More Thoughts on Drinking

In the comments section to my post Drinking and the Bible, BeachLover asked a number of (possibly rhetorical) questions. Now that I’ve “come out” on my blog in terms of my views on alcohol, I might as well give some explanation. I realise I risk the back-lash of a number of Christians by doing this, but I feel that I can offer some balance to what is often a heated debate.
Before getting into the issue proper, I do want to note a couple of things. First, I appreciate Christian non-drinkers and their position. I am encouraged by their strength of character to be able to stand against the prevailing winds of an alcoholic society by their abstinence. It is hard to be the only non-drinker in a room, and it can be easy to violate one’s conscience for the sake of peace. I believe that if a Christian non-drinker were to violate their conscience on this issue, they would be sinning – even though I don’t believe drinking in and of itself is sin.
As well, I want to make clear that I recognise that it is not within my rights of Christian liberty to lord my freedom in Christ over another Christian. My prayer is that I do not, in any way, make another Christian feel like they aren’t free in their choice of abstaining. Because I enjoy God’s gift of alcohol does not mean that I think of myself as being any better than Christian non-drinkers.
BeachLover made note of the Seminary I attend and their history regarding drink. In light of this, I want to make known that what I write here is my own personal conviction and has nothing to do with TBS. I do not speak as a representative of the school, only myself.
Finally, if I can be shown from Scriptures that what I am doing is in fact a violation of God’s law, I will never touch a drink as long as I live. I mean that. God’s will is much more important to me than wine or beer. The Word of God governs my life in all things and I willfully and joyfully submit to it (as best as I, a sinner, can). Therefore, I am open to any and every argument for or against drinking and will weigh each against what I believe the Scripture teaches.
BeachLover wrote:
Thanks Ian. As always, your comments are well-considered and balanced on a difficult subject. Interesting post by Markianus on a hot button issue for many Christians.
I also struggle with this issue. I work in a secular business environment in which I am certainly in the minority due to my abstention from alcohol. I would like to pose several real-life scenarios for which I would like to hear your thoughts:
1) When I have non-Christian colleagues over to my house for dinner, should my wife and I serve wine and beer?
2) When my colleagues at work all go out to a bar to celebrate an event, should I go along? If I go, should I drink alcohol along with everyone else or should I abstain?
3) Should I financially support companies which produce alcoholic beverages by buying their product even when I know that they promote a lifestyle through the media which is inconsistent with my Christian beliefs?
4) As the father of near-teenaged kids in my house (with college looming not too far away), should I model behavior that says that consuming some alcohol is OK as long as you don’t get drunk or should I promote a more extreme stance of no alcohol at all? If I take the former stance, then am I predisposing my children to making bad choices in the future?
I am acutely attuned to the fact that I am countering the attitude within our society that all celebrations should include alcohol.
First of all, I would like to reiterate my appreciation for Christian non-drinkers and their conviction of heart. In particular, I take great encouragement from BeachLover who can be such a minority. Caving in for the sake of fitting in is not the Christian way, and I have no doubt that this strength of character is a witness for Christ. Press on!
1) No, I do not think you and your wife should serve alcohol – mainly because you are convicted that alcohol consumption is wrong.
For myself, I don’t think that it is necessary to serve alcohol if non-Christians visit, neither do I think that I shouldn’t. If I have beer in the fridge, and a non-Christians wants one, he or she can have it.
2) You could go along if you wanted and have a pop, but again, given your conviction, you shouldn’t drink. If it were me, depending on the people I was with, I may or may not have a drink. Were I to drink, it would only be because I wanted one. I believe that I have the freedom to make this choice and am constrained neither way.
3) Do you go to the movies, or buy/rent movies on DVD? Have you bought shampoo? What about a car? The list can go on and on about companies that promote non-Christian lifestyles in the media. We cannot escape this because as Christians we are part of the world, we take from it and we contribute to it. It’s incredible that I can see a commercial on TV for shampoo that is sexually provocative. Even the most mundane things are charged with sexuality – be it beer or tickets to Mexico.
I might add another point to this. Just because the media takes one of God’s gifts and skews it, like they do with beer, doesn’t make the gift in and of itself bad. Is a rainbow bad because it symbolises the homosexual movement? If you don’t want to buy a Coors Light because of a recent commercial you can always by Calvinus – it even has a picture of Calvin on it!!
4) Again, given your views on alcohol, you need to model strength of conviction before your children first and foremost. Children need parents who practice what they preach, and that means you should be consistent in your views.
As for myself, I will have alcohol in my home when I have children. I will teach them to respect it as a gift from God. By my actions (DV), I will show them how to use what God gives us rightly with thankfulness. By His grace, I will do this not merely with alcohol, but with everything. It is my personal conviction that a child who is used to having alcohol around them is not going to be as tempted to abuse it as the child who is curious about that which is taboo. Ultimately speaking, I trust the grace of God who will protect my children and will pray that the Spirit will lead them into all godliness.
I don’t know if I have adequately answered BeachLover’s concerns, but I am thankful for the questions. Respectful dialogue is helpful in all situations. Neither of us should compromise our views unless the Scriptures tell us otherwise. So I will remain a fan of spirits and BeachLover will remain a teetotaller until God does a work in one of our hearts to bring us to the other side. Whether that happens or not, I affirm BeachLover’s conviction not to drink and I hope that I would receive the same! We are one in Christ and it would be ludicrous for a debate over alcohol to change that.
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3 Comments

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3 responses to “More Thoughts on Drinking

  1. BeachLover

    Ian:

    Thanks for your detailed responses – I admire that you do not hesitate to stand by your convictions. By the way, my questions are based on real-life situations that I am dealing with right now; they are not rhetorical questions by any means.

