What Is Your Personal Alcoholic Beverage Practice?

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Ed Vasicek's picture
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I completely abstain and think all Christians should (as a matter of godly wisdom)
22%
I completely abstain but do not expect all Christians to do so
22%
I completely abstain other than cooking with wine or alcohol
2%
I mostly abstain but will use alcohol for medicinal purposes (and perhaps cooking or not)
16%
I rarely drink, I might take a sip at a wedding or Christmas Eve, etc.
4%
I drink in moderation on occasion
14%
I drink in moderation most days
2%
I drink in moderation, but not every day
6%
I drink communion wine (fermented) but not much more
2%
I drink in moderation where culturally appropriate (e.g., Europe)
0%
I have a drinking problem and need your prayers
2%
I am completely comfortable with drinking in moderation, but not during church functions
4%
I am rethinking the issue and not yet resolved
0%
I believe Jesus turned the water into grape juice and alcohol is of the devil
2%
Other
0%
Total votes: 49
Ed Vasicek's picture
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I propose a toast!

My toast, however, comes from the toaster!

What is your personal stance about the use of alcohol? With the young restless reformed talking theology over a beer, how do you compare?

This one could get explosive, but some of my polls have been lackluster and we need to add a little zip. So, what are your sober comments?

"The Midrash Detective"

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The real issue in my mind ....

The real issue is our attitude towards others with whom we differ on this issue

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Dever's quote

I don't have the quote handy, but I saw that Mark Dever said exactly what I'd been thinking: A church is in sin (violation of Romans 14) if it requires its members to abstain from alcohol just like it would be in sin if it required abstinence from meat or mandated the observance of certain holidays.

Anyone agree with that? Most fundamentalist churches still have that stipulation in their constitution, correct?

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Two possibilities

JVDM wrote:
I don't have the quote handy, but I saw that Mark Dever said exactly what I'd been thinking: A church is in sin (violation of Romans 14) if it requires its members to abstain from alcohol just like it would be in sin if it required abstinence from meat or mandated the observance of certain holidays.

Anyone agree with that? Most fundamentalist churches still have that stipulation in their constitution, correct?

There are two ways such a prohibition could come.

First, if the church believes that the act of consuming alcohol is prohibited in Scripture, then an affirmation of that in their doctrinal stance would be (on their understanding) legitimate. That is, the church has the authority to declare things to be sin when the culture does not. In this case, I would still disagree with the prohibition, but I would have to argue against the premise that drinking is a sin.

In the second case, the church may not think that drinking alcohol is a sin in an absolute sense, but it might think that wisdom or Christian charity or testimony or some other consideration ought to steer Christians clear of it. Thus, they're enforcing this conclusion through the doctrinal statement or membership agreement. In this case, it's a serious misunderstanding of the Reformation teaching of Christian liberty. That's what I think Dever's getting at. The Lutheran and Reformed churches, against the Anglican and Roman, held that since the church possesses only a ministerial and not a magisterial authority, the church simply does not have the authority to rule on cases of conscience that are not definitively dealt with in Scripture. So, in this case, it's an ecclesiastical problem that, ironically, aligns the Fundamentalist with Rome.

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Generally in the Church Covenant

JVDM wrote:
Most fundamentalist churches still have that stipulation in their constitution, correct?

Generally in the Church Covenant

An example: http://twinbrook.net/index.php?p=1_139_The-Baptist-Church-Covenant

Quote:
We also engage to maintain family and secret devotion; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings; faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger; to abstain from the sale of, and use of, destructive drugs or intoxicating drinks as a beverage; to shun pornography; to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Saviour.

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My own view - from my doctrinal statement

Quote:
4. I do not believe that the New Testament teaches total abstinence from alcoholic drink, but I do believe that it is a good testimony to abstain. Romans 14 addresses the issue and presents the correct balance between love for others and liberty (vs 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”). Leaders in particular are enjoined to “not [be ] given to wine” (I Timothy 3:3)

Additional commentary:

  • I know many Christians who drink in moderation. They don't drink to get "buzzed", "take the edge off", etc. They don't even "socially drink"
  • They have a glass of wine with pasta or
  • A beer with pizza
  • They are careful NOT to offend a weaker brother. If they are uncertain about the position of another believer the wine will not be served at dinner.
  • They are not drunkards. It's just a drink they enjoy with a meal
  • Honestly I don't see who is harmed by their practice and for them / for their choice, I am OK with it!
Ed Vasicek's picture
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Of course if it doesn't get into the blood...

A skeleton walks into a bar and tells the bartender, "I'll have a beer and a mop."

Sorry. That one is just too good to go unsaid.

"The Midrash Detective"

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But...

Is it okay for a church to force its members to abstain? I think that's also clear in Romans 14: It is sin to force your abstinence on others. Every Fundamentalist church that I know of is 'living in sin' in this regard.

