Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The Bible and Alcohol

posted by Scot McKnight

Tuscanwine.jpgIt seems every year someone brings up the Bible and alcohol (the drinking kind). My first response, kept to myself but now made public, is this “Yo, have you ever tasted Brunello or a South African wine or a good pint of Boddington’s?” But that doesn’t seem to be the approach needed here.

What I find every year in this conversation is a serious, but repeated mistake. The tack is this: If I take a stand more “biblical than the Bible,” then I can’t be wrong. That is, if I choose not to drink at all, I will keep myself from sin and all appearance of evil and will be safe. This is what I call the sin of “zealotry” — the belief that if we are more extreme than the Bible, then we can’t be wrong. Wrong.

If God is God, and if God speaks to us in the Bible, then God spoke words that show that wine drinking is fine. One may choose not to drink, but that view is more extreme than what the Bible says. Drinking too much is contrary to the Bible, but not drinking at all is not what the Bible teaches (except for ascetic strands at time).

But, let’s not fall for the idea that being more biblical than the Bible is safe ground. Extremism is not righteousness; extremism is zealotry. Trust that what God says is what God wants.



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Brandon

posted March 23, 2009 at 3:39 pm


Amen. Hedging the Law of Christ is wrong. And I get exasperated when seminaries and denominations say, “you will never drink or be in the immediate company of others when they drink (alcohol) if you wish to remain in our circles…..oh, and drinking is biblically permissible.” What? This makes no sense whatsoever.
Further, because many can not drink responsibly with their Christian friends, they end up drinking (often irresponsibly) with their non-Christian friends. As Luther said, “It is better to think of church in the ale-house than to think of the ale-house in church”.



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Mary

posted March 23, 2009 at 3:42 pm


“Yo” being a new term for “Dr.”
This was an issue at my undergraduate institution. Dancing and alcohol consumption used to be banned for all students, faculty and staff and part of the rationale was that while the Bible doesn’t seem to prohibit alcohol consumption or dancing in and of themselves, the administration didn’t want to have to police what was appropriate and what was inappropriate (hence the ban). Their more recent approach has been to describe when those things are problematic and leave it to individuals to act responsibly about those things.



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Adam McHugh

posted March 23, 2009 at 3:42 pm


I actually wrote about my passion for my wine in my chapter on evangelism!



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funkyaxe

posted March 23, 2009 at 3:42 pm


good word. “zealotry” is a specific aspect of overall “religiousness” in my opinion… mostly interchangeable terms i would suppose. we think we can add our own righteousness to Christ, His words, and His atonement for us. big mistake. many forms (whether drinking, partying, hanging with the “wrong crowd,” playing loud music at church, etc.), same root issue…??? i mean, what did Jesus DO? why not follow suit?



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Chad Hall

posted March 23, 2009 at 3:42 pm


I know folks who are “more biblical than the Bible.” They read Paul’s advice about using a little wine for the stomach and zealously use a little Jack for the head, a little Grey Goose for the nerves, and so on. :)
Seriously, it seems to me that attempts to be more biblical than the Bible are unbiblical and not safe because such attempts reveal an underlying lack of trust in what scripture reveals as good.
Good word, Scot.



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Dean Whisnant

posted March 23, 2009 at 3:45 pm


Very well said Scot! Maybe you should write a book or two ;-)
Seriously though I do appreciate how you presented that.



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chad

posted March 23, 2009 at 3:47 pm


good post…i agree, but there is something to be said about the alcoholic abstinence that was practiced by the Nazarites and John the Baptist…



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John

posted March 23, 2009 at 3:55 pm


I once was told by a person in our church that she thought evil, demonic spirits actually inhabit the very molecules of wine, beer, alcohol!



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Yves Tambashe

posted March 23, 2009 at 3:58 pm


I think Paul words in Roman concerning eating meat sacrificed to idols, and people regarding one day more holy than another can apply with drinking. One abstain for the lord and the other partake for the Lord. I think to say that they are trying to be more biblical than the bible is a but harsh!



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dcp

posted March 23, 2009 at 4:04 pm


I agree about zealotry but isn’t there some fear factor involved here? On the part of leadership and lawmakers in certain institutions, a means of control. And on the part of followers . . . a sense of fear. Better safe than sorry, stay as far away as we can, etc. Instead of thinking through a Biblical lens. That seemed to be my experience anyways.



