October 20, 2020

Cheerfulness that Mocks the Devil

Martin Luther regularly gave personal and pastoral counsel to his friends to seek cheerfulness. He himself was subject to discouragement and depression, which he usually attributed to the attacks of the devil. His letters and table-talk have much to say about ways of overcoming dark moods. Luther’s advice is characteristically earthy and bold, while at the same time he clearly points his companions to Christ. This combination of utter humanity and spiritual insight is one of the features that makes Luther so attractive as a mentor.

One of the best known examples is a letter to Jerome Weller at Wittenberg while Luther was away from home during the summer of 1530.

Though Luther preached strongly against drunkenness and debauchery, words like the following testify that Luther thought Christians were perfectly free in Christ to make use of God’s gifts to gladden their hearts in full enjoyment of life.

Whenever this temptation comes to you beware not to dispute with the devil nor allow yourself to dwell on these lethal thoughts, for so doing is nothing less than giving place to the devil and so falling. Try as hard as you can to despise these thoughts sent by Satan. In this sort of temptation and battle contempt is the easiest road to victory; laugh your enemy to scorn and ask to whom you are talking. By all means flee solitude, for he lies in wait most for those alone. This devil is conquered by despising him and mocking him, not by resisting and arguing. Therefore, Jerome, joke and play games with my wife and others, in which way you will drive out your diabolic thoughts and take courage.

Be strong and cheerful and cast out those monstrous thoughts. Whenever the devil harasses you thus, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, aye, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try to conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you, “Do not drink,” answer him: “I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.” One must always do what Satan forbids. What other cause do you think that I have for drinking so much strong drink, talking so freely and making merry so often, except that I wish to mock and harass the devil who is wont to mock and harass me. Would that I could contrive some great sin to spite the devil, that he might understand that I would not even then acknowledge it and that I was conscious of no sin whatever. We must put the whole law entirely out of our eyes and hearts, — we, I say, whom the devil thus assails and torments. Whenever the devil charges us with our sins and pronounces us guilty of death and hell, we ought to say to him: I admit that I deserve death and hell; what, then, will happen to me? Why, you will be eternally damned! By no means; for I know One who has suffered and made satisfaction for me. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where He abides, there will I also abide.”

Despite the pietistic protestations of Christian teachers such as John MacArthur, who recently wrote a prohibitionist diatribe against his young, restless, and reformed brethren called, “Beer, Bohemianism, and True Christian Liberty,” Luther had no such scruples about whether such enjoyments as drinking alcohol offend God. Nonsense! He saw tee-totalism as the devil’s work! What else could it be, since it involves despising what God calls good, what he has given to gladden the human heart (Psalm104:15)?

One of my favorite passages from the First Testament, which I imagine has rarely been preached in most Baptist or old-time Methodist churches, is Deuteronomy 14:22-26

Set apart a tithe of all the yield of your seed that is brought in yearly from the field. In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. But if, when the Lord your God has blessed you, the distance is so great that you are unable to transport it, because the place where the Lord your God will choose to set his name is too far away from you, then you may turn it into money. With the money secure in hand, go to the place that the Lord your God will choose; spend the money for whatever you wish—oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together.

So here, we have God commanding his people to spend their tithe money on anything they want in order to throw a great feast for themselves and their households! Including wine and strong drink, if they so desire.

[If you tend to be overly scrupulous before God and strict with yourself out of fear of offending him, commit that text to memory and recite it to yourself over and over and over again.]

Once we truly grasp God’s grace toward us in Christ, we will not live timidly or refuse to relish our Creator’s good gifts. For heaven’s sake, life is hard enough, sad enough, stressful enough. The world, the flesh, and the devil exert their pressures on our spirits every day. The remedies that bring us relief are not always “spiritual.” How could that possibly be? Our Savior, who had a reputation among the righteous as a glutton and winebibber, a friend of “sinners” who loved to party and enjoy gaiety and laughter around the table, won’t stand for it.

So, my brothers and sisters — play, and sing, and dance, and laugh, and raise a glass.

Tell the devil to go to dreary hell.


  1. That’s why God gave us alcohol:

    Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. (Proverbs 31:6-7)

    7Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. 8Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head. 9Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun. (Ecclesiasted 9:7-9)

  2. If only I could follow that advice to the letter — alas, half a wine cooler would put me under the table and snoring. Nonetheless, I toast God’s glorious freedom with a dark, full-bodied root beer and say, let the feast begin!

    • What surprized me the most about this quote is that it was written in the summer. Having lived several years very near Luther’s home turf, I can say that summers are beautiful beyond words.

      A German WINTER, though? Sunrise at nine, dark by three-thirty, cold rains, a damp that won’t go away…..trust me, a winter like that BEGS for a few rounds in a nice warm Gasthof with friends and singing!!

  3. I spent a year in KC, MO with a bunch of christians who were pushing the idea that God not only loved us, but LIKED us. That is quite a distinction if you think of God’s love as the charity that it is, but I must admit that a good beer does seem to point to the fact that He might very well like us.

    • Where’s the LIKE button? Good bit of theology here.

    • There’s a bumper sticker that says, “Beer is proof God loves us” Knowing how fundagelicals do their marketing campaigns in response to so many efforts, I wonder if the fundy equivalent would be something like, “Abstaining is proof of how serious you are”… Or something like that…

      • The bumper sticker I saw is said “Beer is proof God wants us to be happy”

        • The Ben Franklin quote those two are based on is “Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”

      • Split the difference, Eagle, and go with the old song: “In Heaven, there is no beer; that’s why we drink it here”


        • I’ve always wondered how to reconcile that with the song that goes, “The promised land will be a place where a man can find free cigarettes and beer.”

