Would Jesus drink a Budweiser?

Posted on 08/03/11 45 Comments

You know what the difference is between Catholic and Baptist communion? When the Catholic priest prays for the wine it becomes the blood of Christ. When the Baptist pastor prays it becomes grape juice!

Okay, maybe it isn’t the funniest joke in the world. Theological jokes do tend to be a bit on the stale side (kind of like the Halloween candy you still have lying around from last October). But the joke does effectively lampoon the irony of teetotaling conservative Christians given that the central sacrament of the Christian tradition involves the consumption of wine.

Sadly, this irony seems to be lost on many of those conservative Christians as they continue to perpetuate the tired legalism that real Christians are those who abstain from alcohol. As a case in point, consider Olabode Ososami’s recent blog article “Winehouse, Deadliness of Alcohol and the Bible.” Ososami states his incredulity that, given the potential for alcohol to kill if drank excessively, “most consider it relatively harmless in manageable doses.” Ososami does concede that “the Bible accepts the medicinal value of little quantities of alcohol in exceptional cases” but, he adds, it “largely frowns at its general or widespread consumption.”

Wait a minute. What is that supposed to mean? How does Ososami define “general or widespread consumption”? And what does he mean by “largely frowns at”? Is that supposed to mean “condemns”? What is Ososami exactly claiming here?

Ososami has adopted deliberately vague terminology. But reading through the article makes it quite clear what he does mean. He believes the Bible frowns on the consumption of alcohol in social settings or indeed for anything other than a medical (and perhaps sacramental?) purpose. As he puts it:

“Someone had asked me once “Pastor how much is safe to drink ?” and I gave the safest answer “none at all” and asked “what could you lose if you got the threshold level wrong – assuming you decided to manage your drinking?…and the answer was a lot – if a fatal situation arose…”  Then I probed again ” what would you lose if you withdrew completely from alcohol….”

Now if this question were asked by a person who comes from a family of alcoholics then I’d agree with Ososami. For that person no amount of alcohol is safe. But that advice is irrelevant to the millions of people who drink alcohol responsibly with the occasional glass of wine at dinner or a beer with friends at the pub.

But what about the Bible? What does it say? While the Bible condemns drunkeness, it never condemns the consumption of alcohol in social settings. This command is one of Ososami’s own invention. To be sure, I admire Christians who decide to abstain from alcohol. More power to them. But the minute they begin to think that by doing so they are somehow better, or more Christian, than other Christians who like their ice wine and pale ale, they have fallen into a trap that the Bible actually does frown upon: moralizing, eisegetical hypocrisy.

Paul dealt with precisely the kind of moralizing hypocrisy that Ososami represents. As he narrates in Galatians 2, the problem was with the claim that real Christians don’t eat with Gentiles:

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

Sadly, that was far from being the only moralistic invention in the early church. Elsewhere Paul dealt with another problem, Judaizers who claimed that real Christians are circumcised:

Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. (Philippians 2:2-4)

Strong words to be sure. But Paul recognized how these kinds of ethical additions to the gospel were a fertile ground for hypocrisy, legalism and the evacuation fo the very gospel of grace he sought to proclaim. Whether the claim is real Christians don’t eat with Gentiles, or real Christians are circumcised or real Christians don’t drink alcohol, the teaching is just as false and just as damaging to the gospel.

Here’s what this kind of ethical hypocrisy looks like in practice. A table of Christians from the nearby church have gone out to Chili’s Restaurant on Sunday night after church. They’re sharing a plate of nachos and drinking Coke when across the room they spot an usher from church sitting with his friend and drinking a, a (gasp) a beer! So they start talking. “I didn’t know Jim drank beer!” “Shocking, positively shocking.” “What kind of witness is that?” And yet here is the irony. Scripture doesn’t condemn Jim for having a beer at Chili’s, but it does condemn the self-righteous gossips who are too busy judging him to see their own hypocrisy.

So abstain from alcohol if you wish because you don’t like the taste, or because it is too expensive, or because you have a predisposition to alcoholism, or because execssive alcohol consumption has adverse social consequences. As a follower of Christ you have that freedom. And remember the other Christians who live out their freedom of Christ by abstaining from fast food, contraceptives, meat, or rock and roll.

But remember that other Christians like the occasional McDonalds meal, they opt to use non-abortifacient contraceptives within a marital covenantal relationship, they prefer their steak medium well, they turn up every Supertramp song that comes on the radio, and yes, they like a beer with their meal at Chili’s.

Would Jesus really drink a Budweiser? Probably, but I bet he’d prefer a bottle of La Fin du Monde.