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RJS

posted March 23, 2009 at 4:13 pm


Yes but …
to suggest that you and Kris should not have a glass of wine with dinner in in Tuscany is zealotry; to suggest that a glass of beer (something I’ve never liked by the way) with a friend is wrong is zealotry.
But there is a reason for this madness (zealotry) – and it cannot simply be reduced to drunkenness or alcoholism or avoiding appearance of evil.
I would put it this way – the camaraderie and fellowship of drinking becomes the goal – a goal that is thought to be lessened without the presence of alcohol in the mix. There is a reason for this – alcohol is a drug (so, by the way, is caffeine and my 5 cups a day should tell you I am not “drug free”), a drug that enhances enjoyment of companionship and loosens inhibitions. I think that this sentiment is behind the second paragraph of Brandon’s comment in fact – alcohol becomes a necessary part of the picture. It is especially a problem when it is a fellowship that separates husband and wife.
I think it is wise to drink sparingly in most situations.
And now I’ll have even Scot on my case –



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Michael

posted March 23, 2009 at 4:14 pm


My comment to the “tea-totalers” in the Baptist Church I am a member of is this: What was the first miracle Jesus performed? Why,if He didn’t want us to drink a little wine would He change water into wine for His Mom at a party? I had one lady in her mid 70’s say to me that”the water back then was bad,so that’s why He changed it to wine,so the people at the party wouldn’t get sick” ! I countered with asking her if Jesus could change water into wine could He not purify the water if He wanted?
She responded with some kind of funny noise.



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Kevin

posted March 23, 2009 at 4:17 pm


My tradition (the Church of the Nazarene) abstained from alcohol because the early Methodist and the early Nazarene’s worked primarily with poor working class families for whom alcoholism was a big deal. Now, the Nazarene’s are an upper middle-class denomination that can’t remember why they don’t drink – but they know it’s wrong. Most Nazarene’s under 30 drink, because after a while the extra-biblical hoops for why you shouldn’t drink start sounding hollow and pretty ridiculous.



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Tony Myles

posted March 23, 2009 at 4:19 pm


Perhaps I’m being a bit Blue Parakeet-ish here, but it seems like alochol is both a cultural teaching as well as a celebration/festival teaching. It is often hard to figure out which is which in our culture. As mentioned, some people in the Bible whom we praise for their faith abstained from alcohol on behalf of that faith; others engaged in it as well.
I wonder if the question we need to ask is “why alcohol?” whenever we see it in the Scriptures. Perhaps there is a point of community or a point of the vine/grape that is more important than the alcohol itself?



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Pat

posted March 23, 2009 at 4:20 pm


“One abstain for the lord and the other partake for the Lord. I think to say that they are trying to be more biblical than the bible is a but harsh!”
Yves, I agree. We don’t always know why some choose to abstain. For me, I abused alcohol in college and have a parent that drank heavily a good portion of my life. When I rededicated my life to the Lord, I chose to stop drinking. However, I do not condemn those who drink (Christian or non-Christian) because I know that the Bible does not condemn drinking, but rather excess.



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Kevin Hargaden

posted March 23, 2009 at 4:36 pm


I am reminded of Tim Keller’s often made comment while preaching on the Gospel of John: There is a reason that Jesus’ first miracle was to make 500 litres of the finest wine ever brewed. And that reason doesn’t include biblically-based abstinence*!
*There are lots of other good reasons to stay off alcohol. Personally, as someone who was an atheist for many years I never drank then. It was only after coming to faith in Jesus that I started to enjoy a tipple. I’m off now for some whiskey!



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MatthewS

posted March 23, 2009 at 4:40 pm


1) I believe that not causing someone to stumble is a good rule. Former alcoholics know that alcohol abuse can damage and destroy people, even innocent bystanders. Many of them stay completely away from it and I respect them. I would never drink a beer in front of a recovering or former alcoholic that might be caused to stumble by that action.
2) However, to put this bluntly, people who have attended church for 60 years and have never touched a drop – my drink won’t cause them to stumble. Some people in this category have overly sensitive rules that others are supposed to follow. I cannot bear all the responsibility for never making someone angry just because I won’t follow their rules. Jesus broke many rules in his day and made people angry.
3) Be filled with the Spirit, don’t get drunk. I see no excuse for getting drunk. It is unbecoming. Enjoying a good beer or a fine wine is a long-accepted part of celebrating life.
4) This one is for free – Haggai expressed a curse to the people from God that they did not have enough alcohol to get drunk. That one cracks me up for some reason.
FWIW, I don’t drink very much. A few times a year for celebrations and such.



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Mike Bird

posted March 23, 2009 at 4:45 pm


Scot,
I can honestly say that one of the highlights of my week is sitting down on a Friday evening, beside a nice warm fire, with a glass of Aussie Merlot, and my UBS4 (followed up with some cheese, salami, and then some reading of the apostolic fathers or Dead Sea Scrolls). Those tee-tottler’s don’t know what their missing. BTW, I was raised by an alcoholic mother so I know all too well the harm of alcohol abuse! Scot, I seriously need to introduce you to Aussie wines, that French stuff tastes like rotten turnip juice and the South African stuff is not kosher.



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nathan

posted March 23, 2009 at 4:59 pm


This is issue is such a yawner. It does seem to come up annually. It’s really silly.



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Andy W.

posted March 23, 2009 at 5:22 pm


Shouldn’t this be linked to the NASCAR question? If you don’t drink, what’s the point of watching Nascar?



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Chaplain Mike

posted March 23, 2009 at 5:30 pm


My favorite “church” fellowship meeting is described in Deuteronomy 14:22-27. Take that, tee-totalers!



