The True Gladness of Wine

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The debate over whether Christians ought to consume alcohol is not only an old one but, on the Web at least, a tired one. Much of the tiredness, though, is due to an excess of passion and a shortage of precision. Quarreling has been abundant and arguing scarce. I hope to contribute a bit here to the argument rather than the quarrel.

One example of arguing rather than quarreling dates back to the spring of 2006. I gather that Bob Bixby posted a case against the use of alcoholic beverages by Christians.1 Bob Hayton responded, in part, with an essay entitled “Wine to Gladden the Heart of Man”: Thoughts on God’s Good Gift of Wine. In the essay, Bob Hayton argues not only that “God gave us wine to bring us joy,” but also that the joy He had in mind is an effect of wine’s alcohol specifically.

Speaking of Judges 9:13, Ecclesiastes 10:19, and Zechariah 10:7, Bob observes:

It should be clear that even the intoxicating nature of wine is being praised, here. Wine lifts the spirit and gladdens the heart long before it actually overtakes you and makes one drunk. Wine can be enjoyed and its effects relished without losing control and becoming drunken.

This theme runs through the eight points that form the main structure of the essay. Following the eight points, a section focuses on counterarguments related to the biblical warnings against wine and the use of weaker brother passages. Though Bob wrote the post some years ago, I became aware of it during a discussion here at SI last year and pledged to write a response sometime. Here it is.

A little perspective

Before I delve into the particulars, a bit of framing. First, I believe that the decision to use (non-medicinal) alcohol judiciously or to abstain from it completely is a matter of conscience. Believers must apply the Scriptures and be fully persuaded in their own minds (Rom. 14:5) and must not despise one another (Rom. 14:3, 10) for arriving at different conclusions.

That said, matters of conscience (or liberty) are not matters we should avoid discussing or examining carefully.2 We owe it to our Lord, ourselves, and one another to have a conscience that is as clearly and truthfully informed as possible.

So it’s in that spirit that I’m going to try to upend the argument in Bob’s essay. I have the highest regard for him and for many of those who share his views on this question.

The eight points

In support of the idea that wine is God’s gift and we should enjoy it (the effect of its alcohol in particular), the essay offers eight points with supporting Scriptures:

  1. Wine is a gift of the goodness of God (Jer. 31:12-4, Ps. 104:14-15, 1 Tim.4:1-5).
  2. Wine produces joy—it “gladdens the heart” (Judg. 9:13, Ecc. 10:19 NASB, Zech. 10:7. See also Prov. 31:6-7, Jer. 16:7-8).
  3. Wine is used in rejoicing before God (Deut. 14:22-26, Isa. 62:8-9, Deut. 12:17-19. See also use of wine in drink offerings: Ex. 29:40, Num. 15:5, 2 Chron. 31:5, Deut. 8:4).
  4. Abundance of wine is a particular blessing from God (Joel 2:24-26, 3:18; Gen. 27:28; Deut. 7:13).
  5. Having no wine was a hardship or a judgment of God (Amos 5:11, Deut. 29:2-6. See also Deut. 18:39, Mic. 6:15, Zeph. 1:13).
  6. The absence of wine results in the absence of joy (Isa. 24:7-11, Jer. 48:33, Is. 16:10).
  7. Drinking wine is singularly festive, joyful, and celebratory (Ecc. 9:7, Isa. 22:13, Job 1:13, Esther 1, 1 Chron. 12:39ff, Gen 27:25 and several others).
  8. Wine will be part of the future feasting in Christ’s kingdom (Isa. 25:6-9, Jer. 31:12-14, Matt. 26:29, Luke 22:28-30, Matt. 8:11, Luke 13:29, etc.).

Points of agreement and contention

The crux of this particular debate is really not the eight points themselves but whether they truly support the thesis. Isolated from a particular conclusion, seven of the eight points are solid and well supported by Scripture. (Point six should probably be merged with point five since the passages listed there do not indicate a cause-effect relationship.)

But the argument as a whole hinges on a particular definition of “wine” and a particular view of wine’s relationship to one of its usual ingredients (alcohol). Since the pro-wine position needs to argue that fruit of the vine without alcohol is not a suitable modern-day substitute, it must attribute the blessings of wine to alcohol specifically. The thesis, then, is effectively that alcohol is a blessing God gave us to make us glad. Most advocates of the judicious use of wine maintain that if there is no alcohol, the beverage simply isn’t wine.

This is my main point of contention: Where passages do not clearly indicate the effects of intoxication (whether slight or severe), “wine” cannot be used validly as a synonym for “alcohol.”

