Beer, Bohemianism and True Christian Liberty

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Bert Perry's picture

In my view, what MacArthur is observing here is simple pushback at quite frankly un-Biblical positions regarding beverage alcohol--pushback of the same sort that worked to create the original "fundamentals", really.   Just as our spiritual forebears pushed back HARD at the encroachments of liberal theology a century ago--and in the process enshrined a number of Victorian social mores into our cultural fabric--smart young Calvinists today are pushing back HARD at what they see as un-Biblical encroachments on Christian liberty like Teachout's "Two Wines" theories.  Wine is prominent among YRRs because it is prominent in fundamentalism, more or less.

And they, too, often overshoot the goal, as the sad case of Perry Noble illustrates, and as MacArthur alludes to in his blog.  The solution is for people, no matter what side they're on, to come to Biblical theology in this regard and walk away from the errors of the past.  You'll see this not only regarding alcohol, but also dress, dancing, tattoos, language, and even marijuana.  We are called to be not only sober in our blood chemistry, but sober in our thinking as well.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Somehow I knew you would be the first to comment here . . . !

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Joel Tetreau's picture

Too bad John MacArthur isn't militant enough! (that would qualify as being "a shot"..... not at John).......

I actually agree entirely with the essence of the article.....which seems to be a concern that too many Young Reformed and other kinds of evangelicals (I notice Jerry Vine in the comments is equally concerned about young leaders in the SBC)..... are too quick to embrace aspects of this culture.....which frankly may be more of Mac's point than even wine, etc......

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

David R. Brumbelow's picture

“It should not take a doctor of divinity to notice that Scripture consistently celebrates virtues such as self-control, sober-mindedness, purity of heart, the restraint of our fleshly lusts, and similar fruits of the Holy Spirit's sanctifying work in our lives. Surely these are what we ought hold in highest esteem, model in our daily lives, and honor on our websites, rather than trying so hard to impress the world with unfettered indulgence in the very things that hold so many unbelievers in bondage.”  -John MacArthur, 8-9-AD 2011

To John MacArthur I say, Amen! 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

Tyler:  :^).  I actually waited until I had something worth sharing, and hopefully the point is well taken.  What is going on with YRRs in many areas is in great part a "pushback" against overreach by the churches they grew up in--I've got many friends in this category.

Ironically, MacArthur's writing demonstrates this principle.  If we interpret John 2:1-11 in the ordinary way, by what means would we argue, as does Mac, that it is "peurile and reckless" for a pastor to promote the recreational use of intoxicants?  (now about that coffee pot in your church or home....)   Are abstentionist pastors holier than Christ?

Along the same lines, he's incorrect when he implies that the best way to prevent problems with alcohol is to press church members to abstain completely; a great example is that England and the United States, with strong traditions of Prohibition, actually have more problems with alcohol than do France, Spain, and Italy.  He's also incorrect in asserting that YRRs are into "unfettered" freedom: as Challies points out, nobody is arguing in favor of getting drunk.  

MacArthur also goes beyond evidence when he asserts that Biblical wine-drinking practices wouldn't get someone drunk--again, not the testimony of Scripture.  I believe he's also off base when he argues that real Christianity is not about flouting taboos; isn't that a significant part of what He did with regards to the Pharisees?  Moreover, Christ calls us to violate some taboos today--a great example being to keep your silence when asked what constitutes marriage.  No?

In other words, MacArthur's blog post here is a mild, but significant example of the "overreach" that has permeated fundamental arguments in various areas, especially alcohol.  Young people who read the Bible literally are increasingly rejecting this kind of thing, and the problem is not that they're rejecting a requirement to abstain.  The problem is that they're overreacting.

And we shouldn't overreact to that.  Sober (Biblically speaking) in our blood chemistry, sober in our thoughts and arguments, too.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

One thing that irritates me about human nature (which, sadly, includes me) is the pattern of reacting and over-reacting.

The way to correct an inbalance is not to walk to the other side, but to the middle.  The Kingdom of God is not about legalism, but neither is it about brats who are over-reacting to their legalistic upbringing. They need ot work out their bitterness on the counselor's couch, not via a movement.

