The True Gladness of Wine

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]

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MShep2's picture

Thanks, Aaron. Your post is another example of how much we can learn from the Word if we get rid of our preconceived notions and assumptions. However, sometimes they don't want to leave and they must be dragged kicking and screaming out the door! Biggrin

MS
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Luke 17:10

Mike Harding's picture

Excellent work. I appreciate the care and precision with which you approached this very important subject. The abuse of alcohol is pandemic among teens and college students. Once we endorse alcohol as a beverage claiming its intoxicating influence as beneficial, the door is open to other intoxicating elements as well. I don't think we want our pilots or surgeons consuming alcohol for its intoxicating benefits before we board the plane or enter the operating room, but its OK for the pastor to have a few drinks before he delivers his sermon. That would give an entirely new meaning to "happy hour".

Pastor Mike Harding

Bob Hayton's picture

Thanks Aaron, for the kind words. Obviously I believe this is an important debate and not one to be dismissed cavalierly or handled loosely. I don't judge those who disagree and I really have no bone to pick with people that makes me want to "one-up" them or anything with this issue. The evils of drunkenness are too large and real to be ignored and abstinence is one very reasonable way of dealing with that.

But it is Scripture's teaching on wine which compelled me to pick up a glass and experience the joy of wine first hand. I felt like I was denigrating a God-created substance through my views on it and my cultural taboo that I held about it - I was placing reason and experience above Scripture. Each has to make their own determination however.

Readers will want to know that this is not my only post on the subject, I've refined my position and addressed numerous objections. But compared to the 1,000 other posts on my site, the http://www.fundamentallyreformed.com/category/wine/ 9 posts dedicated to this topic reveal that while I think this is an important topic of discussion - it isn't as serious as standing for unity in the Gospel and a whole host of other Scriptural topics.

For a quick response to Aaron's post, I went to my http://www.fundamentallyreformed.com/2008/08/07/two-wine-theory/ blog post that covers Isaiah 16:10 and the 2 wine theory . It addresses the argument that the act of harvesting prevents alcoholic wine from being in view. It is poetry in my view, or more specifically prolepsis. See that post for more.

I did want to excerpt a bit from that post which discusses why I think the "gladness" in view is specifically related to alcohol. Consider the following verses:

Quote:
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart. (Ps. 104:14-15)

Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything. (Eccl. 10:19)

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. (Eccl. 9:7)

But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ (Judges 9:13)

Then Absalom commanded his servants, “Mark when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then kill him. Do not fear; have I not commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.” (2 Samuel 13:28 )

And Abigail came to Nabal, and behold, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until the morning light. In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. (1 Sam. 25:36)

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, (Esther 1:10)

The LORD of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour, and tread down the sling stones, and they shall drink and roar as if drunk with wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar. (Zechariah 9:15)

Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior, and their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Their children shall see it and be glad; their hearts shall rejoice in the LORD. (Zechariah 10:7)

No other beverage is singled out as one which produces joy. And the very nature of alcoholic wine clearly is such that we can understand what is being talked of here. Wine, well before it makes one drunk, is very pleasurable and lifts your spirits, giving one joy. Feasting and wine are interconnected. In Biblical Hebrew the very word for “feasting” literally means “drinking”. ISBE’s article on wine states "a feast is literally a drinking (Heb. misteh, Gen. 21:8; Jdg. 14:10; 1 S. 25:36; 2 S. 3:20)".

In case anyone doubts that the alcoholic warming of the spirits is in view with the idea of wine gladdening the heart, look again at the last five passages (above). They clearly link this joy with alcoholic properties. Yet this spirit-gladdening effect, is something God has given as a gift to be enjoyed.

So once again, back to the passage at hand, the gladdening nature of wine (which we’ve shown Scripturally as referring to alcoholic properties of the fermented wine) is emphasized in the passage. That joy is going to be removed. And one last connection is Zechariah 9′s mention of a shouting associated with drunkenness, and the shouting mentioned in Isaiah 16. The shouting will stop. Drunkenness was a fact of what happened with that drink. Scripture warns against drunkenness, but it often speaks knowingly or comparatively of how a drunken person acts.

Consider three final points.

