As a movement, the “Young, Restless & Reformed” crowd has some issues. They are, after all, young. They are on the road to maturity. Technically I’m a tad too old, I think, for the moniker but I appreciate what most of them are trying to do.
John MacArthur is not so appreciative. As part of the generation before mine, he’s been quite critical of them in a series of posts. Some of them have made the circuit. I’ve stayed out of it. I don’t want to contribute to a blog war- see, I’m getting older and maybe even maturing. (comments have been closed, so I can’t respond there.)
I am not writing to defend the YR&R movement. I’m not even going to point out the inconsistencies of John’s argument (a blogger friend who was unjustly singled out has done a good job of these things). What I want to do is address his selective use of Scripture. JM, in writing this critique of the movement, is also acting like a role model of sorts. How he handles the Scriptures is VERY important. He deeply cares about the Scriptures and expositional preaching has been a hallmark of his lengthy ministry. But here he does not handle the Scriptures well, and we need to help see why.
Taking Texts Out of Context
Contrary to the current mythology, abstinence is no sin—least of all for someone devoted to ministry (Leviticus 10:9; Proverbs 31:4; Luke 1:15). It is, of course, a sin to give one’s mind over to the influence of alcohol or to bedeck one’s reputation with deliberate symbols of debauchery. As a matter of fact, drunkenness and debauchery are the very antithesis of Spirit-filled sanctification (Ephesians 5:18)—and men who indulge in them are not qualified to be spiritual leaders.
JM rightly notes that abstinence is not a sin. At times it may be wise, but that doesn’t mean it is always wise. His claims go beyond the text however.
8And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. Leviticus 10
It was not an absolute prohibition. They were just not to drink on the job. In light of the recent death of Aaron’s 2 sons, you have to wonder if abusing alcohol was one reason they offered up “strange fire”. But JM speaks of abstinence. They were not required to abstain for drinking wine, except while serving.
4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, 5lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Proverbs 31
Once again the encouragement is not absolute. But when the king is working, making decrees or deciding cases, he should not be under the influence of alcohol. JM overstates his case. Oddly enough, see what the next verses say:
6Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; 7 let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. Proverbs 31