The old non-alcoholic wine argument

At this point, I’m sure some have got me pigeon-holed as a proponent of the old “Christian people drank non-alcoholic wine” argument. But this is not where I’m going. I believe God’s people consumed wine with alcohol on a regular basis.

But does it follow that if wine usually contained alcohol, every statement in Scripture extolling wine is also extolling alcohol? A closer look at some of the passages Bob uses in his essay suggests an answer.

But the vine said to them, “Should I cease my new wine,
Which cheers both God and men,
And go to sway over trees?” (NKJV, Judg. 9:13)

Here, the “wine” cheers both God and men. Presumably, it cheers them both in a similar way—but how would God experience the cheer that comes from the early stages of intoxication? Since God is a spirit, the cheer in this passage is evidently not directly related to any ingredient the wine contains—and doesn’t even depend on drinking it. (Arguably, we could take this as a reference to God incarnate physically enjoying wine, but it seems less strained to see the cheer here as referring to the gladness of witnessing an abundant harvest.)

Joy and gladness are taken
From the plentiful field
And from the land of Moab;
I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses;
No one will tread with joyous shouting—
Not joyous shouting! (Jer. 48:33)

Gladness is taken away,
And joy from the plentiful field;
In the vineyards there will be no singing,
Nor will there be shouting;
No treaders will tread out wine in the presses;
I have made their shouting cease. (Isa. 16:10)

Consider this: how much alcohol does the “wine” in these verses contain? Here the term refers to the product of the press at the time it comes from the press—a liquid containing no alcohol at all. This use of “wine” in reference to the not-yet-fermented fruit of the vine is not unique. In Jeremiah 40:10 and 12 “wine” is what is “gathered.” In Amos 9:13, “wine” is what the mountains are dripping with. In Haggai 2:16, “wine” is still in the vat, and in Isaiah 65:8 the substance is “wine” even while still in the cluster!

Though it’s true (as far as I can tell) that wine was nearly always consumed with alcohol in it, the evidence does not support using “wine” as a synonym for “alcohol,” nor may we treat alcohol as an essential attribute. We can’t assume that all references to “wine” say something meaningful about alcohol in particular.

The real gladness

If we accept that “wine” does not refer to alcohol specifically, or even consistently to a beverage containing alcohol, we’re free to look at the wine-and-gladness passages with more openness and to allow the context to carry more weight in understanding what each reference reveals.

What that look reveals is that most of the passages which associate wine with gladness are about the gladness of physical nourishment or refreshment, the gladness of abundant harvest or the gladness of God’s blessing in general (many of these passages associate cheer with food as well in the same context). Most of the passages that associate lack of wine with sorrow are really about famine and loss due to God’s judgment. Few of these passages are actually about wine. Nearly all refer to it in service to some larger point.

The table below classifies all of the primary texts from Bob’s essay, and most of the secondary ones as well. (Some passages could be classified under more than one heading.)

Passages associating wine with the gladness of abundant harvest or God’s blessing in general

Jeremiah 31:12-14, Deuteronomy 14:22-26, Zechariah 10:7, Judges 9:13, Isaiah 25:6-9, Isaiah 62:8-9

Passages associating wine with the gladness of nourishment or the pleasure of eating and drinking

Psalm 104:14-15, Ecclesiastes 10:19

Passages associating lack of wine with the sorrow of meager harvest or loss of God’s blessing in general (judgment)

Amos 5:11, Deuteronomy 29:2-6, Deuteronomy 28:39, Micah 6:15, Zephaniah 1:13, Isaiah 24:7-11, Jeremiah 48:33, Isaiah 16:10

Passages associating wine with gladness vaguely (specific reference to intoxicating property not clear, but possible)

Ecclesiastes 9:7, Isaiah 22:13, Song of Solomon 1:2-3, 4:10 (and others in Song of Solomon)

Passages not associating wine with gladness (mostly with other items representative of God’s provision and grace)

Exodus 29:40, Numbers 15:5, 2 Chronicles 31:5, Deuteronomy 12:17-19, Joel 2:24-26, Joel 3:18, Genesis 27:28, Deuteronomy 7:13, Matthew 26:29 (and Luke 22:17, 20), 1 Corinthians 11:21

Passages simply indicating that wine was consumed along with food, mostly on some special occasion

Job 1:13, Esther 1:7, 1 Chronicles 12:39-40, Genesis 27:25, Luke 7:33-34

Passages referring to medicinal use of wine

Proverbs 31:6-7

Passages that do not mention wine but would fit under one of the other headings if wine is assumed

1 Timothy 4:1-5, Luke 13:29, Luke 22:28-30, Matthew 8:11

Since the gladness and cheer in these passages do not depend specifically on the presence of alcohol, those who enjoy the fresh juice of the grape (or of the grapefruit, for that matter) cannot be accurately characterized as rejecting the blessing of “wine” or of missing out on the biblical gladness it brings.

