John MacArthur and Beer

John MacArthur caused a bit of a ripple through the theological blogosphere with his article entitled Beer, Bohemianism and True Christian Liberty. Many of John’s concerns are justified and we agree with him that the kingdom of God (the church) should not embrace the reputation of being a place where alcohol consumption is characteristic or obligatory. However, the assertion that total abstinence from alcohol is a requirement for the believer or a sought after characteristic of a Christian will lead into just as much error. There is need for caution and precision on both sides, consider the following:

Wine is blessing from God to make man’s heart glad:

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle and vegetation for the labor of man. So that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil and food which sustains man’s heart. (Psalm 104:14,15)

The removal of wine is a sign of judgement:

So gladness and joy are taken away from the fruitful field, even from the land of Moab. And I have made the wine to cease from the wine presses; No one will tread them with shouting,The shouting will not be shouts of joy. (Jeremiah 48:33)

Biblical statements about wine and strong drink are found throughout Scripture and while there are warnings and danger, the majority of references are positive. Alcohol is a gift from God and “Woe” is prescribed upon “those who call evil good, and good evil”. (Isaiah 5:20) Pastor MacArthur comes quite close to violating this principle in his article.

It is true that alcohol has been and is abused in our society. But nearly every blessing or gift from God has the potential for abuse: sex, work, family, beauty, money, doughnuts . . . the list and examples are endless. Martin Luther famously made this point:

Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?

To those who have made alcohol consumption and riotous living a sacrament, we say: “. . .do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (I Peter 2:16).   To those who make abstinence to be a command of Christ, we say: do not add to the law of Christ.