John MacArthur Drops the Booze Bomb
The wailing imams of the dry jihad are shouting “forbidden!” at Christians again. That’s right; the old prohibitionist crusade against enjoying alcohol has boiled to a head yet again, this time with well-known Baptist popularizer John MacArthur stirring the wort.
Or perhaps I should say, spitting in it.
MacArthur seems very distraught that the so-called “young, restless, and Reformed” (YRR) crowd is tired of being trampled in the presses of prohibitionism (and various other types of legalism), and has decided rather openly and regularly to embrace the freedom to enjoy a beer (and even worse, good beer at that!).
Having just published a book on the subject—What Would Jesus Drink?: A Spirit-Filled Study—I take keen interest when an evangelical leader publicly addresses the issue of alcohol. And I get very upset when they treat brethren who imbibe haughtily like second-class Christians, especially based on a long list of fallacies and abuses of Scripture. This is what I find in MacArthur’s post.
Since MacArthur thinks the young, restless, and Reformed crowd so badly represents the Christian faith, let’s see what the Old, Glum, and Stubborn (“Ogs”) crowd has to offer that’s so much better.
In order to nip these YRR hops in the bud, MacArthur first tries the old “guilt-by-association” trick. He placards every non-conventional or even extreme behavior which a member of the YRR crowd may or may not be associated with, and which may make the whole movement look questionable in the eyes of more traditionally conformist Christians (read, MacArthur’s swiftly graying Baptist and mostly fundamentalist audience)—tattoos, tobacco, and, to use his phrase, “lots of explicit talk about sex.”
MacArthur unwittingly makes it clear that he is indeed more interested in fallacy than truth when he bemoans, “Cast a disapproving eye at any of those activities, and you are likely to be swarmed by restless reformers denouncing legalism and wanting to debate whether it’s a ‘sin’ to drink wine or smoke a cigar.” Hold on a minute: is this something to be argued against? Aren’t legalism, sin, and maturing in Christian freedom the issues at the heart of the question after all? But MacArthur sees it necessary to run from such “debate,” and instead use fallacious associations to divert the discussion.
God forbid we discuss “sin.” That might actually lead to people realizing it’s not a “sin” to drink beer after all! “Sin”? Bleh!
Instead, only after loading the unnecessary ideas of drunkenness and debauchery into the image of drinking, does he reintroduce the topic of sin: “no symbol of sin’s bondage is more seductive or more oppressive than booze.” But pay close attention to the bait-and-switch: he refuses to address the scriptural question of mere drinking as “sin”; he will only address the topic after he has hoodwinked his audience by assuming “drinking=drunkenness.” He’s shifting the focus of the debate. It’s like moving the goalposts right when the kicker kicks the ball.
This is the typical teetotaler view: in their little mental world (and believe me, it is little), there is no possibility at all of drinking alcohol with moderation, and certainly not with what Calvin called “moderate liberality.” ((John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, trans. by John King (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1948), 362–3.)) Oh no. There are only two options: abstinence or drunkenness. If you even so much as sip wine, you are at least partially a drunkard, a “boozer,” and you have unleashed the most powerful forces of hell into all of society, your family will come to ruin, this is inevitable, non-negotiable, and the devil from here is unstoppable. Therefore, it is mandatory to abstain.
This is exactly the route MacArthur takes. Thus, he begins his post by speaking of “beer,” but can’t get beyond a few sentences before he switches to the pejorative, “booze”—an old phrase which has specific reference to drunkenness. MacArthur then retains this association the rest of the way through the post. Drinking is no longer considered by itself, but only with associations like “booze,” “controlled substances,” “society’s seamy side,” “ambience of a pool hall,” “casino,” “intoxicants,” “alcoholism,” “drug abuse,” “addiction,” “fleshly desires,” “deadly spiritual dangers,” “damage,” “Bohemianism,” “Sodom,” “flouting taboos,” “fleshly lusts,” “unfettered indulgence,” and “bondage.”