  4. I read the John MacArthur piece. Am I off when I say he always seems to come across angry? He says that in biblical times the wine was so diluted no one could ever get drunk. How is that argument supported? Doesn’t the Miracle at Cana suggest the opposite since everyone said that the wine Jesus made was the best and they commented that you never saved the best for last implying that it would be crazy to waste the good stuff on people already tipsy? I could be wrong so any comments would be appreciated.
    I will say that MacArthur is correct that a person controlled by alcohol is not exibiting self control which is a fruit of the spirit and many people have had to face the realities of that powerful addiction but, I am not sure how he came to the conclusion that he did. Of course there is also redemption and forgiveness for this abuse as well (which I didn’t seem to find in his article) On a side note: I’ve noticed that he has written several articles criticizing the YRR. What else disturbs him other than the fact that Presbyterians drink beer?

    • Good point, Robin. And what about at Pentecost, when the crowd assumed that the Christians were drunk? How would they have known what drunkenness was if everyone only drank grape juice? (Grape juice stored for a year, in loosely sealed jugs, in a hot climate — right, that’ll never ferment!)

      • That’s obviously what happened to Noah, Damaris: the grape juice had gone off after all that time in the Ark 🙂

        • was a probably a most stellar vintage though. but none better than the wine Jesus made from water at the feast of Cana. now that must of been the best of the best! yeah, Jesus is the best enologist ever! and i want to be just like Him… 😉

    • Maybe MacArthur was a little sloshed when he said that … 😉

    • MacArthur actually has some good points when he cautions us not to misuse our liberty. But there is also the very point he misses — the freedom we have in Christ. As one blogger wrote, MacArthur seems to think the sole purpose of the Christian life is to protect oneself against the world. Seems to me Paul goes the opposite direction and encourages us to make true use of the world as God intended.

    • Dan Crawford says

      I stopped paying any attention to John MacArthur twenty years ago when I discovered his Greek exegesis was more than slightly faulty and his doctrine even more so. One is better off paying attention to Luther.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      I haven’t read the MacArthur piece, but I have seen the argument made that sometimes where the Bible speaks of wine it really means wine, while in other places it really means grape juice. The words used are the same, but the people making the argument claim to be able to distinguish between the two usages. Mirabile dictu, the resulting reading matches perfectly with said persons’ prejudices.

      Often these people also piously claim to read the Bible following the plain, literal meaning. My response–perhaps unkind–is to laugh in their faces.

    • Robin, to answer your question, “He says that in biblical times the wine was so diluted no one could ever get drunk. How is that argument supported? ” I can tell you what I have read in several history books about the days of Rome. Wine was produced on a large scale on slave-driven plantations and shipped to the cities. It was mixed about 4 parts water to 1 part wine before it left the vineyard to go to market. The motive was not to inhibit drunkenness, but to extend the product and provide a flavored beverage year round. I actually tried this mix, and it is very palatable.

      To say that no one could get drunk off of this wine is not correct. People could, and did, get drunk off of such wine – they just had to drink more of it.

      I like Luther, and I like the post. A nice merlot for me, please! But a word of caution for the present day. Right or wrong, many Christians – myself included – were raised with abstinence teachings. I have seen believers who have suddenly been handed the liberty to drink, and they simply do not know what to do with it! In our enthusiasm for freedom (and I am for freedom!) some brothers are being hurt. The tension is there in the Scripture, and we must keep that tension in front of the people: wine is God’s good gift to man, but abusing that gift is a disaster.

      • Always good warning. One should look out for the weaker brother and do nothing to add to his temptation.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        “Right or wrong, many Christians – myself included – were raised with abstinence teachings. I have seen believers who have suddenly been handed the liberty to drink, and they simply do not know what to do with it!”

        The secular version of this is the teenaged kid who is never permitted alcohol at home, that being a mysterious privilege of adulthood. He then goes off to college and spends the first semester alternating between binge drinking and vomiting. The solution to this problem is not cracking down on alcohol. It is an early introduction to a more mature attitude to alcohol.

      • I’ve really enjoyed you input the last few weeks. Thanks for another thoughtful comment.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      He says that in biblical times the wine was so diluted no one could ever get drunk. How is that argument supported?

      Sounds like one step away from “Jesus drank Welch’s”.

      And so the Battle of the Booze rages on — Wets vs Drys — while pastors’ widows eat out of dumpsters.

      • wasn’t that David Wilkerson’s insistence in his book Sipping Saints? his entire argument so goofy in his attempt to demonize alcohol it was the one thing that convinced me to ignore him also…

        those minor issues blown-up to grand theological posturings the one thing Fundegelicals (lovin’ that label!) are best known for…

        Lord, have mercy… 🙁

        • I would say that Wilkerson’s criticisms probably came at least in part out of his work in the inner city. He saw so much ravage (from both alcohol and drug abuse) that to him it only made sense to stay away from the stuff altogether.

          Not saying I agree with him, and I did not read that particular book, but I would imagine that’s at least some of what motivated him.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I would say that Wilkerson’s criticisms probably came at least in part out of his work in the inner city. He saw so much ravage (from both alcohol and drug abuse) that to him it only made sense to stay away from the stuff altogether.

            Which echoes the roots of the 19th Century “Temperance” (i.e. Dry) Movement during the buildup to Prohibition, as per the recent Internet Monk posting “When Christians Won the Culture War”.

            And the Original Internet Monk postings and essays about “SBC and the Battle of the Booze”. Including the phenomenon of “The Secret Sip”. (AKA “Hide the Beer, the Pastor’s Here!”)

    • I think Mac (as I will call him…) demonstrates what many fundys do. Whether it be alcohol, sex, enjoying life, etc.. many practice their faith by emphasizing rules while in their minds they are pissed that they can’t have that drink, or go to a bar, have sex, etc.. Their envy of the world is what drives their faith. They are angry that people are having a drink and having fun. In their mindset no one is supposed to have fun. Funagelicalism is about being miserable. This is part of the reason why I think Christianity is fraudulent. What is the point of having a faith and preaching about sin when you are in a quiet, desperation of wanting to do that sin, but you can’t!!!