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Question Answered

JVDM, I tried to answer that question in post #4. Part of the problem is perspective. Many fundamentalists believe that drinking is a sin in the way that they believe fornication and lying are sins. And since the church does take explicit stands against those and enforces those stands in its congregations, then it makes sense that those people would do the same with regard to alcohol. In this case, you can't simply say to them, "Don't force your conviction on me." Because to them, it's not a conviction, it's a commandment. If you're seeking to change their minds (good luck), you first have to convince them it's not a sin.

However, some fundamentalists will acknowledge that abstinence is a conviction, not a commandment; yet they might still enforce that conviction on their congregation. This is a violation of Christian liberty, stemming from a misunderstanding of the authority of the Church.

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A Lot to Consider

Regarding the "legitimacy" of church covenants that forbid drinking, in Deut. 14:24-26, God encourages the people to drink alcohol "before the Lord" as part of rejoicing:

Quote:
And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26 and 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.

I have long argued that it is bad hermeneutics to take OT worship and try to borrow it for the New, but the point is that God would not encourage people to consider drinking if it were intrinsically wrong.

Thus those who believe that the Bible prohibits drinking are teaching contrary to God's revealed Word and are in error. Those who teach that, in a day of autos, addictions, and machinery, a certain attempt at wisdom suggests it is better not to drink, they are appealing to wisdom. As long as they claim that fallible human wisdom is behind the prohibition, they are at least not wresting the Scriptures. The argument rests on its own merits, be it a good one or a bad one.

I think a better church policy is to forbid use of alcohol in the church building and at church functions and to require great moderation for the church's leaders and preach and teach accordingly.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Ed, How is preaching great

Ed,

How is preaching great moderation more aligned with scripture than preaching abstinence if the only scriptural prohibition is against drunkeness?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Is it ok for a church

Is it ok for a church covenant to include some prohibition that the church agrees to adhere to even of it's not a strict issue of sin? If they do not mistreat those who do not agree, and those who do not agree can attend without joining and acquiescing to the covenant, I'm not sure this rises to a sin issue in the church, since taking such a pledge is a voluntary issue.

My family does not hold to an alcohol is sin position. Consequently, when we have attended churches with such a covenant, we have simply participated as far as we can without joining. We cannot pledge to the church covenant (even though we do not drink), but we do not feel the need to make a big fuss about it when we are in substantial agreement with the church elsewhere.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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No, it's not

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Is it ok for a church covenant to include some prohibition that the church agrees to adhere to even of it's not a strict issue of sin? If they do not mistreat those who do not agree, and those who do not agree can attend without joining and acquiescing to the covenant, I'm not sure this rises to a sin issue in the church, since taking such a pledge is a voluntary issue.

My family does not hold to an alcohol is sin position. Consequently, when we have attended churches with such a covenant, we have simply participated as far as we can without joining. We cannot pledge to the church covenant (even though we do not drink), but we do not feel the need to make a big fuss about it when we are in substantial agreement with the church elsewhere.

No, it's not ok. It is a denial of the biblical and Reformation doctrine of the liberty of the Christian. The church has only a ministerial authority to teach God's laws; it does not have the magisterial authority (as per Rome) to make its own laws. The requirements for church membership are established in Scripture, and it is not the place of the church either to add or subtract.

Baptists have insisted that other Christians get baptized by immersion as consenting adults before they are allowed to join the church. That's because they believe Scripture teaches that as the requirement of church membership. However, if a church acknowledged that there were other ways to become a church member, but nevertheless insisted that in that church they would accept only one, that would be bizarre.

Now, it is possible for both individuals and groups to take certain vows. However, those vows cannot be made binding on others. So, a group of people, including I suppose the majority of a church, could make a vow to abstain from alcohol. They could not force the whole church to take that vow, nor could they exclude from the church those who did not take it.

Some WCF quotes, for stimulating thought:

CHAPTER 20
OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, AND LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE

1. The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law; and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin; from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation; as also, in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear, but a childlike love and willing mind. All which were common also to believers under the law. But, under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish church was subjected; and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.

2. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

3. They who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

4. And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against, by the censures of the church.

CHAPTER 22
OF LAWFUL OATHS AND VOWS

1. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth, or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth.

2. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence. Therefore, to swear vainly, or rashly, by that glorious and dreadful Name; or, to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred. Yet, as in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the new testament as well as under the old; so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken.

3. Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth: neither may any man bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.

4. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation. It cannot oblige to sin; but in anything not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man's own hurt. Nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels.

5. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.

6. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want, whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties; or, to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.

7. No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God. In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.

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I think Baptists have it it wrong on ...

I think Baptists have it it wrong on total abstinence

In my view it's a liberty issue.

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Majisterial vs. Ministerial authority & Applied principles

Charlie, Baptists are congregational. A covenant is not something a church imposes on people. It isn't a question of authority at all. It is something that the people of the congregation agrees together they are going to do.

It might be hard to argue that there is any direct teaching that churches should enter into covenants of this nature. But it isn't majisterial authority, but simple mutual agreement. (In practice, sometimes these things are imposed by pastors, but in theory, that is not what a covenant is supposed to be.) A Baptist congregation, I would suggest, may have more freedom to bind themselves than a Presbyterian eldership has to bind their congregation. The problem is not majisterial authority, but that the mutual agreement is perpetual and becomes a requirement imposed on those who weren't part of the mutual agreement. They are compelled to accept someone else's mutual agreement to become part of the church, which is somewhat problematic Biblically.

