... it seems like we've moved a little too abruptly from the question of whether a dance contest with a champagne bar is an appropriate way for a church to ring in the new year, to the (totally separate) question of whether teetotalism is mandated by Scripture.I agree. It's simply the path that the advocates of what Ingrid was saying where trotting down (as I saw it anyway, here in my meta), and I thought we'd see where that goes.
It went where it usually goes here at my blog, which is "not well for the tea-totallers".
Moreover, people keep insinuating that casual consumption of alcoholic beverages in purely social settings is somehow essential to a good testimony. That ridiculous idea raises a completely different third question.As we discussed on the phone, I think there's a big gap between "must drink in order to testify" and "offers a good testimony even though drinking". The latter is a viable alternative -- and, I would argue, a more vibrant and useful alternative -- to the fundamentalist fall-back of "can't drink and offer a good testimony due to the deemin likker".
As I have been trying to carefully explain, I think that in some cases (like a dry county) people have a native legalism which, if we violate it, we wreck our ability to preach law and Gospel to them -- because we come across as lawless by violating social standards. In those cases, I can see why someone (like me and the men at my church) would promise to abstain.
In other cases -- for example, in St. Louis where the King of Beers lives -- it seems to me that to take a teatotal view of drinking is simply a way to slap the culture in the face with no benefit, especially when there is no necessary prohibition of alcohol in the Bible. In fact, I suggest that it might be useful to learn to like a drink once in a while in order to keep from weirding people out -- because a drink is not inherently sinful.
Necessary to drink? no. Useful? yes.
Frank, allow me to employ the parallelism you chose: we would agree, I'm certain, that sex between married persons is a holy act, by no means sinful. That doesn't mean it would be an appropriate feature at the watchnight service, right?This is absolutely right -- but here's the thing: public sex is not the same as public drinking. In fact, I think the right parallel here would be comparing public sex to secret drinking. People who drink in secret have a pretty serious problem, as do people who are compulsive PDA-types who, frankly, embarrass everyone.
But drinking at a party -- in a way which "makes the heart glad", as it says -- is the right use of alcohol, especially when we're talking about drinking "a toast".
What, exactly, is the problem with Ingrid's comments here? Note: the language of "TRANSFORM[ing the church] INTO A POSH CLUB" is from the Mars Hill poster, not Ingrid. She did not advocate teetotalism. Seems like all the outrage over teetotalism is a diversion from the actual point she was making, which seems unassailable to me.Well, the -poster- says that they are going to transform their "auditorium" into such-and-such. That auditorium may itself be where they meet on Sundays, but I don't think the implication is that they are trading the holy for the profane. You and I had a broader conversation about this on the phone, and without disclosing all of that, let me lay down a couple of good boundaries I think we agreed on:
-- I think we agreed that there's a difference between having a party and having a worship service, and they are probably not compatible with each other. That is, nobody should be trading worship time for party time.
-- I think we disagreed on whether or not it's better to have a church-wide party fellowship than it is to have a vigil service. I think your view was that the vigil service ought to be the default expression of the church in the context of New Year's Eve, and I think that it's not necessary for every assembly of the members of a church to be a worship service in the formal sense you mean. New Year's Eve would be a good occasion, I think, for the church to do something a little broader than something as necessarily closed as a prayer service. Can those two things be reconciled? I dunno -- it was late, and we weren't really unpacking the whole suitcase. Maybe it deserves more consideration from both sides.
-- We discussed at length the question of church identity, especially at Mars Hill in Seattle. Your objection there was that they simply identify themselves as party people who somehow connect that to Jesus. I will openly admit that I don't follow their calendar or marketing that closely, and I am only a podcast listener to their pastor, whom I mostly enjoy. For the record, I am about 4 weeks behind on all my podcasts, so I may never dig out of that hole. My concession here would be that if the primary way this assembly joins together is parties, they are probably not representing themselves in a way I'd have a lot of confidence in -- and may in fact be violating some warnings Paul makes in 1 Corinthians. No accusation there -- just a fact that the church is not primarily a party planner.
-- There is also the broader issue of the use of the church itself as a place to have parties. Not sure we worked that out sufficiently.
-- There is also the question of culturalization. You admitted -- pretty generously, I think -- that some of your view here may be from growing up in a more culturally-Christian environment than I did. I mean, it seems to me that the Mars Hill NYE party was pretty tame overall. You don't see it that way, but you are reading that event in a broader context of what the churches in America are doing to worship in general and to church fellowship in general. I can see that pretty clearly. My only point to consider further is if it's actually an either/or situation: is the church confined to a paradigm of either worship services or parties? Can't they have worship services as often as the ought to and also parties sometimes as long as reverence for worship and an eye to Gospel-centered virtue in leisure and celebration are observed? And doesn't this latter method speak more as a fully-orbed lifestyle than some more-rigid but, um, less-transparent way of presenting who we are as followers of Christ?
I think your best point overall is that at some point, there's a question of maturity in the church that has to be dealt with -- that mature believers are actually leading people into maturity and away from worldliness, and not merely baiting the worldly with pseudo-worldiness. It's a good point. But does maturity always look like stoic middle-class people sitting around after dinner chatting?
Don't they go to Sonic sometimes and have a Slush? What if somebody sees them?