I'm currently teaching through Dr. Michael Wittmer's excellent book Don't Stop Believing on Wednesday nights. In the intro, Mike explains in a fun and engaging way the differences between conservative Christians and what he calls "postmodern innovators." (Most people just call them "emergent," but Mike is more careful than most people.) To that end, he offers a list of the Top Ten Signs You Might Be Emergent. Number 5 is "You honored your pastor with a box of fine cigars and beers on the house."
I had to stop at this point and remind my class that, while I am certainly not emergent, fine cigars would be a most welcome gift. Most welcome indeed. The beer you can keep; I'm a teetotaler.
Isn't it kind of hypocritical (or at least contradictory) for a Baptist minister who abstains entirely from intoxicating drink (save for in the sacrament) to enjoy the occasional (and occasionally not-so-occasional) cigar or pipe?
First of all, my position on alcohol is half philosophical and half personal preference. Scripture says that drunkenness is a sin (see), but obviously Our Lord Jesus drank and even made wine, so that pretty much puts an end to the Scriptural argument against any and all alcohol consumption. I just happen to hate the stuff. To me, beer tastes like I imagine urine tastes. And wine is more mediciney than any medicine I've had to choke down. Oh, you have to "acquire a taste for it," you say? Sounds like a lot of work with zero pay-off. I'll stick with my coffee, Jolt Cola, Rock Star, etc. And that segues nicely into reason number two that I avoid alcohol like the swine flu: I've got no interest in depressants whatsoever. (I can think and move slow when I'm old; why force it now?) I don't want any food or drink//much less some pee-tasting bacteria-filled yeast-water\\to counter-act my coffee buzz.
I'm thinking of starting a new pop-Christian movement a la True Love Waits or The Chant of Jabez, called Über-sobriety. Our theme verse would be 2 Timothy 1:7: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of...a sound mind." (KJV, OoC*) Christians everywhere would be pledging to avoid alcohol; to drink a pot of coffee each afternoon; to supplement said coffee, as needed, with other like beverages (There's a possible marketing goldmine here, as I believe the Christian sub-culture still lacks its own energy drink. My boy Ted Kluck was talking about us starting one a few months ago, but I was never quite sure if he was serious and he eventually stopped talking about it. But if Über-sobriety catches on...I'm in.); and finally to smoke a cigar each week to the glory of God.
Smoke to the glory of God? Blasphemy!..right? Well, not according to the prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon. Mr. Spurgeon's love of fine cigars is well-documented. One biographer remembers a great little anecdote about a group of students who excitedly visited Spurgeon one morning:
It was a beautiful early morning, and the men arrived in high spirits, pipes and cigars alight, and looking forward to a day of unrestrained enjoyment. Mr. Spurgeon was ready waiting at the gate. He jumped up to the box-seat reserved for him, and looking round with an expression of astonishment, exclaimed: "What, gentlemen! Are you not ashamed to be smoking so early?"Here was a damper!
Dismay was on every face. Pipes and cigars one by one failed and dropped out of sight.When all had disappeared, out came the president's cigar-case. He lit up and smoked away serenely.The men looked at him astonished. "I thought you said you objected to smoking, Mr. Spurgeon?" one ventured."Oh no, I did not say I objected. I asked if they were not ashamed, and it appears they were, for they have all put their pipes away."Amid laughter the pipes reappeared, and with puffs of smoke the party went on merrily.
Williams, William. Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Personal Reminiscences (London: The Religious Tract Society), pp. 30-32.
Of course, even in the 19th Century, Spurgeon's smoking did not fail to stir up controversy. Phil Johnson's Spurgeon Archive retains electronic copies of several documents surrounding the so-called "Daily Telegraph Scandal." The back-story is that Spurgeon had been sharing the pulpit with an American clergyman, the two preaching complimentary material on "little sins"--the kind that draw you in and master you. The American went on at length about the sin of cigar smoking and how it had almost done him in. At the close of the meeting, Spurgeon again took the pulpit and told the congregation that, while he agreed with the principles contained in his colleague's sermon, he did not personally believe smoking to be a sin and, therefore, he intended to go home that very night and smoke his best cigar to the glory of God.
What followed was an international backlash and back-and-forth between Spurgeon and several of his detractors. I can't summarize and do it justice, so take a moment to sample the material here (scroll down to the pink blocked quotes). Some good arguments on both sides, no?
So, let's get into it. In the comments thread, let's hear your opinion about Spurgeon's habit and how he handled this incident. Then, if you can, implement a little rabbinical "part-to-whole" maneuver and give us the succinct version of your view on Christian liberty as it relates to such "disputable matters."
1. Remember, cigars are just an example here, so don't get bogged down by them. Wine, crime scene television shows, sports, or the aforementioned energy drinks could just as easily become idols if used without moderation.
2. I was kidding about wanting to "start a movement" wherein Christian young people feel compelled to smoke cigars. I would never try to entice someone into an activity that might go against his conscience. I bring the idea up only because it feeds nicely into part two (and because I grab at any opportunity to employ an umlaut).
3. I have purposely not cited any Scripture in this introduction, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't.
I shall post again on the topic when we've gotten somewhere...
*OoC = Out of Context