Second, more substantively, you said this:

Quote:
In the second case, the church may not think that drinking alcohol is a sin in an absolute sense, but it might think that wisdom or Christian charity or testimony or some other consideration ought to steer Christians clear of it.

Matters of Christian charity and pure testimony are Biblical matters and violations of them are sin. Something does not have to be sin in an absolute sense to violate important Biblical principles and become sin.

Application of Biblical principles often vary according to time, place, & culture. It is entirely appropriate to clarify these things in a church covenant. Indeed, it can be very helpful to do so if the practice is engrained in the society and particularly destructive there. In such cases, it would be wise to mention not just the application but the principle, in a way that emphasises the principle and the importance of other applications of it.

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Matters of conscience and membership requirements

JVDM wrote:
I don't have the quote handy, but I saw that Mark Dever said exactly what I'd been thinking: A church is in sin (violation of Romans 14) if it requires its members to abstain from alcohol just like it would be in sin if it required abstinence from meat or mandated the observance of certain holidays.

Anyone agree with that? Most fundamentalist churches still have that stipulation in their constitution, correct?


Actually, there's no biblical reason why a congregation cannot covenant together to take a position on a matter of conscience. Romans 14 does not forbid this. If someone thinks it's there, I'd like to see where. What the chapter forbids is despising, judging, and doing what causes others to stumble.

If we take the view that a church cannot take a stand on a matter of conscience, we're going to have consistency problems with that. For example, does every single belief expressed in the church/denomination's confession of faith/creed rise to the level of "We know 100% for sure that this is the teaching of the Bible and that all who disagree are not Christians"?

Some of the comments here suggest that a matter must either be:
a) one we stand on or
b) a matter of liberty
This is a false disjunction. We can and must stand in matters of conscience. What's special about these matters is what we say about those who don't agree with us. (And Romans 14 does not preclude saying "We believe those who disagree are incorrect.")

FWIW, I'm planning to post my first ever article on wine this Thursday. New territory for me... I'm kind of excited.

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Not about polity

JG, the distinction between magisterial and ministerial authority is not about polity. It is about making laws vs. receiving them. However one exercises governance in the church - through a bishop, through a group of elders, or directly through the congregation - no one except God has the right to make moral regulations. God retains ownership, if you will, of the church. Even if 100% of a congregation covenanted to do X, it would still not be the church per se that so covenanted, but a group of individuals who at that time made of that particular congregation. People who later joined the church could not be bound by that arrangement, nor could they be denied membership for not so covenanting. This is the Reformation teaching on the liberty of a Christian's conscience.

Now, regarding application and such, I would distinguish 3 levels of moral binding:

1) explicit commands
2) commands deduced by good and necessary consequence
3) personal convictions

Now, groups 1 and 2 differ only in mode of expression; they are both binding on all Christians. The fact that Christians differ about 1 and 2 is the reason why there are different traditions in Christendom. Group 3 consists of those rules for living that one applies to oneself because of their utility for spiritual edification. Since they are neither explicitly nor implicitly contained in Scripture, they cannot be imposed on anyone else. Thus, Reformation Christianity is not entirely homogeneous; it allows for individuals to seek lifestyles most conducive to their personal growth. However, it protects that diversity by not allowing those individuals to turn around and impose those convictions on others as the standard of real Christianity.

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Distinction without difference

Quote:
God retains ownership, if you will, of the church. Even if 100% of a congregation covenanted to do X, it would still not be the church per se that so covenanted, but a group of individuals who at that time made of that particular congregation. People who later joined the church could not be bound by that arrangement, nor could they be denied membership for not so covenanting. This is the Reformation teaching on the liberty of a Christian's conscience.

There's a problem with drawing a line in this particular place. If we say that only what "the church" as a whole agrees to be the meaning of Scripture can be binding on local congregations, what do with the set of doctrines that are not agreed on by the entire church? If you define "the church" to exclude all Roman Catholics and Orthodox, you mitigate the problem somewhat but the Westminster Confession, for example, affirms a good many ideas not found in the ancient ecumenical creeds... so were those ideas covenants of the church or just of several congregations?

I submit if we cannot allow local churches to covenant on particulars they believe to be the right understanding of Scripture, we cannot allow groups of congregations to do it either, even if they are relatively large groups.

The polity distinction is a problem as well. Though many of the local governance decisions that flow from a polity are strictly practical decisions (like annual budgets) many of them are not. They are efforts to discern together how Scripture applies to a particular set of choices. They're efforts to discern the will of God in matters. So are these decisions magisterial or ministerial and how are we making the distinction?

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I'll try again

Obviously, there's a disconnect here somewhere, but I'm not sure exactly where it is. So, I'll try a different tactic.

Differences among denominations are not really relevant to what I'm talking about in this thread.

