Friday, September 2, 2011

The Stink Over The Brew - The Cessationist Stink (Part 11)

John Macarthur's second letter to the YRR certainly struck a raw nerve among those who love a beer. Here are some comments from one blog:

Normally we wouldn’t even take the time to respond MacArthur’s argument, but sometimes you must bend to answer the absurd, if only because others take the absurd so seriously. Indeed a great many people have already answered him, but we wish to add our voices to the company of those Christians who think that alcohol should not merely be tolerated but commended, celebrated, and cherished among the people of God. We sense that MacArthur’s overall tone is a direct attack on broader Reformational groups, such as Lutherans and Calvinists . . .

It is no wonder, then, that the YRR crowd regards the enjoyment of alcohol in moderation as something that should accompany their interest in the theology of the Reformers – it’s planted deep in the heritage of the Reformation. If MacArthur wishes to complain about this attitude, he has to go back much further than a twenty-first century movement. His complaint is ultimately with the Reformers themselves. Yet, if the Reformers themselves do not collectively get to speak about what is acceptable Reformed behavior, then no one does. MacArthur stands entirely outside the view of the Reformers on this one . . .

comments like these demonstrate that MacArthur doesn’t know his church history very well. Yet, they also reveal that MacArthur doesn’t know public perception of alcohol very well. In whose mind is alcohol and cigars associated with pool halls and casinos? There’s no necessary association between these things and places.

From what we can tell, it’s MacArthur and his ilk that have to keep this association alive because the rest of us recognize that alcohol and tobacco is found in use across so many different cultures, classes, venues that it is absurd to make such a narrow association. Why should we when there’s hardly any other social behavior that is more pluralistic than alcohol and tobacco? Pool halls and casinos? This is a left-over association from Prohibition where the critics who drew the association were the very people who created the legislative conditions in which alcohol would only be found in the very places they criticized it for being found . . .

MacArthur suffers from the same sociological problems as those in fundamentalist circles. Fundamentalists take examples of abuse and use them to make dogma. They take the abuse and declare that God has thus spoken. Others—more moderate evangelicals– while affirming that God nowhere prohibit partaking of alcohol, at the same prophesy of the cultural consequences and the dangers of losing Christian witness before the world. Both approaches fail to discern the biblical rationale for alcohol usage, and because the Bible has not taken its central role in shaping the debate, they have come to unhealthy conclusions.

As we have discussed earlier, MacArthur is well outside the Reformed tradition in understanding the purpose of alcohol. He has to deal with the fact that the Reformers overwhelmingly—with the exception of small groups of pietistic reformers in the early 20th century—enjoyed alcohol and treated it not as an evil to avoid, but as a gift to enjoy.

MacArthur has long championed the importance of sanctification in the Christian life. He has made profound and biblical pronouncements on the importance of the Lordship of Jesus over the life of the Christian. Yet, he fails to stress the importance of maturity when it comes to God’s gifts. For MacArthur, the end goal of the Christian life is to avoid worldliness. While we can affirm this goal, we do not—and dare not—affirm the avoidance of the world. Worldliness pertains to those matters that deny the law of God and the goodness of God. The world, on the other hand, pertains to everything God has created. Therefore, the danger of MacArthur’s pastoral counsel is that it places his parishioners in an outright rejection of the world of God and embracing a near form of Gnosticism. Under Gnostic presuppositions, Christians detach themselves from a world which Christ has come to redeem (John 3:17). When Yahweh declared all things very good He was not playing word games. He was actually declaring that creation and all therein is good.

The only observation I will make at this point is that I don't recall Macarthur ever placing a prohibition on alcohol consumption. That said, I also have to say that one of the things I personally love about Macarthur is that he is not getting soft with age - a trait sadly displayed by many others. In fact, it seems Macarthur is getting as blunt as ever:

I do fear where this is all headed for a movement that has been a wonderful reaction to the rise of liberalism. Church history teaches us that we must be vigilant in guarding the gates at the perimeter between the church and the world.

Go On To Part 12
Go Back To Part 10
Go Back To Part 1

1 comment:

Dav0 said...

I like MacArthur as I have more in common with his theology than everyone else out there, but I think he is at risk of being labeled irrelevant implying that christian "Events" where they play loud music and project Pastors onto screen do not qualify as valid ministries. Assuming they do not engender mutual christian support and charity is also an error. Further, he labels them churches which is also not correct, as they are really gatherings of professed believers - just like those at Grace Community. The church is not a group of so called professed believers (per Matt7), but is actually a subset who are "Elect and In the Lord" and is not an organisation at all. In what way would you not also argue that his Sunday services are not also "events"?. Who is he to say that his "events" and associated weekly meetings/programmes are in fact the perfect manifestation of the real church? Is diversity of age and culture the only true validation of a group of believers? How absurd. When Jesus Christ looks at his one flesh bride would he classify her by a linear pattern of Sunday morning & Wednesday Evening behavior or is she alive, spontaneous, reactive, and maturing? The church are elect people everywhere, not just those that do some outward christian disciplines as defined by John. Further, this arrogance is a foundational problem for the reformed as they fall into the error of assuming that their manner of discipline is in fact the only way for judging the character of real Godly devotion. I fear for many of them that the righteousness they engender is of the law, and not that which is through the "faith of Christ" as put by Paul. "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of Righteousness by Faith"...not from the observance to the law or some structured discipline. Sure Christians need to be discipled, but this will be by Love, be informal, based on the word, and not by some manufactured group hug outside of Sundays where the script is already written.

I think if John thought about this would realise that he has put his foot in his mouth.