First, there are a few passages which speak clearly of alcoholic wine in one verse, and a few verses later wine is referred to in a positive light. Nothing indicates we should assume that the wine was different in the case of the alcoholic variety and the variety which is praised. In 1 Sam. 1:14, Eli tells Hannah to “put your wine away from [her ]“. But in vs. 24, Hannah brings wine with her on her trip back to Shiloh. Nothing indicates that the wine Hannah brought would be different than the wine Eli thought she was drinking earlier. In 1 Sam. 25:18, Abigail serves wine for David and his men, then later in verses 36-37 Nabal is drunk with wine. Nothing in the context would lead us to think the drink David and his men received was different from that which made Nabal drunk. The difference of course is Nabal immoderately drank the wine, whereas David and his men didn’t. Joel 1:5, 10 is another similar passage.

Second, Scripture clearly praises alcoholic wine. Isaiah 25:6 is definitely referring to alcoholic wine when it indicates that such wine will characterize the blessings of Christ’s future kingdom: “And in this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees. (NKJV) “. “Wines on the lees” is translated in most modern versions as “well-aged wine”.

Third, Nehemiah when describing what supplies were given to him as Judean governor, mentions all kinds of wines. Nothing indicates that he did not partake of them. And the context is one of approval, as he is writing inspired Scripture. Here is the passage: “Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people.” (Neh. 5:18 ) So if there is two kinds of wine, this passage indicates Nehemiah partook of both.

I think the preponderance of evidence is in favor of my conclusion - which the majority of the church down through the ages has also held to. That the moderate enjoyment of alcoholic drinks is something God has intended for our good.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Aaron,
Thanks. You have made some excellent points.

I find unsettling (and unbiblical) the view that says God Himself enjoys getting a little drunk.
The same for saying the Bible commends getting a little tipsy.
David R. Brumbelow

Bob Hayton's picture

Just for the record, I don't hold that Scripture says you can get a little tipsy or a little bit drunk. There are pleasant effects of wine that fall short of intoxication and drunkenness. It relaxes the body and uplifts the spirit. The passage in Judges about wine cheering both God and man is poetry and not to be taken literally - it is obviously anthropomorphic.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

On a personal note, Bob just became the father of a baby boy on Tuesday... James Patrick.
Congrats on that!
I haven't caught up on the comments so I'll get to those in a bit (just had a few minutes between classes)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I thought there might be a poetry angle on the "wine" still in the vat, etc., though I haven't read the case for that yet. So just an initial thought on that possibility: it seems strained to me because we know that "alcohol" was not a known or named substance. So the view of wine at the time would have been wholistic. They would have known from long experience that fruit of the vine acquires certain properties over time but would not have thought in terms of it containing a special ingredient that does those things.
So my contention is that "wine" as a term quite often means nothing more than the fruit of the vine, without reference to containing or not containing alcohol. If that's the case, the burden falls on the interpreter to show that in any particular passage the influence of what we know as "alcohol" is in view.

Bob, perhaps you have this in some of your other posts on the subject but I wonder if there is medical information on what is "intoxication" vs. what is not. I have zero experience with this (unless you count Nyquil) but it does seem significant to me that there's an ad series running (an Ad Council PSA maybe?) with the tagline "buzz driving is drunk driving." I find that interesting.
But the burning question to me is this: is there any clear difference between "feeling a bit happy due to the influence of alcohol" and "being partially intoxicated"?
I'm trying not to approach this on an emotional level. My gut tells me it's perilous to say "I should drink in order to feel happy" and at the same time try to firmly reject "drunkenness." Maybe you can help "my gut" be better informed?

But I do want to focus on what sort of exegetical basis we have for the idea that the influence of alc. in wine is integral to its blessing.
Along those lines, the Isaiah passage about "lees" is one I want to look into more.

But the other passages... no quantity of passages that clearly describe drunkenness can establish the idea that all references to gladness and wine are references to the influence of alcohol. The reasoning isn't valid.

dmicah's picture

Quote:
If that's the case, the burden falls on the interpreter to show that in any particular passage the influence of what we know as "alcohol" is in view.

Aaron, I disagree here. Shouldn't the burden be on your position to show it's not alcoholic. It seems kind of strained to argue that the joy of wine is in the harvest of the fruit. Isn't the better hermeneutical principle to simply accept what is being said rather than read into it?

If i told you I bought a new TV for my house, and you asked me, "Is it real or fake?" I would not understand your question. And then you would say, "Well you might have purchased one of those fake flat panels like they use to demonstrate furniture at retail stores." Then I would say, "You're a weirdo." Smile

I generally am not required to define that I purchased a working television that produces images and sound to convey that I bought a real television. Your're response might be, "But you could have bought a flat panel, or an LCD for your office, or a tube. And that needs to be defined." But I would say, "Yes, but you know what a TV is, I am only defining the type." So in the case of wine (subtle play on words), it inherently has physiological effects on the body. It can make you warm, happy, tipsy and then intoxicated. God seems to offer blessing on the warm and happy. As with all of God's good gifts, it is their abuse, not their presence, that is problematic.

