How we stop short in the debate on Christians and alcohol

I came across this article on Facebook “Can a Christian drink alcohol?” It did a fine job of warning people of the very real dangers of alcohol. It’s important people need to hear those dangers loud and clear. Alcohol when abused causes much pain. My grandfather was an alcoholic and was apart of AA his whole life. I understand.

The problem with the debate of alcohol is every person I have heard preach against it has stopped short of the real problem alcohol represents. In stopping short they make alcohol out to be evil when there is nothing in scripture or in 2000 years of church writing that would show alcohol as evil. Alcohol is not evil the abuse of it is. The inordinate reliance on it is. Alcohol does not ruin marriages as the author of the above link purports. It’s something far more sinister that ruins marriages.  Just talking about the negative side effects of alcohol as he does isn’t even intellectually honest.

I grew up in a church culture that through proof texting and liberal interpretation of the scripture they actually taught that Jesus never drank wine he only drank grape juice. I have also been in situations where I have been teased by Christians because I was not drinking alcohol. Both are wrong. We stop short in the debate over the consumption of alcohol when we fail to communicate and that the problem is not fermented grapes the problem is you and me. We hammer on the symptom but fail to address the cancer far below.

Love how Tim Keller in his commentary on Romans address the Idols of our hearts.

In the book of Romans, Paul develops a profound anatomy of sin. He shows us that sin goes much deeper than mere behavioral violations; it begins at the motivational level. This is why, as he will go on to explain in Romans 8, sin cannot be resisted through mere willpower, but only through the application of gospel truth by the Holy Spirit, at the motivational level.

1. Our root problem is our unwillingness to glorify God, to give him the centrality that is his due

2. Therefore, we choose created things to be our “gods.” In order to deny God control of our lives, each of us chooses a created thing (or things) to live for and worship instead.

3. Therefore, each life is distorted by a life lie. At the base of all our life choices, our emotional structure, and our personality is a false belief system centered on an idol—the belief that something besides God can give us the life and joy that only God can give. We have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (1:25). We look to something besides Jesus to be our “savior,” our “righteousness,” the thing that makes us good and acceptable.

4. But each life is a kind of bondage. No one is actually “free,” for we must serve whatever it is we have decided to live for—so people have “worshiped and served created things” (1:25). Since every human being must have an ultimate “good” by which all other choices are made and values are judged, we all “offer [our]selves” to something (6:16). Therefore, every human being is in “covenant service” to a “lord” that works out its will through our bodies (6:16-19).

5. Even after conversion, our old, false saviors/lords and their attendant false belief systems still distort our lives—unless the power of the Holy Spirit continually renews our minds and hearts (7:14-25).

6. The key to freedom is the application of the gospel of grace. “Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (6:14).

The debate we rarely have in Christian circles is what are we clinging to more than Jesus. Why when we feel scared or lonely do we turn to the abuse of alcohol to numb our pain. The cancer below the symptom of alcohol abuse is sin. Pure and simple. I have counseled many many marriages and you know what destroys far more marriages than alcohol? iPhones, iPads and computers. I don’t see people tearing up Facebook to ban and demonize those. Lets bring the debate back to what the whole of scriptures are trying to get at and that is the idols we have lodged in our hearts, enthroned were Christ alone should be. When we understand what Christ has done for us we are free not to drink because having a beer doesn’t make you godly or relevant and we are free to drink because Christ is our treasure.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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22 thoughts on “How we stop short in the debate on Christians and alcohol

  1. Pastor Sam,
    Great thoughts. In like thought – guns don’t kill people, people do. But if alcohol is a problem for you – stay the heck away from it. As a child of an alcoholic father (not biologic) and a person whose extended family members (some are biologic) like to drink (alot), I know how alcohol can destroy lives if it’s overused.

    • Karen fully agree. Like I said alcohol can do much damage but the bigger issue is where does my trust lie. I have seen the devastation the abuse of alcohol has produced. What I was trying to get at was that the debate around alcohol most often stays around is alcohol good or evil. I say it’s neither. It’s our hearts that are inclined toward evil. Appreciate you Karen thanks for taking time to reply.

