Christians and Drinking Alcohol

Posted by Pastor J.D. on November 2, 2010
89

A common issue that I have had to address over the years is the question of whether Christians should drink alcohol. I think this recent Washington Post article adds some interesting insight to the discussion.

I was brought up in a home where we just did not drink. It wasn’t that  my parents thought that alcohol was in itself sinful (Galatians and 1 Cor 10:23 are pretty clear on that!), just that they believed it was not wise to drink.

The argument went like this:

As a Christian, our morality must move BEYOND simple “right or wrong” legalism to a life of love that seeks the maximum good of all people. A life that seeks the welfare of others – even in what it “eats and drinks” – brings glory to God (1 Cor. 10:31). So, Paul declares, “While all things are lawful for me, not all things are beneficial (10:24).” Thus, the question to consider with alcohol is, “Is it beneficial to my life and to society at large?”

Proverbs 23:31-32 says that only fools play around with intoxicated drink. Why? Research tells us that 1 out of 7 people who drink become an alcoholic. I wouldn’t keep a dog in my house that bit 1 out of every 7 people who entered, and I won’t play around with a drink that has a solid chance of sabotaging and destroying my life or the life of someone I love! Think of it this way – we all influence people. If seven people follow my example and drink socially because I do, and one of them becomes an alcoholic, God holds me responsible. Is that a chance I am willing to take with my children, or in those who look up to me? Would Christian love really put others in this kind of risk?

Every year, 1700 college students die of over-drinking. That’s over 4 jumbo jet liners packed with college students. What would the implications be for an airline industry that had that happen in 1 year? The dean of students at Duke says that easily 1/3 of all discipline related issues that come through his office are alcohol related. If you could eliminate 1/3 of the problems on your campus by changing one thing… would you not think soberly about doing that (pun intended)?

Does the slight pleasure I may get from drinking warrant the chance I take with my life or that of others (i.e. that they or others may be weak in self-control and become an alcoholic)? In fact, it seems to me quite selfish to take that chance with others if I don’t absolutely need to. To note, this is why John Piper says he won’t drink, even though Christians have a right to.

And now the counter argument:

Almost every good thing can be abused. If we avoid anything that can be abused, then we’d have to hide ourselves completely in a cave. And quit thinking altogether. Rather than avoiding these things, shouldn’t Christians be redeeming them?

Furthermore, drinking fermented wine is clearly “endorsed” in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah and Psalm 104 talk about the joys of wine, and imply that it is a good creation of God.

Deuteronomy 14 says, “Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice” and Isaiah 25 says,  “The LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine– the best of meats and the finest of wines.” Proverbs 31 says that alcohol  lightens our hearts and relieves some of our sadness. John 2 and Luke 5 both talk about the drinking of “aged” wine. In the coming kingdom, the Bible promises us, we will drink “aged wine (Isa 25:6).” Age does one thing to wine: ferments it.

So, if imbibing any alcohol in a beverage is a sin, Jesus could not have been our sinless Savior.

On the teetotaler side, however, some respond by saying:

The kinds of alcohol “endorsed” in the Bible were different than most wines today. Un-refrigerated grape juice naturally fermented a little, and this was a good thing, because that alcohol cleansed the water of a lot of harmful bacteria. But this kind of “wine” was dissimilar to what you buy at the ABC store today. Wine back then would have been somewhere between 20 parts water to 1 part wine to 3 parts water to 1 part wine. In other words, you couldn’t have gotten drunk off the wine Jesus made in John 2, or so the argument goes. The Jews had another word for wine used to make one drunk. They called it “strong drink.” The Bible never records Jesus or any of his disciples drinking “strong drink.”

The alcohol within the wine of Jesus’ day served a very important purpose—to keep water pure. Today, with our abundant clean water supply, and our ample refrigeration, our alcohol no longer serves that purpose.

Furthermore, they say, Proverbs 31 is not encouraging or affirming that we drink “strong drink”. The wine in this passage is for relieving the suffering of those in despair.  (Prov. 31:4-7; Prov. 23:29-30).  No Christian should ever be in this category. If they are, alcohol is not their answer, the gospel is.

So… where am I?

To be frank, I no longer find the argument that ‘drinking wine in Biblical times was fundamentally different than in our time’ to be that compelling. It may be true that grape juice naturally fermented a little, but, nonetheless, they drank some alcohol. There were teetotalers in those days (e.g., the Nazirites–Num 6, Judges 13; John the Baptist and his followers–Luke 7:33–34), which means that it was possible to drink water without fermentation mixed in. Jesus and his disciples were not, however, among that number. Indeed, his enemies contrasted Jesus to John the Baptist on this issue (Matthew 11:18-19)!

The positive biblical references to the beauties of “aged” wine (e.g. Isa. 25:6) have to be a reference to fermented wine, because what else does age do to wine? Furthermore, Paul’s instruction that a deacon (1 Tim 3:8) not be addicted to “much” wine implies that it was possible to become addicted to the wine they imbibed, which argues against the “only enough alcohol to kill the bacteria” argument. Paul never instructs them to abstain from such wine altogether; rather not to be addicted to “much” of it. He gave the same instruction to elderly women (Titus 2:3). And if the wine they were drinking in Corinth was not the kind you could drunk off of, how then were the Corinthians getting drunk on it (1 Cor 11:21)? And if “wine” was only grape juice, why would the Bible warn so frequently against abusing it?