      Its not just limited to John MacArthur. Maybe this is why Mark Driscoll in his “Song of Songs” sermon talked about why b*** j**s are Biblical.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Whether it be alcohol, sex, enjoying life, etc.. many practice their faith by emphasizing rules while in their minds they are pissed that they can’t have that drink, or go to a bar, have sex, etc.. Their envy of the world is what drives their faith.

        Which fuels a Culture War dynamic of “I Want It, I Can’t Have It, So I’ll Make Sure NOBODY CAN!”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Its not just limited to John MacArthur. Maybe this is why Mark Driscoll in his “Song of Songs” sermon talked about why blow jobs are Biblical.

        I have this sneaking suspicion that Driscoll’s career is going to end in a BIG sex scandal sometime. The guy’s already into hypermasculinity, and Getting Laid is right up there with I Can Beat You Up in the hypermasculine playbook. I suspect the guy’s obsessed with sex and is self-medicating through his preaching; you see that dynamic a lot in fringe psychologist/psychiatrist types, and Driscoll has painted himself into a corner with his Hypermasculine Holiness — he doesn’t dare admit any weakness, as that would be Unmanly. If he’s following this pattern, he’s going to crash hard.

        • For his sake, and his family’s and his church’s, I certainly hope not. If he finds himself heading down that road, I hope he would step aside from his responsibilities and deal with it, or his fellow pastors would have the courage to put the brakes on him before a situation blows up in his face.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            The guy’s also a CELEBRITY Megachurch Pastor with his own denomination in all but name and a rep as an autocratic control freak.

            You do the math.

      • “Maybe this is why Mark Driscoll in his “Song of Songs” sermon talked about why b*** j**s are Biblical.”

        Somebody pass the brain bleach, please!


    • “[John MacArthur] says that in biblical times the wine was so diluted no one could ever get drunk.”

      I had a New Testament professor who insisted that the wine in bible times was “non-distilled wine.” He said, “Archaeologists haven’t found any stills in ancient Israel.”

      Well, yeah. But non-distilled wine still comes out at 12% or so. He was a teetotaler, having made a pledge as a boy to his grandmother, and I assume he wasn’t aware of this.

      The account of the Cana wedding makes perfectly clear that the wine was alcoholic, as in the good stuff served first (usually) and when people have drunk freely (feelin’ happy) then the cheap stuff.

      Jesus served the good stuff.

      • And apparently he served good stuff to some already-tipsy guests…

      • Apparently this fellow was entirely unaware of how alcohol is produced. Or what ‘wine’ is. All alcohol is made simply by fermentation; distillation only strengthens it. If you distill wine, you get brandy or eau de vie.
        Long before the invention of distillation,, the Romans already used a process of chapitalization (sp?) on their wines to make them stronger. Or they would add honey. You could make a wine of up to 12-15% this way. It was often diluted with water, but was still as intoxicating as beer is now – running the gamut, probably, from lite beer to strong craft beers in strength.

        Distillation was invented by the Arabs during the middle ages, and was only upscaled to reasonable levels during the renaissance/industrial revolution era. It was this, along with the often disrupted state of persons and families during the industrial revolution and urbanization of Europe, that led to many real problems with alcohol during this period. The streets of London were awash in gin.

        Here in America, we had a similar problem with rum. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he wished to revive America’s interest in beer, as it was much less damaging, and designed a brewery for his household to champion this idea.

        It didn’t fully work. German immigrants were much looked down upon at this time, and it was they who were most interested in beer and brewing. Just when things were turning around, we had the world wars and the Germans were demonized once again. It was perhaps the final straw; prohibition yawned beneath the brewer’s vats and distiller’s coils, and swallowed them whole.

        Totally off topic, but I think a bird’s eye view on this issue is helpful when discussing biblical ‘wine’ and ‘strong drink’ (probably beer), and the prohibition.

  5. Glenn A Bolas says

    I completely understand the admonition to enjoy the good things God gives us. I often indulge in a large glass of wine with dinner. Few things can compare with a hearty meal, a drop of red, good company and stimulating conversation. Simple joys.

    This Luther excerpt, though, gave me quite the whiskey tango foxtrot moment. “…even sin a little to spite the devil” “Would that I could contrive some great sin to spite the devil…” I’m sorry, what?!

    I’m completely behind the overall message of this post (and that Deuteronomy passage is a keeper, by the way), but Luther seems to cross a line here.

    • Hear what he is saying. If the devil gets us so wrapped up in scrupulosity, so that we are afraid of committing the least sin and thus offending God and coming under his judgment, he has stolen our liberty and taken our eyes off Christ who has set us free to enjoy all God’s blessings. He would rather see us commit a little sin now and then and then remember that Christ paid for that sin than have the devil keep us under the bondage of self-centered pietism.

      • Glenn A Bolas says

        Well, if that’s what he’s saying, that’s something I can get behind. For people in a certain frame of mind, that’s a message they need to hear and hear often. And Luther knew of what he spoke. If memory serves. there was a point in his monkish career when he was going to confession every single day!

        In fact, it reminds me a little of a sermon I once heard from another monk, a Carmelite, who urged those gathered to ‘sin well’ and then went on to explain what he meant by this- that when we sin, we should resist the temptation to give in to guilt and self-loathing and instead turn immediately to Christ and rest totally on His mercy. That does sound similar to what Luther is saying.