For those of you who have read my book Biblical Logic, you know that such fallacies are not just intellectual mistakes, but moral transgressions. They are, in fact, instances of false witness.
The fact that MacArthur uses this tactic shows he is not interested in a truthful, scriptural view of the subject. He is interested in perpetuating a half-truth. Well, here’s the real deal: there is no Scriptural prohibition on alcohol. But last time I checked, there is a clear prohibition on half-truths (Ex. 20:16).
Needless to say, a Scriptural view of enjoying alcohol need not necessarily be associated with any of the extreme spectacles of society MacArthur presents. MacArthur is simply wrong to say that YRRs are reactionary in defense of “any of these things.” YRRs are generally critical thinkers who make their own decisions based on actually studying Scripture, on each issue separately. MacArthur’s claim here is not even a half truth. It is an all-out misrepresentation.
Unfaithful on Sex
Although, while some of the things MacArthur lists probably should be questioned by the Christian (MMA, and profanity, certainly), not all are necessarily evil. MacArthur tries to pillory the YRRs for their alleged “lots of explicit talk about sex.” But wait a minute! The most explicit talk about sex I ever encountered from a Christian was not from the YRR community, but from a very well-known, widely used book by an Evangelical, Ed Wheat, whose books at one time were sold in MacArthur’s church’s bookstore. See if you consider this “explicit”:
Most couples have found that it is very useful for the wife to insert the penis. She knows exactly where it should go. . . . [S]he may still need light caressing of the clitoris to increase excitement to orgasm. It is estimated that 30 percent of women always need manual stimulation of the clitoris to achieve orgasm. (Ed Wheat, Intended for Pleasure, 87.)
And this is no selective excerpt (it’s probably not even the most explicit example available). The whole book is a constant stream of these gems. There are, particularly, helpful warnings about vigorous sex: “it is not uncommon the next day to notice muscular aches, particularly in the back and thighs.” (Wheat, 89.)
The Wheats (a husband-wife team) used to travel the church circuit giving seminars to mostly Baptist congregations, complete with projected diagrams of male and female anatomy, a pointer, and descriptions of everything you can image.
Now, that’s “lots of explicit talk about sex.”
Tens of thousands of Christian couples of all ages—many evangelicals and fundamentalists—were directed to this book, and probably some by MacArthur’s ministry itself. And this was almost always done with the “wink and nod,” meaning, “This book has the really good stuff!”
But I don’t see Wheat’s books on MacArthur’s web-store anymore, so, perhaps the reader will think I’m being unfair. Perhaps some growing sentiment—or lack thereof—among the Ogs crowd pressured MacArthur to remove Wheat’s books long ago. If so, I have never seen a published critique or explanation from MacArthur decrying “lots of explicit talk about sex” in this book he once apparently personally approved of. If he did disavow it, where’s his blog post ridiculing that? Why bring it up here and not anywhere else where it’s probably more appropriate?
Nevertheless, let’s look at a book that he does still carry. Granted, it is a little sparer on the details, but Joshua Harris’ book Sex Is Not the Problem, lauds the subject just as openly:
Some people have the mistaken notion that God is anti-sex. In fact, He’s outspokenly pro-sex! He invented it! What an incredible thought! Passionate sex was God’s idea. He isn’t embarrassed by it. Song of Songs is an entire book in the Bible dedicated to celebrating pure sex in marriage [from the “Preface”].
So I would counsel YRRs and “Ogs” alike that if you really do want some explicit talk about sex, all you need to do is go to MacArthur’s bookstore and buy yourself a copy!
But frankly, Song of Solomon itself is explicit enough (especially if it’s translated correctly).
Childishness and Responsibility
Meanwhile, let’s return to MacArthur’s main crusade.