So, I just don’t see how the “wine really = grape juice” argument holds up. (For more on this, see the article by Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary)

With that said, in this discussion we have to think about more than simple “right” and “wrong.” Can anyone argue that removing alcohol from our society would not be a great benefit (especially in light of the Washington Post article noted above!)? Alcohol is the number one killer of teenagers (in car accidents); and one of the biggest causes of broken marriages, battered children, and unemployment. It often leads to irresponsibility, poverty, depression and even suicide. Why did God speak to us as He did in Proverbs 23:31–35?

Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying:“ They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”

So yes, a Christian is “free in Christ” to drink alcohol… but of course, they are also free in Christ to disassemble a belt-fed machine gun and eat it piece by piece. That doesn’t mean either of those are automatically (pun not intended) a good idea. The poppy plant is not inherently evil, but that doesn’t mean smoking crack cocaine is a good idea and profitable for Christians, even if they live in Amsterdam. It is not technically sinful to leave a loaded crossbow sitting on our kitchen table, but that doesn’t mean it would be wise to keep one laying around, especially with 4 curious kids. Freedom to do a thing and the wisdom of doing that thing are not the same thing.

Of course, fermented drinks are not in the same category with loaded crossbows. The biblical passages above indicate some believers have drunk alcohol without sin. But drinking alcohol is also not in the same category with caffeine or sugar. It is a potentially mind-altering drug. No one gets loaded up on 3 lattes and goes home and beats their children. As such, our use of alcohol requires special consideration.

If a Christian’s drinking influences someone else to drink, and that person becomes an alcoholic, is the original Christian held responsible? Paul is pretty clear that if our “freedom” causes the destruction of another, we indeed will be held responsible (Romans 14). I think this point is worthy of weighty and sober (again, no pun intended, but I’m on a roll!) consideration. That said, the context of Paul’s words have to do (specifically) with one believer influencing another toward a violation of his conscience. Paul is talking about “destroying’ somebody by influencing them to do something they genuinely see as sinful, in which case it is sinful to them even if its not sinful in itself (i.e. if you think you’re disobeying a rule, you are possessed by a heart of rebellion, even if you are in actuality not disobeying the rule). We certainly can apply the principle of Romans 14–i.e. that we should always conduct ourselves in a way that seeks to protect our brothers–to abstaining from practices that might lead them to bad habits, but this is not technically what Paul is talking about in Romans 14.

Furthermore, I am not convinced that the best way to protect others from alcoholism is the public posture of teetotaling. I saw many emerge from the teetotaling environment in which I was reared to become binge drinkers. Here’s how it usually went: at some point when they were out from under the rules they became convinced that drinking a little alcohol, in and of itself, was not wrong. Having never learned the principles of moderation or seen them practiced, however, they had no framework or example for how it could be practiced maturely. By contrast, many reared in environments that fostered responsible moderation seemed (by my observation) better equipped to treat alcohol responsibly. (To be fair, I don’t have data to prove this either way.) Isn’t that maturity, learning to live responsibly in the world? Regardless, the argument that if we were all teetotalers no one would ever abuse alcohol simply did not pan out for the people I grew up with. Creating a “hedge about the law” works insofar as you have clear biblical justification for your hedge. Because the Bible doesn’t create such a hedge for drinking alcohol, I don’t think it’s wise for us to do so, either.

Bottom line (at last): At this point, I choose not to drink socially for the reasons I note above. Around our church, I would rather have a culture of non-drinking than one of drinking. And some of the Christians I fellowship with would have a real (even if perhaps unreasonable) problem with me if I did drink, and I value my relationship with them. So, for these reasons, I abstain from social drinking.

I do not feel that it is wise for anyone to make rules for other Christians about this. If Paul had thought a rule was necessary, he’d have given us one. Believers who turn abstention into a rule come very, very close to the adding to the law that Jesus and Paul so clearly condemned. If Paul didn’t make the rule, why should we? Are we wiser than he? Thus, it is not a rule for Summit Church members nor for its leadership that they abstain from alcohol.

All that said, I am still praying and learning. What is your take on all of this?

Pastor J.D.

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J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). More

89 responses to Christians and Drinking Alcohol

  1. One other thing related to history–this issue seems to be a fairly late development in Church history. Many of the early fathers, on down through the Reformers, and the Puritans after them seem to hold to the Biblical pattern that alcohol isn’t the problem but the flesh which abuses it, leading to drunkeness and distruction. I’m not a Church historian. Not even a seminarian. Just a guy who can read the Bible and history.
    Any thoughts on that from those more learned in regards to this discussion and how we navigate it as the Church today? I know the SBC bought into the Temperance movement in the late 1800′s and it seems to have driven the train on this issue since then. Not hatin’ on the SBC. I are one…

  2. I’d rather follow the approach that Paul, the Apostle, took towards alcohol. He recognized the benefits of alcohol and told his disciples to drink wine instead of abstaining (see 1 Timothy 5). Also, in Romans 14, Paul says those who don’t consume that which they are allowed to consume have weak faith. _Weak_Faith_

    Want a stronger faith? Live it.