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Patrick Hare

posted March 23, 2009 at 5:50 pm


Might there be a cultural component to this? Should Christian missionaries drink in an Islamic culture where alcohol is forbidden? On a Native American reservation where alcohol abuse is destroying the culture? Should Christians have been drinking openly as a sign of our freedom in the gospel during Prohibition? Are churches wrong to prohibit alcohol on the church campus? And if the answer to any of these questions is “No”, then how can we nuance our thinking about when it is and isn’t appropriate?



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Scot McKnight

posted March 23, 2009 at 5:59 pm


Michael Bird, I don’t think I mentioned French wine (nor dare I!). Brunello, the fine sangiovese grape of Tuscany. I’ve had some Aussie wines and they’re good. I’m biased to the wines of the countries we’ve visited — bad argument, but the truth.
Now to the issue:
We all need to respect the need to be sensitive around those struggling with alcohol.
And, there are reasons to abstain.
My concern, though, is with the sense of safety in being more biblical than the Bible.



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Brian

posted March 23, 2009 at 6:03 pm


so if we choose not to drink for our own personal reasons we’re sinning?



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Scot McKnight

posted March 23, 2009 at 6:07 pm


Brian,
Thanks for that question. Well, no. It is not a sin not to drink. Nor is it a sin to choose not to drink. There is no command to drink wine. Our point is that teaching more than what the Bible says, going beyond what the Bible says, and equating that with what the Bible says or making that the moral high ground is not teaching what the Bible says. There are times to abstain; times to consume. Does that help?



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Rebeccat

posted March 23, 2009 at 6:14 pm


We actually left a church we were considering joining a few years ago over this. It was a large, multicultural, non-denominational church which we felt was a pretty good fit. We wanted to get involved in their ministry programs and had to be a member, so we went through the classes to join. At the end, though, they made it clear that members must agree not to drink anything with alcohol ever. We’re not overly attached to drinking; heck, for much of our marriage we could hardly afford to drink even something cheap! But requiring abstention entirely raised a huge red flag for us. The reasoning was to avoid the appearance of evil. They told us that if someone knew we were members of the church and saw us coming out of the liquor store or drinking while out for dinner, they would assume bad things about us and our witness for Christ would be ruined. I’m not sure what culture or century they thought they were living in! At any rate, we decided that this sort of clearly extra-biblical teaching was something we just couldn’t affirm, so we did not join. A week or two after coming to that decision a preacher at the church stood up on Sunday and declared that the only music which is allowed according to the bible was hymns of praise to God. At that point we decided that the church really wasn’t the place for us and stopped attending it altogether.



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pepy

posted March 23, 2009 at 6:31 pm


Yeah, I knew someone who also abstained from red wine vinegar in their salad dressing. I was almost, but not quite, entertained listening to all their explanations.
I guess I keep thinking about a friend who is a Messianic Christian, who knew not to take offense at a small thing that was offered to her, when she could have. I learned a lot from her example…more than the red wine vinegar.



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Tami Martin

posted March 23, 2009 at 6:34 pm


Excellent post, Scot. I attend a Church of the Nazarene church, but am not a member, partly because of their “code of Christian conduct” that has potential members swearing abstinence in order to be members. We have enough of a struggle in this fallen world living a godly life, why add more weight?
I completely agree with your premise that adding to biblical teaching or going beyond it to the nth degree is just as wrong a changing something or taking something away.



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Brian

posted March 23, 2009 at 6:43 pm


Scot that does help, I do understand – nothing wrong with a good ale or a nice wine. I just hadn’t thought of the “more biblical than the Bible” aspect.
We do have to be careful not to call evil what God has called good. That’s going too far.
What about those Pastors and ministers who knowingly joined groups who ask thier ministers not to consume alcohol? Is that organization going too far? I know the fellowship I am with banned alcoholic consumption for its European missionaries because too many were becoming alcoholics.
Thanks



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Scot McKnight

posted March 23, 2009 at 6:46 pm


Brian,
Nope, if a denominational body discerns that is best for them, I support their attempt to discern. I’d be concerned that they would force such a ruling, but if the leaders choose to go along with it, that’s fine.



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Derek Leman

posted March 23, 2009 at 6:59 pm


Our favorite at synagogue is Deuteronomy 14:26, “spend the money for whatever you desire, oxen, or sheep, or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves; and you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.” The money mentioned is your tithe (one of three tithes in the Torah).
Strong drink is most likely grape brandy in an Israelite context.
Derek Leman



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Chaplain Mike

posted March 23, 2009 at 7:02 pm


Scot, all tongue-in-cheekness aside after my previous post, thanks for bringing this up. I’m sure the matter of alcohol is of special and continuing interest to you and your folks in the college setting.
To answer your actual concern more directly: “putting a fence around” the Bible’s teachings is a misuse of authority, a cop-out from true pastoral responsibility, and a failure to trust in the power and freedom of the Gospel. Christ criticized the Pharisees in no uncertain terms for trying to control others by this means.
However, I am also reminded of the wise words of Francis Schaeffer in TRUE SPIRITUALITY. He said we must always remember that we are not left with nothing when we throw away these man-made rules. Instead, we are brought face to face with the great commandment and the law of love. God’s freedom is both liberating and at the same time infinitely more demanding than human rules could ever be.