Only after his long line of caricatures based on extremes and exaggerated accusations does MacArthur state his own prohibitionist position openly: “It is puerile and irresponsible for any pastor to encourage the recreational use of intoxicants—especially in church-sponsored activities.”
It is even clearer to me from this that MacArthur knows his prohibitionist position is absolutely indefensible from Scripture. Else, he would plainly call the consumption of alcohol “sin” like other fundamentalists do (for example, Jack Van Impe, or Kent Hovind, or many others). Instead he demeans it with socially shaming language: “puerile” and “irresponsible.” This also allows him to equivocate if necessary: is “irresponsible” sin or not? One could argue either way. This is called wiggle room, or weasel room. And it exposes the weakness in his argument.
But even on his reduced standard his argument holds little weight. After all, is recreational use of “intoxicants” irresponsible to begin with? Once Scripture is considered, it is actually just the opposite. Scripture exhorts the use of wine and even strong drink (with warnings against abuse, of course), and even presents the use of wine in worship. And even though such things can be abused—and often are, just as often as pulpits and blogs are abused—it is by no means the mark of maturity or responsibility to forbid them. Instead, maturity and responsibility are measured by the ability to use adult things properly, with self-control, and without abuse. It is rather the fearful, finger-wagging demand that we “touch not, taste not, handle not” that shows a refusal to grow up, face maturity, and actually handle these things responsibly.
Prohibitionists get so much mileage out of this stance of “forbiddance-as-maturity,” yet it is the very antithesis of gospel freedom and Christian maturity. It is a false maturity that is really no maturity at all. It is, in fact, idolatry. Paul warned Christians how powerful the appearance of wisdom and maturity in such “human ordinances” really is:
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Col. 2:20–22).
This applied to the Jews of his day trying to cling to the old temple rituals, circumcision, and dietary laws, etc., and also force them on others. It applies just as much in any setting where Christian leaders try to impose regulations of food and drink on Christians for the sake of “wisdom.” It is “self-made religion.” It profits no one: not the ones who abstain themselves, nor the ones they try to oppress.
MacArthur’s resort to this type of pure rhetoric instead of Scripture tells me also that he expects his audience to be uncritical or of below-average intelligence—more likely to be swayed by emotional associations and shaming language that actual Scripture, facts, and logic.
MacArthur is not content with just a few fallacies. In addition to the previous ones, he brings out the classic “prohibitionist’s pragmatism” as well. (When you have no good scriptural justification for your point, it is imperative that you warn in the sternest voice possible about how “spiritually dangerous” something is based on possible social consequences.) This includes the completely foundation-less notion that wine in the ancient world was diluted to the point of being as harmless as Kool-Aid (most Kool-Aid, anyway), and many others. For example, he writes,
In biblical times, wine was necessary for health reasons. The risk of amoebae and parasites in drinking water could be significantly reduced or eliminated by mixing the water with a little wine (1 Timothy 5:23). The result was a greatly diluted wine that had virtually no potential for making anyone drunk. Purified tap water and refrigeration make even that use of wine unnecessary today.
First, wine was not absolutely necessary for health reasons; but very useful and convenient for that purpose. But it was also useful and convenient for feasting, as well as the heart’s desire to have wine.
During the great fast of tabernacles, for example, God suggested the ancient Israelites buy wine or strong drink (should they so desire it), but He demanded they buy it with their tithe money (Deut. 14:26). And just in case some teetotalers may have traveled back in time and invaded the ancient scene, God made sure in this verse to sanctify not just “wine” (which may or may not have been very high in alcohol content), but also “strong drink”—a substance indicated by a Hebrew word which is also the uncontested basis for the Hebrew word “drunkenness” (shekar, shakar).
Now I wonder if MacArthur’s church has ever encouraged its congregation to spend some of their tithe-money on beer, wine, and liquor at a yearly church-organized feast. By the way, this also puts the lie to his claim that “It is puerile and irresponsible for any pastor to encourage the recreational use of intoxicants—especially in church-sponsored activities.” Apparently, God thought differently. God Himself did exactly that; and we know Jesus participated in that very feast at least once (John 7), and likely several times in His life.