In the spirit of this good natured debate, I offer the following product to assist us in the process:The Biblo-Sensor Every pastor, and a few hard-nosed deacons, will be issued one. Use as necessary. Instead of giving a numerical readout of blood alcohol content, it will display one of the following five statuses:

    Biblically Warm
    Sufficiently Gladdened
    Edge of Grace
    Violator
    Invoke Church Discipline

[img ]http://www.alcopro.com/mm5/graphics/00000001/alcolll.jpg[/img ]

Mike Harding's picture

Scriptural Warnings & Prohibitions for Wine and Strong Drink

1. The first drunkenness and the attendant improper behavior. --Gen. 9:20-26
2. Drinking results in Lot’s debauchery of his own daughters. --Gen. 19:30-38
3. Isaac was drinking when he mistakenly blessed Jacob. --Gen. 27:25
4. An express command for the Levitical priesthood not to drink while performing their service. --Lev. 10:9
5. The vow of the Nazarite. --Num. 6:3
6. Drinking leads to stubbornness, rebellion, and brings dishonor to parents.--Deut. 21:20
7. Abstinence was essential for Israel in the wilderness wanderings. --Deut. 29:2-6
8. Samson’s mother was commanded not to drink.--Judg. 13:4, 7, 14
9. Hannah, an example of motherhood, is commended as an abstainer. --I Sam. 1:14-15
10. Nabal, died after a drunken spree, after he already lost his wife’s respect.--I Sam. 25:33; 36:38
11. Only by strong drink could David lead Uriah into a fatal trap. --II Sam. 11:13
12. Amnon, in a drunken brawl, was murdered by his brother Absalom. --II Sam. 13:28-29
13. While a king was "drinking himself drunk,” one of his captains slew him. 1Kings 16:8-10
14. While Ben Hadad and 32 other Kings were drinking in their pavilions, a small band of Israel’s men fell upon them and put them to flight. --I Kings 20:13-21
15. King Ahasuerus drunkenly tried to subject his queen to the gaze of inebriated
nobles, causing the wreck of home and separation of the husband and wife. Esther 1:5-22
16. Violence results from drinking. --Pr. 4:17
17. No wise men will indulge. --Pr. 20:1
18. Drink leads to poverty. --Pr. 21:17, 23:21
19. The body rebels after drinking. --Pr. 23:7-8
20. Strong drink produces sorrow, contentions, wounds without cause, babblings, redness of eyes. --Pr. 23:29-30
21. Do not be tempted by intoxicants. --Pr. 23:31
22. God’s Word warns that alcohol eventually harms those who drink. --Pr. 23:32
23. It produces a willfulness and prevents reformation. --Pr. 22:23
24. It fills men’s minds with adulterous and impure thoughts. --Pr. 23:33
25. It brings on insecurity. --Pr. 23:34
26. Insensibility follows drinking --Pr. 23:35
27. Habit forming. One drink tends to call for another. --Pr. 23:35
28. Kings and all other rulers or officials with the weight of human lives in their control should not imbibe while in the capacity of service. --Pr. 31:4-5
29. The sanctions for the use of strong drink were as a medicine or anesthetic for the dying. --Pr. 31:6-7
30. Blessings are promised to the temperate nations. --Eccl. 10:17
31. More woes to them who drink. --Isa. 5:22
32. Drinking and carnality go together. Leaves men hopeless. --Isa. 22:13 33. Drink is bitter to them that drink it. --Isa. 24:9
34. Woe to the drunkards of Ephraim. --Isa. 28:1
35. The pride of drunkards will be trodden down. --Isa. 28:3
36. Prophets and priests erred through drink. --Isa. 28:7
37. Those who drink are set aside as useless. --Isa. 28:7
38. Prophets and priests finally swallowed up by drink. --Isa. 28:7
39. Drinking brings on spiritual blindness. --Isa. 28:7
40. Rebuke to drinking watchmen. --Isa. 56:9-12
41. Total abstinence of the Rechabites cited as example of obedience on the part of God’s people. --Jer. 35:5, 6, 8, 14
42. Priests are not to drink wine in their service to God. --Ezek. 44:21
43. God honored Daniel because he abstained from the King’s wine which had been offered to idols. --Dan. 1:5, 8, 16; 10:3
44. Belshazar was an example of a foolish leader who drank and taught his people to drink. --Dan. 5:1-28
45. Hosea’s wife was induced by drink. --Hos. 3:1
46. Strong drink and immorality are closely associated. --Hos. 4:11
47. Kings and people reproved because of drinking. --Hos. 7:5
48. Young virtue sold for the price of drink. --Joel 3:3
49. Sinful men use drink to pollute the innocent. --Amos 2:12
50. Dissolute women, oppressors of the poor, demand their intoxicants. --Amos 4:1
51. Self-indulgent drinkers not concerned about God nor the welfare of others. --Amos 6:6
52. Drunkards to be destroyed. --Nah. 1:10
52. Arrogance inflamed by drink. --Hab. 2:5
53. Wrong to give one’s neighbor drink so they are drunk. --Hab. 2:15
54. Drink leads to shame and humiliation. --Hab. 2:16
55. Drunkards warned about the return of Christ and judgment. --Matt. 24:48-51
56. Greatness of John the Baptist in part is linked with his total abstinence. --Luke 1:15
57. Christ warns against being enmeshed in drink. --Luke 12:45
58. Warning against drunkenness and the cares of this life, keeping one occupied to the exclusion of the Spirit. --Luke 21:34
59. All are admonished to walk honestly, not in rioting and drunkenness. --Rom. 13:13
60. Drinking wine may cause a brother to stumble. Importance of example. --Rom. 14:21
61. No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God. --I Cor. 6:10
62. The Lord’s Supper does not demand intoxicating wine. The word “wine” is not used. Instead all accounts say “the cup or “fruit of the vine.” God severely chastised those who abused wine at the Lord’s Table. --I Cor. 11:25
63. Revelers in drunkenness shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. --Gal. 5:21
64. Direct command that sanctification shall be of the Spirit and not by wine. --Eph. 5:18
65. Church officers must not be “beside wine” (paroinos). --I Tim. 3:3, 8, 11, 12