Notes

1 Bixby’s post appears to be no longer available.

2 I also do not believe there is any reason that congregations may not agree together on some matters of conscience/liberty that they deem to have special importance and include these convictions as part of their membership standard.

[node:bio/aaron-blumer body]

Aaron Blumer's picture
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Causal relationship

Quote:
So I posit a causal role for wine. Wine causes merriness (the sort that is displayed by drunken people, as well as other sorts of merriness). You are saying that wine brings gladness and merriment generally and not particularly, and it is joy in the harvest and all that. This may be, but we have in 1 Sam. 25 and these other passages a statement that wine causes a particular sort of merriness and that this is a causal connection.

Just to clarify how I see it:
Wine does have a causal relationship to things like merry hearts, gladness, and cheer in several passages. I'm not disputing that. I also don't dispute that wine has a causal relationship in drunkenness passages.
But these facts do not work together to support the conclusion that passages that identify the gladness of wine as God's blessing must be speaking specifically of the cheer that comes from alcohol intoxication.

(As for preserving non-alcoholic wine in ancient times, I don't think I've seen any solid evidence for that. "New wine" in Greek does not necessarily mean new as in just out of the vat, but even if so, that would not be evidence of preservation. In any case, the only non-alcoholic "wine" I'm aware of is simply "fresh" fruit of the vine in passages where it is clearly just being made--or even not yet made.)

Joel Shaffer's picture
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Quote: As a matter of

Quote:
As a matter of Christian witness we should not do anything that could seriously jeopardize our witness to others. Many lost people expect that Christians should not drink.

You've lost me here. This is an extremely subjective argument. I haven't met a single unbeliever that holds to this. And this comes from my 20 years of experience of inner-city ministry with relationships with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lost people, many of whom are alcoholics or related to those who are alcoholics. Its not even on their radar screen if a Christian (even a Baptist pastor) has a little wine or a beer every so often. They don't care and it isn't an issue unless the person gets drunk. Then it becomes an issue.

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Joel Shaffer wrote: Quote:

Joel Shaffer wrote:
Quote:
As a matter of Christian witness we should not do anything that could seriously jeopardize our witness to others. Many lost people expect that Christians should not drink.

You've lost me here. This is an extremely subjective argument. I haven't met a single unbeliever that holds to this. And this comes from my 20 years of experience of inner-city ministry with relationships with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lost people, many of whom are alcoholics or related to those who are alcoholics. Its not even on their radar screen if a Christian (even a Baptist pastor) has a little wine or a beer every so often. They don't care and it isn't an issue unless the person gets drunk. Then it becomes an issue.

And my experience is just the opposite. I've worked as a sports official with hundreds of different unregenerate men for over 30 years. Sports officials, and especially basketball refs, are notorious drinkers as it helps them unwind. I don't think I've ever said anything particular about drinking (most have bigger problems than that) but every one I've worked with, knowing I am in ministry, has had every expectation that I not drink, and most will apologize for their drinking even as they kill a brew. Now, most of these are corporate professionals or military and not inner-city, and that may be a difference.

Lee

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the testimony argument

The testimony argument is an interesting one. We can't just dismiss it. On the other hand, it sort of begs the question.
If those without Christ expect Christians to behave in a certain way does it follow that this is how we should behave? On the other hand, if we know that many in a particular community or culture will get the wrong impression if we behave/fail to behave a certain way--and that a barrier to witness will result--that's something to take seriously. We don't want to needlessly offend or confuse.

But this leads to another question, "Does the public in this culture/region have an accurate view of how Christians ought to live?" I suppose they never do, entirely, so we have two goals: (1) not to needlessly offend/confuse and (2) to teach the truth about what the Christian way of life really is.
So with #2, we're back to where we started: does Scripture reveal principles that, in our day, call for abstinence? We can't really answer that by appealing to what unbelievers expect from us because what they expect is only ultimately only relevant if they're right.

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Wisdom

Aaron Blumer wrote:
The testimony argument is an interesting one. We can't just dismiss it. On the other hand, it sort of begs the question.
If those without Christ expect Christians to behave in a certain way does it follow that this is how we should behave? On the other hand, if we know that many in a particular community or culture will get the wrong impression if we behave/fail to behave a certain way--and that a barrier to witness will result--that's something to take seriously. We don't want to needlessly offend or confuse.