"The Midrash Detective"

G. N. Barkman's picture

It seems that some demonstrate their immaturity by adding extra-Biblical, legalistic impositions, and others by flaunting liberty without regard for the honor of Christ and the welfare of others.  Is any of this new?

G. N. Barkman

David R. Brumbelow's picture

The oft repeated claim that countries like France have few problems with alcohol is, well, false. 

French Combat Youth Binge-Drinking
“In decrying the excessive alcohol consumption of their compatriots, American and British health experts have long pointed to France with special admiration. Here, they said, was a society that masters moderate drinking. In wine-sipping France, the argument went, libation is just a small part of the broad festival of life, not the mind-altering prerequisite for a good time. The French don't wink like the English do at double-fisted drinking; they scorn people who lose control and get drunk in public. It's a neat argument. But it sounds a little Pollyannish now that France itself is grappling with widespread binge-drinking among its youth. Worse still, fully half of 17-year-olds reported having been drunk at least once during the previous month.” -Time Magazine, July 17, 2008; quoted in “Ancient Wine and the Bible: The Case for Abstinence.”

http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2015/07/problem-drinking-outside-usa...

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

David, it's worth noting that demonstrating that there are problems in France (or elsewhere) does not address my argument.  You would need to provide an estimate of relative risk.  Here's an example which indicates that binge drinking is higher among youth in the United States than it is anywhere else in the western world.  

Yay prohibitionism?  Yay age 21 to drink?  Or does that drinking age of 21 merely ensure that young people are likely to learn about alcohol in a frat party or other illegal setting instead of from their parents?  And might we find that at such parties, people will tend to drink inexpensive beverages that are easy to conceal--say vodka and even "Everclear"?   That they would tend to drink more like Russians than like Frenchmen?

(BTW, I got a kick out of your blog's assertion that people claim Russia is an example of a culture of safe drinking...there are many wonderful things about that country, but their relationship to vodka is not one of them...no person who knows anything about Russia would make that claim)

Congratulations, by the way, on more examples of overreach to which people will, per Ed's comment, respond.  There is a point, brother, where we need to realize that while YRRs are responsible for their own actions, we are also responsible for our contributions to the environment in which they find themselves.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Darrell Post's picture

I know of one situation where a young man professed Christ, and was rescued from a destructive addiction to booze. He married, fathered children, and was doing reasonably well, growing in a church with people who largely abstained from booze. He was doing well abstaining. Then some YRR people got to him and he ended up transitioning to join a YRR church. Once there, they encouraged him to start drinking again because its a 'sin' not to drink. So he began again. You know the rest of the story. He drank more, and more, the addiction returned full force, and it destroyed his marriage, family, etc.

**edited to fix the acronym YRR (Young Restless Reformed) which was wrongly spelled YYR.

 

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Darrell Post wrote:

I know of one situation where a young man professed Christ, and was rescued from a destructive addiction to booze. He married, fathered children, and was doing reasonably well, growing in a church with people who largely abstained from booze. He was doing well abstaining. Then some YYR people got to him and he ended up transitioning to join a YYR church. Once there, they encouraged him to start drinking again because its a 'sin' not to drink. So he began again. You know the rest of the story. He drank more, and more, the addiction returned full force, and it destroyed his marriage, family, etc.

(Just a nitpick: you mean "YRR," not "YYR."  The phrase is "Young, Restless, Reformed.")

O.K., I've not heard before anyone say that YRR's teach, "it's a 'sin' not to drink."  Can someone provide a link or a quote as an example?

Darrell Post's picture

My bad on the typo...YRR is what I meant. If I recall correctly, I have seen someone post that belief right here on Sharper Iron, that it is essentially a sin to avoid drinking the gift from God, booze.

As to your request for a link, it was linked in the MacArthur article linked above:

https://books.google.com/books?id=fy9x6J0p8EYC&pg=PT115&hl=en#v=onepage&...

"My Bible study convicted me of my sin of abstinence from alcohol. "

 

Bert Perry's picture

Here's the link MacArthur provides.  Don't know how widespread it is, but apparently telling people that not drinking is a sin is a real thing, and apparently these people never read about the Rechabites or Nazirites in Scripture.