    To present Christianity as anti-alcohol because of Proverbs 23:31-32 is ridiculous. I could rip other proverbs out of their context in a similar fashion and instruct people to never sleep (6:10). Orthodox Christianity, Scripture, and virtually all of Christian history have long seen alcohol as a blessing when enjoyed in moderation. The anti-alcohol theology of Southern conservatives is a historically recent invention. It arose from a combination of weakness-of-faith and prohibition era social theory.

    Wine is a unique gift that has graciously been given to us by God for a purpose. It should be drunk regularly by the thankful Christian, during the Lord’s supper and at other times.

  3. What interesting and varied responses to JD’s blog. I have to admit that I do like an occasional beer or glass of wine with my meal. Does drinking make me a sinner? In my opinion, no. If I were to abuse the habit, become a drunkard, and harm others because of it, then, yes, it is causing me to sin. But, like so many others have commented, it is the excessive use of anything that makes us sinful. After all, the fruit of the Spirit includes self-control for a reason! I also might include that I do not drink around anyone who frowns on it, or who is an alcoholic, clean and sober or not.

  4. Well Adam, when I see “you’re being punked by the enemy” in a serious theological debate…well, I just don’t even know what to do with that.

    Alcohol is “our stuff” ? What does that even mean? It’s actually not – it’s made from all natural (God made) ingredients, and the process that causes fermentation is a God made process. Notice I don’t say ‘natural’ process. God – yes, that same Holy God – made nature, therefore it is a God made process. Maybe it should be others saying “Quit arguing with God…it’s his ingredients and his process.” Let it go bro…

    And what isn’t advertised on TV with attractive, half naked girls? Is that your criteria for living?

    I can say, in NYC where I live – which has one of the highest alcohol consumptions in the country – that 1) People need to witness others actually drinking in moderation and 2)My witness has never been hurt by having drinks – except in the eyes of transplanted Southern Baptists who moved up here to the city, bringing their culturally biased judgmentalism with them.

  5. Adam, Jesus drank wine and so did his disciples. Let it go bro…let it go.

  6. Did Jesus drink alcohol?
    Did He endorse or condemn it?

    Jesus neither endorsed it nor condemned it, but it is unknown whether He ever drank it. In fact, Jesus did not say anything about alcohol. He could have easily included the subject in one or more of His teachings, even just to say it is okay in moderation, one should avoid it, or never touch it, but He did not.

    One thing He did say in regard to eating in general was that it is not what goes into a man’s mouth that makes him unclean (or ‘defiles’ him), but rather was comes out of a man’s heart (Matthew 15:17-18). Some have contended that this offers proof that Christ was okay with drinking in moderation, but I personally would not take it that far. This statement may or may not have had a thing to do with alcohol, but Christ did not mention any specifics.

    In regard to the “wine” / oinos at the wedding in Cana, whether or not it was fermented, the Word does not say if He drank any of it.

    If Christ did actually consume any alcohol in Cana or elsewhere, He did not get drunk because He was without sin. We can also conclude that alcohol was not a considerable nor regular factor in His life, if it was at all.

    We know at one point the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a drunkard (Luke 7:34), which suggests that He at least was seen in the company of individuals who were drinking, and probably drinking too much. Some have concluded from this that Christ did drink, but again this was just an accusation, and it does not prove anything. We, of course, know that His ministry was for the lost and the unsaved, which is why He was in the company of at least some drunkards to begin with.

    Another place people say Jesus drank fermented wine was at the Last Supper. But if you study Scripture where this event is recorded, Matthew 26:27, Mark 14:23, and Luke 22:17, you will find no reference to wine, only the “cup.” In the proceeding verses (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:19), only the NLT uses the word “wine” while all the other translations say the “fruit of the vine.” There are specific words for “wine,” as we have seen, so the accuracy here of the NLT may be questionable. My conclusion is that the Last Supper, by the description in Scripture, did not contain fermented wine. “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; (28) For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”—Matthew 26:27-28 (KJV)

    Go verse by verse through the Bible and learn the truth about alcohol and Scripture.

    Google: A Toast to the Holy Ghost?

  7. Does the Bible forbid or condemn alcohol?

    No. It does, however, clearly condemn the practice of drunkenness, commands us not to love alcohol, and even cautions us not to like it too much. In the Old Testament, there are about 113 neutral references to alcohol, including the “non-references” such as winepresses or wineskins, seventy negative, and only thirty-one positive. In a couple of cases, there were times where alcohol was temporarily forbidden, like before the priests entered the tabernacle (Leviticus 10:8-11), when priests were to enter the inner court (Ezekiel 44:21), or during a time of the Vow of the Nazirite (Numbers 6:1-20). As well, there were some who were temporarily not to drink, like Samson’s mother while she was pregnant with him (Judges 13:4). A temporary or even permanent banishment on something is not the same thing as a total condemnation. Other things, such as relations, have been temporarily forbidden, like when Moses was consecrating the Israelites to prepare for the Lord’s visit (Exodus 19:15); but this is no way condemns intimacy. Daniel made the personal choice not to “defile” himself with King Nebuchadnezzar’s “royal food and wine” (Daniel 1:8), but it is unclear if that decision was based solely on the wine. The Ten Commandments and the ordinances, property rights, sundry laws, and covenant with God (Exodus chapter 20-24; Deuteronomy 5:7-21) say nothing whatsoever about alcohol.