But this leads to another question, "Does the public in this culture/region have an accurate view of how Christians ought to live?" I suppose they never do, entirely, so we have two goals: (1) not to needlessly offend/confuse and (2) to teach the truth about what the Christian way of life really is.
So with #2, we're back to where we started: does Scripture reveal principles that, in our day, call for abstinence? We can't really answer that by appealing to what unbelievers expect from us because what they expect is only ultimately only relevant if they're right.


This reminds me of a conversation I had with some missionary wives. The culture where they ministered called for women and men to be segregated in church services, and public displays of affection were inappropriate- for a man to hold his wife's hand or put his arm around her actually communicated that he did not trust her. Obviously there is nothing about some PDF between husband and wife that is immoral Scripturally, but in that culture it would be.

The guys where my husband works would all say that it is wrong for a Christian to drink. They might not have a Biblical (or even intelligent) answer if you asked them why, but they definitely equate alcohol with immorality.

Another thing to consider is problems like 'holiday heart'- even a small amount of alcohol can cause atrial fibrillation, which can be very dangerous. I know that one from an experience with a shot of Nyquil. Yowzers. For anyone who has never consumed alcohol, don't get too excited about exercising your newfound Christian liberty- it might land you in the ER.

(I wonder what would happen if marijuana became legalized- would that be a liberty issue as well?)

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/03/28/who-report-europeans-are-worlds... WHO report: Europeans are world's heaviest drinkers

Blogging at Susan Raber Online

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Joel,Thank you for your

Joel,

Thank you for your comment. I don't question your personal experience in inner-city ministry. I personally came to Christ while living on the south side of Chicago. Afterwards, I had ministered for years at the Pacific Garden Mission with thousands of addicts. This is the most famous rescue mission in the US. I am sure you have heard of the famous radio program, "Unshackled," which broadcasts amazing stories of conversions at the mission. There was a firm policy of abstinence at the mission for all workers and residents. It was unthinkable that those preaching and counseling would imbibe. It was equally impossible for us to teach the new believers to embrace a policy of moderate social drinking. So my experience has been radically different than yours.

As a young boy I spent my life in the bars with my father on 51st street in Chicago. I understand the drinking-scene better than most. I made a promise to my mother that I would never drink. My dad is dead. Most of his five brothers died, lost in their sins, of alcoholism in their twenties, thirties, and forties. As I have witnessed and preached to many of my relatives in Boston, it would be inconceivable to them for me to drink.

Pastor Mike Harding

Joel Shaffer's picture
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Mike, By the way, I

Mike,

By the way, I understand your decision for abstinence. We all have different experiences. And I actually do respect your reasoning for abstaining even if you didn't have this experience.

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Biblical basis?

Aaron Blumer wrote:
But this leads to another question, "Does the public in this culture/region have an accurate view of how Christians ought to live?" I suppose they never do, entirely, so we have two goals: (1) not to needlessly offend/confuse and (2) to teach the truth about what the Christian way of life really is.
So with #2, we're back to where we started: does Scripture reveal principles that, in our day, call for abstinence? We can't really answer that by appealing to what unbelievers expect from us because what they expect is only ultimately only relevant if they're right.

(emphasis added)
Aaron, since you are talking about unbelievers / testimony concerns in this comment, I'm seriously doubting your #2. Where do the Scriptures say we are to teach them in this way? I don't see anything in Paul's teaching on testimony concerns relative to meat, for instance, that would fit this idea. He seems to pretty much stop with #1, to say not to eat it in circumstances that would offend/confuse, and he doesn't address #2 at all.

Am I missing something?

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1 Cor 10

Quote:
[23 ] “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. [24 ] Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. [25 ] Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. [26 ] For “the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.” [27 ] If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. [28 ] But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—[29 ] I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? [30 ] If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
(1 Corinthians 10:23-30 ESV)

JG,

Let me run this one by you. Read the above passage and look how Paul is arguing. He asks believers to "eat whatever is set before you." Why? I think in part it's because we are to live in a way that tells unbelievers that "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" and another is to partake in thankfulness to God and your host for what they have set before you. (As an aside, picky eating can be sin.) Once the unbeliever informs you that the meat had been offered to idols, you are to refuse it. Why? Because now you would be communicating something different to your host. We are to watch out for our unbelieving hosts in this regard.

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Maybe it's a personal decision

Consider what the Bible says:
People in the Bible, including Jesus, drank wine yet it labels drunkenness a sin
Consider history:
The Reformers and the Pilgrims drank alcohol (George Washington even made whiskey)
Abstinence didn't rise to the status of a stated position until Prohibition
Consider personal observation:
Most of us have seen the damage caused by alcohol consumption

Maybe it's a personal decision.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Thanks, Shayne

In practice, I agree (re: picky eating, as well). If we're going to be guests, we should be good guests. But I don't see this as saying we're supposed to be educating our hosts. The reference to the earth being the Lord's is a reminder to believers that we'll take no spiritual harm from eating the food that is put in front of us.