Scriptural Affirmations

1. Wine (and strong drink) commanded to be used in sacrifices as a drink offering poured out and in the sacrificial meal. -- Ex. 29:40; Lev. 23:13; Num. 15:5,10; 28:7,14;Deut. 14:22-26. Though the OT usually condemns strong drink, it could be used for medicinal purposes or possibly be diluted for consumption purposes. Here, it is more likely part of one’s offering unto God and subsequently used as a libation offering.

2. Wine "makes glad the heart of man." --Ps. 104:14-15. Wine as opposed to plain water or warm milk caused one to rejoice. It was viewed as God’s blessing. However, this is not a reference to the inebriating effects of alcohol. It may be questioned whether in these verses wine is commended because of this lift or if the verses use the freedom from inhibition as a symbol of plenty and blessing-cf. Nathan's reference to David's polygamy as a symbol of God's giving him great riches (2Sam 12:8). Technically, God gave grapes. Man makes wine from the grapes and strong drink from other fruits and grains.

3. Wine & strong drink are medically useful for healing wounds, digestive disorders, exhaustion in the desert, the heavy hearted & those "ready to perish." – Luke 10:34; 1 Tim 5:23; 2 Sam 16:2, Prov. 31:6-7

4. Wine is a part of the future feasting in Christ's Kingdom. --Isa. 25:6-9; Jer. 31:12-14; Matt. 26:29 (During the millennium the earth will be in a semi-Edenic state which may affect the process of fermentation.)

5. The Lord Jesus Christ miraculously created wine for a marriage feast. This wine was deemed “good” by the headmaster of the feast (John 2:10). Christ commanded the containers to first be filled with water thus eliminating any possibility of the concept of an undiluted wine. Second, the wine was fresh. (cf. John. MacArthur’s rather thorough treatment in his Ephesians commentary [5:18a ])

Pastor Mike Harding

Shaynus's picture

Aaron,

I do think experience with wine would help you answer this question.

Quote:
But the burning question to me is this: is there any clear difference between "feeling a bit happy due to the influence of alcohol" and "being partially intoxicated"?

Absolutely. A good way I can describe the buzz vs. a bit happy. Is like the difference between having 4 Venti Starbucks coffees (buzzed if not drunk with coffee), and one nice Grande or Tall Starbucks. You just feel a little pleasant. Warmth may be a good way to describe it. I do generally drink wine, and not so much the beer or liquor. But I try to nearly always pair it with food. Food, there's another way of describing it. It's like having a bowl of hot soup. There is a pleasantness that comes from wine or coffee or food that doesn't have to be sin. I think Christians treat substances like kryptonite, when they really need to quit chasing a feeling that coffee, food, or other things gives them. An obese baptist pastor warning of the dangers of alcohol should be looked at with some skepticism.

