Cornerstone Univ. Lifts 68 Year Ban on Staff Drinking

“…a three-year internal study concluded it is ‘biblically indefensible.’”  More at MLIVE
(Students are still not permitted to drink alcohol)

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

OK, "We don't think it's necessary" I can buy, but "biblically indefensible"!?
I wonder what biblical "defense" they have for banning students from drinking that would not apply just about as well to staff?
I realize we've batted this topic around quite a bit, but I'll keep repeating a couple of facts: nobody has ever been harmed by not drinking... hence, it does not have to be "biblically defensible" any more than say, requiring a helmet when you ride a bike.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

I can't really speak as to their thinking, but I guess it would depend on whether they mean biblically indefensible as a moral issue vs. an issue of wisdom/safety/practicality, what have you. I believe there is a qualitative difference between the institution in question making whatever rules it deems necessary (which they certainly have a right to do) vs. telling students the rule is because of biblical prohibition when it isn't or is not clear enough to avoid saying "God hath said ..." when he hasn't so said. It seems they may be confusing the different rule authorities/reasons behind rules. I don't believe that we have the right, in the name of "safety," to create a biblical prohibition where there is none (and I'm not talking specifically about alcohol here).

And regarding riding bikes, my kids are always required to wear helmets because of local laws, but in my neighborhood (as compared with driving out on highways with fast-moving traffic) I refuse to do so. It's a matter of both what I'm used to from when I was a kid, and also my libertarian leanings that I don't like pressure from others (even when it's not the law) to do things for my own good, when I've already made a determination of what risks I will personally accept. (See my avatar to see one of those risks I accept.)

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

We don't helmets either where we don't have to... but if an individual or institution wants to do that, they don't have to defend that biblically.
I agree with the principle that you don't go claiming a biblical case where isn't one. At the same time, though, biblical principles are not as far removed as many seem to think, even in matters of safety. Using the helmet idea as an example, we are told our bodies are temples of the Spirit and that we are stewards of our bodies/lives and will give an account for how we used them. So even safety is a "spiritual" question. For a believer, I think every question is a "spiritual" one in some sense. ("do all to the glory of God" at least, but usually there are more specific principles that apply in some respect).
But of course the helmet example illustrates the pitfalls as well. There is obviously some point where the pursuit of safety becomes counterproductive. The "safest" way to live is probably to never leave your house. That way, you can't get struck by lightening, get mugged, get in a traffic accident, etc. So there is an interplay of principles and purposes and figuring out where lines should be drawn is complex... and consequently much of it falls under Rom 14 as matters of conscience.

Cornerstone's move disturbs be a great deal for a couple of reasons:

  1. If the rule has been good enough for 68 years, you do not need a reason to retain it. You need a reason to discard it. I'll concede that this is pretty much an a priori for me. I'm a conservative and believing conserving is important.
  2. You don't have to have a biblical case for everything that you deem prudent.
    So maybe by "biblically indefensible" they are referring to the language of the policy itself, which maybe makes overly expansive claims for what Scripture teaches in that area. If that's the case, a more precise statement on it would have been better. Even a "biblical defense" only has to establish two things: 1) The Bible recommends wisdom and 2) We believe not drinking is wise. You can hold that position without claiming that everyone must agree in order to be a proper Christian.
    So it's quite possible--and ought to be routine--to have a "biblical position" that is framed as a matter of conscience.
Jonathan Charles's picture

While it might be "biblicaly indefensible" to say that drinking alcohol is sin, does that mean it is "biblically indefensible" for a Christian institution to have certain rules for faculty and students? Are there ever any good reasons for a Christian institution to have rules that may not necessarily be demanded by Scripture?

Jonathan Charles's picture

If they trust their spiritually mature faculty/staff to use discernement about alcohol, why will they not trust their spiritually mature 21 and 22 year-old juniors and seniors to practice the same discernment. to me, the stance they have struck is hypocritical. If I am a 22 year-old student I cannot drink, if I am a 22 year-old male working in HVAC, I can drink. It is inevitable that if you make such a change for faculty/staff, you must for students who are older than the legal age to drink.

Ron Bean's picture

Could I venture the assertion that this rule was changed because there are faculty/staff at Cornerstone who wanted the liberty to drink alcohol and the administration yielded to their wishes. I'm sure there are are other policies at the school that are not "biblicaly defensible" that are not being amended.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Joel Shaffer's picture

As an Alumnus of Cornerstone and a former adjunct faculty member, I am actually quite ambivalent about the rule change.