There is not the least hint in this passage that the guest should say to the host, "Oh, you don't understand what the Christian way of life really is. It's ok for us to eat this because the earth is the Lord's." You simply say, "Ok, thank you for telling me," and eat something else. There is no Biblical basis of which I'm aware for doing anything else.

The testimony factor in I Cor. 10 is strongly determinative on behaviour even if the activity in question is not in the least doubtful to the believer. In the presence of unbelievers who consider it wrong or inconsistent with Christian behaviour, for the Gospel's sake we should not partake even if we are convinced it is completely acceptable. If there is a strong strain of this negative thought towards a practice within society at large, we should probably not partake (or purchase for that matter) in public.

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Context and Culture

JG wrote:
In practice, I agree (re: picky eating, as well). If we're going to be guests, we should be good guests. But I don't see this as saying we're supposed to be educating our hosts. The reference to the earth being the Lord's is a reminder to believers that we'll take no spiritual harm from eating the food that is put in front of us.

The reference to the earth being the Lord's is making the statement you say. There will be no spiritual harm for the believer. But the emphasis in this passage is how to love one's neighbor. "Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor." Paul then immediately talks about what kind of neighbor one should watch out for. He's going to an unbeliever's house, and he's to watch out for the unbeliever's conscience. So I don't think the emphasis is on the believer's conscience here ("I do not mean your conscience, but his.")

JG wrote:
There is not the least hint in this passage that the guest should say to the host, "Oh, you don't understand what the Christian way of life really is. It's ok for us to eat this because the earth is the Lord's." You simply say, "Ok, thank you for telling me," and eat something else. There is no Biblical basis of which I'm aware for doing anything else.

You're right, it's all non-verbal. The entire passage is about how to communicate non-verbally what you also believe and speak verbally. We can be easily misunderstood. In fact, this would be one argument for public abstinence of alcohol in areas in which you'd be likely to find people who believe, even if falsely, that Christians are forbidden to drink. In the passage I think the host's intension for saying "this has been offered to idols" (or anyone else at the meal) is to trap the Christian into worshiping false gods along with him in a sort of "gotcha." By refusing to eat the meat, you're refusing to participate in what your hosts/audience thinks is part of idol worship, but you're also being a bad guest. Paul is saying to always choose to be a bad guest over appearing to participate in idol worship. The focus is always on how to clearly portray in word and deed what the truth is. I think that's the goal for all of us here, but how things come across to different audiences in different situations is really touchy.

JG wrote:
The testimony factor in I Cor. 10 is strongly determinative on behaviour even if the activity in question is not in the least doubtful to the believer. In the presence of unbelievers who consider it wrong or inconsistent with Christian behaviour, for the Gospel's sake we should not partake even if we are convinced it is completely acceptable. If there is a strong strain of this negative thought towards a practice within society at large, we should probably not partake (or purchase for that matter) in public.

I just don't interact with many people who think like that where I am in my daily activity. In my very first comment on this issue here, I said this issue has geographic dimensions. The culture where I am is such that people are more shocked at the idea that Christians think drinking in moderation is wrong, than if they see a Christian drinking. As if to illustrate the point, I'm sitting feet away from my company's large and diverse corporate beer fridge, where after 5:30 PM you may have a free beer on the house. The only other Christian I know at work in our office of 100 just grabbed one. This is the culture. Nobody cares. Different people's contexts will be different, and I wonder how many Christians for fear of being tainted with the difficulties of sin, haven't been to their non-Christian friend's house for dinner. . . or don't really have non-Christian friends.

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JG wrote:Aaron Blumer

JG wrote:
Aaron Blumer wrote:
But this leads to another question, "Does the public in this culture/region have an accurate view of how Christians ought to live?" I suppose they never do, entirely, so we have two goals: (1) not to needlessly offend/confuse and (2) to teach the truth about what the Christian way of life really is.
So with #2, we're back to where we started: does Scripture reveal principles that, in our day, call for abstinence? We can't really answer that by appealing to what unbelievers expect from us because what they expect is only ultimately only relevant if they're right.

(emphasis added)
Aaron, since you are talking about unbelievers / testimony concerns in this comment, I'm seriously doubting your #2. Where do the Scriptures say we are to teach them in this way? I don't see anything in Paul's teaching on testimony concerns relative to meat, for instance, that would fit this idea. He seems to pretty much stop with #1, to say not to eat it in circumstances that would offend/confuse, and he doesn't address #2 at all.

