EDITORIAL: On liberty and liquor
Increasingly, Baptists are choosing to openly express their spiritual liberty with liquor. Those Baptists who argue for the right to drink alcohol build their argument from biblical passages that teach moderation in alcohol consumption, rather than abstinence.
A text in point is I Tim. 3:3, which warns church overseers to not be “given to drunkenness,” and First Timothy 3:8 which says deacons “are to be men … not indulging in much wine.” The biblical argument for total abstinence from alcohol often centers on the biblical injunction to love others by not becoming a stumbling block to them (see Romans 14:1-21 and I Cor. 8:1-13).
I find the “stumbling block” argument compelling, particularly in a culture where alcohol destroys the lives of literally millions of people, wreaking havoc through accidents, illness and disrupted relationships. But I would like to introduce another argument based on reason (reason, by the way, is largely the product of a philosophy based on a biblical worldview).
The argument begins with a question: what possible positive contribution can liquor make to a person’s life? There are two responses to this question of which I am aware. First, some would assert liquor essentially provides a “chemical vacation” from the brutal realities of life. Thus, a bad day at work is left behind by enabling your mind to take a temporary vacation through alcohol. The same could be said of the emotional difficulties of a troubled marriage or any other problem in life from which one would like a temporary vacation.
Reason suggests that dealing with life’s difficulties through a temporary chemical vacation is not constructive toward resolving the problems, while at the same time it elevates the risk of problems deepening. Although alcohol may provide temporary forgetfulness of one’s troubles, it also greatly increases the risk of making poor decisions. Alcohol lowers inhibitions so one is likely to do things and say things that are inappropriate at best and highly destructive at worst. Every year, tens of thousands die in America through accidents caused by those on a chemical vacation through alcohol. Millions more become drunks, unable or unwilling to control when and how much alcohol they consume, resulting in self-loathing and problems on the job and in the family. Reason leads one to conclude the potential benefits of a chemical vacation are greatly outweighed by the risks.
In recent years, some have asserted that moderate use of alcohol could provide some health benefits. A reasonable look at the evidence is enough to give pause concerning the “health benefits assertion.” Space does not provide for a thorough analysis of this point, but let me issue a warning: the headlines on the health benefits of alcohol are always dramatic and provocative, but rarely accurate. One recent headline said scientists say red wine stops you from growing old. When you look at the details, however, you learn that the experiment was conducted on overweight mice, that the mice were not given wine, but rather a compound found in wine (resveratrol) and that a human would have to drink 750 bottles of wine daily to get the equivalent amount of resveratrol administered to the mice! Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest resveratrol would provide humans the same health benefits that it provides mice. If alcohol does provide any health benefits, reason would once again suggest that the associated risks outweigh any potential benefits.
For me, it is not reasonable to assert my Christian liberty through alcohol consumption. Alcohol does not contribute to building a constructive life that seeks God’s glory, but it does introduce significant risk to physical life, rewarding relationships and spiritual usefulness. And, by the way, I am fully capable of doing things that might cause someone to stumble without elevating the risk by altering the state of my mind with alcohol.