The first question is, "What truths and morals are binding on all Christians?" If you believe that the Church receives the answer to that question from Scripture, that is assigning to the church a ministerial authority. The church ministers (administrates) what has been entrusted to her. If you believe that the Church actually makes some of those decisions, apart from the explicit or necessarily deduced teaching of Scripture, you are assigning to the Church a magisterial authority. Regardless, every Christian has a moral duty to believe right doctrine and live right morals. Because we do so differently and at times incompatibly, we have divisions in the universal Church.

The second question is, "Can individuals differ in how they pursue holiness?" My answer is yes, and this is the realm that I am referring to by oaths, vows, and covenants.

Let's take fasting as an example. The Roman Church, believing in magisterial authority, assigns certain days that are regarded as fast days, and if you do not follow them, they regard you as sinning. Because the Church has declared such a day to be a fast day, you the Christian are obligated to keep it.

Now, most Protestants would not assign such authority to the Church, although Anglicans are hazy here. However, an individual person could make a person vow, say to fast on Wednesdays. A group of persons could gather together and make a vow to fast on Wednesdays. Theoretically, a whole local congregation could make a vow to fast on Wednesdays. Here's the point: that vow could never rise to the level of a church mandate. It could never become a criteria by which to remove members or refuse to allow new members. Unless one adopts magisterial authority, that local congregation simply does not have the authority to do so. It would be a breach of Christian liberty.

I suppose a local congregation somewhere could come to believe that fasting on Wednesdays is actually taught explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. At that point, vows and oaths and such are no longer appropriate, since simply by receiving the teaching of Scripture, one is bound to carry it out. Thus, it would make sense that they would enforce it in their church. I would call this erroneous teaching, not a violation of Christian liberty per se.

Now, there might be decisions a church makes--budget, location, service times--that are in an entirely different category. They deal merely with choosing the best means to carry out certain functions. These too are not in the purview of the discussion.

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Unspoken mandates

Quote:
Theoretically, a whole local congregation could make a vow to fast on Wednesdays. Here's the point: that vow could never rise to the level of a church mandate. It could never become a criteria by which to remove members or refuse to allow new members. Unless one adopts magisterial authority, that local congregation simply does not have the authority to do so. It would be a breach of Christian liberty.

I've seen various questions of liberty become unspoken mandates, and while they were not used to allow or deny membership, they were criteria for choosing teachers and others for leadership positions. Basically, it's like high school, only more pious.

On the alcohol question, I personally believe it is allowed for primarily medicinal purposes, and that Christians who believe it is a liberty should still abstain as a matter of wisdom and consideration of others. It is simply too fraught with danger to make it a prudent choice, and it is certainly not anywhere near a necessity. The health benefits of the grape can be had without the fermentation.

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Alcohol health benefits

Susan, although it's true that certain benefits associated with wine can be linked to grapes, not all can. It's the alcohol itself that accounts for the statistical benefits. A snippet from http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/AlcoholAndHealth.html a lengthy article :

How Alcohol Promotes Good Heart Health

The moderate consumption of alcohol promotes good heart health in a number of ways, including the following:

Alcohol improves blood lipid profile73

  • It increases HDL ("good") cholesterol74
  • It decreases LDL ("bad") cholesterol75
  • It improves cholesterol (both HDL and LDL) particle size76

Alcohol decreases thrombosis (blood clotting)

  • It reduces platelet aggregation77
  • It reduces fibrinogen (a blood clotter)78
  • It increases fibrinolysis (the process by which clots dissolve)79

Alcohol acts in additional ways80

  • It reduces coronary artery spasm in response to stress
  • It increases coronary blood flow81
  • It reduces blood pressure82
  • It reduces blood insulin level83
  • It increases estrogen levels84

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However...

Quote:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-nutrition/AN00576 ]Mayo Clinic: Does grape juice offer the same heart benefits as red wine? from Martha Grogan, M.D.

Some research studies suggest that red and purple grape juices may provide some of the same heart benefits of red wine, including:

Reducing the risk of blood clots
Reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol
Preventing damage to blood vessels in your heart
Helping maintain a healthy blood pressure
Grapes are rich in health-protecting antioxidants, including resveratrol and flavonoids. These antioxidants are found mainly in the skin, stem, leaf and seeds of grapes, rather than in their pulp. The amount of antioxidants in grapes depends on many factors, including the kind of grape, its geographic origin and how it's processed. Dark red and purple grapes tend to be higher in antioxidants than are white or green grapes. Likewise, the level of antioxidants such as resveratrol found in wine varies, with higher levels in red wine.

Besides grape juice, other grape products may offer health benefits, including dealcoholized wine, grape extracts and grape powder.

Keep in mind that it's also beneficial to eat whole grapes — not just grape juice. Some research suggests that whole grapes deliver the same amount of antioxidants that are in grape juice and wine but have the added benefit of providing dietary fiber.

IMO wine is not a necessity for good health when one reaps the same kinds of benefits with grape juice and none of the pitfalls. No one ever got pulled over for a DUI for having one too many glasses of Welch's at dinner. And no one has ever had a heart attack because they didn't drink enough wine.

