Christians today have a wide range of views on drinking and its acceptability in the life of a Christian. Specifically, the millennial generation, born during the 1980s through the early 2000s, is more likely to have a more lenient stance on alcohol.
In response to these developments, Cedarville made an effort this year to clarify its stance on alcohol, confirming that, during their undergraduate career, students are not permitted to drink alcohol either on or off campus.
According to a 2013 Barna Group survey, 28 percent of all Christians between the ages of 18 and 28 are tempted to abuse alcohol, a higher percentage than any other generation. This may be because of a shifting perspective of the use of alcohol among generations.
A 2010 Gallup poll on consumption habits found that while 72 percent of individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 drink alcohol, only 59 percent of those over 55 do.
Although this survey doesn’t account for religious affiliation of the participants, it demonstrates that younger generations are more inclined to consume alcohol than their older counterparts.
In a Christianity Today article, Brandon O’Brien said the generation gap is an example of the differences in each generation’s witnessing techniques to reach the world.
While the younger generations are interested in actively engaging the world around them, older groups prefer to live in the world, but not be of the world, O’Brien said.
This can explain why older Christians prefer to abstain from alcohol consumption, but younger Christians see no problem with drinking in moderation.
“Christians should be radically different from the people around them,” O’Brien said. “So we constructed a world, a subculture, made up of Christian alternatives to secular products. We listened to Christian radio or bought music performed by Christian artists. We watched Christian television shows, wore Christian T-shirts, and read Christian books and magazines. Our goal was to do everything the world did, but do it differently: Christianly.”
O’Brien said rather than engaging the culture as younger generations do, older generations pursue righteousness to show non-Christians just what they’re missing.
O’Brien said millennial generation Christians follow the apostle Paul’s approach to reaching the world. In Acts, Paul quoted the great Athenian thinkers to strengthen his case for Christ. Rather than separating himself from the world, Paul engaged the culture to reach people in the early church.
The generation gap in the church also demonstrates a different perspective on Christian liberty.
Answers in Genesis defines Christian liberty as the concept that Christians are no longer under the Jewish moral law because of the redeeming work of Christ. Rather, Christians are to follow Christ’s commands and seek God in their actions.
“Legalism does not build maturity,” said Greg Koukl, founder and president of think-tank Stand to Reason, in regards to Christians who explicitly refuse to associate with anything worldly in the name of godliness. However, Koukl said some people have different convictions or principles.
According to Verse by Verse Ministries, Alcohol consumption is a gray area for many Christians.
“Alcoholic beverages are amoral. They are neither moral nor immoral according to scripture, because we can find examples in the Bible of alcohol being used morally and immorally,” according to Verse by Verse Ministries.
When it comes to different perspectives on alcohol use, Brett McCracken, author of “Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty,” said Christians of all ages should exercise respect and understanding for one another.
“Both sides of the spectrum on this issue should endeavor to respect and listen to the other side,” McCracken said. “Young Christians who are embracing their liberty to drink should listen to older folks who may be teetotalers, and understand why they have that perspective. And it should go in the other direction, too; teetotalers should understand that there are some Christians who drink and do it responsibly.”
Steven Cole, pastor of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship in Flagstaff, Ariz., said there are a few important points to keep in mind for Christians who choose to drink alcohol.
“Love for your weaker brother should trump your exercise of liberty in matters where the Bible does not give direct commands,” Cole said.
He said Christians become a stumbling block when they do something they perceive as a Christian liberty in front of a weaker Christian.
“The Bible does not prohibit drinking alcoholic beverages, as long as you do not get drunk and you’re not depending on the alcohol to escape from your problems,” Cole said. “But perhaps you’re with a new believer who had a problem with alcohol before he got saved. Because of the devastating effects alcohol had on his life, he now believes that it’s wrong to have even one drink.”
Cole said the mature Christian shouldn’t drink in front of this individual to avoid being a stumbling block for him.
A second important consideration for Christian alcohol consumption is the cultural context in which a person may drink. For instance, in some European countries, drinking wine is a cultural norm.
McCracken said the most important question regarding alcohol consumption is, “Does this help or hurt the Gospel?” The answer to that question may be different regarding the context of the situation.
For Christians who choose to abstain from alcohol, McCracken said, “If Christians abstain, they should do so quietly and respectfully, in a way that doesn’t make other people feel uncomfortable.”
The shifting views on alcohol are seen throughout the country as well as at Cedarville.
Cedarville’s student handbook states, “Students are not allowed to use, purchase, or possess alcoholic beverages on or off campus. … Students are also reminded that underage drinking is a violation of federal law. Students who engage in underage drinking may be subject to legal sanctions in addition to University penalties.”
This policy is affirmed by the community covenant students sign at the beginning of every school year and applies during all breaks, including summer vacation.
According to the Cedarville handbook, alcohol can lead to major issues for college students that the university wishes to avoid, such as hazing, date rape, injuries and fatal accidents. Additionally, nearly 70 percent of undergraduates at Cedarville are under legal drinking age.
Therefore, the university forbids alcohol consumption for students both on and off campus for as long as a person is enrolled at Cedarville.
In light of this policy, vice president of student life and Christian ministries Jon Wood said, “Specifically, (an ambiguity was raised as to) whether students could do whatever they wanted in departure from the handbook during summers or whether they needed to maintain the same conduct during the break. Cedarville covenant applies until a student graduates or leaves the university. There is obviously no question that the expectations of the handbook on purity, sexual misconduct, racial harassment, sexual harassment, honesty, substance abuse, etc. apply during the summer, so it was clarified that these (alcohol) standards apply while a person is a student at Cedarville.”
While some students will agree that the Bible doesn’t restrict alcohol in moderation, they have each agreed to adhere to school standards through the community covenant.
“Morally speaking, without the guidelines of the community covenant, drinking when a person is of legal age without breaking Biblical laws isn’t a problem,” said sophomore Mark Wynalda. “However, the covenant of the school forbids it and students knew what they were getting into upon arrival. Therefore, while enrolled at Cedarville, it is best to honor the covenant.”
Freshman student Rebecca Guevara said her perspective on alcohol is based on Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
However, alcohol in itself isn’t sinful and neither is consuming it, she said.
“Like anything else, alcohol needs to be drunk in moderation,” Guevara said. “Look at people in the Scriptures. They didn’t totally abstain from alcohol, they just didn’t get drunk.”
According to McCracken, it is most important for Christians to personally decide whether alcohol will grow their faith or if it will hinder growth in Christ.
Kari Morris is a sophomore psychology major and a reporter for Cedars. When she isn’t shooting for the CU pistol team, Kari loves longboarding and watching movies with friends.