I feel there is merit in Aaron's argument of not everything in an educational institution has to have a Biblical reason for what you deem prudent.......or even the Biblical wisdom argument about abstaining from alcohol. However, for the first 50 or so years, the argument for abstaining was not based upon Biblical wisdom. It was considered (like most fundamental instituations did at the time) a flat-out sin, in the same realm as sexual immorality. Even in the 1980's I heard some of the worst exegesis of the scriptures on defending the abstinence of alcohol in chapel or its Bible conferences (such as how Jesus really turned water into grape juice!) Hence, I am not really sure if we would want to conserve many of these warts that come out of its 68 year history. Also, Cornerstone is much broader than its GARBC roots nowadays, although still very much in the conservative evangelical spectrum. Therefore, many of their trustees, administration, faculty, and students don't understand a tradition from its heritage like abstinence, yet they will more understand its theological heritage such as Baptism by immersion, distinction of Israel and the N.T. Church, or that the sign gifts are not normative for today (all of which are found in the Cornerstone Confession) even though there are many Christian Reformed and Charismatics that attend Cornerstone. Incidentally, if Cornerstone hadn't broadened their base, they probably would have closed their doors by now. With the GARBC struggling during the past 20 or so years and many GARBC churches not willing to embrace its liberal arts and university partners in the same manner as its Bible college partners (because of some worldview differences, example-distrust of these institutions that have a psychology major), they connected with like-minded groups among conservative evangelicalism that would embrace them.

mounty's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:
While it might be "biblicaly indefensible" to say that drinking alcohol is sin, does that mean it is "biblically indefensible" for a Christian institution to have certain rules for faculty and students? Are there ever any good reasons for a Christian institution to have rules that may not necessarily be demanded by Scripture?

I note from article that they are being careful to maintain the ban on campus. From what I gather they are removing the rule for off-campus action only. And this makes sense, because they really don't have the right to prohibit legal adults from doing, really, anything when they're not on-campus and on the clock. They have that right with students because of in loco parentis and with faculty/staff when they're clocked in and/or on school property because of federal labor laws, depending on how Michigan handles those sorts of things. From the article: "'[W ]e are releasing our faculty and staff to discern what is best for them concerning its use in their personal lives,' said [President Joe ] Stowell...The change doesn't apply to students, who remain banned from using alcohol. Faculty and staff are being told to avoid using alcohol in any setting where students are present. Cornerstone will continue to ban alcohol on campus and at all university-sponsored events, Stowell said." So students are banned, no alcohol on campus or at off-campus sponsored events, and really the only change is that they're giving the faculty and staff the option to choose what they feel is best.

I understand that the school must maintain a standard of behavior from their faculty and staff that is consistent with Biblical principles. But with so much ambiguity about where exactly the Bible draws the line, it would make sense to avoid being dogmatic and relegate this topic to individual persuasion and Christian liberty. If f/s folks there who feel they have the liberty to consume alcohol do it right, none of their students will ever know and there will be no occasion to cause a student to sin.

So the question isn't quite cut-and-dried. Institutions can have rules about things that aren't demanded by Scripture, but they should be careful not to overstep their boundaries and try to make rules where they have no authority to do so, either scripturally or legally. In this case I think it boiled down to them realizing they had no authority to make this kind of rule if they couldn't give chapter and verse.

MShep2's picture

mounty wrote:
..... And this makes sense, because they really don't have the right to prohibit legal adults from doing, really, anything when they're not on-campus and on the clock.....
Yes, this is true, but these "legal adults" do not have the "right" to work at Cornerstone either. There is no law against immorality, but Cornerstone has the right to prohibit it - even if they are "legal adults."

You are confusing God's laws with man's laws.

MS
--------------------------------
Luke 17:10

mounty's picture

No, I'm not confusing the two. I'm quite aware that there are God's laws and then there are man's laws with a multitude of purposes behind the laws. Nor am I making the argument that their "expected conduct" from their faculty and staff should fall clearly along lines of legality alone. I'm saying that when it comes to man's laws, organizations (churches, colleges, christian schools, etc.) should be very careful not to supersede the order of authority. A Christian school I attended at one point dropped the rule that students were forbidden from going to movie theaters. Not because a theater is such a bastion of wholesome family-friendly entertainment, but because they recognized that the parent, not the school, was God's ordained head of the child in the home. When it comes to a 45-year-old man who teaches at a Christian college, he is the head of his household, not his employing organization's CEO. There's enough debate on his matter in particular that one has to start doing all sorts of interpretative tricks to back up the statement "God hath said." And if you can't prove definitely that "God hath said" then you are treading on man's laws. Clearly they felt that the person to make the call of "right vs. wrong" was the individual and not the entity.