    I may have a different viewpoint, but I certainly do respect your position.

    Regarding financial support of companies which promote non-Christian lifestyles, I agree that it is almost impossible to avoid patronizing these businesses in our present world. For example, can anyone really boycott a business like Proctor and Gamble, or Disney, given how multifaceted these businesses are? But I confess that I have never heard of anyone’s life ruined by shampoo or DVDs. I certainly have firsthand knowledge of people’s lives and marriages ruined by alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. Instead of admitting defeat, perhaps we as Christians would do better to be as judicious as possible in how we spend our God-given financial resources?

    Two last questions:

    1) By alcohol, are you restricting yourself to wine and beer, or are you also including “harder” liquor like rum, vodka and scotch? The Bible does not mention the latter drinks, does it?

    2) Given that you are a seminary student who may someday pastor a church, does it follow from your statements that you believe it is OK to serve alcohol at Church functions? (For example, at missions banquets, church picnics, Sunday School outings, men’s retreats, Christmas parties.)

    Please forgive my excessive questions, but this is an important issue to me.

  2. Mark

    BeachLover and Ian,

    Thank you for your thoughts and the respectful way you’ve presented them.

    I just want to add a few short thoughts:

    Regarding #3: It probably isn’t nearly as common as it was in the past, but people do still make their own beer and wine. I don’t do it, but it sounds like a neat idea (it is a Serbian tradition to have intimidating amount of wine & saurkraut stored in the garage).

    Regarding #4: A parents activity obviously has great ramifications with their children, so there is definately a great need for caution even above and beyond what might seem “necessary”. However, I think it may be a bit more complicated than we are inclined to think. Subtle attitudes could probably make a big difference here. What parents assume might be a strong example (both by word and deed) against the use of alcohol may not come out some clearly due to subtilties in attitudes and behaviors. When a kid who has never smelled a drop of alcohol gets in over his head, we (who are for moderation) might assume it is because he just hasn’t had experience of dealing with the stuff responsibility. But I propose another possibility, perhaps he’s been receiving some mixed signals, even though abstinence was all he could see. I guess much damage can be done when a kid would sense an “immature” or “insecure” attitude toward the stuff in their parents, whether or not their parents are using or not using it. In the case of parental abstinence, I suppose this insecurity could result in alcohol being made much more “hip” and appealing. On the other hand, in homes where parents consume alcohol this insecurity would result in the kids, based on the way their parents are using it, loose all inhabitions.

    So, on either side, parents should relate to alcohol in a mature and secure way. Even if it is totally avoided, it must be “demythologized” and steps taken to not portray it as some boogyman or a mysterious and uncontrollable force. And Along with that a simple recognition that it is a creation of God which will be avoided for this reason or that. I think that parents who by their example and teaching are going to completely abstain from alcohol should aim to approach the subject in a way that it can be calmly and rationally discussed, a subject that is not tabooed.

    I think by demythologizing alcohol and purposely avoiding scare tactics and not trying to come up with questionable facts to try to paint alcohol as poorly as possible, the parents will earn respect and be generally successful in keeping the kids away from alcohol.

    For those who are free to drink… I think responsible consumption (without embarassment, trying to hide it, or apologize profusely for it) is a pretty good pattern to show the kids. I think seeing this sort of sound and mature response to alcohol will be a good point of reference for the kid to analyize what they see when they come across a person who has destroyed their life with alcohol. In my younger days, when I heard of (or seen) horror stories, I was always able to have a point of reference , and I think that helped me to have a more mature view of alcohol. I’ve seen enough good consumption to immediately see that I didn’t want the bad form of consumption.

    Anyways.. I’ll conclude by disclaiming my parental advise by stating that I’m not a parent, or married, or engaged (although hopefully a bit engaging?)

  3. Ian

    Hi BeachLover:
    No I would not limit myself to wine and beer. I am an amateur scotch lover! It has a fantastic history and culture behind it. I had my first scotch nosing back in the spring. The Bible may not directly mention them, but I don’t think it negates them either. I would apply the biblical standards of moderation to scotch just as I would to wine.
    In regard to how we spend our money – it is a very hard thing to know where our money is going. You are right when you saw that we must be judicious. I struggled with this issue years ago when I read lists upon lists of companies that support abortion. It was horrifying to know that money I once had was now in the pockets of doctors who performed abortions. It is sick to think that I might in any way support abortion.
    I think that who we give to should be determined on a case by case basis. Do I buy a DVD from Paramount who may have other movies that are sexually deviant? That is just as damaging to society. It’s a harder question than “Do I give to this pro-abortion fundraiser?”
    In regards to the church, I would say that because I am a congregationalist, I would only do what the congregation I pastored was okay with. I personally would have no problem in having wine as an option at the communion table, nor would I care if we served beer at church picnics. But if the church I served was not in favour, I would have no problem with that. It’s not that big of an issue for me.
    Although I don’t agree with everything that the CREC does, I must admit that I would love to go to Trinity Fest in August. It’s hosted by Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho and they definitely serve beer! Their school, New St. Andrew’s even has beer mugs as part of their merchandise.
    As I’ve said, so I saw again, I am thankful for your posts. Keep up the dialogue!

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