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Derek Leman

posted March 23, 2009 at 7:03 pm


Chad #7:
You said there is something to the Nazirite vow abstaining from alcohol. How about grapes and raisins? They abstained from those also, and cutting hair and touching corpses.
You can’t make an ethical principle out of a holiness precept. But if you’d like to try, I’ll be interested to see your hairdo in a few years :-P
Derek Leman



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Diana

posted March 23, 2009 at 7:04 pm


Scot, I appreciated the humor, balance and sensitivity with which you handled this issue at the EQUIP conference at Orchard Grove Grove. I noticed that at the first reference, there was uncomfortable laughter from the audience, but by the end, because you had so thoroughly established the foundation of not being “more biblical than Biblical” (great terminology!) the majority of us got it!
I delight in your freedom in the Lord, and your ability to encourage the Body of Christ to come out of the box constructed of man-made rules that has so effectively walled out the next generation!



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Richard Jones

posted March 23, 2009 at 7:17 pm


I agree with Scot’s point. We cannot be more righteous than God and to think we will do God’s ways “one better” is pride and will lead to judging others.
I myself do not drink alcohol, have NEVER drank alcohol, and WILL NEVER drink alcohol. Why? My father was an alcoholic–the sleep it off in jail, ruin your life kind of alcoholic. Thankfully, he did quit. But the memories of the deprivations and the shame my family suffered because of his drinking will never leave me. And I know that children of alcoholics are more prone to alcoholism and other addictions. I’ll play it safe. But I don’t deny the freedom to drink to others, nor do I judge them. Heck, I’ve even been in a few bars–but I’ve always had soda.



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E.G.

posted March 23, 2009 at 7:19 pm


When I was about 18, or so, I had a Sunday school teacher who insisted that Jesus did not drink wine (it was unfermented – basically Welches – in the teachers mind), because “wine was impure; it had bacteria.”
Beside the fact that wine had better not have living microorganisms, beside the fact that the teacher was mixing up bacteria and yeast, and beside the fact that fermentation was done in the ancient world to rid beverages of said microbes, I was not 100% sure of what my teacher was implying about bacteria. “Why are they somehow impure?” I facetiously wondered.
So, being the rabble-rouser that I was (and still am, of course), I had to put up my hand to ask the question as to whether or not Christ – being 100% God AND 100% man – had bacteria in His gut.
My teacher was not impressed…



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MatthewS

posted March 23, 2009 at 7:21 pm


The “more biblical than the Bible” approach can (will?) eventually create its own problems. I did a semester trip to Russia back in my high-school years with a legalistic group. Some of us were privileged to visit an unregistered church. They served communion; it was wine. Many of my fellow-travelers refused to partake because it was wine. First, the group of Russians, some of whom had done jail time for their faith, had no idea why these kids would refuse communion with Christian brothers and sisters. Second, even if they did, the statement would still be that communion with Christian brothers and sisters is less important than following the rule “I never drink a drop.” Rules more important than people = not good.
The irony was how much NyQuil the same group consumed.



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Bob Smallman

posted March 23, 2009 at 7:58 pm


Dick Lucas, the retired Anglican pastor, illustrates this idea of being more biblical than the Bible with a drawing he calls, “Holding the Line.”
He draws a straight line across the blackboard and points out that “liberals” often seem to want to dip below the line (that is, say LESS than the Bible says). But “conservatives” are often wanting to go above the line (and say MORE than the Bible says).
Dick’s exhortation? “Hold the line! Say what the Bible clearly says, neither more nor less.” I use that illustration all the time when discussing this sort of issue with people.



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Doug Allen

posted March 23, 2009 at 9:23 pm


While riding with my next door neighbor to a golf course, we passed one of two taverns in our small town. Somehow the subject of drinking was brought up, and my friend and neighbor said that drinking was forbidden by the Bible (he attends and E church here in SC, and I’ve attended a Christmas service there with him and his family). I was flabbergasted and said- what about Jesus turning water into wine and all the other references to wine? He said with great seriousness that the word wine was mis-translated and should have been translated as grape juice. I didn’t want to ruin our golf date, so I let it go. When I got home I did a google search and sure enough, there are a number of websites devoted to the “Bible forbids alcohol” thesis.
One of my favorite English poets is A.E. Housman. I’ll conclude with one of his famous couplets-
“and malt does more than Milton can
to justify God’s ways to man”
Doug



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Ron Newberry

posted March 23, 2009 at 9:45 pm


Good post, Scott. Thanks for your wisdom. I enjoyed to other comments as well.



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Gary Lee Parker

posted March 23, 2009 at 10:31 pm


Yes, thoughts to consider and is always a tough one because of some people’s tendency towards abuse of alcohol or abuse of not using alcohol. For me, I must respect other people’s thoughts and definitely respect the position of the church that I am affiliated with. When it comes to using wine with the Holy Eucharist, the respecting the church that you are affiliated with comes to play.