    The New Testament is more consistently negative in its approach to alcohol. There are about fifteen neutral, twenty-seven negative, and only three positive references. There was one individual, John the Baptist, whom we know of, who was not to ever drink (Luke 1:13-15), but Scripture does not tell us why. But again, while we see multiple warnings against drunkenness in the New Testament, at no point do we find the universal statement to all readers that one “shall not” or even “should not” ever consume alcohol.

    Go verse by verse through the Bible and learn the truth about alcohol and Scripture.

    Google: A Toast to the Holy Ghost?

  8. Tiffany Marshall November 3, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    JD:

    Thanks so much for an excellent article on this issue. I agree with everything you said to a tee. I appreciate the arguments on both side and your counter arguments. No it’s not wrong to drink in moderation, but if we do everything for the glory and cause of Christ, does my drinking help or hinder that? As for me, I am with you. Until my “not drinking” hinders the cause of the Gospel, I will choose not to.

  9. Tiffany Marshall November 3, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    I would also challenge my other brothers and sister to examine your motivations on this issue. Either way can be harmful. If your stance is not to drink, but it is a conclusion drawn out of wanting to be “good enough” in front of a Holy God, check yourself. If you drink because it doesn’t say explicitly in the Bible not to, what is your motivation? If it is to rebel against “cultural Christianity” or legalism, that may not be the best motivation in my opinion. Ultimately everything in our lives should come down to bringing God glory. Nothing else.

  10. It shouldn’t surprise me that I love where you sit in your thoughts on this.

    Though I am surprised by the conclusions drawn by others here about what the Holy Spirit says about this and the relation of alcohol to the carnal mind.

    I think i’ll stick to not reading comments on here anymore and just being challenged and stretched by what you write.

  11. Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.
    Rarely does one who struggles with alcoholism openly admit that they have a problem until they are ready to surrender that addiction. I have seen first hand well intentioned christians who are “free to drink” be a stumbling block to those who they have no idea can’t stop at one drink. That brother who is stumbled may never show any signs that he has a problem to his “free” friends/family who does not live with him. I think we all agree that we will not lose our salvation if we drink. There are great arguments/comments above. I would challenge those who know their “freedom” in Christ to consider other’s first and their families. To love your neighbor as yourself Matt.22:39.
    Thank you J.D. for this post. I think you did a great job presenting the different arguments to drink or not to drink.

  12. Johnnie Walker Whiskey and Scotch is obviously a spiritual spirit. They have a Red Label that represents Christ’s blood. A black label that represents sin, which the blood covers. The Green label represents growth after repentance. Then the Gold label is for the streets in heaven highlighted by the Blue label which represents the blue sky and beauty of that place. WOW!!

    Seriously where there is freedom, there is responsibility. We have freedom to enjoy the gift of alcohol, but not an unfettered blank slate to abuse it.

  13. I am not sure if anyone has touched on this because I have just seen this blog entry and there are many many comments that I didn’t read.

    One verse that I always remember when I hear this debate is Proverbs 20:1 – “WIne is a mocker, and beer a brawler, and whoever is led astray by these things is not wise.” (I have seen some translations that substitute “strong drink” for beer).

    To me, the distinctive words of this verse are “led astray.” We all know that over-consumption of alcohol causes us to do things that we wouldn’t normally do, or that would lead us astray. This point probably comes to different people at different times of the “buzzed/tipsy/drunk” stage, so it is hard to put a cap on the amount of alcohol that would actually affect one’s decisions in a negative way.

    What I personally take away from this verse is that we shouldn’t drink to a point that would mis-represent God, His commandments, the fruit of the spirit, or our faith in and relationship with Him.

    So is getting drunk a sin? That might seem kind of hard to answer. If it leads one astray (which I can understand might be hard for some to define) or causes one to act unwise, then of course. Drinking alcohol in and of itself is not bad. I suppose that is where self-control comes into play (which some have touched on).

    For those concerned with seeming pretentious by not accepting alcohol in social situations, there is the flip-side where we could also be seen as hypocrites if we did actually accept offers of alcoholic beverages by the same people who deem us pretentious. We can’t expect non-Chrisitians to have the same mindset or understanding of alcohol as those who might have some conviction about it.