Quote:
There is no law against immorality, but Cornerstone has the right to prohibit it - even if they are "legal adults."

As I stated earlier, "I understand that the school must maintain a standard of behavior from their faculty and staff that is consistent with Biblical principles." Immorality clearly falls within unambiguous Biblical principles and thus I have absolutely no problem with them making that a life standard of conduct for all their employees. Christian institutes, above all others, must respect the law of the land, as commanded in Scripture. Beyond that I think they have the right to codify God's laws into expectations of their employees - thus employees who practice immorality, drunkenness, consistent violation of the law of the land, etc. are not upholding God's laws and can forfeit their privilege of working at this Christian institution. But when the Christian institution begins adding laws of their own in matters that God has not clearly made a law, and mask that law in the guise of "holy living," that's when you can start leveling the "P" word without too much difficulty, and those are the laws that should not be.

Bob T.'s picture

Now the faculty and staff can be like everyone else in the culture. We definitely do not want them to be too different.

The university leadership took a lesson from one of Napoleon's generals at Waterloo. While the battle raged he sat banqueting in his tent. Suddenly, an officer burst into the tent and informed the general they were losing and his men were retreating. The general said; "quick get my horse, I must be in front of my men leading them."

This is the most popular form of leadership in American Christianity.

The proper first premise question is "what does the Bible state regarding the use of alcohol? Answer; possible allowance (some cultural explanations) but there are numerous warnings about misuse.

The proper second question is; "what steps or precautions may be necessary to prevent its misuse? Answer: "The best precaution may be avoidance."

The proper third question is; what are the consequences of having a disciplinary rule demanding avoidance?" Ansewr: a few will feel deprived of the opportunity to drink alcohol."

Proper fourth question: "why will they feel deprived when there are numerous good tasting and healthy non alcoholic beverages that can be drank? Answer; They will be deprived of that one ingrediant called Alcohol."

The proper fifth question: "what is that that alcohol will give them, or do for them, that the many good non alcoholic beverages will not?" Answer; ...!?

George Eldon Ladd, formerly of Fuller theological Seminary, and probably the most influential scholar against Dispensationalism and it's view of the kingdom, tribulation period, and rapture, was a an alcoholic most of his adult life. He retired from Fuller and died in his Alcoholism. In his last years he could be seen staggering through the streets of Pasadena with his adult alcoholic son. His wife and children hated him. Fuller attempted to take disciplinary action twice but would never dismiss him. Some who knew him thought his scholarship was used as a tool against a theology that was advocated by the churches he despised because of their so called legalism and advocacy of total abstinance. A recent Biography calls attention to this tragic case.

It appears that some Christian schools want to create the opportunity for more Ladd's.

jimcarwest's picture

James 2 says: "Be not many masters (teachers) for we shall receive the greater condemnation," or as the NKJV says: "My breathren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive stricter judgment." Let me get this straight: the faculty/staff at Cornerstone may use alcohol, but the students may not. Isn't there something in reverse order here? Shouldn't faculty be modeling the higher standard for the students? Fact is, statistics prove that ten per cent of social drinkers become alcoholics. Isn't that a pretty high risk to take, even for Bible college "leaders"? Now that Cornerstone has approved both dancing and alcohol, what will be next? Once the recreational use of marijuana becomes legal, maybe those wise leaders will conveniently find that the Bible has nothing to say about that either. But even if the Bible doesn't spell it out clearly for everyone to see, doesn't common sense tell one that parents have a right to expect that a Bible college should maintain an environment of righteousness and an expectation of moral rectitude from its teachers? And who says that the Bible permits the use of alcohol for some and not for others who have reached the age of legal permission? I believe Cornerstone has started down a slippery slope.

mounty's picture

Just to play devil's advocate, jimcarwest, technically Cornerstone isn't "approving" alcohol, they're choosing to be neutral. I imagine their new rule regarding on- and off-campus situations reflects in some degree a judgment of maturity. To use a similar (though overkill) analogy it's like legal driving age. There are plenty of thirteen-year-olds who have head knowledge of how to operate a vehicle but the law (in most states) says that one has to be 16 to drive, and then only with an adult in the car and only during daylight hours. At 21 (at the latest) those restrictions are lifted because it's assumed at that point the child has enough maturity and experience to operate a vehicle safely and without supervision. Now, of course, that example doesn't address morality, only maturity, but for them, once you decide there is no strong leaning one way or another from Scripture, the decision becomes purely procedural and not an issue of morality at all.

