Enjoy a Good Brew to the Glory of God

Posted: August 18, 2011 in alcohol, christian liberty, controversy

A good word from Doug Wilson:

John MacArthur recently wrote on the question of alcohol consumption, which you all can read here. Frankly, given his exegetical abilities and his dedication to the teaching of Scripture, this was profoundly disappointing. As it happened, a month or so ago, I read the manuscript of Joel McDurmon’s latest book, What Would Jesus Drink?, in order to blurb it (which I happily did). And now this self-same Joel has answered John MacArthur’s post here.

But as you follow such exchanges, remember that more things than alcohol can go to your head. Don’t run to your keyboards to type heatedly. Open your Bibles, like you would pour a good pint, and take it slow.

From McDurmon’s excellent post:

MacArthur unwittingly makes it clear that he is indeed more interested in fallacy than truth when he bemoans, “Cast a disapproving eye at any of those activities, and you are likely to be swarmed by restless reformers denouncing legalism and wanting to debate whether it’s a ‘sin’ to drink wine or smoke a cigar.” Hold on a minute: is this something to be argued against? Aren’t legalism, sin, and maturing in Christian freedom the issues at the heart of the question after all? But MacArthur sees it necessary to run from such “debate,” and instead use fallacious associations to divert the discussion.

God forbid we discuss “sin.” That might actually lead to people realizing it’s not a “sin” to drink beer after all! “Sin”? Bleh!

Instead, only after loading the unnecessary ideas of drunkenness and debauchery into the image of drinking, does he reintroduce the topic of sin: “no symbol of sin’s bondage is more seductive or more oppressive than booze.” But pay close attention to the bait-and-switch: he refuses to address the scriptural question of mere drinking as “sin”; he will only address the topic after he has hoodwinked his audience by assuming “drinking=drunkenness.” He’s shifting the focus of the debate. It’s like moving the goalposts right when the kicker kicks the ball.

This is the typical teetotaler view: in their little mental world (and believe me, it is little), there is no possibility at all of drinking alcohol with moderation, and certainly not with what Calvin called “moderate liberality.” ((John Calvin,Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, trans. by John King (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1948), 362–3.)) Oh no. There are only two options: abstinence or drunkenness. If you even so much as sip wine, you are at least partially a drunkard, a “boozer,” and you have unleashed the most powerful forces of hell into all of society, your family will come to ruin, this is inevitable, non-negotiable, and the devil from here is unstoppable. Therefore, it is mandatory to abstain.

This is exactly the route MacArthur takes. Thus, he begins his post by speaking of “beer,” but can’t get beyond a few sentences before he switches to the pejorative, “booze”—an old phrase which has specific reference to drunkenness. MacArthur then retains this association the rest of the way through the post. Drinking is no longer considered by itself, but only with associations like “booze,” “controlled substances,” “society’s seamy side,” “ambience of a pool hall,” “casino,” “intoxicants,” “alcoholism,” “drug abuse,” “addiction,” “fleshly desires,” “deadly spiritual dangers,” “damage,” “Bohemianism,” “Sodom,” “flouting taboos,” “fleshly lusts,” “unfettered indulgence,” and “bondage.”

For those of you who have read my book Biblical Logic, you know that such fallacies are not just intellectual mistakes, but moral transgressions. They are, in fact, instances of false witness.

The fact that MacArthur uses this tactic shows he is not interested in a truthful, scriptural view of the subject. He is interested in perpetuating a half-truth. Well, here’s the real deal: there is no Scriptural prohibition on alcohol. But last time I checked, there is a clear prohibition on half-truths (Ex. 20:16)…

Scripture exhorts the use of wine and even strong drink (with warnings against abuse, of course), and even presents the use of wine in worship. And even though such things can be abused—and often are, just as often as pulpits and blogs are abused—it is by no means the mark of maturity or responsibility to forbid them. Instead, maturity and responsibility are measured by the ability to useadult things properlywith self-control, and without abuse. It is rather the fearful, finger-wagging demand that we “touch not, taste not, handle not” that shows a refusal to grow up, face maturity, and actually handle these things responsibly.

I won’t quote more here, but McDurmon goes into some detail, exposing MacArthur’s (rampant) exegetical fallacies.  I would have to (sadly) agree with McDurmon when he writes that it seems that MacArther is “not interested in a truthful, scriptural view of the subject.”  His exegesis and argumentation make that pretty clear.  He has a bone to pick and that leads him to misrepresent the biblical text.  And that’s the real issue…

Profoundly disappointing, for sure.