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  • http://www.retheology.net Jared

    First, I’m pretty sure Jesus is a Keith’s man.

    Second, well done. It’s all too easy to get into a battle of “verses versus verses” in these kind of things. I think taking the high road and arguing, like Paul, the case for Freedom is a far more fruitful exercise. I look forward to the responses.

  • http://ochuk.com Adam Omelianchuk

    I read though the comments of that article… I must say, one of the most annoying and idiotic rhetorical moves is when someone tries to rebut an analogy that highlights a salient point by saying “OMG, you just compared x with y.” Here’s what I’m on about:

    A: People are harmed every year by their consumption of alcohol.

    B: Oh yeah? People are also harmed every year by their consumption of french fries.

    A OMG, you just compared alcohol with french fries!

    This is supposed to be some sort of gottcha moment for A, and B is supposed to crawl back to his cave and eat copious amounts of french fries with tears running down his cheeks. Of course, it just evades the point that things should be consumed in moderation, and that pointing to numbers of that are only concerned with the abuse of alcohol has nothing to do with the use of alcohol.

    OMG!

    • http://www.retheology.net Jared

      You’re right in your critique Adam, but you might be presenting a false dichotomy. The issue is not abstinence versus excess. It is freedom versus bondage. Randal sides with freedom.

    • randal

      Thanks. It’s nice to have someone point out the erroneous nature of their “gotcha moment”. I decided to stop commenting at CP awhile ago because it isn’t fruitful and this is an example of why.

  • http://thelordgodexists.com/ Mike

    I agree with the good doctor’s view and it appears to me that he communicated it within a solid scriptural framework and patient care. With that in mind, I hope I’m not stumbling into legalism, hypocrisy or self-righteousness with the following question:
    Adam was your use of the abbreviation “OMG” perhaps in some manner improper? I do not desire to pick on you or others who may use the words or abbreviation in conversation or writing, but it seems that the employment of such words or abridgements may be missing the mark concerning the stipulation in the Decalogue (Exodus 20:7). I know that I am fallible, frail, and too often need correction so I hope that I’m not giving the impression that I am criticizing you unnecessarily. Possibly Dr. Rauser has a past post on the subject of taking the name of the Lord in vain within contemporary culture.

    • http://www.retheology.net Jared

      I understand your point Mike. Part of Discipleship is asking the question “what does this action say about my worldview to the people around me.” You’re right to ask those questions. But the thrust of Randal’s whole argument was what Paul says “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” Ultimately, Randal is settling into a God of Boundless Grace who would spare nothing to reconcile humanity to Himself. Everything is permissible in a relationship predicated on Grace, but not everything is beneficial. I think a better question might have been not, is this improper, but is this beneficial.

    • MGT2

      Mike,

      It is a common misunderstanding by Christians that expressions like OMG IS taking the name of God in vain. If that were the case, then we have to remove all words and expressions with god attached to them from our lexicon, lest we be found guilty.

      It is better to understand the Exodus 20:7 commandment to be addressing the taking of oaths or making pledges in God’s name and then not fulfilling those oaths or pledges. That was the customary way of doing business and contracts where swearing by God’s name would be the guarantee that seals the deal. Read Jeremiah 4:2 for an example.

      Of course, “cussin’ up a storm” using the names of God would be blasphemy.

    • randal

      Mike, thanks for your generously expressed concern. I would address Adam’s use of “OMG” like this.

      To begin with, it is not Adam who is using the term. Rather, it is a character he is conveying to us, one who makes a completely fallacious rhetorical move. Adam is attempting to condemn this person’s attitude and part of doing that is having them utter an inane empty expression of surprise. (Incidentially, “OMG” as an exclamation of surprise is associated with the concept of a “valley girl“, a self-indulgent, hedonistic and narcissistic persona.) So asking whether Adam should have used the term is, philosophically, the same type of question as whether a Christian author should write a character into his story that uses language unbecoming of a well-heeled Christian. In principle I don’t see any problem with that, though like you it rankles me when people use OMG in conversation.

      Hope that is of some help.

  • The Atheist Missionary

    Firm in my belief that free will is a mirage, this post was the primary cause of my desire to pour myself a dark rum and coke. Cheers Randal.

    • randal

      Let’s hope you’re not drinking something cheap like Captain Morgans.

    • The Atheist Missionary

      There is nothing as good as Newfie Screech.

  • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

    Jesus would probably drink Budweiser, then rebuke the Baptists for condemning him, and rebuke us for being elitist about cheap nasty beer.