  2. Not a word about setting a Holy example, before the children around us, looking for a role model. Nothing about being a stumbling block to the lost person who visited your Church Sunday but saw you picking up a bottle of alcohol in the store. Who is going to stand before a Holy God some day and answer for a child who becomes an alcoholic because of a shallow Christian example from family or Church Staff. As a youth minister for many years, I taught the young Christians to flee from anything that would, in any way, be used by satin to control or destroy their lives. No free choice, only Christ choice. Walk in Holiness, celebrating the presence of the Holy Spirit.

    • I hope you didn’t misunderstand. The first paragraph I talked about how alcohol can be used in a way this is both sinful and hurtful to others. But like many things alcohol is not evil. The problem is you and me Terry. We take something that is not wrong in and of it’s self because we are sinners. Anything we turn to other than Christ becomes our functional savior. The deepest example and legacy we can leave for our kids is not what did we abstain from but what did we cling to. When Christ is your treasure nothing else is as precious.

    • John so appreciate your comments. I could not agree more like so many arguments we get caught up in the externals of the debate and miss the essence. We can so easily castigate something from our pulpits only to helplessly watch our people over rely on something else. Once we understand what Robert Robinson so beautifully describes as our proneness to wander and proneness to leave the God we love, it allows us in humility to leave worthless things and cling to the rock of ages.

  3. Great observation!

    I have a similar story to you! Grew up in a strict church in England
    where alcohol was made to be a sin. I still don’t drink alcohol but I
    know its not evil.

    Good post!

    • John,
      Thanks. Anytime we force the scriptures to support our view point rather than inform our way of life we become liberal in our theology and are guilty of the very thing we deride homosexual theologians for. When we twist the scriptures to meet our needs rather than approach them as an open handed beggar we will alway end in conceit, and duplicity.

      • Beer is a mocker. No twisting of Scripture is needed. Seeing how alcohol destroyed my families lives kinda colors my perspective and makes me a little nervous around the apologists for drinking it. To say they twist scripture is pretty simplistic and not intellectually honest either. I have to admit I don’t hear too many people calling alcohol evil. Although it can release the inhibitions of evil in someone’s heart. All things may be lawful but is it keeping with the command of Christmas to not put a stumbling block in the lives of others. Yes we are the problem. When we can proclaim our right to engage in an activity that we know wrecks families and individuals lives and proclaim our freedom to mock those who know it’s devistation. Yes sin is the problem. Just this week we watched with painful sorrow as another individual proclaiming his freedom to drink had his ministry removed from him. Obviously I hope this pastor finds freedom from alcohol not the freedom to drink. From the sounds of it his family suffered as well. I hope they find true freedom from the pain alcohol has caused their family. It was a stumbling block for them. Stumbling blocks are not necessarily sin but we remove them from our lives because they may cause others to sin. So if alcohol is a stumbling block there is a scriptural admonition to remove it from our life. The stumbling block is individual consuming alcohol not the sinfull person themselves. Sorry we don’t remove ourselves we remove the stumbling block. We remove our actions. In two sentences there is the accusation of twisting scripture to meet someone’s needs. To call someone conceited and living in duplicity because they think drinking alcohol is wrong is not very understanding of their lives either. Living life with a whole lineage alcoholism and then trying to find freedom yourself, it is easy to see the evil in alcohol. It is also easy to see that scripture has a strong condemnation for being a drunkard. Guard your heart and guard your life. I didn’t go to a strict church. When I grew up the spiritual leaders of my church were severe alcoholics as well. There was never a church function where alcohol wasn’t a part of the festivities. Be thankful you didn’t have to live through that mess. I praise God my dad has given up alcohol and has been sober for nearly 30 years. However the first 20 years of my life I was afraid. Alcohol was an ever present evil in our house. I will never use my freedom to be a stilumbling block to my father who battled this addiction for more than half his life. Can a Christian drink? Yeah I suppose if they don’t care that it might ruin their lives and those around them