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Genetic Propensity

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Ed,

How is preaching great moderation more aligned with scripture than preaching abstinence if the only scriptural prohibition is against drunkeness?

Your point is well-taken. Both "great moderation" and "abstinence" are man-made fences of protection to avoid drunkenness. Just like a lot of issues, it is hard to tell where the line is, so the idea of not approaching the line is our normal approach. I guess I would say we need to confront those clearly overly the line, but caution suggests not even approaching the line.
The command is to not get drunk with wine, and my concern is that God's people take this seriously. If someone choose abstinence, then it is not an issue. If someone choose moderation, moderation needs some sort of definition, even if personally derived. But such a definition should be derived beforehand, not in progress.

Let me digress into another related offshoot of this matter: a genetic propensity toward alcoholism. I do not drink (except for rare medicinal reasons), although I cook with wine a lot. I do not drink for two main reasons: (1) I don't like it, (2) I come from a long line of alcoholics. I also do not drink so that I can minister to those who believe alcohol is of the devil (even though I do not believe that).

American Indians, for example, are easily addicted to alcohol because they do not possess some sort of blood chemistry others typically do. Researchers suggest there is an "alcoholic personality," and that some people are genetically predisposed toward becoming an alcoholic. Since my dad, both of his brothers, and both my grandfathers were alcoholics, I don't want to mess with the stuff. Some people, I believe, should just stay away from alcohol for this reason. Anyone agree or disagree with this? This should be a personal choice, IMO.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Thanks Ed,You close with the

Thanks Ed,

You close with the idea it should be a personal choice. That's why I asked. Earlier you mentioned preaching it. Once we start preaching something, I think we have left behind the idea of a personal choice. Then we are saying, "Thus saith the Lord."

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Why not other "good advice"?

Let's take something very dangerous. It can get you killed and kill others:

We agree to NOT drive on tires with less than ⅛" tread. Futhermore we covenant together wear seat belts.

Article: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/tires-auto-parts/tires/how-safe-...

  • It's extraBiblical (that's EZ ... they didn't have tires back then!)
  • It's for one's own safety!
  • It's for the safety of others

A real life example: http://savannahnow.com/latest-news/2011-07-10/church-van-rolls-twice-int...

Quote:
A church van carrying a group of 12 from Durham, N.C., flipped twice on Interstate 95 in Port Wentworth Sunday. Nine people were taken to the hospital.

A helicopter landed on the interstate and took a woman to Memorial University Medical Center with serious injures. Everyone else went to the hospital by ambulance.

The wreck happened a little before noon, just south of the Ga. 21 overpass. Port Wentworth Police Sgt. Lee Sherrod, who is investigating the wreck, said police believe a tire blew on the van, causing the driver to swerve into the left lane before skidding more than 250 feet over three lanes of traffic. The van overturned twice before coming to rest in the middle of the on ramp from Ga. 21.

When they got to the scene, police found five people laying in the road, thrown from the van. Another three were up and walking around, injured. They said they’d also been thrown.

Police believe few passengers were wearing their seat belts. The group was headed to Orlando.

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Suggestions and Mandates

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Thanks Ed,

You close with the idea it should be a personal choice. That's why I asked. Earlier you mentioned preaching it. Once we start preaching something, I think we have left behind the idea of a personal choice. Then we are saying, "Thus saith the Lord."

Chip, I sort of beg to differ, although I think I probably do not really differ. I think you agree that when you are preaching, you can offer your opinion as your opinion and as a way you are suggesting to implement a plan for obedience, while at the same time allowing room for people to disagree with you without feeling like they are disagreeing with Scripture. Some preach their opinions as equal to the clear teachings of the Word, they only have one channel. But if you are preaching and concerned about engaging the mind, you can offer suggestions and considerations as distinct from mandate.

Sadly, some read that Jesus preached with authority and suggest we can preach with that same authority. I suppose if we were the incarnate Son of God, we could. But God only became a man once!

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I'm not trying to "make a case" to drink

I'm not trying to "make a case" to drink.

As Paul woud say: μη γενοιτο

But I question why total abstinence merits mention in the typical Baptist Church covenant.

When Paul confronted the abuses at the Lord's table:

Quote:
For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. (1 Corinthians 11:21 )

For whatever reason, he did not call on the Corinthian drink-abusers to abstain.

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Oaths and covenants

Charlie wrote:
The second question is, "Can individuals differ in how they pursue holiness?" My answer is yes, and this is the realm that I am referring to by oaths, vows, and covenants.

Why must covenants be limited to individuals? Or is that not your point.
It seems like we started out with the idea that it's wrong for local churches to require abstinence of their members.
The argument seemed to be that local churches may not require things that the church as a whole does not require... this must be where I'm misunderstanding your argument.

So with the idea in mind that we are talking about applying Scripture to the pursuit of holy living, why may a local church not agree together that the Scriptures require them to abstain from alcohol (if they may agree together on other matters of interpretation and application of Scripture)? We're not talking things the Bible says nothing at all about.

