Are some vocations off-limits for Christians?

We discussed David Brooks’s column wondering if Christians should ever be professional athletes as did a number of other bloggers.  The debate gave Collin Hansen of Gospel Coalition the idea of asking me how the doctrine of vocation addresses the question of whether some occupations should be off-limits to Christians.

He gave me 2000 words, which is longer than a typical post, so you can click over to the site to continue reading.  Here is what I came up with.  Feel free to comment at Gospel Coalition–I’d like the rest of the world to know the caliber of my readers (plus it’s interesting to see how  some of the non-Lutherans react to these ideas, such as Christians selling alcohol!), but do comment here too.   I would like your input as to whether these guidelines are helpful or if I’m missing something:

Which Vocations Should Be Off Limits to Christians?

The Reformation doctrine of vocation teaches that even seemingly secular jobs and earthly relationships are spheres where God assigns Christians to live out their faith. But are there some lines of work that Christians should avoid?

The early church required new members to give up their occupations as gladiators or actors. Whether Christians should enter military service has been controversial at several points in church history. So has holding political or judicial offices. Recently, New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested that Christians should not become professional athletes. He observed that “the moral ethos of sport”—which centers on pride—”is in tension with the moral ethos of faith,” which requires humility.

So what guidance can we find from the doctrine of vocation? There is more to that teaching than most people realize, so let’s review some of its more salient points. (To study this in more depth, you can check out my book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life and follow the Bible references and footnotes. Also see my new book Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood for yet more facets of this critical teaching for how Christians can live out faith in the world and in their everyday relationships.)

God Never Calls Us to Sin

“Vocation” is simply the Latinate word for “calling.” The doctrine of vocation means that God assigns us to a certain life—with its particular talents, tasks, responsibilities, and relationships—and then calls us to that assignment (1 Corinthians 7:17). God never calls us to sin. All callings, or vocations, from God are thus valid places to serve. So strictly speaking there are no unlawful vocations; the question should actually be whether or not a particular way of making a living is a vocation at all.

God himself works through human vocations in providential care as he governs the world. He provides daily bread through farmers and bakers. He protects us through lawful magistrates. He heals us by means of physicians, nurses, and pharmacists. He creates new life through mothers and fathers. So we can ask whether or not God extends blessings through a particular line of work.

The purpose of every vocation, in all of the different spheres in which our multiple vocations occur—the family, the workplace, the culture, and the church—is to love and serve our neighbors. Loving God and loving our neighbors sums up our purpose (Matthew 22:36-40). Having been reconciled to God through Christ, we are then sent by God into the world to love and serve him by loving and serving our neighbors. This happens in vocation. So we can ask of every kind of work we doing, “Am I loving and serving my neighbor, or am I exploiting and tempting him?”

Obviously, those who make their living by robbery are not loving their neighbors. Heroin dealers, hit men, con artists, and other criminals are hurting their neighbors and have no calling from God to do so.

But there are some legal professions that also involve harming their neighbors instead of loving and serving them. An abortionist kills his small neighbor in the womb. An internet pornographer is abusing the neighbors he is exploiting sexually and, moreover, causing the neighbors who are his customers to sin.

Continue reading.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    “But there are some legal professions that also involve harming their neighbors instead of loving and serving them. An abortionist kills his small neighbor in the womb.”

    It depends how much state control there is. Even if you’re pro-life, there would still need to be abortions performed on ectopic pregnancies. So one could be performing abortions and still technically be pro-life. As for alcohol, if the state allowed only certain people to buy, then presumably there would be no sin in selling it to them.

  • Michael B.

    “But there are some legal professions that also involve harming their neighbors instead of loving and serving them. An abortionist kills his small neighbor in the womb.”

    It depends how much state control there is. Even if you’re pro-life, there would still need to be abortions performed on ectopic pregnancies. So one could be performing abortions and still technically be pro-life. As for alcohol, if the state allowed only certain people to buy, then presumably there would be no sin in selling it to them.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    ‘For Christians’ is the operative phrase.

    St. Paul tells us that ALL things are lawful for the Christian.

    But they certainly are not expedient.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    ‘For Christians’ is the operative phrase.

    St. Paul tells us that ALL things are lawful for the Christian.

    But they certainly are not expedient.

  • SKPeterson

    Steve @2 – I think Paul was referring to foods, not vocations in that quote. I think Paul would say that it is okay for Christians to eat pork, but they can’t be good Christians and still carry out their day job as a Vestal Virgin or priest of Zeus.

    I’ll have to add this comment to the Gospel Coalition site, but I notice that there is still much controversy over military service. As I recall, Jesus healed the child of the centurion and praised his faith; Jesus didn’t tell him, “Now go, leave your post and forsake military service.” I think the issue with Christians and military service needs to involve a more open and sustained dialog on just war theory and the proper allocation and use of military force.

  • SKPeterson

    Steve @2 – I think Paul was referring to foods, not vocations in that quote. I think Paul would say that it is okay for Christians to eat pork, but they can’t be good Christians and still carry out their day job as a Vestal Virgin or priest of Zeus.

    I’ll have to add this comment to the Gospel Coalition site, but I notice that there is still much controversy over military service. As I recall, Jesus healed the child of the centurion and praised his faith; Jesus didn’t tell him, “Now go, leave your post and forsake military service.” I think the issue with Christians and military service needs to involve a more open and sustained dialog on just war theory and the proper allocation and use of military force.

  • Carl Vehse

    “St. Paul tells us that ALL things are lawful for the Christian.”

    Scripture interprets Scripture. The context gives the understanding of what the Holy Spirit through St. Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23.

  • Carl Vehse

    “St. Paul tells us that ALL things are lawful for the Christian.”

    Scripture interprets Scripture. The context gives the understanding of what the Holy Spirit through St. Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23.

  • Bert Lloyd

    Dr. Veith, have you read Michael Goheen’s paper on ‘Delighting in God’s Good Gift of Sports and Competition’. He premise is that Sports and competition are God’s gifts to creation. Also I will urge all to read it. God bless!
    http://www.biblicaltheology.ca/blue_files/God%27s-Good-Gift-of-Athletics.pdf

  • Bert Lloyd

    Dr. Veith, have you read Michael Goheen’s paper on ‘Delighting in God’s Good Gift of Sports and Competition’. He premise is that Sports and competition are God’s gifts to creation. Also I will urge all to read it. God bless!
    http://www.biblicaltheology.ca/blue_files/God%27s-Good-Gift-of-Athletics.pdf

  • Carl Vehse

    “Are some vocations off-limits for Christians?”

    What about a vocation which is being pursued for the wrong motivations, even by a Christian? Is a person’s motivation just as relevant in discussing your subsequently revised question of whether or not a particular way of making a living is a vocation at all?

  • Carl Vehse

    “Are some vocations off-limits for Christians?”

    What about a vocation which is being pursued for the wrong motivations, even by a Christian? Is a person’s motivation just as relevant in discussing your subsequently revised question of whether or not a particular way of making a living is a vocation at all?

  • Tony

    I am a bit perplexed by your take on vocations in financial services.

    “Usury, by which was meant lending money at interest, was traditionally seen as unchristian.” This is a view that is easy to support with direct quotes from Scripture.

    “Today’s economy, of course, depends on a robust financial system in which lending and investment are very productive indeed.” Agreed.

    “Bankers, financiers, and venture capitalists are indeed legitimate vocations from God.” I like to think so. How, though, would you make the case, especially in view of the fact that lending money at interest is absolutely central to these activities?

    “And yet, what are we to say of the derivative trader, who sits in front of his computer manipulating the finance system without adding goods or services to the collective good?” Derivatives too play a very important role in our modern financial system, and they are used extensively by those outside of financial services for various (often hedging) purposes. I therefore have a hard time seeing why derivatives would be considered taboo. Are you suggesting that being a trader is not a valid vocation? Without trading, though, there wouldn’t be markets. Part of the appeal of derivatives is indeed the fact that there are markets for them.

  • Tony

    I am a bit perplexed by your take on vocations in financial services.

    “Usury, by which was meant lending money at interest, was traditionally seen as unchristian.” This is a view that is easy to support with direct quotes from Scripture.

    “Today’s economy, of course, depends on a robust financial system in which lending and investment are very productive indeed.” Agreed.

    “Bankers, financiers, and venture capitalists are indeed legitimate vocations from God.” I like to think so. How, though, would you make the case, especially in view of the fact that lending money at interest is absolutely central to these activities?

    “And yet, what are we to say of the derivative trader, who sits in front of his computer manipulating the finance system without adding goods or services to the collective good?” Derivatives too play a very important role in our modern financial system, and they are used extensively by those outside of financial services for various (often hedging) purposes. I therefore have a hard time seeing why derivatives would be considered taboo. Are you suggesting that being a trader is not a valid vocation? Without trading, though, there wouldn’t be markets. Part of the appeal of derivatives is indeed the fact that there are markets for them.

  • Carl Vehse

    Gene,

    In your article, you write

    One of the Lutheran confessions in dealing with the doctrine of vocation specifically condemns the notion “That a Christian cannot with a good conscience be an inn-keeper, merchant, or maker of weapons” (Formula of Concord XII).

    Actually, that sentence on those vocations is in a section of the Formula of Concord listing “the erroneous, heretical doctrines of the Anabaptists.” The Formula of Concord then states that such doctrines “are to be tolerated and allowed neither in the Church, nor in the commonwealth, nor in domestic life.”

    In addition to Anabaptist prohibitions against the vocations of inn-keeper, merchant, or maker of weapons (cutler), the Formula of Concord also denounced Anabaptist prohibitions against the vocations of magistrate, executioner, property owner, and oath-taker serving as a witness in a court of law.

    All of these vocations are recognized as valid and permissible by the Lutheran Church.

  • Carl Vehse

    Gene,

    In your article, you write

    One of the Lutheran confessions in dealing with the doctrine of vocation specifically condemns the notion “That a Christian cannot with a good conscience be an inn-keeper, merchant, or maker of weapons” (Formula of Concord XII).

    Actually, that sentence on those vocations is in a section of the Formula of Concord listing “the erroneous, heretical doctrines of the Anabaptists.” The Formula of Concord then states that such doctrines “are to be tolerated and allowed neither in the Church, nor in the commonwealth, nor in domestic life.”

    In addition to Anabaptist prohibitions against the vocations of inn-keeper, merchant, or maker of weapons (cutler), the Formula of Concord also denounced Anabaptist prohibitions against the vocations of magistrate, executioner, property owner, and oath-taker serving as a witness in a court of law.

    All of these vocations are recognized as valid and permissible by the Lutheran Church.

  • Carl Vehse

    Gene, in rereading your statement on “an inn-keeper, merchant, or maker of weapons”, I see that you are stating the same thing as I noted in my comment @8.

    Nevermind…

  • Carl Vehse

    Gene, in rereading your statement on “an inn-keeper, merchant, or maker of weapons”, I see that you are stating the same thing as I noted in my comment @8.

    Nevermind…

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Tony, could it be more a question of the manner in which many fulfill the vocation of “trader”, than the vocation itself? I work in a voction which is regulated by ethical and professional standards. One could suggest the introduction of such for traders, maybe, which would make the ethics clearer for Christians wanting to enter such professions.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Tony, could it be more a question of the manner in which many fulfill the vocation of “trader”, than the vocation itself? I work in a voction which is regulated by ethical and professional standards. One could suggest the introduction of such for traders, maybe, which would make the ethics clearer for Christians wanting to enter such professions.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    I would make the case that a very productive and honorable form of humility is present in sports of all kinds. The objective process of accepting critique and self confrontation are at the heart of sports. This requires identifying shortcomings and facing them head-on. Would that more aspects of our society were like this. Sin, of course looms at every corner. Once objectives are achieved (winning, scoring touchdowns, etc.) the participants often bask in the glow of self aggrandizement. Something good turns into something bad…maybe even a violation of vocational calling?

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    I would make the case that a very productive and honorable form of humility is present in sports of all kinds. The objective process of accepting critique and self confrontation are at the heart of sports. This requires identifying shortcomings and facing them head-on. Would that more aspects of our society were like this. Sin, of course looms at every corner. Once objectives are achieved (winning, scoring touchdowns, etc.) the participants often bask in the glow of self aggrandizement. Something good turns into something bad…maybe even a violation of vocational calling?

  • Joanna Hensley

    Tony, perhaps it is the difference between Scrooge in the beginning of A Christmas Carol and Scrooge at the end. At first, he just wants to make a selfish buck, and he hurts his neighbors to do it. By the end, he uses his money to love and serve his neighbors.

  • Joanna Hensley

    Tony, perhaps it is the difference between Scrooge in the beginning of A Christmas Carol and Scrooge at the end. At first, he just wants to make a selfish buck, and he hurts his neighbors to do it. By the end, he uses his money to love and serve his neighbors.

  • LAJ

    What about being a bartender or working at a casino?

