More Thoughts on Convictions, Complexities, and Drinking

First

I appreciate all of the spirit, and much of the substance, of Ed’s work on this topic yesterday. It’s just reality that even in historically total-abstaining circles, ministry leaders are going to be working with Christians who believe Scripture allows them to consume alcohol. That being the case, we should do more to help these believers exercise wisdom and restraint—or to recover, if they’ve stumbled into problems with drunkenness.

For those of us (including me) who are persuaded that total abstinence is the right course, there’s some temptation to think “Well, just don’t drink—and if you do, the consequences are your problem.” But where’s the ministry heart in that? I’m reminded of Matthew 12:20. Our Lord was not in the habit of breaking bruised reeds or quenching smoldering wicks. The spiritual thing to do is “restore … in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1), “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thes. 5:14).

Second

An abundance of interesting but non-evidential data seems to exist in the alcohol debate, and this clutter often obscures more important questions. For example, I was going to post some research on whether there really is a “Greek word for unfermented wine” that is never used in the NT. Perhaps our understanding of the NT should be informed by what we find in the OT, where the same term is used for normal fermented wine and wine that is still fresh in the press. See Jeremiah 48:33 and Isaiah 16:10 for a couple of examples of “wine” still in the press (therefore nonalcoholic, for those who haven’t had their coffee yet).

The thing is, though there is often confusion on the facts in this debate, where we really get into the most trouble is with our “therefores.” What does the absence of a word for nonfermented wine in the NT actually prove? I think, not much, because—well, see item 3, below.

(I also want to note that the potential stumbling associated with wine in Romans 14:21 is not about alcohol. It’s about ceremonial cleanness vs. uncleanness. Evidence: “drinking” and “wine” in the passage are always linked with “meat” and “eating.” See Romans 14:14-15 and 14:23. Use of food and drink that had been previously involved in idol worship is most likely in view. But again, either way, what does this prove about the ethics of alcohol consumption today? Not much.)

Third

I’ve been convinced for some time that the strongest case against use of wine (etc.) today is a wisdom case. Even if the argument can be made that believers in OT and NT times were using unfermented wine as a beverage on a regular basis (which I really doubt), few who aren’t already total abstainers are going be convinced of that idea. It’s just too easy to counter that angle. But if we suppose that everybody drank wine with some alcohol in it in those days, again, what does it prove about our choices today? Say it with me, class—not much.

The situation today, in a nutshell, is this:

  • no biblical obligation to consume wine (This post might be helpful on that point.)
  • easy total avoidance of alcohol (not the case in OT or NT times)
  • much to gain by avoidance
  • very little to lose by avoidance (granting, for sake of argument, that there are pleasures of taste and smell, as well some social benefits)

Also important in this regard—the wisdom case is not simply a matter of take-it-or-leave-it logic and practicality. That is, in Christian living, we don’t have “questions of right and wrong” on one hand and “questions of practical wisdom” on the other (nor do we have “questions of truth” on one hand and “questions of logic” on the other). When the wisdom is “from above” (James 3:17-18) it is always intertwined ultimately in a very personal way with our Savior Himself (Col. 2:2-3).

To put it simply, it is wrong to do what is unwise.

Fourth

For the sake of edification, Christians really do need to get past “emotional reaction mode” on this topic, and get it onto the list of things that believers can study, ponder, and disagree over while maintaining mutual respect. Sometimes I think us “fightin’ fundies” should all have the principle tattooed on our foreheads so we see it in the mirror every morning:

It is possible to take a firm stand without insisting that everyone else has to take it, too.

We’re so prone to look at touchy topics as though there were only two options: either (1) I cave in and do what everyone else is doing, or (2) I insist that every Christian worthy of the name must join me in renouncing (fill in the blank).

But there is, as the old-time clear thinkers used to say, a tertium quid—a third thing. In this case, the third option is to stand, and grant love and respect to your brother who sees the matter differently. (Maybe love and respect him enough to challenge his thinking on the subject, but always hold him in manifest high regard throughout that process. I’ve written on that topic previously elsewhere… though not well, maybe. One for future revision.)

Fifth

What kind of guidance can we offer those who have diligently and submissively thought the issue through and concluded that moderate consumption is pleasing to the Lord? Well, the abundant biblical warnings about the potential hazards of intoxicating beverages would be a great place to start. If these texts don’t quite add up to “never consume alcohol,” they certainly at least add up to “this is more dangerous than you probably realize.” The famous texts in Proverbs (Prov. 23:29-35 and 20:1, for example) really need very little expansion.

