What does beer have to do with God? Bryan Berghoef answers that question in Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation and God. The idea of Pub Theology is to have spiritual discussions with people from all backgrounds in a neutral environment—the local tavern. Berghoef describes it thus:
“we wanted to allow anyone and everyone to come and give their perspective. To share their story. To unload their baggage about religion, about faith, about God. To have a group that is willing to listen without judgment, to accept without demanding conformity, to simply embrace them as another human being…”
Berghoef speaks from experience. He has been meeting people in pubs for these purposes for several years. And he has learned many things from his conversations.
First, his meetings are designed to provide a safe place for people to express their “doubts…their beliefs, their hopes, and their struggles.” Someone may counter, “But what if this leads to people questioning their own faith?” The answer is that it does. Berghoef says, “When a person has the attitude that he should not question his belief structure, it reveals the reality that he does not actually want to know the truth, if the truth turns out to be somewhat different than the truth as he now understands it.”
Second, Pub Theology is about people learning from each other. It is not an, “I have all the answers” approach to spiritual discussion. Too many followers of Jesus have shut themselves off from the world outside of their Christian bubbles. Berfhoef says, “The less you know of the world and of other faith traditions and of various philosophical outlooks, the easier it is to be convinced you are right.”
Third, one of the goals in pub discussions is to listen. It is not the time to preach or even necessarily to teach. Berghoef gives advice on how to use “provisional language”, or language that shows we are listening without judgment. For example, he advocates using statements that begin with, “It seems to me that…” or “From my perspective…” instead of black and white, pejorative language such as, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.”
Further, we should listen without judgment. Berghoef stated, “If I try to railroad someone in a conversation, she is not going to care what my convictions are, not suddenly be ready to repent and say the ‘sinner’s prayer.’”
Fourth, pub discussions are a way of expressing hospitality. Berghoef says that Jesus’ attitude toward outsiders was “marked by openness, by invitation, by hospitality.” This attitude got him into trouble with his own kind, from people who criticized Jesus for eating with “sinners” to those who were offended by him letting a woman—who was likely a prostitute—wash his feet. In fact, the writer of Hebrews admonishes us to, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” (13:2).
I did not necessarily agree with everything that Berghoef said in Pub Theology. But I appreciate his heart for evangelism. He certainly challenged my thinking and inspired me to be more aware of others’ viewpoints. The important thing to remember is that our lives should reflect Jesus in everything we do and everywhere we go—even in the local pub.
For more articles on this subject, check out AJ Viola’s My “Friendly” Beer and a Bible Interview and What Would Jesus Brew? from the Wall Street Journal.