  1. Justin says:

    “Aren’t legalism, sin, and maturing in Christian freedom the issues at the heart of the question after all?” I like the idea of applying McDurmon’s points to so many things that others consider ‘worldy’. Christians who say you’re either all in, or all out. Things like movies, music, and dancing. I know those things are not the point of the article, but the general idea in the Christian life can be applied.

  2. csrima says:

    I would disagree with your take on this being an “excellent” post. Even if I agreed with every point he makes, I can’t possibly enjoy reading something who so obviously disregards the fact that John MacArthur is a fellow believer, and does some great work for the Kingdom.

    I mean, I’m actively considering teetotaling, but I don’t think my mental world is “little” as McDurmon so maturely states. It’s disappointing when I read posts like this, disparaging a fellow believer. Yes, I know that John MacArthur publicly disagrees with people often, but does that mean that we all have to waste precious energy trying to tear others down, and all I see in McDurmon’s post is exactly that. He obviously has had an issue with JM in the past, and is resolved to rip him down any chance he gets.

    I am sure that Mr. McDurmon has done great things, and I’m sure he is a learned man, and a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. I praise God for that, sincerely. But in this instance…I’m severely disappointed with the overall tone of his response to MacArthur’s take on alcohol.

    Why is it not ok for a teetotaler to tell people who drink that they are wrong, but it is reason for celebration when someone who drinks attempts to undermine an entire ministry simply because they disagree on one single issue? If I did become a teetotaler, it would be for personal reasons, and if asked, I would share them. I would not tell people that it is a biblical mandate (because it isn’t), but it’s naive of us to operate as if we are not at all prone to behavior unbecoming of Christ-followers when we do…which means we should use discernment when we do it, because we are not to become drunk, and let’s be honest…the practical definition of drunk, is when you start to act in a way that demonstrates to people that you are drunk, as well as when your decision-making is altered. For many people, that is after one drink. Many people don’t even want to test it, knowing that they are prone to mistakes with it, I am one of those people. I’ve thought and prayed for a long time about this issue, and then I get to come to this site, and read that I have a “little mental world?”

    If we are going to have any impact on the world, I pray that we would abstain from these sorts of malicious posts, and we would begin to treat with fellow Christians as if we are Christians.

    • Matt Tully says:

      Thanks for the response.

      I think that McDurmon is reacting against what he perceives as an abuse of the biblical text. I too was a little uncomfortable with his tone at a few points, but I think that his arguments were valid. I appreciate Dr. MacArthur and all that, by God’s grace, he has done for Christ and His kingdom. However, I think it is a serious thing to claim biblical authority in calling others out on sin. MacArthur has done this quite a bit, especially in relation to this particular issue. He has publicly chastised many Christian brothers, (improperly, IMHO) citing the Bible to support his claims.

      That, to me, is a very serious problem that should be addressed. Additionally, MacArthur is not unfamiliar with somewhat polemical rhetoric…


  3. Laird Bean says:

    I realize that this is a late reply, but maybe someone might see it.
    Has the writer of this blog ever considered the “logic” of this: Imagine the God of Creation, Who is all knowing, all powerful, and everywhere present….Who is also the essence and embodiment of agape love…. full of grace, mercy, and truth….Who sees all of human history from beginning to end… Can you imagine the One Who died on the Cross to save us from Hell, looking at all of the ruined lives, the devastated families, deaths and injuries, sorrow and sadness, all caused by one substance–alcoholic beverages. And you want to say that God Almighty endorses the drinking of alcohol?? What about what Jesus said about the impossibility of an evil tree bearing good fruit? Do you want to say that alcoholic beverages bear good fruit??
    I say NO to these questions and “Biblical logic” bears me out! Whatever bears evil fruit is inherently evil itself, and God Himself is very much aware of that fact! Sorry, but I don’t buy the “sipping saints” brand of logic because it flies in the face of what is readily known from the Bible about the character and nature of God!! Thank you.

    • argusmanargus says:


      I don’t see where any of the “pro” posts condone sin. The only thing condoned is living by the Spirit. In the Spirit we do what is right and good, and we avoid sin.

      Paul plainly points out both extremes in the eating/drinking argument:

      Col 2: 21-23
      “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

      Gal 5:21
      and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

      Living by the Spirit helps us to navigate life’s waters, and not be beached on either the right or the left. In other words, in some situations and in some manners drinking alcohol is a sin. In others situations and manners, it is no more a sin than eating because you are hungry.

      This is my take anyway.

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