Excuses and Explanations

by Tom Wacaster

A "theory" is defined by Webster as  "a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation."   A number of years ago I came across a book entitled, "Official Explanations."  It was a "tongue-in-cheek" look at the uncanny ability of the human race to "explain" acts of irresponsibility and irrationality.  For example, one explanation for the Three-Mile Island nuclear accident was, "Into every one's life a little fall-out must rain."   I have, through the years, collected a number of excuses and explanations of everyday phenomenon which have, at least to date, eluded adequate explanation.  For example, most of us are aware that yawning is contagious.  Why?  Explanation:   You yawn to equalize the pressure on your eardrums.  This pressure change outside your eardrums unbalances the pressure in the ear of others, so they yawn to equalize the pressure in their ears."  Makes sense!  Here is one for linguistic experts:  "The quantity of consonants in the English language is constant.  If omitted in one place, they turn up in another.  When a Bostonian 'pahks his cah,' the lost R's migrate southwest, causing a Texan to 'warsh' his car and invest in 'erl' wells."  One of my favorite was an extended “reason” as to why fire trucks are red:  “First, fire trucks have four wheels and eight men, and four and eight make twelve. There are twelve inches in a foot.  A foot is a ruler. Queen Elizabeth is a ruler, and the Queen Elizabeth is the largest ship on the seven seas. Seas have fish, fish have fins, and the Finns fought the Russians.  The Russians are red.  Fire trucks are always rushin’ and therefore fire trucks are always red.”    I thought, as I read these theories, that we should come up with some 'theories' of our own to explain some not-so-rare behavior of brethren. 

In the area of church attendance:  Attendance is the combination of two foreign words (the precise language hereto date not known).  The first word, 'atten' is a system of rating.  We might rate the preacher's sermon well done and extremely entertaining as 'atten.'   The second part of our word, 'dance' derives from the same root word as our English word 'dance," which Webster defines as "to move quickly."  Since attendance restricts my movement, such does not rate 'atten,' and hence my absence from the same. 

In the area of personal Bible study:  It has been said that your brain has a left side, and a right side. If you are left handed, your right side of the brain is the predominant portion of your brain.  Right-handed people operate out of the left portion of the brain.  With that axiom well established, it only makes sense that since most folks are right-handed, then most folks operate out of the left side of their brain. And since Bible study is the "right" thing to do, this robs most folks of the ability to study the Bible on a regular basis.  Silly you say?  Sure. But then, so are all attempts to excuse oneself from such basic Christian responsibilities as attendance and Bible study.  The sad aspect of all this is the undeniable truth that God never accepted excuses for our misbehavior and irresponsibility, no mater how "official" the explanation may seem to mortal men.

Of course excuse making is as old as mankind.  The response of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is a case in point.  When placed in the garden they were given a law that forbad them from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  They ate the forbidden fruit, and when God demanded of Adam an answer he passed the proverbial buck with only 19 words: “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:12).  Following the lead of her husband, Eve likewise offered an excuse: “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”   The devil was smart enough not to argue with God and may very well have sleeked off the scene having done his damage.  As one South African brother once said, "Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and the snake didn't have a leg to stand on." 

Aaron was in the excuse making business with one of the most pitiful, if not comical responses for a grave sin committed while Moses was in Mt. Sinai receiving the Law.   Having made a golden idol, he was confronted by Moses: “What did this people unto thee that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?”   Aaron’s answer?  “Thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us...And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf” (Exo. 32:21-24).   We might say, “Well, we threw in the gold and out popped a golden calf!”   What a pitiful excuse for his sin!

King Saul, after refusing to destroy the Amalekites, blamed the people (1 Sam. 15:21).  The would-be followers of the Lord attempted to shirk their duty with appeals to the land, oxen, and of all things, their family!  (Luke 9:57-62).  Even Moses attempted to excuse himself from God’s call to confront Pharaoh.   His immediate response upon hearing the mission for which he would be sent was, “Whom am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:10).  God seeks to reassure Moses, but the evasion of his God-given task continues.   “But, behold, they will  not believe me, nor harken unto my voice” (Ex. 4:1).   One would think that by turning Moses’ staff into a serpent this humble man would have been convinced not only of God’s power, but of the foolishness on his part to evade the inevitable.    One more excuse is now offered by Moses:  “O my Lord, I am not eloquent… but I am slow of speech” (Ex. 4:10).  You have to love God’s response, for therein Moses is reminded, “Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind?” (Ex. 4:11).   In one last ditch effort, Moses stops making excuses and directly requests of God, “O, my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou will send” (Ex. 4:11).   “Not me, God!  Send someone else whom you, in your wisdom, might send my way!”  Aaron would be appointed to go with Moses; he would be Moses’ spokesman.  But the bottom line was Moses would still stand before Pharaoh and deliver God’s message, “Let my people go.” 

Someone once said that an excuse is “A devil’s lie dressed in fine clothing.”  Or as Billy Sunday was fond of saying, “An excuse is a skin of reason stuffed with a lie.”  Another has said, “Excuses are nails used to build a house of failure.”  No one has ever “excused” his way to success.  On the other hand, “The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own.  No apologies or excuses.  No one to lean on, rely on, or blame.  The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.  This is the day your life really begins (Bob Moawad). 

Maybe the better part of valor and courage is to simply speak the truth at all times, or at best keep silent.  When it comes to sin, repent rather than seeking to justify your action.  When it comes to our duties as Christians, we may be able to fool some folks with an “excuse” that sounds good to them.  But never forget, God knows the heart, and what ever excuse we might offer for our neglect of Christian duty will be seen for what it is on the Judgment Day!

