If you are a pietist …


PietistAs you can see from the photo, the bottle is nearly empty. That’s not entirely my fault. I purchased this whisky on my way to visit a good friend. He played a big part in its demise.

But anyway…

I received a Facebook message from a fellow pastor who suggested that I spend more time writing about theology and less about whisky. He appreciated the hymn study postings on my blog, and he delighted in the sermons and poetry offered there as well, but he was a little put-off by the devotion to Scotch whisky. He suggested that mixing theology and whisky was a little unsavory and could be offensive. After first asking him if he had converted to the Baptist branch, I followed with the reminder that Lutherans are not pietists. Even more so, when Lutherans are pressed into the box of legalism, they will rebel. For example, if my memory serves me, at one time the Reformed church began insisting that it was required of the presiding minister while speaking the Verba during the Lord’s Supper that he snap the bread at the words “when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples…” I’m pretty sure I remember reading that the Lutherans used to break the bread, but after that, they refused.

So what does any of this have to do with The Dalmore 12-Year-Old bottle of whisky in the photo? Nothing. Everything. Something, I guess. It means this happens to be the bottle I was enjoying when I was urged by a fellow Lutheran clergyman to forego receiving such a gift from God that I certainly enjoy in acceptable measure, and on top of that, I was discouraged from sharing my enthusiasm with others. I want this brother to know in an amplified way that I humbly and evangelically refuse.

Now, I’m sure he will read this, and while he is reading he will lean back in his office chair with arms folded and a crookedly surprised smile beginning to stretch his face, Even this smile is good enough for me. It is a relative opening to offer this Lutheran brother the opportunity to acknowledge that perhaps it is that God has blessed the Scots with a divine beverage while the Lutherans received the better theology. And with that theology comes the benefit of serving in churches full of Christians who know they aren’t pietists…that is, unless they are being slow-boiled by a pastor who is living, breathing, and preaching pietism and then secretly enjoying the gifts in solitude for fear that his preaching may actually be taking root. Not here, brother. Those chains are self-imposed. I intend to remain free.

So with that being said (and hopefully without causing offense), the Lutheran clergy have the freedom to enjoy the likes of this wonderful edition from The Dalmore. It is, as I began, best shared out in the open …and with friends.

Now, to really chuck dirt onto the caskets of the “living dead”, eh hem, I mean, the pietists… The nose of this Dalmore whisky is delightful – thick with sherry and vanilla. The palate is so easy and smooth, fulfilling the promise made by the nose and delivering vanilla with the presence of delicate spice – not harsh – but gentle and perhaps even fruity. The finish waves goodbye with a smile and tiptoes behind you to remind you that you are invited to return anytime. With such friendliness, the bottle’s contents disappear rapidly. In fact, as a side note, this whisky is so wonderfully gentle that even if by some freakish accident you get some in your eyes (which of course has never happened to me), it doesn’t burn. It just becomes one more way to laugh with Christian friends and rejoice in the gifts.

Oh, by the way, the cost is surprisingly pleasant at around $50. You won’t find it in your local Christian bookstore, but I guarantee it will be a better purchase than that leather bound engraved copy of The Message you just bought last week because you finally convinced the Elders not only to allow you to move the choir to the chancel, but to order and install a glass pulpit. All you needed next was a floppy “relevant” Bible in your hand to shake at folks during your pietist prattling, I mean, preaching.

To close, I wonder if I should, in a sense, reconsider my harsh regard for the prodding tag of my pietist friend. I suppose that the more the pietists discover their freedom, the less whisky for the rest of us, and I read recently that a whisky shortage is on the horizon. The last thing I want to see are converts drinking my booze and sending the prices higher. So with that, brother, forget everything I just said. Whisky is inherently sinful and bad. Very sinful. Very bad. Have a Coke instead.


If you are a pietist … — 93 Comments

  1. Pastor Thoma,

    Have you ever done an analysis of Johnnie Walker Blue? I’d like to know your thoughts.


  2. I will add Dalmore to my list Pastor. My Highland single malt favorites to date have been Oban, and Genmorangie. The latter was my sentimental favorite because the Glenmorangie distillery sat adjacent to my favorite RAF bombing range during my F-111E WSO days.

  3. If you haven’t tried Glenmorangie, I highly recommend it. My favorite is their “Quinta Ruban,” which is on sale about 10% off till end of October. Also fond of Cardhu–nice light single malt, and a bit less expensive than the Glenmorangie. The port cask gives Quinta Ruban a very nice flavor. I assume everyone here knows the correct way to drink single malts: Add 1 tsp of hot water in glass of scotch, allow to sit for five minutes. Enjoy the bouquet, sip away. No ice!!! I used bottled or distilled water. Makes visiting heterodox LCMS websites tolerable. If you have a little extra change, try Dalwhinnie.

