Is it a sin to drink beer?

I'm interested in the questions we ask... as students (or as church members).

So what do you think?


Anonymous said...

I would hope that in our universities, as well as in our community at large, that we would strive to do more than just avoid sin. Somehow, just avoiding a few questionable things doesn't seem to equate with the life more abundant.

Pete Vecchi said...

Rather than asking if 21-year-old college students should be held to stricter or more lenient standards than church members, perhaps the question should be asked, "Is it right for college or denominational leaders to decide what behaviors do or do not 'contribute to godliness' if the behaviors are not specifically addressed in the Bible?"

bookworm said...

For the record, I'm a non-drinker myself.
That said, short answer to "Is it a sin?" - No.

I'm assuming the denominational leaders take the view that a practice either contributes to or detracts from godliness - nothing is neutral. What if the question were asked the other way around, i.e. "does drinking beer, wine, etc., detract from godliness". Would anyones answer change?

Dan said...

What about being a whiner, gossip or glutton? Does conviction have to come before convictions or can convictions be dictated by people? Can we trust the Holy Spirit to do the convicting or does the Holy Spirit need the church body's help? Is God only interested in what we do, or does He also care about why?

Lawrence W. Wilson said...

It seems odd that students (or anyone, for that matter) would voluntarily associate with the school--knowing its culture--and then complain that the culture is unacceptable. Nobody has to attend a private Christian university.

In answer to your question, I think a 21-year-old college student should have whatever requirements the school's administration believes will develop students in character, scholarship and leadership in the context of a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world. (IWU mission statement, right?)

It seems likely that "pursuing godliness" and not merely "avoiding sin" would serve that mission.

Keith Drury said...

The tie between church membership commitments and student behavioral commitments is an interesting take for me--and raised most recently by students. They (perhaps correctly?) see many pastors working toward easing membership standards while at the same time expecting the church's Colleges to continue with the more narrow rules. For instance, the Wesleyan Church at the last general conference resoundingly removed even the non-binding advisory statement regarding dancing, schools like IWU continue the ban--and students ask why there is a double standard. Why, they ask, do pastors expect students (many of them non-Wesleyan students) to line up to rules at the colleges when the denomination loosens up the standards for their own members. They think it is hypocritical. And to boot, some argue that our colleges are not associations of "members" like a local church--since generally more than half of the students are from other denominations. They think local churches where there is “membership” should be stricter and not looser than the colleges.

This is the point I was trying to nibble at in the article--the question has changed for membership, and for students. And Church-owned colleges are not islands... they think just like pastors and members and ask the same questions… so they expect rules for adult students to be similar to the rules for adult members of a local church.

Thanks for your response... your position is the same as IWU's... though that is far stricter than many local church's positions on taking in members, as you know...

Chap said...

What stirs my affections for Jesus?
What robs my affections for Jesus?
Same question as what contributes to godliness.

1. I think a private college and church have a duty to determine (according to Scripture) how they will help students and congregants do that.
2. Students and church attenders have a duty to choose wisely where they attend. There are plenty of secular and private colleges and churches where they can sin freely without the "bother" of such restrictions. (you could argue that even the forefathers of these rules may have been asking this as well).

Having said that, since some of these "rules" (drinking etc..., not the fornication ones) are not based in a Scriptural mandate we will always have a "is this really a sin" question.

I do agree the best question for us is, "does this contribute to godliness?" But, this is a much tougher and nuanced one to answer than "is this sin." It forces me to think past my hormones and my own internal self-justification meter...it trancends the whitewashed tomb thinking of the pharisees to the matter of my heart...my love for Jesus when no one is looking.

Pete Vecchi said...

As a follow-up to the original article and to the responses up to this point, there seem to be two questions: "Is It a Sin to Drink Beer?" (the question in the article title); and the question as to whether there should be stricter, more lenient, or the same standards for 21-year-old (and older) students at a denominational university as there are for the general membership of the denomination.