Having said that, I agree that the decision to recreationally drink alcohol is unwise. However, Cornerstone said, and many folks "out there" might agree, that while there are commands to "be not drunk" there are no commands to "touch not alcohol." There are, however, commands to avoid the appearance of evil and to live in such a way as to be blameless in front of others. Is it possible to have a bottle of Cabernet in the back of the fridge and have a nightly toast to antioxidants and heart health without crossing those commands? Maybe. Cornerstone's answer seems to be, "If you can figure out a way to do that, knock yourself out." I still say it would be awful hard to do this and still be blameless, and that it's a huge amount of work to go through for practically nil benefits. (Though I do know folks who keep little bottles of Jack Daniels around for cough season - they say it works better than any cough syrup. Still, it's almost impossible for a faculty member at a Christian university to walk into a liquor store and convincingly say "I'm just getting more cough syrup.")

RPittman's picture

Quote:
Romans 14
20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.

21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

I am a little concerned with how Christians try to justify their personal viewpoints in claiming Biblical authority. IMHO, it's as if one is speaking ex cathedra. Although other Christians may disagree with their interpretation or application, they shut off any dissent by declaring their own unique viewpoints to be Biblical--that clinches it. Anyone who says otherwise is an ignoramus or un-Biblical.

I do not accept such usage of the term Biblical. One cannot speak authoritatively by a simple claim of being Biblical without persuasive Scriptural exposition, reasoning, and argument. Cornerstone is wrong in denying that a Biblical defense for the prohibition against drinking exists, although they might not agree with the specific interpretation and application. In other words, it is a Biblical defense (i.e. based on the Bible) if argued from a reasonable interpretation-application of Scripture, even though all would not agree with the conclusion. One is free to disagree but one has no corner on Scriptural interpretation.

I wonder if someone could reason a Biblical defense of a prohibition against drinking for Christians from Romans 14:20-23?

RPittman's picture

Cornerstone did not lift the ban on smoking because it was harmful and destructive to the body. Are not alcohol and alcoholism equally destructive and disruptive? How can this be consistent? If their presumed Biblical defense of a smoking ban is harm to the individual and his body, could not the same argument be applied to alcohol? Or, is it just the politically correct thing to ban smoking?

mounty's picture

RPittman wrote:
Cornerstone did not lift the ban on smoking because it was harmful and destructive to the body. Are not alcohol and alcoholism equally destructive and disruptive? How can this be consistent? If their presumed Biblical defense of a smoking ban is harm to the individual and his body, could not the same argument be applied to alcohol? Or, is it just the politically correct thing to ban smoking?

I noticed that. I can think of two reasons off the top of my head, and it's possible there are elements of both:

1.) Smoking is immediately harmful, and there is absolutely no benefit to inhaling used motor oil into one's lungs, and no one has ever made a serious attempt to prove otherwise, indicating that a pack of cigs from the gas station has absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. Arguably, the same might not be said for alcohol, and depending on which doctor or medical journal you read, it's only in excess that alcohol has the same damaging effect on the body.

2.) Though I hate to think this is a reason, it's entirely possible they know a significant segment of their faculty and staff are *already* consuming alcohol, significant enough that replacing them in a crackdown on that particular rule would be logistically difficult, not to mention costly, trying to replace folks before second semester starts up, and with the ambiguity surrounding alcohol in the Bible, an easy out was to drop the rule. I mean, an unenforced rule isn't a rule at all, right?

In either case, I still think there's a little "hands-off" approach where they'd rather not take a position for or against when it comes to folks in their own homes. I'm sure there's not just one reason. But you're right, it does seem odd that they would ban one and not the other, since the two have historically been lumped together when talking about social substance abuse. Question of degrees? Which would make it a very weak move...

Charlie's picture

RPittman, your use of Romans 14 inverts the passage. Romans 14 is a defense of Christian liberty in adiaphora. One of Paul's points is, "Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him." If we are to make any sense of the passage, the same must apply for drinking wine and regarding days, the other two examples. Now, if any of these things were sins, Paul certainly would not take such a laissez-faire approach to the issue. Romans 14 proves, conclusively, that there is no inherent sin in drinking.