    @Randy #2

  4. @Randy #2

    I have a gift bottle of JW “Blue” and frankly after sipping on single malts for several years, I found it a bit harsh–not as mellow as single malts. My taste for JW Black has even disappeared. After single malts, the blends are a bit much. Altho there are some pretty heavy, peaty single malts that will remove paint and rust.

  5. @Joe Strieter #7

    Sort of the same situation. Years ago I was given a bottle of JW Blue as a gift. As I recall, it was great, but I have not tasted any since (runs over $200 per bottle).

    Separate note: had a Scot once insist on adding ONLY one or two drops of mineral water to his glass for the best experience. Always carried an eyedropper with him – he was serious……..

  6. I am guessing from what I’ve been reading that the good Lutherans here have never been to my personal blog. A few things…and then I have to get back to visitations and stuff. 1) Kentucky bourbon sucks. With that, I’ll give similar advice to you that I gave to the Pietists: Keep drinking it and leave the Scotch for me. 2) It doesn’t matter how expensive the blend is, odds are it sucks, too. Ballantine’s 17, 21, and 30 may be some of the only exceptions to this rule. 3) Visit angelsportion.com and you’ll find out that — Darth Vader loves Lagavulin, the holy angels drink Oban, Laphroaig might make you try to kill your dog, Glenmorangie makes movies about the Zombie Apocalypse (that you cannot hear because people are screaming) a little more enjoyable, and Dalwhinnie will cause you to prize grammatical precision. Cheers to all. Glad you enjoyed the post. Any questions, comments, or concerns…tape them to a bottle of The Balvenie 21 Year Old Portwood and send them to me.

  7. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #11
    I have removed some comments that were bitter and off topic.

    What does “bitter” mean?
    Someone with an alcohol problem felt invited to leave his church?

    IMnsvHO, this sort of topic is oblique bragging that MY congregation pays me well enough to afford ‘the finer [more expensive] things’… and so I start with alcohol (and cigars, which I predict will be coming up again next, if not on this thread).

  8. I’m sorry. But when will you Lutherans return to biblical drinking 🙂 Oenophiles of the world unite! Anyone with taste knows that a good cab. (or any other good, dry red) is the drink to have when discussing theology. I have been trying to bring about a conversion of all you heathen since my seminary days. Alas, hope for such a revival grows dim. However, hope springs eternal!

  9. Allow me to brag for a moment. I have four children, drive an older car, after about ten years just made it to 76% of the district’s recommended pay scale for pastors, haven’t had a vacation longer than two days in several years, and it takes me months to squirrel away enough money to buy the “finer” things like a $50 bottle of scotch. When I think “finer things”, I’m usually thinking of something else, like food and water and clothes for the kids and the kind of car you probably drive. But I guess I can see your point.

  10. @helen #12

    Helen, I don’t think you need to ask what bitter means.

    Also, I think Pr. Thoma has answered your concern that he is some braggart who makes too much money. You may want to apologize about the assumption (or wait for an upcoming article on BJS about assumptions which is already scheduled).

  11. @Pastor Rick Pettey #13 Actually, I have a someday date to meet with my just-now-legal-to-drink godchild for a little trip around the state to sample our local wineries. I tend toward fruity and ever so slightly sweet. It will be interesting to see what she chooses as her favorite. I really wish I could enjoy a dry wine, but my tender tastebuds cannot agree to it. Anyhow, I wanted you to know that the laity is solidly behind you, and we are raising up the next generation in that direction. Older women teaching younger…

  12. @Pastor Spomer #6
    I’m also a big fan of the Islays. It was the flight surgeon who delivered our son (in the UK btw) who first put me onto them by saying “you’ve got to try Laphroaig, it’s like sucking on a block of peat.”
    -Matt Mills

  13. Joe Strieter :@Matt Mills #17
    “Sucking on a block of peat,” is to put it mildly. I’d compare it to drinking sheep dip.

    Be careful fellas. You’re comments make you both seem like “pe-at-ists.”

    Sorry, bad joke, I know. I just couldn’t resist.

  14. I’m offended by nearly everything said about Scotch in this post.

    Everyone knows the best beverage in the world is uisce beatha.

    Irish Whiskey.

    Thrice distilled.

    You are all barbarians who disagree.

  15. If I am free in Christ, should I not be free to choose abstinence?

    I agree we should not be judgmental about adiaphora, but as a Lutheran who generally practices abstinence I often feel like I am the one being judged.

  16. @John Eidsmoe #22
    Of course you can chose abstinence John. Enjoy an alcoholic drink, or not. They are both within your Christian liberty to chose. Most of the time I chose a Diet Coke or iced tea, but I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to chose a different option, and I don’t feel I’m being judged one way or the other.

  17. @Pastor Chris Thoma #14
    When I think “finer things”, I’m usually thinking of something else, like food and water and clothes for the kids and the kind of car you probably drive. But I guess I can see your point.

    I see. You are discussing a treat instead of a tipple. I will apologize, then.