I guess that the problem I see more and more is that blanket statements as to what is and what isn't sin (or, conversely, what does or does not contribute to "godliness") simply don't cover every aspect of most issues (get it? blanket...cover? In the genre of Foghorn Leghorn--"That's a joke son!").

Back to seriousness, the longer I have lived and the longer I have been a Christian, the more I have realized that the tendency over the years (especially in the past, although I see this relaxing a bit more now) has been to codify things as unacceptable not because they are contrary to some specific Biblical mandate(s) in and of themselves, but because they have the potential, at least in the eyes of some people, to lead to behaviors that would indeed go contrary to Biblical mandate(s). In effect, it becomes sin by degrees of separation.

Drinking beer is a perfect example. On one hand, drinking beer can, and indeed often does, lead to drunkenness, against which the Bible speaks. On the other hand, The drinking of wine as recorded in John 2 indeed led to "godliness." So while in the hearts and minds of some people the tendency towards drunkenness while drinking beer will far outweigh the likelihood that drinking beer will be a tool that is used to lead to "godliness", making the blanket statement against drinking beer doesn't allow for the fact that there are indeed exceptions to the general rule. I sometimes wonder if classifying something universally as a "sin" when it really isn't universally a sin is not in itself a sin!

At the same time, Lawrence makes a great point: these students aren't being forced to attend a certain university, and when they choose to attend that university, they are agreeing to abide by the rules set forth by the decision-makers of the institution (whether or not the students should have a role in the decision-making process is another whole issue).

By extension, the same can be said of the general membership of the denomination. Nobody is ever forced to join a Wesleyan congregation (or in my case, a Church of the Nazarene congregation). But sometimes doctrinal standards can seemingly tend to "get in the way" of certain things, such as church membership. For instance, if a local congregation is doing well spiritually and financially, is serving Jesus within its community, and is attracting enough people who are actively involved in the church's worship and ministry to make it a viable institution, generally speaking, stricter standards can usually be set for people to hold leadership positions--or even to become official members of the congregation. But if a congregation is struggling, the tendency could be (not necessarily SHOULD be) to relax standards of membership and/or leadership positions in order to have the human resources necessary to continue and/or build the ministry.

It therefore seems to me that as long as institutions of higher learning that are affiliated with "holiness" denominations continue to draw enough students to not only let the institutions be viable, but to thrive, the tendency will be that the relaxing of standards of behavior for the educational institutions will lag behind the relaxing of standards for the general membership of the denomination.

Lawrence W. Wilson said...

Keith ... I see the tension you were pointing to--students held to a different level of accountability than church members.

In this case, the real question may be "who gets to decide?" rather than "what is the standard?"

It is entirely possible that there are valid reasons for having different sets of rules on a college campus than you have for a local church. My kids aren't allowed to use their cell phones on the high school campus. Administrators feel it is a helpful rule though nobody is trying to argue that cell phones are sinful.

bookworm said...

I agree there can be valid reasons for a double standard. However, assuming the students "why?" question is not rhetorical but an honest question, I would say there is a heavy burden of proof on the college. For that matter denominational leadership needs to explain why long held standards for church members are being relaxed in the first place. Otherwise I'm afraid the school may find itself contributing more to cynicism than to christian character.

Anonymous said...

when I go home for the weekends my dad and mom and brother all have a glass of wine at dinner--what am i supposed to do? They all attend a wesleyan church. this kind legalism is driving some of my friends away from the church.

Outside the Beltway Drury said...

Your dual questions of "is it a sin" or "does it contribute to godliness" reminds me of an interesting legal treatise I had to read in law school.

In exploring the limits of lawmaking, Lon Fuller described competing moralities. A "morality of duty" and a "morality of aspiration." If we want avoid going to hell we have a duty to avoid sin. If we want to be like Christ, we aspire to godliness.

It seems to me a college professor grapples with the tension between these different moralities. On one hand, she has to set minimum standards that a student must meet in order to receive a passing grade (i.e. attendance, a set number of assignments, etc...). On the other hand, any professor worth her salt, tries to create an environment where students aspire to greater things. there are a few strategies. 1)inspiration/challenge; 2)incentives/awards; 3)competition.
Regardless of the strategy the idea is to to create an environment for students where they want to "go above and beyond" the minimum standard in a way that makes them better equipped for their post-college life.