  • LAJ

    What about being a bartender or working at a casino?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Tony, I do not mean to criticize the Derivative sellers community. I’m not saying their work is taboo. If you look at the context, I am making a point about the proximity of the neighbor. In a lot of jobs–often some of the best paid jobs–the neighbor is abstracted and at a far distance. It might be more of a challenge to exercise the disciplines of loving one’s neighbor in them. (Not impossible. I’m sure lots of derivative traders sitting at their computers are thinking how this trade is helping the economy, putting more people to work, and helping them to live better lives.) Other jobs involve more direct interactions with actual people–retail sales, factory work, food-service employees–and thus give lots of occasions for love of neighbor.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Tony, I do not mean to criticize the Derivative sellers community. I’m not saying their work is taboo. If you look at the context, I am making a point about the proximity of the neighbor. In a lot of jobs–often some of the best paid jobs–the neighbor is abstracted and at a far distance. It might be more of a challenge to exercise the disciplines of loving one’s neighbor in them. (Not impossible. I’m sure lots of derivative traders sitting at their computers are thinking how this trade is helping the economy, putting more people to work, and helping them to live better lives.) Other jobs involve more direct interactions with actual people–retail sales, factory work, food-service employees–and thus give lots of occasions for love of neighbor.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Being a bartender would, I believe, be included with what the Confessions classify as “innkeeper.” Most Lutherans would probably agree that a good bartender has lots of occasions to love and serve his neighbor. (Though some of the commenters at Gospel Coalition would disagree.) A casino worker, though, might be a different story, depending on the work done. (Food service, no problem. Blackjack dealer? I don’t know.) That section in the post, though, dealt with areas that are not so clear and that Christians may disagree over. I once gave a presentation to some pastors who had members who worked in area casinos. I’d be curious if any of you have any further thoughts about this. Can a blackjack dealer be loving and serving her neighbors–by giving them a little thrill in their humdrum lives–or since the goal is winning away their money, is that intrinsically harmful to the neighbor? You tell me. I’d love to hear from Pastors in Nevada and on Indian reservations! (I don’t think it’s the business of pastors to discipline their members for the kind of work they do, except under extreme circumstances [such as the abortion doctor], though they may eventually change their hearts through the preaching of law and gospel. Though perhaps that’s worth discussing too, the pastoral care implications of this question.)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Being a bartender would, I believe, be included with what the Confessions classify as “innkeeper.” Most Lutherans would probably agree that a good bartender has lots of occasions to love and serve his neighbor. (Though some of the commenters at Gospel Coalition would disagree.) A casino worker, though, might be a different story, depending on the work done. (Food service, no problem. Blackjack dealer? I don’t know.) That section in the post, though, dealt with areas that are not so clear and that Christians may disagree over. I once gave a presentation to some pastors who had members who worked in area casinos. I’d be curious if any of you have any further thoughts about this. Can a blackjack dealer be loving and serving her neighbors–by giving them a little thrill in their humdrum lives–or since the goal is winning away their money, is that intrinsically harmful to the neighbor? You tell me. I’d love to hear from Pastors in Nevada and on Indian reservations! (I don’t think it’s the business of pastors to discipline their members for the kind of work they do, except under extreme circumstances [such as the abortion doctor], though they may eventually change their hearts through the preaching of law and gospel. Though perhaps that’s worth discussing too, the pastoral care implications of this question.)

  • kerner

    SK @3:

    I noticed a lot of discussion of the military as a vocation on the Gospel coalition site too. But Jesus was actuall asked by soldiers what they should do, and he didn’t tell them to stop soldiering, Luke 3:14:

    “14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

    He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

    I don’t know whether these were Roman soldiers, or Herod’s soldiers, or somebody else entirely, but I have to believe that if military service were un-Christian per se, Jesus’ response would have indicated that.

  • kerner

    SK @3:

    I noticed a lot of discussion of the military as a vocation on the Gospel coalition site too. But Jesus was actuall asked by soldiers what they should do, and he didn’t tell them to stop soldiering, Luke 3:14:

    “14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

    He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

    I don’t know whether these were Roman soldiers, or Herod’s soldiers, or somebody else entirely, but I have to believe that if military service were un-Christian per se, Jesus’ response would have indicated that.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    SKPeterson,

    “All things” means, all things.

    That is why Luther could write that “we could commit murder a thousand times a day and adultery 10,000 times a day…”.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    SKPeterson,

    “All things” means, all things.

    That is why Luther could write that “we could commit murder a thousand times a day and adultery 10,000 times a day…”.

  • Jonathan

    @16
    The speaker in Luke 3:14 was John the Baptist.
    Were the soldiers Romans? I’m not sure. Because, if so, they were already under the authority of pagan gods, whose standard they carried. Indeed, Ceasar was a god. This was the problem when a Roman soldier later converted to Christianity; he had to give up his livelihood of marching and killing under overtly pagan authority. I’m not sure I know what John had in mind in Luke 3, but I’m don’t think he was simply saying that the military in a perfectly valid Christian vocation, provided you remain content with your pay.

    What about a pilot in wartime? Was the crew that dropped the A bomb on Japan carrying out a vocation that any Christian could have done. I have my doubts. It’s one thing to fight for your country against other soliders; everyone’s signed up for the fight. But to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians? I wouldn’t want to have to make that choice.

    But we can’t really have these discussions in the American church because, for too many, criticizing the American military is the height of blasphemy.

  • Jonathan

    @16
    The speaker in Luke 3:14 was John the Baptist.
    Were the soldiers Romans? I’m not sure. Because, if so, they were already under the authority of pagan gods, whose standard they carried. Indeed, Ceasar was a god. This was the problem when a Roman soldier later converted to Christianity; he had to give up his livelihood of marching and killing under overtly pagan authority. I’m not sure I know what John had in mind in Luke 3, but I’m don’t think he was simply saying that the military in a perfectly valid Christian vocation, provided you remain content with your pay.

    What about a pilot in wartime? Was the crew that dropped the A bomb on Japan carrying out a vocation that any Christian could have done. I have my doubts. It’s one thing to fight for your country against other soliders; everyone’s signed up for the fight. But to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians? I wouldn’t want to have to make that choice.

    But we can’t really have these discussions in the American church because, for too many, criticizing the American military is the height of blasphemy.

  • Dan Kempin

    Dr. Veith, #15,

    I’m not sure that the confessional defense of an “innkeeper” can be so easily equated with a contemporary “bartender.” A reformation era inn was a motel, restaurant, and gathering place as well as a tavern, and the tavern did not necessarily mean that alcohol was served to excess. Such a service contains much that is beneficial to the neighbor. Yet drunkenness is a sin and, as you say, “God never calls us to sin.”

    Not that I’m an expert in the history of inns, but I would perhaps draw a distinction between an Applebees type restaurant, where alcohol is served freely but a family atmosphere is (generally) maintained, and a “bar,” where the express purpose is to drink to excess. (Or perhaps also to flirt and and to “hook up.”) I have no problem defending the former, but I have a very difficult time justifying the latter.

  • Dan Kempin

    Dr. Veith, #15,

    I’m not sure that the confessional defense of an “innkeeper” can be so easily equated with a contemporary “bartender.” A reformation era inn was a motel, restaurant, and gathering place as well as a tavern, and the tavern did not necessarily mean that alcohol was served to excess. Such a service contains much that is beneficial to the neighbor. Yet drunkenness is a sin and, as you say, “God never calls us to sin.”

    Not that I’m an expert in the history of inns, but I would perhaps draw a distinction between an Applebees type restaurant, where alcohol is served freely but a family atmosphere is (generally) maintained, and a “bar,” where the express purpose is to drink to excess. (Or perhaps also to flirt and and to “hook up.”) I have no problem defending the former, but I have a very difficult time justifying the latter.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    When Jesus made the (between) a 160 and 180 gallons of wine for the wedding feast at Cana, I wonder if he appointed someone to go around and make sure no one drank to excess?

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    When Jesus made the (between) a 160 and 180 gallons of wine for the wedding feast at Cana, I wonder if he appointed someone to go around and make sure no one drank to excess?

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Not that I am advocating getting drunk. But I have been. More than a few times ( a while ago – what time is it, anyway?) :D

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Not that I am advocating getting drunk. But I have been. More than a few times ( a while ago – what time is it, anyway?) :D

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dan (@19), I’m sorry, but you don’t go to bars, do you? The “express purpose” of bars is “drinking to excess”? You sound like a Baptist! I’ve been to plenty of bars in my time, and I would guess the vast majority of people in them were not drunk — nor did they leave the bar drunk, either.

    And let’s not divvy the world up into “family-friendly” drinking establishments vs. dark, evil drinking establishments, either. I’ve had way more good, deep theological discussions in a dark, evil bar than I’ve ever had in an Applebee’s. I’ve even drunk beer in a bar with a pastor or two.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dan (@19), I’m sorry, but you don’t go to bars, do you? The “express purpose” of bars is “drinking to excess”? You sound like a Baptist! I’ve been to plenty of bars in my time, and I would guess the vast majority of people in them were not drunk — nor did they leave the bar drunk, either.

    And let’s not divvy the world up into “family-friendly” drinking establishments vs. dark, evil drinking establishments, either. I’ve had way more good, deep theological discussions in a dark, evil bar than I’ve ever had in an Applebee’s. I’ve even drunk beer in a bar with a pastor or two.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Anyhow, sure, an innkeeper back in the day was more than just a bartender, but he was, all the same, a bartender. (We could get sidetracked by a further discussion of historical drinking levels, but I’ll avoid that rabbit hole for now.)

    A good bartender knows when a patron has had too much to drink and cuts him off. Indeed, many states have laws requiring the bartender to refuse service to those who are (visibly) intoxicated. A good bartender will also call a cab for anyone who’s had too much. A good bartender shows love for his neighbors in a variety of ways, only one of which is serving him tasty, relaxing beverages in a timely manner.

    As to Veith’s question (@15) about casino workers, I have to admit I don’t quite get the hang-up about casinos. I’ve only been to one or two (a spring break trip to Vegas back in college), but I knew what I was getting into, I set aside a sum of money I was prepared to lose for entertainment value (as it happened, I left with a couple more dollars than I brought), and I had a good time.

    Not everyone does or is able to have that experience, I get that. But nor is everyone able to drink reasonably. But if we say that the existence of reasonable drinkers means that brewing beer or making wine is not a sin against one’s neighbors, then shouldn’t we likewise conclude that the existence of reasonable gamblers means that casino workers — yes, even blackjack dealers — are not necessarily harming their neighbors?

    That is to say, if an activity can be undertaken in a way such that everyone involved enjoys it and is not harmed (in the short or long term), can we really say that said activity is categorically sinful? I would say no, adding that there still remains the question of whether an activity (and, by extension, vocation) is sinful for the person involved (e.g. personal weaknesses). Perhaps this is what Carl (@6) was thinking, as well.

    I’ve met many bartenders who clearly enjoyed their work and showed love to me (and, I assume, other patrons) in their work. It wasn’t just about slinging alcohol to make money and get people drunk. But perhaps some bars do lend themselves to that. Then I’d say that bartending as a category is fine, but bartending at certain places (or for certain people) is not.

    Can a blackjack dealer be loving and serving her neighbors–by giving them a little thrill in their humdrum lives–or since the goal is winning away their money, is that intrinsically harmful to the neighbor?

    I might be splitting hairs now (this will shock some of you), but I’m not really sure the job of the blackjack dealer is to “win away [players'] money”. As I understand it, their job is really just to enforce the rules of the game, with actions set by the house (according to statistics) so as to ensure the house wins more than the players, on average. But most dealers are really more like referees in a game between the house and the gamblers. And they’re generally pretty nice, to boot, congratulating you on statistically unlikely plays (“Nice pull, sir!”) and so on.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Anyhow, sure, an innkeeper back in the day was more than just a bartender, but he was, all the same, a bartender. (We could get sidetracked by a further discussion of historical drinking levels, but I’ll avoid that rabbit hole for now.)

    A good bartender knows when a patron has had too much to drink and cuts him off. Indeed, many states have laws requiring the bartender to refuse service to those who are (visibly) intoxicated. A good bartender will also call a cab for anyone who’s had too much. A good bartender shows love for his neighbors in a variety of ways, only one of which is serving him tasty, relaxing beverages in a timely manner.

    As to Veith’s question (@15) about casino workers, I have to admit I don’t quite get the hang-up about casinos. I’ve only been to one or two (a spring break trip to Vegas back in college), but I knew what I was getting into, I set aside a sum of money I was prepared to lose for entertainment value (as it happened, I left with a couple more dollars than I brought), and I had a good time.

    Not everyone does or is able to have that experience, I get that. But nor is everyone able to drink reasonably. But if we say that the existence of reasonable drinkers means that brewing beer or making wine is not a sin against one’s neighbors, then shouldn’t we likewise conclude that the existence of reasonable gamblers means that casino workers — yes, even blackjack dealers — are not necessarily harming their neighbors?

    That is to say, if an activity can be undertaken in a way such that everyone involved enjoys it and is not harmed (in the short or long term), can we really say that said activity is categorically sinful? I would say no, adding that there still remains the question of whether an activity (and, by extension, vocation) is sinful for the person involved (e.g. personal weaknesses). Perhaps this is what Carl (@6) was thinking, as well.

    I’ve met many bartenders who clearly enjoyed their work and showed love to me (and, I assume, other patrons) in their work. It wasn’t just about slinging alcohol to make money and get people drunk. But perhaps some bars do lend themselves to that. Then I’d say that bartending as a category is fine, but bartending at certain places (or for certain people) is not.

    Can a blackjack dealer be loving and serving her neighbors–by giving them a little thrill in their humdrum lives–or since the goal is winning away their money, is that intrinsically harmful to the neighbor?

    I might be splitting hairs now (this will shock some of you), but I’m not really sure the job of the blackjack dealer is to “win away [players'] money”. As I understand it, their job is really just to enforce the rules of the game, with actions set by the house (according to statistics) so as to ensure the house wins more than the players, on average. But most dealers are really more like referees in a game between the house and the gamblers. And they’re generally pretty nice, to boot, congratulating you on statistically unlikely plays (“Nice pull, sir!”) and so on.

  • Jonathan

    To follow tODD’s comments, what about a Chritian who works for a cable company. The company sells adult stations for a premium. A customer calls and requests the stations. You’re the Christian who takes the call. You just finished completing an order for the Disney channel. Now you’re asked to carry out the order and give this customer his adult stations. Do you do it? Does it matter?

    I once knew a Christian engineer who quit his job rather than work on his company’s contract to build a church for a nonChristian religion. He said he couldn’t use his building skills to further a false religion. Was he right? Is it OK to be a dry cleaner who cleans the dirty clothes of people who you know will wear them to worship some other god?

    I guess it’s easy to say, don’t be prostitute. It’s harder to figure out what to do you when your job is generally fine but sometimes calls on you to do things you might not want to do.

