Drinking Christians

I like dark beer, red wine and whiskey.

When I drink, that's what I like. I like Guinness (or local stouts), Merlot, and sipping whiskey (no ice or water).

That said, I don't drink a lot. Mainly, to be honest, because it's so expensive. Sort of like playing golf. I can't justify it economically. Especially since I'm just as happy having a glass of sweet tea.

Anyhow, this is a post about drinking Christians.

A lot of post-evangelicals drink. And many of them drink a lot. Freed from the "don't drink" prohibitions of their conservative upbringings, these are Christians who are now enjoying the freedom they find in Christ to drink alcohol.

And yet, perhaps you've noticed this, a lot of this drinking has a neurotic edge to it. This manifests in two ways.

First, when the drinking is emotionally reactionary--a sign of emancipation from a painful past--the drinking can be aggressive, angry and excessive. Drinking a lot, even getting drunk, functions sort of like a big "f--- you" toward the past. And that's not healthy and can be symptomatic of drinking that is being used to numb some unresolved pain that needs to be dealt with. When you are drinking to mask, numb, or cope--when you are drinking to cover up the pain of an evangelical past--you are self-medicating. And that doesn't end well.

A second way post-evangelicals drink neurotically is when the drinking becomes a sign of superiority, even a large part of your identity. Drinking, in this instance, is a sign of theological sophistication. When you drink you signal that you are more enlightened than those conservative Christians with bad atonement theology. These feelings of theological superiority can become such an important source of self-esteem that we begin to intellectually invest in our drinking, cultivating a peer status of connoisseur--from mixed drinks to wine to beer. For these Christians, it's not just that they drink, it's that they drink well.

Consequently, in a lot of progressive, post-evangelical circles there is a lot of drinking going on. And everyone, it seems, wants to have church in a bar. That conflation--church in a bar--is sort of a sign that you've reached escape velocity from your evangelical past. Drinking is a way to put those conservative ghosts to rest.

And to reiterate, I have no problem with drinking. One of the things I love more than just about anything is good conversation over beers.

And yet, I'm still environmentally and socially sensitive about drinking. And I wish more progressive, post-evangelical Christians were as well.

Many years ago Jana and I were a part of an Easter passion play, a cooperative effort put on by a few local churches. After the last show we all went to the cast party being hosted by some cast members who were progressive, post-evangelical Christians. So there was alcohol there. This was only a problem because a young couple who were members of the cast were also new Christians. They had each come out of a past full of heavy, heavy drinking. In becoming Christians they had turned their backs on that lifestyle and had given up drinking. So they were really looking forward to their first "party" with their new Christian friends. On arrival they were disillusioned and confused to find alcohol there. Which bothered Jana and I. So to make them feel comfortable and to honor their choices and new lifestyle Jana and I didn't drink that night.

The point of my telling this story is that I don't ever want my Christian liberty to be a cause of stumbling for others. And new Christians aside, I think it's important for progressive Christians to have hard conversations about alcoholism. That's a downer, to be sure, but in our enjoyment of drinking I fear we have occasionally failed to give our attention to the darkness in our churches associated with alcohol abuse and dependence.

In my estimation this blindness is the biggest problem with the sorts of reactionary drinking I described above. When you come out of a stifling, guilt-ridden evangelical past drinking is so emotionally and theologically liberating. It's a deep and visceral breaking free. And in the flood of those positive feelings--that first drink is sort of an Emancipation Proclamation from a troubled, Puritanical past--the risks and dangers associated with drinking, for yourself and for others, can become eclipsed.

We can all see the tension: you've finally been set free from the guilt, fear, and shame associated with drinking (among other things) and you're supposed start worrying about it all over again? Isn't that going back to a past that you swore you would never return to?

That's the dark side of post-evangelical drinking. Given that drinking is a sign of liberation from a troubled past, many progressive Christians find it emotionally difficult to address alcoholism, or to put the drinks away because of a "weaker brother" in our midst.

And yet, I do think progressive, post-evangelical Christianity needs to start having a hard conversation about drinking. Church in a bar isn't always a good idea when there are people struggling with alcoholism. I spend some time mentoring men struggling with addictions. I can't imagine inviting them to church in a bar or for theological talk over microbrews. Sometimes what seems cool and hip can actually be hurtful. And we get confused about this because evangelical ghosts are still haunting us.

There are times, perhaps, to let those spirits rest.

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98 thoughts on “Drinking Christians”

  1. I really enjoyed your post. I actually have just found your site, i am very relieved. I came to what you call a 'post evangelical' position quite by myself, not having guidance or advice from others people (neither online nor in person). So its really put a smile on my face to see your post here, and I am looking forward to reading more of what you have to say...

    Regarding your post, i agree that freedoms should only be enjoyed when they do not cause stumbling blocks for others. Its a real sign of an immature faith that does not acknowledge this.

    Freedoms, when enjoyed out of a negative reaction to the past, are often little more than prisons themselves. They may look like freedoms, and maybe even be explained as freedoms, but its like the traps of the past have simply evolved.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Thanks so much for this post. Although I am glad for the freedoms that are in recovery, I still whence when I see Christians drink alcohol, yet I wish I had the freedom to take a drink on occasion without the guilt that comes along with it. My wife bought me a smoking pipe a few years ago, but I only smoke it when I am by myself or around some friends who smoke pipes or cigars. I would be mortified to let people know that I smoke who don't know that I do. Its the same with drinking. I'm not sure whether its about my reputation or about the weaker brother stuff. I think I heard the Lord say that one of the things I haven't given Him is my reputation..I'm a mess.

  3. I appreciate the way that Eugene Peterson deals with the end segment of Rom. 14;

    "All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. 21 When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don't eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.