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Dave Leigh

posted March 23, 2009 at 10:42 pm


Decided to grab a beer and sit down to my computer. Almost sprayed the monitor when I came upon your blog – LOL.
Years ago after my divorce I moved into an apartment for the first time after having lived in private homes for decades. So it never occurred to when I started hammering nails to hang pictures that my neighbors would be so tuned in to my activities at–11:30 P.M.–until a loud fist began banging at my at door!
Realizing my stupidity I hesitated to answer but openned the door with trepidation. To my surprise the man who lived downstairs stood there with a bottle of beer in each hand!
“Hey there, neighbor,” he shouted. “I heard you were up! Have a beer!” he said, handing me a bottle.
“Wow!” I answered. “Am I glad you’re not a fundamentalist Christian!”
He looked at me with a puzzled look on his face and we introduced ourselves. His facial expression told me he had no idea what I was talking about. But I think you do.
Well, it’s time for another Heineken! Thanks for bringing up the topic and presenting your always-helpful perspectives. What else can I say but, “I’ll drink to that!”



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Sheila Joyce Gibbs

posted March 24, 2009 at 1:11 am


Greetings Scott & other readers !
Doug’s comments, on Christ turning the water into wine & countered by his buddy…….as a recovering alcoholic now 23+ mos, for the 30 yrs of drinking, that was my favourite line, followed by my request for a refill !
Since the loss of my beloved hubby, also 23 months ago, my research has shown quite a few things, but mostly, that Wine at that time, was anywhere from 1%-3% alcohol, max and speaking now of the Wine that Christ had made. Also the fact that back then the water was so loaded with bacteria, and tasted the vile, people rarely could drink it. But you good people of this outstanding web-site may already know this.
I hate to use up so much space, but, at this time, our society is scourged beyond the imagination, with our legal & most favoured drug, Alcohol. I will try and make this brief.
In the last 15 months, I’ve been spreading my own personal experience and finding a multitude of others, also carrying one of the five most prevelant health afflictions, that all alcohol is capable of dealing out, willy-nilly, as it see’s fit !
And they are (& in no particular order either)……..
-Grand-Mal Seizures
-Progressive Blindness
-Progressive Deafness
-Destroyed Corroded Livers
-Sudden Heart Attacks
These are caused from what our term of moderate consumption is. None of them have any cure what-so-ever. And none of them give any warning signs either. They don’t start off minor, increasing slowly, not ever apparently ! And of the over 1000’s of letters I’ve sent, there’s only been around 20 of us, who have spoken out about their illness, warning family & friends and children !
The remainder have never passed their information on to anyone, due to shame & embarressment ! Each of them, good outstanding citizens, never drunk or this ludicrous bingeing. Excellent careers, family steadfast, financial secure, healthy and physically fit too !
All what my late husband & I called ourselves, and that’s ‘Moderate Drinkers’…….usually 1-2 a day & rarely wine !!
Many of us here in Canada alone, have been trying unsuccessfully to somehow persuade our Government to pass legislation, requiring mandatory Health Warning Labels on all liquor containers, similar to whats been done with Cigarettes. Although, we’ve not asked for the deplorable photo’s with ours.
The main worry & concern right now, is that our youth are following rapidly, in our slimy grimy footprints! So, when we’ve all been dropped off at nearby Seniors Nursing Homes, to be spoon fed & diaperred into hopefully a quick death…….who’s going to take over all our many Professions ? If our youth have also destroyed their own health ??
And all because of the almighty drink !
May God have mercy on us all !!



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Patrick Hare

posted March 24, 2009 at 2:08 am


Scot –
Have you enjoyed any good Amarones when you’ve been in It’ly?



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Anon.

posted March 24, 2009 at 5:37 am


I feel like drinking could be one of the things we could really redeem as a Christian community.
I appreciate all the comments on here about how people have made their own decisions regarding alcohol. There are such powerful stories behind each, whether the simple freedom in Christ and community participation to enjoy a good drink, or the decisions driven by deep hurts and pain of the past. Either way it is a good testament to the greatness of God. So why is the topic so blacklisted? Maybe this is a yearly blog topic or something, but in my own experience I don’t really see it being talked about too much in the church, except as rules or commands coming from the pulpit.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could just be honest with each other and encourage each other’s personal decisions within our community – whether to partake or obstain (and if partaking, also keeping each other accountable in not abusing it). It would take a lot of transparancy and accountability, but I think it would make our “Church” a lot healthier.



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Alex

posted March 24, 2009 at 7:30 am


Whenever I hear the “abstinence as a witness” POV, I think about my sister, who was given a complimentary bottle of champagne on her honeymoon at the small B&B her and her new husband went to. They left it in the room as a “testimony”, I often wonder if the testimony was one of snubbed hospitality.
As to the alcohol content in ‘wine’ back then. Would Jesus have been called a “drunkard” if the ‘wine’ he was drinking was nothing more than grape juice?



