Despite Resurgence in ‘Christian Drinking,’ Majority of Christians Still Abstaining from Alcohol

A LifeWay study recently reveals that a majority of Protestant evangelicals are still choosing to abstain from alcohol, despite a resurgence in ‘Christian drinking’ that has particularly become popular and accepted in New Calvinist circles. While some denominations, like Lutherans for example, have never had a strong tradition of abstinence, most mainstream denominations have had at least a partial history of teetotaling or avoiding alcohol altogether. As secularism and worldliness has grown to epic proportions in American evangelicalism, so has the acceptability of alcohol consumption. The LifeWay study raised some eyebrows, as many were surprised that many are still saying ‘no’ liquor.

[Note from the Publisher: I am not a teetotaler and do not mandate total abstinence from alcohol in my local church body. However, I believe it is perfectly wise and prudent to avoid any intoxicating drink of any quantity. Furthermore, I believe that conscientious objectors to alcohol consumption (“fundies” or not) on the grounds that it is unwise in our current culture and setting should not be lifted to scorn. For a Biblical case on abstinence from alcohol, read Peter Master’s book on the subject here. He makes some good points…good points that do not persuade me, but that still have an impact on the seriousness with which we should consider this issue. I add this mid-post disclaimer for the beer-guzzling fratboy Christians who assume any call to caution must come from someone who does not, or has never, drank alcohol]

The study reveals that roughly 6 in 10 evangelicals don’t drink alcohol.

One wonders if the researchers factored in the percentage of Protestants likely to lie on the survey, but it’s got to count for at least a few percentage points. It’s unclear if the research took that possibility into account.

As you can see (above), the percentage of drinkers rose slightly from 39% in 2007 to 41% in 2017. Although that’s an increase, it’s not a dramatic increase, which is no doubt surprising to many within the Reformed camp, among whom it seems that everyone is drinking.

Over-all, I think this is good news and encouraging. While I have no problem with alcohol in moderation per se, there are lots of variables that make the per se go away. For example, one should take into consideration our culture, which is replete with alcoholism as a real and tangible stumbling stone for many, many people. We can take into consideration that the volume of alcohol per serving in many drinks today compared to what it has been historically and argue that there are many more products on the market designed to make you slobber-knocked drunk than in the days of yore. We can take into consideration the opioid crisis; when half of Americans are hooked on opioids, alcohol suddenly becomes a much more dangerous product.

I personally don’t understand the necessity to opine on what I drink, when I drink, or how I drink. I’ve seen Douglas Wilson do a Q&A on his favorite kind of beer. For some reason, James White announced that he drinks Smirnoff Ice (I thought that was a lady’s drink, but I’ll not judge him on that – Colossians 2:16). RC Sproul, Jr., often talked about his favorite kind of beer, right before he got arrested for drunk driving. Thankfully that Reformed Pubcast thing went the way of the dinosaurs, because that whole show was devoted to booze.

The LifeWay report indicates that roughly 9 out of 10  churchgoers (87 percent) know the Scripture says people should never get drunk. That’s increased from 82 percent in 2007.

However, one need not assume that those choosing not to drink are teetotalers by necessity, believing it’s wrong for others to drink. Only 23% of Protestant church-goers think it’s a sin to drink alcohol.

I wonder where those folks are. It seems I never run into them anymore. Maybe they’re all at the Independent Fundamental Churches and just don’t get out much. And maybe the fundamentalist churches are – under the radar – still doing quite fine.

[Contributed by JD Hall; PS here’s the LifeWay report]