    22 Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. 23 But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe, then it's wrong."

    Vs. 16 carries a double meaning in my thinking;

    "You must not let what you think good be brought into disrepute;"
    1. By my own actions I should not make something that is good appear to be not good.
    2. I should not allow unchallenged attitudes/words of others to slander that which is good in and of itself.
    Quite the balancing act.

  4. Anyone who lives in the South and works outside from May thru October knows that at the end of the day nothing satisfies like cold cervezas!!
    In 2000 while touring Ireland I discovered Smithwick's. It finally became available in the US a few years later.
    I recall the turning point in my struggle about the "morality" of drink was reading what CS Lewis said about it; Christianity is not a tea-total religion, however Islam is.

  5. It sounds as if you are saying the church should be mostly or totally free of alcohol just in case anyone there might be a former abuser of alcohol. Perhaps people in the church should model responsible enjoyment of alcohol for these former abusers.

  6. I'm not really saying anything about what a church should or shouldn't do. I'm trying to psychoanalyze something I think I see in post-evangelicals and how this makes hard conversations about drinking difficult.

    But I agree that modeling responsible drinking is huge. Especially for our children.

  7. That's really the heart of what I was trying to get at. It's not the drinking per se, but the ghosts of the past that's the problem.

    BTW, I tried to be cute about that point in the last line of the posts, with "spirits" having multiple meanings.

  8. Wow. Timely post. I mainlined an eightball last night in my living room to celebrate my freedom in Christ Jesus. But to honor the lifestyle choices of less progressive Christians, and to not put a stumbling block in the way of brothers weak in the faith, at fellowship gatherings I always use the bathroom to shoot up. The peace of Christ just washes over me as fear, guilt and shame are nailed to the cross.

    Wait, is that atonement theology? My bad...

  9. I should add a bit about social location. Two things about the origins of this post.

    First, at our church Freedom Fellowship we connect a lot with people caught up in addictions, of all sorts. People are just ruined. When you spend a lot of time in that location the drinking bloom fades a bit.

    Second, some friends of ours are in a small group at church that likes to drink as a part of the experience. But one of the persons drinks way too much, getting intoxicated. Some in the group want to have a talk about this, but find it hard as that would sound "conservative" and "judgmental" in the space they've created. So there is this tension. The post was just trying to reflect on that.

    The point being, I'm trying to puzzle some things out for myself.

  10. Paul, let me add a good example of what you're talking about.

    In her book Pastrix Nadia Boltz-Weber talks about the "Beer & Hymns" gatherings at her church. But she goes on to say that, because of her past issues with alcohol, she doesn't drink at them.

  11. Thanks for this post, Richard. I'm puzzled, too. I don't come from a "drinking" culture and yet have never been taught to judge--so I started with the assumption that people who do come from such a culture usually drink responsibly. Then I started noticing how people, including my friends, drink until their way of relating to others looks noticably different (for the worse)--and I wonder, does that count as responsible? And, asking around, I find that a surprising number among the drinkers I know USUALLY don't drive when they've had a few drinks, but can't say that they never have. Does that count as responsible? I'm really confused as to whether a situation where drinking is "acceptable among Christians" (or, at least, the group of Christians among whom it used to be unacceptable) will really, in a statistical, social-science way, simply make things worse for more people.

  12. Hi Richard,
    I would like to see you expand more (perhaps in another post?) about the "intellectual superiority" part of this. My experience has been more with this than with the liberation issue. Drinking wine, in particular, is seen as a sign that you are of a certain intellectual, and spiritual, class. This seems particularly true in the northeast and with divinity school friends.

  13. I'll see if I can't think of something more to say. In the meantime we can observe that taste-testers have been unable to distinguish between $5-$10 bottles of wine and more expensive varieties.

  14. A different South for sure. I was taught that a sure one way ticket to Hell was reserved for drinkers and smokers. This led to hiding the fact that you were. An old joke goes like this. What's the difference between Baptist and Methodist? The Methodist will speak to you at the beer store.

  15. Fantastic article. As a christian that has no problem with alcohol, and enjoys great beer/wine/spirits, I have to admit I found myself doing both of the things that you have listed in this article. Thanks for the eye opener.

  16. Solid, yet again. I'm the lead singer in a punk band here in PDX that's devoted to booze (we're called The Tanked, after all). I do find myself fighting that superiority issue as a blatant - and necessarily punk - FU to any & all authorities that would seek to tell me what to do & how to do it. But we're not idiots and we're not out of control and, in the context of The Body, I'm very mindful of what alcohol means to others, the abuse others have suffered because of it, the ruined lives. But this openness allows a dialog where we can find a mutual respect for each other and leave the boozery out of it. We still walk together doing Kingdom Work - we just do so along some *very* different paths.

  17. Thanks Noland. Yes, I think this is exactly what is needed, Christians embedded in every context doing the hard and ongoing work of discernment. And it's always going to look different across those contexts. Excited to hear about ya'll's band (I think you've told me about it before).

    And as for you attitude toward authorities, I'd toast to that. :-)

  18. Great post, Richard. I went through that exact process, using drinking as a way to liberate myself from a fundamentalist upbringing. It was fun for awhile until it became another form of bondage that I needed to escape. You aren't really free unless you're free NOT to drink when the situation warrants it. Thanks for your thoughtful perspective on this issue.

  19. Excellent thoughts, Richard. Very thoughtful.

    I was raised in an ultra-conservative church. I went to college and rebelliously experienced alcohol for a couple of years. I grew up and chose not to drink anymore. For me personally, I could find no redeeming aspect of alcohol, aside from a couple of self-centered things (I'm mature if I drink, it makes me feel "enlightened", etc...). I had seen first hand, in myself and in friends lives, a host of negative results associated with alcohol - and not just those that only happen when drinking to excess. So, based on those experiences, I don't have a desire to drink today.