  • Jonathan

    To follow tODD’s comments, what about a Chritian who works for a cable company. The company sells adult stations for a premium. A customer calls and requests the stations. You’re the Christian who takes the call. You just finished completing an order for the Disney channel. Now you’re asked to carry out the order and give this customer his adult stations. Do you do it? Does it matter?

    I once knew a Christian engineer who quit his job rather than work on his company’s contract to build a church for a nonChristian religion. He said he couldn’t use his building skills to further a false religion. Was he right? Is it OK to be a dry cleaner who cleans the dirty clothes of people who you know will wear them to worship some other god?

    I guess it’s easy to say, don’t be prostitute. It’s harder to figure out what to do you when your job is generally fine but sometimes calls on you to do things you might not want to do.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Okay, I’m just now getting through Veith’s article over on The Gospel Coalition, and though I may have already said this one way, I still wanted to reply to this passage:

    A casino blackjack dealer might be considered part of the “entertainment industry,” bringing a jolt of pleasure and excitement to her customers, but her main goal is not to love and serve them but to win their money. She is also profiting from the sins of her neighbors.

    How, exactly, does one determine what a blackjack dealer’s “main goal” is? Does one have to ask the dealer personally, or can you know what someone’s goal is merely by virtue of what position they hold?

    I mean, yes, a blackjack dealer who consistently loses money for the house will probably not long be a blackjack dealer (though she’d have to be incompetent for that to happen — the statistics are in her favor).

    But couldn’t we also claim that a baker’s “main goal” is to take customers’ money, as well? Or, more to the point, that a professional athlete’s main goal is to take millions of their fans’ money? But obviously Veith doesn’t believe this is true of athletes and bakers — or, at least, not all of them. Why then do we think this way about blackjack dealers?

    Make no mistake, the baker profits from the sins of her neighbors, too. You may have noticed that we’re eating more than our fair share of bread these days in this country. Maybe bakers (and others in the food-service industry) should be cutting off their customers who order too much food — especially if it’s clear by looking at them that they’ve already eaten too much food. Is it sinful for a waiter to serve food to an obese man?

    Ah, but we don’t really take gluttony seriously as a sin, do we?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Okay, I’m just now getting through Veith’s article over on The Gospel Coalition, and though I may have already said this one way, I still wanted to reply to this passage:

    A casino blackjack dealer might be considered part of the “entertainment industry,” bringing a jolt of pleasure and excitement to her customers, but her main goal is not to love and serve them but to win their money. She is also profiting from the sins of her neighbors.

    How, exactly, does one determine what a blackjack dealer’s “main goal” is? Does one have to ask the dealer personally, or can you know what someone’s goal is merely by virtue of what position they hold?

    I mean, yes, a blackjack dealer who consistently loses money for the house will probably not long be a blackjack dealer (though she’d have to be incompetent for that to happen — the statistics are in her favor).

    But couldn’t we also claim that a baker’s “main goal” is to take customers’ money, as well? Or, more to the point, that a professional athlete’s main goal is to take millions of their fans’ money? But obviously Veith doesn’t believe this is true of athletes and bakers — or, at least, not all of them. Why then do we think this way about blackjack dealers?

    Make no mistake, the baker profits from the sins of her neighbors, too. You may have noticed that we’re eating more than our fair share of bread these days in this country. Maybe bakers (and others in the food-service industry) should be cutting off their customers who order too much food — especially if it’s clear by looking at them that they’ve already eaten too much food. Is it sinful for a waiter to serve food to an obese man?

    Ah, but we don’t really take gluttony seriously as a sin, do we?

  • LAJ

    C. S. Lewis wrote about the vocation of a professional soldier if you are interested.

  • LAJ

    C. S. Lewis wrote about the vocation of a professional soldier if you are interested.

  • Carl Vehse

    Jonathan @18: “What about a pilot in wartime? Was the crew that dropped the A bomb on Japan carrying out a vocation that any Christian could have done. I have my doubts. It’s one thing to fight for your country against other soliders; everyone’s signed up for the fight. But to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians? I wouldn’t want to have to make that choice.”

    The U.S. was at war with both Germany and Japan. Any German and Japanese facilities that aided the country’s military capabilities, even if citizens worked in or near them, were legitimate (and ethical) targets. Not only were the pilots and the people who built the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki carrying out vocations that any Christian could have done (and probably did), but so also were the pilots and crews of the firebombing missions against military or manufacturing facilities in Hamburg, Dresden, Toyko, Kobe, Osaka, and other German and Japanese cities in WWII. And if the United States had developed the A-bomb before Germany surrendered, dropping it on any German city of military significance would have been a vocation that a Christian pilot could have done as well.

  • Carl Vehse

    Jonathan @18: “What about a pilot in wartime? Was the crew that dropped the A bomb on Japan carrying out a vocation that any Christian could have done. I have my doubts. It’s one thing to fight for your country against other soliders; everyone’s signed up for the fight. But to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians? I wouldn’t want to have to make that choice.”

    The U.S. was at war with both Germany and Japan. Any German and Japanese facilities that aided the country’s military capabilities, even if citizens worked in or near them, were legitimate (and ethical) targets. Not only were the pilots and the people who built the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki carrying out vocations that any Christian could have done (and probably did), but so also were the pilots and crews of the firebombing missions against military or manufacturing facilities in Hamburg, Dresden, Toyko, Kobe, Osaka, and other German and Japanese cities in WWII. And if the United States had developed the A-bomb before Germany surrendered, dropping it on any German city of military significance would have been a vocation that a Christian pilot could have done as well.

  • Jonathan

    Carl, thanks, but why not grapple with the ethics of killing hundreds of thousands of people, including children, whose crime was that they were Japanese? Surely the buildings could have been destroyed without unleasing nuclear hell. To say it’s justified by a declaration of war is not enough. Even in ’45, there were plenty of Americans who, once the bomb was known, debated the ethics of the using it. This subject is a good example of how, usually, American Christians lag far behind nonChristians in understanding ethical issues.

  • Jonathan

    Carl, thanks, but why not grapple with the ethics of killing hundreds of thousands of people, including children, whose crime was that they were Japanese? Surely the buildings could have been destroyed without unleasing nuclear hell. To say it’s justified by a declaration of war is not enough. Even in ’45, there were plenty of Americans who, once the bomb was known, debated the ethics of the using it. This subject is a good example of how, usually, American Christians lag far behind nonChristians in understanding ethical issues.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #22,

    “I’ve been to plenty of bars in my time, and I would guess the vast majority of people in them were not drunk — nor did they leave the bar drunk, either.”

    That’s a fair point, and I don’t mean to say that it is wrong for a Christian to enter a bar. We have the freedom to do that, which is what makes this hard to work out in terms of vocation. But freedom is not to be used for sin, and as salutary as your fellowship and theological conversation has been in such a place, I don’t think it is because the place itself is salutary.

    Look at it this way. Say that I own a bar and have a roaring good business of healthy men discussing vocation and theology over good quality beer, single malt scotch, and some nice cigars. That’s fine. But what about the guy who comes in every night, and it is plain to me as it is plain to everyone that he is an alcoholic? Is it loving to maintain an environment that normalizes his drinking? Is it loving of me as a Christian to keep pouring him drinks for a small profit? I think that would be more of a betrayal than a service.

    I appreciate your point that not everyone who patronizes a bar is abusing alcohol, but I expect you would acknowledge that abusive drinking is part and parcel of the bar business. That, at least, is what I was trying to identify with the whole Applebees/serious-drinking-bar comparison.

    Of course, after reading your comments at #23, I see that you have already conceded the point that I wanted to make.* But what the heck. I’ve already typed it, so I may as well post it.

    *(“But perhaps some bars do lend themselves to that. Then I’d say that bartending as a category is fine, but bartending at certain places (or for certain people) is not.”)

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #22,

    “I’ve been to plenty of bars in my time, and I would guess the vast majority of people in them were not drunk — nor did they leave the bar drunk, either.”

    That’s a fair point, and I don’t mean to say that it is wrong for a Christian to enter a bar. We have the freedom to do that, which is what makes this hard to work out in terms of vocation. But freedom is not to be used for sin, and as salutary as your fellowship and theological conversation has been in such a place, I don’t think it is because the place itself is salutary.

    Look at it this way. Say that I own a bar and have a roaring good business of healthy men discussing vocation and theology over good quality beer, single malt scotch, and some nice cigars. That’s fine. But what about the guy who comes in every night, and it is plain to me as it is plain to everyone that he is an alcoholic? Is it loving to maintain an environment that normalizes his drinking? Is it loving of me as a Christian to keep pouring him drinks for a small profit? I think that would be more of a betrayal than a service.

    I appreciate your point that not everyone who patronizes a bar is abusing alcohol, but I expect you would acknowledge that abusive drinking is part and parcel of the bar business. That, at least, is what I was trying to identify with the whole Applebees/serious-drinking-bar comparison.

    Of course, after reading your comments at #23, I see that you have already conceded the point that I wanted to make.* But what the heck. I’ve already typed it, so I may as well post it.

    *(“But perhaps some bars do lend themselves to that. Then I’d say that bartending as a category is fine, but bartending at certain places (or for certain people) is not.”)

  • formerly just steve

    tODD, #22: “I’ve even drunk beer in a bar with a pastor or two.”

    If they were Southern Baptist, certainly not at the same time.

  • formerly just steve

    tODD, #22: “I’ve even drunk beer in a bar with a pastor or two.”

    If they were Southern Baptist, certainly not at the same time.

  • formerly just steve

    Jonathan, #28 “Even in ’45, there were plenty of Americans who, once the bomb was known, debated the ethics of the using it. This subject is a good example of how, usually, American Christians lag far behind nonChristians in understanding ethical issues.”

    What basis do you have for making such a statement? Anything more than anecdotal evidence from your own personal blogging debates?

  • formerly just steve

    Jonathan, #28 “Even in ’45, there were plenty of Americans who, once the bomb was known, debated the ethics of the using it. This subject is a good example of how, usually, American Christians lag far behind nonChristians in understanding ethical issues.”

    What basis do you have for making such a statement? Anything more than anecdotal evidence from your own personal blogging debates?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dan (@29), you make some good points.

    Freedom is not to be used for sin, and as salutary as your fellowship and theological conversation has been in such a place, I don’t think it is because the place itself is salutary.

    I would flip your last conclusion there. Just because a place (or vocation) can be (or is) used for sinful purposes does not mean that said place (or vocation) is itself sinful. Your phrasing seems to only allow the label “salutary” to be applied if and only if a thing cannot be abused for sinful purposes. But if so, what could we label “salutary”?

    That is to say, a bar in which people come together and enjoy each other’s company is salutary, even if other sinful activities also go on there.

    But what about the guy who comes in every night, and it is plain to me as it is plain to everyone that he is an alcoholic? Is it loving to maintain an environment that normalizes his drinking?

    Is it loving to shut down such an environment for the sake of that one man? That’s phrased in a knee-jerk fashion, but it’s a legitimate question. I suppose answers will vary.

    I think there’s a bit of American bias in this line of thinking, though. That is, a puritanical tendency to focus on drunkeness, but to ignore the problems of, say, gluttony. Consider your question in that different scenario: What about the guy who comes in every night, and it is plain to me as it is plain to everyone that he is a glutton? Is it loving to maintain an environment that normalizes his overeating? Is it loving for a Christian waiter/chef to keep serving him food for a small profit?

    Are your answers the same for the glutton as for the alcoholic? Just wondering.

    Anyhow, I would think that the Christian bartender might, in fact, refuse service to the alcoholic, assuming your statement that his alcoholism is “plain to everyone” is correct. I still would not expect him to quit his job, or try to shut down the bar (assuming a Christian owner).

    Abusive drinking is part and parcel of the bar business.

    Sure, but sinful abuses are part and parcel of every business and vocation, no? Again, overeating is part and parcel of the restaurant industry. Selfishness is part and parcel of those seeking legal counsel. And so on.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dan (@29), you make some good points.

    Freedom is not to be used for sin, and as salutary as your fellowship and theological conversation has been in such a place, I don’t think it is because the place itself is salutary.

    I would flip your last conclusion there. Just because a place (or vocation) can be (or is) used for sinful purposes does not mean that said place (or vocation) is itself sinful. Your phrasing seems to only allow the label “salutary” to be applied if and only if a thing cannot be abused for sinful purposes. But if so, what could we label “salutary”?

    That is to say, a bar in which people come together and enjoy each other’s company is salutary, even if other sinful activities also go on there.

    But what about the guy who comes in every night, and it is plain to me as it is plain to everyone that he is an alcoholic? Is it loving to maintain an environment that normalizes his drinking?

    Is it loving to shut down such an environment for the sake of that one man? That’s phrased in a knee-jerk fashion, but it’s a legitimate question. I suppose answers will vary.

    I think there’s a bit of American bias in this line of thinking, though. That is, a puritanical tendency to focus on drunkeness, but to ignore the problems of, say, gluttony. Consider your question in that different scenario: What about the guy who comes in every night, and it is plain to me as it is plain to everyone that he is a glutton? Is it loving to maintain an environment that normalizes his overeating? Is it loving for a Christian waiter/chef to keep serving him food for a small profit?

    Are your answers the same for the glutton as for the alcoholic? Just wondering.

    Anyhow, I would think that the Christian bartender might, in fact, refuse service to the alcoholic, assuming your statement that his alcoholism is “plain to everyone” is correct. I still would not expect him to quit his job, or try to shut down the bar (assuming a Christian owner).

    Abusive drinking is part and parcel of the bar business.

    Sure, but sinful abuses are part and parcel of every business and vocation, no? Again, overeating is part and parcel of the restaurant industry. Selfishness is part and parcel of those seeking legal counsel. And so on.

  • Carl Vehse

    Jonathan @ 28: “Carl, thanks, but why not grapple with the ethics of killing hundreds of thousands of people, including children, whose crime was that they were Japanese?”