In fact, the part you bring up, vs. 21, says, "It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak." Once again, it would be absurd for Paul to phrase things this way if drinking were a sin. Can you imagine him saying, "It is good not to commit adultery, by which your brother stumbles"? Of course not.

Then, a prohibitionist position is entirely out of line with Romans 14, unless you also want to take a prohibitionist position toward eating meat and celebrating Christmas. What Romans 14 does teach is that (1) drinking is not necessary for a normal social life and (2) there are certainly times and situations in which a compassionate believer will forego his biblically secure decision to drink out of regard for possible consequences to other people. However, this is not a lifestyle decision such as, "I will never drink alcohol because it could make someone stumble." If you read the passage, it is an occasional decision when the situation demands it. Thus, the decision to abstain from alcohol is an individual one, and the passage forbids forbidding it. The one who does not drink may not pass judgment on the one who does. Employing the argument from the lesser to the greater, if a Christian shouldn't even judge his brother in his heart, he definitely shouldn't be forbidding his brother's conduct in church constitutions and the like.

Now, the Cornerstone position makes good sense to me. First, as has already been noted, micromanaging people's personal lives outside a given context is a thorny issue. Second, a staff person is much less likely to be in a position to make someone stumble. An upperclass student has a rather high probability of influencing his underclass roommates to drink, even without his trying to. They look up to him and want to be like him, to do the things he does. So, even though I wouldn't terribly mind if they let legal students drink, I'm somewhat sympathetic to retaining the ban.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Joel Shaffer's picture

I knew someone would eventually resort to the slippery slope argument. Actually, as a former alumni that went to the school from 1987-1991 and an adjunct professor from 2005-2007, I observed that the spiritual climate was much better from 2005-2007 with Cornerstone not having rules against dancing and movies, but rather encouraged Biblical discernment with these issues. In the 1980's the legalistic atmosphere breeded rebellion. I remember many times back then when some of my classmates were sneaking girls into their dorm room late at night, off-campus drinking parties, going to clubs and sneaking off to movies, and etc.... Not everyone was like this, but there was a considerable amount of students that were because they were forced to go to a GARBC fundamentalist school by their parents against their wishes and they chose Cornerstone (back then it was Grand Rapids Baptist College). Also, I remember back 20 years ago, many of the students hated to go to chapel and many did not want to serve in a required ministry. Some of my classmates tried to find the easiest ministry to get involved with to put in their required hours of Christian ministry (such as parking lot attendant during Bible conference).

When I taught at Cornerstone a few years back, I was blown away by the passion that these students had for Christ. They went to extra worship and prayer times because they wanted to, rather than being forced to. Their motivation for doing ministry was because of the glory of God and to use their spiritual gifts. It was entirely different than what I expected and experienced when I was a student. Now, I also saw some students abuse their freedom that they had. In addition, I felt that the Biblical literacy of the students was quite low so they were not perfect. I just think we have to be careful before we employ the slippery slope argument or even a drawing lines in the sand argument (no one's used it yet, but inevitably in comes up in our circles) http://www.stufffundieslike.com/2009/11/redrawing-the-lines/

As for the James 2, what if the teachers are able to model Biblical discernment with alcohol without the man made rules to govern them? What if it is actually the law of Christ that compels someone not to drink or to drink without getting drunk in a way that glorifies God?

Again, I don't really care either way whether they have the rule or not. It really is not going to affect Cornerstone as the Christ-Centered institution that it is.

B Thomas's picture

If their biblical literacy is "quite low" their biblical discernment will suffer and any decisions based on that discernment is suspect.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

How many marriages end in divorce? Quite a substantial number, including Christian partners. Thus, should we propose teaching that getting married is unwise or even sinful because someone might get divorced and had they never been married this would never happen?

That aside, I enjoyed Joel's observation and experience. While someone might, with some validity, question the precision of the language being used, that is calling the former policy "biblically indefensible", the matter on the whole is really a larger and more significant issue. I know that with the LCMS (Lutheran Church of The Missouri Synod) students and faculty at their colleges are by and large filled with serious and passionate spiritual motivation and high ideas and are so in a context that allows for the appropriate use of alcohol.

