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 properly, with 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.