A great deal of benefit can be gained also from the simple principle the apostle repeats in 1 Corinthians 15:33. If you find it difficult to avoid drinking too much, don’t hang out with people who tend to drink too much.

To take Ed’s perspective on this point a bit further: if we only attend to the wine-warning texts when we’re making a case for total abstinence, we really are missing the good sense these passages also offer to those who do drink on occaison.

Support for total abstinence from alcohol is certainly on the wane today. Better teaching might help some, and the general swinging of the pendulum might eventually reverse that trend as well, but the present reality is that believers are going to continue to differ on the matter. So both wisdom and compassion call Christians, especially ministry leaders, to do what we can to be helpful to those who use.

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Jim's picture

"Individual Soul Liberty" defined:  Every individual, whether a believer or an unbeliever, has the liberty to choose what their conscience or soul decides is right in the religious realm. This also involves the personal and individual accountability of each person before God.

Now it seems they are BaptXsts. (By the way ... when was the last time you heard anything about "Individual Soul Liberty"?! Anymore it seems it is My Way or the Highway!)

View A is anti-liberty. 

Click above for larger

harmonno98's picture

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this article. This is the pretty much the exact position I have come to myself. With the "wisdom" answer to be the best!  I have the same thoughts on "Contemporary Christian music". I don't believe it is a good thing when it veers into the lack of reverence, and appeals to the body more than the Spirit, and the repetition issues, as well as 'amorous lyrics placed on our God.  I'm taking a strong stand, when those things are brought up...with a spirit of respect and gentleness for the believer I am discussing it with. I express my concerns, but..... I say, you yourself must come to your own conclusions by seeking God's will on this subject..

Tom

Dan Miller's picture

Aaron wrote:
Fourth

For the sake of edification, Christians really do need to get past “emotional reaction mode” on this topic, and get it onto the list of things that believers can study, ponder, and disagree over while maintaining mutual respect. Sometimes I think us “fightin’ fundies” should all have the principle tattooed on our foreheads so we see it in the mirror every morning:

It is possible to take a firm stand without insisting that everyone else has to take it, too.

I agree with this statement. Many here know why. But why should the Fundamentalist agree? If you believe that "wine" is adiaphora (weak/strong, "Rom14") then you import the commands for the strict brother (don't judge) and the strong (don't despise, keep it to yourself). 

But, consider this line:

Don Johnson wrote:
(here in the other thread)

Anyway, the misinterpretation of Romans 14 has perpetuated a huge misunderstanding of Christian liberty amongst many believers. It hasn't improved the life of the church at all.

Gordon Fee says this in his ending comments on 1 Cor 8-10

Unfortunately, and despite this passage, the issue of personal freedom in matters that are adiaphora, as well as the limitation of freedom for the sake of others, continues to haunt many sectors of the church. Usually the battle rages over what constitutes adiaphora. Conservatives on these issues simply fail to reckon with how "liberal" Paul's own view really is. Hence Paul is seldom heard for the sake of traditional regulations.(1)

I underlined one line. The issue with alcohol here on SI has always come down to: Is alcohol adiaphora? 

The abstainers don't see wine as a matter in the bounds of Romans 14. "Don't judge" therefore doesn't apply to alcohol. They believe they should use "speak truth in love" (Eph4) and "if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness" (Gal 6). 

Here's the thing - IF wine isn't adiaphora, then they're right. That's why Fee's observation that the battle rages over what constitutes adiaphora is so important. And why Don is right that, "[Romans 14] hasn't improved the life of the church at all."

---------------------

(1) Gordon D. Fee, NICNT The First Epistle to the Corinthians, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2014, p. 541.

Mark_Smith's picture

I agree Jim, but I think you have some "issues" from your experiences over the years from some of the things you have said.

A Baptist distinctive is individual soul liberty. Certainly. But, a Baptist church can have a standard for membership or leadership. A standard might be "no alcohol consumption". Your liberty would be to say no, I cannot agree with that and move on, or yes, I agree.

Jim's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:
a Baptist church can have a standard for membership or leadership. A standard might be "no alcohol consumption".

Observation: Those standards are often not set by the current church by rather by the past church. The option for someone who does not agree is to walk 

Mark_Smith's picture

By "past church" do you mean at XYZ Baptist Church the by-laws were set in 1948 and they've never changed? To the point that in 2015, if the members of XYZ voted today they would allow freedom in the area of alcohol?