If I see someone strenuously arguing against alcoholic consumption and they a) never have consumed any at all and/or b) only have experience of seeing family members or friends drink copious amounts of rotgut moonshine or college beer bashes. Along with any good wish to drink wine, one must consider the culture he's in. Does one want to emulate a French, Greek or Italian culture where it's normal to have a table wine with a nice pasta and salted fish? Or does one want to be a Russian soaked in vodka to pass a long winter in a constant haze. For the college students, rednecks and Russians, drunkenness is the point of the whole thing. I think our Lord was in the former type of Mediterranean culture where drunkenness is more of a shame than a virtue. There is a type of "drinking culture" that has it more biblically right. Knowing the habits of other cultures in this area is really helpful.

dmicah's picture

Mike,

That is a very extensive list of negatives about wine. and I think your point is well taken. Alcoholic beverages can create serious issues. But couldn't you also take another hot-button & culturally charged subject, say, sex, and create a similar biblical list of sinful activities resulting from it?

We KNOW without a doubt God provides humans the opportunities to experience sexual activity. But it is only blessed within the parameters of monogamous heterosexual covenant unions. And such with wine. Within parameters, it's a great blessing. Outside of those parameters, expect discipline, judgment and harsh repercussions.

mp

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
Aaron, I disagree here. Shouldn't the burden be on your position to show it's not alcoholic.

I think you misunderstand my position. I'm not arguing for nonalchoholic wine but rather arguing against assigning the virtues of "wine" to one of its ingredients (and a nonessential one at that)

Let me put it this way. "Wine" also contains fructose. Can we look at verses that laud the blessing of "wine" and conclude "the blessing comes from the effect of the fructose"?
Sugar makes people happy, too after all.... (and never makes them drunk, but that's a tangent)

So what I'm saying is that it isn't valid to take any single ingredient in "wine" and define it as the specific subject of passages that talk about "wine" unless there is something in the context to tell us it's about that particular ingredient and it's specific effects.

Wine also has water in it and if you're really thirsty, water makes you plenty happy. Should we go to verses about the joy wine brings and argue that it's the unique properties of water that are being praised? It wouldn't be valid--and in this case, water is impossible to remove from wine and still have wine. Alcohol, on the other hand, develops in wine after it is produced. So the reasoning is even weaker to single out alcohol as the ingredient that makes wine a joy to consume (in the sense that the positive passages describe).

The view I'm asserting here is that though people nearly always drank wine with alcohol in it, attributing wine's gladness specifically to alcohol isn't warranted by the Scriptures involved.

(Why this matters...and why some are reluctant to concede it: it weakens the case for drinking fermented grape juice today when we can easily avoid that.)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Aaron2: So you're saying that the blessings of "wine" refer to the whole and no particular part?
Aaron1: That sounds about right.
A2: Then if any of the parts of wine are missing, wouldn't that mean it's no longer the blessing it was--because you no longer have "the whole" substance?
A1: You'd think so, wouldn't you?
A2: You're stalling. What's your answer.
A1: Sorry. I was playing a little Rob Bell game there. OK, my answer is no. The reason lies in the difference between essential and non-essential attributes.
A2: Mumbo jumbo.
A1: Let me explain. Growing up, we had two apple trees in the yard. In June or July, we would pick green apples off the tree and eat them salted. Believe it or not, we found this treat delightful, refreshing and tasty. Our mother was OK with it because we didn't usually eat enough of them to get sick and apples are good for you. In August or Sep, we picked red apples off the tree and ate them ripe.
So were the apples still apples before they were ripe? Ripeness made some real changes. Whatever ingredient makes the skin red increased dramatically. And the taste was quite a bit sweeter so there was more of some kind of sugar.
So are redness and higher levels of sugar essential attributes of "apple"? Their absence does not make the apple a non-apple.
If, as we're sitting and having red apples together, someone says "Nothing quite as refreshing as an apple on a late summer day." Is he saying that only ripe apples can refresh or that green apples are not really apples?

A2: I don't see the connection.
A1: If we have biblical evidence that "wine" is still "wine" in the press, the vat and in the grape, is it not wine, not gladdening and not refreshing, if we drink it sans alcohol? I don't see any problem with identifying its blessedness with its essential attributes rather than assigning it exclusively to attributes that are only present when it's "really ripe."

