The authors selected for the respective sides in the debate are outspoken supporters of their viewpoints.
Some stern warnings, to be sure. But are they accurate? Does Scripture really condemn gambling per se? Hardly. After examining some foundational principles, articulating some important limitations, and answering some common but fallacious objections, we will see that far from condemning gambling per se, Scripture actually permits it within carefully prescribed limitations. Hence, to those who say "Don't bet on it!" we simply respond by asking, "Wanna bet?"
Living to the glory of God, though, doesn't require us to enroll in a local monastery and spend the rest of our lives chanting in candle-lit rooms (as though Christ were not Lord of all vocations and we were not His royal priests on Wall Street -- 1 Pet. 2:9). Nor does it require us to denounce marriage or certain foods (as though Christ were not Lord of all things and the One through whom God made all things "good" -- Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31; 1 Tim. 4:4; Jn. 1:3). And it certainly doesn't require us to beat and flog our "flesh" and engage in other acts of self-abasement (as though Christ were not Lord of our bodies and we were not the temples wherein His Spirit dwells -- 1 Cor. 3:16).
What, then, does living a truly God-glorifying life require? It simply requires us to submit to Christ alone as Lord (Js. 4:12), and to order our lives according to His Word which is the final authority for all that we believe and do (Acts 17:11). If Christ alone, speaking through Scripture, is our final authority, then He alone can bind our consciences. Simply put, when it comes to living a godly life, we must speak when Scripture speaks and remain silent when Scripture is silent.
Strange as it may seem, however, many Christians have it all backwards: they are mute when Scripture speaks and they blurt out when Scripture is silent. That is, either (1) they ignore true godliness by rejecting the plain teachings of Scripture (only to end up wallowing around in licentiousness) or (2) they invent rules and restrictions for achieving "true" godliness by condemning what Scripture doesn't condemn or by adding to the plain teachings of Scripture (only to end up wading through legalism). As Christians, though, we are called to steer clear of both licentiousness and legalism.
Instead, we are called to exercise both liberty and responsibility. Paul put it well when he told the Galatians that though we have been "called to freedom" we are not to "turn our freedom into an opportunity for the flesh...." (Gal. 5:13).
Aside from the evils of licentiousness and legalism, there are two diametrically opposed ways to approach and answer this payoff question: what we shall refer to respectively as the Fundamentalist view and the Reformed view.
According to the Fundamentalist view, whatever is not permitted in Scripture, either explicitly or implicitly, is prohibited. In other words, we can't do anything unless Scripture says we can do it. On this view, the proponent of gambling bears the burden of proving that Scripture permits and does not forbid gambling. Until and unless he does so, the Fundamentalist view maintains that gambling is forbidden.
Over and against the Fundamentalist view, stands the Reformed view, which holds that whatever is not forbidden in Scripture, either explicitly or implicitly, is permitted. Put simply, we can do anything that Scripture doesn't prohibit. On this view, the opponent of gambling bears the burden of proving that Scripture prohibits gambling. Until and unless he does so, the Reformed view maintains that gambling is permitted.
Is there a way to resolve this supposed impasse between the Fundamentalist and the Reformed views? Fortunately, Scripture itself is very clear on this point; only the Reformed view finds warrant in Scripture. Consider, if you will, the following passages:
Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.... For from within, out of the heart of man, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these things proceed from within and defile the man (Mk. 7:14-15, 21-23).If we know and can be convinced that (1) Christ alone is Lord over the earth and all it contains, (2) God created all things good, (3) nothing is unclean in and of itself, (4) nothing can defile a man from without, (5) nothing is to be rejected if it received with gratitude and is sanctified by means of the Word of God and prayer, (6) man-made rules, while appearing outwardly religious, are of no value whatsoever against licentiousness, and (7) all things are lawful, then the Reformed view prevails. It is up to the opponent of gambling or any other activity to prove that Scripture forbids such behavior.
I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in and of itself.... All things indeed are clean...(Rom. 14:14, 20).
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.... All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.... For the earth is the Lord's and all it contains (1 Cor. 6:12, 10:23, 26; Ps. 24:1).