Again, swing the pendulum from the Biblical center, and it doesn't stop there without a LOT of effort.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Darrell Post,

A preacher’s wife told me of a similar situation. 

A young man struggled with and gave up alcohol.  His wife got him in church.  A man from the church took him to a ball game and started drinking, so the new Christian did so as well.

He went right back to his alcoholism. 

His wife called the church and said she thought her husband would be safe with them.  She also said they would never come back to that church. 

David R. Brumbelow

TimT's picture

I have not heard the "it's a sin not to drink" line but I have heard comments that not drinking means that you must not be "mature" as a Christian, that you are "weak" or that you have "legalistic" tenancies, etc.

These days I get more "grief" from Christians when the topic of my not drinking comes up vs non-Christians.  FWIW - I don't consider drinking a sin unless it is done to excess or done by kids under 21 so I rarely bring up the topic unless a Christian starts talking about going to some big party or night club where it is apparent that drunkenness is a part of the fun.

Tim

Larry Nelson's picture

Darrell Post wrote:

My bad on the typo...YRR is what I meant. If I recall correctly, I have seen someone post that belief right here on Sharper Iron, that it is essentially a sin to avoid drinking the gift from God, booze.

As to your request for a link, it was linked in the MacArthur article linked above:

https://books.google.com/books?id=fy9x6J0p8EYC&pg=PT115&hl=en#v=onepage&...

"My Bible study convicted me of my sin of abstinence from alcohol. "

 

I didn't know that there were some who believe this---but then I'm not sure I'd know much of anything about Mark Driscoll other than what I've heard about him on S/I.  At the (large) church I belong to I've never heard anyone even mention his name.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Along the same lines, he's incorrect when he implies that the best way to prevent problems with alcohol is to press church members to abstain completely

Are there really a lot of people who have problems with alcohol because they abstain from it? 

Bert Perry's picture

Larry wrote:

Along the same lines, he's incorrect when he implies that the best way to prevent problems with alcohol is to press church members to abstain completely

Are there really a lot of people who have problems with alcohol because they abstain from it? 

It is of course true that those who abstain completely do not suffer problems from alcohol--unless they get hit by a drunk driver or something like that, of course.  But that's not what I said; I'm saying that pressing for abstention does not necessarily prevent problems with alcohol.  In other words, pressing for abstention is not equal to abstention.  This is especially the case when false arguments (e.g. Teachout) are used to justify it.

And when, as inevitably happens, people learn the arguments were false....pushback.  Overreaction.

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

“Wine: The Biblical imperative, total abstinence” by Robert P. Teachout is a very good book.  I recommend it. 

Dr. Teachout wrote his doctoral dissertation at Dallas Theological Seminary on “The Use of Wine in the Old Testament.”  He is a Hebrew professor and taught for years at fundamental, independent Baptist schools, including Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.  Check out his book: 

https://www.amazon.com/Wine-Biblical-imperative-total-abstinence/dp/B000...

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

David R. Brumbelow wrote:

“Wine: The Biblical imperative, total abstinence” by Robert P. Teachout is a very good book.  I recommend it. 

Dr. Teachout wrote his doctoral dissertation at Dallas Theological Seminary on “The Use of Wine in the Old Testament.”  He is a Hebrew professor and taught for years at fundamental, independent Baptist schools, including Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.  Check out his book: 

https://www.amazon.com/Wine-Biblical-imperative-total-abstinence/dp/B000...

David R. Brumbelow

I've got about five pages of factual errors listed about his dissertation, which is a blot on the reputation of Dallas Seminary, to put it mildly.   One of my favorites is how he assumes that in Acts 2:13, the Apostles are being accused of drinking too much Welch's....ignoring the fact that in verse 15, Peter notes that they're not drunk, as it's only the third hour, or about nine AM.  So apparently drinking grape juice before noon was a no-no in Hebrew society, according to the author.  He also translates "oinos" as "grape juice" in a poem of praise to Bacchus.

Hopefully his analysis of other Hebrew words is not as atrocious as his analysis of "yayin", "tirosh" and the like.  If it is, his students deserve a full refund and an apology.  There are cases to be made for abstention, but Teachout's dissertation reads like a dance track Chick tract.  It is that bad.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Bert,

Saying someone is guilty of factual errors when you are really just disagreeing with their viewpoint is untrue and unfair. 

