the first link I gave.

I only wanted to point out the emotive part because those of us from the conservative side normally don’t go down this road. You can easily see this in The Shack review comments.

I appreciate you challenging me to think a bit more on this. 🙂

40 Thomas Twitchell June 25, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Imbibe means to drink. It is common usage with alcohol but has a wide application and often negative. Like to absorb this nonsense about abstension would be to imbibe the swill of legalism. To imbibe ideas though often has a positive connotation though when we think of them as propaganda, we think negative. But propaganda itself is a neutral term.

We are typically in this age language challenged even in our native tongues. So we do not tend to use the English language well, so my English Major daughter tells me. The word propaganda is both negative and positive but we use it mostly negatively. Buzz-words have a tendency to gain an imbalanced usage. Just say “I am a Calvinist” and watch the pigeons scatter. It’s like setting off a firecracker.

My one blog is subtitled Words, words, words, because as one man maddened by the lunacy of others quipped “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” Words carry many meanings and often carry men further than men can carry their words.

The word imbibe comes from imbibere, simply meaning to drink in. In a positive context we might say, if we used English instead of letting it use us, “He imbibed the sunset suffused summit of the subliminal.” Then again we might just say that he drank of the many color peaks of his own thoughts. Most of us wouldn’t, and I only talk like that when I am being silly. In either case it would not be negative, necessarily, depending on what was being contemplated. We might say that a person sat in the Louvre imbibing art. But in today’s world it seems pretentious, so we opt for what is the least offensive and most humble, except when we want to give offence or show contempt. To speak with high an lofty words like imbibe, or abstinance et cetera makes the prohibitionists seem temperate. But the reality is, their pride so blinds them that they don’t really see how poorly they are garbed. Vestments look fine on some in the right context for the right reason on the right person. In the case of alcohol and the SBC controversy, the issue is being used to wedge in a political cock fight. The ludicrous thing is that it no longer matter to the vast majority.

In my former SBC church the constitution required abstinance of all its members and the deacons further pledged temperance. But… ninety percent of that church enjoyed a cup now and then and I knew the half of the deacons who drank. It is hypocrisy, yes, and exists because a foolish law was errected by liberals who during the progressive era were trying to foist upon the U.S. and Canada a kind of sharia to bring about the utopian new world of manifest destiny. Most SBC’ers don’t know that the Temperance Movement was a liberal, communistic effort to force down the throats of the free citizens a state religion and the SBC was one of the major players in what the founders would call the sinister incestuous marriage of church and state.

Wonder what would happen if they knew?

One thing that we have come to understand is that Lumkin like authored books would never be sold if the SBC would honestly educate its members. But the reality is that ignorance is easily manipulated, and power is founded upon the basis of the ignorance of the masses. This is the fundamentalis MO; it is the tactic of Baptist Identity.

That is what is tearing the SBC apart. Many in its ranks are finally becoming enlightened. They no longer live under the shadow of manipulated knowledge. The SBC can no longer keep the truth buried thank to the internet. What astounds is that we actually have people in the SBC who would like to regulate it in the same way they would regulate alcohol because of that very fact. Our stength though is in knowledge and the freedom that it affords. Sight is so much better than being a blind man lead by the hand. The truly converted want to give sight to the blind, not keep them dependent on a helping hand.

Well, that was more than just imbibing 😉

Just some thoughts…
.-= Thomas Twitchell´s last blog ..Regeneration By The Spirit Preceeds The Preaching Of The Word To The Will =-.

41 Darrin June 25, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Mark,
I don’t know, not having been one. I suppose he would have been expected (by himself also) to be consistent with the decision he had voluntarilty agreed to. If drinking later became that important to him, I suppose he would have been convicted (internally) that he should also step down from eldership.

42 Cindy June 27, 2009 at 9:32 am

I’m sorry to hear about your brother. I fear though that alcohol was not his problem. Sin was. You answer that you’d take legalism over alcoholism is just fine. I’ve interacted with people who’ve had bad experience with both and they still chose alcoholism.

Sad to read this from you, Mark, after that terrific, original entry. Sin is everyone’s problem, be it drunkeness, or something more boring — like pride. Drunkeness is a sin, to be sure. Alcoholism is a disease. Until the church catches up with the rest of the western world on this, we’re going to continue to be a lackluster hospital for the sick.

43 Darrin June 27, 2009 at 10:51 am

Sin is a disease. 100% fatal; fully addictive.
Until the church catches up with the Scriptures on this, we’re not much good for anybody.

44 Mark|HereIBlog June 27, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Cindy,

I’m sorry to have made you sad. Would you mind explaining a bit more? I really thought I was keeping with the theme of the post of which type of person would you rather have as a church member which was gleaned from Piper.

I’m not disputing that all sin needs to be dealt with by the Gospel. Nor am I saying that sin is not everyone’s problem regardless of what form it takes. I was merely answering the poster on his grounds which was to shift the “blame” away from the alcohol.

The last part of your quote of me was just stating a fact that I’ve seen answers to the question at hand from folks who’ve experienced alcoholism and legalism. Right or wrong, they’d prefer to deal with alcoholism.

Please forgive me if I looked as though I was discounting one sin for another.

Also, there are some who would argue that alcoholism is not a disease, but sin.

45 Chris Poe June 27, 2009 at 6:05 pm

I say neither. With all due respect, IMO the question is a false dichotomy that falls under the admonition of 2 Tim. 2:23 and Titus 3:9.

I’ve been guilty in the past of stating “If I had to err to either side…” It’s foolish, and much evil and error has crept into the church and elsewhere with that kind of thinking. Don’t err to either side. Get it right. 🙂
.-= Chris Poe´s last blog ..Hiatus =-.