        Still, this talk of contriving great sins to spite the devil bothers me. It makes me think of a man saying, ‘What, you don’t believe that my wife loves me unconditionally? Ok then, I’ll have an affair with my secretary and you watch how she takes me back afterwards. That’ll teach you to question my wife’s love for me!’ Sure, I get that it’s hyperbole, and I can understand that some people might need that to shock them out of their sin management mentality, but to others (including myself more often than I’d like) that kind of talk sounds like an invitation, and not a helpful one.

        • Luther also wrote, in a letter to Melachton from Wartburg, “God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong…” Luther was certainly not recommending a life of crime and debauchery to his unimpeachable collaborator, but reminding him not to think too highly of his “track record”. Same thing here I think.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        If the devil gets us so wrapped up in scrupulosity, so that we are afraid of committing the least sin and thus offending God and coming under his judgment…

        Excessive Scrupulosity.
        A form of OCD i became very familiar with.
        A form of OCD you find on steroids in a lot of Christian Fellowships (TM) — and not just the Holiness kind.

        Because if you never attempt anything, you can’t get punished for screwing it up.

      • CM…because this is where behavior modification becomes controlling. People becomes obsessed with staying away from sin that when they fail. They believe they have failed entirely. People can lose hope and despair when faith is about staying away from sin and worrying about engaging in sin. This is the danger in fundy accountability programs, etc..

      • “…the bondage of self-centered pietism”

        Chaplain Mike, is this how you would answer someone in my church who often mentions the need for “obedience”? I may need something to say to him (gently, and in the Lord) in Sunday School class sometime.

        I mean, how much obedience is enough, anyway? If it isn’t 100% is it still obedience? Or is it a failure that can lead to depression or debauchery? (bouncing off of Eagle, above at 12:06)

        • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

          This past Sunday, one of our priests said that the default position of any religion is moralism and an attempt to reach God by our performance/obedience, but that it’s the job of priests/pastors/ministers to chase that away by always preaching/teaching/promoting the Gospel to the flock. Now there’s a statement that’s deserving of an Amen if I ever heard one!

          The thing about the relationship between grace and obedience is that it’s all dependent on your starting point. As Dr. Steve Brown often says, if you start from a place of grace, you’ll eventually find yourself becoming obedient in spite of yourself. If you start from a place of obedience, you’ll eventually just slip into the darkness (i.e. having a failure that can lead to depression or debauchery).

  6. I remember the first time I read that passage in Deuteronomy thinking that I never heard that one in church. I remember reading the bits about taking the sacrifice to the temple and the family feasting together. Eat, drink, and be merry because God lives!

  7. I just don’t think getting plastered is the right answer to sadness. Drunkenness doesn’t equal merriment anymore than caffeine equals energy. The answer to sadness and stress is sober courage, the in-spite-of hope in the absence of all hope. As Camus wrote, “There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn”. The difference for the Christian is that we find the ground of this hope and audacity in the cross and empty tomb.

    • Basically what G.K. Chesterton said about the difference between good and bad drinking: drinking because you’re sad is a bad thing, leading to dependency and alcoholism. But drinking because you’re happy and have your friends around is a good thing, increasing your merriment. So alcohol is not there to make us happy or drive away sadness; it’s there as an accompaniment to happiness.

      • I disagree that drinking while you are sad is a bad thing, based on the first part of Proverbs 31 and from personal experience.
        In the year after my son died, I drank a lot of whiskey. It helped ease the pain and forget my misery for a little while, anyway.
        Grief is so intense and unrelenting, it was nice to have a break every now and then. I am grateful for the gift of alcohol.

        I was aware of the possibility of addiction, and it did not spiral out of control, probably because so many people were praying for my comfort.

        • amen…

          i would not promote my own experience at an AA meeting, but heck, wine & fine bourbon on a very regular basis preserved my sanity the last 5-6 years of a very, very, convoluted marriage situation…

          i did get a full medical checkup after the decision to challenge the marriage situation. included weekly counseling too. my doctor gave me a clean bill of health & i did the required times before tests (1-month) of not drinking anything just to set the benchmark liver enzyme levels to compare with when i did drink again. although my doctor did not approve of any alcohol consumption, i told him it was going to be a lifestyle of mine to include regular wine drinking & the occasional Perfect Manhattan with some fine top-shelf bourbon…

          after the divorce & move to another city & continued unemployment i do continue to enjoy wine & the company of like-minded friends. when God invented wine He simply decided to concentrate a bit of heaven in every vintage! saude!

          ~in vino veritas~ 😉

      • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

        I tend to follow Chesterton on this in my own life. Long, long, ago, I determined to only be a happy drunk and never a sad one. That’s not to say that at the end of a very stressful day (esp. Deacons’ meetings) a couple of beers to take the edge off isn’t sometimes called for. I also never drink alone (well, not more than a single beer).

    • I think your right if one is looking at drinking alone in order to escape one’s troubles. That situation is hardly an answer to any problem.

      Nonetheless, there was clearly a positive, celebratory, and social context that had been assumed, endorsed, and commanded in the Scriptures for God’s people. Presumably drinking helped to solidify community and family relations especially as it took place around festive and religious gatherings. That sort of drinking, it seems, was considered to be part of experiencing divine blessing.

    • I would be caution against encouraging teatoddling evangelicals to toss back a few. That culture is so steeped in emotions, that something is spiritually wrong when they are not happy. An abuse of grace is the notion that it is meant to make me feel good about myself. On the contrary! Grace gives one the courage to stare into the face in the mirror and not only accept it but lay claim to it. Grace says no more masks! Grace can confess. Grace can seek forgiveness. Grace can seek restoration and repentence. I constantly catch myself trying to hide who I am; the results are disasterous. As David sang, ” ‘…my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” – Psalm 32:4-5. Only grace can do that.

  8. That Other Jean says

    Benjamin Franklin got it right about wine, as he did about so much else:

    “Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”

  9. And should this principle be applied to fornication as well?

    • Let’s see…..drinking alchol is not an intrinsic sin, but drunkeness is.

