Tuesday, August 26, 2014

on drinking (and Christianity)...

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. 

My reply... 
Good questions.

-Drunkenness is a sin. Yep!

-Drinking alcohol, per se, is not a sin. Check!

-Illegal 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.

-The 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.

-You 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.

-Many 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?)

Hope that’s helpful!


At August 28, 2014 at 8:34 AM , Blogger Craig Ladwig said...

Applause. It is no accident that the first and only "method" that provides effective treatment for alcoholism (AA) has no interest in prohibiting drinking generally, focusing instead on a personal inventory of its effect on one's own life.


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