This is one of those questions that as a youth pastor, I was faced with multiple times. Now as a clinical with a special focus on mental health and substance use co-occurring treatment, I address this from the standpoint of when it becomes a problem. The question is, is drinking alcohol a sin?
The interesting thing about doing this article is that I learned more in the process about Christianity than I did about the mental health side of things. What originally was going to be a thoughtful piece about the original article has become much more.
I think this question is laced with many nuances and bias which cannot be removed. My own background comes from one where it is strongly frowned upon about consuming alcohol. But I try to set that aside for this article.
Christian Leaders Thoughts
Now, I originally wrote this for the article “Of course, I am not the first Christian to talk about this, so I think a collection of other’s words on the topic is important to begin a dialogue and then I’ll incorporate further discussion.”
But what I found is church leaders who have a big platform…. they are not talking about this.
For real, go take a minute and Google “known pastor name” + alcohol and see what comes up.
I’ll give you a couple of names that I checked into: Francis Chan, Rick Warren (who helped found Celebrate Recovery), TD Jakes, and Billy Graham. There is more you can look, female pastors and pastors who are not Caucasian.
But I wanted to find a pastor who had a big platform to reach the masses… and I only found one who would directly talk about the topic. Sure, the rest said they would only discuss abstinence, but none said that drinking is a sin (nor do I believe it is in moderation.
Who was the one?
John Piper’s Thoughts
John Piper, a Reformed Baptist pastor and my respect for him sky rocketed after reading how in depth he was when he states on his blog:
I want to let love be the guide, and love inclines me away from alcohol in our day…
alcohol could be sin….
And let me end by just saying I do not condemn those who make other choices.
These are just sound bites from a whole podcast, you really need to go listen to the whole thing, read the Scriptures that actually supports drinking is not a sin, as well as the warning of recklessness with drunkenness and addiction. He hits all of the points and I do not need to reiterate what he says.
There Is A Deeper Issue Here
The original article was to discuss if drinking was a sin and I believe Piper discusses it fully. But what I think was difficult is how many pastors are shying away from this topic, and I do believe that’s what it is.
Why would they not say alcohol is not a sin?
Because Christians have created a stigma around this.
It goes further than that. I asked a group of youth pastors about this topic. They like to joke around in the group, but I noticed that I did not get any serious answers and I grew frustrated. Here were some of the responses.
Liquor before beer you’re in the cleer… beer before liquor you’ve never been siquor
Get one more in before last call
Jesus didn’t turn water into kool-aid, lets get lit ????
Bet ya Perry Noble has some [quotes]
This last one had me upset. If you don’t know, Perry Noble was fired after admitting he had a substance abuse problem with alcohol. These examples, especially the last one, are clear indications of how much we don’t take this topic seriously. And these are youth pastors who preach to our youth.
We need to do better about this. If we shame people about alcohol, and believe me, I have so many clients that feel they cannot enter church due to comments from church leaders, we will not be able to reach out to them.
It should be noted I did have some good insight after that last sarcastic answer I quoted above, but I was highly disappointed in the whole process of researching for this article. More needs to be discussed.
So I want to ask you seriously, is alcohol a sin? If not, obviously drinking too much is, so where do you feel the line is? For those who believe complete abstinence is only what God wanted, how do you support that?