I personally favor this decision, though I might have articulated a bit differently the reason for the change. But even at that. it does appear that they went beyond these two words to clarify and qualify their reasons and they are well presented. If a liberty is granted by God (and it is in the case of alcohol) what must be demonstrated by an institution that endeavors to train and model ministry and biblical truth for its students is the appropriate observation of that liberty which includes sensitivity and respect for believers whose conscience's both permit and forbid its use.

Joel Shaffer's picture

In regards to their Biblical literacy, I would agree with you B Thomas if they were stagnant in their faith. However, because of their passion to know Christ through the scriptures, this was not the case. In someways it was frustrating, because certain Bible passages and stories that I would refer to were not clear to my students in the class that I taught (urban ministry). In some ways, it was refreshing because I felt that I didn't have to deal with the baggage that sometimes takes place when people have grown up in the church (for example, some Christian's view of heaven resembles pagan platonic thinking, rather than what the scriptures actually say). They were an open book when it came to learning how to apply a Biblical worldview to all the areas of their lives and to the vocation that they were studying because they were learning and embracing what it meant to have a comprehensive Biblical worldview.

B Thomas's picture

As you rightly noted, Joel, people who grow up in a church are not necessarily biblically literate either. And, I will admit there are many who know much about the Bible, but on whom it has little effect on their lives. The Pharisees knew much about the Bible, but Jesus exposed their unbiblical attitudes and actions.

I was not questioning the stagnancy or growth of anyone's faith. I would say the same thing about a biblical worldview as I did about biblical discernment: if the biblical literacy is low, the worldview may be suspect, or at least need some fine tuning. Apollos was quite passionate and zealous, along with being an eloquent speaker, yet he had to be pulled aside by Priscilla and Aquilla who helped him become more literate about the ways of God.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

A couple of possibly relevant thoughts on Rom 14

  1. The point of Rom 14.21 is that anything can become sinful if you discover that it causes or is likely to cause harm to a brother
  2. If we assume that every reference to eating in Rom.14 has meat offered to idols in view, shouldn't we also assume that the reference to drinking wine there also refers to wine used in libations to idols? (FWIW, I'm not sure we should assume either one, but I'm not sure we can do it w/eating and not do it with drinking)
  3. Does it necessarily follow that if we take drinking wine to be non-sinful in itself in Rom. 14 (by the way, I agree that this is the case) we must conclude that drinking wine is non-sinful today?

    Some elaborations...
    About #1, if the point of the verse is that just about anything can become sinful if we know it to be harming someone, it's not really a blanket statement that "doing x is always non-sinful unless it harms a brother." That's reading into it a bit.
    On #3, the wisdom argument as that,

    1. Scripture repeatedly urges great caution toward wine/strong drink (this is not in dispute I don't think)
    2. Today, the use of alcohol is completely unnecessary
    3. It is wise to avoid anything that is both completely unnecessary and potentially harmful
    4. It is sinful to do what is unwise
      Many would add...
      5. Because the application is somewhat complex (item 2 is often disputed in some cultures and traditions, and there is a theological tension involved when it appears we may be prohibiting something God expressly allows, etc) believers should respectfully allow one another room to disagree about whether social/recreational use of alcohol is necessarily "foolish."

      I'm still mulling over #5, but I've yet to hear a persuasive case against 1-4.

      As for the Cornerstone case, to me the fact that the policy has been in place for more than six decades creates a very high threshold--a heavy burden of proof--for the case for change (admittedly, 160 years would be more meaningful, but still...). If things were worded in a way that incorrectly handled Scripture, the solution would be to re-articulate the policy rather than throw it out (rather like the case of the Jaeggli book on the subject a few months ago). As I think I've shown here, it's very easy to make a case from the biblical call to wisdom.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Quote:
2. Today, the use of alcohol is completely unnecessary
3. It is wise to avoid anything that is both completely unnecessary and potentially harmful
4. It is sinful to do what is unwise

Just replace "alcohol" with "hot dogs" and you have eating hot dogs becoming a sin.

But of course, we know what this is called....circular reasoning. Tsk tsk.

(BTW what argument is being made that we are only allowed what is necessary? Isn't that the very nature of our liberty in Scripture)?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

On #3, the wisdom argument as that,
  1. Scripture repeatedly urges great caution toward wine/strong drink (this is not in dispute I don't think)
  2. Today, the use of alcohol is completely unnecessary
  3. It is wise to avoid anything that is both completely unnecessary and potentially harmful
  4. It is sinful to do what is unwise
    Many would add...
    5. Because the application is somewhat complex (item 2 is often disputed in some cultures and traditions, and there is a theological tension involved when it appears we may be prohibiting something God expressly allows, etc) believers should respectfully allow one another room to disagree about whether social/recreational use of alcohol is necessarily "foolish."