      Having sex is not a sin, but having sin with a person not your spouse is.

      So…….yes, sex is a great picker-upper (within marriage) but imbibing in the spirit and flesh of another person not sealed permanently to you…..not ok.

      • 2nd line”….having SEX with a person not your spouse is.”

        PLEASE can we get an edit button, a preview function, or both…pretty please with sugar on top??? 😉

        • …and a “like” button would be cool as well.

          • Okay, then, how about drugs? Since drugs are not specifically proscribed by the Bible, and seem to have positive uses, wouldn’t the Luther principle support a little smoking of the demon weed?

          • smoking tobacco (legal) vs. smoking pot (illegal). hmmm…

            one is on the books as being an illegal drug. a Christian must work that out with their own conscience regarding any partaking…

            however, knowing the damage of tobacco smoking does have its own stigma now, and no, i would not judge either saint on their choice of smoke…

            however, i will not hitch a ride to church with you on Sunday if i know you have done any early morning toking of the Ganja or imbibing Bloody Mary’s either…

            some things must be dealt with on a more individual basis rather than a sweeping anathema of universal proportion…

    • No, not to fornication, but to the many times in Scripture one is encouraged to take delight in one’s spouse.

      • Is this turning into a seven-day bender challenge? Coming to a mega-church near you!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Come to think of it, we ARE coming to the anniversary of Grinning Ed Young’s infamous Seven Day Sex Challenge.

          It’s next Sunday — the Feast of Christ the King, which ends the Western Rite Liturgical Year.

          I can’t get over that coincidence.

  10. Ken Burn’s ‘Prohibition’ was excellent! Showed the dangers of Single-issue politics & Christian-Right Moralist politics

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And shows how “Be careful what you wish for; you might get it all” can apply to The Culture War Cause du Jour.

  11. AMEN Brother! Good post!

  12. I’d raise a glass if it tasted better than it does. All of it tastes like cough medicine to me- or worse! But I will raise a glass of Southern Wine: sweet tea! Cheers, Mike.

  13. “The remedies that bring us relief are not always “spiritual.” ”



  14. Luther also recommended Philip of Hesse to dump his first wife and take one of her ladies in waiting if that made him happy.

    • That’s a complete misrepresentation. Luther made a mistake there, to be sure, but your description is very wrong. I would only point out that the popes and other church leaders at the time all made terrible compromises in dealing with wicked princes.

      • and to mention many a pope had their own mistresses & lavish lifestyle excesses as well. in fact, it was probably part of the unwritten job description back then…

      • Richard Hershberger says

        And, to complete the thought, it is perfectly respectable in Lutheran circles to look at some specific aspect of Luther’s work and observe that he really screwed that one up! I have often observed in disagreements with non-Lutherans that they will sometimes quote Luther at me, apparently thinking that this is a great zinger. Dude! Luther wasn’t speaking ex cathedra!

      • The admonition was that the Margrave of Hesse was already openly cavorting with a woman not his wife and thereby committing adultery. Luther’s advice was a “lesser of two evils” suggestion – quietly divorce his wife which would afford her legal protections, etc. and marry the woman he was committing adultery with. Thus, he would make one an honest woman, another would be protected, and the Margrave would stop committing gross adultery (though still doing so per Jesus) and the social order would be upheld. Not ideal, but dealing with sinners rarely is.

    • AnneG

      Lutherans are not slavish followers of Luther, and we do not subscribe to every word that he spoke or wrote. He was a very brilliant and gifted man, with a mighty grasp of God’s word, however he was human and tragically flawed at times. His sins and shortcomings do not negate what he did for the church and many of the insights he gave to us.

  15. As the daughter of an alcoholic father, the sister of an alcoholic, the mother of two sons who have struggled with alcoholism, I fail to share your enthusiasm for ‘raise(ing) a glass.’ Brennan Manning is in the last throes of consequences from too many instances of ‘raise(ing) a glass.” (What a loss for all of us.) There may be many of you whose lives have been enriched by alcohol, I cannot say the same. I would never tell anyone that it is sinful to imbibe in what our LORD has declared good, but for me, it would be sin. (Romans 14:23)

    • I am in a similar position, Pam, and I think this is where Paul’s admontion in Romans kicks in, to give up our own freedoms in order to keep from leading others into sin. What Chaplain Mike is pointing out so well, though, is that we do have freedoms, that the world God has given us has goodness and blessing in it and we are free to enjoy those blessings or to refrain from them, according to our discretion and love for others. We aren’t free to be Grinches.

    • Understood. And what we’re saying here in no way condones flaunting this in such a way that it hurts those with those struggles and that pain. It’s not really just about alcohol, it’s about celebrating God’s gifts and overcoming gloomy “religion” that leaves us worse than no religion at all.

    • Pam….

      I can see where you are coming from. And I can empathize…but I think there can be a danger in so many ways. This is like asking should people go to buffets with relatives or friends or go out to eat if they have dealt with gluttony or seen it in their family? Same is true for smoking a pipe, etc.. I’m sure someone who watched someone die for esophageal and throat cancer is probably very concerned about smoking a pipe. But is a casual smoke now and then going to do it?

  16. I’m amazed at MacArthur. I grew up in baptist churches where someone like MacArthur was consisdered even too liberal (too educated) etc. So I didn’t have much exposure to him till later in life. But he just doesn’t get it. Why do he and others (baptist mostly) shoot themselves in the foot with this alchohol issue?

