If everything you know about Christian living came from blogs and websites in the young-and-restless district of the Reformed community, you might have the impression that beer is the principal symbol of Christian liberty.
For some who self-identify as "Young, Restless, and Reformed," it seems beer is a more popular topic for study and discussion than the doctrine of predestination. They devote whole websites to the celebration of brewed beverages. They earnestly assure one another "that most good theological discussion has historically been done in pubs and drinking places." They therefore love to meet for "open dialog on faith and culture" wherever beer is served—or better yet, right at the brewery. The connoisseurs among them serve their own brands and even offer lessons in how to make home brew.
It’s clear that beer-loving passion is a prominent badge of identity for many in the YRR movement. Apparently beer is also an essential element in the missional strategy. Mixing booze with ministry is often touted as a necessary means of penetrating western youth culture, and conversely, abstinence is deemed a "sin" to be repented of.
I don’t think one needs to imbibe in order to be relevant to our culture today. I also believe that MacArthur just maligned an entire movement with this post. He says that abstinence isn’t a sin, and I agree (I’ve never heard anyone teach that, however). The symbol of liberty is the Cross, and I know many “YRR” pastors, bloggers and leaders lift the Cross up on a daily basis. I do believe we as believers do have liberty, but exercising liberty in matters of alcohol consumption doesn’t mean we’re living the lifestyle of a Bohemian as MacArthur suggests (apparently Martin Luther and John Calvin would fall under MacArthur’s label). Do some take their liberty to an extreme? I’m sure that some do. Honestly what MacArthur is painting as mainstream is nothing but.
The sin that needs to be repented of however is legalism, not abstinence. If a brother or sister in Christ wants to abstain from alcohol or whatever. Great! That is between them and God and if they feel abstinence from alcohol is part of their being a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) who am I to challenge that? Their choice should be respected.
However some brothers and sisters in Christ choose to consume alcoholic beverages in moderation – they have liberty in Christ to do so. The Bible says that we are not to be drunk, (Ephesians 5:18) and we are to obey our governing authorities (Romans 13:1). Abstinence is not commanded. The Apostle Paul dealt with issues such as this with the Church in Colossae. He challenged that Church saying:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
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, (Colossians 2:8-23, ESV).
While people who promote that they must act like a Bohemian in order to be relevant and say that abstinence is a sin; I would suggest is being taken “captive by philosophy and empty deceit.” I would also say the same about those who judge others spiritual maturity based on whether or not they consume alcoholic beverages (in moderation).