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer (1 Tim. 4:1-5).
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourselves to decrees, such as, "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using)--in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence (Col. 2:20-23).
Given the truth of the Reformed view, it is helpful to see life as a playground. God has created a playground and has given His children liberty to play to their fill as long as they do so to His glory. Just as assuredly as God has created a playground and given us liberty therein, He has also built a fence around that playground and prohibits us sternly from wandering beyond that fence. But a playground wouldn't be a playground if it didn't have its own internal rules. Our playground is no exception. We must seek to understand those rules in light of our personal backgrounds (e.g. our motivations, capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, etc.) and in light of our circumstances (e.g. the short and long term consequences of our actions). In other words, some of us may like the swings while others get dizzy on them and avoid them. This, of course, is just another way of saying that though something may be permissible in and of itself (e.g. drinking in moderation), it may not be good or desireable for everyone (e.g. a former alcoholic or someone who simply dislikes the taste) or under every circumstance (e.g. before driving).
My opponent and I believe that only the Reformed view safeguards both liberty and responsibility and simultaneously steers clear of licentiousness (which is based on a distorted view of liberty) and legalism (which is based on a distorted view of responsibility). Even though we agree as to the Reformed view, however, we disagree as to how it is to be applied to the case of gambling. I contend that gambling per se is within the playground subject only to the internal rules of the playground, whereas my opponent contends that gambling in and of itself is outside of the playground.
While we have claimed that gambling per se is within the playground (i.e. is generally permissible), we have also admitted that gambling, like any activity, is subject to certain playground rules (i.e. Biblically prescribed limits). What follows, then, is a brief list of attitudes and/or actions which Scripture forbids whether they be associated with gambling or any other activity.
1. We cannot involuntarily take or misappropriate property which rightfully belongs to God or others. Consequently, we cannot (a) rob God by gambling our tithe (Mal. 3:8); (b) steal money from family, friends, or associates to bet at the races (Ex. 20:15); or (c) fail to provide for those reasonably under our care (1 Tim. 5:8). In other words, we must be good stewards of what God has given to us and those around us.
2. We cannot allow ourselves to become mastered by or addicted to anything such that we neglect our duties toward God, our families, churches, employers, and neighbors (1 Cor. 6:12).
3. We cannot worship anyone or anything other than the one true God (e.g. we cannot worship lady luck, fortune, or happenstance) (Ex. 20:3, 34:14).
4. We cannot allow ourselves to be motivated by greed, covetousness, or discontent (Ex. 20:17; Prov. 11:28; 15:16; 23:4-5; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:3-5; Phil. 4:11-13; Col. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:6-11, 17-19).
5. We cannot disobey lawful authorities if such authorities have forbidden us to gamble since we would not be forced to choose between obeying God or man (i.e. a law forbidding gambling would not forbid us to do what God commands or command us to do what God forbids) (Acts 5:29).
6. We cannot perpetrate crimes or acts of fraud and deceit on others (Lev. 19:13; Ps. 15:3; 24:4; 1 Cor. 6:8; 2 Cor. 7:2).
7. We cannot offend a weaker brother by forcing or cajoling him to gamble when he has scruples against gambling (Rom. 14:1-23; 1 Cor. 8:9-13).
(1) The TRP begs the question by assuming (a) that gambling necessarily involves either the acquisition of property (which, as a matter of fact, it usually doesn't!) or (b) that everyone gambles primarily in order to acquire property (which is a hasty generalization!). Would gambling per se still be wrong if the gambler had no desire to acquire property and returned all property so acquired?
(2) Even if gambling necessarily involves the acquisition of or motivation to acquire property, the TRP reduces to a false dilemma since Scripture nowhere says that we can acquire property only by means of gifts or as a result of labor. This definition arbitrarily and conveniently excludes a third alternative: acquiring property by means of a voluntary exchange.
(3) Since the TRP defines stealing as acquiring property other than by gifts or by labor (i.e. since the TRP omits voluntary exchange as a legitimate way to acquire property), the TRP trips when it classifies gambling as stealing. Contrary to the TRP, stealing should properly be defined as taking or misappropriating the property of others without their consent. To avoid begging the question, therefore, the advocate of the TRP needs to prove that gambling necessarily involves (a) taking or misappropriating the property of others, and (b) that such taking or misappropriation is involuntary (no paternalism please!).