    For example. If you want to read a bout a mess google Shorter University Lifestyle statement. Shorter is a GA baptist affiliated college in my town. I’m a class of 99 grad. The board of trustees has been growing more and more conservative, but they have made some real blunders lately. They want the faculty to sign on to a lifestyle pledge (something they have a right to do in my mind as a private college) that is pretty standard (albeit fundementalist stuff) . Of course there is (again in my opinion reasonabley so) a statement that faculty must agree that sex in marriage is the only right expression of sexual desire and that adultery, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality are not compatible with scriptures. But while tackling this issue, on the same statement they throw in that faculty and staff will not drink in public. So not only are they being stupid by equating drinking issues with other issues, they are saying you can drink just don’t do it in public. Even when I didn’t drink I knew it was not something that was sinful and instead abstained out of stigma and pressure.

    Now of course, homosexuality being the issue it is, there have been more editorials in the local paper than you can shake as tick at, bomb threats, street protests, and the liberal TEC church has even weighed in. Odd considering you would think they would have enough to worry about in their own house, seeing as they just hosted the Diocese of Atlanta synod where there was a resolution ( if failed amazingly) to try to rehabilitate Pelagius.

    Now, I still have many baptist friends and oddly enough instead of seeing that the trustees made some mistakes by mixing all these issues together, and admittedly, (in my opinion again) should have given folks time to find work eslewhere before forcing them to sign something- Why not say “this is where we want to be in three years if you can’t support it then you will want to seek employment elsewhere” the baptist friends I have are upset that the trustees are even letting the faculty and staff drink in private. I kid you not. Some are even thinking of having their churches withdraw support.

    What has been Shorter’s response? I was told that the recent presidential innaguaration was complete with an hour long emotional sermon about how they “shorter” are the persecuted few.

    It’s really crazy. The School has gotten itself on a black list of sorts b/c the president cancelled a recent theater production b/c it involved alchohol. So odd. I’m glad that is behind me, and I have discovered that you have never really enjoyed chicken wings until you have them with beer.

    • Glenn A Bolas says

      Rehabilitate Pelagius?! But……why?

      • Glenn,

        I’ve stopped trying to figure out why TEC does some of what it does. You would have to ask them. But the news made a stir on several blogs.

      • Glenn, as far as I can figure out, the whole notion behind the “let’s re-evaluate Pelagius’ place in our tradition and his contributions to theology” was posited on the point of the inherent goodness of Creation and um, some other stuff I don’t quite get (except that please remember, calling anyone or anything a “heretic” or “heresy” is so Mediaeval and the Anglican/Episcopalian Church prides itself on its broad range of theological views acceptable):


        Contributions of Pelagius

        Whereas the historical record of Pelagius’s contribution to our theological tradition is shrouded in the political ambition of his theological antagonists who sought to discredit what they felt was a threat to the empire, and their ecclesiastical dominance, and whereas an understanding of his life and writings might bring more to bear on his good standing in our tradition, and whereas his restitution as a viable theological voice within our tradition might encourage a deeper understanding of sin, grace, free will, and the goodness of God’s creation, and whereas in as much as the history of Pelagius represents to some the struggle for theological exploration that is our birthright as Anglicans, Be it resolved, that this 105th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta appoint a committee of discernment overseen by our Bishop, to consider these matters as a means to honor the contributions of Pelagius and reclaim his voice in our tradition And be it further resolved that this committee will report their conclusions at the next Annual Council.”

        The propossal was modified when it was put to the vote, but it was rejected anyway:

        “R11-7 Rejected with amendment

        Committee of Discernment Concerning Pelagius

        Resolved, that this 105th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta recommend that the Bishop appoint and oversee a committee of discernment to consider these matters as a means to understand the contributions of Pelagius to our tradition; and be it further
        Resolved, that this committee will report their conclusions at the next Annual Council.”

        The proposal was only submitted by one clergyman, so it’s not as if the entire Episcopalian Diocese of Atlanta is quite this loopy.

        • Pelagius’ family must be very disappointed.

        • I’m no fan of Pelagius; however, Paul Tillich in his “History of Christian Thought said that Pelagius “…made the doctrine of Augustine educationally possible…you cannot have such a doctrine if you at the same time are an institution of education; and the only institution of education for a thousand years was the Christian Church. In such a situation you must appeal to the free will of those who are educated, and such an extreme doctrine cannot be presented in a direct way to most people.” Augustinianism does seem to drift toward the extremes of theoretical. Faith needs a practical element, but that is difficult to say in this current age of raging pragmatism.

    • MacArthur is enamored with his own opinions and can’t distinguish them from the pure word of God. Typical of the inerrancy crowd: They are more concerned with protecting their social/political views than any words of God that don’t support them.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I grew up in baptist churches where someone like MacArthur was consisdered even too liberal (too educated) etc.

      As in where the highest complement you could pay to a preacher was “He has NO Book Larnin, and He Is LOUD!”?

    • When I was applying to seminaries, Biola had a requirement that its seminary students not drink any alcohol in public or private.

  17. I hear what Luther is saying and it is very attractive. But we also remember St. Paul’s words:

    “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”… “what shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” (end of Romans 5, beginning of Romans 6)

    Is drinking an alcoholic or fermented beverage a sin according to the Bible? No. Is drunkenness? Yes.

    I think I’ll go with St. Paul on this one, who also had a few things to say about stumbling blocks.

  18. I think many miss the key here which is Christ and the freedom he provides for us! All ppl struggle with addictions and have problems of all kinds believers or not. I think most of the time definitly not all the time un-believers tend to struggle with alcoholism more. Now not to sound self-righteous and say we are too good to sin or whatever because that would be ridiculous and I sin everyday but I think our motivations as Christians is and should be different for everything we do or do not do. Christ has freed us to truely live! And drinking to appreciate and celebrate life together and what we have been blessed with honors God If your conscious allows it of course for many who may have struggled with alcoholism before Christ freed them from it going back to it may be a bad idea. But for the believer who doesnt struggle with it enjoy it! My hope is in our Savior and I trust he is sufficient my struggle with sin what ever it may be is reall of no concern anymore anyway!