    Whenever anyone gets upset that I drink, I ask them to read this passage in Matthew:

    Jesus said, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’

    “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

    • http://www.retheology.net Jared

      Jesus would probably drink Budweiser, then rebuke the Baptists for condemning him, and rebuke us for being elitist about cheap nasty beer.

      Fantastic. Tweeted.

      • randal

        I echo that. Great quip!

        And I will say, having visiting the Budweiser Brewery in Fort Collins, CO, that the beer doesn’t taste that bad at the source. And the clydesdales are larger than life.

        • http://www.retheology.net Jared

          Probably Clydesdale Goggles.

          • randal

            heh heh heh.

            By the way, when I go to conferences it is always interesting to see many of the leading conservative Reformed theologians in the hotel lounge smoking cigars and drinking bourbon. If only their readers knew…

    • randal

      Your comments remind me of Dostoyevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor”. How would contemporary Christians respond to a Jesus who came in their day and hung out at pubs with prostitutes and drug addicts?

    • Christian Missionary

      Sometimes drinking your nasty beer is a stumblingblock to the lost in coming to receive Jesus as their Savior and Lord.

      Why do you drink? Is it to unwind from a hard day at the Physics Department or at work?

      Do you hang with the drinkers at the bar, at home, or at a resturant so you can witness Jesus Christ with them (you know, to seek and save that which is lost like Jesus did) or just to socialize and unwind and be like one of them?

      Have you ever asked God whether He wants drinking for you or not?

      • Christian Missionary

        continued

        Do you even care?

      • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

        I don’t drink nasty beer unless someone offers it to me and I don’t want to offend them.

        The circumstances under which my consumption of alcohol would create a barrier to a lost person being saved are extremely narrow. If someone wants to tell me that they have struggled with alcoholism, then I will gladly order a tonic and lime instead of a bourbon….but I would wonder what they are doing in a place where alcohol is served if they are so tempted by it.

        Have you ever considered that superstitiously refusing to drink alcohol will likely create a much larger stumbling block to those who have grown up around responsible use of alcohol? Jesus did not rebuke the prostitutes and drunkards that he ate and drank with; he rebuked the religious hypocrites who condemned him for doing so. You will have to answer to God for pushing people away from the cross with your superstitious, conditioned fear of alcohol.

        There are many people who have been duped (by superstitious hypocrites) into thinking that Christians believe alcohol is evil. My ability to enjoy a beer in moderation gives these people the opportunity to ask questions about what it really means to be born again. Teetotalling won’t get you a single millimetre closer to heaven.

  • MGT2

    Randal,

    I agree wholeheartedly with the point of your post, but I am uncomfortable with what is coming across as a personal dislike for Olabode Ososami.

    • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

      From my point of view, it seems more like a personal dislike for Olabode’s use of fallacious arguments, which I share….

      • MGT2

        I think you are right. Maybe because of the use of his name…its distracting.

    • randal

      David’s right, but thanks for expressing your concern. I have many interlocutors from Paul Manata to John W. Loftus. Much of our debate can be really rough and tumble and sometimes a reader might view that as personal enmity, but if it isn’t. I am able to maintain deep disagreement alongside mutual respect, even admiration (or, dare I say it, affection). In Ososami’s case I would admit I don’t have much respect or admiration for his arguments because they are very poor. But that doesn’t mean I have personal enmity toward him. When I do develop personal enmity toward an individual (as has happened a few times) I stop engaging them altogether.

      You still might ask why I keep “picking” on Ososami. Isn’t that like the cop who keeps pulling over the same person for speeding while letting the other speeders go by?

      Here’s the reason: the articles I have critiqued are tap roots for pervasive conservative Christian mindsets about issues like fantasy literature and the consumption of alcohol. Ososami’s comments are a springboard for dealing with a much wider problem in the evangelical community.

      • MGT2

        Thanks.

      • Christian Missionary

        Randal…

        At one time God gave me a ministry to skid row bumbs and their alcoholic friends. Just about everyone of them did not work because of the effects of alcohol and were on the government’s payroll (SSI). I guarentee you not one of them was there because of eating too many doritoes.

        Ms Winehouse had a problem with alcohol and drugs. She probably initially partoke in it because she wanted to feel good. Maybe it was a social thing at first but later became a thing to do to drown out the pains of life. This is what happened to many of the skid row bumbs and their alcoholic friends I knew and ministered Jesus Christ to. Ms Winehouse needed Jesus. Did anyone ever bother to offer her Jesus; To let her know that He could not only give her forgiveness of sin and eternal life but could give her meaning and purpose in life, could give her the ‘high’ she was looking for, help her with the struggles and pain of life; could give her the abundant life she sought after?

        Isn’t that what Rev Ososami was basically trying to say in his article?