    But neither do I have a desire or feel a need to criticize those that do drink. That is a personal decision. Choosing to drink places a person a little closer to the "line" that shouldn't be crossed, but many are able to navigate that territory successfully. That's between each person and the Lord, just as my own decisions - successes and shortcomings - are between me and the Lord. I get close to and cross the line in plenty of other areas, so I guess I just don't need another one to deal with. LOL

    As for church in a bar, I'm involved in what we call Bar Church here in Abilene at Southern Hills. My kids and I serve in the music ministry there. Yep, we play instrumental worship music, so my old ultra-conservative acapella-only church that I grew up in wouldn't approve probably. That's another topic of discussion. I mention it just to let you know how we approach Bar Church and drinking. I don't know how other people approach similar ministries, but at Bar Church here there is no alcohol available. The worship service is in a bar, but the bar is closed. Even the communion drink is grape juice, not wine. Our approach is not to condone or participate in drinking alcohol during worship (or any other time), but we do hope to reach out to and show love and acceptance to people who have a love for the Lord but, for one reason or another, feel uncomfortable and/or "unworthy" to attend worship in a regular church.

    Many people who spend time in bars when they ARE open feel like they are not "church material". Sadly, many have been told by other Christians that they need to quit drinking and straighten up before they can come to church. Some who have alcohol problems just feel unworthy themselves. We try to approach this ministry in a similar way that Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus dealt with the judgmental mob effectively with one sentence, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” But then he dealt directly with the woman's sin when he told her "Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin."

    Jesus wasn't mean and judgmental, but he didn't condone, excuse or ignore sin either. He told the woman to leave her life of sin. But the only way she was able to really hear that message and the love that came out of was through Jesus' gentleness. It is SUCH a hard thing to have that kind of wisdom that Jesus had. I know that the folks in the Bar Church ministry don't get it right every time like Jesus did, but that's the example that the ministry aspires to. I'm currently working with a guy that came to Bar Church

    Excellent discussion. Thanks!

  20. Very well said. Thank you. As a missionary living in Ireland, I can tell you that the stigma is quite Protestant American. Also, whiskey and Guinness are the top of my list.

  21. You could say that I am one of those people who grew up in an evangelical Christian world. I am also one of those "newly liberated people" and I do drink. I like what you had to say and I agree. But on the flip side of that, when i moved and found a new church everyone there drank too. Everybody was fine with it and the Christians that had had drinking issues in the past just had a coke and we all got along. Then some very charismatic theology started to spread, such as prophesying over one another, speaking in tongues, chanting, and things like that, which i believe to be against scripture (the way they were going about it). Point is, they began to say that God had personally spoken to them to stop drinking and they tried to force others to stop. If they didn't, they were publicly ostracized. One of the first signs of legalism is to stop drinking and it became a red flag to me. It was the Christians who stopped drinking that went off the deep end.

  22. I think good drink is wasted on people who are less than 40. Don't have the prerequisite palate...

  23. I was a part of a faith community that opened our doors to house a handful of men in recovery from substance addictions. They actually lived in our small building. I was working there as a student minister. And I got engaged, and the church helped us throw this awesome wedding celebration. A few friends offered to homebrew some really good beer for the reception, and I certainly did not reject their offering. I enjoyed some myself there in a clear conscience, in part knowing that my students needed models of moderation (something which I never had before going off to college).

    There was some fallout after that reception, including one family who was probably the biggest contributor to our church, financially speaking. They decided to leave. Part of their problem was that we were drinking around weaker brethren, causing them to stumble.

    So I talked to those "weaker" brethren. They said, in all actuality, it wasn't, at least for them, the presence of alcohol that made them want to drink. It was being around the legalist teetotalers that made them really want to drink. It was the presence of the rule-makers that created the urge to break the rules. I thought that was revealing.

    BTW Dr. Beck, great, nuanced thoughts as always. Definitely has me thinking. And a bit thirsty.

  24. “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.”

    (1 Pet 4:3–6 ESV)

  25. Oops! I just realized I started a sentence and didn't finish it. LOL My phone rang. Sorry about that.

  26. What a bunch of junk. There isn't one good reason for a Christian to drink and tones of reasons to abstain. Just think of all those thousands of people who are directly affected by alcohol. Thinks of all the deaths directly connected with alcohol. Think of all the families torn apart by alcohol. Even if you think drink bing alcohol is ok for Christians (I don't think that at all) you should think of the world we live in and do as Paul said. That is to think of others as more important than yourselves and not contribute to the evil that is the direct result of alcohol.
    Christianity isn't about you or your freedoms. It's about Christ and a self sacrificial life.
    Give up the alcohol and stop telling people it's ok to drink.

  27. You could just as easily replace the word drinking/alcohol with sex here... At the end of the day, just because something can be used for evil (and often is in our society); this doesn't mean that Christians should abstain from something God created and deprive ourselves of pleasure.

  28. I can relate in some way to every situation Richard posted about regarding drinking. I had a history of drugs and alcohol before I came to know Christ and gave it away because I thought that being a christian mean you couldn't drink. When I came to a place of freedom in knowing I could have a drink I took it too far and made many excuses as to why it was ok. To cut a very long story short my drinking in freedom had become imprisoning and I could have ended up in the rehab I used to work at. Something happened to me in January this year that was would drive a lot of people to toward drinking, but I knew it was time to stop and with the help of God I did. I ended up having a few beers about 4 or 5 weeks ago and all the old urges came back and I can now say I can not drink safely. Even if I kid myself on a couple of occasions only having one or two I know where it will end up. That is my personal experience and I know there are christians that do and can drink without any issues. Although I don't believe drunkenness (not just having a drink) no matter how free you are or think you are is a good thing.