Second, if the wine of the day was so diluted that it “had virtually no potential for making anyone drunk,” then why in the world is Scripture filled from beginning to end with warnings against drunkenness in regard to this very stuff? Are we to believe that the Hebrews and the disciples were warned constantly against the dangers of drunkenness from a beverage that had no possibility to get them drunk? Were they prone to drinking from a 5-gallon bucket, or what? This argument is nonsense.
In fact, if the alcohol was so diluted as to have virtually no alcoholic effect, then you can bet it was hardly concentrated enough to sanitize much either. So, go figure.
And this is even true of “sweet wine”—the earliest vintage, right after the grape harvest, which would have been the lowest in alcohol and highest in pure sugars (thus “sweet” wine, called “new” wine in the KJV). Yet even this lowest-alcohol wine available was the alleged culprit on the day of Pentecost, when the Ogs of the days accused the disciples of being drunk (Acts 2:13, 15).
No, the ancient world regularly drank wine that was undiluted, and there is not a shred of biblical evidence to suggest dilution was anywhere regular practice. Everything points to the opposite. In fact, in God’s only biblical reference to diluted wine, He condemns it as criminal dishonesty, business fraud, and uses it as an example of larger social fraud which destroys the social fabric. Watered-down wine is compared to prostitution, theft, monetary inflation, rebellion, bribery, oppression of widows and orphans, and murder:
How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. Your silver has become dross, your best wine mixed with water. Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them. Therefore the Lord declares, the Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: “Ah, I will get relief from my enemies and avenge myself on my foes” (Isa. 1:21–24).
Apparently the Lord prefers that the “best wine” not be mixed with water. Indeed, Jesus did not turn water into diluted wine, but turned all of the water into wine only, and the best wine at that (John 2).
I would go one step further even: if diluted wine is a symbol of corrupt society, then no wine is a symbol of no society—no kingdom.
Also, note the lack of exegesis in MacArthur’s post: there is no attention given to what 1 Timothy 5:23 actually says. Timothy is not instructed to doctor his water with a little wine. He is not told not to “drink only water but add some wine to it” (like MacArthur, many modern translations actually add this thought to the text!). The KJV is more faithful to the Greek text: “Drink no longer water. . . .” The verse actually teaches, “Do not drink water any longer, but a little wine.” In other words, Timothy, “Stop drinking water and drink wine instead.” There is no mixing here. The language is exclusivist: wine only.
Now, MacArthur assures us that due to better sanitary conditions today, we have no need even for this medicinal use of wine. Perhaps this is true, although wine and beer do happen to have other healthful benefits. But more importantly, this totally ignores the real scriptural uses of wine which are not contingent upon alleged pragmatic effects in society. The important biblical uses of alcohol are (1) pleasure, (2) worship, and (3) theological symbolism.
Now I explain the theological, biblical, and historical issues at greater length in my book, What Would Jesus Drink?: A Spirit-Filled Study, so I will not elaborate here other than to say this much: barring a miracle (and we are not told of one) it is impossible that the wine Jesus offered at Passover was not alcoholic, and it was probably alcoholic to a good degree. The grape harvest occurred in the fall and the grapes were immediately pressed, left in open-air pits for a few days, and then “bottled” and stored as vintage. Yet, Passover would not occur until the next spring.
Since, as MacArthur notes, there was no refrigeration back then, this means the wine sat fermenting for about six months before Passover. So the wine offered at Passover had to have been fermenting for at least six months, and could conceivably have been from a previous year’s vintage. Needless to say, it was probably about as fermented as wine would get.
So when Jesus added wine as an aspect of worship into the Passover meal (it was not specified originally, Jesus specifically added it), the wine He offered was fully fermented wine. The wine the disciples drank was fully fermented, and there is no possible way it was not. This was, by the way, for a theological purpose as well, which I explain in the book.
