This entry is part [part not set] of 5 in the series Alcohol

In my last three posts, I’ve been pushing pretty hard against some common misconceptions about what the Bible says and doesn’t say about the consumption of alcohol. On the whole, I’ve advocated a fairly positive view of beer and wine, trying my best to stick closely to the biblical text. Loads of other issues of application have been set aside to focus our energies more on what the Bible says and means. After all, before we can apply the text, we need to interpret it, and sound interpretation reveals that alcoholic beverages are a blessing to be enjoyed in moderation and drunkenness is condemned as a sin.

In this post, I’d like to swing my emphasis in the other direction and drive home that last part: drunkenness is a sin.

I’ve seen a growing tendency among younger evangelicals to celebrate their freedom without discipline or a cool fear of alcohol abuse. This young, restless, and slightly inebriated pack of passionate libertines are doing some great things to further the kingdom. They’re feeding the poor, challenging tradition, and planting authentic churches—I mean, missional communities—in inner cities. There are many things I love about this crowd. Therefore, in love, let me challenge you: don’t rape God’s good creation haphazardly and belittle the name of Jesus you’re seeking to promote. Yes, the Bible says more about the misuse of wealth than the misuse of alcohol, but don’t be idiotic and think therefore that God doesn’t care about the latter. He does. Read Isaiah 5:11-12 and 22; study Isaiah 28:1-8. God cares about the poor (Isaiah 1:17-18, 23; 5:8); He cares about the misuse of wealth (Ezek 16:49). He also cares about your sobriety. And those poor people you’re trying to reach could use a bit of that cash you’re blowing on cases of Mendocino Ale to quench your liberty.

Again, I’m convinced that the Bible promotes the consumption of alcohol (and food, and cars, and clothes, and…) in moderation. But enjoying alcohol in moderation takes discipline, and if you’re young, there’s a good chance you don’t have it. Sorry to be blunt, but I’m dumbfounded by the lack of self-control among younger people, including Christians. If I had a nickel for every student that showed up late to class, I’d be a rich man and could actually afford Chimay instead of Coors Light in a can. Late assignments are ubiquitous, excuses bloat my inbox like spam, and getting students to stay awake in an 8 o’clock class is like pulling teeth with slippery pliers. Pornography is rampant, video games are mastered (a rare but misplaced instance of disciplined activity), and movies are consumed like sunflower seeds at a ballpark. This next generation of Christians has many things going for it. You care about people, less about money, and you’re eager to go to the hard places to bring people to Christ. You’re authentic, zealous, and love Jesus—but you’re undisciplined. Yes, this is a broad-brushed statement and intentionally so. Surely there are plenty of older undisciplined Christians out there, and perhaps a few disciplined twenty somethings. Regardless of age or stage or theological persuasion, if anything in this paragraph has hit home, then stay away from alcohol. It’ll destroy you. Only people with self-discipline should consume it.

And then there’s the trendiness of drinking. Few things annoy me more than Christian trends. Enjoy a drink; it’s okay. But don’t act like some 15 year-old homeschooled kid who got invited to his first high-school party. “Dude, I had too much last night after Bible study” isn’t funny. It’s immature, and it’s sin. In saying this, I’m actually advocating for a high view of alcoholic beverages. C.S. Lewis said that one of the sins of drunkenness is that it fails to appreciate the goodness of the drink. You race it down to satisfy an undisciplined craving and miss the full-bodied blessing of it. An alcoholic’s palate is dull. The addicted consumer bypasses the tongue targeting only the throat. But wine and beer are the summit of drink, the crown of food that God has created. Treat it with respect. Drink it slow and thoughtfully. Avoid drunkenness like the plague. A good glass of Pinot Noir is celebratory; it doesn’t belong in the hands of an undisciplined 25 year old playing video games in his mom’s basement. Belgium ale is strong and complex. Savor it, sanctify it, and let it meditate on your palate. Give glory to God, not just to your thirst, when enjoying the blessing of God’s rich creation.

That last line is worthy of an entire post. A few days ago I suggested that “Like marital sex, alcohol is not just allowed—as if it was a naughty thing that’s okay from time to time—but is actually promoted as a symbol of God’s blood-bought material and spiritual blessings.” Some of the feedback I received was that I should expand on that idea. So stay tuned. My next post will explore the blessing of alcohol and some theological reasons for drinking.


P.S. Plenty of caveats are in order after that post! For the record, we homeschool all of our kids and belong to a missional church plant.

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  1. Preston,

    Excellent posts.