    Your question is nonsensical. The children were killed because they were in an area that was a legitimate military target; they were not the military target. The pilots and crews of the bombers and those who helped build the atomic bomb (or the conventional bombs) dropped on military targets did not order the children or other people into such military areas. In fact leaflets were dropped days earlier warning people to leave. In the case of some Japanese cities, the manufacturing of arms was a cottage industry, with each household participating. It is the Japanese parents of those children killed who should grapple with the ethics of their actions or failure to act.

    Americans have no need to grapple with the ethics of their work to develop, build, and use atomic (or hydrogen) bombs against the enemy in wartime.

    “This subject is a good example of how, usually, American Christians lag far behind nonChristians in understanding ethical issues.”

    No, the subject of the use of the atomic bomb in WWII is a good example of how American Christians rightly understood the ethical issues and, in light of the Nazi atrocities uncovered by the Nuremberg trials in Europe and other trials on atrocities by Japanese leaders, were far ahead of nonChristians.

  • Carl Vehse

    Jonathan @ 28: “Carl, thanks, but why not grapple with the ethics of killing hundreds of thousands of people, including children, whose crime was that they were Japanese?”

    Your question is nonsensical. The children were killed because they were in an area that was a legitimate military target; they were not the military target. The pilots and crews of the bombers and those who helped build the atomic bomb (or the conventional bombs) dropped on military targets did not order the children or other people into such military areas. In fact leaflets were dropped days earlier warning people to leave. In the case of some Japanese cities, the manufacturing of arms was a cottage industry, with each household participating. It is the Japanese parents of those children killed who should grapple with the ethics of their actions or failure to act.

    Americans have no need to grapple with the ethics of their work to develop, build, and use atomic (or hydrogen) bombs against the enemy in wartime.

    “This subject is a good example of how, usually, American Christians lag far behind nonChristians in understanding ethical issues.”

    No, the subject of the use of the atomic bomb in WWII is a good example of how American Christians rightly understood the ethical issues and, in light of the Nazi atrocities uncovered by the Nuremberg trials in Europe and other trials on atrocities by Japanese leaders, were far ahead of nonChristians.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Dan @19: In Luther’s day, the job of an “innkeeper” was in dispute, with anabaptists saying that Christians shouldn’t take that job. I don’t think anyone had any problems with extending hospitality and renting rooms. The reason it was controversial was the same reason bartending is controversial.

    Of course all occupations earn money for their work. The point is, what are they giving in return? Bakers give bread. Bartenders give drinks. Blackjack dealers give–well, a jolt of entertainment, perhaps.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Dan @19: In Luther’s day, the job of an “innkeeper” was in dispute, with anabaptists saying that Christians shouldn’t take that job. I don’t think anyone had any problems with extending hospitality and renting rooms. The reason it was controversial was the same reason bartending is controversial.

    Of course all occupations earn money for their work. The point is, what are they giving in return? Bakers give bread. Bartenders give drinks. Blackjack dealers give–well, a jolt of entertainment, perhaps.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Somehow it seems that Romans 14 ought to enter here–I do not have an issue with alcohol per se, but I would feel very uncomfortable drinking in some of the bars that are in my town–especially the one where the guy just got arrested for beating up not just one, but two of the bouncers. In the same way, I’d have a problem with certain parts of the consumer credit industry, coming way too close to usury for my comfort, or for that matter certain areas of management–the kind that cuts thousands of jobs to make monthly or quarterly numbers.

    That said, working in a casino–remember “Thou Shalt not Covet”?–comes awfully close to prostitution as a vocation that isn’t called by the Holy One, to put it mildly. Plus, having just been in Vegas last month on business, suffice it to say that gambling tends to involve a fair amount of the world’s oldest profession, too.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Somehow it seems that Romans 14 ought to enter here–I do not have an issue with alcohol per se, but I would feel very uncomfortable drinking in some of the bars that are in my town–especially the one where the guy just got arrested for beating up not just one, but two of the bouncers. In the same way, I’d have a problem with certain parts of the consumer credit industry, coming way too close to usury for my comfort, or for that matter certain areas of management–the kind that cuts thousands of jobs to make monthly or quarterly numbers.

    That said, working in a casino–remember “Thou Shalt not Covet”?–comes awfully close to prostitution as a vocation that isn’t called by the Holy One, to put it mildly. Plus, having just been in Vegas last month on business, suffice it to say that gambling tends to involve a fair amount of the world’s oldest profession, too.

  • Abby

    Dr Veith, Your article at the Gospel Coalition was very well written. I have several of your books and enjoy your writing very much.

  • Abby

    Dr Veith, Your article at the Gospel Coalition was very well written. I have several of your books and enjoy your writing very much.

  • George

    I think this goes to show how deeply tainted the life and nature of humanity is. Nothing we do is free from sin. Even that which would be good is corrupted by ill intentions that oppress even the most pious men. Those vocations which may be terrible (such as the military) are made necessary by those acts which are more terrible, and those vocations which are good and valid are most often carried out in a selfish and invalidating manner. It is good that we discuss this, for in it we discover how much our sin is bred into all our daily doings. What is left for us, but to repent, and to wait for the parousia, when all this wreck will be done away with?

  • George

    I think this goes to show how deeply tainted the life and nature of humanity is. Nothing we do is free from sin. Even that which would be good is corrupted by ill intentions that oppress even the most pious men. Those vocations which may be terrible (such as the military) are made necessary by those acts which are more terrible, and those vocations which are good and valid are most often carried out in a selfish and invalidating manner. It is good that we discuss this, for in it we discover how much our sin is bred into all our daily doings. What is left for us, but to repent, and to wait for the parousia, when all this wreck will be done away with?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bubba (@35) said:

    it seems that Romans 14 ought to enter here

    I agree. But isn’t saying so an admission that there are no hard-and-fast, blanket rules here? That is, that we can’t say, for the examples being offered, that the vocation is off-limits for Christians?

    I would feel very uncomfortable drinking in some of the bars that are in my town–especially the one where the guy just got arrested for beating up not just one, but two of the bouncers.

    Is your stance just based on wanting to avoid getting beat up? Because, while reasonable, that kind of misses the nuance of the discussion here.

    That said, working in a casino–remember “Thou Shalt not Covet”?–comes awfully close to prostitution as a vocation that isn’t called by the Holy One

    Is that what people’s objection to casinos is based on? The commandment against coveting? I’m curious, then. Does that apply to all games of chance? Are all sweepstakes off? Raffles, too? Is everyone trying to win that quilt made by the lady’s auxiliary guilty of coveting?

    I mean, unless the prostitute is only having sex with her husband, I think we can clearly say that she is engaging in sin. But can you unequivocally say the same about everyone in a casino? Because I can’t.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bubba (@35) said:

    it seems that Romans 14 ought to enter here

    I agree. But isn’t saying so an admission that there are no hard-and-fast, blanket rules here? That is, that we can’t say, for the examples being offered, that the vocation is off-limits for Christians?

    I would feel very uncomfortable drinking in some of the bars that are in my town–especially the one where the guy just got arrested for beating up not just one, but two of the bouncers.

    Is your stance just based on wanting to avoid getting beat up? Because, while reasonable, that kind of misses the nuance of the discussion here.

    That said, working in a casino–remember “Thou Shalt not Covet”?–comes awfully close to prostitution as a vocation that isn’t called by the Holy One

    Is that what people’s objection to casinos is based on? The commandment against coveting? I’m curious, then. Does that apply to all games of chance? Are all sweepstakes off? Raffles, too? Is everyone trying to win that quilt made by the lady’s auxiliary guilty of coveting?

    I mean, unless the prostitute is only having sex with her husband, I think we can clearly say that she is engaging in sin. But can you unequivocally say the same about everyone in a casino? Because I can’t.

  • mds

    Wow, was a bartender in my early days, spent a career in the Army and am retired, now working for an aerospace company and buying parts that go into things that go boom and are used frequently to take out bad guys in buildings, vehicles, etc, in odd parts of the world. Guess I may have no chance according to the Gospel Coalition subscribers (maybe better called Law Coalition). Oh well. I still have absolution and that funny Lutheran wine and bread thing…and faith. Those probably won’t go well with the GC crowd either…

  • mds

    Wow, was a bartender in my early days, spent a career in the Army and am retired, now working for an aerospace company and buying parts that go into things that go boom and are used frequently to take out bad guys in buildings, vehicles, etc, in odd parts of the world. Guess I may have no chance according to the Gospel Coalition subscribers (maybe better called Law Coalition). Oh well. I still have absolution and that funny Lutheran wine and bread thing…and faith. Those probably won’t go well with the GC crowd either…

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #32,

    “I would flip your last conclusion there. Just because a place (or vocation) can be (or is) used for sinful purposes does not mean that said place (or vocation) is itself sinful.”

    I’m not sure that flip works. The point is not whether something may or may not be salutary, which is a matter of indifference, but whether it may be sinful, which is not. It sounds a bit like the old argument for subscribing to playboy magazine “because of the articles.” Something good does not justify something sinful.

    “Are your answers the same for the glutton as for the alcoholic? ”

    Yes. Absolutely. In turn, would your answer be the same if it was a club with exotic dancers instead of just a “bar?”

    Don’t get me wrong. I hear your points and they are valid. But just as you guard against a blanket condemnation of that which may not be sin, so I would guard against a blanket acquittal of things that should perhaps be given more serious consideration.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #32,

    “I would flip your last conclusion there. Just because a place (or vocation) can be (or is) used for sinful purposes does not mean that said place (or vocation) is itself sinful.”

    I’m not sure that flip works. The point is not whether something may or may not be salutary, which is a matter of indifference, but whether it may be sinful, which is not. It sounds a bit like the old argument for subscribing to playboy magazine “because of the articles.” Something good does not justify something sinful.

    “Are your answers the same for the glutton as for the alcoholic? ”

    Yes. Absolutely. In turn, would your answer be the same if it was a club with exotic dancers instead of just a “bar?”

    Don’t get me wrong. I hear your points and they are valid. But just as you guard against a blanket condemnation of that which may not be sin, so I would guard against a blanket acquittal of things that should perhaps be given more serious consideration.

  • SKPeterson

    So, I suppose the question from Todd and Dan’s give-and-take is if Christians can be owners of all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants. For bars (I prefer warm and friendly neighborhood pub, myself), they are required to stop serving alcohol to patrons who are becoming impaired. Yet, what about the buffet owner? His business may attract the morbidly obese. Is it his Christian duty to refrain from serving them? Because he would probably get sued if he doesn’t.

  • SKPeterson

    So, I suppose the question from Todd and Dan’s give-and-take is if Christians can be owners of all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants. For bars (I prefer warm and friendly neighborhood pub, myself), they are required to stop serving alcohol to patrons who are becoming impaired. Yet, what about the buffet owner? His business may attract the morbidly obese. Is it his Christian duty to refrain from serving them? Because he would probably get sued if he doesn’t.

  • Dan Kempin

    SK, #41,

    I’m not sure if you are being serious or having fun here.

    There is an important distinction to point out, though. We are not discussing “blue laws” here, but Christian vocation. It is not my responsibility as a Christian to prevent someone from sinning or to enforce moralistic behavior against their will. (Assuming their behavior does not break the civil law, that is.) A glutton is free to frequent a buffet, just as a drunk is free to frequent bar, just as a gambling addict is free to frequent a casino. We are not debating whether these places should be shut down or patrons with a “problem” denied service. The question is whether a Christian should participate in such a business that causes a neighbor to stumble or reinforces destructive behavior. It’s a valid question.

    Like Jesus said, “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to those through whom they come.”

  • Dan Kempin

    SK, #41,

    I’m not sure if you are being serious or having fun here.

    There is an important distinction to point out, though. We are not discussing “blue laws” here, but Christian vocation. It is not my responsibility as a Christian to prevent someone from sinning or to enforce moralistic behavior against their will. (Assuming their behavior does not break the civil law, that is.) A glutton is free to frequent a buffet, just as a drunk is free to frequent bar, just as a gambling addict is free to frequent a casino. We are not debating whether these places should be shut down or patrons with a “problem” denied service. The question is whether a Christian should participate in such a business that causes a neighbor to stumble or reinforces destructive behavior. It’s a valid question.

    Like Jesus said, “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to those through whom they come.”

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    tODD, there is the fear of getting beat up, and quite frankly there is also the reality that the outside appearance of an establishment can indicate what goes on inside. No windows or darkened windows? Somebody doesn’t want you seeing inside for some reason. Plywood in the windows for a long time? Somebody tolerates the behaviors that get them broken, and doesn’t particularly care about the message that they’re sending with that plywood in the window.

    In short, it’s a place for drinking too much and getting violent. I think we can both agree that this violates some provisions of Scripture, no?

    Which is to say that while there are disputable matters–some might not as a matter of conscience work in or go into a pub at all, no matter how respectable it seems–there are places where the very structure of certain jobs ought to prohibit a Christian from taking part.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    tODD, there is the fear of getting beat up, and quite frankly there is also the reality that the outside appearance of an establishment can indicate what goes on inside. No windows or darkened windows? Somebody doesn’t want you seeing inside for some reason. Plywood in the windows for a long time? Somebody tolerates the behaviors that get them broken, and doesn’t particularly care about the message that they’re sending with that plywood in the window.

    In short, it’s a place for drinking too much and getting violent. I think we can both agree that this violates some provisions of Scripture, no?

    Which is to say that while there are disputable matters–some might not as a matter of conscience work in or go into a pub at all, no matter how respectable it seems–there are places where the very structure of certain jobs ought to prohibit a Christian from taking part.

  • Joe

    What about looking at it from this perspective? Wouldn’t our neighbors be better served if Christians filled the vocation of bar tender of black jack dealer? If I were a struggling alcoholic, I reckon it would be better if my corner bar was full of Christians barkeeps who refused to serve me …

  • Joe

    What about looking at it from this perspective? Wouldn’t our neighbors be better served if Christians filled the vocation of bar tender of black jack dealer? If I were a struggling alcoholic, I reckon it would be better if my corner bar was full of Christians barkeeps who refused to serve me …

  • larry

    By the way: Dr. Vieth’s new book is superb I just received my copy and started reading it. A lot of “ah ha” moments thus far (e.g. seeing vocation from God’s perspective of calling).