Question two... I'm not sure who this one is aimed at--more than one I guess: why must matters of conscience/liberty be either
(a) matters we don't take a position on, or
(b) matters local churches do not take a position on? I'm not aware of any reason to look at them that way.

Quote:
For whatever reason, he did not call on the Corinthian drink-abusers to abstain.

This would be for the same reason the NT doesn't call anyone to abstain. They did not know what alcohol was, had no means of preserving juice for long periods of time without fermentation, etc. It wouldn't have made any sense. The case against alcohol consumption is an applicational one that has to do with how several principles relate to choices we face today.

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Not at all

No, that's not the reasoning at all. It has nothing to do with the universal church vs. local church.

The view of ministerial authority, which I hold to as a Protestant, is this: all things pertaining to faith and morals are received from Scripture. The church does not add to or subtract from them, but merely proclaims them. The church has no independent legislative authority.

That's why I've been consistently making a distinction between WHY someone would prohibit X. If your church mandates Bible reading for an hour at 8:00 AM because you believe that the Bible expressly or implicitly teaches so, that is a doctrinal issue. If I disagree, I will make a doctrinal case against such a mandate.

If your church mandates Bible reading for an hour at 8:00 AM because the leadership (or majority of congregation) thinks it's a smart, healthy thing to do, that's a violation of Christian liberty. The church cannot mandate (or prohibit) something just because it seems like a really good idea. What people could do is, as individuals, make a vow to do that. That vow, though, even if were to be embraced by an entire congregation, would still be binding on them only as individuals. The church could not require members to take that vow, nor could they withhold membership or leadership from people who do not take the vow. If I ran across a church like this, I would argue against it on the basis of the principle of Christian liberty.

So, the bottom line is that a church operating under the principle of ministerial authority can mandate or prohibit only those doctrines and practices that are contained in Scripture. We do not have liberty to do things Scripture forbids. We do not have liberty to neglect things Scripture commands. We do have liberty to make personal convictions based on self-knowledge. We do not have the authority to bind others on the basis of personal convictions.

Perhaps some confusion concerns the meaning of "personal conviction." A personal conviction is just that, personal. It is not a matter of doctrine or morals. For example, I do not have a personal conviction that baptizing infants is proper. You do not have a personal conviction that baptizing infants is improper. Rather, I receive as from Scripture that baptizing infants is proper; you receive as from Scripture that baptizing infants is improper. One of us is wrong. On issues of personal conviction, we can both be right. (BTW, that is my understanding of Romans 14.)

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My take

Great discussion so far. It's a worthwhile one. This is an area huge generational (and I think geographical) conflict among fundamentalists.

JVDM wrote:
I don't have the quote handy, but I saw that Mark Dever said exactly what I'd been thinking: A church is in sin (violation of Romans 14) if it requires its members to abstain from alcohol just like it would be in sin if it required abstinence from meat or mandated the observance of certain holidays.

Anyone agree with that? Most fundamentalist churches still have that stipulation in their constitution, correct?

The quote sounds right. As a former member of Dever's church my experience was that drunkenness was preached against consistently, but many of the members did drink while trying to avoid offending consciences. For example, the guys in my small group, knowing I was from Bob Jones, never drank in my presence until I told them it didn't bother me one bit. Later we would meet occasionally for dinner after work in a classy brew pub on Capitol Hill and some of the guys enjoyed one beer. They chose my perceived conscience above beer, and drank in more than moderation.

Also, understand how Dever is using the word "sin." He would say that his friend Lig Duncan is in "sin" for baptizing babies as a Presbyterian, yet he can partner with him in all kinds of ways (e.g. T4G). Not all sins are of equal consequence in this usage of the term. In this case the sin is going against scripture for making a rule about food or drink that's extra-biblical. The line in the Bible is always drunkenness. I would say though that a pastor could use discretion in a counseling situation with an alcoholic and say something like "brother, for YOU right now it is so unwise to drink that it is probably a sin. You've demonstrated that you can't control yourself."

I think a lot of fundamentalists just don't have a category for the type of drinking I think is acceptable along the lines of Jim's comment #6. Their whole experience is either total abstinence or raging, destructive drunkenness. This makes it really hard to have a discussion based on understanding. At my church we have both those who drink and those who abstain vigorously, and we get along just fine by those who drink always striving to choose their brothers and sisters over their beverages, and always teaching the Biblical line on the matter.

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On Rules

Charlie wrote:

If your church mandates Bible reading for an hour at 8:00 AM because the leadership (or majority of congregation) thinks it's a smart, healthy thing to do, that's a violation of Christian liberty. The church cannot mandate (or prohibit) something just because it seems like a really good idea. What people could do is, as individuals, make a vow to do that. That vow, though, even if were to be embraced by an entire congregation, would still be binding on them only as individuals. The church could not require members to take that vow, nor could they withhold membership or leadership from people who do not take the vow. If I ran across a church like this, I would argue against it on the basis of the principle of Christian liberty.

Charlie, this is a fantastic illustration and application.