    A couple of comments/questions. I would consider myself and my church part of the Young, Restless, and Reformed crowd. What are some examples of alcohol abuse you’ve seen in this crowd? Our leadership preaches on a pretty regular basis that drunkenness is a sin, and the men in our church are held accountable by each other for that sin. Drunkenness has happened, but it is not the norm and it is not accepted. Have you not seen that to be the case overall in the YRAR crowd?

    Also, you mentioned only a self-disciplined person should drink alcohol. Do you think that any of that discipline needs to be developed by drinking alcohol? (recognizing what your limit is, learning how different types of drinks effect you, etc). Or is self-discipline an overall character trait that one develops first, and alcohol is part of reaping the “rewards” of that development? Seems to me it’s probably a bit of both..

    • Damon,

      Great thoughts and questions! Regarding the YRR crowed, my allusion was only partially targeting them (hence the reason why I left off “Reformed” in the phrase), so I don’t have any person or persons in view. It’s more of a general impression from younger evangelicals who are breaking out of traditionalism; they may be YRR, or Emergant, or whatever. Drinking seems to be well accepted and promoted in this crowd, which I’m obviously ok with. But the danger I’ve seen is when it turns into nothing more than a childish reaction against their legalistic upbringing. Again, a huge stereotype but most stereotypes have a center of truth. It sounds like your church is spot on.

      I’ll need to think about learning discipline as you drink. I’m not sure. My first thought is that I would encourage someone to cultivate and demonstrate discipline and self-control as a life-style (e.g. eating food, spending money, keeping commitments, entertainment, etc.) before they start consuming alcohol. My initial thoughts, anyway.

  2. Great post… encouraging.

    To Damon (and others)….I always find it ironic that the people trying to reach the lost boast about alcohol. And I see it, in Facebook posts, pictures, twitters posts, etc. etc. A lot of “bragging” about the latest micro brew they drank. The irony….and I am speaking from experience here….is that the very people you are trying to reach were saved from lives of debauchery and substance abuses. You are essentially throwing it in their faces.

    To some, alcohol is a vice that gripped them and nearly dragged them to hell. God saved them FROM the abuses of drugs, or alcohal. So why would pastors and leaders in *any* Church movement want anything to do with such a substance? Free or not?

    For the weaker, we sometimes reject things that to us are not sin….in wisdom.

    • Long time no see, John! Great to hear from you.

      Thanks for your approving remark. Regarding the post, it may be good to read my prior 3 posts in order to get the full picture of my take on alcohol, if you haven’t already. I think you’d still agree, but I just want to be clear than I’m not against drinking (in most cases) and don’t believe abstinence is always the wisest path to avoid debauchery.

  3. Good post with biblical points. My only exhortation is to find another word besides “rape” to make your point. It’s intentionally inflammatory and wounds those affected by that particular sin by demeaning the sin to abuse of alcohol. I realize this may seem nitpicky, but this word has found its way into the younger generation and is being thrown around to make emphatic points. Of course, this is merely my opinion.

  4. Good Stuff, Preston! I am beginning to realize with sadness that other Christians that exercise freedom in this area are not all responsible as I would expect. In offering a drink to those enjoying my hospitality only recently, I was shocked by the results. What was really disappointing is that I haven’t experienced this with any of the non-believers I have hosted in my home.

    I really think that one needs to be a person of discipline first before drinking alcohol…yes, some fine tuning maybe required when you realize how one malt beverage doesn’t equal/affect you the same as one restaurant Margarita. However, you don’t need to start by trying 7 at a time to figure this out. I just think it is too dangerous of a thing to start without discipline. Why not learn with our food, money, and time first? I think it can just come a too high a cost on yourself, those around you and your testimony (read God’s honor) if you are going to play with limits and see just how far you can go. I just don’t believe this is the training grounds where we should learn the word “no” or rather “when to say when”?

  5. Preston, I’m just now going through and catching up on your booze anthology – I’m really glad you took the time to write clearly on these matters.

    I think this post is an incredibly important contribution to the discussion. All too often, young Christians are too quick to take up the bottle as a reaction against the perceived legalism they grew up around.

    I can speak from my own experience, as a 21 year-old Christian reactionary who would go out of his way to order beer, just waiting for someone to challenge me so I can unleash the exegetical fury. It (surprisingly) rarely happened – if only Facebook had been around so I could post beer photos and status updates that announced my drink orders to the masses.
    I thought I was being enlightened and provocative, but I was really just being immature and ineffective.

    Nowadays, I know that the key is to only drink beers that have Christian or theologically inspired names (St. Bernardus, Franciscaner, Salvation, La Fin Du Monde – the last one is a stretch, but I can make the case).