One more observation is in order before I close this week’s column.  The movie massacre in Aurora, Colorado, along with an ever increasing display of violence in society, has been blamed on everything except the real root cause.  Some blame the far right; others the far left.  Excuses abound, and the true cause is ignored.  For more than five decades our political and religious leaders have sought to expunge America of her religious roots. In short, we have produced a society out of which comes the representatives of a mind set that disrespects life in general and practices the kind of violence depicted in the things upon which they feed their minds every day.   The more we cast God out, the deeper will become our blindness and the more horrible   our behavior as a nation.   The late James Bales summed it up like this: “Deeper blindness is the price one has to pay for the refusal to let facts shatter his illusions.”

Can The Christian Drink Alcohol?

by Tom Wacaster

Determining right and wrong is not always set out in what we might call "direct statements" (i.e., "thou shalt, thou shalt not").  This is where discernment comes in.  We are to use wisdom to discern right and wrong (Heb. 5:12), and "prove all things" (1 Thess. 5:21-22).  Principles learned from a careful study of God's word are then applied to the decision making process.   This is particularly true when it comes to partaking of alcoholic drink.  The world's attitude can be summed up with five words: "Nobody thinks anything about it."   But how do you know that?   And what if it could be proven that nobody thinks anything about drinking alcohol - what people think is not our standard.   A careful study of the Bible leaves the distinct impression that the child of God is to stay as far away from the things of the world rather than seeing how close he can get to it without sinning!  Paul told Timothy "flee these things," which in the context suggests abstinence from anything and everything that would war against the soul. May I suggest to you some reasons why the child of God should abstain from alcoholic beverages?

First, because of the fruit associated with the drinking of alcohol.  Physically, alcohol does irreparable harm to the body that God has given us.   The leading cause of death among alcoholics is due to the effects that alcohol has on the cardiovascular system. Brooke Allen made the following observation: "Many of the body's physiological functions can be affected by the use of alcohol. Recent evidence proves that a variety of diseases are brought about by a substance  that coats the body's red blood cells causing them to stick together in clumps. These clumps are called 'sludge,' and are created by the ingestion of alcohol."  It has been proven beyond dispute that when ingested, alcohol destroys brain cells, and brain cells are the only cells in the body that do not regenerate.  When brain cells die, they can never be replaced.   But physical harm is not the only damage that imbibing alcohol produces.  There is also the social harm. Clayton Pepper [deceased] served as family counselor for many years.  Here is what he had to say:

I know of no other factor that contributes more than drinking to family problems, divorce, juvenile delinquency and to the degrading of man. It breaks my heart to see the fruits of alcohol. I see children naked and hungry, whose mothers and fathers waste their earnings on alcohol.  A four-year-old child was brought into court for being drunk on the street.  A teen-age girl whose mother is dead spent the night on the porch because she was afraid of being molested by her drunken father. A boy, after his drunken father ran him away from home, stole money to buy food. A mother had a baby which weighed less at three months of age than when it was born. She took money given to her to buy milk and bought alcoholic beverages instead. Twelve teen-agers were arrested at a disorderly Halloween party where beer was served. I have seen as many as six children taken away from a drunken mother. A Nashville newspaper carried the story of the slaying of a 14 year old girl by a 17 year old boy whose 17 year old wife was expecting a child soon. The boy was quoted as saying that all this would not have happened if he hadn't been allowed to go to a club and drink. He shouted from his cell: "They ought to padlock that place and burn it to the ground."

In his book, Broken Homes and Handicapped Children , V.E. Howard documented the fruits of alcohol socially more than three decades ago and it has not gotten any better since then.   My friends there is so much wrong with the fruit of beverage alcohol that it would be impossible to put it into the limited space we have in this bulletin.   The question we might ask is, "What good has it ever done?" It's fruit, both ancient and modern, is entirely on the wrong side of the ledger.  Why in the world would any Christian seek to defend this vicious killer which has created more false hopes and generated more social ills than any one thing? 

Second, drinking alcohol is wrong because of what it does to the soul.  Peter wrote, "Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:11).  Ask yourself, "Does drinking of alcohol contribute to or lessen any of the following?"  Does it give one a greater degree of love for the Bible and increase his study  habits?  Is one who drinks alcohol more prone to pray or meditate on things that are good and  holy?  Can the drinking of alcohol provide spiritual growth and development of Christian character?  To ask is to answer!  Put in the form of a simple syllogism:  Major Premise: All things which war against the soul are things from which the Christian is commanded to abstain.   Minor Premise: The drinking of intoxicants is a thing which wars against the soul.  Conclusion: Therefore, the drinking of intoxicants is a thing from which the Christian is commanded to abstain.

Third, drinking of alcohol is wrong because of what it does to your influence and Christian example. Hear the word of the Lord:  "Walk in wisdom (or circumspectly) toward them that are without, redeeming the time" (Col 4:5). "Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works" (Matt. 5:16).  "Let no man despise thy youth but be thou an example toward them that believe in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12).   "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity" (Matt. 13:41).  "Give no occasion of stumbling to Jew or Gentile" (1 Cor. 10:32).  Can a person really expect to bring a lost soul to Christ while holding a Bible in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other?  I think not!

Finally, drinking alcohol is wrong because all of the so-called "defenses" for social drinking are nothing more than a grasping at straws in the wind.  Space will not allow us a close examination of the arguments presented by those who might imbibe strong drink.  My observation over the years has been that every single argument in defense of social drinking is an appeal to subjectivism, feelings, "I think," or "I feel," rather than a carefully thought out and logical examination of the subject.  Jesus never did turn water into intoxicating wine, all the sophisticated foolishness to the contrary.   Any degree of drunkenness is still drunkenness, and one drink of alcohol still begins the process of drunkenness .  The biggest problem with these so-called defenses is that they are never based on a thus saith the Lord; and therein is the problem at it's roots!