Am I missing something?


It's teaching the gospel. (The way of life is a necessary inference of the new birth). But it's also just love of truth. There is no advantage to having the lost be confused about what Christian living is. The more they know the better.
(I'll add that every truth supports every other truth in some way or other... so it's all good. But in this case, the benefit for clear communication of the gospel in particular doesn't take a lot of imagination to see.)

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Since 6/2/09 20:00:32
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I'm just curious...for those

I'm just curious...for those of you that have said alcohol is "toxic", what do you think about this article?

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57407128/is-sugar-toxic/

------------------------------
Pastor of Adult Ministries

Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

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School of Religion
Liberty University Online

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Is toxic innately bad

Along the lines of Greg's post, would those who are arguing the toxicity of alcohol also call for complete abstinence from morphine (highly addictive opiate used medicinally for pain relief), coumadin (rat poison used medicinally to thin blood), or aspirin for that matter (lethal in overdose)? These are all toxic substances.

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

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Drugs should not be used recreationally

Chip,
I would simply say morphine, coumadin, aspirin are drugs that should be used medically as drugs and not for recreational purposes. Neither should the drug of alcohol be used as a beverage for recreational purposes.

As for alcohol and sugar:
Suppose you are driving at night down a dark two lane road with steep ditches on each side. A car is coming to meet you. Would you rather the oncoming driver be driving fat or driving drunk?
David R. Brumbelow

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I'm not arguing that point,

I'm not arguing that point, David. I fully agree that sugar does not impair in the same way alcohol does. I'm simply responding to the argument that we should abstain from any alcohol intake because it is toxic.

------------------------------
Pastor of Adult Ministries

Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Religion
Liberty University Online

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Same here

Greg Long wrote:
I'm not arguing that point, David...I'm simply responding to the argument that we should abstain from any alcohol intake because it is toxic.

Ditto for me.

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

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Surveys show that a

Surveys show that a staggering 64 percent of Protestant lay persons socially drink alcoholic beverages. Nationally, about 60 percent of the USA population drinks alcohol recreationally (July 2007 Gallup Poll of 18 year-old and above protestant laity in the USA). Methodists were some of the first proponents of complete abstinence in the mid-1700's. Southern Baptists have had a record of abstinence dating back to pro-abstinence resolutions as early as 1896 and as recent as 2006 (Richard Land and Barrett Duke, “The Christian and Alcohol,” Criswell Theological Review [Spring 2008, 19-38 ], p. 20). Why the sudden change? Broader social acceptance of drinking, a lack of preaching and teaching on the subject, the secularization of the church, and an increase independence among adult church members have all contributed to the toleration of the social use of alcohol consumption among Protestant church members. The societal cost of drinking has risen to $184 billion per year and is a factor in as many as 105,000 deaths annually in the USA (Land, p. 21). In a recent USA Today/HBO poll, 20 percent of Americans said that they “had an immediate relative who at some point had been addicted to alcohol or drugs” (Rita Rubin, “In Tim Ryan’s Family, He is the Addict,” USA Today, July 20, 2006). According to the same source, each addict negatively affects at least four to five people on a regular basis. Alcohol is commonly referred in the drug trafficking community as the “gateway drug.”

Pastor Mike Harding

Jim's picture
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Since 5/6/09 20:47:03
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Help me understand what this means?

mike harding wrote:
Surveys show that a staggering 64 percent of Protestant lay persons socially drink alcoholic beverages. Nationally, about 60 percent of the USA population drinks alcohol recreationally

What I mean is:

  • "drink socially" is almost always used in pejorative way. But is that the opposite of:

    • Drinking "anti-socially"? OR
    • Drinking "lonely"?
  • "Recreationally" has the same problem (in terms of definition)
    • Does it mean "as a pastime"? OR
    • "occasionally" ?

I mean:

  • If someone has a glass of wine with dinner and his spouse is there ... well that's socially
  • If someone only drinks with a meal (say a beer with pizza) that would be occasionally / recreationally.

If 64 percent of Protestants and / or 60 percent of the USA population drank like this it would seem innocuous

Suppose the surveys said (and there is some kind of a survey out there I'm sure):

  • a staggering 64 percent of Protestant lay persons socially eat ice cream OR
  • 60 percent of the USA population plays billiards recreationally

(The above (ice cream and pool) are true of me)

I raise this point - perhaps some think I am being silly - because in my long tradition as a fundamentalist Baptist I've heard this phrase AND used this phrase often: "I'm against social drinking".

