More stuff about alcohol

I’ve had the opportunity to discuss drinking alcohol with several friends at this point. In particular, my brother pointed me to a page originally at, reproduced for the purposes of this blog article here (that page disappeared at least once, though I see it is back again at the time of this edit). He was curious what my reaction would be. I should make it clear that he didn’t say he espoused any of these reasons himself.

I think the page has some interesting ideas represented, but it does make a few critical logical errors. The page is really about beer, not alcohol in general. The main thrust of the argument is this:

  • Both Christians and the world know that drinking isn’t good
  • The “beer culture” is not one compatible with Christianity
  • All Christians should abstain from beer

His idea about the “beer culture” (my wording) is decent, but flawed. If having a beer identifies you as a member of a group that swears, screams loudly, ogles women, etc., etc., then I would have to agree with his point. It wouldn’t prove that alcohol is inherently sinful, but it would probably rule it out for the Christian who has any concern for how the world views his testimony (the guilt by association problem put aside for a moment).

But I think I disagree with his assessment of people who drink beer. He seems to have honed in on the “college aged frat boy drinking himself into oblivion” culture. I don’t live in that culture, and I don’t have any friends that do either. As far as logical fallacies go, this one is sometimes called “hasty generalization.” The sample of behavior he examines is not representative of the whole. I would argue that there are many people that can drink beer without this kind of over excess (I’m one, at least), and I believe that the whole of beer drinkers is not characterized in this way. Lots of people will have a beer with dinner or sitting around with friends.

The rest of the page really is built on the false premise that drinking alcohol puts you into this group that has an overwhelming negative stigma associated with it.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33

He quotes firstly from 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 which is the passage about not causing your brother to stumble by exercising your freedom. I found that passage choice a bit ironic because the passage is dealing with the question of what to do about discretionary activities that aren’t sinful but can cause others grief. The passage is clear that eating meat offered to idols is not in itself sinful. I would make the same argument about drinking alcohol!

He then asks a few questions as a means of framing his argument:

Do you think it would be appropriate to sit down and crack open a few cold ones with the Lord? Would it be appropriate to share a few beers with your friends at a church picnic? What do you think the surrounding neighborhood would think if they drove by and saw a group of Christians, standing in front of a church, laughing loudly with beer in their hands? How successful would your testimony be if you were preaching on a street corner while sucking down some suds. We all know the answers to these questions.

I think my responses to his questions might surprise him. I don’t have a problem with a group of Christian friends sitting around having a beer or two. And I don’t balk at the idea that Jesus Christ might have had a beer had the opportunity presented itself — he drank wine, that much we know. The author assumes that we will answer “well, I guess not” to those questions. He’s begging the question by assuming that we agree with his point of view while trying to pursuade us.

On the topic of logical fallacies, the picture he put on the page with two seemingly college frat dudes partying would certainly fall under the misleading vividness fallacy. The guy in the foreground appears to be spewing beer from his mouth and nose. Does this really represent most beer drinkers? I wouldn’t think so.

And on an unrelated note, I’m guessing he’s not a Calvinist: “Offending an unbeliever could possibly keep them from coming to the Lord.” (insert your favorite smiley here)

1 Corinthians 10:31

He later quotes from 1 Corinthians 10:31, which again seems ironic to me. That is exactly what I do when I have a beer. I’m grateful to God who gives good gifts to me. Beer is one of those gifts. It must be enjoyed responsibly, of course. And I found his statement “God might bless the beer, but not the [crazy shouting and swearing] which will surely follow” puzzling. I thought the whole point of his page was that God doesn’t approve of beer drinking. Why would God bless the beer, then? And I can say with firm conviction that I have never screamed like the idiot he portrays in that sentence, even after a beer or two.

This paragraph near the end of his article summarizes his argument, I think:

Before anyone asks, non-alcoholic beer is nothing more than a minor technicality. It looks like beer and smells like beer. The world sees it as beer. Beer is more than a drink. It is a complete social tradition, one that doesn’t fit the sanctified Christian life. It is not akin to eating meat offered to idols. It is akin to partying with unbelievers in the manner to which they are accustomed.

Here he is being logically consistent. If the problem with beer is the association with an ungodly social group (again, a guilt by association problem in and of itself that I’m overlooking), then non-alcoholic beer doesn’t let you off the hook. You’re still going to be associated with that group. But I disagree with his conclusion that it isn’t akin to eating meat offered to idols. Eating meat offered to idols is nearly exactly parallel. The weaker brothers that Paul was referring to were associating guilt by the stronger brothers because they ate the meat.

Unfortunately, the end of the article is a graphic misuse of statistical information.

Here are some statistics to prove that beer drinking is more than a casual pastime.

12 ounce beers consumed annually per capita:

	Czech Republic    454
	Ireland           354
	Germany           348
	U.S.A.            244
	France            102

Imagine, in the United States, 244-12 ounce beers are consumed for every man, woman and child every year. Now, if neither my wife nor I drink beer, that means someone out there is doubling up. I hope it isn’t you.

All these statistics really say is something about the total volume of beer being drunk by a given number of people. It says nothing about the distribution of that beer. It’s a specific form of the fallacy of division, where he is misusing the statistical average of a population to say something specific about a member of the population. I’ll assume that the author is being a little tongue-in-cheek here. He can’t really believe that because the average amount of alcohol drunk in America per person is some number, and that he doesn’t drink at all that there is someone out there drinking twice as much as the average! (unless he’s really quite bad at math)

The author’s argument is so flawed that it makes it easy to miss one good point he raises. What does having a beer say about me to my neighbors? It’s worth thinking about before you imbibe. But I’m comfortable with the conclusion. I don’t think it says anything harmful to my neighbors. In fact, it usually offends Christians more than non-Christians. And I have the meat offered to idols principle to guide me there.

About guilt by association

I’ve pointed out that the author’s argument is a guilty by association fallacious argument. But I’m overlooking that, and don’t hold that it is a weakness in the article. This is because as Christians we are called to be light and salt in the world. What we lead others to believe about our God because of our actions actually does matter. His points cannot prove that drinking beer is inherently sinful because of this fallacy, but to his credit he never actually comes out and says that. He says “let’s look and see if drinking beer is inherently right or wrong,” but then never actually makes that claim. He concludes that “the answer to the question if a Christian should drink beer or not is ‘no’.”

I do think there are valid reasons to abstain from alcohol, some of which I’ve already written about elsewhere. But the article discussed here really doesn’t do any of them justice.