Tag Archives: theology

Understanding the Mind of God

If you really think about it, it’s absurd to think we can even come close to understanding the mind of God. For example, could an ant understand humanity? Of course not! If humans and ants, who are both finite, can have that much of a gap, how much greater is the gap between finite humans and an infinite God? That’s why we worship God, instead of giving Him advice or doing Him favors.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

On Alcohol: Some Helpful Distinctions

Last week, we looked at the three most prevalent views that American Christians seem to believe about alcohol. We also explored the flaws with all three of those views and I promised to propose a 4th view that I think is more biblical. But before I do that, I want to take some time to make sure we’re on the same page by making some helpful distinctions.

The Gauntlet

First, any satisfactory view on alcohol has to be reconcilable with at least four different types of Bible verses (you may be able to think of more, if so please comment and let me know). I’ve nicknamed this group “the gauntlet.”

  1. There are verses like Proverbs 20:1 or Proverbs 21:17 that are very clearly against drunkards and those who idolize alcohol.
  2. But then you’ve got verses like Song of Solomon 8:2 or 1 Kings 4:20, which very clearly permit (and maybe even encourage?) alcoholic consumption during times of celebration.
  3. Next you find verses like 1 Timothy 5:23, which actually instruct the usage of alcohol (at least in small amounts). As far as I can surmise, these verses are extremely rare and the only other one I know of right now is Ecclesiastes 9:7.
  4. But, the most challenging for any view to incorporate is the account of Jesus’ first miracle in John 2:1-10. He essentially gave 120-180 gallons of wine to people who had already had “too much to drink” for them to be able to tell the difference between good wine and bad wine. In other words, Jesus gave more wine to people who were already drunk! He did this in a house in a small village in the middle of the desert. I’m going to guess there were, at most, 100 adults in the crowd (this is just a guess, but even if there were 500 that’s about 40 ounces of wine per adult). And, by the way, Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15), so the burden of understanding how Jesus’ actions were not sinful rests on us.

Hear me clearly: no view is complete until it addresses all four of these different types of verses/passages. A failure for any “rule” to be flexible enough to apply to all four of these passages should cause us to reject it.

Getting Drunk vs. Being Drunken

Second, I think a distinction needs to be made between “getting drunk” and “drunkenness.” Food is the perfect example: there’s a huge difference between “feasting” and “gluttony.” We all feast on Thanksgiving, but if we were to follow an endless pattern of gluttony (i.e. Thanksgiving dinner for every dinner), we would soon find ourselves morbidly obese with a host of health problems. In the same way, I believe that occasional drinking (even to the degree of being drunk) is acceptable under certain conditions but a continual lifestyle of drunkenness is sinful.

The difference is essentially this: are you adding alcohol to something or are you going to alcohol for something? Is it a spice added to a celebration or is it an obsession that provides comfort? There’s a huge difference between those two mentalities, but few people I know have actually taken the time to consider such a possibility. We just assume that all forms of alcoholic consumption are the same, but they’re not. One is merry-making; the other is idol-making.

Why the hair-splitting?

The reason I make this distinction is because Jesus forces me to. As I mentioned earlier, the greatest challenge to any theology of alcohol is the miracle of Jesus turning water to wine. The way I understand this part of the Gospel is that Jesus was at a celebration in a culture that did not have the weird views on alcohol that we do. They were all celebrating (thus adding alcohol to something) and no one there had a troubled conscience by the drinking. Thus, I feel it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that an occasional indulgence is actually permissible, whereas a lifestyle of drunkenness is sinful.

Now, please don’t take this where I’m not taking it! I never said that a binge is a wise idea, nor do I plan on it. Also, I don’t honestly think anyone who is trying to honor God is going to take the drinking of alcohol that far. But, how else do you describe 150 gallons as the refill at a wedding?! So, now that we’ve laid down the gauntlet and made a few distinctions, I’m ready to propose my view on alcohol…next week!

On Alcohol: Modern Views & Their Flaws

In case you haven’t been a Christian long, let me let you in on a little secret: there’s a lot of disagreement over whether or not Christians can or even should drink alcohol. In fact, if you ask 4 Christians about alcohol, you’re likely to get 5 opinions! Recently a dear friend contacted me to share a 37-page PDF that contained every Bible verse relating to alcohol. It’s the fruit of a year of reading the Bible and he’s just now beginning to study the topic in depth! He asked me and another friend of his if we had any thoughts on the issue so here’s what I told him. I hope that you’ll read this with an open mind and let me know what you think of it.

Regarding the use/consumption of alcohol, the way I see it, there are essentially three stances in modern American Evangelicalism:

  1. All forms of alcoholic consumption are evil.
  2. Light moderation is acceptable, but getting drunk is a sin.
  3. My “Christian freedom” lets me do whatever I want, therefore all things are permissible.

I think all three are flawed and I’ll critique each in turn.