The Sin of Abstinence
Since Jesus directly specified and added wine as a symbol, some YRRs have simply noted that to forbid it in general, or in the Lord’s Supper is a sin. I generally agree. But MacArthur is disturbed by this allegiance to Scripture. He calls it “mythology,” saying “abstinence is no sin—least of all for someone devoted to ministry.” The particular reference is to Mark Driscoll’s book, Radical Reformission. But there are many problems with MacArthur’s presentation here:
First, MacArthur misconstrues Driscoll’s point. Driscoll refers to growing up with the old prohibitionist mentality that, as he put it, “all alcohol consumption is a sin.” It was repeatedly drummed into him (like many of us) by fundamentalist friends and other pastors. Through Bible study, he says, he abandoned this view, and came to accept the idea that consumption is biblical. So if the Bible allows consumption, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that forbidding consumption is indeed a sin. I think Driscoll could have been clearer in his language here, but his point is absolutely clear to me. He is not saying that voluntary abstinence by individuals is a sin; but rather demanded, enforced, preached abstinence from alcohol in general. MacArthur ignores this obvious distinction.
Secondly, even for the point he does make, he provides poor Scripture references. He suggests abstinence is a viable scriptural option for “someone devoted to ministry.” He then cites Leviticus 10:9, Proverbs 31:4 and Luke 1:15. Again, there is not much attention to what these verses actually teach. Leviticus 10:9 was a prohibition only for OT priests and Levites, and even then only while working in the temple. Read it. Thus, they were perfectly free to drink outside of tabernacle/temple duty. And besides, there is no levitical priesthood today, and the Temple was destroyed. Thus, this prohibition is done away. A greater high priest and a greater priesthood are here.
Proverbs 31:4 pertains to “Kings,” as it plainly says, and not ecclesiastical ministers; and again, it is obvious that this refers to their on-duty time, because the reference is to their work of dispensing justice (31:5). Again, this does not apply to Christians in general, not even to Christian ministers, but to civil authorities.
For an example of the relevance of this, see the recent example where a drunken mayor solicited bribes in exchange for $1 million in contracts. Of course, what are even worse are the thousands of fundamentalist Christian civil authorities, school board members, supers, etc., many of whom do things just as politically questionable—and yet don’t have the excuse of being drunk. They’re perfectly sober and corrupt at the same time!
Granted, the qualifications for a Christian minister do say they should not be a drunkard or “given to much wine” (1 Tim. 3:3, 8; Tit. 1:7), but the Greek is clearly speaking of addiction or regular excess (and most modern translations recognize this). But this proves more than the prohibitionists wish: it assumes that elders and deacons ordinarily do drink wine, and are simply expected to drink with self-control. This says nothing about abstinence. Rather just the opposite. It assumes consumption is the norm.
But MacArthur refuses to see this. He later unwittingly cites it, but still argues, “As a matter of fact, one of the main qualifications for both deacons and elders in the church is that they cannot be given to much wine [exactly!]. In other words, they are to be known for their sobriety, not for their consumption of beer.” On the contrary: read the passage. Not “given to much wine” assumes that they are normally drinking some wine, just not much. They must be able to do so with control, and are not told to abandon and forbid it entirely. So they are in fact to be known for consumption, just not addiction and drunkenness. Sobriety does not mean forbiddance; it means self-control.
Finally, the reference to Luke 1:15 is to John the Baptist, who “must not drink wine or strong drink.” But this is clearly a special calling, most likely that John was to take the very special vow of a Nazarite (Num. 6). This was hardly “devoted to ministry” in the general sense. If it was, then why did Jesus Himself not take the same vow? Why was this form of abstinence not specified for the disciples? Obviously, because it was a very special vow that very few people took and which had a very specific theological meaning.