    • i am always ‘conscious’ when drinking fine wine & good bourbon. my ‘conscience’ of course is unrestrained at such partaking… 😉

      Evan: simply some ‘liberty’ teasing you about the spelling. i enjoy the way it does actually fit into the conversation & consideration of enjoying alcoholic beverages in moderation, which each person’s conscience must determine…

      i used to be able to drink a lot & not get drunk. built up quite the tolerance. now i am not even close to that previous tolerance level. yet i can still metabolize wine well. might be my Portuguese genes (not ‘jeans’)…

      i do have dear friends that do not imbibe. they are victims of alcoholic parents+households that left them with only terrible experiences with all things associated with drinking. but i make no excuses for my liberty & if they were to come over to my house i have non-alcoholic beverages to offer them. it does not offend me to recognize their reasons for avoiding alcohol & they will not be permited to judge me or get onto their soapbox about it either. if they do, they will be ‘cut-off” early; i will simply take their unfinished soda out of their hands & politely show them the door… 🙂

  19. I find it rather terrible how fearful of pleasure many christians’ theology is. It is as if God cannot compete with even the smallest joys. It makes me think heaven will have Jesus watching the door to make sure people don’t leave out of sheer boredom.

    Even when people concede to the fact that drinking is not condemned in scripture they seem to act as if anything more than a sip is sin. Strong drink and Jesus making water into better wine seems rather pointless unless it is perfectly healthy and moral to get a buzz going.

    Just because a very small percentage of people seem to have to have 10 beers after they have one (which I believe is phychological and a culturally formed habit) doesn’t mean that they should be used as the case study for everyone’s drinking choices.

    • David Cornwell says

      “Jesus making water into better wine”

      The Methodist interpretation, in days past would be more like: Jesus making wine into better water.

    • Indeed what I learned as a fundagelcial is this…If you like it or enjoy it. It;s sin. Oh and stop it!!! That sums up the fundagelical gospel in a heartbeat.

      • Don’t forget after you stop you beat the ^&%$ out of yourself by feeling guilty constantly all the time. That’s the next step to the fundagelical gospel after you “stopped” your sin>

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        “The hard, drab, grey, joyless path of Salvation.”
        — James Michener, Hawaii (intro/background of his main New England Missionary character)

      • Then you talk about how you are free from that sin (and to even maore harshly judge others who are not) and move on to another sin, which shant be admitted to in public until the aforementioned “freedom” is acheived.

        • Yup you trade a pornograghy addiction for food addiction.

          Or you trade alcoholism for out of control spending habits.

          You are spot on with your assessment….

  20. This post reminded me of something Robert Farrar Capon said:

    “Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world. It is a floating, cosmic bash shouting its way through the streets of the universe, flinging the sweetness of its cassations to every window, pounding at every door in a hilarity beyond all liking and happening, until the prodigals come out at last and dance, and the elder brothers finally take their fingers out of their ears.”

  21. I wonder what MacArthur would think of this.

    I start Nashotah House in January and I’m looking forward to enjoying some conversation and fellowship here:


    You’ll have to copy and paste the link.

    • no link is active, good

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

      Congrats, Austin! Nashotah is good people 🙂

      • very much looking forward to it, too bad moving up there wholesale is not an option now with my current committments and such, but I’ll be doing the MA in Ministry which requires me to spend 8 weeks up there spread out over time, it will be good

  22. In personality, I’m similar to Luther – way too introspective, way too hard on myself for the smallest mistakes, prone to being too much alone and getting depressed. So although his particular solution doesn’t work for me – alcohol tends to put me to sleep or at least make me indrawn and lethargic – I totally agree with the spirit of what he is saying. There’s a certain holy boldness and freedom that comes, not from intending to sin, but from being utterly convinced that when I _do_ sin, I still remain utterly enfolded in God’s love. And somehow that also gives me the freedom, when faced with temptation, to say to myself, “I could do that, and God wouldn’t love me any less. But still, I think I won’t.”

    The Christian life can be really _hard_ and frightening. In the past year, in particular, I’ve taken some huge risks in trying to follow Jesus, risks that have left me feeling very vulnerable and overwhelmed and worn out – and more susceptible to temptation than I would be if I were just spending all my time on “self-care.” And yet, in the midst of it all I feel, more tangibly than ever, the hands of God holding me up and catching me when I fall. I’m convinced that that’s how God’s kingdom is advanced – when we head out in the world fully aware that we’ll fall flat on our faces nine times out of ten, but still intending to live recklessly for Jesus. To me that’s much more exciting and rewarding than a life of “sin management.”

  23. Richard Hershberger says

    My half-German, half-American congregation has a raging disagreement about alcohol. When we have a keg at some function in the social hall, the Germans are appalled by how the English (i.e. native English speakers) carefully pour the beer down the side of the glass, so as to avoid a foamy head. Apparently there is a saying that the head on a glass of beer is like the crust on a loaf of bread.

    • “Apparently there is a saying that the head on a glass of beer is like the crust on a loaf of bread.” Which die Englischers cut off to make their cucumber sandwiches . . .

      Bavarians have house-to-house beer delivery, just as we used to have milk delivery.

  24. David Cornwell says

    Finding true enjoyment in God’s creation, the fruit of the earth, and life itself doesn’t always come easy to one who for much of his young life was in a rather pietistic strain of Methodism. When I went to college and attended the local Methodist Church, which was always full of students there for worship, one of the first things I remember was a service which centered on total abstinence. At the end of the service, cards were given out on which one was expected to pledge to a life of never touching strong drink.