Lon Fuller concludes that legal regulation is best suited for a morality of duty not a morality of aspiration. This is probably a good explanation for why standards that were originally set as aspirational seem uncomfortable when seen the the eyes of duty.

I think college and church regulators might want to think more intentionally about these different moralities. Write rules about minimum duties while creating environments where students/constituents aspire to higher things.

Anonymous said...

Outside, you make me long for my pastor who moved away.....to look at him or talk with him, you would not find him much different than the average joe on the street (imagine that, a christian that is not an odd-ball legalist) but he could sure make you want to be like Jesus without any effort!

For him, serving God was just who/what he was. It was no big deal. Nothing to be noticed. No show to put on. No demands of people. It wasn't even like going to church!

And, to top it all off, he could make you so hungry for God, you coulden't walk away!

It was like having a normal human being for a pastor. I suspect he was a once-in-a-lifetime pastor.

Gary Collier said...

I've been wrestling with a question lately that is a first-cousin to this post, Keith, and that is, "Is smoking a sin?" My holiness denomination taught me that it, along with all of the other "things", were sin and I never questioned it until lately.

A man in my congregation was converted and sanctified (wow, is that term out-of-date or what?) last summer. He started smoking when he was 14 - he's now 62. He's a Vietnam vet, a crusty guy on the outside but a pussy cat on the inside. Since his conversion he's cut down from 2-1/2 packs a day to a 1/2 pack a day... but hasn't been able to get to 0 yet.

He's quit cursing... holding grudges... and is living for God in every other way but this one.

So it occured to me... what makes smoking an "automatic" sin? It doesn't alter your behavior like drinking or using drugs does. The drug in it, nicotine, calms people down - much like coffee/caffeine does for other folks. You don't hear preaching that drinking coffee is a sin, do you?

Smoking is bad for your health and that makes it sinful, some might argue.

Right, and overeating and obesity that causes heart disease is also sinful, right Bro. Tubby?

Nicotine or caffeine... why is one okay and not the other in the church?

For the record I don't smoke OR drink coffee! It's interesting food for thought...


J. W. Watkins said...


1. If sin is something we are to avoid absolutely(negative), and godliness is something we are to aspire too unquestionably (positive); Are we to envision some sort of continuum between these two poles whereby a slide rule is used to determine whether some action or behavior "does not CONTIBUTE to godliness?

2. Is the "not CONTIBUTING" a sin in itself, separate say from an act clearly identifiable as a sin?

3. Or, is "not CONTIBUTING" perhaps better understood as on a slide rule somewhere between these two extremes depending on the seriousness of the situation?

4. Or, does the "not CONTRIBUTING" have its own classification of moral identity and not to be confused with either/or?

5. Lastly, is the "not CONTRIBU-TING" a term, (action/behavior), intended from the outset to be a indiviudal matter and open to interpretation?

J. W. Watkins said...

Sorry Keith for leaving out the "R" no less than three times in my previous response! My bad!

Duke said...

Reading the history of the church always helps the discussion.
I recently read an boigraphy of St. Francis. In the early development of the Franciscians, Francis forbid his followers from owning/keeping a copy of the scriptures because of their expensive nature. That was a rule of the order, due in part to Francis' call to serve the poor. The family rules were motivated not by questions of "sin" but of devotion, love and mission.
To argue against the use of beer/wine because of its sinful possibility is a logical contortion of eventual impossibility. A trinitarian (relational) theology can approach the discussion as house rules to help us achieve our calling of love.

glwhetstone said...

High standards are not restrictions - rather they liberate and protect us to live holy lives.

Along with the excellent, biblical based question (see 1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23-24) does it contribute to a holy life and growth in Christ, we should also ask a community question: does it contribute to a healthy community (speaking here not only of the church body, but the community in which we live and minister)? Do we in the Jesus way want in any way or on any level to participate in something that deteriorates, destroys and enslaves people, families, communities?