Indeed, Jesus did take a Nazarite vow of abstinence from alcohol . . . and it lasted only a few hours. It began on the very night of the last supper (Luke 21:27), and ended on the cross when His holy war against Satan was ended: when He Himself said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Once it was finished, Christ drank the vinegar—alcohol—thus ending His special, voluntary, mission-based Nazarite vow. Granted, this was hardly recreational drinking, but the point is that Jesus only specifically abstained in this one special and brief circumstance.
It is clear that the Luke 1:15 reference is related to the Nazarite vow. But this presents MacArthur a problem. The Nazarite was also required never to cut his hair, nor eat or drink any fruit of the vine (not just fermented). So if MacArthur wishes to refer to Luke 1:15 as a standard for Christian ministers, this will involve today’s ministers also growing indefinitely long hair and abstaining from the curse of Welch—good ol’ Baptist grape juice.
Perhaps MacArthur can introduce this new concept to the 3,000 clients at his next Pastor’s Conference.
Now this poor use of Scripture is extremely disappointing, especially from someone who touts Sola Scriptura and biblical truth so loudly and often. On his blog MacArthur displays the catch phrase, “Unleashing God’s truth, one verse at a time.” That’s great, except he doesn’t “unleash” a single verse in this whole stilted diatribe. Would that we would have at least tried! Just one, please!
He does cite these few verses, but never even quotes one for his readers to see, let alone explain in detail what any means. We are supposed, I guess, uncritically to accept that his proof-texts actually represent biblical truth. Problem: there is no exegesis.
Not one of his references—certainly not the ones pertaining to the dispute at hand—actually supports his point, and certainly not his fallacious rhetoric. There’s got to be some kind of award here—and this is typical of fundamentalists’ attacks on alcohol—for the most transparent and facile proof-texting of the most stereotypical kind found in one place.
No wonder he’s afraid of “debate.”
Not only is MacArthur’s representation skewed and his scripture references poor, but he again indulges in that “abstinence or drunkenness” false dichotomy. This, despite the fact that merely a page later (in the GoogleBooks version to which MacArthur links), Driscoll adds a list of the bad effects Scripture tells us alcohol can have, and concludes, “All Bible-believing Christians believe that drunkenness is a sin that causes a life of misery.” So it’s hardly like this aspect of the issue gets ignored among the YRRs.
But you will find no acknowledgement on this in MacArthur’s reading of Driscoll (assuming he actually read all of the book), despite the fact that it’s on the very next page from what he references. No, in MacArthur’s world of prohibition, one cannot acknowledge the scriptural space between enjoyment and excess. So he presents all use of alcohol as “indulgence.” He says, “It is, of course, a sin to give one’s mind over to the influence of alcohol.”
Honestly, John, I don’t see where any of these writers, Driscoll included, advocates “giving their minds over” to the influence of alcohol or to anything else but God. But this does not exclude the enjoyment of that influence to a degree, especially as God gave it to be used.
It seems to me that MacArthur is more intent on discrediting Driscoll and the YRRs in public than anything else. But to do so he has misrepresented them to the point he should repent and ask their forgiveness.
And once this false dichotomy is busted, once his poisoning of the well is exposed, all of his extreme rhetoric pinned on mere alcohol—all of it—falls away as fallacious false associations. It is unbiblical to make a necessary association between “drinking alcohol” and “excess of alcohol,” just as much as it would be for anything else: food, spending, speech, sex, religion, TV-watching, blogging, etc. And it is false witness to claim otherwise.
What probably upsets the modern prohibitionists most of all is the fact that YRRs and others who imbibe today are simply ignoring them. That’s right. While of course condemning drunkenness and retaining a sensitivity to recovering alcoholics when necessary, the new generation of less fearful, more mature Christians simply refuses to play that cowering game where we’re supposed to shrivel before the wailing imams of the dry jihad. We’re done with it because it’s unscriptural and humanistic. It’s not just unbiblical, it’s anti-biblical.