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Since 3/1/10 17:41:04
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Social drinking: impresisely used

Jim,

As someone who probably should know the difference between social and recreational drinking, I don't think the article was using them in precise ways, much like fundamentalists use the term "social drinking" as a catch all for drinking in moderation. Recreational drinking sounds worse to me. There are people who drink only in social settings, and not at home. So to me social drinking is a little more dangerous given things like driving and the overall atmosphere of bars where the entire point is to get drunk. It also doesn't at all imply moderation. All that said I wish those who are against all drinking would use more precise terms such as drinking in moderation, or drinking to excess. As I've said before, atmosphere and context matters.

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Since 3/22/11 13:14:19
142 posts
2006 SBC Alcohol Resolution

The 2006 alcohol resolution can be found at:

2006 SBC Resolution on Alcohol Use in America
http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2011/04/2006-sbc-resolution-on-alcoh...

David R. Brumbelow

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Since 6/30/09 10:23:44
484 posts
Social Drinking Scene

Jim,

Billy Joel describes the social drinking scene quite well in "The Piano Man". All this "joy" is hard to take.

It's nine o'clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There's an old man sitting next to me
Makin' love to his tonic and gin

He says, "Son, can you play me a memory
I'm not really sure how it goes
But it's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man's clothes."

la la la, di da da
La la, di di da da dum

Chorus:
Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us all feelin' alright

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he's quick with a joke or to light up your smoke ****
But there's some place that he'd rather be
He says, "Bill, I believe this is killing me."
As his smile ran away from his face
"Well I'm sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place"

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he's talkin' with Davy, who's still in the Navy
And probably will be for life

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessman slowly gets stoned
Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinkin' alone

Chorus
sing us a song you're the piano man
sing us a song tonight
well we're all in the mood for a melody
and you got us all feeling alright

It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
'Cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see
To forget about their life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like a carnival ****
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, "Man, what are you doin' here?"

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Chorus:
sing us a song you're the piano man
sing us a song tonight
well we're all in the mood for a melody
and you got us all feeling alright

Pastor Mike Harding

Jim's picture
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Since 5/6/09 20:47:03
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@ Mike Harding

Thanks for getting back to me

Piano man .... that goes way back

Question for you then:

Would they case of the couple having wine with dinner in the privacy of their own home be social drinking? Sounds like not but would appreciate your comment

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Since 3/1/10 17:41:04
801 posts
Mike, I hate bars for the

Mike,

I hate bars for the same reasons as Billy Joel seems to love them. But it's a little bit of a straw-man argument, unlike your very cogent and balanced posts in this thread.

Shayne

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Since 5/6/09 20:48:52
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Medicinal

I always thought of 'social drinking' as a catch-all phrase for those who don't reserve alcohol for medicinal purposes only.

Blogging at Susan Raber Online

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Since 3/1/10 17:41:04
801 posts
Susan R wrote: I always

Susan R wrote:
I always thought of 'social drinking' as a catch-all phrase for those who don't reserve alcohol for medicinal purposes only.

And I would just say it's an inaccurate meaning of the term.

Susan R's picture
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Since 5/6/09 20:48:52
4366 posts
By definition

a catch-all doesn't really attempt to define anything.

Blogging at Susan Raber Online

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Since 6/2/09 13:04:13
1741 posts
Isn't the most concerning

Isn't the most concerning part of this discussion that Pastor Harding just quoted The Piano Man in its entirety?

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Since 6/14/11 21:09:35
380 posts
A little nostalgia

Lee

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Since 6/30/09 10:23:44
484 posts
Reality not Straw

Shay,

I cited "Piano Man" because it negatively typifies the depressing reality of the bar scene that the entertainer experienced and grew up in. It is anything but a straw man. Since I spent a good portion of my childhood in the bars with my father endeavoring to persuade him to come home before something terrible happened (and it did on numerous occasions), I agree with my mother that the bar scene is an "upholstered sewer" full of shallow fellowship and depressed people. After all, alcohol is a depressant in the end. It is social drinking at its worst. Yes, there is a significant difference between the bar scene and a family having a glass of wine at the dinner table. Nevertheless, for the reasons I have already stated, I would abstain from both.

Larry, I put that song in for you just to prove I’m not near as uptight as you think I am.

Pastor Mike Harding

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Since 3/1/10 17:41:04
801 posts
A straw man argument is

A straw man argument is setting up an easily defeatable argument for the other side, then defeating it. No one in this forum is arguing for a Piano-man kind of lifestyle. Yet you're using the images contained in it as if they stand for all kinds of drinking. That's what I mean by a straw man. You can disagree, but that's how it comes across.