Shaynus's picture

Heh. I have a police officer friend who charged and convicted a man for DUI. The culprit drink? Water. The man had just finished a marathon, then drank a lot of water at once. The effect was intoxication. Since the man was an experienced runner, he should have known it. I wish we wouldn't focus so much on ingredients, and look at effects.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Shaynus wrote:
Heh. I have a police officer friend who charged and convicted a man for DUI. The culprit drink? Water. The man had just finished a marathon, then drank a lot of water at once. The effect was intoxication. Since the man was an experienced runner, he should have known it. I wish we wouldn't focus so much on ingredients, and look at effects.

It's not clear to me how that would change anything. Maybe you can elaborate?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Shaynus wrote:
Heh. I have a police officer friend who charged and convicted a man for DUI. The culprit drink? Water. The man had just finished a marathon, then drank a lot of water at once. The effect was intoxication. Since the man was an experienced runner, he should have known it. I wish we wouldn't focus so much on ingredients, and look at effects.

Oh yeah- and that happens nearly every day. They have water checkpoints around here during the summer because so many people drink too much water and go barreling riotously around the neighborhood. And you what the Bible says about drinking too much water...

http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-confused002.gif[/img ]

I'm not buying the argument that alcohol is just like water or tacos or ice cream. Of course you can abuse various substances, but there is no mistaking that alcohol has properties that the Bible warns us about, and that our society understands and therefore places legal controls over it.

dmicah's picture

OK Aaron, I gotcha on your point. One quote

Quote:
The view I'm asserting here is that though people nearly always drank wine with alcohol in it, attributing wine's gladness specifically to alcohol isn't warranted by the Scriptures involved.

I counter this with Paul's argument about hair in 1 Cor 11. He said, "Doesn't nature itself teach you if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace?" He didn't give any basis for nature. He didn't expound on nature. He just threw it out there as if we knew what he meant. There is a basic assumption. In fact, if Paul showed up on SI with that argument, some people would be blasting it as inherently weak.

So when the Scriptures describe wine, we know what wine is because...it's wine. It's alcoholic components are part of its constitution. Water doesn't make the heart glad. Yes, when you're dying of thirst, lost in the desert (and this happens to me at least once a year), then finding water would gladden your heart. Fructose can make the heart glad, but it's not the reason people reached for the bottle. I don't think Scripture needs to certify what wine's qualities are for us to understand the meaning of the Scripture. But I understand your point and appreciate your position.

And I want to unabashedly say that my acceptation of alcoholic beverages as biblical doesn't mean I think it's ok to blur the lines between a party lifestyle, to drink a lot without getting "drunk", and under many circumstances to drink in public.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Do a search for 'bread' in Scripture- it also gladdens and strengthens the heart.

Shaynus's picture

So instead of worrying about the exact contents of which sort of biblical wine one finds in scripture, I'd rather look at the substance (wine, beer, apples, coffee, pork, whatever) and ask what it will do to me in this time an circumstance and amounts.

I take the "be not drunk with wine wherein is excess" as archetypal for all kinds of things that could impair me that are distortions, excesses or misuses of legitimate creation. Paul could have easily said "refrain from drinking wine because it might lead you to excess" but he didn't. He wouldn't have it so easy on our hearts. I can chase after improper satisfaction in bacon as much as beaujolais. I can have excess and even impairment of judgement because I've eaten too much, or not rested enough. A lifestyle of excess will not lead to a filling of the Spirit. People can tell themselves that "I don't drink this, or do that, or go there" to the point that they're blind to really think about their hearts. They shortcut to practices. I'm definitely not accusing anyone here of that, but it's a tendency that we can all fall into.

Does that help?

A little off topic, but not much is the idea that God isn't concerned about what we eat or drink as our hearts. Here's an interesting take from Doug Wilson.

http://vimeo.com/12864307

Barry L.'s picture

Even though I feel Christians should abstain, I don't think we can argue against the fact the "wine" referred to in "maketh the heart glad" was free of alcohol. I don't know of people noting their happiness after drinking just grape juice. Now, there was consumption of grape juice over water out of necessity because of sanitary reasons, but I don't think it was a celebratory event.

I do, however, feel with the negative effect of alcohol listed in the Bible, and the bain it is on world's society today, Paul's calls for us to not be a stumblingblock screams to us Christians when thinking about alcohol consumption. If that passage doesn't apply here, what area would it apply?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Barry L. wrote:
Even though I feel Christians should abstain, I don't think we can argue against the fact the "wine" referred to in "maketh the heart glad" was free of alcohol.