The prohibitionists ruled the conservative Christian scene for several decades, but their fallacies have become exposed. They have lost their grip on Christians. They have lost most of their audience, and their message has lost its “umph.” They are trying to give their stump speech without a stump. They have lost moral credibility with an entire generation of Christians who have seen the light of Scriptural truth on this issue and many others.
But MacArthur and I agree on one aspect: the issue is maturity and self-control. He says, “But sober-minded self-control and maturity are virtues commanded and commended by Scripture; these are not man-made rules or legalistic standards.” That’s absolutely right. His problem is that he has the concept turned on its head. The holdovers from the old-line prohibitionists have always mistaken forbiddance for maturity. They have always tried to create the appearance of maturity by imposing extra-biblical standards, and thus creating their own brand of legalism. Scripture doesn’t teach prohibition, so those who do teach it are being legalistic. There is no way around this.
True maturity is just the opposite: it is the ability to use the gifts God has given us and even prescribes in places without abusing them. Anyone who runs from this standard is not interested in maturity at all. They are interested in keeping Christians childish under the guise of safety. Prohibitionists have always forbidden maturity under the guise of purity. It is legalism, and thus, idolatry.
There is, by the way, a religion out there that does completely forbid all consumption of alcohol. It is not Christianity; it is Islam. When Christians and Christian leaders demand abstinence, they have more in common with Mohammed than with Christ.
Finally, let me add that this defense of the YRRs against the Ogs should not be construed as another “Bohemian” youth uprising against all people over 30. In fact, many YRR leaders are that age and above. We (I suppose I belong in this group to some degree, though I have never really considered it) are hardly opposed to having an affectionate, honoring, and earnest relationship with our elders and learning all of the wisdom they have to offer. Indeed, we earnestly desire such. But the problem is, they rarely have much of value to offer.
There is an entire generation of Christian elders whose idea of wisdom and growth is actually fear, inexperience, aversion, and escapism. It is specifically for this failure of maturity and leadership on their part—in a thousand ways!—that movements like the YRRs have arisen. Frankly, for whatever flaws it may have, I thank God for their resurrection of many great Christian freedoms and creativity that the Ogs entombed and have tried to keep buried for decades. Thank God, that old view is waning.
And no, I am not oblivious. You YRR guys better be careful not to push it too far. Freedom can also become an idol very quickly. Make sure that the indulgences MacArthur describes don’t become true of you—because without self-control they can. There can indeed be a fine line between godly revelry and licentiousness. Whether what MacArthur has misrepresented here remains a fallacy or becomes fact depends on your self-control and maturity. I preach to me here, too.
There is too often a lust to remain in the youthful revelry and irresponsibility of one’s high-school and college years. Young men—when they should be planning marriages and home-school curricula for their soon-to-be children—are instead wasting time with video games and beer-doused dart contests at the local bar—and mistaking male-bonding for “manliness.” My friends, there is a difference. I have no problem with the beer and the bonding, unless it is being resorted to as a means to perpetuate one’s youth. The Ogs are bad enough; but theirs is not the only way to cloak one’s refusal to grow up.
Well, I didn’t intend to write this long of a response. But there is so much foolishness in MacArthur’s post. Come to think of it, this in itself is a direct result of the failure to mature on this issue. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. Maturity is indeed the answer.
Joel McDurmon (M.Div., Reformed Episcopal Theological Seminary) is the Director of Research for American Vision. He has authored several books including: God versus Socialism; Manifested in the Flesh: How the Historical Evidence of Jesus Refutes Modern Mystics and Skeptics; The Return of the Village Atheist; Zeitgeist Refuted: Is Jesus an Astrological Myth?; and Biblical Logic in Theory and Practice. He also serves as a lecturer and regular contributor to AmericanVision.org. Joel resides with his wife and four sons in Dallas, Georgia.