John Piper on Alcohol: “Drinking can be okay.”

John Piper has a whole line of short videos on the desiringGod account at youtube.  I’ve blogged before about my frustrations with John Piper, whom I admire and disagree with in equal measure.  Watching him express his views on alcohol in this short, pastoral forum has made it clearer to me how phrase my frustration.

I have difficulty with John Piper the theologian.  But I admire, respect and want to continue to learn from John Piper the pastor.

Theologically, Piper and I step all over each other.  We may not agree on 1 in 10 non-essential matters.  But pastorally his drive, his concern and his very obvious love for his parishioners is exactly where they need to be, and stand as a challenge to both pastors and theologians church-wide.

You can see it in how he addresses the subject of Christians and drinking.  I happen to agree with him here, both that alcohol can be a gift from God (“We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much” – Chesterton), and that too cavalierly expressing that gift can be damaging to others and to our own witness.

The comments page for this video show mostly Christians who think Piper is being too charitable here.  They make the standard Baptist arguments about alcohol content in our culture versus first century Palestine, about when drinking becomes drunkennees (“Would it be okay to smoke just one joint?”) and so forth.

But Piper focuses the issue away from ridiculous line-drawing and toward “a pattern of life.”  His pastoral concern is evident, and he speaks with earned credibility to the damage alcohol does to individuals and communities.  From Piper’s perspective, we’re wrong when he make alcohol out to be evil, and we’re equally wrong when we act like alcohol is no big deal.

What do you think?  Is Piper offering the best perspective on the issue?  What would you add or modify?

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2 responses to “John Piper on Alcohol: “Drinking can be okay.”

  1. I’m glad to see Piper answer the way he did. I agree with him. I have seen the harm it has done, but I also see that it is harmless to have a drink on occasion. I don’t know what “drunkenness” means, necessarily. However, my personal conviction is that I won’t drink to the point of having a buzz, if I have, I went too far.

    This is coming from a past where I was approaching alcoholism from about 17-20.

    • I drink fairly regularly, but I never drink much. I don’t feel like I’ve gone “too far” if I feel the effects, but once I feel the effects I know I’ve had enough. I described this to a coworker, who was talking about partying, and she said, “How is that any fun?” I said, I don’t think it’s fun, but it is relaxing.

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