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John W Frye

posted March 24, 2009 at 8:33 am


For those who want to be “more biblical than the Bible,” why do they still enjoy sexual intercourse? What, with rampant pornography, horrible sexual abuse of women and childre, raw exploitation in media…I think we ought to abstain lest we lead young people into these horrible sexual sins. Plus, Jesus NEVER had sex.



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Your Name

posted March 24, 2009 at 8:40 am


Tough issue, especially in the churches I was raised in which were by and large very opposed to drinking.
I think that it is important to be respectful in whatever we choose here.
If you know someone struggled with alcoholism or had some other personal event associated with drinking like losing someone to drunk driving, then we ought to be more considerate than to drink around them.
However, I get really frustrated by the constant bandying about of the ?not offending the weaker brother? passage.
That passage is referring to people who you might cause to stumble, not to people you might offend because they are pharisaical zealots.
If I want to have a Guinness and am moderate in my drinking, it is manipulative and sinful to use such a passage to essentially say that I?m sinning if I drink simply because you don?t like it.
That is utterly missing the point, and abusing the text to force others to conform to your personal rules.



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Brian

posted March 24, 2009 at 9:50 am


I was raised without alcohol, and I dislike both its smell and taste. But nonetheless, Psalm 104:14-15 is there. So now when I am at work parties I feel like I don’t fit, and I know it is because my conscience has been warped. I used to get nervous about using cocktail sauce. It really bugs me that churches did this to me.



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Tony Myles

posted March 24, 2009 at 10:06 am


Per your specific question, Scot – being “holier” than the Bible is an interesting thought… but that means the Bible is the final judge on what is holy.
So the question would be “Is the Bible the final judge?”
I’m not kicking at the Bible’s qualifications by that question – I believe in its words with all my heart and enjoy playing the context game as much as any.
What I mean is that do we believe that the Bible are the final standards or does that still rest in the lap of Jesus?
For instance, we have a court system because while we hope the words of the law are clear, there is still a need for a judge to determine motive, action, and consequence.
I’m not arguing the alcohol matter in this line of thinking. But what I am putting forth is the matter of if we can move a step beyond what the Bible has asked of us in such a way that it matters to the Judge.
When Jesus said “be holy as I am holy,” that seems to be less defined by a box (even if that box is the Bible) and more defined by the unlimited holiness of God.



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Richie

posted March 24, 2009 at 10:25 am


WoW! All the drinkers came out of the closet and posted on this one! Good post Scott! Rob Bell did a sermon a couple of years back called “More Wine”. Great look at the idea of wine and the symbolism of it in scripture.
This post is right on the mark. Remember though – Paul and others who were later reconciled to God by the power of the Holy Spirit were once deemed zealots. I think we all go through seasons of zealousness on whatever topic, but it is our pursuit of God that prayerfully cleanses us of such stupidity. Thanks for this post! Haven’t been able to read this blog as much lately – just put feet on the Ground in Penna for the new church plant.
Keep us in prayer and go have glass of Vino and toast to us while doing so! :-)
Much Love!
Peace to you,
Richie



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Rick

posted March 24, 2009 at 10:29 am


Tony-
“What I mean is that do we believe that the Bible is the final standard or does that still rest in the lap of Jesus?”
It is a fales dichotomy.
As N.T. Wright states, “?authority of scripture? is a shorthand expression for God?s authority, exercised somehow through scripture; that scripture must be allowed to be itself in exercising its authority…”



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Richie

posted March 24, 2009 at 10:30 am


Correction:
Bell Sermon was called “Wine and Heaven”. My bad!



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jestrfyl

posted March 24, 2009 at 10:44 am


Look up the history of Welch’s Grape Juice. You will discover it was developed for communion, as a substitute for wine. Once in a while the deacons will leave a bottle of Welch’s in the ‘fridge too long, and when it is opened it nearly explodes and the smell of bad wine is everywhere. Our understanding of wine and the ancient Middle eastern understanding are very different. Welch actually did something creative and interesting – and made it into a food and beverage empire.



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jestrfyl

posted March 24, 2009 at 10:46 am


A second thought – it makes you woder about Wonder Bread, the bread of choice for communion preparation everywhere. I don’t think it had as liturgically intentional a creation as Welch’s Juice. It just works out that the Wonder Bread loaf recipe freezes and cuts better than mostother breads.



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dopderbeck

posted March 24, 2009 at 12:36 pm


Is this even an issue anymore? Ok, so there are still some famous preachers out there who say Jesus only drank unfermented grape juice — it seems to me that most people in most evangelical churches just ignore that sort of thing these days.
I enjoy a good glass of wine or beer, and normally I don’t have any problem serving it and/or a nice aperitif to dinner guests. This is part of our culture just as it was for Jesus and King David.
But — as several folks have pointed out here, it’s good to remember that alcohol can be abused and that many, many people have suffered greatly from alcoholism, both as alcoholics themselves and as family members. As the body of Christ, I think it’s wise for us to be very sensitive to these difficulties that alcohol have posed for many other members of the body. So, if an institution like the Christian college I attended years ago wants to have a rule of no alcohol on campus, or a church has a rule or norm that alcohol shouldn’t be served at church functions, I think those can be good norms that we who don’t have alcoholism problems shouldn’t push against.