 

If that is the case then the member of XYZ need to act to change the by-laws. 

 

IMHO, leaving is a good option.No one is bound to stay at some church. They are free to leave if their conscience is violated by something going on at that church and they can't change either themselves or the church.

Mark_Smith's picture

If you believe the studies those same people just might approve same-sex marriage along with alcohol consumption!

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jim wrote:

Do you see the value of the triage of teaching as presented in the concentric circles, here?

If so would you view the drinking issue as: Absolute? Conviction? or Opinion?

Taxonomies like these do have some usefulness. In reality, it's very difficult to distinguish between conviction and opinion. To me, the former is a subset of the latter... in fact they are all subsets of opinion. My opinion is what I believe and it includes the fundamentals of the faith, my convictions, etc. 

So what we're really talking about is degree of certainty and how to relate to those who differ.

I think Henebury's Rules of Affinity are more useful because they focus more on what we have in Scripture rather than subjective categories like conviction vs. opinion vs. preference, etc.

While I don't see the wisdom of abstinence as even close to a fundamental of the faith, it doesn't follow that local churches and other institutions may hold to it as a distinctive. Indeed, the wisdom case is even stronger for institutional abstinence policy than it is for individual abstinence. (I might trust myself or someone I know well to use alcohol carefully, but is it wise to trust a whole congregation or faculty or student body, etc. to do that? Just in terms of the odds of failure, they rise with the increase of the number of people involved.)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

On this comment: http://sharperiron.org/comment/77936#comment-77936   and adiaphora in general....

I agree that contention over what is in the adiaphora category and what isn't is getting much closer to the right starting point.... for this and many other issues.

I suggest there is one more level deeper we need to go though, and look at the right process for identifying what is adiaphora what isn't.

For those unfamiliar with the term, adiaphora itself is not understood identically by everyone (hence, part of the difficulty involved in deciding what is and what isn't in that bucket). 

Some helpful resources... selected pretty much randomly...

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0007/abstract

https://carm.org/questions-adiaphora

http://cyclopedia.lcms.org/display.asp?t1=a&word=ADIAPHORA

Due to work schedule, I'll be out of the discussion until this evening. One more addition: from Encylopedia of Christianity

Adiaphora

1. “Adiaphora,” from the Gk. pl. adiaphora (cf. Lat. sing. indifferens), denotes things that are indifferent. A broad range of usage for what is permitted or what is between permission and proscription has helped to determine its historical significance.
The term occurs in the → ethics of antiquity, especially in → Stoicism. The Stoics tried to see how things that encounter us or acts that we perform have a moral significance that is not intrinsic to them. Christian ethics adopted the term but used it in many different ways as it faced problems relating to specific places and developments. Common to the usage as a whole, the concept sets a limit to what may be justified in terms of Christian ethics.

2.1. In Christian ethics the term determines the range of biblical guidance insofar as this is understood as a comprehensive instruction for the Christian life. Adiaphora are matters in secular life for which the Bible gives no specific guidance.
2.2. The term fixes the range of a morality that consists of commands and prohibitions. As considered in ethical textbooks, adiaphora are things that are permitted or things that fall between command and prohibition. Over against them, some have maintained the comprehensive nexus of moral → duty (F. D. E. → Schleiermacher). Protestant ethics has largely followed the latter view and has thus maintained a Christian → freedom that exempts no sphere of life from moral accountability. Only marginally is it asked whether a “free area”—as, for example, in art—can exist (e.g., W. Trillhaas).
2.3. The fundamental problem arises when Christian freedom in all its scope is viewed as freedom from works. One might include all that we experience and do within such a freedom, which in turn is needed if any of our deeds is to be morally relevant before God. In such a view, adiaphora cannot refer to morally indifferent things but simply to all things without distinction. This position avoids both antinomianism and the binding of freedom to a specific morality. This is how we are to understand M. → Luther’s “freedom of a Christian.” The lordship of Christians over all things rests on their all having the same value for → righteousness before God. The evaluation of all things then relates to whether they give offense to the faith of others (see Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8–10). The criterion is the need of the neighbor. In this context there can be no regard for distinctions in moral validity.
2.4. Church ordinances (ceremonies) are paradigms by which to test Christian freedom, a point that textbooks of → dogmatics discuss. Luther understood the validity of church rulings in terms of Christian freedom. In the first adiaphora controversy a debate about this question arose between the position of P. → Melanchthon (1497–1560) and the → Gnesio-Lutherans, especially M. Flacius (1520–75), writing in his Liber de veris et falsis adiaphoris (1549). Flacius’s opinion is expressed in FC 10 in the statement that in the case of confession (i.e., when it is necessary under persecution to confess evangelical teaching for the sake of the truth of the → gospel), church ordinances are also included. An application of this understanding to moral or political matters is not in view. This application comes in the more precise usage of the phrase → status confessionis only in the 19th century (→ Church Struggle). The question of the obligatoriness of church ordinances also brings to mind the broader question of the theological significance of church order. This has been a decisive question since the German church struggle.

