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Alcohol, Acts 29 & the Gospel

 Recently, people visited this blog from the Alcohol, Acts 29 and the Missouri Baptist Convention “Straw Man”? article, which lists me by name. It is a detailed report showcasing the continual reference of alcohol at Acts 29 events. Alcohol continues to be a hot topic but how we handle it communicates volumes to the world around us.  It is critical for us to consider our stance as many people already see Christians as more about what they are against than what they are for.  As I talk to the x/y generations this is often their view of Christians and churches.  Therefore churches that functionally disallow alcohol, dancing, etc. are the churches these non-believers and/or people raised in churches are trying to avoid. 

I find that this is an issue that separates church leaders with a modern mindset vs a generational postmodern (identifying with people that  believe modernism isn't going to save us, not meaning a true pomo worldview).  Why is this important?  People with a modern mentality are able to separate out alcohol from their beliefs, while gen pomo people see things less compartmentalized and seek holistic views and thus alcohol becomes a significant gospel issue.  This means it is more than just drinking beer, it becomes gospel-motivated.  Most Christians hold one of 3 common views of alcohol (see: Jesus Christ-King of the Brews):

a. Prohibitionist: The Bible teaches that alcohol consumption is totally forbidden by scripture.
b. Abstentionist: Although the Bible does not expressly forbid the drinking of alcoholic beverages, the consumption of alcohol in our society is reckless and should not be condoned.
c. Moderationist: Alcohol is permitted for Christians as long as consumed in moderation and in a careful manner.

All three of these positions begin in defeat.  Are we willing to say anything is beyond redemption?

"The church, the bride, is a redemptive community.  We live not only the experience of redemption (I'm redeemed/being redeemed) but also the works of redemption (I'm redeeming).  That's why our mission is both words and works, speaking and doing redemption. And if we are working out our salvation through being redeemed and redeeming, then our response to cultural abuses is not to abstain but to redeem. That not only pushes us to maturity by teaching us how to eat, drink, and have sex to the glory of God (though it won't come easy), but it is also a witness to the world that God redeems.

  • The pervert throws away the pornography (abuse) and learns to love sex with his wife (redemption). 
  • The glutton hittin’ up the all-you-can eat buffet 6-7 times (abuse) and learns to order a salad with light dressing instead (redemption). 
  • The alcohol abuser stops drinking until drunk (abuse) and learns to stop enjoy a beer or two as from God’s bounty (redemption).

As long as we make the issue "abstaining," or retracting from culture, we will miss expressing and embodying redemption.  And I'm afraid the message we will send is that good things can be perverted beyond redemption."  (Taken from Celebration According to the Gospel)

All of this most be done with serious consideration knowing that alcohol is and can often be abused.  (side note: Having attended numerous Acts 29 events, I haven't seen alcohol abused.)  But we are finding if people are living life in our community there is a transparency that allows us to speak into their life if they begin to abuse alcohol rather than prohibiting alcohol so they end up drinking in secret.  To move from a place of being a redemptive community to one governed by our own laws (not God's) produces a much more hidden and prevalent sin of self-righteousness and legalism.  And sadly legalism is far more rampant in the church than alcoholism. 

Suggested Reading: Hello, I am a recovering Legalist

15 Comments

  1. Yeppers. Nice.

  2. Drew,
    Hey man, I met you a couple of months ago in late December, friend of David Carluccio’s. Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts on this issue, I think you’re dead on. It’s still a process for me to get beyond my legalistic tendencies and really try to judge in every situation whether or not it would cause someone to stumble or bring glory to God. Good word.

    David Wilhite

  3. The whole article is excellent, but the last two sentences are the key issue. Well said.

  4. Drew,
    While I definitely agree with most of the post here, I thought it might be important to mention these verses:
    Rom 8:13-23 and 1 Cor 8:9-13

    Our church does not preach *against* alcohol, but we do recognize that the church leaders, deacons and elders must not “Condemn themselves by what they approve.”

    There are a significant number who come to our church out of 12 step recovery programs and to whom one beer or one glass of wine would be sin to their weaker conscience. Not to mention that most of them have lost the ability to safely drink one beer or glass of wine without falling into sin.

    While I would agree that legalism is the wrong approach to take, I think an approach that leaves room for both liberty and abstinence would be the best approach. IMHO

  5. Deb – Agreed, I don’t think everyone must drink. I’d see some who chose not to drink as part of a redemptive community.

  6. Im gonna disagree with one point in a major way. Its pretty naive for Christians to not treat alcohol as something that can be used in the wrong way and something that must be treated with care.

    How is moderation ever a bad thing?

    In fact I would argue that your statement of redeeming Alcohol( a beer or two as from God’s bounty) is simply a declaration promotion moderation.
    Moderation and redemption are not mutually exclusive. Additionally, moderation does not begin with defeat but with respect. It would be like saying when you go to drive a car, if you make rule #1 that you put your seat belt on, you are just settling for the fact that you will crash.