The question "is it sin" scares me. It denotes a desire to be as close to sin as possible rather than a "flee sin" and get as far away far away as possible.

dan said...

that was a brilliant angle! thanks for sharing this!

Bill Barnwell said...

Why is it assumed that everyone who asks such questions are really sinisterly asking, "How far can I go without actually sinning?" Such a viewpoint just assumes before the fact that moderate, controlled alcohol consumption really is a sin, or that it at least should be. Sometimes, people just don't want burdens placed upon them that (1) The Scriptures don't explicitly or implicitly make and (2) Might not make sense in terms of modern application either.

Keith had a post awhile back that there are some things the Bible didn't flat out prohbit that moderns are safe and even more "Biblical" to avoid (Slavery). This is a good point and we shouldn't be so lazy just to keep the argument to " If Jesus drank wine, then so can I!"

But the more I think on this one and study it, the more I personally have concluded that this is a sticky issue for reasons of cultural bias first and foremost. Those who were raised to think that all forms of alcohol consumption were a sin (even in communion, which our holiness denominations have replaced with grape juice) are going to have a major problem considering any other viewpoint.

When the logical arguments run out, the debate tactics shift to inferring that those on the other side are just immature and wanting to cut corners ("How far is too far.") I have no questioin that many pro-drinkers approach the issue this way, but a great many others do not.

They simply weren't raised with a bias against responsible uses of alcohol, and/or looking at the issue Scripturally and in modern life, they don't automatically assume that "social drinking" is going to drive one away from God, or tempt them into naughtier things.

But for those from Wesleyan-holiness traditions, leaving this issue alone would be a strike against our holiness heritage, where we are often defined by what we are against, not what we are for. Not drinking makes us feel "less worldly" and like we are "taking a stand." Same for those who have a problem with couples having a slow dance, or kids playing a game of cards for fun. Doing those things makes you look worldly, people could get the "wrong idea" and we are "separate and peculiar" people by what we don't do. And after all, not engaging in these activities means we won't be further tempted.

But so does just locking ourselves in a prayer closet all day long and never associating with the outside world, or just spending all of our free time in church or church-related activities. And that's what we have in many congregations, people who are defined by what they are against, and abhor the idea of doing anything that could be considered too much like "the world."

Perhaps this has driven some to the Cross, who look in and see soemething they consider appealing an different, but I suspect the more typical outcome is believers finding all sorts of things to feel guilty about and fear and unbelievers (and other believers not raised in our traditions) scratching their heads wondering what the problem is.

Pete Vecchi said...

Well said, Bill!

Anonymous said...

This seems to be a situation of "Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial."

When people ask, "Is it sin?" they're questioning the Christian community.

When people ask, "Does this contribute to godliness?" they're questioning the world.

I appreciate people seeking to defend, rather than critique, the church.


Bill Barnwell said...

Why does the issue need to be "Does this contribute to godliness?" The premise of such a question is that "Alcohol is at best such a shad of grey that good, responsible, holy Christians who want 'God's best' won't consider."

Maybe it's something, that if handled responsibly isn't a massive deal one way or the other. But I believe the stigma associated with the issue is just too explosive for many holiness types, particularly the Old Guard.

And I don't just say that out of spite, I can understand where they are coming from and why they respond as such. The simplifications of this matter on both sides are counterproductive. The pro-drinkers have their array of simple arguments. But to just say or infer that Christians who support the rights of others to consume alcohol in responsible quantities are all less concerned with godliness.

That's perhaps true with SOME renegade holiness folks who want to thumb their nose at the system. Others just have legitimate disagreements and plenty of other very solid mature Christians from other Evangelical traditions don't see it as an issue period and don't even bother with this whole debate.

bookworm said...


I pretty much concur with you.

I'm not even sure I quite understand the question "Does this contribute to godliness?" - at least not put that way.