3. The extension of the problem to political matters makes it necessary to define the relations between the obedience of → faith (§3), → freedom (§2), and → reason. What is “reasonable” for Christians can be understood only in light of freedom, which is not based on equating “reasonable” and “ethically indifferent.” Those who ask whether a decision about what is ethically reasonable could ever contradict what is taken as the truth of the gospel must not assume that guidance for all actions can be derived directly from the gospel. To establish such a contradiction would require theological judgment. No view of Christian ethics leads to the conclusion that political decisions would be indifferent in regard to Christian freedom.

Bibliography: K. BAIER, The Moral Point of View (Ithaca, N.Y., 1958) ∙ J. GOTTSCHICK, “Adiaphora,” RE 1.168–79 ∙ T. GRAEBNER, The Borderland of Right and Wrong (5th ed.; St. Louis, 1938) ∙ C. L. MANSCHRECK, “The Role of Melanchthon in the Adiaphora Controversy,” ARG 48 (1957) 165–82 ∙ G. MAURACH and K. ALAND, “Adiaphora,” HWP 1.83–85 ∙ M. SCHLOEMANN, “Der besondere Bekenntnisfall. Begriffsgeschichtliche und systematische Beobachtungen zum casus confessionis vor, in und nach Daressalam 1977,” Politik als Glaubenssache? Beiträge zur Klärung des Status Confessionis im südlichen Afrika und in anderen soziologischen Kontexten (R. Bertram et al.; ed. E. Lorenz; Erlangen, 1983) 48–98 ∙ W. TRILLHAAS, “Adiaphoron. Erneute Erwägung eines alten Begriffs,” TLZ 79 (1954) 457–62; idem, Ethik (3d ed.; Berlin, 1970) ∙ B. J. VERKAMP, The Indifferent Mean: Adiaphorism in the English Reformation to 1554 (Athens, Ohio, 1977).
HANS G. ULRICH

Erwin Fahlbusch and Geoffrey William Bromiley, The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill, 1999-2003). 16-17.

DavidO's picture

I think it is important to maintain a proper distinction between Soul Liberty and Christian Liberty (or liberty of conscience).

Soul liberty does not mean a given church has no right to enforce discipline upon its members according to the majority's understanding of the Bible.  That is, in fact, entirely appropriate.  Soul liberty has more to do with the inappropriateness of any government or churchly authority coercing its subjects/members to give assent to a religious belief.  In the case of a church situation, it means doing so INSTEAD of allowing the dissenting member to "walk."  

Christian liberty has more to do with the subject at hand, I think--allowing quiet personal disagreement in the realm of standards given the lack of an absolute command.  

Incidentally, the London Baptist Confession (1689) has a full chapter on Christian Liberty.  So it is also an historic Baptist doctrine.

Bert Perry's picture

Now while I can certainly acknowledge the dangers of alcohol consumption, I've got to note that most of those who learn to abuse it learn to do so.....when they are at parties with other young people (e.g. college frat parties) where the goal is to get drunk.  That is, statistically speaking, where you get your alcoholics.  Alcoholism is much more rare in societies where people learn about alcohol at home and in other "adult" situations.

For example, I learned to appreciate the taste of beer and wine in Germany, and it was noteworthy that if someone showed signs of wanting to get drunk at a bar there, the staff would not serve them.  And so those of us who had not already learned drunkenness at frat parties back in the states learned to appreciate the Gemuetlichkeit of having a glass or two over dinner or such, and most of us were forever ruined for Bugweiser, Boone's Farm, and the like.  Drunkenness?   Not with what you'd have to pay for drinkable stuff.

So along those lines, I can think of a few reasons to support alcohol consumption among Christians.  First of all, if I model responsible consumption to my children and introduce them to something drinkable, they too are likely to be forever ruined for "frat parties", Bugweiser, Everclear, and Boone's Farm.  