    I'm still mulling over #5, but I've yet to hear a persuasive case against 1-4.


No argument with your point #1. Point #2 could be debatable, but I generally agree with it if you are referring to alcohol as a beverage.

I'm not sure about point #4 -- I'd have to look that one up in scripture, but I do have some reservations on how it combines with point #3.

My main problem is with point #3. I think one could easily argue that eating something like a Quarter Pounder is completely unnecessary and potentially harmful, knowing what we know today about fat, etc. Are you really going to argue that points 3-4 would make it a sin to eat a Quarter Pounder? One could just as easily say the same thing about "risky" activities like sky-diving and hang-gliding, or for that matter, crossing a six-lane highway at the closest point rather than walking 1/4 mile to the nearest overpass.

Thinking out loud here, I'm wondering if the definition of "wisdom" has shifted a little over points 1-4. When the Bible says something is unwise, is that really the same kind of unwise as eating something with unhealthy fat content? This would get back to what I think about point #4, and I think would change whether or not the activity could be considered sinful.

Honestly, though, a lot of things we do are *potentially* harmful, and it would be fairly easy to find someone else to say that they are completely unnecessary, because *they* find it to be so. Does one's doing that then meet the qualifications of causing a brother to stumble? Obviously most of my examples are leaving out your point #1. Do you think that because the scriptures urge great caution regarding the use of alcohol that it really can add anything to the argument in 2-4? If 3-4 are really true, then we could put a lot of things in the blank in #2 and they would be sinful even though they lack argument #1.

I'd have to think this through some more, but I still think there is something not quite right about points 3-4.

Edit: Looks like Alex & I were composing at the same time and he was a lot more concise!

Dave Barnhart

James Bliss's picture

This 4 step logic fails very quickly with a minimal amount of thought. This gets to the point where many I know are turned away from Christianity. The logic results in the case that if something is safer, fills the bill and can replace that which is potentially harmful, then that which is potentially harmful should be removed since it is unnecessary. Just a few quick examples which fall into this category:
Safer means of exercise are available than:
football
skiing

Safer means of transportation are readily than:
motorcycles

Safer foods are available than:
fried foods

Safer hobbies are available than:
hang gliding
parachuting

These are quick examples which are obvious and stand out. I am certain there are others, some of which will cause disagreements. I will allow any of you to add to this list at your whim and whimsy.

I would support that the school can have this rule if they so choose. I am a firm believer in the old adage of 'what is good for the goose is good for the gander' and feel the faculty should be required to follow the same rules which the students follow. Otherwise, this does result in the appearance of hypocrisy to the students. I would imagine that many of their rules are not 'Biblically defensible' if examined closely.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

You're sounding desperate, guys. Smile

Nobody gets addicted to hotdogs or quarter pounders, or thoughtlessly consumes too much then drives their Chevy into a pedestrian or goes home and beats the wife and kids (as a result of eating too much)
James B., I'm not really making a relativity argument at all. It's not about something safer vs. something less safe. It's something with an extremely poor risk-benefit ratio.... (risk very high, benefit... um, almost nil. I say "almost" because arguably there are some superb tasting wines that just can't be duplicated w/o alcohol... and also because some of us introverted types would probably do better at social gatherings if we're a bit loosened up... but the risk-benefit ratio remains deep in the "unwise" category, IMO)

Edit: I would argue though that if we actually could accurately analyze risk-benefit for all the activities of life and know the result, the relativity approach is not a bad one. The trouble is that a) with so many things it's really hard to measure the trade off, and b) with many, many things the advantage of one option over another would be extremely marginal even if we could figure it out for sure.
This is not the case with the use of alcohol, by a huge margin.
But the fact that risk-benefit cannot be used effectively with many choices, does not mean it's invalid in application to some. For example, we all know sleeping in our bedrooms is generally safer than sleeping on the railroad tracks. The latter would be "unwise." The former is wiser, even though it's quite possible your house will burn down or a plane will crash on it.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Nobody gets addicted to hotdogs or quarter pounders, or thoughtlessly consumes too much then drives their Chevy into a pedestrian or goes home and beats the wife and kids (as a result of eating too much)

Quote:
It's something with an extremely poor risk-benefit ratio....