I was in a fundamentalist church when the pastor answered a question submitted to him: "what doesn't (church X) make it a rule that elders cannot drink alcohol." The pastor made the point that if the church made up extra-biblical rules for elders that eventually the congregation wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the Bible's rules and (church X)'s rules. What wisdom. In making rules, don't look at what's happening right now. Look down the corridors of time and see what the effect of your rule will have. I would argue that the effect of the rule of fundamentalists that all drinking is always bad all the time has had the opposite intended effect over time. Younger fundamentalists look at their Bibles, look back at their radically teatototaling leaders and wonder if they're reading the same Bible.

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JVDM wrote: Is it okay for a

JVDM wrote:
Is it okay for a church to force its members to abstain? I think that's also clear in Romans 14: It is sin to force your abstinence on others. Every Fundamentalist church that I know of is 'living in sin' in this regard.

Non sequitur. Rom. 14 is referencing the Acts 10 issues of meat and, by extension, days--things that have been granted a change of status. It references nouns only, not verbs. Furthermore, we know from Acts 21 that a church (Jerusalem) that has reached a contrary conclusion than an individual (Paul) on these change of status matters (meat/days) can legitimately mandate that individual to conform to their practice and the individual is compelled to do so in order to minister with that church.

I Cor. 8-10 references the Acts 15 issues and encompasses objects (nouns), actions, and locations, but not days. The issue is cultural idolatry, and the conclusion is absolute--don't eat the meat; don't go to the temple feasts. It is not a liberty issue at all. Any exception involves a lack of knowledge with the understanding that when that knowledge is obtained (and it doesn't matter where that knowledge is obtained from; i.e., the "any man" of I Cor. 10:28) one must "eat not...." So if a church (Pastor, elders, etc.) has discerned that alcohol consumption is a part of the cultural/societal idolatrous practices it not only can "force" members to abstain, it is compelled Scripturally to do so.

Lee

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Glaring in its absence

What seems to be missing in this discussion is the obvious issue, both Scripturally and practically--drinking alcoholic beverages is NEVER the same as drinking some other beverage.

Water is ascribed many desirable benefits in Scripture, but never is it defined as a "scorner" with all the characteristics accompanying such, and the individual "deceived" through it being a fool (Pr. 20:1)

Milk and honey are described as some of the most desirable aspects of the promised land, and milk is the New Testament picture of early discipleship. But milk has not and never will be a Biblical factor that thrusts one face to face into the course of immorality (Pr. 23:33).

Honey enlightens the eyes (I Sam. 14:29) but does not inherently remove inhibitions that will result in perversity (Pr. 23:33).

And one pulled over by a friendly neighborhood constable on patrol (COP, for short) after a date night with the bride will never be inquired of "How many sweet teas did you have?" Nor will they be looking for the telltale smell of coffee on your breath.

Any honest discussion about alcoholic beverage consumption has got to keep these pesky little Scripture and practical facts in mind.

Lee

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pesky little facts

Lee wrote:
Any honest discussion about alcoholic beverage consumption has got to keep these pesky little Scripture and practical facts in mind.
In spite of these dangers of drunkenness, the Rechabites and nazirites were the exception and many blessings including Jehovah's victory banquet (Isaiah 25:6) include wine. There are also many warnings in the Bible about women, but marriage was blessed.

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Where liberty ends

I agree with Lee that wine is a unique substance that has significant problems attached to it. Because of this, while I have no problem with someone exercising their liberty to drink, and even if they assure me that they have only had one glass of wine or always drink in moderation, I will never get into a car with that person behind the wheel, or allow them to oversee my children. That's my liberty.

What about grain alcohol? Are the principles governing wine consumption also applicable to beer, whiskey, scotch, etc...?

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Susan R wrote:I agree with

Susan R wrote:
I agree with Lee that wine is a unique substance that has significant problems attached to it. Because of this, while I have no problem with someone exercising their liberty to drink, and even if they assure me that they have only had one glass of wine or always drink in moderation, I will never get into a car with that person behind the wheel, or allow them to oversee my children. That's my liberty.

What about grain alcohol? Are the principles governing wine consumption also applicable to beer, whiskey, scotch, etc...?


If a substance such as alcohol is Scripturally identified as a causative factor in immorality is it still a liberty issue when the NT command is unmistakable--"Flee fornication"?

If an object or activity (such as alcohol and its related "temples" (bars, clubs, etc.) falls within the definitive parameters of a "meat" issue associative of cultural/societal idolatry (i.e., it draws idolatry and culture together via custom and/or commerce) is it still a liberty issue as relative to the Pauline instructions of I Cor. 8-10, summarized in the statement "...flee from idolatry"?

Lee

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Definition of "I don't have a problem"

Lee wrote:
Susan R wrote:
I agree with Lee that wine is a unique substance that has significant problems attached to it. Because of this, while I have no problem with someone exercising their liberty to drink, and even if they assure me that they have only had one glass of wine or always drink in moderation, I will never get into a car with that person behind the wheel, or allow them to oversee my children. That's my liberty.

What about grain alcohol? Are the principles governing wine consumption also applicable to beer, whiskey, scotch, etc...?