    I do consume alcohol, though rarely, and usually in my own home, but not always. I feel personally convicted that it isn’t necessary, and I haven’t felt compelled by God to drink. I refuse alcoholic beverages un-pretentiously (is that a word) quite a bit. And every now and then I have a drink…if the Spirit leads. ;)

  14. I would be cautious of the mentality some people have brought up about not wanting to appear legalistic to their unbelieving friends. While I can see a point in this, the same argument can also seep into other areas. The world has a very different view on sex than the Bible gives us; are we legalists by abstaining until marriage? Should we accept and allow sexual immorality in our lives so as not to appear legalistic to them? (What if it’s not actually *having* sex, but simply your attitude toward it, the kinds of entertainment you enjoy or your conversation?)

    I think to many of us here, those are two very different things, because one is clearly stated in God’s word and the other is not, but are they so different to the world? Many non-Christians put abstinence in the same category as teetotalling, so it doesn’t seem to me like “avoiding the appearance of legalism” is an argument that should be made without qualifications. BUT, on the flip side, you could actually use it to strengthen your witness by demonstrating the distinction between the two – showing that Christianity is not all about rules and avoiding pleasure, but that the rules which ARE there have a purpose and are worth keeping.

  15. Proverbs 20:1
    “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”
    I don’t feel the need to add anything to this, or give my own interpretation. It’s self-explanatory.

  16. Always an energetic discussion, this one! My 2¢ worth: I reviewed and analyzed this situation personally many years ago in a very similar fashion that JD seems to have done. I decided not to drink for the benefit of my “witness” based on Paul’s comments. I was at peace internally that I had agreement with the Spirit on this decision. When I’m in Europe at a restaurant and no one knows who I am (ie, no real potential that my drinking will be odd or a challenge to someone), then I may have a beer with dinner. Here’s the interesting part of this based on my life experience: I have never once been made aware or felt convicted that my NOT drinking was an issue to anyone; on the contrary, it has been the door to many conversations about faith and God when co-workers at business dinners can’t help themselves and ask me “don’t you drink?” when they’re all slogging down countless glasses of wine. In one instance, the ENTIRE 3 hour dinner conversation wound up being about God and faith simply because I was the only one not drinking and someone wanted to start a conversation asking me why. So for me, the camp that JD suggested works just fine and God is glorified. Psalm 118:8

  17. Kathy, the Bible does say that Jesus drank. Matthew 11:18-19 says explicitly that Jesus drank. You will also notice from these verses that John (the baptizer) did not eat or drink. This is because of the Nazarite vow that he took. John was obviously wise and had sufficient reasons for abstaining from alcohol. Jesus, also had sufficient reasons for partaking in moderation and was more than obviously wise.

  18. I agree unequivocally, 100%, with my man “Soggy” Sweat (see below):

    THE WHISKEY SPEECH

    Delivered by the late Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr.,
    former Mississippi legislator, lawyer and judge, in 1952 when the Mississippi Legislature was considering legalizing liquor.

    “My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

    If when you say whiskey, you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation and despair and shame and helplessness and hopelessness – then certainly I am against it.

    But if, when you say whiskey, you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy and his happiness and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies and heartaches and sorrows; if you mean the drink the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our pitiful aged and infirm, to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

    This is my stand, and I will not compromise.”

  19. I think it’s hilarious that there has been more traffic on this one post than any other.

    The Summit is doing great things, but everyone is getting their underpants in a wad over drinking. IMHO, just don’t cast that stone at all. Don’t make a big deal over it whether you do or don’t. The Holy Spirit will guide whomever it is that needs witnessing to you no matter what.

    I would love to see more lively debate on other issues, not only the hot topic issues. Then it won’t be an issue of whether a particular group of Christians drink or not.

    I’m just so over this debate!

  20. Christie Martin-Gray November 6, 2010 at 11:17 am

    WOW. Very interesting and lively debate. LOVE getting all the angles at a time when I’ve been giving a lot of personal thought to this particular issue. I love “The Whiskey Speech” because it so clearly defines the good and evil in alcohol. It seems we all agree that too much “strong drink” is ALWAYS a bad idea. So I guess the question is really about whether or not alcohol in moderation is okay. I’m no theologian or intellectual, but will share my experience and thoughts. …I have run into times where DRINKING would clearly hinder bringing glory to God, and I have run into times when I believed that NOT DRINKING would get in the way of trust and witness. “Strong drink” can close doors and can cause a lot of harm, but it can help open doors in some environments. ..My take: LIVING the Gospel doesn’t always look the same in every situation or for every person. We can’t force others into our own box. LIVING the Gospel doesn’t always mean we “look like” we’re perfect. In fact, God can take us out of our comfort zone and we can do some pretty crazy stuff at times while trying to do the right stuff. -Making some mistakes along the way is inevitable when we try to work alongside of God, but God sees our hearts and does His work in spite of our blunders. …Life is complex. Each of us is uniquely made with a unique purpose and experiences that influence why we do what we do. Learning to give God first place in our lives (in all things) is a journey. …The alcohol issue as with all of living, just reinforces one thing for me personally: The real focus should be on Christ and striving to know Him more and more so that I can discern God’s voice and will better and better in a complex world. I will fail often, but hopefully, I’ll “get it right” more and more. …Often God’s voice comes in surprises like this blog and actually having a gift of time to read it. -Thanks, JD. I’ve worried about this issue a lot recently and the dialogue has increased my understanding and my heart for JC. I am convinced that in my world, a drink on occasion helps God’s cause when working on a relational level with certain people. This does not mean I endorse it universally.