    I think the apostle Paul's writing about eating meat sacrificed to idols is relevant in this.

  29. When you divide drinkers into heavy, moderate to light, or teetotalers, research has found that teetotalers have a lower life expectancy. These types tend to be more stressed, uptight, absolutist thinking, anxious, tense, all of which are more likely to bring on serious health problems. My upbringing in the church taught me that Jesus turned water into water (and it could not have had any alcoholic content). It is true that the wine in the Bible was probably more diluted with water than our wine today. Occasionally, there is a distinction made between wine and strong drink in the text. Nevertheless, Paul felt that the tranquilizing effect of wine would be good for Timothy's stomach problems.

  30. Similarly to 'Anon' above, I'll point out that someone who drinks certainly does not have to participate in "drunkenness" and "drinking parties." Just as a married man, committed to treating sex with a holy respect, can experience the full pleasures of it without being a part of "orgies." The point it seems like this passage makes is that the attitude and action is different. If you are a man not cheating on your wife, or looking talking lewdly about a co-worker out of honor and love for your wife, then you surprise those who do. But that does not mean you cannot use the creation of God (both sex and alcohol) in its intended purpose. To redeem a popular advertisement for the Church: Stay Holy My Friends.

  31. I'm going to be as polite as I can here... have you read the Bible in it's entirety, including many mentions of drinking, enjoying wine, Jesus' miracle regarding it, Paul's suggestion of Timothy drinking wine, etc? Because to me it sounds like you have not, or you are choosing parts of the Word that you like and throwing out the rest. That is not something I'd advise. Perhaps this is something you should delve into with more caution, because it is clear by the tone in your comment that you have a serious issue with it that goes beyond just your opinion.

  32. 1 Timothy 5:23 “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”

    Ecclesiastes 9:7 ”Drink your wine with a merry heart.”

    Psalm 104:14-15 “God gives wine……that makes glad the heart of men.”

    Amos 9:14 ”…….and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens and eat the fruit of them.”

    Prov. 31:6-7 “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress…..”

  33. Great post. Freedom in Christ is not merely mean freedom away from where we were. After all, it didn't take the Israelites very long to go berserk after they had received their deliverance.

    On another matter, The Reverse Wine Snob is a website that lets the world know of good wines for less than $20. Here's the link: http://www.reversewinesnob.com/

  34. So much for wine being a symbol of the age of restoration--those silly Hebrew prophets. On a more serious matter, if you believe that the evil is located in the alcohol itself then you have a cosmology that is at odds with the history of the entire Christian tradition.

  35. Great post. Have you discovered any good books on alcohol and the Christian maybe from a historical perspective? I'm am interested in discovering the relation between the conservative protestant views against alcohol and Prohibition. Anything you've discovered?

  36. 'Sometimes what seems cool and hip can actually be hurtful'. I gleaned so much from this sentence, and I think it's one that many in my generation need to hear. I think this is my favorite post yet.

  37. "We should thank God for beer and brandy by not drinking to much." -G.K. Chesterton

    Personally, I am not nearly as happy with a glass of tea as I am with a glass of bourbon. Good post.

  38. Oh this is a great piece, as usual! I also have some progressive friends who are recovering alcoholics and they sometimes have a hard time at progressive events where everything centers around drinking. A good book about this is "Sober Mercies" by Heather Kopp. I never realized how hard we social drinkers can make it on recovering alcoholics if when we aren't aware of what their lives are are like. It was a real eye-opener for me. (I don't drink a whole lot, mainly because my county in East Tennessee is DRY so it's a 40 minute drive to the nearest liquor store! Ha!)

  39. Abilene isn't quite as bad. I believe there is a state law in Texas that says no liquor can be bought on Sunday at all and no beer and wine can be bought before noon on Sunday. Because, presumably, you should be going to church instead at that time. :-)

  40. Then there's also the kind of neurotics, who drink lone star rather than a boutique beer to say f*** you to anyone who wouldn't drink the kind of beer my dad would drink, if he drank beer. ;)

  41. This is a really good book on this topic from a historical perspective: "The Poisoned Chalice: Eucharistic Grape Juice and Common-Sense Realism in Victorian Methodism" by Jennifer Woodruff Tait. It's not just about Methodists! It's about how the entire evangelical tradition adopted an anti-drinking stance in the 19th century.

  42. Using the same logic that appeals to all of the damage—physical and psychological and relational—that *people* have caused through the abuse of alcohol, it seems that it stands to reason that Christians should also abstain completely from interacting with the biblical text because *people* have caused physical, psychological and relational damage through abusing it.

    Great post. I've thought a lot about this, and am glad you've written about it in this way. The key, in my humble opinion, is awareness, as it so often is in life.

  43. So far no one has made reference to this Jesus' teaching: "“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
    Question: Does any addiction come from the heart?

  44. Nothing sounds more 'heavenly' to me that a Margarita with some Mexican food! However, my young adult sons would probably be surprised to know I think that. Am I a legalistic teetotaler? No way. I have been at just about every stop on alcohol scale. Growing up in a German family, I did not know it was possible to barbeque without beer. Later in life as I became a Youth Minister, as well as the spouse of a burgeoning alcoholic, it became no longer about what I liked or wanted but what my sons and my students needed to see as an example. It was no longer about me when out to eat at a restaurant, one of the students in my ministry was my waitress and I felt uncomfortably hypocritical as she served my drink. I realized what Paul was saying in 1 Cor 10:23-24...it isn't bad - but in maturity, my focus HAD to shift from what was my 'right' to what was best for those I was called to serve/influence.