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Tony Myles

posted March 24, 2009 at 2:03 pm


Rick –
Quoting N.T. Wright is simply that… it doesn’t trump what Scripture is or isn’t.
But as you point out, he states it is ” a shorthand expression for God?s authority.” My point is the same – that it isn’t the longhand, but it is His hand.



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Rick

posted March 24, 2009 at 2:33 pm


Tony-
Therefore (with that understanding of authority), we know He will not contradict what He said in Scripture.



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djl05

posted March 24, 2009 at 2:50 pm


Ok, first of all, I have to address the fact that someone said that Wonder Bread was used in communion and that it was actually the “choice” everywhere. No. Wonder Bread is a leavened bread, which is not suitible for communion and it is NOT the choice everywhere. I’ve never even heard of a church using leavened bread, much less Wonder Bread! I understand that commercially produced communion wafers are expensive, but there are many “store bought” easy to preserve options that are still unleavened and thus in accordance with scripture. Tortillas, pita bread, oyster crackers…etc. A church member could even bake something. The Bible specifically says “unleavend bread” and this is the argument I use when someone brings up the old grape juice thing. If the Bible spells out “unleavened bread”, then if they had been drinking unfermented wine, it would have said so, not to mention the parable where Jesus was talking about putting new wine into old wineskins. He obviously knew about the fermentation process or he wouldn’t have used that in a parable. Believe me when I say I’ve heard both sides of the story. My great-grandfather, who worked for Welch’s in Arkansas, was an Assembly of God preacher and his daughter, my grandmother, married a man (my grandfather) who was a Nazarene preacher, thus I was raised Nazarene until I was old enough to question the doctrine and realize that it wasn’t right for me and my relationship with God. I am now an Episcopalian and we even serve alcohol at some of our church functions. For instance, our men had a beer tasting this last Saturday. One thing or another isn’t necissarily right for everyone. I think we need to find what’s right for us and try not to impose it on others or judge others because of it. Isn’t that truly Christian behavior?



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RJS

posted March 24, 2009 at 2:55 pm


I too grew up with cubed wonderbread as the bread of choice for communion. (With grape juice of course)
But while unleavened bread is common – many churches use leavened bread for communion. We use them interchangeably these days – usually crackers, but occasionally breaking a loaf and taking bits.



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Karl Kroger

posted March 24, 2009 at 3:26 pm


As a Methodist, progressive, almost evangelical–I hate the reduction of morality by some conservatives to a list of four things to abstain from, including alcohol. I also hate the loosening of morality of many of my fellow seminarians who recently had a drunken dress like Jesus party.
I wrestle with abstaining completely from alcohol. Part of me says an occasional glass in private or for a celebration is fine. But part me says moderation isn’t enough. When Christians drink they risk causing others to stumble. They support an industry that is prone to abuse–which causes the deaths of nearly 100,000 people in the United States. Additionally, when over 20,000 children die each day, my money should go toward providing them food and not myself drink. If I choose to abstain, I will do so not because I’m trying to be extra-religious, but because I’m trying to love my neighbor and do no harm. I think that’s a position worth advocating for.



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James J

posted March 24, 2009 at 10:22 pm


John the Baptist came to you neither eating nor drinking, and you said of him, “Look at how he helps the poor by his fasting and abstinence.” The Son of Man came to you eating and drinking and you called him a glutton and a drunkard.
Oh wait…not quite. Fasting and abstaining, eating and drinking…all are morally neutral. It depends on how we use it. One (even a Wesleyan) need not scruple about drinking in moderation. One need not worry about using his earnings as he sees fit, as long as it is used responsibly. Wisdom is justified by all her children.
(All Scripture quotes and misquotes taken from Luke 7:33-35).



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Tony Myles

posted March 25, 2009 at 12:07 am


Rick – I feel like you’re making my point for me. You’re right – God won’t contradict what He has said in Scripture. I never said He would.
But – might He more fully reveal some things we’ve locked our teeth down on?
Absolutely.
For even the Bible itself says that we only know “in part” but then all things and people will be “fully known.”
According to your points, we should trust in what the Bible says, right? So I’m trusting in that.