There is a big difference between factual errors and you just disagreeing with someone’s conclusion or interpretation. 

But feel free to continue to mock. 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

David, it ain't just opinion.  No sane classicist would translate an ode to Bacchus that way.  The whole point of Bacchus is that he was a drunk--it's why we call a drunken orgy a "bacchanal."  Same thing about Acts 2:13-15.  The context makes very clear that Peter understood full well he was being accused of being a morning drunk, and that in turn makes clear that "new wine" (which would be equivalent to the Hebrew "tirosh") would be both drinkable and fermented--in direct contraction to Teachout's assertion that it was (a) in storage and (b) not what was drunk.  One would readily infer the same from Luke 5, Isaiah 62:8, Hosea 2:9, Hosea 4:11, Joel 1:5, and Zechariah 9:17.   Teachout is flat out wrong about his arguments about Strong's 8492, and is flat out wrong in his translation of the ode to Bacchus.

In a similar way, his argument for clean water in Israel (and not needing wine to kill pathogens) is laughable--he more or less argues that God's gift of the land of Israel would keep the water clean despite camel dung and such from the trade routes making its way to the aquifers.  Pretty much every pathogen from Egypt to Persia would have been in their water due to the trade routes.  

Really, Teachout's (and your) exegetical method is more or less to assume that there is nothing between stone cold sobriety and drunkenness, and then to assume that since a passage does not show clear evidence (to him) of drunkenness, that the drink being enjoyed must be non-alcoholic--and then contrary Biblical and historical evidence is pretty much ignored.  That's not a hermeneutic, that's wishful thinking.  See comments on Acts 2:13-15 for an example.

In the same way, the ancients, besides boiling grape juice in lead kettles, really had no way of killing or freezing the yeast.  The cistern thing?  That's precisely what Rhein and Mosel vintners do to make sweet wines like Riesling and Gewürztraminers--and they are decidedly alcoholic.  I'm guessing that's what your sources are actually referring to--sealing the jar does not prevent fermentation, as anyone who has left unpasteurized apple cider in the fridge too long knows.  In the same way, beer is fermented around 45F, and I ferment sourdough breads in my fridge.  If you want to stop fermentation, you more or less have to freeze it--good luck with that one in the Holy Land 18 centuries before John Gorrie and Willis Carrier.

And really, nobody's found these kettles in the Holy Land, thankfully for Israelites who did not need to burn their winter fuel to get lead poisoning, water-borne pathogens, and scurvy as a result.  It's interesting to me that both you and Mr. Teachout more or less admit this--that there really isn't Biblical or local archeological evidence for any of the methods you posit. Maybe a hint in Cadiz, Spain, but nothing within, say, a thousand miles of Jerusalem.  Odd position for a theology professor or pastor, to put it mildly.  

In other words, it is not just an opinion that Mr. Teachout and yourself are saying false things about this matter.  It is a Biblical, archeological, and scientific fact, and another fact of the matter is that saying this kind of falsehoods does nothing to help prevent or deal with problem drinking or alcoholism.  Rather, it discredits the entirety of your argument and makes their plight worse.

And this isn't mockery, David.  This is a rebuke.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

And those are Bert’s “opinions;” not necessarily facts. 

Opinions that have been previously answered, and ignored by Bert. 

 

They even knew a little about clean drinking water in Bible times; and they actually drank it. 

I wonder why today no one recommends sterilizing water with alcoholic wine?  Yet that’s what some believe happened in Bible times. 

David R. Brumbelow

David R. Brumbelow's picture

People in Bible times were masters on the subject of water.  They either had water or they could not survive. 

So water was a big part of their lives. 

They knew about water wells, springs, cisterns, rain, and even the importance of dew. 

While they did not know about micro organisms, they certainly understood the basics of clean water vs. dirty water. 

Leviticus 11:36

Nevertheless a spring or a cistern, in which there is plenty of water, shall be clean, but whatever touches any such carcass becomes unclean.

Deuteronomy 8:7

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills;

Proverbs 25:26

A righteous man who falters before the wicked Is like a murky spring and a polluted well.