    After thirty years of marriage, my alcoholic husband filed for divorce when I set appropriate boundaries. He continues to wreak havoc in my son's lives, even to the point of one of them being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress. The devastation has been deep, dark and seemingly endless. The father they knew is gone. They have -- sat over him in ICU, driven him to rehab, taken his keys, rushed him to the hospital when he was having seizures, spent hours of counseling on co-dependency training, called 911 eleven times in the last three years, endured his rage when things are everyone else's fault, spent hours of counseling on healing the pain --- and the list goes on and on...This man was your successful corporate executive, Sunday School teacher and mission trip volunteer. Even when I did reach out for help in our church, since I no longer drank, people thought I was exaggerating.

    Personally, I feel like this is a slippery slope. If for one minute, we catch ourselves, justifying the use of alcohol to reach others - Satan is dancing. If there is even a chance that it could be harmful to others, is it really worth taking that chance? Paul, in 1Cor 10:23-24 - tells us that should be our first concern. We can talk about our rights all day long, but this Scripture tells me it is about our responsibility.

  45. Ephesians 5:18 "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit"

    Proverbs 20:1 "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise"

    Isaiah 5:22 "Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink"

    Proverbs 23:31 "Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly"

    1 Timothy 3:8 "Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain"

    and ofcourse, my favourite...

    1 Corinthians 10:23 "“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up."

    I think we can agree that we are free to drink, but there is a call to wisdom in how we go about it. Let's not put so much trust in our flesh that we fail to see that there are clear dangers when it comes to alcohol...

  46. I think this is where wisdom comes into play. I think an important thing was that you had become a role model to these men, so they could in a sense trust your judgement, which enabled you to model moderate alcohol usage. However had they been strangers, the result may not have been the same?

  47. I've been wondering the exact same thing! On paper (or screen, for that matter) we talk about drinking in moderation, yet amongst my Christian friends I often hear 'tipsy stories' shared with a sense of pride, and it makes me wonder how that is responsible drinking? Also I have seen many situations where fellow Christians drink to the point where they acknowledge they can't drive, and where their behaviour noticeably changes... I think, as Richard said, that we who are liberated need to have some hard conversations about alcohol.

  48. Wow this. I find it very telling, from the comments and from general life experience, that among the 'liberated' any voice which says something which even alludes to the dangers of alcohol is met with curt responses of how Jesus turned water into wine, we are free to drink, not under the law, food and sex can be abused too, etc etc. I find it rare to engage with this kind of person based on an understanding that much as alcohol has its merits, it also clearly has its dangers and these are outlined in the Bible, and there is a lot of real life evidence to support its dangers. This defensive attitude always leads me to question just how free one really is? Is it a 'freedom' which, in reality, is just a reaction to the past bondage, or is it the wise, grace-driven freedom which comes from a knowledge that God really has extended everything to us - everything - and the way in which we use what He's given us should come from a heart of humble thankfulness? Also when we fail to speak frankly about the dangers of alcohol, we can end up creating the perfect environment to unintentionally shame those among us who may be genuinely struggling with it, as there would be an assumption that everyone who is drinking is capable of doing so in moderation. Hiding sin only makes it worse, and only the law brings guilt and condemnation, so let's avoid becoming legalistic on both ends of the spectrum!

  49. you're right the bible speaks a lot about alcohol and drinking. you did reference some "non-negative" references to drinking. but i think you'll find that if you read all references to drinking, the larger picture leans towards negative effects and situation as a result of drinking. (just to clarify your statement)

  50. What a crock. Alcohol has been and will always be deceiving. I can occasionally reach in and pet a growling dog a few times before he finally bites me.

  51. Though this article is about drinking, the ridiculous labels you assign to various "levels" of Christianity is shouting so loud I can't hear your argument. "Post-evangelical Christianity" and "progressive Christians" will not be found in the Bible. They are ridiculous and frankly very offensive to those of us who are true followers of Jesus Christ. He calls us to "be conformed" to his image, not remake the image into something we want to do. Spend your time reading the word.

  52. "We can talk about our rights all day long, but this Scripture tells me it is about our responsibility."

    I think that sums it up.

  53. Everything in moderation... "Everything is permissible, not always beneficial."
    A beer or glass of wine with dinner is a natural medicine for people like me with digestive issues. Sex is a wonderful blessing - in the security of a committed relationship. Espresso makes my morning each day, but 24/7 coffee hurts my stomach and destroys my sleep patterns. I really do think it is difficult to handle temptations to take everything to excess, especially before our brains fully develop around age 25 - yet we tend to reject prohibitions in our teens. Therefore I think speaking honestly with our young people and modeling balanced behavior is very important, as opposed to using the old model of guilt and fear based on codes of conformity.

  54. Great work Richard! I think I've totally done been that douchey, sophisticated-jack-daniels-theology peddling Christian before. What a fantastic reminder that the only thing that matters is Jesus, who despite his complete disregard for religiosity (He might have been called post-evangelical haha), did in fact hope that there would be some discernible differences between his followers and everyone else.

  55. Oh my - do you know how you come across? As a self-righteous legalist. Why not also ban motorised vehicles, guns, medicines including over-the-counter medications, and all the other things that can "cause" destruction and death? The fact is that so many things in life can either be used or abused. Abuse is the problem, rooted in humankind's sinful nature. Of course, if there is a predilection for addiction (be this to alcohol, nicotine, over-the-counter pain-killers, or whatever), then it is wise to completely avoid the substance. It is also wise and loving not to cause those who are vulnerable to addiction (including recovering addicts) to stumble. Legalists say, "Thou shalt not..." And dying to self is about putting God's will first along with the welfare of others. Nowhere does the Bible forbid drinking wine - in fact the consumption of wine features large in the Pesach meal, is central to the Lord's Table (although many churches today use grape juice), and Paul recommended it medicinally to Timothy. He also said not to be drunk with wine (which is over-indulgence and abuse) but rather to be filled with the Spirit. If it is not going to cause me or others around me harm to drink a glass of wine with a meal (i.e. in moderation), then there is no reason why I shouldn't. Drinking wine in moderation is considered beneficial - it is over-indulgence that is detrimental.