If a substance such as alcohol is Scripturally identified as a causative factor in immorality is it still a liberty issue when the NT command is unmistakable--"Flee fornication"?

If an object or activity (such as alcohol and its related "temples" (bars, clubs, etc.) falls within the definitive parameters of a "meat" issue associative of cultural/societal idolatry (i.e., it draws idolatry and culture together via custom and/or commerce) is it still a liberty issue as relative to the Pauline instructions of I Cor. 8-10, summarized in the statement "...flee from idolatry"?


When I say "I don't have a problem" with something, it simply means that it is something I won't break fellowship over. So- if someone has a glass of wine with dinner, I am not going to treat them as a heretic or IRS agent. We can be friends and have a good time over coffee or at the church social.

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Susan R wrote: When I say "I

Susan R wrote:

When I say "I don't have a problem" with something, it simply means that it is something I won't break fellowship over. So- if someone has a glass of wine with dinner, I am not going to treat them as a heretic or IRS agent. We can be friends and have a good time over coffee or at the church social.

So, do I have this right that if your pastor or other church teaching elder decided to have a glass of wine with dinner you would not break fellowship with them, but would not entrust them to supervise ("oversee") your children?

I find that perspective interesting indeed, if that is your perspective. Which spawns a follow-up question: you would not entrust them with your children because you realize that just a little alcohol can impair discernment and inhibitions enough to possibly cause some physical risk, but assume those same impaired inhibitions or lack of discernment can't lead to spiritual damage?

Lee

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Hypothetical

Lee wrote:
Susan R wrote:

When I say "I don't have a problem" with something, it simply means that it is something I won't break fellowship over. So- if someone has a glass of wine with dinner, I am not going to treat them as a heretic or IRS agent. We can be friends and have a good time over coffee or at the church social.

So, do I have this right that if your pastor or other church teaching elder decided to have a glass of wine with dinner you would not break fellowship with them, but would not entrust them to supervise ("oversee") your children?

I find that perspective interesting indeed, if that is your perspective. Which spawns a follow-up question: you would not entrust them with your children because you realize that just a little alcohol can impair discernment and inhibitions enough to possibly cause some physical risk, but assume those same impaired inhibitions or lack of discernment can't lead to spiritual damage?


I wouldn't attend a church whose leadership were social drinkers. But that isn't a break in fellowship- I have friends and relatives who are social drinkers, but they are never in a position of being an authority or directly in charge of our kids. And that is not because of their belief that they have the liberty to drink alcohol, but that I have no way to discern whether or not/to what degree they are impaired, because nobody ever actually believes they are impaired, and in my experience, even the nicest, most forthright person is not likely to admit that they are impaired.

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Susan R wrote:I wouldn't

Susan R wrote:

I wouldn't attend a church whose leadership were social drinkers. But that isn't a break in fellowship...

Help me, I'm missing something here. Refusing to fellowship in an assembly because the elder-ship are social drinkers is not the same as a break in fellowship? And, presumably, if the elder-ship of your current assembly were to become social drinkers you would move your fellowship to a different assembly, but that would not be the same as breaking fellowship? Sorry, but I'm just not tracking with you here.

Lee

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Fellowship

Lee wrote:
Susan R wrote:

I wouldn't attend a church whose leadership were social drinkers. But that isn't a break in fellowship...

Help me, I'm missing something here. Refusing to fellowship in an assembly because the elder-ship are social drinkers is not the same as a break in fellowship? And, presumably, if the elder-ship of your current assembly were to become social drinkers you would move your fellowship to a different assembly, but that would not be the same as breaking fellowship? Sorry, but I'm just not tracking with you here.


We must have different definitions of fellowship. Fellowship, friendship, civil conversational associations, social networking... we engage in these relationships all the time with people who are from every religion and walk of life. Not attending a church because of a disagreement about a particular point of practice is not the same as breaking fellowship, at least not in my mind. A break in fellowship would mean a complete disassociation.

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Susan R wrote: Lee

Susan R wrote:
Lee wrote:
Susan R wrote:

I wouldn't attend a church whose leadership were social drinkers. But that isn't a break in fellowship...

Help me, I'm missing something here. Refusing to fellowship in an assembly because the elder-ship are social drinkers is not the same as a break in fellowship? And, presumably, if the elder-ship of your current assembly were to become social drinkers you would move your fellowship to a different assembly, but that would not be the same as breaking fellowship? Sorry, but I'm just not tracking with you here.


We must have different definitions of fellowship. Fellowship, friendship, civil conversational associations, social networking... we engage in these relationships all the time with people who are from every religion and walk of life. Not attending a church because of a disagreement about a particular point of practice is not the same as breaking fellowship, at least not in my mind. A break in fellowship would mean a complete disassociation.

OK

Lee

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Lord, Help That Person

Lord, we pray for that individual who has a drinking problem. We know how easy it is to become dependent upon a substance or habit, and we can get to the point where we feel we cannot go on with life without it.

Help this person to confide in some close friends in Christ to get help, and lead him or her into the way he/she should go. Help this believer to find victory in our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose Name we pray, Amen.

"The Midrash Detective"