    Thus some of my appreciation for the church I attend now. About a block from the church is a little establishment known as Henry’s. This is a gathering place downtown which has been in business for many years. It is across the street from the offices of the local newspaper. Employees of the paper, local business people, entertainers, artistic types, and even gay people (!) gather there for relaxation, celebration, and decent food (when they have a decent chef) in the evenings or weekends. It’s also the place where our church members can be found, after some meeting or practice, enjoying some brew or something stronger.

    How does this fit in with my former theology? It doesn’t, thank God.

    I’ve recently been gradually reading “Kingdom, Grace, Judgement: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus” by Robert Farrar Capon. As usual Capon is a person who has stretched my imagination and somewhat revamped my journey of faith. If you struggle with legalistic piety, Capon is always a good read.

  25. MacArthur probably drinks bad coffee, too, for fear of cheerfulness.

    • Like.

    • I think MacArthur isn’t allowed coffee at all. He and Piper enjoy being clogged internally, as best I can tell.

      • i think they would also avoid Geritol too! i’m not sure if it is offered in its original alcoholic formulation though…

        seems it would do both of them some good… 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        No alcohol, no coffee — sounds like Joseph Smith’s Word of Wisdom

        • here’s your non-caffeinated drink served with linen gloves Mormon guys at my door… 🙂

          and yes, i will talk to you about my own understanding of this Jesus i know & how He has impacted my life, my worldview, my motivation to be a blessing to others…

          i have had some of my better theological discussions with those Mormon missionaries a few times. and i have also prayer with Elder so-and-so after they have been invited into my air-conditioned house on a very hot Central Valley summer day…

          my own boys thought that i was the crazy one, but it sure made a big impression on them! 😉

  26. Great stuff!!

  27. Growing up in a strict religeon, I remember playing at a friends home. We were about 10 yrs old, and were laughing and rollicking around. My friends mother came in and said,” you boys must be sinning, you’re having too much fun.”

    • Sounds like my best friend’s family when I was 11-12 years old. I wanted him to go to a movie with me. He disappeared inside his house, and his mother came out and gave me a five-minute lecture on why they didn’t go to the movies and support Hollywood values. Now, she did it in a nice way and without beating my head with a Bible. But that was the first exposure I ever had to that kind of thinking and it floored me.

  28. Thank you for this post!

    I really appreciate your courage in posting something speaking directly to a taboo and polarizing topic. I’ve often wondered about Luther’s “sin boldly” way of thinking, and have been puzzled that it never seems to be discussed in Christian circles.

    Glad I found this blog!

  29. My experience with my earthly father has been that love is conditional on adherence to a rigid, and never questioned, set of rules under the banner of God.

    My experience with my heavenly Father has been that I am loved by Him, with no strings attached.

    Often I wonder about the extent and impact of this contrast, and the damage caused to people both in and out of the church…

  30. Yes, Headless Unicorn, I’ve also discovered things within Judaism that increase my understanding of God that don’t seem to be present in traditional Christianity. There often seems to be a healthier dialogue, free of judgement, and free of fear.

    • Greeny wait…. I saw a lot in the 10 years I was a fundamentalist. There still has to be a way to deal with fundagelical influence- EVEN if you be outside. There is no escaping some of these people…they can be like Mormons on steroids. Heck I’ve been out of it for 3 years and some still contact me. In your case it will probably revolve around the 144,000 saved and the how Jews confess faith in God so they can be raptured. Isn’t that the focus on Jews for Jesus?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        In my occasional encounters with Jews-for-Jesus types, I have found little in them that I associate with Jews, especially the earthiness and sense of humor. Instead, I find they more resemble Calvary Chapel with a Yiddishe coat of paint — “HAVE YOU ACCEPTED YESHUA HA-MOSHIYAH AS YOUR PERSONAL ADONAI AND SAVIOR?!?!?!?!?”

        (At the very least, the “Fill-in-the-Blank for Jesus” nomenclature is badly overused.)

        • that is ‘exactly’ how i would describe my few encounters with Jews-for-Jesus!

          however, the Messianic Christian types with their incorporation of Jewish ‘stuff’ (dress, worship flavors, songs, feast+festival day observance, etc.) the crazier uncle types IMHO…

          yeah. toot the shofar. wave the sword-of-David replica around (or is it Solomon’s?). have the prayer shawl on at all times. speak in tongues & make it sound like Hebrew as much as possible…

          oy vey… 🙁

  31. Okay, all this sounds very cheery, but the average life expectancy of Russian men is 59. I suspect they could add at least 5 years to that if they stop drinking.

    • thank God i am Portuguese then! and no, i do not drink Vodka. how insipid. but then Russian men do not just drink Vodka, then run on it…

      keeps them defrosted too during those severe winter months…

      i suspect my lifespan would be cut short too if i stopped breathing. but then that is another consideration altogether… 😉

      • and then real men will snort Grappa.

        yeah. acetone-for-consumption…

        wow! never an acquired taste, simply something macho to impress friends+strangers with…

        be careful not to spill any on the painted nails of ladies sitting next to you at the bar. it is nail polish remover also… 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Never mind Grappa, what about Soju (Korean Moonshine)?

  32. Okay, you lushes. Input your favorite music (yes, the site is familiar with Christian Contemporary artists, as well as Kongar-ol Ondar), and receive a recommendation about what to imbibe:


  33. Up front, let me say I am totally onboard with the gist of this thread and post. In fact, I’m sipping a little dessert liquor at this very moment. However, before we go overboard singing the praises of alcohol, I think we should remind ourselves that for those mired in alcoholism, their families ruined, fired from their jobs, and facing homelessness, alcohol has turned out to be a source of misery almost beyond imagination. A friend of mine found her husband passed out, soaked in urine not long ago. Fortunately, she found him just before their young children did. Alcohol – a gift from God. But, like most gifts of God in the hands of us sinners, we can destroy our lives with it.