. . . [W]hat about alcohol is so inherently bad? The obvious answer is that it leads people to lose their faculties and do dumb things. It causes car accidents and drunk texting. It gives you liver cancer. But all of these negative things happen only when alcohol is consumed in excess. Similar negative outcomes are associated with anything consumed in excess. Eating McDonald’s in excess, for example: makes you obese. Drinking soda in excess: gives you diabetes. Playing Halo in excess: numbs your brain and inhibits you socially. Obsessing aboutTwilight: crowds out more enriching life pursuits.
But all of these things are good in moderation, even (MAYBE) Twilight.
These are good things—the fruits of this beautiful planet that God created and let us live in. Why should we abstain just because these things might lead to sin?
. . . [E]verything in life is fraught with potential disaster. Our nature infuses everything neutral with the potential to become complicit in evil. The world is beautiful and good, but it can quickly become a playground for licentiousness and depravity. Does that mean we should hide away in a cave somewhere, free of all temptation or potential vice? Should the fact that a juicy hamburger is full of cholesterol and other heart-killing ingredients scare me away from Red Robin forever? Does the potential for lusting after a member of the opposite sex mean that we should never go to the beach? Does the risk of death associated with rock climbing mean we should never attempt to scale a rock face? I don’t think so.
There is a thing called self-control. It’s one of the fruits of the Spirit. Christians have it. It’s a virtue that God gives us so that we can enjoy good things without enjoying them too much. It’s the ability to know when things have gone too far, and the ability to stop at that point. It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit.
And so is a pint of Guinness. (link)
From the Internet Monk:
“Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.” -Martin Luther
…Since encouraging people to try and not sin is a major occupation of confused evangelicalism, Luther sounds strange. But it’s clear what he means: we can’t get caught in the trap of trying to generate our own righteousness, even in the name of obedience. Luther’s encouragement to sin just to spite the devil is his provocative way of suggesting a Christian TRUST CHRIST and have confidence in justification by faith. So much so, that instead of living in a state of perpetual self-examination, we live with the freedom to be less than perfect.
Isn’t sinning intentionally a really bad thing? A Christian’s attitude toward sin must be based on a thorough acceptance of the fact that our depravity isn’t going to be erased by efforts. Even our righteousness and obedience are thoroughly tainted with sin. Luther says we need to take the sting out of the devil’s condemnation with a willingness to be human, and rejoice that God loves us and Christ died for us.
Let Luther bother you a bit. Particularly if you are starting to get miserable in this Christian life, and wonder where the laughter and honesty are among Christians. We can find it again, but it comes with embracing justification by faith existentially, and not just as a doctrine. (link to the whole post)
I’m not trying to start an argument here and I don’t feel like getting into one, I just thought this was an interesting notion. Partly, I suppose, because it does sound strange to me. (But then “resurrection” sounds strange, too, doesn’t it?)
Here’s another zinger from Luther, relating to something we discussed here not too long ago. This one via Phil:
“Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women? The sun, the moon, and the stars have been worshiped. Shall we then pluck them out of the sky?”
– Martin Luther
I suppose I could do worse than read some of Luther’s works…
Scot McKnight on the issue of alcohol (but it could apply to any issue):
It seems every year someone brings up the Bible and alcohol (the drinking kind)…What I find every year in this conversation is a serious, but repeated mistake. The tack is this: If I take a stand more “biblical than the Bible,” then I can’t be wrong. That is, if I choose not to drink at all, I will keep myself from sin and all appearance of evil and will be safe. This is what I call the sin of “zealotry” — the belief that if we are more extreme than the Bible, then we can’t be wrong. Wrong.
If God is God, and if God speaks to us in the Bible, then God spoke words that show that wine drinking is fine. One may choose not to drink, but that view is more extreme than what the Bible says. Drinking too much is contrary to the Bible, but not drinking at all is not what the Bible teaches (except for ascetic strands at time).
But, let’s not fall for the idea that being more biblical than the Bible is safe ground. Extremism is not righteousness; extremism is zealotry. Trust that what God says is what God wants. (Link)
It came to mind today that it would be interesting to do a study (or read a book) on feasting in the Bible and how it relates to the unquestionable concern for the poor and needy in scripture. I had a conversation today about expensive meals out and inevitably the subject of how many starving children in Africa could have been fed with the money spent on lunch for a couple of people ’round these parts. I suggested that enjoying good food is not wrong in itself—there is a vast difference between fast food and fine dining.
That passage in Deuteronomy, always on standby for a discussion on alcohol, came to mind—Deuteronomy 14:22-27 (TNIV):
22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. 24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. 27 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.
Basically: if you can’t make to the appointed place for leaving your tithe, sell your tithe and use the proceeds to get party supplies and then have a feast. This is such a foreign concept to us—feasting and partying as an act of worship; I’m sure most Christians feel some degree of guilt when throwing a party—North American Christians, anyway.
But even the Old Testament and the laws found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy specifically stress the need for the Israelites to care for the poor—farmers not picking up dropped or missed grain for the poor to pick up and the year of Jubilee are two examples among many.
So where do the poor fit in with the Biblical feast? In this passage the tither isn’t commanded to give the profits from the sold grains to the poor. The Levite in this passage is the representative of the poor, I suppose, but it simply says that in their feasting and rejoicing before the Lord, don’t forget about the poor guy in the village with nothing of his own.
The party—in which a tenth of the person’s income is spent on food and drink in one big splash—will go on in spite of the poor man next door. Take care of the poor man, it says, but party and rejoice. Perhaps I’m missing some historical context, but that’s one of the things I’m getting from this passage. Some of us have a hard time justifying such a thing, but there it is in writing. Maybe the poor man was invited to the party, but we can’t exactly invite the population of Africa to a party. How does this work in this global age?
I’ve been trying to be a better feaster the last couple of years when we have gatherings with friends. I’m not talking about gluttony, but about enjoying the food—enjoying the food, savouring the variety of flavours. This is a form of worship—praise to God—I think. I’m not suggesting rub it in or force it on people (see Romans 14), but it’s legit, I’d say.