    I can appreciate this version of “finer things”….
    (my “car” is a 17 year old Dodge Dakota). 😉

  18. @Scott Diekmann #24

    Good comments. I suggest we have a discussion about varieties of tea, perhaps. Or maybe coffee.

    I’ve developed (not acquired) a taste for Kona coffee. Columbian is my second choice. Of course, both are of the caffeinated variety. None of that neutered decaf stuff for me.

  19. If you really want to get a rise out of the pietistic involve tobacco. Start pairing cigars or pipe tobacco with that scotch and see the reaction.

  20. Ryan :
    If you really want to get a rise out of the pietistic involve tobacco. Start pairing cigars or pipe tobacco with that scotch and see the reaction.

    Cigars and pipes have a certain charm, but throw in a Camel and you’ll find a pietist in the most orthodox, confessional, and liturgical of Lutheran gatherings…

  21. @Ted Crandall #29
    Pastor Crandall,
    When I was a little girl my sainted grandfather would always have a pack of ‘Camels’ in the pocket of his shirt. I loved to sit on his lap and try and steal them out of his pocket. Thanks for the memory. Sadly, he died way to young at 59 because of heart disease probably brought on by smoking. A lot of Lutherans smoked back in the day.

    Now, carry on about whether Irish or Scottish whiskey is better. I prefer Irish myself.


  22. Psalm 104:14-15
    You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate,
    that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man,
    oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

  23. Helen, I forgive you even as I am forgiven by my Lord. Thank you kindly for not begrudging a povertous man one of God’s many gifts. Τὰ ἅγια τοις ἁγίοις (The holy things for the holy ones).

  24. On a serious note, excellent article, Pr. Thoma. I look forward to reading more of your work (and hope to share a wee dram some day.)

  25. What about marijuana? Now that it is legal in certain places, what would be a good Confessional Lutheran response to getting stoned? (This is a serious question btw).

  26. @Ted Crandall #29
    My Grampa smoked Camels for decades.

    @Eric #35
    A fair question. Is marijuana still illegal under *federal* law, but simply not being enforced as such, currently? I seem to recall that when the “medical” laws began to be passed at the state level (Oregon was first?), GW was in the conundrum of the federal statute not recognizing “medical” stuff.
    If it’s still illegal (even in the “legal” states) under federal law, it’s still not appropriate for Christians to use, I’d say.

  27. Speaking of Scots, is there any churchly or theological significance to tomorrow’s vote on Scotland’s independence? And, less important, but, on this thread, not *un*important, what are the implications for the price of Scotch?
    Says the 1/8 Scots-Irish, 1/8 Swiss, 3/4 German (pacifist hot-head who’s mostly stubborn).

  28. Brother, I discovered the Dalmore about 15 years ago, when a parishoner of mine who owned a liquor store (every Lutheran Pastor’s dream) offered me my choice of single malts on her shelf as a Christmas gift. Everything you say about it is true. One of the smoothest Scotch Whiskeys I’ve ever tasted.

  29. I don’t wish to be judgmental, but is there a moral issue involved in deliberately using a substance known to be physically harmful?

  30. The Scottish Reformation was generally Calvinist, but one of its earliest beginnings was on a cold and windy winter day in 1528 when a young Lutheran pastor, Patrick Hamilton, was burned at the stake in front of St. Salvator’s Chapel in St. Andrews. The execution took six hours because the wind kept blowing out the fire, but many were so impressed with Rev. Hamilton’s fortitude that they were inspired to become Protestant. One of these was John Knox. It has been said that Scotland has erected no monument over the grave of John Knox, because Scotland is his monument.

    Because of my love for Scottish history and culture (much of which was influenced by Vikings), and because I believe England wrongly subjugated Scotland to British rule, I hope the vote for independence succeeds. Unfortunately, I’m afraid the Scotland of today is a far cry from the Scotland of John Knox, or even the Scotland of William Wallace.

  31. @John Eidsmoe #42
    Like “Big-Gulps,” and candy bars (diabetes, heart disease obesity), bottled water (cancer) or just stuff we don’t like/use anyway?
    Welcome to the slippery slope!
    -Matt Mills

  32. @Eric #35

    Yes, many places are legalizing marijuana. However, it is my understanding that possession of marijuana is still a federal crime. So while a person may be in keeping with state or local laws, what about the 4th commandment in regard to federal law?

  33. I understand your point about the slippery slope, but it doesn’t answer the question: Is there a point at which the use of substances that damage your health becomes a moral issue? My original question was addressed to tobacco but could have broader implications.

  34. @John Eidsmoe #49
    Is there a point at which the use of substances that damage your health becomes a moral issue?

    It’s OK to use alcohol, tobacco, pot or eat your mother’s three layer chocolate cake, as long as you are [hereditarily] thin. The only “sin” in this country is overweight and those are the only “morally corrupt” people.

    [Luther was; Walther wasn’t; therefore LCMS is more Waltherian than Lutheran?] 😉

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