  56. I noticed this article is very focused on Christian functions and the impact of our positions on other Christians. What about how we deal and discuss this issue when we're in settings with non believers. Surely there both abstinance & drinking have the ability to be stumbling blocks if not handled with sensistivity.

    I live in the Muslim world where drinking alchol and not observing the OT dietary code are two of the most obvious external indications of being different. Although I don't hide that we drink, I won't serve alchol without checking with all my guests that it's not an issue for them.

    I find admitting that we don't have a theological problem with alchol is a great openner to a discussion on what the bible has to say about grace and how living under grace is different to living under law.

  57. I've always disagreed with the "Everything in moderation" stance. It's essentially saying a little bit of crack is ok, so's bullying. Oh, and that $10 you borrowed but don't intend on paying back? It's ok, it's only a little bit of theft.

  58. I like this point. It almost seems that this post-fundie phenomenon is a necessary (or at least common and understandable) stage of development - which, if a person is healthy/growing, would necessarily flow into a more nuanced and healthy place.

  59. I am very curious to read this. I've always wondered why in the
    tradition I grew up in wine esp and other alcohol was considered taboo
    (not simply with ambivalence), that is to say alcohol per se (even with
    communion!!!) is an essentially immoral act regardless of context.

    sure this was a reaction to the systemic drunkenness of the American
    frontier and of industrial society, but the position seems to have then
    taken on a life of its own, going from prudence to strongly held opinion
    to purity law.

  60. I don't think you said the word "Progressive" enough. I assume you think this word has meaningful theological content. And that probably says as much about post-evangelical Phariseeism as whatever your current fixations may happen to be.

  61. The first time I though about this I was in 6th grade. Our bible teacher confessed dismay/regret at the pain caused to a foreign Christian community (I think in Italy) that her mission team had visited years before. The mission team was Baptist and the community was mixed Protestant Evangelical (in the American sense) and they got along very well sharing a vibrant faith and communion (i.e. they perceived each other as followers of Christ, as orthodox believers.) During the last night the community made a feast for the mission team which included some sort of ice-cream dessert thing that included sparkling wine. When members of the team found out about the wine-infused dessert some left the gathering and none would have any, much to the surprise and pain of their hosts who had no idea that that would be a reaction (I assume linguistic, cultural and denominational gulfs between the 2). It was as if the Italians had started pole dancing or something. The gulf could not really be bridged: the Baptists weren't about to change this deeply-held moral belief and the Italians couldn't comprehend it, the former holding their ground but in confusion since they thought very highly of their hosts, and the hosts were profoundly surprised and hurt and were trying to comprehend their guests whom they obviously loved. The trip ended awkwardly and painfully.

    The issue as presented to me by my teacher wasn't alcoholism or being stumbling blocks or whathaveyou, but rather about ideology trumping relationships and this in an area that didn't in any way involve essentials. (And being human we are all capable of this.) Looking back I really appreciate my teacher's honesty (she didn't look good in the story she was sharing with a bunch of kids, she was admitting regret) and her capacity for growth (I assume she remained a teetotaler but she def saw the issue and people involved quite differently).

  62. I think drinking is like not eating meat sacrificed to idols. It's okay for me, but I won't do it if it harms someone else. I lived with an alcoholic husband for 13 years and I am a very grateful member of Al-Anon (the 12 step group for families and friends of alcoholics). I do drink a glass of wine now and then and do not make a secret of it, but I don't have alcohol around people for whom it is a problem, just as I prepare potluck dishes without onions for my friend who is allergic, or non-meat dishes for my vegetarian friends. In the Episcopal Church of which I am a member, the rule is that whenever alcoholic beverages are served, an "equally attractive" non-alcoholic beverage should also be offered, and that no function should be centered around alcohol e.g. wine and cheese tasting, microbrew tasting, etc.

  63. Everything is permissible regarding what you can do without losing your salvation (for we are ALL sinners).

    But we will surely pay the price of our sins. Big sins…big price. (here…not in Heaven)

  64. I respectfully disagree, Stephan. Christians and society, in general, tend to use 'moderation' as a general barometer for standards of living. Unfortunately, it isn't that easy, but that is life and likely part of God's plan for our experience on earth. There are just some things that don't fit in that framework. There are all kinds of substances out there that pose a threat to addiction -- even the internet. So do we shut everything out? You could also draw a parallel to food addiction and obesity or eating disorders, but does that mean no more breakfasts or lunches for fellowship? I think we all too often equate substances with sin, when really it isn't the substance, it is just the sin. The abuse of that substance might make it easier to sin, but when it is boiled down it is the individual and their bad choices. If I have too many drinks and cheat on my wife, the sin isn't necessarily the drinks, it is breaking the bond of my marriage. In instances like that it is fairly clear that there is no such thing as a little infidelity or a little stealing as being okay as long as it is in moderation.

  65. So much this. It was a while ago when I began noticing that a couple I'm friends with was posting Facebook statuses about alcohol. Like, a lot. "Burgers, my wife, and [insert beer name here]. I'm a happy man." "[Type of drink]? Yes please." "We just made [three different kinds of cupcakes, all of which had alcoholic beverages in the batter and/or frosting]. Win."