  21. I want to say that JD did a great job with the subject and with citing scriptural verses. It is a fact that drinking alcohol is not forbidden in the Bible and at times encouraged for health reasons. I realize that most readers of this blog are young but when my friend was stricken with a heart attack at the young age of 45 and subsequently had stents placed in his heart. He was “Instructed” by his Cardiologist to drink a glass of red wine a day.

    I drank much too much when I was college age and before Christ opened my eyes, and regret all my actions associated with my drinking. Society would be much better off without alcohol there can be no doubt about that but that does not allow us to twist scripture to meet that goal.

    I do laugh though when Christians state that they do not drink because they do not want their fellow Christian to stumble then stuff their face with doughnuts (Especially the Baptist) while practically half the congregation and most of America, including the Pastor, are a 100 pounds overweight and suffer from every imaginable disease associated with obesity. I guess that is why we may here many sermons and discussions about alcohol but never about Gluttony. (How about it JD!).

    Remember, Jesus hated hypocrisy more than just about any sin.

    God Bless JD and all of you who love the Word of God.

    P.S. For Christians who look at only what Jesus is quoted as saying or doing in the Gospels for guidance, The WHOLE Bible is Jesus speaking since he is the Word of God and if your Bible has that silly red lettering only in the New Testament, then write the publisher and tell them that the whole Bible should be printed with red lettering.

    In addition John 21:25 says “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, (and said, because I am sure he was not mute when he did them) which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. AMEN.”

  22. Great post! I still think that this is a surface issue. The “right” to drink is a manifestation of a deeper sin; the sin of self idolitry.

  23. John wrote, “Society would be much better off without alcohol there can be no doubt about that.”

    Considering that God literally told His people to buy and drink alcohol in the Old Testament, and that Christ made it as his first miracle and drank it at his last supper… I going to have to side with God on this one and disagree with you. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Society would be much better off without alcohol *abuse*, not without alcohol period.

    The “anti-alcohol” Proverbs are all in the context of abuse. Many places elsewhere in scripture praise moderate alcohol use. America would be much better off without food abuse… but that doesn’t mean it would be better off without oil and butter. God gave us such things to help give us joy, a fruit of the Spirit no less! Don’t be a kill-joy. Our God most certainly isn’t, even though many of our churches are.

  24. Lev,
    You are mistaken. God never commends alcohol, never tells anyone to drink alcohol.

    The biblical words for wine referred to both alcoholic, and nonalcoholic wine. You determine what kind of wine by the context, as you do with words like God/god, angel, etc. Ancient writers called wine that which was both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. Nonalcoholic wine could be made and preserved easier than alcoholic wine. Nonalcoholic wine was very common in ancient times, both because it did not intoxicate and because it was sweet. They had few sweet things, and alcoholic fermentation takes the sweetness away.

    For you to say Jesus made alcoholic wine is an assumption on your part. Wine (oinos) was used in a generic way. I suppose you refer to Deuteronomy 14:26, a favorite, though obscure verse, of drinkers. The word for wine is yayin, and it is used generically. The word for strong drink, beer, or similar drink is shekar. Shekar, like wine, was a generic word. It referred to intoxicating, and un-intoxicating drink from fruit other than grapes. We even get our words sugar, cider, saccharine from shekar. Had all shekar been fermented there would have been no sweetness that gave rise to other words for sweet in other languages.

    Clear references to nonalcoholic wine being called wine are found in Proverbs 3:10; Isaiah 16:10; 65:8. Aristotle said any mixed drink could be called wine. He also called must (unfermented grape juice), a kind of wine. Scripture never commands us to drink alcoholic wine or alcoholic shekar. Rather, it tells us not to even look at it (Proverbs 23:29-25) and says wine itself is a mocker (Proverbs 20:1); that is a clear reference to the alcoholic kind of wine. Scripture also tells us to be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).

    Most would agree this world would be much better off if alcohol were banished from the face of the earth.
    David R. Brumbelow

  25. I find it interesing that Jesus was accused of being a drunkard by our Pharisee friends (Matthew 11.19, Luke 7.34), yet we still assert the argument that he didn’t drink fermented wine.

    When Paul was correcting our Corinthian brothers and sisters about the manner in which they were taking the Lord’s Supper, he didn’t tell them to abstain from whatever they were drinking that made them drunk…instead he told them to drink it at home (1 Cor 11.20-22). Something tells me they weren’t drinking grape juice. I think for anyone to say that Jesus DIDN’T create fermented wine at Cana…or that He and the disciples DIDN’T drink fermented wine…or that Christians throughout much of Church history have been wrong on this issue…is an assumption on their part.

    Don’t want to rehash all the arguments. Just think there’s liberty in the Gospel to enjoy what God clearly affirms as good in His Word. There’s also liberty for one to impose ‘personal legalism’ if his concscience and faith is weak on this subject (Paul’s words, not mine)–just don’t impose it on everyone else. As well, there’s liberty and precedent for the one who agrees with the Biblical position of alcohol as a gift from God to be discerning about when and where he partakes of it, eve to fast regularly from it. Is it possible for Christians to agree that we can still love each other and non-Christians(at the same dinner table no less!) no matter where we are on this issue?