Nehemiah 9:25

And they took strong cities and a rich land, and possessed houses full of all goods, Cisterns already dug, vineyards, olive groves, And fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and grew fat, And delighted themselves in Your great goodness.

John 4:6-7

Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.  A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 

Notice this well apparently dated all the way back to Jacob.  They highly valued clean water. 

Also notice Jesus did not even ask her to spike the water with wine. 

And there are many, many more Bible passages about water.  They drank water on a regular basis. 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

David, I'm sorry, but it's not that I've refused to consider your arguments. It is simply because your arguments are nonsense.  There is no nice way of putting it.  Let's try a simple challenge; tell us how we can say that "harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart" without admitting that (a) new wine was drunk from time to time and (b) it could contain alcohol.  

This is a central claim of Teachout's, a lot of his dissertation hinging on it, and it is just plain false.   A couple more things.  First, you ask why alcohol is not used to purify water anymore.  Might have something to do with the discovery of chlorine by Davy in 1810, and the discovery that you could purify water with it.  Or are you going to argue that, just as you argue the ancients discovered how to preserve grape juice two millenia before Thomas Welch, they also discovered how to prepare chlorine two millenia before Davy?  And if we're going to use "it's not done anymore" to say something is wrong, did you notice that most people don't get around by horse and buggy, or on a bicycle, these days?  Is that sin, too?

Second, none of the Bible verses you mention have anything to do with whether the water in Israel was generally drinkable.  One is about ritual cleanliness (unless you're ready to give up pork and shellfish per Leviticus 11), others are about obvious signs of contamination, and a couple have nothing whatsoever to do with any property of water other than that it was there.  This is how bad your handling of evidence is, David.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

You did not understand.  My point was that no one today recommends sterilizing bad water with alcoholic wine, because it doesn’t work.  No authority today, that I know of, recommends taking a bottle of wine on your next camping trip so you can use it to sterilize the water; because it will not work. 

One of the weakest arguments of social drinkers is that in Israel they had to drink wine because they could not drink the water. 

Many things can enslave the heart, they don’t have to be drug related.  A rolex watch, bass boat, money, power, fine clothes, popularity… This too is a weak argument. 

And yes, ancients could easily preserve unfermented wine.  That is a fact.  One you continue to ignore. 

http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2013/03/ancient-wine-production-and-...

David R. Brumbelow

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Bert, How many Bible verses do you need?  Yes, they drank water in Bible times! 

Genesis 21:19

And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink.

Genesis 24:17

And the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.”

1 Samuel 30:11

Then they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David; and they gave him bread and he ate, and they let him drink water.

2 Samuel 23:15

And David said with longing, “Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!”

1 Kings 17:10

And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.”

2 Kings 6:22

Set food and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.”

Job 22:7

You have not given the weary water to drink, And you have withheld bread from the hungry.

Proverbs 5:15

Drink water from your own cistern, And running water from your own well.

Proverbs 25:21

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;

Lamentations 5:4

We pay for the water we drink, And our wood comes at a price.

Ezekiel 12:18

“Son of man, eat your bread with quaking, and drink your water with trembling and anxiety.

Daniel 1:12

“Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.

Mark 9:41

For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

John 4:7

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

David, I'm not ignoring your claims about grape juice in Bible times; I am finding them preposterous in light of what science knows about yeast and what would have needed to be done to preserve juices without fermentation.  Really, try it for yourself if you like.  Take grapes right off the vine, squeeze the juice out in a wine-press, or in your hand if you really want to make a mess, put it in a bottle, seal it, and put it in a cool place for a while.  Do not pasteurize the juice or sanitize the bottle; that would not be known for another 2000 years.

Have plenty of paper towels on hand to clean up the mess as it ferments.  Again, it will ferment even in the fridge--that's how my dad used to make hard cider.  Buy unpasteurized cider, put in the back of the fridge for a few weeks, opening cap periodically to let out carbon dioxide, open and enjoy.  Brother, you really, really, really need to take a tour or two of a brewery or winery to understand how this stuff works, and why your claims of unfermented wine are just nonsense.

There are great reasons to be careful around alcoholic beverages, or even to abstain completely, as Joel notes.  They just don't have anything to do with how the ancients prepared their grapes.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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