    I wasn't tempted to go get drunk after reading their status updates, nor did I worry that they were becoming alcoholics. But I found myself thinking, "Um... you guys do know there are other things in your life you can comment on, yes?"

    If alcoholic beverages are just drinks, one among the many good things God has given us to enjoy, and no big deal--then we should actually act like it's no big deal.

  66. I appreciate your thoughtfulness on such a significant topic, Richard. Wow, everyone needs to be this mindful when considering how many lives are destroyed in myriad ways by the destructive billion dollar industry of alcohol! Granted, many brew their own and perhaps do not sell it. I don't really know, but I refuse to add one penny of support to an industry that is simply all about raking in as many benjamins as possible, not caring how many fall along the way. Once, when I invited a friend, who is a recovering alcoholic, to church, she was exceedingly bothered by the smell of the communion wine, waiting up front to be consumed at the end of the service. Being a teetotaler myself, not once had I considered that she would be so drastically affected, for I had no idea her sense of smell is highly sensitive to alcohol. Even though I also have an acute sense of smell, I have never been able to sniff it out as she is capable of doing. After our service was over, I went immediately to tell our beloved pastor of the situation. How amazing it is to me that unless we have experienced something ourselves, many times, we are not even able to think of whatever the experience may be. For example: just recently, my new daughter-in-love's aged grandmother cried as she told us that she yearns to be able to attend church services again. Wow, never before had I been aware of the need for more comfortable seating for our elderly in churches. But I digress. The narcissistic consumption of alcohol all across our land is way out-of-control, and many do twist freedom in Christ into license to do whatever the hairy heck they want to do, preferring their sinful will over God's holy will for whatever is the situation at hand.

  67. It's a reference to a point in Christian history. Evangelical (3rd Great awakening)would refer to the baby boomers like Billy Graham. The Reformation would refer to the time period of Martin Luther and John Calvin (15-1600's). So evangelical refers to 20th century onwards. I hope that helps...

  68. Here from Rachel Held Evans' Sunday superlatives! It's a good post. As a part of a very post-evangelical church, I enjoy the relaxed attitude toward alcohol and like to tease some of my friends about being 'beer snobs.' I feel like we are moderate & balanced more often than not--it may help that most of us have been post-evangelical for awhile and we have several folks from a mainline background whose experience was more moderate to begin with.

    All the same, I can think of a couple of challenging moments that were complicated by alcohol, and I do wonder if we could be doing more to be supportive of people in recovery--none of our current attenders is, but I'd like to think we'd be sensitive (a number of our community members do prefer not to drink, and we've always had non-alcoholic options). But currently we kind of rely on people to tell us what they can handle/are comfortable with, and not everyone feels comfortable doing that.

  69. The wine that was made back in Jesus' time was not the alcoholic content that it is today. Also Jesus did say do not get drunk on wine. Because of the enormous destruction caused by alcohol abuse today, in ALL countries, many people have decided that it is better to abstain.

  70. I find people that talk to that defend their own drinking saying that Jesus drank wine so it's okay for me usually have had, or are still having problems with drinking, either by getting buzzed on wine, drinking hard liquor, if not just getting drunk at times, and use this as a justification for their even occasional problems associated with drinking habits.

  71. Shouldn't we be just as mindful about gluttony. That seems to be running more amuck in Christian circles than drinking. Diabetes and heart disease seem to be the prayer request more often then alcoholism. Don't many use a cheeseburger to numb their pain?

  72. Yeah, except for no one eats too many cookies and beats their wife. Or breaks things. Or kills a family of four running a red light. They are NOT the same level of destructive and while gluttony and poor health are important issues, they are certainly not more pertinent than the issue of Drinking.

  73. Good stuff here Richard. We seem to share a similar stance on the issue. My own view evolved over a long period of contemplation as I was once a teetotaler. (This was of course in those years that I was not of legal age and D.A.R.E. programs were all the rage in public schools.) My desire to "obey the laws of the land" prevailed and I do pride myself on the fact that despite numerous offers I did not take a drink until my 21st Birthday. (what a good pint of Guinness that was!) It was a few years earlier that I came upon C.S. Lewis' classic discussion of Temperance in "Mere Christianity" That piece is the bedrock of the view that I know hold and endorse. It was such a liberating beautiful thing to read and my heart and mind were ever changed. Now days I, like yourself, enjoy Dark Beer, Red Wine, and Whiskey. You have done a beautiful job with your writing in demonstrating pieces of this view in action.

    Cheers to you.

    Justin (You may not remember me but I was fortunate enough to attend both of your talks at Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma last year. You may most easily remember me as the guy in the wheelchair, I enjoyed the conversations we shared afterwords and long for nothing more than to do it again one day. Perhaps over a nice pint of Guinness.)

    P.S. For those inquiring minds C.S. Lewis' articulate view of temperance can be found here:


  74. A large majority of things we participate in are going to bring up painful memories, and addictions. Religion itself can be a terrible nostalgia, we have to embrace the world and where we are though. I do not get drunk, the bible speaks against it, and it one of the few things I can actually obey fairly easy, but how much more liberating would it be to see past demons in alcohol, and see Christians treating it with moderation? To see that something great can be appreciated, and enjoyed without abusing it is a beautiful thing. You can take pain killers for your back and thats going to make someone stumble, you can smoke a pipe and make someone stumble, you can comment on a persons looks and make someone stumble anything we do outside of showing the love of Christ will make people stumble. I think we need to quit worrying about stepping on people's toes, and just love people discipling people to not abuse things and growing together as a community. "Banning" all these things that Jesus doesn't ban only leads to repression and neurosis and struggles with the belief system itself, not a great sense of self. This point could be taken to say well then everything is ok in moderation that Jesus does not specifically claim. Crack is an illegal substance and Jesus says obey authority, if there is something that makes you stumble dont do it, we cant all be held to a ridiculous standard because it might make someone sin though. If something is illegal dont do it, if Jesus mentions it as bad, dont do it. Outside of that, why not have church in a bar? I mean, at least people are real there and wont put on some mask of my life is terrific Jesus is all I need crap...