    By that way, just so its made totally clear: I love that God made fermentation. I made beer for Christmas and handed out to non Christians I know telling them to celebrate with this beer the Birth of the Jesus the Savior. Yet, I cannot help but think that moderation is almost always the wisest choice for a Christian.

  7. “Its pretty naive for Christians to not treat alcohol as something that can be used in the wrong way and something that must be treated with care.”

    Is that your disagreement? I hope what I stated is not saying I don’t agree with what you said.

    Approaching alcohol redemptively will require people to drink in moderation but the goals are diff’t. Moderationists (negative) goals are drinking in careful manner, redemptively (positive) goals requires more than this ie. drinking in a way that glorifies God.

  8. I would say moderation just refers to how much you drink and redemption refers to how and why you drink. If that makes sense.

  9. Ok, I think we are saying the same thing. I used the term “Moderationist” as those who approach things with a motive toward drinking in moderation vs. redemptively.

  10. After your last post it sounded like semantics.

  11. If we were to compare food sacrificed to idols with alcohol (two liberties examined by Paul), then I feel you have done an excellent job showing that an idol “is nothing,” but have not dealt with the truth that there are brothers with weaker consciences whom we are called to honor and potentially lay down our rights to serve and maintain unity (we may even be one of these brothers in a given area). The goal here should be unity in the Gospel by enjoying the good gifts God has given us, while not allowing any of those gifts to wound a weaker brother’s conscience. It is “for freedom that Christ has set us free”, but “it is good to not eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” I’d love to hear more on this perspective, or if I’m really missing the mark. Thanks for your thoughts!

  12. To sdesocio,
    I’m a moderationist and recovering prohibitionist, I didn’t start drinking until I was almost 30. I grew up in a legalistic Fundy church with a father who abused alcohol and self-righteously looked down on all alcohol. It wasn’t until I studied the Reformed theology in Seminary that I started reforming my views on alcohol.

    That said, I think the point that Drew is making is that we can can trade legalistic “prohibition” for a “legalistic moderation” without skipping a beat.
    a. Towards other Christians that exceed what they consider moderation (ie – Isn’t that your 3rd beer in 2 hours? Did you have sufficient water and food to ensure you’re not exceeding moderation? etc.)
    b. Towards other Christians who remain prohibitionist (ie – Well the TRUE biblical view is moderation so STRONG Christians should ALWAYS be moderationist.)

    Redeeming celebration works whether you choose to drink or not, whether you are a moderationist or a abstentionist. I purposely leave out prohibitionist because I don’t think it’s possible to be holier than Jesus.

  13. It is “for freedom that Christ has set us free”, but “it is good to not eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.”

    Brett – This is a common refrain, so it’s a great comment. Let me cite a couple goals, one if a brother is weaker, this isn’t the place we should allow them to remain. We should grow these brothers so that they mature in wisdom.

    Second, we will need to be wise to create an atmosphere that is demonstrating responsibility and maturity in Christ.

    Thirdly, this can be a slippery slope argument. Meaning, where do we end? We have a ministry to reach strippers, if/as they begin to enter into the community and it causes men to lust in their hears do we talk to them right away and request they dress in baggy clothes that cover every square inch? Is the problem ‘out there’ or in our hearts? I don’t know if these lines are always so black and white. But if we are to model a redemptive community we have to wrestle through these issues rather than opt toward abuse or prohibition.

  14. Eug,

    Thanks for the feedback. Thats a insightful point. Sometimes, when Im on the blogs, I forget that everyone is at different points in their walk with Christ.

  15. Drew, you wrote:
    “Let me cite a couple goals, one if a brother is weaker, this isn‚Äôt the place we should allow them to remain. We should grow these brothers so that they mature in wisdom.”
    and
    “this can be a slippery slope argument. Meaning, where do we end?”

    I think a close reading of Paul in 1 Cor 8 and Romans 14 will answer these questions very well. Paul did not say to “grow these brothers” so that our Christian liberty could be exercised more freely. Instead he said, 1 Cor 8:11 “So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.”
    and
    Romans 14 “All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

    22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.”

    The idea that you think your goal is to grow a weaker brother to partake of alcohol is not what Paul has in mind here. Instead he seems to say that you have a duty to your brother not to push him into what for him is a sin.

    I’ve ministered to lots of guys who’ve had a chronic struggle with alcohol and if one of them says he doesn’t ever want to drink again, I say AMEN to that. I believe these guys’ bodies will never handle or process alcohol effeciently again in this life, so we need to be very, very careful about encouraging them to drink again. Their bodies are different from the average person. If you meet a few of them, they can fill you in on all the details.

    Take care, Lou G. in VA

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  1. Redeeming Alcohol for the Glory of God | arieljvan.com - [...] From the esteemed Drew Goodmanson comes a post that begins by talking about Acts 29 and alcohol and ends …

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