I mentioned in the other thread that bread is also said to comfort the heart, strengthen the heart, be eaten with joy and gladness... why the insistence that being happy in association with wine automatically means being buzzed? One could be happy for sustenance, fruitful vines, health benefits... one does not have to be feeling the effects of alcohol to be comforted.

Lee's picture

Barry L. wrote:
...I don't know of people noting their happiness after drinking just grape juice. ...

Can't speak to grape juice, but I and a plethora of others in my acquaintance note our happiness (translate: sing the praises of) a good glass of cold sweet tea on a hot summer's day quite often. :bigsmile:

Lee

Shaynus's picture

Susan R wrote:
Shaynus wrote:
Heh. I have a police officer friend who charged and convicted a man for DUI. The culprit drink? Water. The man had just finished a marathon, then drank a lot of water at once. The effect was intoxication. Since the man was an experienced runner, he should have known it. I wish we wouldn't focus so much on ingredients, and look at effects.

Oh yeah- and that happens nearly every day. They have water checkpoints around here during the summer because so many people drink too much water and go barreling riotously around the neighborhood. And you what the Bible says about drinking too much water...

http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-confused002.gif[/img ]

I'm not buying the argument that alcohol is just like water or tacos or ice cream. Of course you can abuse various substances, but there is no mistaking that alcohol has properties that the Bible warns us about, and that our society understands and therefore places legal controls over it.

It's not just like tacos or ice cream or water, but if one wants to tell someone that they may not ever have a glass of wine with dinner my point is that the effect of a glass of wine IS comparable to other things we commonly consume in terms of effects. We don't move to ban or control coffee, but if we did the nation would be an absolute wreak for a few weeks. Wink

Shaynus's picture

Susan R wrote:
Barry L. wrote:
Even though I feel Christians should abstain, I don't think we can argue against the fact the "wine" referred to in "maketh the heart glad" was free of alcohol.

I mentioned in the other thread that bread is also said to comfort the heart, strengthen the heart, be eaten with joy and gladness... why the insistence that being happy in association with wine automatically means being buzzed? One could be happy for sustenance, fruitful vines, health benefits... one does not have to be feeling the effects of alcohol to be comforted.

That's the thing Susan, there is a gladness wine can well short of being buzzed.

ChrisC's picture

hope this isn't too off-topic

dmicah wrote:
I counter this with Paul's argument about hair in 1 Cor 11. He said, "Doesn't nature itself teach you if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace?" He didn't give any basis for nature. He didn't expound on nature. He just threw it out there as if we knew what he meant. There is a basic assumption. In fact, if Paul showed up on SI with that argument, some people would be blasting it as inherently weak.
in fact, this spawns all kinds of interesting discussion even in the scholarly realm like:
  • Martin, Troy W. (2004). "Paul's Argument from Nature for the Veil in 1 Corinthians 11:13–15: A Testicle Instead of a Head Covering". Journal of Biblical Literature. 123 (1): 75–84.
  • Goodacre, Mark (2011), "Does περιβόλαιоν Mean 'Testicle' in 1 Corinthians 11:15?". Journal of Biblical Literature. 130 (2): 391–6.

google will reward you with various places for downloading unofficial copies of these opposing viewpoints, but the synthesis is that the argument rests on some kind of commonly accepted ancient conceptions of the function of hair and proper decorum.

Bob Hayton's picture

I'm going to try to dial us back to my primary argument, if I may. I'm also going to try to spell this out in as clear a manner as possible.

Proposition 1: Scripture connects drunkenness with "making merry", having "merry hearts" and "shouts of joy".

Scriptures that illustrate this: Judges 16:25, 1 Sam. 25:36, 2 Sam. 13:28, Esther 1:10, Eccl. 2:3, Jeremiah 51:39, Zech. 10:7. Note especially 1 Sam. 25:36: "Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk" (emphasis added)

Proposition 2: Scripture praises wine for its ability to give joy (without any disclaimer that certain levels of enjoyment and heights of happiness are out of bounds).

Scriptures that illustrate this: Judges 9:13, Ps. 104:15, Eccl. 9:7, Eccl. 10:19, (and other references that fit in with the 8 points I originally made, see the list in Aaron's post).

Conclusion: The nature of wine that makes it able to produce joy (i.e. the intoxicating effects of wine as a substance), is a God-ordained, good thing.

I would argue that other elements that are said to give joy (twice I believe bread is mentioned in this contect, Eccl. 9:7 and 1 Kings 21:7, other instances are "oil of gladness" and perfume or a wise son) are used in a generic way not innately tied to the nature of the substance. But with wine, its very nature makes it such that when we think of feasting and merriment - we think of wine. There's a reason for that - again the word for feasting is literally "drinking". The word for "banquet house" is literally "drinking house".