Another strong reason that believers might do well--if they have not already become addicted of course--to consider drinking wine (or beer) is because Scripture so consistently uses it as a picture of God's grace.   Not to get drunk, not to be an insufferable wine snob, but simply to understand what God is getting at in Scripture when He compares His other good gifts with wine.  Again, this is a great reason for churches to take part in the same.  

Finally, it should be remembered that moderate alcohol consumption is correlated with good health outcomes (heart disease, etc..), and often a glass of wine replaces a much larger (and refilled) glass of pop over dinner--or repeated trips to the lemonade cooler at the church picnic.  It's also my experience that drinking wine (at least decent stuff) correlates well to a disdain for overly sweetened foods.

Guess that the doctors are finding is a key cause of heart disease, diabetes, and other maladies associated with "metabolic syndrome"?  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Finally, it should be remembered that moderate alcohol consumption is correlated with good health outcomes (heart disease, etc..), and often a glass of wine replaces a much larger (and refilled) glass of pop over dinner--or repeated trips to the lemonade cooler at the church picnic.  It's also my experience that drinking wine (at least decent stuff) correlates well to a disdain for overly sweetened foods.

You do know that medical authorities who speak about the health benefits of moderate drinking do so to get people to consume LESS alcohol, not to START drinking alcohol, right?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

Actually, Don, that's false. Medical authorities will tell heavy drinkers to drink more moderately, but that does not impugn drinking as a whole.  You might as well do a study about spanking without differentiating it from child abuse.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating...

Moderate alcohol use may be of most benefit if you're an older adult or if you have existing risk factors for heart disease.

Read the whole article .. it's pretty balanced with warnings about alcohol  too. This is not a pro-alcohol article. 

(Waiting for Brumbelow, who does not have a medical degree, to disagree (it's happened many times before) Smile

Don Johnson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Actually, Don, that's false. Medical authorities will tell heavy drinkers to drink more moderately, but that does not impugn drinking as a whole.  You might as well do a study about spanking without differentiating it from child abuse.

No, it's not. From the Mayo clinic article Jim linked to:

The latest dietary guidelines make it clear that no one should begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits. So don't feel pressured to drink alcohol. But if you do drink alcohol and you're healthy, there's probably no need to stop as long as you drink responsibly and in moderation.

Please note the highlighted text.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jim's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

Actually, Don, that's false. Medical authorities will tell heavy drinkers to drink more moderately, but that does not impugn drinking as a whole.  You might as well do a study about spanking without differentiating it from child abuse.

 

 

No, it's not. From the Mayo clinic article Jim linked to:

The latest dietary guidelines make it clear that no one should begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits. So don't feel pressured to drink alcohol. But if you do drink alcohol and you're healthy, there's probably no need to stop as long as you drink responsibly and in moderation.

Please note the highlighted text.

Based on the Mayo study ... you qualify 

David R. Brumbelow's picture

“Alcohol is not actually heart-healthy…Red wine contains some beneficial compounds such as flavonoids and resveratrol, a potent antioxidant in the skin of grapes associated with a number of health benefits. Of course, grapes, raisins, berries, and other plant foods also contain these beneficial compounds. You do not have to drink wine to gain these benefits.” -Joel Fuhrman, M.D., The End of Diabetes; 2013.

http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2015/02/wine-for-your-stomachs-sake-...

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Bert Perry wrote:

Actually, Don, that's false. Medical authorities will tell heavy drinkers to drink more moderately, but that does not impugn drinking as a whole.  You might as well do a study about spanking without differentiating it from child abuse.

 

No, it's not. From the Mayo clinic article Jim linked to:

The latest dietary guidelines make it clear that no one should begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits. So don't feel pressured to drink alcohol. But if you do drink alcohol and you're healthy, there's probably no need to stop as long as you drink responsibly and in moderation.

Please note the highlighted text.

That is not equivalent to saying what you said; that doctors uniformly prescribe less drinking  To wit:

You do know that medical authorities who speak about the health benefits of moderate drinking do so to get people to consume LESS alcohol, not to START drinking alcohol, right?

Like I said, you were misrepresenting the data.  Moderate drinkers are clearly not told to drink less or abstain.

I would also agree that no one ought to start drinking for the health benefits alone, but when one combines it with other factors like (a) how God uses it as a picture of His goodness to man,  (b) the likelihood that a glass of wine might replace a quart of sweet tea, Mountain Dew, or the like, and (c) the reality that people tend not to become drunks when responsible drinking is modeled in their families and other adult situations, you have a case where a responsible Christian might see an opportunity to glorify God by having a glass of wine or beer.