  26. David R. Brumbelow,

    Every Hebrew concordance I’ve consulted says that shekar refers to intoxicating beverage. Theyy are many times more reliable than simply reasoning: “Had all shekar been fermented there would have been no sweetness that gave rise to other words for sweet in other languages.” Besides, fermented drinks can be sweet too.

    In short: You’re in denial, my friend — such deep denial that you’re willing to twist Scripture in order to maintain your conservative traditions. Actually, I can’t even call the anti-alcohol tradition a “conservative” one. Historically, it is a very recent addition to the Christian faith. Until the Prohibitionist movement in Protestant circles of the United States within the last couple hundred years, historical Christianity had previously embraced moderate alcohol use for all of its thousands of years. From Calvin and Luther all the way back to when Timothy was instructed to stop abstaining by the Apostle Paul (1 Timothy 5), Christians have long been a people who enjoyed fermented beer and wine… both during the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist and in typical life.

    Christians who abstain from that which God created for them to enjoy have weak faith according to Romans 14, and they have been decieved by the demons of hell according to 1 Timothy 4. You’ve been decieved, and your faith has been weakend, by dark forces seeking to kill the joy and attractiveness of the church. Wake up and smell the coffee… unless you’re Mormon (in which case you’re not even allowed to enjoy coffee or tea!).

  27. Lev,
    The Lexicons are not inerrant, only God’s Word.

    The common meaning of sweet wine in ancient times was unfermented wine, because alcoholic fermentation took away the sweetness. Aristotle, Hippocrates, Athenaeus and other ancient writers attest to this. Aristotle said sweet wine would not intoxicate. He also called must (unfermented wine or grape juice) “wine.” There are a wealth of other such ancient quotes. Genesis 40:11 gives another example of sweet, unfermented wine. I’ve previously mentioned other Scripture. Perhaps you should consider the evidence.

    Yes, you can make alcohol sweet, you can make any drink alcoholic. But the ancient common meaning of sweet wine was what we would call grape juice. We are not talking of modern definitions, but the way the words were used in ancient and biblical times.

    Many authorities do accept that shekar (Deuteronomy 14:26) was a drink made from fruit other than grapes and it could be either alcoholic or nonalcoholic. It is often used parallel with wine, which could also easily be preserved in either an alcoholic or nonalcoholic state. http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2010/10/preserving-unfermented-wine-in-bible.html

    The translators of the NKJV did not demand shekar be an alcoholic drink and translated it “similar drink.”
    Young’s Analytical Concordance says of shekar, “Sweet drink (what satiates or intoxicates).”
    Dr. Robert P. Teachout, in his DTS doctoral dissertation, “The Use of Wine in the Old Testament,” points out that shekar could be either intoxicating or grape juice.
    Dr. Stephen Reynolds, a translator of the NIV, acknowledges shekar could be a sweet nonalcoholic drink, or an alcoholic drink.
    Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi says shekar, like yayin could refer to a sweet unfermented beverage or a fermented intoxicating beverage.
    Jerome mentioned nonalcoholic shekar. And there are others.

    There have always been abstaining Christians, though they have often been in the minority (perhaps you are the one following tradition?). Jerome (c. AD 400) is an example. Timothy was an abstainer both before and after Paul’s commandment. Everyone recognizes alcohol can be used for medicinal purposes. It is also interesting that Paul did not tell him to take alcoholic wine. It could have been alcoholic or nonalcoholic wine. Why do you assume all ancient wine was alcoholic? It was not, and much evidence clearly shows such.

    The church did not wake up to the slavery issue until the 1700s and 1800s; does that make being anti-slavery invalid?
    David R. Brumbelow

  28. Your comment did not respond to my point. I said Hebrew concordances always translate shekar to refer to alcohol, fermented drink. Anyone can find a few Ph.D’s who think shekar is juicy-juice, just like anyone can find a few Ph.D’s who think the sun orbits the earth. My point has to do with Hebrew concordances, not with how many letters some dude has after his name.

    Sure, concordances aren’t inspired, but neither are Ph.D’s. Sure, the Hebrews don’t interpret the Scriptures the right way (if we thought they did we would be Jewish). However, as far as the direct translation of Hebrew words, it is *their* language my friend! What on earth makes you think that some culturally biased, indoctrinated Southern evangelical knows Hebrew better than the Hebrews themselves?

    As far as Timothy, what evidence do you have that Timothy drank no wine after Paul told him to drink it… there is none as far as I can tell. The reason I assume Paul speaks of alcoholic wine is because he instructed his followers to avoid “too much” of it (Titus 2:3). No one has to be told to avoid “too much” juice, and if they were only to avoid “too much” that means they *could* enjoy some alcoholic wine.