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Joel Seaberg

posted March 25, 2009 at 7:38 am


As a Person in Recovery, I believe that this is “dangerous” ground”, especially for those of us in recovery. Now, I realize that there are many references to the use of alcohol in the Bible, specifically Wine.
As a Recovering Person, it is important that we keep this all in the context that it is written in the Bible….I will use the Book of JOEL as an example…Read it! It is very easy for people in “recovery”, and possibly new to walking with the Lord, to Rationalize that it is OK to partake in the use of Wine due to the many references used in the Bible. I encourage people in Recovery to stick to their “Program”, and realize that partaking in Communion is truly an impotant part of your walk with the Lord, But make absolutely sure that the church you are attending uses Juice, not wine , as this can be a trigger. Realize the TRUE meaning of the act that you are participating in…the Blood of Christ….and abstain from the use of Any alcohol, as this can and probably Will lead you back to a part of yur life you do NOT want to repeat



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Laurel

posted March 25, 2009 at 9:00 am


I find your belief that not drinking at all is extremist and people who do not drink at all are self-righteous. It scares me to read that. There are millions of recovering alcoholics who cannot drink because they have the disease of alcoholism. Alcoholics who are in recovery struggle with this insidious disease every day. I went to a church and was told, “If you fully accept Jesus as Lord of your life, He will heal you from this disease.” I came to believe this and stopped attending AA. This resulted in a 2 year relapse, that was nothing short of hell on earth. I even lost custody of my children. Now after more than 2 years of continuous sobriety, I realize that God’s Will for me and most alcoholics is to recover in the rooms of AA AND a belief and reliance upon God. This does not mean AA replaces my religious belief, it enhances it if. If I pick up just one drink, I will cut off my relationship with God. Jesus did not “heal” my disease of alcoholism, he led me to the rooms of AA (Which I believe is a God-driven program) In the rooms of AA, I am able to stay sober, have a real relationship with God, and just as “Jesus Would Do”, I am able to reach out to the still sick and suffering alcoholics. A mere belief in a Christian God does not, on its own, offer relief from this disease



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Karl

posted March 25, 2009 at 9:46 am


How has this thread made it this far without these C.S. Lewis quotes:
I do however strongly object to the tyrannical and unscriptural insolence of anything that calls itself a Church and makes teetotalism a condition of membership. Apart from the more serious objection (that Our Lord Himself turned water into wine and made wine the medium of the only rite He imposed on all His followers), it is so provincial (what I believe you people call ‘small town’). Don’t they realize that Christianity arose in the Mediterranean world where, then as now, wine was as much a part of the normal diet as bread?”
***
“Temperance is, unfortunately, one of those words that has changed its meaning. It now usually means teetotalism… [In the past,] temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further. It is a mistake to think that Christians ought all to be teetotalers; Mohammedanism, not Christianity, is the teetotal religion.
“Of course it may be the duty of a particular Christian, or of any Christian, at a particular time, to abstain from strong drink, either because he is the sort of man who cannot drink at all without drinking too much, or because he is with people who are inclined to drunkenness and must not encourage them by drinking himself. But the whole point is that he is abstaining, for a good reason, from something which he does not condemn and which he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons–marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who use them, he has taken the wrong turning.”



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Michael JL

posted March 25, 2009 at 10:33 am


Do not forget that some people do not drink simply because they prefer not to, not out of any religious consideration. Two of my daughters fall into that category.



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Steve

posted March 25, 2009 at 12:47 pm


Total abstinence from alcohol is acceptable. Learning to drink responsibly is acceptable.
One thing we need to make unacceptable is Christians imposing their own position on alcohol on everyone else!
A trustee at my seminary in the 80’s, when I was there, told this story:
His daughter, in college at the time, was seeing a young man of another Christian tradition. In this young man’s tradition, responsible drinking, and even use of tobacco, was not frowned upon, which made this dad a little nervous.
Otherwise, though, he very much approved of his daughter’s choice, and, in an effort to build a bridge, invited the young couple to join him and his wife at the symphony.
Graciously, the young man replied to the invitation: “I would love to, sir, but in my tradition we would never dream of doing such a thing on Sunday.”
We’ve all got our “things.” let’s own our own and give grace to invite others to own theirs.



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Sister in Christ

posted March 25, 2009 at 3:15 pm


In our denomination, we are taught that the wine spoke of in the Bible is merely grape juice. This wine is not brought to fermentation. In Proverbs it speaks of not drinking wine after it has turned a specific color, this may be the point of fermentation that is looked down upon.



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Renee

posted March 25, 2009 at 3:52 pm


I have never struggled with alcohol, all of the christians I know have never struggled with alcohol. We are not the “weaker Brothers and Sisters”. The smell alone of alcohol is disgusting in all of its varieties. WHat it does to people is horrible. There is no more excuse to drink then there is to smoke. the bible warns us against things that are bad for us (all is legal, all is not helpful), it aslo warns us against drugs (anything that changes us chemically). Alcohol is the most used- and worst drug that has ever existed. I cant believe christians are fighting for the right to engage in something that has no value. It seems to me you are acting more like the world than christians (since you are accusing me and other abstainers of being zealots). You have no witness through drinking. What kind of people need a drink to have fun or to talk to someone or bond with family and friends.



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Dan

posted March 25, 2009 at 9:50 pm


If there is a question,just don’t do it!Heaven is way too close to risk it over something to drink!I have been on both sides of the fence.I was a drunk,Jesus saved me!Just don’t do it,it just that easy!



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Brett

posted March 25, 2009 at 11:36 pm


“A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” 2 Peter 2:19
What is funny is those who embrace their temperance to the detriment of their relationship with their God are in the same predicament as those who embrace their spirits above the Holy Spirit.



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