  1. All forms of alcoholic consumption are evil. This view is flawed because, as far as I’ve been able to discern, it’s rooted in 19th & 20th century prohibition-ism and is directly contradicted by the Bible. I’m going to assume we all agree with this, are aware of 1 Tim 5:23 and other similar verses, and can move on. (Truth be told, I don’t know how anyone actually defends this stance biblically, although there are plenty of places online where they try.)
  2. Light moderation is acceptable, but getting drunk is a sin. While this view might be the most prevalent today, I think it is actually more restrictive than the Bible and, for that reason I’m hesitant to adopt this rule. We should never try to be “more biblical than Jesus.” I’ll explain why I believe this in a future post, but first…
  3. My “Christian freedom” lets me do whatever I want, therefore all things are permissible. While it is true that Christ has set us free (Gal. 5:1), he did this so  that we would not fall back into slavery. I think everyone has seen too much “liberty” taken by far too many Christians, especially the doubting world. We all probably know at least one guy (read: young, restless and reformed) who drinks, smokes, and cusses…all in the name of ‘Christian liberty.’ Meanwhile, he has ambitions to go to seminary or to lead in some form of ministry in the future. Personally, when it comes to guys like this, I don’t think his conduct is above reproach (1Tim 3:2). I don’t think he is living in a wise, intentional way that honors God (Eph. 5:16). Nor do I think he cares that he is being a stumbling block to many of his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (Rom. 14:13, 1 Cor. 8:9). In the end, I think, when it comes to a guy like this, his testimony is tarnished and he is robbed of his credibility because he’s too busy having a good, carnal time. I think John MacArthur said it best: “one cannot be genuinely “Reformed” and deliberately worldly at the same time. The two things are inconsistent and incompatible.” Ironically, I believe guys like this are slaves to their freedoms.

As far as I can tell, those are the three predominant views that most modern Christians subscribe to. If you can think of any others that don’t fall into those three categories, please let me know. Of course, I’ll be writing more on this topic, so very soon you’ll see a 4th view!

God is big. Really big.

God is more massive than our wildest imagination, bigger than the biggest words we have to describe Him. And He’s doing good today—sustaining galaxies, holding every start in place, stewarding the seemingly chaotic events of earth to His conclusion within His great story.

God is constant. He blinks and a lifetime comes and goes. To Him one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. All of human history could be written on His fingernail, with plenty of room left over for more.

And God is doing well today, thank you. He has no dilemmas. No quandaries. No counselors. No shortages. No rivals. No fears. No cracks. No worries. He is self-existent, self-contained, self-perpetuated, self-powered, and self-aware. In other words, He’s God and He knows it.

HE IS TIMELESS. AGELESS. CHANGELESS. ALWAYS.

After an eternity of being God, He shows no signs of wear and tear. He has no needs. His accounts are in the black. He’s the owner, not to mention Creator, of all of the world’s wealth and treasure. He made the gold and silver, and the trees we print our money on. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the hills the cows are standing on. He holds the patent on the skies above—not to mention the earth, the seas and their depths below, the breeze, the colors of the sunset and every flowering thing. They all are His invention. His design. His idea.

God does whatever He wants. His purposes are a sure thing. There’s no stopping Him. No containing Him. No refuting Him. No cutting Him off at the pass. No short-circuiting His agenda. God is in control. He sends forth lightning from His storehouse, He breathes out the wind, waters the earth, raises up rulers, directs the course of nations, births life, ordains death, and, in the midst of it all, still has time to be intimately acquainted with the every-day affairs of everyone on the planet.

God knows everything about everything and everyone. His eyes race back and forth across the cosmos faster than we can scan the words on this page. There is not a bird flying through the air or perched on a branch that escapes His field of vision. He could start with Adam and name every man, woman, and child who has ever lived, describing every detail about each one. To Him, pitch darkness and midday are one and the same. Nothing is hidden from Him. He wrestles with no mysteries. He doesn’t need to wait for a polygraph machine to decipher the truth. He sees clearly, and comprehends all He sees. He’s never know what it is to have a  teacher, a role model, an advisor, a therapist, a loan officer, an adjuster, a doctor, or a mother.

God’s rule and reign are unrivaled in history and eternity. He sits on an everlasting throne. His Kingdom has no end. Little gods abound, but He alone made the heavens and the earth. God has never feared a power struggle or a hostile takeover. He doesn’t have to watch His back. He has no equal. No peer. No competition.

It makes perfect sense that His name should be I AM.

And even more sense that my name is I am not.

You and I are tiny. Miniscule. Transient. Microscopic. A momentary and infinitesimal blip on the timeline of the universe. A seemingly undetectable alliance of dust particles held together by the breath of God.

The sum of our days is like a vapor—our accumulated efforts life chaff in the wind. Among us, even the richest of the rich owns nothing. The strongest of the strong can be felled in one faltering heartbeat. We are fleeting mortals. Frail flesh. Little specks. Phantoms.

If this fact makes you just a tad bit uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Invariably, when I talk about the vastness of God and the cosmos, someone will say, “You’re making me feel bad about myself and making me feel really, really small,” as if that’s the worst thing that could happen. But the point is not to make you feel small, rather to help you see and embrace the reality that you are small.

Really, really small.

But that’s not where the story ends.

Though we are transient dust particles in a universe that is expanding faster than the speed of light, the unexplainable mystery of mysteries is that you and I are loved and prized by the God of all Creation.

Simply because He wanted to, He fashioned each of us in His own image, creating within us the capacity to know Him. And if that wasn’t staggering enough, in spite of our foolishness and rebellious hearts, God has pursued us with relentless passion and patience, fully expressing to us His unfathomable love through the mercy and grace of the cross of His Son, Jesus Christ.

I Am Not But I Know I Am: Welcome to the Story of God by Louie Giglio