        Why were you so offended by him suggesting that you reject the next offer of alcohol and instead choose to be be filled with the Holy Spirit?

        Your comments appear to be unconcerned for the destruction that alcohol causes and the better life one can have in Jesus.

        • randal

          Christian Missionary, today people who work in the inner city don’t refer to the homeless as “skid row bumbs” [sic]. That’s an insulting and retrograde term.

          I wouldn’t drink a beer at an AA meeting and I wouldn’t eat a slice of blueberry cheesecake at an overeaters anonymous meeting.

          You convey your pharisaical opinions in a way that is harsh, judgmental, and ignorant.

          • Christian Missionary

            “You convey your pharisaical opinions in a way that is harsh, judgmental, and ignorant.”

            Do you not do the same Randal?

            • randal

              No I don’t. I always back up my assertions with argument. In contrast, you repeatedly seek to marginalize people with unsupported assertions such as your most recent assertion that David’s views are “foolish and carnal”. But you never provide a defense for those assertions.

              • Christian Missionary

                Randal

                How can a person talk about what is “foolish and carnal” to a person who see their foolish thoughts and carnality as spiritual?

                To be honest, many of the views I hear from you, David, and other posters who think like you all are no different than what I hear lost people say.

              • Christian Missionary

                Many times Randal your arguments are harsh, judgmental and ignorant!

                • http://www.retheology.net Jared

                  CM

                  An argument, by definition cannot be harsh or judgmental. An argument is an appeal to reason. If an argument appeals to emotion, that is a fallacy, and you would do well to point that out. But an argument, well made cannot be anything other than an argument. The onus is on you to provide reasoning why the argument is false or anything other than reasonable.

                  That’s the way conversation works.

  • http://thelordgodexists.com/ Mike

    Thank you for your response Dr. Rauser. I agree with your assessment in the category of cases you cited. Let me add that it appears to me that in selected circumstances the indelicate, thoughtless, and offhand use of “Oh My God” and its derivatives as well its offshoots seems to be thrown about in American society (Canadian too?) much too often. G.D. seems to be vocalized habitually and frequently in my homeland as well. We all have our faults and deficiencies; moreover there are many important issues that our culture requires improvement, so this possible problem is not on my front burner. P.S. I lived in the Valley in the late 1970’s and 1980’s – I’m not boasting about that.

    • randal

      Ahhh, The Valley.

      I’m going to dig up my collection of Sweet Valley High novels for old time’s sake.

  • http://hereiblog.com/ iMark

    As a Southern Baptist I appreciate this post. I recently had a discussion with some fellow church members about drinking in public. Based on experience my fellows drummed up some percentages of people who may possibly “stumble” by seeing me have a beer in public. The funny thing is that we don’t live the rest of our public lives not doing things just in case a hypothetical situation becomes real.

    I love your example of the gossipers seeing a fellow Christian drink a beer.

    • randal

      The very worst is when people say “But why do you need x?” (Slot in whatever you like for x: a beer; the viewing of a movie rated ‘R’; a dance, whatever. That question is so distorted it makes “How often do you beat your wife?” look innocent.

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  • Christian Missionary

    Randal

    How do you minister or counsel the alcoholics and drug abusers that you meet and preach to at the Gospel Mission that you attend whenever you can?

  • Christian Missionary

    “Christian Missionary, today people who work in the inner city don’t refer to the homeless as “skid row bumbs” [sic]. That’s an insulting and retrograde term.”

    I don’t care what people who work in the inner city call homeless people who live on the street, and beg for money as a profession so they can buy their cheap wine and cigarettes. Those kind of people are what are known as skid row bums. It may be a term that is insulting and retrograde but it is descriptive of their lifestyle.

    • randal

      In God’s eyes we’re all “skid row bums”.

      • http://www.retheology.net Jared

        Amen to that.

  • Ron

    I’m pretty sure that Jesus would drink
    HE brew.

    • randal

      Oh no! A collective groan rises across the internet…

  • Justeen

    Well, my pastor calls having even a glass of wine a sin and he says in the bible that it was all grape juice. I said that it couldn’t be so because if getting drunk was discussed as a sin in the bible and Noah got drunk, etc. then the wine was fermented, after all that is what fermented means. I had a glass of wine just the other day while doing yard work. A nice big glass of locally grown Island wine and do not feel the need to repent in any way, shape or form. This seems like very unbiblical teaching. Maybe I should find another church?

  • Justeen

    Also, my brother is a recovered alcholic as of age 23. He has worked in the service industry all his life. He serves alcholic drinks daily and is now 50. He has not had a drop of alcohol since 23.