Well, no, drinking alcohol won't contribute to godliness. But then, neither will drinking coffee, orange juice, or plain old water contribute anything toward godliness. Godliness might or might not contribute to what one chooses to drink.

"Is it consistent with (or indicative of) godly character?" might be a better way of asking the question.

I think what some Christians are assuming is something like - drinking alcoholic beverages is 1) inherently a negative, something that draws one away from Christ - or 2) an indication one is already drawing away from Christ, or they wouldn't want to drink in the first place.


However,I think brothers and sisters who believe so are obligated to do more that just expect other brothers and sister to share those assumptions without question. They have an obligation to show how it is so, and in so doing speak the truth in love (our common obligation). Surely this is nowhere more true than in a Christian educational institution.

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts here and much could be said in response to many of them. However I would like to focus on just one issue. Larry seems to think that people who join a group that has certain rules should never question those rules. Better said, he suggests that we should not join groups that have rules that we don’t agree with.
What I would like to know is this, should those of us who are part of The Wesleyan Church, who in searching the Scriptures have discovered that TWC’s stance stands in direct opposition to clear Scriptural teaching, seek to align the denomination with the clear teaching of Scripture, or should we just leave?
Increasingly that seems to be something to consider. This should have been settled 20 years ago.

Pastor Brent Tysinger said...

I know many Christian college students are probably honestly wanting to remove man-made barriers to people coming to Christ, and they honestly want to know if things like "no drink, no dance, no smoking" are essential to the Christian lifestyle or convictions that are non-essential. I think oftentimes they are trying to protect the potential Christian from legalistic roadblocks.

Interestingly enough, though, my friends who have come to Christ who were drinkers, druggies, sexually promiscuous, etc, tell me that once they came to Christ, no one had to force them to give those things up, they just did because they knew they couldn't follow Christ and do those things. (I know dancing and watching R-rated movies is a little different than doing drugs and premarital sex, but you get the point, I hope).

Then, I'm sure there are a certain number who want to have one foot in the world and one in the Church, and want to know just how worldly they can be and still be a Christian. "Does falling down sloppy drunk revoke my fire insurance policy?"

I think what Keith was driving at as he asked shouldn't we be asking if it is conducive to godliness, is that the chief question for the new Christian - any Christian - should not be "how much of the world can I hold onto" but "how much of the world can I let go of" to the glory of Christ?

(There's a line in an old Rich Mullins song that says, "love is found in the things we've given up,
more than in the things that we have kept" that kind of fits here).

Now, how far should a denomination or Christian college go in making rules to enforce that "letting go," is another question. I would say the authorities in the denomination or the college have the right to set those standards, and like Lawrence said, people have a right to be part of those institutions or not.

Ryan Westphal said...

I always find this discussion page very interesting. I really appreciate Professor Drury taking the time to post these discussions.
The topic is not a new one as my wife is an Indiana Wesleyan graduate from the early 90’s. She is about the most conservative person that I know and she took the time to write exceptions to the policy before entering school. That being said, she obeyed all the rules all through her time at IWU and was bothered that other students that had signed the agreement to avoid such activities went out and danced or whatever.
I was raised that as a faithful teacher of the scriptures I was to be very careful never to add or subtract from the scriptures. That by teaching that something is sin, that is not stated as such, was wrong. That adding to scripture was as damaging to the gospels, as not obeying the standards set in scripture. There is a right and wrong. I love Josh McDowell’s definition of sin in his book Right from Wrong. Sin is sin for all people, all places and for all time. The standard is set in scripture.
The problem is not is it a “SIN”. The problem is in the teaching it is a sin. These students are being taught to study the scriptures and to do it faithfully. This is what brings on the questions. They struggle with the standard that is being set when it does not line up with scripture. Sexual immorality, Pornography and adultery are discussed very openly in scripture and are condemned as sin. Some of the other standards of drinking and dancing are not.
If the University says this is our policy for proper behavior on campus, along with no running in the halls, no speeding down the roads, etc. It is good policy. The problem is that the church has become very much like the Pharisee’s in that it has added to the holy standard set by scripture.

Anonymous said...