    ““Vocation” is simply the Latinate word for “calling.” The doctrine of vocation means that God assigns us to a certain life—with its particular talents, tasks, responsibilities, and relationships—and then calls us to that assignment (1 Corinthians 7:17). God never calls us to sin. All callings, or vocations, from God are thus valid places to serve. So strictly speaking there are no unlawful vocations; the question should actually be whether or not a particular way of making a living is a vocation at all.”

    This is the ‘nuts and bolts’ of it, especially the last sentence.

    The question on vocation strictly speaking is a “law” question, “Can I ____”, and not a Gospel question. Because the Gospel doesn’t prescribe “what to do” but what was done for one. A vocation itself can never be sinful and no vocation exists that God didn’t call forth. Vocation’s are not condemned nor can they be because of this and the fact that even hypothetically a “vocation” cannot sin, man sins. In fact the only condemnation that remains is those denying the Son (M. Luther). Rather, sinners sin in vocations. I.e. fallen man brings in sin not vice versa. So, missionary going all over the world, yes even giving their own lives for the cause, may and indeed does sin within this vocation, both crassly (negative sins) and piously (good sins thinking it counts toward heaven if even only as “proof one is saved”). Thus, the devil produces many martyrs for his cause under pious guise, while a prostitute may remain such dying at last baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.

    In this sense its non-sense to say “Christians cannot…due to morality religion”, because the law applies to everyone baptized and unbaptized. The Gospel, strictly speaking, is what makes a thing Christian. Thus, the difference between the atheist line cook and the Christian line cook feeding me my needed food is not the vocation and calling, but that the Christian has been freed from attempting to take and procure his/her vocation up into heaven before the throne of God and plop it down saying, “Behold the evidence of my good works, faith, regeneration and conversion”. The very thing the non-Christian must be doing because he/she has no other Word given him/her about them being forgiven.

    The law is earthly, the gospel heavenly, as far as the east is from the west, the law rules the flesh and the gospel the conscience. When the former (law) slips into the conscience toward God it is itself violating its office and calling. Strictly speaking the law, like vocation does not do this and sin, but rather again as previously “men do it by miss using it and confounding law and gospel”. So we see here that even “the most salutary doctrine and office held (the law)” can be used in the most egregious sinful manner by fallen man. More egregiously than even a prostitute, thief or murderer, in fact it not only does not help but hinders the sinner from heaven, God and eternal life.

    What the gospel does is to free the conscience for vocation so that one does not have to lug their works up into heaven to show their “id” badge, as they can rest in Christ, in their baptisms, in the supper. The Gospel frees from the very devilish scruples that were occurring especially in the medieval church and a plague among heterodoxy today. One does not have to worry that if being an athlete that “pride develops”. Pride develops in ANY vocation, even the highest of callings, pastors, doctors, parents – this is not a special development in athletics or some such.

    All sin acts are related not primarily to violations of the law, but original sin which is a trust issue. If that is gotten wrong, all of Christian doctrine will be gotten wrong. Men sin because they don’t trust God and thus they garner for themselves what they think they need to get. And they don’t trust God post fall because demonic & antichristic doctrines, labeling themselves as “Christian” withhold the Gospel from men so that they don’t know they are saved, reborn, elected, etc… Not able to trust men cannot but help to sin because they can do no other, bound of will.
    Conversely, what the gospel does at length, and that means “pro me” actually given in Word and sacrament, is enable men to suffer (passion) because they come to trust the more the Word and sacrament are given them and this “trust” (given) wars with unbelief or distrust (the source of all sin acts). As Luther points out, “if you have to hear ‘what you should do’, realize you have already fallen into mortal sin (not trusting God = original sin repeated)”. At great length this Gospel (pro me, given actually) creates the kind of witnesses, when called upon to that vocation, that enables them to forfeit their lives is so called. This same principle of freedom in the Gospel functions in the more mundane vocations as personal gain is battled against (rooted in original sin = a not trusting God issue) i.e. the old man; and the new man increases as faith (trust) strengthens and he/she is able to give of him/herself such that even just as the witness that dies directly for the faith can do so, even still slowly the mother, the father, the food server, the garbage man, the floor sweeper, etc…can give of his/herself (literally their bodies, mind, time) to the neighbor needing no gain from it for all is had in Christ.

  • larry

    By the way: Dr. Vieth’s new book is superb I just received my copy and started reading it. A lot of “ah ha” moments thus far (e.g. seeing vocation from God’s perspective of calling).

    ““Vocation” is simply the Latinate word for “calling.” The doctrine of vocation means that God assigns us to a certain life—with its particular talents, tasks, responsibilities, and relationships—and then calls us to that assignment (1 Corinthians 7:17). God never calls us to sin. All callings, or vocations, from God are thus valid places to serve. So strictly speaking there are no unlawful vocations; the question should actually be whether or not a particular way of making a living is a vocation at all.”

    This is the ‘nuts and bolts’ of it, especially the last sentence.

    The question on vocation strictly speaking is a “law” question, “Can I ____”, and not a Gospel question. Because the Gospel doesn’t prescribe “what to do” but what was done for one. A vocation itself can never be sinful and no vocation exists that God didn’t call forth. Vocation’s are not condemned nor can they be because of this and the fact that even hypothetically a “vocation” cannot sin, man sins. In fact the only condemnation that remains is those denying the Son (M. Luther). Rather, sinners sin in vocations. I.e. fallen man brings in sin not vice versa. So, missionary going all over the world, yes even giving their own lives for the cause, may and indeed does sin within this vocation, both crassly (negative sins) and piously (good sins thinking it counts toward heaven if even only as “proof one is saved”). Thus, the devil produces many martyrs for his cause under pious guise, while a prostitute may remain such dying at last baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.

    In this sense its non-sense to say “Christians cannot…due to morality religion”, because the law applies to everyone baptized and unbaptized. The Gospel, strictly speaking, is what makes a thing Christian. Thus, the difference between the atheist line cook and the Christian line cook feeding me my needed food is not the vocation and calling, but that the Christian has been freed from attempting to take and procure his/her vocation up into heaven before the throne of God and plop it down saying, “Behold the evidence of my good works, faith, regeneration and conversion”. The very thing the non-Christian must be doing because he/she has no other Word given him/her about them being forgiven.

    The law is earthly, the gospel heavenly, as far as the east is from the west, the law rules the flesh and the gospel the conscience. When the former (law) slips into the conscience toward God it is itself violating its office and calling. Strictly speaking the law, like vocation does not do this and sin, but rather again as previously “men do it by miss using it and confounding law and gospel”. So we see here that even “the most salutary doctrine and office held (the law)” can be used in the most egregious sinful manner by fallen man. More egregiously than even a prostitute, thief or murderer, in fact it not only does not help but hinders the sinner from heaven, God and eternal life.

    What the gospel does is to free the conscience for vocation so that one does not have to lug their works up into heaven to show their “id” badge, as they can rest in Christ, in their baptisms, in the supper. The Gospel frees from the very devilish scruples that were occurring especially in the medieval church and a plague among heterodoxy today. One does not have to worry that if being an athlete that “pride develops”. Pride develops in ANY vocation, even the highest of callings, pastors, doctors, parents – this is not a special development in athletics or some such.

    All sin acts are related not primarily to violations of the law, but original sin which is a trust issue. If that is gotten wrong, all of Christian doctrine will be gotten wrong. Men sin because they don’t trust God and thus they garner for themselves what they think they need to get. And they don’t trust God post fall because demonic & antichristic doctrines, labeling themselves as “Christian” withhold the Gospel from men so that they don’t know they are saved, reborn, elected, etc… Not able to trust men cannot but help to sin because they can do no other, bound of will.
    Conversely, what the gospel does at length, and that means “pro me” actually given in Word and sacrament, is enable men to suffer (passion) because they come to trust the more the Word and sacrament are given them and this “trust” (given) wars with unbelief or distrust (the source of all sin acts). As Luther points out, “if you have to hear ‘what you should do’, realize you have already fallen into mortal sin (not trusting God = original sin repeated)”. At great length this Gospel (pro me, given actually) creates the kind of witnesses, when called upon to that vocation, that enables them to forfeit their lives is so called. This same principle of freedom in the Gospel functions in the more mundane vocations as personal gain is battled against (rooted in original sin = a not trusting God issue) i.e. the old man; and the new man increases as faith (trust) strengthens and he/she is able to give of him/herself such that even just as the witness that dies directly for the faith can do so, even still slowly the mother, the father, the food server, the garbage man, the floor sweeper, etc…can give of his/herself (literally their bodies, mind, time) to the neighbor needing no gain from it for all is had in Christ.

  • Grace

    A “bar” or “tavern” is most always a place to drink alcohol, on a bar stool, or around a small table with the same sort of stools. Most of the time, when I have been in such places, for the most part, drinking was to excess, both women and men, who are not married have a tendency to go to such places to meet people, not always, but most frequently. Many bars either in a outside setting, or that of a bar only atmosphere, are places to, not only drink, but look for new people to meet. (Yes, I have repeated the claim, because it’s true)

    I wouldn’t want anyone to see me sitting at a bar, that’s not to say I have never done so, but I would not do it now. The Bible tells us as Christians not to do those things which would lead other weaker brothers and sisters astray… all too often, that is not headed by Believers, but instead, they feel justified when drinking in public when they can see clearly that others who are weak are observing their choice of beverage.

    Often times when in a restaurant, I will look about, to see who’s also there. If they are Believers who have had a problem with alcohol, it is only right to refrain from drinking. I don’t care for soft drinks, however, I can order good water, and juice, then mix them together with ice.

    20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.

    21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

    22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. Romans 14

    I don’t believe that being a bar tender is a vocation for Christian Believers, no matter how one would like to argue the point. I’ve also heard the argument that bars are great places to share the Gospel, I don’t agree with that either.

  • Grace

    A “bar” or “tavern” is most always a place to drink alcohol, on a bar stool, or around a small table with the same sort of stools. Most of the time, when I have been in such places, for the most part, drinking was to excess, both women and men, who are not married have a tendency to go to such places to meet people, not always, but most frequently. Many bars either in a outside setting, or that of a bar only atmosphere, are places to, not only drink, but look for new people to meet. (Yes, I have repeated the claim, because it’s true)

    I wouldn’t want anyone to see me sitting at a bar, that’s not to say I have never done so, but I would not do it now. The Bible tells us as Christians not to do those things which would lead other weaker brothers and sisters astray… all too often, that is not headed by Believers, but instead, they feel justified when drinking in public when they can see clearly that others who are weak are observing their choice of beverage.

    Often times when in a restaurant, I will look about, to see who’s also there. If they are Believers who have had a problem with alcohol, it is only right to refrain from drinking. I don’t care for soft drinks, however, I can order good water, and juice, then mix them together with ice.

    20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.

    21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

    22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. Romans 14

    I don’t believe that being a bar tender is a vocation for Christian Believers, no matter how one would like to argue the point. I’ve also heard the argument that bars are great places to share the Gospel, I don’t agree with that either.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@46), and when you look up in a restaurant and see an obese Christian, do you tell the waiter, “Cancel the entree, the appetizer is sufficient”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@46), and when you look up in a restaurant and see an obese Christian, do you tell the waiter, “Cancel the entree, the appetizer is sufficient”?

  • Grace

    Everyone needs to eat to be healthy. I eat a well balanced diet, it has nothing to do with those who over-eat.

    Silly you :roll:

  • Grace

    Everyone needs to eat to be healthy. I eat a well balanced diet, it has nothing to do with those who over-eat.

    Silly you :roll:

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@48), sounds like you aren’t exactly concerned about causing your gluttonous brothers to stumble. Why is that?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@48), sounds like you aren’t exactly concerned about causing your gluttonous brothers to stumble. Why is that?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, why have you, on this very blog, publicly discussed your consumption of alcohol — even naming your favorite brands of alcohol — when there could be any number of Christians reading your comments that struggle with alcoholism?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, why have you, on this very blog, publicly discussed your consumption of alcohol — even naming your favorite brands of alcohol — when there could be any number of Christians reading your comments that struggle with alcoholism?

  • Grace

    tODD, ops: you’ve done it again.

    You have a penchant for finding any comment I make to ‘nitpick’ .. it’s become your hobby, which can be called a weakness of sorts.

    Correction, I drink only wine.

  • Grace

    tODD, ops: you’ve done it again.

    You have a penchant for finding any comment I make to ‘nitpick’ .. it’s become your hobby, which can be called a weakness of sorts.

    Correction, I drink only wine.

  • Gary

    “I don’t believe that being a bar tender is a vocation for Christian Believers”

    Grace, I respect your convictions (citing Paul) that you would not want to be responsible for a weaker brother stumbling. But I don’t agree with your final conclusion. Here’s your reasoning:

    In applying Scripture to her own life, Grace avoids causing a weaker brother to stumble ->
    If Grace tended bar, there’s a strong possibility some weaker brother might stumble ->
    Therefore Grace would not tend bar ->
    Therefore no other Christian should either.

    It’s the last “therefore” which doesn’t follow. Before you reached your conclusion, you were making perfect sense, explaining why you have a problem of conscience which would not only preclude you from tending bar, but from even drinking in those establishments. And I think you’ve made a valid application of Scripture–for yourself.

    But how can one generalize from one’s self to everyone else? If I acknowledge Romans 14, then it’s _my_ conscience that has wrestle with whether a bar tending gig is for me or not.