(4) Even if the advocate of the TRP is adamant in clinging to his arbitrary view that the Christian can only acquire property by means of a gift or by bestowing labor, it is entirely possible to characterize property gained by gambling as constituting a gift or as resulting from labor. (a) The TRP assumes that property acquired by gambling does not constitute a gift. In the process, however, the TRP becomes impaled on the horns of a serious dilemma. The catalyst for generating this dilemma is the test case of "prizes". Would the TRP, if consistently applied, condemn all prizes? If the advocate of TRP says "no" then he must offer criteria for distinguishing other prizes (which he would allow) from property acquired by gambling (which he doesn't allow). If, on the other hand, he says "yes" then he must offer criteria for distinguishing prizes (which he wouldn't allow) from other gifts (which he does allow). (b) The TRP also assumes that gambling, in at least some cases, does not result from skill or labor (apparently because that skill or labor is staked on an apparent contingency beyond the control of the gambler). But isn't the same thing true with other kinds of investments or business transactions? Would the TRP also condemn other such investments or transactions? If the advocate of TRP says "no" then he must offer criteria for distinguishing gambling from other kinds of investments and transactions. If, on the other hand, he says "yes" then he must distinguish what he means by "labor" from the obvious skill and labor investors and businessmen bestow.
 David Hocking, The Moral Catastrophe, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1990), p. 245.
 Philip Babcock Gove, ed., Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language (Unabridged), (Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Company, 1976), p. 932.
 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Col, reprinted 182), vol. III, p. 437.
 Robert L. Dabney, Systematic Theology, (Carlistle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trst, 1985 ), p. 415; see also, Robert L. Dabney, The Practical Philosphy, (Harrisburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1984 ), p. 485.
 G.I. Williamson, The Shorter Catechism, (Phillipsburg, PA: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., 1970), vol. w, p. 68.
 For a detailed refutation of this objection, see my refutation of "The Greed Factor" objection below.
 A voluntary exchange may include an exchange of money, goods, labor/services, entertainment, etc. in any combination.
 One logician claims that a "thoroughly practiced gambler" with more than usual skill "must be regarded as following a pression". John Venn, The Logic of Chance, New York, NY: Chelsea Publishing Co., 1962 ), p. 377.
 See, e.g., Watson, Don't Bet on It, pp. 18-19.
 Hocking actually condemns alcohol because of its addictive potential. He may be consistent, but he is consistently wrong. While Scripture condemns abuse of alcohol (drunkenness), it does not condemn legitimate use of alcohol. As with gambling, we are at liberty to drink withing certain perscribed limitations.
 Dabney, The Practical Philosphy, p. 485.
 Venn has written that while there are some differences between gamblers and investors/businessmen, there is an important respect in which they are alike: "insofar as chance and risk [are invloved in investments and business ventures, inventors and businessmen] may be fairly so termed [as gamblers], and in many branches of business this must necessarily be the case to a very considerable extent." The Logic of Chance, p. 386.
 Venn writes that insurance "is simply equivalent to a mutual contract amongst those who dread the consequences of the uncertainty of their life or employment, that they will employ the aggregate regularity to neutralize as far as possible the individual irregularity." The Logic of Chance, p. 373. Thus, to condemn gambling because it involves apparent contingencies is to condemn insurance policies as well.
 See, e.g. Hocking, The Moral Catastrophe, pp. 235-246.
 Dabney, The Practical Philosophy, p. 485.
 Note how Dabney argues from habitual gambling to gambling itself -- a rhetorically effective, but nonetheless fallacious category shift.
 During the so-called temperance movement, many teetotalers argued against drinking in this way. Their descendants are still around today; see, e.g. Hocking, The Moral Catastrophe, p. 201.
 Many wrongly think that causing a weaker brother to stumble means doing anything that offends him. Were this the case, we probably couldn't do anything since some brother out there would be offended.