    Of course there have always been abstaining Christians. But they have always been in the extreme minority, and even they did not instruct others to abstain. In the early church, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus of Rome, Clement of Alexandria, and Basil the Great encouraged moderate drinking. Cyprian rejects as “contrary to evangelical and apostolical discipline” the practice of some Gnostics, who used water instead of wine in the Eucharist. While still rejecting drunkenness, on the content of the cup he says, “The Holy Spirit also … makes mention of the Lord’s cup, and says, “Thy inebriating cup, how excellent it is!” [quoting a variation of Ps 23:5 (in the Hebrew numbering)] Now the cup which inebriates is assuredly mingled with wine, for water cannot inebriate anybody.”

    Clement of Alexandria wrote in a chapter about drinking that he admires those who adopt an austere life and abstain from wine, and he suggests the young abstain from wine so as not to inflame their “wild impulses.” But he says taking a little wine as medicine or for pleasure after the day’s work is acceptable for those who are “moored by reason and time” such that they aren’t tempted by drunkenness…

    John Chrysostom, in a homily on 1 Timothy 5:23, stresses moderation and adds that the biblical passage in question is useful for refuting heretics and immature Christians who say there should be no wine. He emphasizes the goodness of God’s creation and adjures: “Let there be no drunkenness; for wine is the work of God, but drunkenness is the work of the devil. Wine makes not drunkenness; but intemperance produces it. Do not accuse that which is the workmanship of God, but accuse the madness of a fellow mortal.”

    St Chrysostom’s point is to not toss out the baby with the bathwater. Don’t blame the substance; blame the person abusing it. In fact, obesity kills *many* more people then alcoholism does in this country (150,000 versus 75,000), and many more are addicted to good tasting high fat foods then are addicted to alcohol. Yet you aren’t calling for people to abstain from good tasting fats. You are just anti-alcohol because the Southern “conservative” propaganda you were taught was anti-alcohol… even as it ate itself to death. Southern “conservative” evangelicals began the only large-scale anti-alcohol movement in the church, and that was only in the last few hundred years.

    And as far as the church not waking up to slavery until the recent past, what church are you talking about? Christians have long stood against slavery. Certainly some “Christians” participated in the slave trade, particularly Southern ones, but many, many more throughout history did not. So I can’t agree with you that “the church” didn’t wake up as to slavery until recently either.

  29. Luke 1:11-16 (New Living Translation)

    Luke 1 “11: While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12: Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13: But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14: You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15: for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord.

    He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks.

    He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16: And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God.”

    What was good enough for John the Baptist is GOOD enough for me. We can debate all day about this “worldly” issue….but when it comes to our bodies, as a true believer, the place where the SPIRIT of GOD indwells…..the WORLD cannot have a part.

    If this is such a “social” acceptance, why do we not have it at church functions? Does The Summit have or allow alcohol at church functions? If so, what sets you apart from the world? If they don’t why not…..if you can’t take a stand on it being right or wrong?

    Just asking……

    We can get all technical and philosophical about this issue. But when it comes down to brass tacks, it’s all about ME, isn’t it? The world is going to hell, why must we help them? Jesus told us to tell the Good News…..to tell others that He took upon them their sins so that they could have life.

    I, too, as some of the rest…..grew up in a time where there were so many rules. Grace was just a word….we never experienced it. Rules are broken….rules are opinions….but God’s Word is truth. Interpretation of His word has to be studied, in depth. I do not claim to have any theological training, but this one thing I know…..Jesus is NOT the author of confusion. I found it bazar that so many people that commented on this subject “defended” their personal stance on the subject….once again, it’s all about ME, right?

    Let’s get down to where the rubber meets the road…it’s about JESUS, God’s HOLY son….and not about ME!

    Thanks for the challenge.

  30. It’s interesting that a gluttonous culture like America makes such a big deal about drinking. A coke is worse for you than a beer. Yes, no one has been arrested for driving under the influence of coca cola, but sodas have been deemed as one of the main contributors to obesity. You don’t run a car off the road; you just set in motion a slow death of diabetes and sickness.

  31. Here is a good short post by my friend Derek Radney on this issue.

    http://tinyurl.com/2vut692

  32. Some people here have said that not having alcohol has never been an obstacle to witnessing, but that’s because you’re looking at the situations through the glasses of your personal worldview.- Not God’s worldview.

    The reality is that I definitely know of situations where the legalism over this exact topic has turned off non-believers to Christianity so the assertion that your abstinence isn’t a stumbling block is false.

    I personally hate the taste of beer and pretty much all alcohol, but when I’m out with friends that are drinking I try to get something so I can connect with them better.

  33. Alcohol can be such a scapegoat. Lets appreciate alcohol. We should be able to experience our spiritual wealth and in doing so not be held in captivity to ANYTHING.

  34. hey – I think it is important to reflect on the Old Testament passages on drinking within the context of people not having the indwelling Spirit. God seems to have provided access to a mysterious influencing beverage that enhanced joy and relieved burdens. (key elements of the ministry of the Holy spirit in our lives).

    Jesus’ first miracle seems to have been intended to show that something new has come and that the joy and peace provided by wine was now something he had power to distribute at will.

    Paul links wine with the Spirit in ephesians and calls us to turn from the shadow to the substance.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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