  • Gary

    “I don’t believe that being a bar tender is a vocation for Christian Believers”

    Grace, I respect your convictions (citing Paul) that you would not want to be responsible for a weaker brother stumbling. But I don’t agree with your final conclusion. Here’s your reasoning:

    In applying Scripture to her own life, Grace avoids causing a weaker brother to stumble ->
    If Grace tended bar, there’s a strong possibility some weaker brother might stumble ->
    Therefore Grace would not tend bar ->
    Therefore no other Christian should either.

    It’s the last “therefore” which doesn’t follow. Before you reached your conclusion, you were making perfect sense, explaining why you have a problem of conscience which would not only preclude you from tending bar, but from even drinking in those establishments. And I think you’ve made a valid application of Scripture–for yourself.

    But how can one generalize from one’s self to everyone else? If I acknowledge Romans 14, then it’s _my_ conscience that has wrestle with whether a bar tending gig is for me or not.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@51), it’s called having a conversation. And apparently you decry as “nitpicking” any point that you don’t want to or can’t respond to.

    Also, wine is a form of alcoholic beverage, yes.

    So, again, do you care about your Christian brothers that struggle with gluttony? Or about your alcoholic Christian brothers that read blogs? Because it really seems like you’re just defending your own personal (i.e. non-biblical) brand of legalism here, is what I’m trying to spell out for you.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@51), it’s called having a conversation. And apparently you decry as “nitpicking” any point that you don’t want to or can’t respond to.

    Also, wine is a form of alcoholic beverage, yes.

    So, again, do you care about your Christian brothers that struggle with gluttony? Or about your alcoholic Christian brothers that read blogs? Because it really seems like you’re just defending your own personal (i.e. non-biblical) brand of legalism here, is what I’m trying to spell out for you.

  • Grace

    Gary @ 52

    YOU WROTE:

    “In applying Scripture to her own life, Grace avoids causing a weaker brother to stumble ->
    If Grace tended bar, there’s a strong possibility some weaker brother might stumble ->
    Therefore Grace would not tend bar ->
    Therefore no other Christian should either.

    It’s the last “therefore” which doesn’t follow. Before you reached your conclusion, you were making perfect sense, explaining why you have a problem of conscience which would not only preclude you from tending bar, but from even drinking in those establishments.”

    I don’t believe Christian Believers should tend bar, they will have to stand in judgement for their deeds.

    Read Romans 14, verse 21 carefully:

    21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

    It’s the “ANY THING” that covers more than just food and drink, it would include serving as well.

  • Grace

    Gary @ 52

    YOU WROTE:

    “In applying Scripture to her own life, Grace avoids causing a weaker brother to stumble ->
    If Grace tended bar, there’s a strong possibility some weaker brother might stumble ->
    Therefore Grace would not tend bar ->
    Therefore no other Christian should either.

    It’s the last “therefore” which doesn’t follow. Before you reached your conclusion, you were making perfect sense, explaining why you have a problem of conscience which would not only preclude you from tending bar, but from even drinking in those establishments.”

    I don’t believe Christian Believers should tend bar, they will have to stand in judgement for their deeds.

    Read Romans 14, verse 21 carefully:

    21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

    It’s the “ANY THING” that covers more than just food and drink, it would include serving as well.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@54), wouldn’t “any thing” also include your, you know, “eating flesh” (or any other food) in front of your Christian brother who struggles with gluttony? Or writing about drinking wine for an alcoholic Christian brother to read?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@54), wouldn’t “any thing” also include your, you know, “eating flesh” (or any other food) in front of your Christian brother who struggles with gluttony? Or writing about drinking wine for an alcoholic Christian brother to read?

  • Grace

    I’m not in charge of those who over-eat, or obese. They do so from any age, their is no age limit upon which a person can buy food or consume it – be it high in fat, sugar and calories.

    I do not need to, nor do I want to lose weight, it would not be a healthy thing to do. Therefore I consume a well balanced diet, no matter where I am, or whom I’m with. If someone is a strict vegetarian, and is repulsed by eating meat, I am more than able to exclude it from my choice and order, during my lunch or dinner with them, when dinning out. But that doesn’t mean I can eliminate foods that are high in carbs or healthy fat, such as avocados.

    Diabetics must be very careful eating sugar, and other foods stuff, I on the other hand cannot consume foods with artificial sugar, so I order that which I can eat, and expect others who have this disease to order what they are allowed to stay healthy.

    Those who are obese need to eat an entirely different food selection then those who are of normal weight, or who are allergic to certain foods, or because of particular health problems are restricted from consuming different foods.

  • Grace

    I’m not in charge of those who over-eat, or obese. They do so from any age, their is no age limit upon which a person can buy food or consume it – be it high in fat, sugar and calories.

    I do not need to, nor do I want to lose weight, it would not be a healthy thing to do. Therefore I consume a well balanced diet, no matter where I am, or whom I’m with. If someone is a strict vegetarian, and is repulsed by eating meat, I am more than able to exclude it from my choice and order, during my lunch or dinner with them, when dinning out. But that doesn’t mean I can eliminate foods that are high in carbs or healthy fat, such as avocados.

    Diabetics must be very careful eating sugar, and other foods stuff, I on the other hand cannot consume foods with artificial sugar, so I order that which I can eat, and expect others who have this disease to order what they are allowed to stay healthy.

    Those who are obese need to eat an entirely different food selection then those who are of normal weight, or who are allergic to certain foods, or because of particular health problems are restricted from consuming different foods.

  • Grace

    As the resident nit-picker, you have your hands full, all your little grumbles and gripes!

    POOR tODD :lol:

  • Grace

    As the resident nit-picker, you have your hands full, all your little grumbles and gripes!

    POOR tODD :lol:

  • Gary

    Grace (@54), yes you’ve made that point, but you’re still missing mine. Your application of Paul’s words leads you to the conclusion that you’d rather avoid things (foods, beverages, occupations) which could cause you brother to stumble.

    Now the leap you’re making is in telling me how you applied this passage to yourself (and bar tending) is also necessarily how I should apply it to myself. You do bring in an interesting point about every believer one day standing before the Judge, but isn’t that going to happen anyway? And isn’t it therefore going to come back on me if I caused a brother to stumble? But by telling me it’s not a Christian occupation for me to engage in, I think you’re judging me yourself.

    You’ve doubtlessly noticed Lutherans on this blog bringing up what is referred to as the “Third Use of The Law.” My position is that Third Use is real, but it’s a use that comes into play when I hear God speaking in Scripture to me and my personal situation. I use the Law as a Rule for my life. I don’t think Third Use means I tell YOU how the Law applies to YOUR sanctification.

    Or to get away from Lutheran-ish ways of talking, I don’t think you have any trouble hearing God speaking to you. In the same way, you’ll have to trust that I can hear God speaking to me.

  • Gary

    Grace (@54), yes you’ve made that point, but you’re still missing mine. Your application of Paul’s words leads you to the conclusion that you’d rather avoid things (foods, beverages, occupations) which could cause you brother to stumble.

    Now the leap you’re making is in telling me how you applied this passage to yourself (and bar tending) is also necessarily how I should apply it to myself. You do bring in an interesting point about every believer one day standing before the Judge, but isn’t that going to happen anyway? And isn’t it therefore going to come back on me if I caused a brother to stumble? But by telling me it’s not a Christian occupation for me to engage in, I think you’re judging me yourself.

    You’ve doubtlessly noticed Lutherans on this blog bringing up what is referred to as the “Third Use of The Law.” My position is that Third Use is real, but it’s a use that comes into play when I hear God speaking in Scripture to me and my personal situation. I use the Law as a Rule for my life. I don’t think Third Use means I tell YOU how the Law applies to YOUR sanctification.

    Or to get away from Lutheran-ish ways of talking, I don’t think you have any trouble hearing God speaking to you. In the same way, you’ll have to trust that I can hear God speaking to me.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace said (@56):

    I’m not in charge of those who over-eat, or obese.

    Well that sure sounds like the opposite of the attitude you were recommending us all to have, doesn’t it? What happened to your concern for your Christian brothers struggling with gluttony? What about causing them to stumble with your actions? Why are you talking about yourself when I asked you about your neighbor?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace said (@56):

    I’m not in charge of those who over-eat, or obese.

    Well that sure sounds like the opposite of the attitude you were recommending us all to have, doesn’t it? What happened to your concern for your Christian brothers struggling with gluttony? What about causing them to stumble with your actions? Why are you talking about yourself when I asked you about your neighbor?

  • Grace

    You can tout the “third use of the law” but can YOU use Scripture to back up it up, without copy pasting Luther’s directives?

    Excessive drinking, leading to alcoholism is a problem most people have either read about, or more likely observed in others. It’s a serious condition, which ruins homes, causes people to abuse each other, and their children, DUI is serious, it’s the cause of many deaths and injuries that will leave someone a crippled for life.

    Obese people, are no different, they do the same sort of things out of anger at themselves. The obvious sign is their appearance, another is watching them consume food at a fast food, or other restaurant. They take out their frustration at those who are not obese, or over-weight. They serve high calorie junk food to their children as well. Very often, while observing an obese parent, you will see the same traits begin to take shape in their children.

    One needs to remember that over-eating and alcohol are two distinct problems.

  • Grace

    You can tout the “third use of the law” but can YOU use Scripture to back up it up, without copy pasting Luther’s directives?

    Excessive drinking, leading to alcoholism is a problem most people have either read about, or more likely observed in others. It’s a serious condition, which ruins homes, causes people to abuse each other, and their children, DUI is serious, it’s the cause of many deaths and injuries that will leave someone a crippled for life.

    Obese people, are no different, they do the same sort of things out of anger at themselves. The obvious sign is their appearance, another is watching them consume food at a fast food, or other restaurant. They take out their frustration at those who are not obese, or over-weight. They serve high calorie junk food to their children as well. Very often, while observing an obese parent, you will see the same traits begin to take shape in their children.

    One needs to remember that over-eating and alcohol are two distinct problems.

  • Grace

    tOOD,

    Do you think I should be on the same diet as the obese Christian Believer?

  • Grace

    tOOD,

    Do you think I should be on the same diet as the obese Christian Believer?

  • Grace

    IMPORTANT FACTS:

    One must eat to stay healthy and alive.

    One doesn’t need to consume even one drop of alcohol, to stay healthy or alive.

  • Grace

    IMPORTANT FACTS:

    One must eat to stay healthy and alive.

    One doesn’t need to consume even one drop of alcohol, to stay healthy or alive.

  • Gary

    Grace (@60) : “can YOU use Scripture to back up it up, without copy pasting Luther’s directives?”

    I’m not copying Luther at all on this. (There’s an ongoing debate whether Luther himself even recognized a “Third Use,” but that’s beside the point.)

    My understanding of Scripture is that we shouldn’t use Bible passages to try to improve OTHER Christians’ behavior. We hearken to God speaking His Word to US, and it confronts us very often with those areas of our lives which do not bear His image. His Word then leads us to repentance.

    That’s why I support you when you apply this passage in this way to yourself. But if I were a Christian tending bar and I heard you pronounce my job as not befitting a Christian, perhaps that opinion would burden my conscience. I’m saying we should be very careful about doing that.

  • Gary

    Grace (@60) : “can YOU use Scripture to back up it up, without copy pasting Luther’s directives?”

    I’m not copying Luther at all on this. (There’s an ongoing debate whether Luther himself even recognized a “Third Use,” but that’s beside the point.)

    My understanding of Scripture is that we shouldn’t use Bible passages to try to improve OTHER Christians’ behavior. We hearken to God speaking His Word to US, and it confronts us very often with those areas of our lives which do not bear His image. His Word then leads us to repentance.

    That’s why I support you when you apply this passage in this way to yourself. But if I were a Christian tending bar and I heard you pronounce my job as not befitting a Christian, perhaps that opinion would burden my conscience. I’m saying we should be very careful about doing that.

  • Grace

    Gary @63

    My understanding of Scripture is that we shouldn’t use Bible passages to try to improve OTHER Christians’ behavior. We hearken to God speaking His Word to US, and it confronts us very often with those areas of our lives which do not bear His image. His Word then leads us to repentance.

    We are to use the Word of God:

    For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
    Hebrews 4:12

    “That’s why I support you when you apply this passage in this way to yourself. But if I were a Christian tending bar and I heard you pronounce my job as not befitting a Christian, perhaps that opinion would burden my conscience. I’m saying we should be very careful about doing that.

    Gary, I don’t agree with you. An individual, as a bar tender, a so called Christian Believer would not, (if I was an un-Believer) have any testimony. An individual serving drink after drink, to those who were alcoholics, most likely driving home later in that condition, would serve no purpose as to their so called Christian faith. How could anyone choose to be an ENABLER of alcoholics?

  • Grace

    Gary @63

    My understanding of Scripture is that we shouldn’t use Bible passages to try to improve OTHER Christians’ behavior. We hearken to God speaking His Word to US, and it confronts us very often with those areas of our lives which do not bear His image. His Word then leads us to repentance.

    We are to use the Word of God:

    For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
    Hebrews 4:12

    “That’s why I support you when you apply this passage in this way to yourself. But if I were a Christian tending bar and I heard you pronounce my job as not befitting a Christian, perhaps that opinion would burden my conscience. I’m saying we should be very careful about doing that.

    Gary, I don’t agree with you. An individual, as a bar tender, a so called Christian Believer would not, (if I was an un-Believer) have any testimony. An individual serving drink after drink, to those who were alcoholics, most likely driving home later in that condition, would serve no purpose as to their so called Christian faith. How could anyone choose to be an ENABLER of alcoholics?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Thinking of things which actually do damage people, and the entertaining debate between tODD, Grace, and others, let’s consider working for the USDA for corn subsidies. Damage to the country; cheap carbohydrates, fat, protein, and alcohol lead to heart disease, joint ailments, diabetes, cancer, and alcohol related diseases. And yes, alcohol–cheap liquor is almost invariably made using corn syrup.

    Never mind the environmental issues of all that plowing, fertilizer, and such.