  75. Wow! Some of the comments here are kind of shocking: "There isn't one good reason for a Christian to drink and tones of reasons to abstain." OK, maybe frustrating is more accurate than shocking.

    You probably are not winning over many converts with an attitude of, "I am going to tell you what is right and what is wrong". The Bible is pretty clear on many things. But The Bible does not take a clear stand on alcohol. It addresses how it can be abused and the consequences of abusing it. It also talks about not allowing your freedom to cause others to be hurt by abusing your freedom. So why must we jump to absolutes? This causes much of the world to label all Christians as closed-minded and judgmental. And a few of the posters here, this would seem correct.

    I am a home brewer. I started 27 years ago, about 4 years before I became a Christian. Some of my friends, both Christian and non, sometimes post what they are drinking, because other people are interested. There is an explosion in microbrewies and folks want to know what is exceptional and what can be passed up. I try lots of different beers because it helps guide me in brewing better beer. For me, brewing beer is both something I enjoy for the creativity, and it gives me an opportunity to connect with folks I otherwise would not. I am in my 50s, and even though the guy down the street with toddlers might not have much in common with me, he may be intrigued to come to my home and try the latest Belgian ale I have bottled.

    I am also a leader for discipleship groups. As it worked out, I currently have most of the recovering alcoholics in my group, so I don't offer any of my brews when we meet as a group. They are all 20+ years sober and have given me their OK to share it, but I do not our of respect. I just chalk it up to proof that God has a sense of humor... and maybe he does want me to be too focused on beer.

  76. Hiya,
    I like your stance ...."Live and let live" is a saying I heard,everyones equal I guess and on their own journey that only God knows.
    My loving God gave me freedom from alcohol addiction.I could only connect when I was sober,often Id cry out in a drunk state for release.It didnt come until I became willing to trust and surrender my self will.I fought all the way until I broke and came to accept and believe 100%.
    Today if I would drink ,it would feel like adultry to the one that saved me.
    Alcohol and God ,I believe shouldnt even be mention in the same sentance.If you want to be clean ,one doesnt roll in the mud.
    Just because alcohol is legal because authority allows it ,doesnt make it any different that Crack, its a subtance that effects our mind,thus why would you want to go too a Crackhouse or Pub.Each too their own I guess,and Only God knows! :-)

  77. Plain & simple reality stuff. Thanking God always for sending His son after me at age 22. Booze was one of my nasty idols along with sexual immorality. Never did drugs and smoking anything was just plain common sense! Smoke in the lungs is a bad mix.
    Beer,wine or any of the hard stuff =alcohol in the body system. Alcohol disrupts the brain,deludes the senses and creates a false state of being. It has been claimed to be the great calmer of the mind & spirit for many reasons. I call it the great fraud that takes us away from reality and makes for a very cheap substitute for connecting with God.
    It's a personal choice to drink & smoke and I simply offer the reality of the negative affects that do take place in the body from introducing either one. Booze is a like a drug and we all know the ugly things that can take place from using it and bad drugs. Not the best deal for a true follower of Jesus.
    Smoking cigs,cigars,weed,pipes also contributes to many health related issues. We all know about them.
    I do find it very interesting that Mormons are very devout in not polluting their temples with booze or smoking.
    Coffee/caffeine as well. All in all it still boils down to choice. Even certain foods can fall into a no go zone.
    The end result is common sense. Jesus desires that we take care of our temple so that His Holy Spirit can dwell in it without any disruptions. What we choose to do will be based upon how well we are really surrendered to the authority of the HS and how well we want to please God in all areas of our walk with His Son Jesus. To whom we serve is to whom we trust & OBEY.

  78. I know I am a little late on this topic but I would like to chime in. I see where your coming form Dwight, I myself was pulled in by God a little after 21. By that time I had partied (drinking, drugs) myself into a living hell. Thanks to Christ, that lifestyle is behind me and the "old self" continues to die off (thank the Lord).
    Despite this I do like to enjoy moderate drinking in certain situations. I was incredibly legalistic about "proving" my salvation by avoiding even a sip, then when I had one, I would fall into horrible doubt and guilt, destroying the joy in my salvation. After getting deeper and deeper into scripture it became clear that alcohol IS a giftt from God, our sinful nature, of course, abuses it and it can become an idol very easily. From my experience and scripture, it appears to be an issue of conscience as drinking in an of itself is not a sin, though its abuse can be. For me the setting of the drink reveals everything: Going to a place where everyone is trashed is obviously going to lure me into the same behavior. However, having a beer with dinner or watching a ballgame will not cause me to uncontrollably drink and self destruct. Knowing that (learning the hard way) I now know that yes, I have the freedom to go to a bar or a party with heavy drinking, it is not wise, profitable for the cause of Christ, nor recommended (1 Peters 4:3). To me that Mormon decree stinks of nothing more than man made rules by their false religion in order to appear perfect, when in reality it is nothing more the self worship and righteousness. We really need to be careful in the church that we do not allow traditions of american evangelicalism trump Scripture which CLEARLY indicates alcohol in the proper context is a gift of God.

  79. Wow, I love how you have put it with drinking to escape from the past for the big F you - that's exactly what it can be. Here's the http://soberin100days.blogspot.com/ blog about it

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