46 Kevin Bussey June 27, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Both kill. Legalism kills grace and alcoholism kills people. Who would I want? Both. I want the legalists (which I was one) to recover and the alcoholics to get healed too. Grace heals both.
.-= Kevin Bussey´s last blog ..Packing? =-.

47 Jason Smathers July 11, 2009 at 3:02 am

Piper took a pledge of total abstinence. And he called his congregation to make the same commitment.

“What I choose to say is ‘Stop Drinking, America!’ Or since America is not listening to me, ‘Stop Drinking, Bethlehem [Church]!’ And I choose to oppose the carnage of alcohol abuse by boycotting the product. Is it really so prudish to renounce a highway killer, a home destroyer, and a business wrecker?”

Source: http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/buildingleaders/ministrystaff/troublebrewing.html?start=5
.-= Jason Smathers´s last blog ..Dressing Jesus Up Like Snow White =-.

48 jw July 21, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Red and Black Redneck June 25, 2009 at 11:14 am
Rhology:

. And I admit to being frustrated by this whole argument over drinking within the SBC because it is simply a distraction from the gospel and, even if it were truly a sin, it is a sin focused on at the expense of other sins.
Why dont you just ignore the SBC then, your continued frustration may mean you doubt your own position. Is frustration a sin or is that legalistic also? If God is sovereign should that not omit or need to be frustrated? Just wondering. Seems Jesus and the cross can get lost in these “how many angels fit on a head of a pin” debates.

49 jw July 21, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Thomas Twitchell June 25, 2009 at 6:53 pm
Our stength though is in knowledge and the freedom that it affords
“You shall know the truth (not knowledge) and the truth (not knowledge) shall set you free. Knowledge alone can make one proud and it seems I read where God resists the proud, Knowledge without wisdom corrupts. Knowledge alone rather than set one free only brings bondage to more knowledge. But no one will change your heart on this matter as that is God’s work. I agree you did more than just a little imbibing, quite wordy in fact.

50 Thomas Twitchell July 21, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Yup. And embracing ignorance is good. May the SBC bless its people with more 😉 Thinking itself both wise and knowledgeable when it isn’t only betrays the fact that in most arenas the SBC is also void of the Spirit and are simply blind rabid dogs who destroy the people of God.

Thanks for the insightful response jw. If you are indeed a real little sprite.
.-= Thomas Twitchell´s last blog ..Regeneration By The Spirit Preceeds The Preaching Of The Word To The Will =-.

51 Thomas Twitchell July 21, 2009 at 8:04 pm

If God is sovereign should that not omit or need to be frustrated?

Is this supposed to mean that he is not?

Actually Jesus can’t get lost in good theology. Paul spends quite a bit of time correcting the ignorant who believe that the faith is found in what one drinks or does not drink. He in fact found it an opportunity to correct stupid people who think that ignorance and outward shows of religion demonstrates Christ.

There are two wonderful programs on Collosians at Whitehorse Inn for anyone interestest.
.-= Thomas Twitchell´s last blog ..Regeneration By The Spirit Preceeds The Preaching Of The Word To The Will =-.

52 Thomas Twitchell July 21, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Woops- that’s one el, two es’s. But it should be an interest test.
.-= Thomas Twitchell´s last blog ..Regeneration By The Spirit Preceeds The Preaching Of The Word To The Will =-.

53 Mark|HereIBlog July 22, 2009 at 8:00 am

Brother, remember…I’m SBC. 🙂 Sure,we have our problems. Maybe more, maybe less than others. It’s hard to tell since we do so much in public. Despite our problems, just as any sinner might have, I very much appreciate the SBC.

54 Thomas Twitchell July 22, 2009 at 9:12 am

Ah, but your from the light side of the force.
.-= Thomas Twitchell´s last blog ..Regeneration By The Spirit Preceeds The Preaching Of The Word To The Will =-.

55 David R. Brumbelow July 22, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I’m happy to have alcoholics and “true” legalists in my church; we all need Jesus. Those who believe in total abstinence from beverage alcohol are not nearly as narrow-minded and unloving as some may think. A large part of our view against alcohol might even be out of love for others. I’ve ministered to several alcoholics and drug addicts through the years. It would be amazing to see how many Southern Baptists do so.

Those who would like to consider the other side of the story might want to check out the book by Peter Lumpkins, “Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence,” hannibalbooks.com, 2009. He deals with both Scriptural and philosophical issues.

“Alcohol Today” is recommended by Jerry Vines, Paige Patterson, Hayes Wicker, Junior Hill, Jack Graham, Jim Richards, Brad Reynolds, O. S. Hawkins, John Sullivan, and others. “Legalists” every one :-).
David R. Brumbelow
.-= David R. Brumbelow´s last blog ..Common Wine in the Bible =-.

56 Preston Gomez III October 4, 2009 at 4:49 pm

We need to be very careful here. Obviously, billions of people around the world take solace in their faith and live their lives by a strict set of religious mores and values. However, when it comes to recovery from addiction, the most important thing is finding help from a professional. At this point, “sin” should not even play a role in the equation. The most important thing is to understand that alcoholism is a physical and psychological disease and that trained professionals, not religious officials are best equipped to handle it.

57 drug abuse November 26, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Thank you for sharing this thought provoking post. I think that drug abuse is a very important issue in the world today. Many people are addicted to drugs and need help. Drug rehabilitation centers are the places that they can go to get that help. I think that this is an issue that should be more known. This is why I bring it up. Anyway, thank you for your insight.

58 Reima April 5, 2012 at 8:48 am

Alcholism and legalism are both evil, i don’t want to choose any of them. I think about it for a couple of minutes and some interesting thought come out. It is easy to spot a line which you should not cross to avoid alcoholism – this line is starts from first drop of alcohol. But it is very hard to tell where is such line for a legalism… it is some kind of gradient.

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