Is a Beer just a Beer?
Rethinking drinking.

I spent a semester abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, during college and attended a great church there. On my first visit to the head deacon's house for dinner, he asked me what I'd like to drink. I asked him what my options were. "Well," he said, "we have beer, lager, ale, stout, scotch, sherry, wine - whatever you like."

"I'll have water, please."

It became more obvious the longer I was in Edinburgh that abstinence from alcohol was not a Christian distinctive. Christians decried drunkenness. But the pubs were where they had spiritual conversation and met for small group.

I chalked up the differences between my teetotalling background and Scottish license to cultural differences. A lot changes when you cross the Big Pond. But now a growing number of American pastors are passing the bottle in the name of Christian liberty. As Eric Reed reports, the changes may be leading to a new battle over prohibition.

The excerpt below is from Eric's article, "Trouble Brewing." Follow the link below for the full text.

It's not just Baptists who are wrestling anew with the issue of alcohol. Pastors in a variety of traditions - some teetotaling, some not - are dealing with new issues raised by the drinking debate.

For some, it's whether to go against their denominations when the written policy differs from Christian positions held before Prohibition. For others, it's the conflict felt by pastoring people who officially espouse abstinence but still lift a glass to personal freedom now and again (46 percent of Southern Baptists imbide, according to a survey in the 1990s). For still others, it's reaching a position on alcohol that is biblical, moral, and defensible.

And for everyone there is this question: How do we take a stance on alcohol that does not distance us from the very people we are trying to reach with the gospel, and without compromising the gospel or our personal witness?

These issues may be grouped in a few categories:

Text and context

Mark Driscoll is a lightning rod for controversy, so it's not surprising that his stance on drinking clergy has become central in the renewed debate. His better contribution to the argument is on the larger issue of contextualization of the gospel in a society of drinkers.

Driscoll agrees that the Scripture opposes drunkenness. He says drinking itself is not a sin, as prohibitionists would contend. He argues that it is unreasonable to be captive to others because of the possibility of their weakness, as abstentionists would advocate. Driscoll says moderationists "rightly teach that drinking is not a sin and that each person must let Christian conscience guide them without judging others."

May 06, 2009

Displaying 1–10 of 41 comments


October 04, 2009  10:54am

Dear Brother in Christ Greetings from Pakistan. I am from Pakistan. I have studied your web site, and I found it the most wonderful site to get right to the True Word of God. I found that all your material is full of knowledge concerning development of religious faith. Living in Pakistan we Christians is to face many obstacles to get the access to the word of God. Most of the people in Pakistan are not capable to understand the English language and they are hungry of the God's words. It's because our national language is Urdu. My suggestion for you is to create your material in my language of Urdu and Punjabi also. It will bring lots of blessings of the Word of God for the Pakistani and Indian Urdu and Punjabi speaking people. For that purpose I as a translator will bring your material into Urdu languages and into Punjabi language as well. Although it will take your low expenses as well, as fund for the Word of God to reach out to the deserving people. As a translator I will take the expenses that will be spending just for the Word. In Christ, Mehwish

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September 13, 2009  10:25pm

Actually, Kerri B., you are one of the weaker brethren. Weaker in this case refers to people whose faith does not allow them to partake. Just thought I'd let you know.

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May 29, 2009  11:34am

I rejoice in the Lord as I drink my beer. To me, it is just plain un-Christian to abstain from the bounty of the Lord. I'm not being sarcastic...I hold a seminary degree.

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Frances Evans

May 22, 2009  6:32am

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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J. Joyce

May 12, 2009  1:54pm

It seems that we do not generalize abstinence in other behaviors. For example, we believe gays and lesbians should not have sex. But that's not because sex is wrong; it's because we believe their use of it is unhealthy. That's why we don't say married heterosexual couples shouldn't have sex. Many Christians who believe gambling is reckless and irresponsible invest in the stock market. Clearly they don't think all gambling is wrong; just certain types for certain people. I'm not sure how alcohol use is different from these examples. Christians in a loving heterosexual relationship can "cause their brother to stumble" when he wants companionship and finds it in another man; Christian businessmen can "cause their brother to stumble" when they say "we lost it all in the market" and another many says "why not lose it all at the track?" The issue is personal responsibility. Some people shouldn't drink. Some people can–and perhaps some should.

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Jeff Schultz

May 11, 2009  11:09am

Phil @ 5/9/09, You make good points. I agree that we do need to be concerned how we are influencing others. But that point is just as valid for those advocating total abstinence as well. The Bible does not mandate abstinence from alcohol. Both license and legalism have negative effects on others. And I will stand by my statement that lust and greed have destroyed more homes, marriages, communities, and lives than alcohol has. I'd also point out that you are conflating alcohol and alcoholism. Drinking is not the same as drunkenness, and no one here is advocating drunkenness. I don't believe that alcohol is benign – nothing this side of the Fall is. As I said earlier, every gift God has given carries the potential for abuse and addiction. That demands wisdom and prudence, and for some, perhaps, abstinence.

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Rev. M.keith bufford

May 09, 2009  4:23pm

Provocative insights, many are emotional, many just regurgitate old arguments with out any thought to what Scripture has to say. Until we begin to study Scripture with out our preconceived ideal that consumption of alcoholic drinks is sinful we will always be wrestling with this issue while our Europeans Brothers and Sisters are free from such silly entanglements. I can't help but think the Believers in Europe get a good laugh at our obsession with the question, "to drink or not to drink?" Rev. M.K. Bufford

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May 09, 2009  8:55am

I have been clean and sober for 23 years, through the grace of God and AA. I have also worked with alcoholics and drug addicts at a Christian drug and alcohol rehab center for over 10 years. I believe that the vast majority of people may drink without any ill effects. Those of us who are alcoholics may not. Their are many issues surrounding alcohol and its consumption that concern me. The idea that we do not need to be concerned about how we are influencing others when we drink is foolhardy. I recently heard of a Youth Pastor who was drinking with a couple of his underage students! I am not sure that is the type of Christ-like influence we are called to by our faith. The claim that sex and the lust for money have caused more problems than alcoholism is pretty hard to defend. If you truly believe that alcohol is benign, I challenge you to get involved with a ministry that serves those suffering from this deadly disease. After attending a few funerals you may have a different perspective. This IS a topic worth discussing in our churches and in this forum. I do not think that alcohol consumption is a sin nor do I believe in prohibition. My concern is that we are swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction and may lead to an increase in the number of people who struggle with all the issues that surround alcoholism.

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May 08, 2009  10:10pm

"Alcohal ruins lives, people don't". It's the opposite of "people kill people, guns don't". Don't recall caffine or tea ruining lives because of their addictivness, but good try. Let's legalize marijuana! It's good in moderation, right? Plus, the Bible says nothing about it.

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May 08, 2009  9:56am

Url's point about this being a uniquely American issue is interesting, but let's remember that when Christianity is expressed in other cultures it can lead to tea-toddling as well. This isn't a strictly American issue, but is often not quite this contentious.

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