I think these questions extend to a broader phenomena, and that is (mostly) younger adults coming to understand their interaction with the world at large. I would assume that one of the drawbacks of attending a private Christian college, rather than a larger, public one, is the minimized exposure to the 'outside world'. Specifically banning certain behaviors that seem peripheral only reinforces an 'us vs them' mentality. What happens is that the ages of 19-22 become merely an extension of high school, as parental regulations are transfered to the institution. What I've seen happen is you graduate at 22, with a significant cultural disadvantage (being so alien to the rest of your 'unreached/nonchristian' age group as to seem irrelevant/foreign). At that point, the new graduate will either continue on the predefined holiness path, or try to play catch up.

Which may involved drinking.

I'm not sure high school students are even aware of this future dynamic when choosing a college. So I have mixed feelings about just going along with the rules out of trust for the institution's judgement.

Is average Purdue student Joe impressed/convicted when IWU student Steve tells him that he doesn't drink alcohol...because his Christian institution requires him not to?

Would it be better for an institution to place a level of trust on students to 'not' abuse alcohol, or to give them the choice?
I don't know

::athada:: said...

Having required chapels contribute to godliness too, and so they are required. However, students are missing out on personal attention... why not require and enforce weekly Bible studies? (I imagine some schools do - are they godlier?) I think if an institution is to enforce any religious practices at all (with the intent of contributing to godliness), they should be slow to condemn institutions that enforce more OR less than they do... the line is by no means certain, and is up to each institution's discretion.

Percival said...

I really like what glwhetstone said. It really is about community. How do our decisions about our liberty affect those we live with and near? I lead a group that ministers in a Muslim country. We don't allow pork in our homes. Is it sin? Of course not. Just wisdom.

If wisdom is an important principle for decision making both as individuals and communities, it is hard to see how allowing alcohol in a college in this day and age is wise.

Of course, you cannot ban all foolishness on campus, that would mean no cheerleaders, rap music, bee pollen supplements, Left Behind books, or Twitter. So, we have to draw the line somewhere, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the school would lose out financially if it changed the rules of the behavior contract. Allowing students to drink could negatively influence the alumni (or other donors to the college) willingness to give to the school. Many older folks might get the wrong impression if certain bans were lifted, and it seems IWU wants to protect itself from seeming 'mainstream' and 'on a slippery slope to liberalism'. In a way, the behavior contract is proof of its commitment to the Wesleyan tradition, which helps ensure the satisfaction of its donors.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with social drinking but I do think that all Wesleyan Insitutions of Education (IWU, SWU, BBC, HU, OWU) should always be dry campuses, having a no tolerance policy on alcohol.

I graduated from BBC and we were never allowed to watch R rated movies or anything like that. I found that when in ministry, surrounded by the world, those standards by Bethany Bible College, allowed me to focus on my decisions and such. For example, I might watch an R-rated movie once and awhile, and I do not consider it sin, but I still research why the movie is R-rated and will not attend any that have in them things that would cause me to "stumble."

Anonymous said...

E.W.Bullinger made an interesting point about the corruption of God's Word in the garden of Eden.

First, there was omitting of God's word which makes God less bountiful than He was (mayest eat freely vs. mayest eat).

Second, adding words which make God more severe than He was (shalt not eat vs. shall not touch).

Third, weakening the certainity of the Divine threat into a contingency (shalt surely die vs. lest ye die).

By not listening to God's word she became prey for the serpent's guile. Jesus, on the other hand, always responds with, "it is written."

Scary thought in light of the added rules and regulations of denominations. Have they also fallen prey to the guile of the serpent?

gaint killer said...

The requrements should be the same for everyone.As the father said to his son, do what I say, but don't do what I do. To often this is the case.

Does drinking a beer aid a believer in godliness? Certainly not!

I believe that our attitude towards things such as this has a lot to do with whether it is right or wrong. Why do we want to drink a beer? Why do we desire to smoke? Why do we go to an all you can eat bar? Why, Why? Should all we do be for the glory of God?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
gaint killer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.