Quote:
the risk-benefit ratio remains deep in the "unwise" category, IMO

So you would have to modify point #3 a bit then to mean things with an "extremely poor risk-benefit ratio?" Is that scriptural? And even if it is (which I'm currently doubting), is that type of "unwise" always sinful?

Quote:
Edit: I would argue though that if we actually could accurately analyze risk-benefit for all the activities of life and know the result, the relativity approach is not a bad one. The trouble is that a) with so many things it's really hard to measure the trade off, and b) with many, many things the advantage of one option over another would be extremely marginal even if we could figure it out for sure.

I'm not saying that what you are saying is necessarily a bad approach to life, but does scripture demand it?

Quote:
But the fact that risk-benefit cannot be used effectively with many choices, does not mean it's invalid in application to some. For example, we all know sleeping in our bedrooms is generally safer than sleeping on the railroad tracks. The latter would be "unwise." The former is wiser, even though it's quite possible your house will burn down or a plane will crash on it.

I'd agree, but is it sinful to sleep on railroad tracks or just extremely stupid? I think we all draw lines as to what behavior crosses the line from "acceptably risky," to "idiotic," but other than general principles, where is the scripture to help us make such choices? If you sleep on railroad tracks *knowing* you are going to get killed, you could call that suicide, but if you are planning to get out of the way when you hear the train, is that really anything more than stupid?

Alcohol might present a pretty large risk (larger than eating fatty foods), but I still have a hard time seeing that as sin if you are obeying the scriptures about drunkenness, being careful about not being deceived (e.g having *very* strict limits) and not causing your brother to sin by your actions.

I'm not trying to defend drinking of alcohol by what I'm arguing, but I fail to see how your points 1-4 are completely airtight. "Unwise" is used too loosely to be of much help.

Dave Barnhart

James Bliss's picture

It most definitely is relative. You are trying to make a determination based upon a shade of gray. Your gray shading is different from mine in various manners. Being obese has a higher health risk than smoking cigarettes, established through studies. But smoking cigarettes is the one which is attacked as a sin. I most definitely am not advocating drinking, but I also do not advocate overeating, sky diving, etc. I will not indicate that another person performing such an action is sinning either. If they starting getting intoxicated and telling lies, cheating on their spouse (even just lusting), dreaming of what they do not have an coveting it, then I will discuss that with them, when they are of a sound mind. I do this with people when they are of a sound mind when doing these things as well.

Am I correct in assuming that since it is unwise to sleep on railroad tracks that it would be a sin to do so? It is completely unnecessary and most definitely potentially dangerous - deeply in the 'unwise' category, in my shading of gray.

This is the problem which I have in talking with so many people who are not saved. They immediately point out some of the items such as this which are at best tenuous, and at worse completely untenable. I stick with the sins which are obvious in the Bible and would be very happy if I could live my life within them 100% every minute of every day for the rest of my life. But the problem is that I am a sinner who, even momentarily, will step away from God and into me, and my mind will stray. It is a sin for me to covet my neighbors BMW or Mercedes (which I do not since I do not like either car). In cases, words are the equivalent of murder. Just think about 'loving thy neighbor as thyself'. Can I draw shades of gray as to the extent of those thoughts or the magnitude of the words or how I treat my neighbor (either to the face or behind their back)? As a sinner trying to justify myself I can, but as a Christian I realize that those shades of gray are wrong. Again, it is difficult enough to talk to a non-believer (and many believers) about Christ and Christianity without having to deal with shades of gray being drawn in areas which do not exist as sins, IMHO.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
but is it sinful to sleep on railroad tracks or just extremely stupid?

I think the Bible has a lot to say about stupid behavior... for example- Proverbs 24:9 The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an abomination to men. I think stupid behavior qualifies as sinful. Lying down on railroad tracks with the intent of getting up just in time sounds pretty scornful to me, and I imagine you might cause the conductor to stumble. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-angry049.gif[/img ]

Moderation (Phil.4:5) is a principle that is seldom applied, and the result is everything from cirrhosis of the liver to The Biggest Loser. I am also of the mind that alcohol (as in social drinking) is problematic enough with baggage enough to qualify as something to avoid on that basis alone. However, for this school to make social drinking a matter of conscience instead of school policy for the staff only... what's up with that? If it's ok, then it's ok- at least for students of legal age.

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