And again, all kinds of limits on that.  Some producers do use implied fornication to promote their products (e.g. Menage a Trois wines), others optimize for "drinkability" (how many glasses of Bug Light a person drinks in a sitting).  too many drink to get drunk.  I get that--the dangers of fornication and drunkenness are in the Bible just as certainly as the passages praising wine.  But let's not forget God's goodness to us in giving us this gift.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

I've been a pastor and I've fallen into that trap myself. 

To take a fringe issue and make it an absolute is nothing less than lording over someone else 

I don't know and correct me if I'm wrong but isn't it so that we hear more so-called truth about  total abstinence than about the Trinity

 

Bert Perry's picture

David R. Brumbelow wrote:

“Alcohol is not actually heart-healthy…Red wine contains some beneficial compounds such as flavonoids and resveratrol, a potent antioxidant in the skin of grapes associated with a number of health benefits. Of course, grapes, raisins, berries, and other plant foods also contain these beneficial compounds. You do not have to drink wine to gain these benefits.” -Joel Fuhrman, M.D., The End of Diabetes; 2013.

http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2015/02/wine-for-your-stomachs-sake-...

David R. Brumbelow

Interesting that the author describes the benefits of grapes in a book called "The End of Diabetes."  In the "Mayo Clinic Diet", grape products are generally listed as "sugars" because the same thing that makes grapes so wonderful for making wine is the high sugar content--which is of course also why we love fresh grapes and raisins.  But for diabetics....not so much.

And while the extent of the benefit is disputed, yes, there are studies out there that indicate that it's not just red grapes that have a benefit, but also the alcohol, which is a mild blood thinner, among other things.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I appreciated the tone of your article and thoughtful comments.  I would like to add a few thoughts.

First, this may seem picky, but taking a stand on what the Bible seems to teach IS a firm stand, if it is anchored to a solid line of Biblical interpretation. I don't think there are differences in our viewpoints in the realm of firmness.  I am assuming that we want to understand the true Biblical meaning, and will take our stand accordingly.  Although I cannot know if this is true of everyone who has opined, my experience with SI is that this is certainly the case with at least most and perhaps all.

Another point is that the absence of the word for specifically unfermented wine (grape juice) tells us -- at least -- that the NT authors were not as emphatic about specifying the nature of the wine (as are many people in this discussion).  Not finding what we would expect to see if our theory is correct does not destroy the theory, but it does contribute toward a conclusion.

Also, a wisdom argument is not necessarily a directly Scriptural one -- it is at least one step removed (application). That is not to say such an argument is wrong. I personally believe the world would be a better place if no one drank alcohol. And soul liberty, as Jim Peet has reminded us, should be a real conviction we embrace. Wisdom produces advice and that advice can be wrong.  The Scriptures, not advice we give based upon a series of principles, is the only infallible authority we really have. Our attempts at wise advice are fallible, and we should not expect other Christians (esp. those over whom we have no authority) to be bound by our advice.

As far as Romans 14, IMO the examples given (meat/wine) are TYPICAL of the types of things that we might need to consider -- not a concrete list.  Whether it involved idols or not is moot.  "Whatever is not of faith is sin" is the general principle (Romans 14:23).

Linguistically, to go against Arndt and Gingrich (with trux) and to say that every single major Bible translation is wrong is a bit much.

God often countenanced drinking wine (and even sanctions strong drink) in the Torah, as In Deuternomy 14:26 (ESV)

...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.

We might easily understand the Lord Supper as including wine. As a matter of fact, most of Christendom does and three hundred fifty years ago all Christendom did. That is potent to consider.

But I appreciate your distinction between what the Bible actually teaches and how we might choose to apply a wisdom argument.  

"The Midrash Detective"

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Like yayin and oinos, the Hebrew word shekar (Deuteronomy 14:26) referred to either alcoholic or nonalcoholic drink; it was usually made from fruit other than grapes.

Wycliffe even translated shekar with the English word cider, a word that can also mean either kind of drink, as in soft cider and hard cider.

And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink [shekar], for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. -Deuteronomy 14:26 (NKJV).

For more on Deuteronomy 14:26 and the abstinent position see:

Deuteronomy 14:26 - Does it Commend Alcohol?

http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2011/08/deuteronomy-1426-does-it-com...

