So I couldn’t help but notice earlier in the week when conversations heated up surrounding a piece by John MacArthur written on August 9th titled, “Beer, Bohemianism, and True Christian Liberty” (writing in reference to young evangelicals who gather to discuss their faith over beer).
I remembered one of MacArthur’s books with a large rattlesnake poised to bite on the front cover… rather menacing… so it wasn’t difficult for me to imagine where he might go with this article.
Here is an excerpt:
“It’s clear that beer-loving passion is a prominent badge of identityfor many in the YRR movement. Apparently beer is also an essential element in the missional strategy. Mixing booze with ministry is often touted as a necessary means of penetrating western youth culture, and conversely, abstinence is deemed a “sin” to be repented of.
After all, in a culture where cool is everything, what could be a better lubricant for one’s testimony than a frosty pint?
Of course, beer is by no means the only token of cultural savvy frequently associated with young-and-restless religion. All kinds of activities deemed vices by mothers everywhere have been adopted as badges of Calvinist identity and thus “redeemed”: tobacco, tattoos, gambling, mixed martial arts, profane language, and lots of explicit talk about sex.”
(You can read the full blog here: http://www.gty.org/blog/B110809)
REALLY? (A frosty pint of Guinness…karate…?)
I grew up in a denomination that looked down on anyform of alcohol consumption. I did, however, watch the people in my “tribe” eat at every single church function. I find it convenient that MacArthur left gluttony off the list. Evangelical life revolves around food; yet, one in three American adults is affected by obesity, every two minutes a person dies of weight-related causes and obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States (second only to smoking).
Do we need to rethink those church potlucks? Of course not, food is good, except when we abuse it.
I don’t want to spend too much time defending cold pints of beer (I’m not that attached), it is simply astounding how MacArthur can take something so cultural and paint it as Biblical, wielding the verses of his choosing as a pretty heavy bat. There is a long and interesting relationship with Christianity and beer…but, that isn’t actually my point.*
This is going to be tough for me to say: almost a little bitter (like a good English Pale Ale)…we actually need voices like John MacArthur in the greater conversation about faith.
He continues: “It is puerile and irresponsible for any pastor to encourage the recreational use of intoxicants—especially in church-sponsored activities. The ravages of alcoholism and drug abuse in our culture are too well known, and no symbol of sin’s bondage is more seductive or more oppressive than booze. I have ministered to hundreds of people over the years who have been delivered from alcohol addiction.”
MacArthur has a huge audience. He is a bastion of evangelical fundamentalist conservative faith. I believe his characterization of alcohol is uneducated and as ridiculous as his incessant delivery of each word as if it is absolute truth (you will never hear him say “I might be wrong” – check out my blog post on the importance of this caveat in our dialogue: http://bit.ly/jHbe6W), but if you really take a good long look at his comments…his heartmay be inthe right place. I think he writes out of a genuine concern for lives that have been broken by alcoholism.
I trust that MacArthur is following Jesus and has the best intentions. I can strongly disagree with him, but also see his role in the greater Church. If we are true to our calling as followers to “wrestle with God” then weshould beengaged in prayerfully exploring how our faith practice impacts our ever changing culture. It is the “MacArthurs” of our faith that anchor their side of the conversation against their more liberal counterparts. Like it or not — that balance is a part of what keeps our Christianity centered and healthy.
I don’t buy’MacArthurist’ prohibition, in fact, I’d like to buy John a “cold one” (to sit down and discuss these issues – especially the karate thing!)…
Out of respect for his views, though, I suppose I’d probablyjustorder up a couple ofcold… iced teas.
*For some interesting information about the history of the Christian faith and beer check out Stephen Mansfield’s book The Search for God and Guinness – http://amzn.to/1OkVZj
2 thoughts on “A “Cold One” for John MacArthur?”
I’m no fan of MacArthur’s pietism. However, I think not all of his concerns are entirely unwarranted either. In light of RC Sproul Jr’s arrest and felony DUI conviction in 2016 might not a new article be called for here? Given MacArthur’s close connections to Ligonier Ministries it’s reasonable to assume MacArthur was well aware of RC Jr’s alcohol abuses. That knowledge likely factored into his article.
Though he may not have sought it out, RC Jr was a leader among the YRR. Just like what I’ve personally witnessed from some who identify as YRR, RC Sproul Jr frequently took his Christian liberties to the extreme. RC Jr mocked any who so much as ever questioned his rather disingenuous definition of “moderation.” In light of the multiple eye witness accounts of his drunkenness, throwing church keggers, and even spiking the kiddie’s punch bowl with Everclear, such questions and concerns were well-justified. But for the most part they were ignored for many years, at least up until RC was facing a potential 7 year prison sentence.
Thanks, Geoff… I’ve certainly seen alcohol destroy lives too (addiction and substance abuse are serious issues)… but remember also that addiction is a physical expression of an underlying sickness. That’s not just good theology, it is also sound psychology. I love the AA and the recovery movement. Seeing alcohol alone as “an evil” is a strange place to fight a battle… in the tradition of my youth, alcohol use was shamed and yet obesity (and the abuse of food) was a norm. I don’t find that MacArthur is particularly thoughtful in many areas though…Thank you for your response!