I had the opportunity to revisit an old, familiar and important topic with one of my high school / bible study students from Providence...
Hey Eric, quick
question. Why is responsible underage drinking sin?
Obviously getting drunk is sinful, but if the goal of the drinking law is to
keep kids from drinking too much and making bad choices, then what is the sin
in having a beer? Growing up Catholic, alcohol is something I've grown up
around as a very normal part of social events, but as I look deeper into
scripture, questions like this have popped up so any insight you could give me
would be great.
is a sin. Yep!
alcohol, per se, is not a sin. Check!
drinking (e.g., because of one's age) is more challenging since Paul says we
should submit/defer to the State (e.g., Romans 13:1-7). Two angles here: 1.) One
can make an argument that I defer to the State's judgments on those matters—if
they find me guilty. For example, one might violate the "speed
limit", but drive safely, within the spirit of the law. If the police want
to write a ticket, then I accept that quietly and move on. 2.) One can argue
that I should simply defer to the State's judgment on this and obey the law.
State's "drinking age" is arbitrary. Why 18 or 21 or...? (It used to
be 18 before the federal govt used highway funds as extortion to force states
to move the age to 21!) What's special about 21 vs. a day short of 21 years
old? If the State is going to have laws, then it must draw such distinctions.
But the distinctions are obviously silly if pushed very far.
have freedom in Christ to drink. But you don't want your freedom to lead to
bondage (Galatians 5:1.13). Bondage is not worth a beer or three. So, take care, lest you stumble.
times, you'll hear abstainers refer to the "stumbling block" aspect
of drinking (Romans 14; I Corinthians 8:1-13, 10:23-31). The principle is that,
whatever I do, I should love God and others. Sometimes, using my freedom in
Christ to drink might harm other people. For example, if my buddy struggles
with alcohol, it would not be loving for me to drink a beer in front of him.
But this cuts both ways. Sometimes, people imagine that you can't drink a beer
and be a Christian. For them, my abstention might cause them to stumble as they
continue to imagine that one can't be a Christian and drink a beer. (This
happened to me in grad school. Despite my best efforts to explain that this
wasn’t a matter of salvation, I found out years later that a good friend
thought that I didn’t drink for that reason!) Or sometimes Christians imagine
that you can't drink and be a "good Christian". At times, you let
that go (Romans 14's "weaker brother"). But at times, you need to
defend others' freedom to drink and/or oppose the legalistic heresy. (Remember
our discussion of Paul having Timothy circumcised in Acts 16:3, but refusing to have Titus
circumcised in Galatians 2:3?)