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Since 6/30/09 10:23:44
484 posts
Clinical Understanding

Shay:

Here are some clinical evaluations by AA of social drinking, recreational drinking, problem drinking, binge drinking (I think my example had samples of all):

There is disagreement as to what constitutes social drinking. An individual who regularly goes to the bar and drinks heavily might still claim to be a social drinker. For a lot of people the words ‘social drinker’ just means not exhibiting the classic signs of alcoholism. A person who is destroying their mental and physical health through overindulgence could still claim to be a social drinker. A definition could be based on the amount the individual drinks or their relationship to alcohol.

A study in the UK found that 83% of respondents believed that those who drank above the safe limits could still be considered social drinkers. The results of this survey are worrying because it means that most people are unaware of the risks of drinking in excess of the recommended limits.

Even those people who drink in moderation can still encounter alcohol related problems. This is because alcohol is a toxin that causes damage to the body even in small doses.

The move from social drinking to problem drinking can occur over a long time period. The individual is often unaware of this progression. As social drinking moves toward addiction, the individual will use denial as a means to rationalize their increasingly dangerous behavior. It is only when they are forced into a position where they need to control their alcohol use that their problem becomes more obvious.

Even though the drinker may be unaware of their slide into alcohol abuse, there are warning signs. They will usually experience at least one of the following:

DUI or other legal problem due to alcohol
Continued alcohol use despite negative consequences
Failure to meet responsibilities at home or in the workplace
Alcohol use is leading the individual into dangerous situations
If the individual continues to abuse alcohol, they will eventually develop a chemical addiction. Their body adapts to high levels of alcohol in the blood stream and reacts badly when the substance is withdrawn. Many of those individuals who develop a chemical addiction to alcohol will never recover from it. Those who do recover usually find that it requires a great deal of effort.

Pastor Mike Harding

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Since 6/26/09 19:07:01
166 posts
Mike Harding wrote:Surveys

Mike Harding wrote:
Surveys show that a staggering 64 percent of Protestant lay persons socially drink alcoholic beverages. Nationally, about 60 percent of the USA population drinks alcohol recreationally (July 2007 Gallup Poll of 18 year-old and above protestant laity in the USA). Methodists were some of the first proponents of complete abstinence in the mid-1700's. Southern Baptists have had a record of abstinence dating back to pro-abstinence resolutions as early as 1896 and as recent as 2006 (Richard Land and Barrett Duke, “The Christian and Alcohol,” Criswell Theological Review [Spring 2008, 19-38 ], p. 20). Why the sudden change?

Mike, I think its interesting that abstinence has not been a consistent position in the (broadly speaking) evangelical church until the last few centuries (and only in America). I have friends in Germany; they told me how a deacon in their Baptist church would have a beer every night before bed. The Greek Orthodox Church (who speaks the language of the NT) uses alcoholic wine at the Lord's table. It seems to me that 19th and 20th century American Christianity realized so many important things about the Christian faith that had not occurred to Christians prior (hair length/alcohol/smoking/music). I would ask, "Why the sudden change?"

On a lighter note, I wonder why Peter and the apostles did not respond "We don't drink because we're Christians" when questioned at Pentecost.

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

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Since 6/1/09 19:00:00
7433 posts
anachronism

Todd, the abstinence doesn't depend on the premise that the first century Christians didn't consume beverage alcohol at all or that the practice of abstinence has been around very long. Some argue along those lines, but I don't think Mike does, and I certainly don't.

Not many are making those claims.

Rather, the best case against alcohol consumption argues in the other direction: that our times are indeed different in important ways, as are our beverage options. Since it is so easy to avoid the risks of alcohol consumption in our day, and since the potential benefit is so small relative to the risk, abstinence is wiser than the alternative.

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Since 6/26/09 19:07:01
166 posts
I understand, Aaron...I was

I understand, Aaron...I was not suggesting that that was an argument for abstinence. My point was that Christians have wrestled with this for 2000 years without landing on abstinence. Alcohol has always been...for the lack of a better word...alcoholic. Its not as if the 20th Century came along and alcohol became stronger or man became any more sinful.

I think abstinence is a noble position to take. But I think its based more on personal circumstances than society or culture. I just don't feel comfortable being dogmatic when the Bible is not...even if it is in a passive-aggressive way... Smile

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

Aaron Blumer's picture
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Since 6/1/09 19:00:00
7433 posts
I understand

I understand... I think.

I'm not much for fighting over it either. But I will point out that though alcohol has always been alcohol, "wine" has not always been "wine." What we market today isn't exactly the same, and of course, our options today are very different.  So, sure, people are the same but what's available to them is not.

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