    Now I’ll leave this at Romans 14, but it is worth thinking about–do those who take part in the corn subsidy program need to reconsider?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Thinking of things which actually do damage people, and the entertaining debate between tODD, Grace, and others, let’s consider working for the USDA for corn subsidies. Damage to the country; cheap carbohydrates, fat, protein, and alcohol lead to heart disease, joint ailments, diabetes, cancer, and alcohol related diseases. And yes, alcohol–cheap liquor is almost invariably made using corn syrup.

    Never mind the environmental issues of all that plowing, fertilizer, and such.

    Now I’ll leave this at Romans 14, but it is worth thinking about–do those who take part in the corn subsidy program need to reconsider?

  • helen

    Grace @ 62
    One doesn’t need to consume even one drop of alcohol, to stay healthy or alive.

    Speaking for myself, I need something between a teaspoon and a half tablespoon each Sunday morning….. :)

    Aside from that, red wine in moderation is prescribed these days for all sorts of healthful reasons.
    It is actually said that it may extend good health and life.

    Not every person you see who is too heavy is a “glutton”.
    Many of them eat less than their thin companions.

  • helen

    Grace @ 62
    One doesn’t need to consume even one drop of alcohol, to stay healthy or alive.

    Speaking for myself, I need something between a teaspoon and a half tablespoon each Sunday morning….. :)

    Aside from that, red wine in moderation is prescribed these days for all sorts of healthful reasons.
    It is actually said that it may extend good health and life.

    Not every person you see who is too heavy is a “glutton”.
    Many of them eat less than their thin companions.

  • Grace

    helen @ 66

    Yes. yes, we are all aware of red wine, used for the LORD’s Supper.

    As far as wine being healthy, that is still controversial.

    Many people live as long, or longer without drinking a drop of wine (or very little) or any other alcoholic beverage. One part of my family is noted for not drinking at all, for the most part, they live into their late 80′s to over a hundred. On the other hand another group on another side, drink alcoholic beverages and live, on the average between 55 and 70 on average, with a few into their 80′s and one into her 90′s. It all depends on the individual, and their family. Some families groups have long lives, while others don’t.

  • Grace

    helen @ 66

    Yes. yes, we are all aware of red wine, used for the LORD’s Supper.

    As far as wine being healthy, that is still controversial.

    Many people live as long, or longer without drinking a drop of wine (or very little) or any other alcoholic beverage. One part of my family is noted for not drinking at all, for the most part, they live into their late 80′s to over a hundred. On the other hand another group on another side, drink alcoholic beverages and live, on the average between 55 and 70 on average, with a few into their 80′s and one into her 90′s. It all depends on the individual, and their family. Some families groups have long lives, while others don’t.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace asked (@61):

    Do you think I should be on the same diet as the obese Christian Believer?

    Do I think you should be? No.

    But I do think you should be … according to the precepts you’re laying out here and expecting Christians — or at least other Christians — to follow.

    You really seem to be missing the connection here. Every time I apply your arguments about alcohol to the realm of eating, you bristle at your own (applied) arguments. That smells like hypocrisy to me.

    Here, I’ll do it again for you, using your words from comment #46:

    The Bible tells us as Christians not to do those things which would lead other weaker brothers and sisters astray… all too often, that is not headed [sic] by Believers, but instead, they feel justified when [eating] in public when they can see clearly that others who are weak are observing their choice of [food].

    Oh, except that when I make arguments like this, instead of showing the slightest bit of concern for your Christian brothers, you say things like “I eat a well balanced diet, it has nothing to do with those who over-eat” (@48) and “I’m not in charge of those who over-eat, or obese” (@56).

    So do you really care about leading “weaker brothers and sisters astray”, or do you just want to enforce your particular, legalistic take on what Christians can’t do with regard to bars and pubs? Given your apparent indifference to the plight of those struggling with the sin of gluttony, the answer seems quite clear.

    I’m sorry that the only bars you’re familiar with are apparently only filled with drunks (who later drive home drunk). I can see why you stopped frequenting such places. It’s just a bit odd to me, because I’ve been to bars in the real world, and most people in them aren’t drunk, nor do they drive home drunk.

    It’s also odd that you still think it’s okay for you to admit you drink alcohol in front of everyone on this blog. As if it were somehow sinful to be seen drinking in a bar, but perfectly holy for the same alcoholics you claim to be concerned about to read about your alcoholic consumption in a public forum.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace asked (@61):

    Do you think I should be on the same diet as the obese Christian Believer?

    Do I think you should be? No.

    But I do think you should be … according to the precepts you’re laying out here and expecting Christians — or at least other Christians — to follow.

    You really seem to be missing the connection here. Every time I apply your arguments about alcohol to the realm of eating, you bristle at your own (applied) arguments. That smells like hypocrisy to me.

    Here, I’ll do it again for you, using your words from comment #46:

    The Bible tells us as Christians not to do those things which would lead other weaker brothers and sisters astray… all too often, that is not headed [sic] by Believers, but instead, they feel justified when [eating] in public when they can see clearly that others who are weak are observing their choice of [food].

    Oh, except that when I make arguments like this, instead of showing the slightest bit of concern for your Christian brothers, you say things like “I eat a well balanced diet, it has nothing to do with those who over-eat” (@48) and “I’m not in charge of those who over-eat, or obese” (@56).

    So do you really care about leading “weaker brothers and sisters astray”, or do you just want to enforce your particular, legalistic take on what Christians can’t do with regard to bars and pubs? Given your apparent indifference to the plight of those struggling with the sin of gluttony, the answer seems quite clear.

    I’m sorry that the only bars you’re familiar with are apparently only filled with drunks (who later drive home drunk). I can see why you stopped frequenting such places. It’s just a bit odd to me, because I’ve been to bars in the real world, and most people in them aren’t drunk, nor do they drive home drunk.

    It’s also odd that you still think it’s okay for you to admit you drink alcohol in front of everyone on this blog. As if it were somehow sinful to be seen drinking in a bar, but perfectly holy for the same alcoholics you claim to be concerned about to read about your alcoholic consumption in a public forum.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace also said (@67):

    As far as wine being healthy, that is still controversial.

    Okay, first of all, for someone whose background is in medicine, it seems more than a bit disingenuous for you to call it “controversial”. It’s not controversial at all — many chemicals in wine are good for various aspects of your health.

    Also, hello, anyone? 1 Timothy 5:23? Still “controversial”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace also said (@67):

    As far as wine being healthy, that is still controversial.

    Okay, first of all, for someone whose background is in medicine, it seems more than a bit disingenuous for you to call it “controversial”. It’s not controversial at all — many chemicals in wine are good for various aspects of your health.

    Also, hello, anyone? 1 Timothy 5:23? Still “controversial”?

  • Grace

    Oh tODD,

    You do go on, weaving your story, using bits and pieces from all my posts to make a story of your own.

    Wrong.. drinking wine is controversial as to promote health.

    I don’t “bristle” at anything you write tODD, I find your mismatched tidbits of my posts, put together like a child, rather amusing – not being able to see the puzzle, or understand how to finishing it, by putting the pieces together correctly, INSTEAD, cutting the pieces to fit, and then no one knows what the picture is, because the one doing the puzzle cut the pieces like a child, which makes no sense – that’s YOU tODD. LOL

    Further more, my comments some months ago, were about which kind of wine we drank with dinner.

    I don’t go to bars, nor do my friends – whether they be Believers or un-Believers, it’s not what individuals we associate do, .. instead they go to dinner in nice resturants, enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner, …. that’s all.

    Bars are frequented in the area we live in by those who drink, and drink more than the average person, often looking for more than a drink. We have traveled a great deal, lived up and down this coast, and it’s the same from the wine country, to San Francisco, and then down to La Jolla, people don’t hang out in bars for any reason, unless of course they have other ideas.

  • Grace

    Oh tODD,

    You do go on, weaving your story, using bits and pieces from all my posts to make a story of your own.

    Wrong.. drinking wine is controversial as to promote health.

    I don’t “bristle” at anything you write tODD, I find your mismatched tidbits of my posts, put together like a child, rather amusing – not being able to see the puzzle, or understand how to finishing it, by putting the pieces together correctly, INSTEAD, cutting the pieces to fit, and then no one knows what the picture is, because the one doing the puzzle cut the pieces like a child, which makes no sense – that’s YOU tODD. LOL

    Further more, my comments some months ago, were about which kind of wine we drank with dinner.

    I don’t go to bars, nor do my friends – whether they be Believers or un-Believers, it’s not what individuals we associate do, .. instead they go to dinner in nice resturants, enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner, …. that’s all.

    Bars are frequented in the area we live in by those who drink, and drink more than the average person, often looking for more than a drink. We have traveled a great deal, lived up and down this coast, and it’s the same from the wine country, to San Francisco, and then down to La Jolla, people don’t hang out in bars for any reason, unless of course they have other ideas.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Oh I see, Grace (@70), you don’t mind drinking in public … as long as it’s at “nice resturants” [sic]! You don’t have a problem with drinking establishments per se, you just don’t like the way the lower class go about it, is that it? Bars=sinful, but two glasses of wine at a “nice resturant” are God-approved?

    Got it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Oh I see, Grace (@70), you don’t mind drinking in public … as long as it’s at “nice resturants” [sic]! You don’t have a problem with drinking establishments per se, you just don’t like the way the lower class go about it, is that it? Bars=sinful, but two glasses of wine at a “nice resturant” are God-approved?

    Got it.

  • Grace

    “Lower classes” ? who said anything about price range? – there are restaurants in ALL price ranges, you need to get out more, :razz: there is a bigger world than the local bar, and those who frequent them.

  • Grace

    “Lower classes” ? who said anything about price range? – there are restaurants in ALL price ranges, you need to get out more, :razz: there is a bigger world than the local bar, and those who frequent them.

  • larry

    Scene 2: Krammer (Grace) comes stumbling through the door, que laugh track…

    Situation 1 (Fantasy Island): A room full of anonymous people in a bar or restaurant are sitting down to eat in a large town. Few if any across the tables actually know each other. None know if person X is a Christian, Buddhist, Mormon, atheist or any other religious identity. Somewhere in the room there might be, but no certitude can be know due to the above reality, a Christian who for his/her purposes cares not for beer, wine or other alcohol. An exceedingly self aware and self important pietist is in the room and just simply due to their imaginations that there might be an anonymous “weaker brother” in the room, whom they cannot identify nor even know if they are really there; and that said theoretical weaker too would somehow by some kind witchcraft or mind reading be able to discern that the pietist is in the room too and is not drinking to “protect their weakness” – due to this the exceeding self aware self important piestist thinks they are bearing witness to Christ and protecting the weaker brother. Such a situation that is common in the minds of pietist, in there minds (emphasis added), is shear fantasy and mythological and not even remotely a Christian thought.

    Situation 2 (Bearing Witness): Three men walk into a bar/restaurant and sit down together; a Mormon, a Muslim, and a Christian. All order non-alcoholic beverages of milk, diet Coke and Dr. Pepper. Bearing witness to the faith, point to the Christian.

    My first introduction to this as a pietistic “evangelical” personally, I had forsaken all alcohol was one of my wife’s experiences at a reception. At it an unbeliever had stated in a pleasant conversation concerning why “Christians” (mostly associated with Baptist and Methodist in our area) did not drink. Their answer was a very nice not sneering: Because they believe that not drinking will help get them to heaven.

    I’m reminded of a great story about a reformed pastor back around the 1800s when the Methodist came to town. He said, “I hate the taste of whiskey but now that the Methodist are in town I’ll have to drink it publically to protect the Gospel”.

    In fact the weaker brother stumbling more often than not comes the other way around, when its actual known entities and not the unknown as in above. Cases in which the alleged “stronger brother” abstains and the weaker brother had indulged but upon seeing the “stronger brother” abstain thinks he (the weaker brother) has sinned and fallen away from the faith or maybe is not saved, reborn, etc…” This causes one to stumble, i.e. not believe the Gospel is for them and thus trust nakedly in it for themselves.

    I have had more personal experience, as have many of my Christian friends witnessing the Gospel through the avenue of discussing and/or drinking beer, wine, and other to show what the Christian faith is and is not. This is how much Christ has been buried and denied by this seemingly pious false doctrine concerning the issue of alcohol.

    As to the utilitarian use argument for wine or other. It misses the point of God’s gifts and reduces them to tasteless vitamins. God gives good gifts that taste good, smell good, has beautiful colors and textures and yes effects such that wine and alcohol do, this is why the scripture speaks of the gladness that wine brings and so forth. I don’t drink wine or eat or not eat X to “live longer” (which is unbelief by the way sins God alone numbers ones days and chooses when to remove His breath from us), I do it to enjoy His gifts to me. Fear of death, as if it may be prevented or staved off, as we see in our country today and its over exuberant “health craze” is simply a sign of the depths of unbelief among Americans. C.S. Lewis well identifies the glutton as the overt glutton, i.e. the one who eats to excess and shows it, but the WORSE glutton is the petite little lady who picks and chooses her foods very carefully. Both are obsessed and find “life” in food, one to indulgence and the other to abstinence. And both such are really forms of gnosticism. The difference between a petite dieter and a 400 pound indulger is simply a matter of how they are gluttons.

  • larry

    Scene 2: Krammer (Grace) comes stumbling through the door, que laugh track…

    Situation 1 (Fantasy Island): A room full of anonymous people in a bar or restaurant are sitting down to eat in a large town. Few if any across the tables actually know each other. None know if person X is a Christian, Buddhist, Mormon, atheist or any other religious identity. Somewhere in the room there might be, but no certitude can be know due to the above reality, a Christian who for his/her purposes cares not for beer, wine or other alcohol. An exceedingly self aware and self important pietist is in the room and just simply due to their imaginations that there might be an anonymous “weaker brother” in the room, whom they cannot identify nor even know if they are really there; and that said theoretical weaker too would somehow by some kind witchcraft or mind reading be able to discern that the pietist is in the room too and is not drinking to “protect their weakness” – due to this the exceeding self aware self important piestist thinks they are bearing witness to Christ and protecting the weaker brother. Such a situation that is common in the minds of pietist, in there minds (emphasis added), is shear fantasy and mythological and not even remotely a Christian thought.

