As I wrote about Daron Earlewine’s Pub Theology ministry, I reread two recent Christian Standard articles on drinking. These pieces, by Tim Harlow and John Caldwell, are both available on the CS website and both worth your time. I loved Tim’s observation that the popular rationalization for Jesus turning water into wine—that the wine was watered down—would simply give it the alcohol content of beer, and I courted whiplash nodding my head vigorously at his comment that “alcohol is not the No. 1 health problem in America—it’s obesity. So it’s a tad confusing to the world when we invite people over for a potluck supper of high-calorie casseroles and carrot cake and Kool-Aid made with white processed sugar—and look down our noses at someone who has five glasses of wine a week—which the American Heart Association says is good for you.”
For every American who struggles with alcohol, there are two who need to put down the Cheetos.
But John also makes some good points, especially that we can try too hard to justify behavior under the umbrella of “cultural relevancy” and that while the Bible does not prohibit drinking alcohol, it does offer strong warnings about the possible consequences.
There’s no question that the best way to avoid substance abuse is to avoid the substance completely. For many people it’s less an issue of legalism and more a recognition of weakness. I have friends who struggle with moderation in eating or spending money and have decided not to add drinking as another temptation in life. I respect that.
Rules also vary depending on the role. Years ago I interviewed for a position with a church in the Midwest that requires all paid staff to completely abstain from alcohol. Again, I respect this—the congregation adopted this policy to protect its employees and to make a statement to the community.
During my conversation with Daron, he mentioned several times that he worked under the authority of the E91 elders, who regularly attend his Pub Theology events. And I really respect that. When “eating with sinners” becomes drinking a beer with them, it’s appropriate to invite accountability.
For some sincere believers, alcohol is a waste of money, a health hazard, or a potential “stumbling block” to those around them. For others it’s one of life’s pleasures that can even make it easier to connect with those who need Christ.
At the end of the day, (around cocktail hour), it becomes a matter of conscience for every Christian. Daron’s ministry makes sense to me because he’s remaining above reproach while reaching hundreds of people who would never visit a church. The beer he’s drinking is no more watered down than the good wine Jesus created—and neither is the gospel he’s sharing.