David R. Brumbelow

Larry Nelson's picture

 

David R. Brumbelow wrote:

Wycliffe even translated shekar with the English word cider, a word that can also mean either kind of drink, as in soft cider and hard cider.

 

Wycliffe also used "cider" in Proverbs 31:6-7:

6 Give ye cider to them that mourn, and wine to them that be of bitter soul.

7 Drink they, and forget they their neediness; and think they no more on their sorrow.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+31%3A6-8&version=WYC

Is the context here likely referring to unfermented or fermented?

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks, Ed.

I would agree that Rom. 14 is representative of a category of things. Your point seemed to be that there could not be stumbling unless potential intoxication was specifically in view in the references to "wine."

I don't think there is any problem at all with the translations. "Wine" is the best English equivalent though it does not align perfectly with Heb./Grk.

Soul liberty and Christian liberty.

It may help to point out that just about every congregation takes positions on a few non-fundamentals and makes them distinctives--i.e., matters that must be believed or practiced in order to be a member in good standing. Just about all of them even have several that do not appear in official documents (you could probably not be a member in good standing and work as a receptionist at an abortion clinic, for example). Congregations should not claim full biblical authority for views that are derived and complex. But even positions/practices that are derived and less than fully certain can be very important, and the body should be free to unify to some extent on shared positions of conscience.

The concept of essential attributes

One major roadblock to clear thinking on this topic is the lack of awareness of the idea of essential attributes. The result is understanding biblical statements about "wine" as statements about specfically alcohol containing beverages.

What is an essential attribute? It's any attribute that, if you take it away, the thing is no longer what it was. For example, most dogs wear collars and tags. It's been a long time since I saw a dog without one. But if you take away the collar and tags it is still a dog. "Collar and tag" is not an essential attribute. Given that the terms for "wine" are used in reference to substances still in the press (and I think I even have an example or two of the term used for grapes still on the vine... I'll have to dig that up again), it's clear to me that alcohol is not an essential attribute of what Scripture calls "wine."

I believe it was just about always there in some measure, but it doesn't follow that what Scripture says about "wine" it is therefore saying about "fruit of the vine with alcohol" specifically.

So the thinking here is a bit of a leap... 

"When He compares His other good gifts with wine.  Again, this is a great reason for churches to take part in the same." 

When God compares His good gifts to "wine," He is referring to a larger category of beverage than "fruit of the vine that specifically contains alcohol."

Part-whole fallacies

Another barrier to clear thinking on the topic is faulty part-whole thinking. The classic part-whole fallacy reasons that what is true of the whole must therefore be true of all of the parts. An obvious example would be reasoning that airplanes can fly, and airplanes have fuel tanks, therefore fuel tanks can fly. We take the fallacy even further when we reason that since fuel tanks can fly and cars have fuel tanks, cars can fly too.

So it's not valid to reason that since just about all good-tasting beverages of the ancient world contained alcohol, what Scripture asserts about those beverages is only true of modern beverages that contain alcohol. Unless the context indicates that intoxication is specifically in view, these passages are talking about the joys of these fruit based drinks as a whole, not specifically the varieties that include alcohol.

I think I went into this at more length in The True Gladness of Wine and the discussion that followed.

 

To answer Larry's question in the prev. post, I'm persuaded that an intoxicating beverage is in view in those passages. In one of them you have a medicinal use. (The implications of using a drug to deal with depression are another huge topic I think I'll avoid for the time being, but that's my understanding of what's going on there.)

Ed Vasicek's picture

David Brumbelow/Larry Nelson,

Wycliffe translated the Bible from the Latin Vulgate, at least that's my understanding.  Tyndale was the first to translate it into Engllsh from the Hebrew/Greek.

From the Jewish Encyclopedia, an independent source with no agendas about this:

WINE – ...There were different kinds of wine. "Yayin" was the ordinary matured, fermented wine, "tirosh" was a new wine, and "shekar" was an old, powerful wine ("strong drink"). The red wine was the better and stronger (Ps. lxxv. 9 [A. V. 8]; Prov. xxiii. 31). Perhaps the wine of Helbon (Ezek. xxvii. 18) and the wine of Lebanon (Hos. xiv. 7) were white wines. The vines of Hebron were noted for their large clusters of grapes (Num. xiii. 23). Samaria was the center of vineyards (Jer. xxxi. 5; Micah i. 6), and the Ephraimites were heavy wine-drinkers (Isa. xxviii. 1). There were also "yayin ha-reḳaḥ" (spiced wine; Cant. viii. 2), "ashishah" (hardened sirup of grapes), "shemarim (wine-dregs), and "ḥomeẓ yayin" (vinegar). Some wines were mixed with poisonous substances ("yayin tar'elah"; Ps. lx. 5; comp. lxxv.9, "mesek" [mixture]). The "wine of the condemned" ("yen 'anushim") is wine paid as a forfeit (Amos ii. 8), and "wine of violence" (Prov. iv. 17) is wine obtained by illegal means.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jim's picture