    Situation 2 (Bearing Witness): Three men walk into a bar/restaurant and sit down together; a Mormon, a Muslim, and a Christian. All order non-alcoholic beverages of milk, diet Coke and Dr. Pepper. Bearing witness to the faith, point to the Christian.

    My first introduction to this as a pietistic “evangelical” personally, I had forsaken all alcohol was one of my wife’s experiences at a reception. At it an unbeliever had stated in a pleasant conversation concerning why “Christians” (mostly associated with Baptist and Methodist in our area) did not drink. Their answer was a very nice not sneering: Because they believe that not drinking will help get them to heaven.

    I’m reminded of a great story about a reformed pastor back around the 1800s when the Methodist came to town. He said, “I hate the taste of whiskey but now that the Methodist are in town I’ll have to drink it publically to protect the Gospel”.

    In fact the weaker brother stumbling more often than not comes the other way around, when its actual known entities and not the unknown as in above. Cases in which the alleged “stronger brother” abstains and the weaker brother had indulged but upon seeing the “stronger brother” abstain thinks he (the weaker brother) has sinned and fallen away from the faith or maybe is not saved, reborn, etc…” This causes one to stumble, i.e. not believe the Gospel is for them and thus trust nakedly in it for themselves.

    I have had more personal experience, as have many of my Christian friends witnessing the Gospel through the avenue of discussing and/or drinking beer, wine, and other to show what the Christian faith is and is not. This is how much Christ has been buried and denied by this seemingly pious false doctrine concerning the issue of alcohol.

    As to the utilitarian use argument for wine or other. It misses the point of God’s gifts and reduces them to tasteless vitamins. God gives good gifts that taste good, smell good, has beautiful colors and textures and yes effects such that wine and alcohol do, this is why the scripture speaks of the gladness that wine brings and so forth. I don’t drink wine or eat or not eat X to “live longer” (which is unbelief by the way sins God alone numbers ones days and chooses when to remove His breath from us), I do it to enjoy His gifts to me. Fear of death, as if it may be prevented or staved off, as we see in our country today and its over exuberant “health craze” is simply a sign of the depths of unbelief among Americans. C.S. Lewis well identifies the glutton as the overt glutton, i.e. the one who eats to excess and shows it, but the WORSE glutton is the petite little lady who picks and chooses her foods very carefully. Both are obsessed and find “life” in food, one to indulgence and the other to abstinence. And both such are really forms of gnosticism. The difference between a petite dieter and a 400 pound indulger is simply a matter of how they are gluttons.

  • Dan Kempin

    You know, all of this defense against pietism and concern for the weaker brother and noble defense of alcohol in order to defend the gospel is fine, but rather off the point. The question to ask is really a very personal one: Am I undertaking my vocation(s) in a way that pleases God and serves my neighbor?

    My educated guess (read: certain knowledge) is that any Christian who asks this question will have ample cause to repent, and may even come to the conclusion that they would be of better service in another vocation.

    Are there vocations that may not in good conscience be served by a pious Christian? Yes. Where should that line be drawn? Firmly in my own life, not in someone else’s. Commandment and conscience are the guides. They can only be ignored (even in the interest of “Christian freedom”) at great peril.

  • Dan Kempin

    You know, all of this defense against pietism and concern for the weaker brother and noble defense of alcohol in order to defend the gospel is fine, but rather off the point. The question to ask is really a very personal one: Am I undertaking my vocation(s) in a way that pleases God and serves my neighbor?

    My educated guess (read: certain knowledge) is that any Christian who asks this question will have ample cause to repent, and may even come to the conclusion that they would be of better service in another vocation.

    Are there vocations that may not in good conscience be served by a pious Christian? Yes. Where should that line be drawn? Firmly in my own life, not in someone else’s. Commandment and conscience are the guides. They can only be ignored (even in the interest of “Christian freedom”) at great peril.

  • larry

    Dan that’s the point made earlier, divergence aside. There is strictly speaking no such thing as a “vocation” that a Christian cannot do because no such animal exists that IS a vocation. Secondly, but similarly vocations don’t “sin” people sin. In other words and overtly to make it obvious, its not even proper to say “the vocation of thief” and then that the vocation of thief then sins. No, rather the thief sins not “thievery”, and then thievery as a “vocation” does not exist.

    Now actual vocations over time may be overtaken by overt sinful actors and it stains an otherwise legitimate vocation (e.g. used here the bartender for some). But a Christian in good conscience could serve their neighbor there and perhaps should suffer to do so lest it be overtaken by sin altogether.

    The connection of alcohol is not that distant. As Luther once quipped that men go wrong with women should we do away with them too? That would be allowing the legitimate vocation of marriage and its related vocational works of conjugal work be over taken just because broader society abuses crassly this vocation and its works (and we’d be back to the piety of Rome and the monks). When what Christians should do is enter boldly into the vocation, suffer its ill uses, and shine forth its legitimacy under the Gospel. To at length foresake a vocation holistically is nothing less than kind of false piety the anabaptist and others performed.

    Part of the suffering of the Christian and Gospel relief is that one can suffer to be among crass sinners without worry that they will be “stained by them” and realize the ONLY difference in them and themselves is forgiveness of their sins received and not rejected.

  • larry

    Dan that’s the point made earlier, divergence aside. There is strictly speaking no such thing as a “vocation” that a Christian cannot do because no such animal exists that IS a vocation. Secondly, but similarly vocations don’t “sin” people sin. In other words and overtly to make it obvious, its not even proper to say “the vocation of thief” and then that the vocation of thief then sins. No, rather the thief sins not “thievery”, and then thievery as a “vocation” does not exist.

    Now actual vocations over time may be overtaken by overt sinful actors and it stains an otherwise legitimate vocation (e.g. used here the bartender for some). But a Christian in good conscience could serve their neighbor there and perhaps should suffer to do so lest it be overtaken by sin altogether.

    The connection of alcohol is not that distant. As Luther once quipped that men go wrong with women should we do away with them too? That would be allowing the legitimate vocation of marriage and its related vocational works of conjugal work be over taken just because broader society abuses crassly this vocation and its works (and we’d be back to the piety of Rome and the monks). When what Christians should do is enter boldly into the vocation, suffer its ill uses, and shine forth its legitimacy under the Gospel. To at length foresake a vocation holistically is nothing less than kind of false piety the anabaptist and others performed.

    Part of the suffering of the Christian and Gospel relief is that one can suffer to be among crass sinners without worry that they will be “stained by them” and realize the ONLY difference in them and themselves is forgiveness of their sins received and not rejected.

  • Tony

    Gene, Thank you for your response, which greatly helped me better understand your intent. It may well be that many traders are not closely connected with those they are serving and therefore not inclined to think about how it is that they are serving them. On the other hand, star fund managers I’m sure are very in touch with how well they are serving those who have entrusted their money to them.

    I might suggest, though, that, as written, your article indeed insinuates that the work that derivative traders do is “manipulative” and does not add to the “collective good.” Derivative itself is a bit of a loaded term these days, and there are some vocal opponents who question their utility. In fact, I would speculate that this is indeed one reason why you chose to use an example involving derivatives. However, I believe that the way in which you handle the example conflates your main point about proximity of neighbor with skepticism of utility. In comparing derivatives traders to blackjack dealers (who work very close to customers), you perhaps inadvertently suggest that proximity of neighbor is not in fact the main issue, but rather that the nature of the business itself is. The discussion on usury and banking immediately preceding also sets up and reinforces the focus on utility. There in one stroke you justify the banking, financing, and venture capital industries by appealing to their important role in today’s modern economy (even though they may still take advantage of a neighbor’s need by lending money at interest). If it were clear that derivatives markets also played an important role, would they not also be included in this list?

    In my opinion, focusing exclusively either on utility or on proximity would better serve the point you are trying to make. Is the work of a derivatives trader “probably more problematic vocationally” because the utility of derivatives is (supposedly) questionable, or because the trader is not (necessarily) close to those whom he or she is serving?

    Finally, I might add that either conclusion is open to challenge. Many can make a compelling case for the utility of derivatives. Also, many involved in derivatives trading may work for small hedge funds, where the focus would very much be on return for investors. Even those working for banks are in effect serving the owners and, significantly, the employees—including fellow coworkers!

    Thanks to Klasie and Joanna as well for your responses to my comment.

  • Tony

    Gene, Thank you for your response, which greatly helped me better understand your intent. It may well be that many traders are not closely connected with those they are serving and therefore not inclined to think about how it is that they are serving them. On the other hand, star fund managers I’m sure are very in touch with how well they are serving those who have entrusted their money to them.

    I might suggest, though, that, as written, your article indeed insinuates that the work that derivative traders do is “manipulative” and does not add to the “collective good.” Derivative itself is a bit of a loaded term these days, and there are some vocal opponents who question their utility. In fact, I would speculate that this is indeed one reason why you chose to use an example involving derivatives. However, I believe that the way in which you handle the example conflates your main point about proximity of neighbor with skepticism of utility. In comparing derivatives traders to blackjack dealers (who work very close to customers), you perhaps inadvertently suggest that proximity of neighbor is not in fact the main issue, but rather that the nature of the business itself is. The discussion on usury and banking immediately preceding also sets up and reinforces the focus on utility. There in one stroke you justify the banking, financing, and venture capital industries by appealing to their important role in today’s modern economy (even though they may still take advantage of a neighbor’s need by lending money at interest). If it were clear that derivatives markets also played an important role, would they not also be included in this list?

    In my opinion, focusing exclusively either on utility or on proximity would better serve the point you are trying to make. Is the work of a derivatives trader “probably more problematic vocationally” because the utility of derivatives is (supposedly) questionable, or because the trader is not (necessarily) close to those whom he or she is serving?

    Finally, I might add that either conclusion is open to challenge. Many can make a compelling case for the utility of derivatives. Also, many involved in derivatives trading may work for small hedge funds, where the focus would very much be on return for investors. Even those working for banks are in effect serving the owners and, significantly, the employees—including fellow coworkers!

    Thanks to Klasie and Joanna as well for your responses to my comment.

  • Booklover

    Whatever God has meant for good, man has meant for evil.

    Our state legalized gambling. There is now a casino on every block. One wonders what else people do with their spare time, and spare money. Casino waitresses ply their clients with free liquor so that they will keep feeding money into the machines. Casino owners tell the waitresses to ignore the families in the restaurant, and to ply the gamblers with liquor, because that’s where the money is. (The waitresses will tell you this.) Gamblers, drunk and not knowing what they are doing, use the convenient cash machines to suck even more money from their credit cards; many of them spend thousands in one night. After hours of mindless machine-playing, they head out on the roads with their bodies full of liquor and their eyes full of spinning lighted images.

    Gambling, I suppose, is similar to liquor. One thinks it is relatively harmless and kind of fun, until one is married to someone who is addicted.

    So, can a Christian be a casino owner?

  • Booklover

    Whatever God has meant for good, man has meant for evil.

    Our state legalized gambling. There is now a casino on every block. One wonders what else people do with their spare time, and spare money. Casino waitresses ply their clients with free liquor so that they will keep feeding money into the machines. Casino owners tell the waitresses to ignore the families in the restaurant, and to ply the gamblers with liquor, because that’s where the money is. (The waitresses will tell you this.) Gamblers, drunk and not knowing what they are doing, use the convenient cash machines to suck even more money from their credit cards; many of them spend thousands in one night. After hours of mindless machine-playing, they head out on the roads with their bodies full of liquor and their eyes full of spinning lighted images.

    Gambling, I suppose, is similar to liquor. One thinks it is relatively harmless and kind of fun, until one is married to someone who is addicted.

    So, can a Christian be a casino owner?

  • larry

    The same arguments made against God’s good creature wine, beer, etc…can be made against food, women, the sun or any other creature of God up to and including the creature reason itself. There are many of us who have had family members addicted not only to alcohol or cigarettes, but food and have seen the deadly effects to over addiction to food first hand, blood sugar, then stroke, then incapacitation for life just to name a few first hand experiences. In fact that plague is greater in this country today. Reason, addiction to reason is why so many are led away from the faith to various unbelieving venues including and up to Epicureanism (which is precisely the argument Paul makes to the Corinthians over their struggle with the resurrection, to wit, if Jesus did not rise nor will we, then we are pathetic and the epicureans are right. In an attempt to shame them into what their drunkenness over reasoning about the resurrection as did the Saduccees) and this addiction leads not only to physical death but the second death in hell. Yet we tend to think the devil hangs out in bars and not pious venues where he tends to weld the temptation of reason with great force, and why not it worked the first time without a single sip of beer.

    Can a Christian be a Christian artist and sing false doctrine as if it where Christian selling these deceptions leading people away from the word for gain?

  • larry

    The same arguments made against God’s good creature wine, beer, etc…can be made against food, women, the sun or any other creature of God up to and including the creature reason itself. There are many of us who have had family members addicted not only to alcohol or cigarettes, but food and have seen the deadly effects to over addiction to food first hand, blood sugar, then stroke, then incapacitation for life just to name a few first hand experiences. In fact that plague is greater in this country today. Reason, addiction to reason is why so many are led away from the faith to various unbelieving venues including and up to Epicureanism (which is precisely the argument Paul makes to the Corinthians over their struggle with the resurrection, to wit, if Jesus did not rise nor will we, then we are pathetic and the epicureans are right. In an attempt to shame them into what their drunkenness over reasoning about the resurrection as did the Saduccees) and this addiction leads not only to physical death but the second death in hell. Yet we tend to think the devil hangs out in bars and not pious venues where he tends to weld the temptation of reason with great force, and why not it worked the first time without a single sip of beer.

    Can a Christian be a Christian artist and sing false doctrine as if it where Christian selling these deceptions leading people away from the word for gain?

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