The real issue (for the total abstainer) is what to do with those with whom you disagree. The one who (for illustrations' sake):

  • A couple who buys a bottle of wine and shares it over dinner
  • OR the man who has a beer with pizza at home
  • OR you are at Applebees and you see a church member having a beer with his burger

Are they?

  • Ar disobedient brother or sister?
  • Or someone who has come to a different conclusion than you? 

They happen to be a member of your local assembly: Will  you?

  • Initiate the 1st steps of church discipline? 
  • Or let it pass?
Jim's picture

Back when I was a pastor ....

  • Moving day for a single man .... 
  • Many helpers (I was not present ... I'm handicapped ....  permanently exempt from moivng days!) 
  • At the end of the day single man A offers single man B (both members of my church) a cold beer
  • Single man B tells his deacon-brother-in-law
  • And deacon brings up at the next deacons' meeting
  • What to do? What do do?
  • We had the typical church covenant ... abstain from ... et cetera
  • What did we do? We did nothing. We decided that in the whole scope of things this was a minor deal. We told single man B that it did not rise to the level of any kind of church action. I told single man A to not drink in front of single man B 
  • Reasoning: single man A was not a drunk. He did not appear to have a drinking problem

May or may not be relevant ... but both single men divorced men in their late 30's

Larry Nelson's picture

Jim wrote:

The real issue (for the total abstainer) is what to do with those with whom you disagree. The one who (for illustrations' sake):

  • A couple who buys a bottle of wine and shares it over dinner
  • OR the man who has a beer with pizza at home
  • OR you are at Applebees and you see a church member having a beer with his burger

Are they?

  • Ar disobedient brother or sister?
  • Or someone who has come to a different conclusion than you?

They happen to be a member of your local assembly: Will  you?

  • Initiate the 1st steps of church discipline?
  • Or let it pass?

I mentioned in a post yesterday that my church has both abstainers and moderationists.  Our church covenant says nothing in regards to alcohol, and everyone would agree that drunkenness in sin.  That said, if I saw another church member somewhere with a drink in his hand, I doubt I'd give it a second thought (it hasn't happened).  Recently, a staff member (not pastoral staff) said to me on a warm day, "A cold beer would taste good right now."  What was my response?  Neither shock nor scorn...

At my former church (staunch IFB--alcohol absolutely prohibited) a guy mentioned to me once that he & his wife had been to a local restaurant for "burritos and margaritas" the night before--at which point he froze.  He realized he'd let slip too much information.  What did I say or do?  Not much, really.  I didn't "rat him out," either.  (Did I mention he & his wife were the pastor's SIL and daughter?.....)

Once I accidentally ran across a couple's home stash of liquor while rummaging through their kitchen cabinets for a bowl.  They were members of a Minnesota Baptist Association church (not my church) at the time.

All of that being said, I happen to lean toward moderationism in belief.  Isaiah 25:6 is one of numerous verses/contexts that have resulted in a modification of my beliefs over the years.  Growing up with the KJV, it became impossible for me to read "wines on the lees" [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lees_(fermentation) ] and conclude that this verse is referring to anything but fermented wine.  (Cue someone else from above in this thread to explain how the Bible doesn't really mean what it says here...)

 

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that most of the passages where "yayin" refers to something unfermented are cases where an observer familiar with the making of wine and other products from the grape would infer that the end product is going to be ordinary wine with alcohol.  

Now granted, the part is not the whole, and certainly the ancients did enjoy grape products before they were fully fermented.  One can argue all day about the likelihood of significant fermentation being quick, and I'll agree.  

However, what Mr. Brumbelow is arguing is that (a) the prevalent means of preserving grapes was non-alcoholic but (b) Scripture consistently makes a huge warning of the dangers of drunkenness.  It strikes me that these two positions are inconsistent with each other, not to mention inconsistent with the Scripture which points out the "merry" nature of the moderate drinker--sorry, I don't think the text supports the idea that this is a sugar high.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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