I could go on and talk about many of the verses that Mike Harding listed above. I don't disagree that drunkenness brings problems and is evil and wrong. But some of the passages adduced to illustrate that fall short. I get peeved when Hab. 2:15 is used in discussions like this saying giving your neighbor wine is a sin. The entire context is that you are giving him wine in order to get him drunk in order to then see his nakedness. That is a sin, for sure. But it illustrates the point that we have to look at the context here. Deut. 14:26 for example, is not some libation offering we pour out before God - instead we are to consume strong drink joyfully before the Lord as part of our feasting before him. Or at least that is given as one valid option among many in our celebration.

But as we are celebrating the birth of our first baby boy (he has five excited sisters), I will let this go. I've discussed objections and counter agruments at length in the comments on my blog for the 9 posts I've done on this. I also have been around the block a few times here on SI on such discussions. There are valid counter arguments. But yes, we do have to take care for weaker brothers and be fully convinced in our own minds. But the answer for taking care of weaker brothers may vary with the particulars of the situation. Enjoying a glass of wine in thankfulness to the God who made it for our good, and doing so in the privacy of my own home with no intent to get drunk and no condoning of a sinful drunken party lifestyle - that does not have to become a stumbling block to a brother. Even so, I don't want to flaunt my liberty needlessly - that can damage others.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

JNoël's picture

I haven't seen anyone discuss the fact that since the 16th and 17th centuries wines are now fortified, which artificially increases their alcohol content dramatically. Natural fermentation can only yield single-digit percentages of alcohol before the beverage becomes unpalatable - unenjoyable: certainly not something to make one merry or to life the spirit. So unless those of you who approve of alcoholic oinos consumption are only drinking a shot glass full of it, you are probably drinking what God considers in excess.

Personally, I can't imagine why a Christian would help support an industry that is responsible for the vast majority of domestic violence, automobile accidents/fatalities, and lifelong addiction problems. We can debate what we think the passages mean all day long. The simple fact is 21st century "wine" is completely different from naturally fermented "wine" and Christians should always be under the control of the Holy Spirit, not affected physiologically by any substance, whether legal or illegal.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Shaynus's picture

Single digits is beer. Do you exempt beer from your wine criticism? Wine simply isn't the major cause of alcohol problems. It's mostly the liquor.

Bob Hayton's picture

JNoël wrote:
I haven't seen anyone discuss the fact that since the 16th and 17th centuries wines are now fortified, which artificially increases their alcohol content dramatically. Natural fermentation can only yield single-digit percentages of alcohol before the beverage becomes unpalatable - unenjoyable: certainly not something to make one merry or to life the spirit. So unless those of you who approve of alcoholic oinos consumption are only drinking a shot glass full of it, you are probably drinking what God considers in excess.

Personally, I can't imagine why a Christian would help support an industry that is responsible for the vast majority of domestic violence, automobile accidents/fatalities, and lifelong addiction problems. We can debate what we think the passages mean all day long. The simple fact is 21st century "wine" is completely different from naturally fermented "wine" and Christians should always be under the control of the Holy Spirit, not affected physiologically by any substance, whether legal or illegal.

I fail to understand how this applies to this whole question. With the fermentation available to those in Bible times, they apparently were not able to make themselves merry or give life to the spirit? What about all the problems that drunkenness brought as chronicled by Mike H. in http://sharperiron.org/comment/41648#comment-41648 ]his comment ? The smaller digits of alcoholic content still had plenty of negative damage available.

The problem is degree not kind. Today it is easier to get drunk than it was before the 1600s. I grant that. The question is whether or not in principle, the enjoyment of drinks containing alcohol is forbidden to Christians. Is forbidding alcoholic drinks the only way to prevent us from drinking too much? Again examples of food and sex have been given above. No. We can keep limits and boundaries around our partaking of such substances. I speak from experience and my wife can attest that I've never been drunk. But I have enjoyed these kinds of drinks in moderation - and received the benefit of an uplifted spirit and relaxed body. God created this substance and designed it to ferment as it does. And he calls his creation good. Grapes begin the fermentation process naturally after being picked, having yeast naturally growing on them and plenty of sugar and availability of heat (as Noah's example attests to).

This kind of response comes form those not familiar with drinking. But there is a built in safe-guard in the practice (that is obviously flaunted and ignored by the unrighteous). There is a 2 oz. sized glass for hard liquor (alcohol percentages of 20-40%), a 6 oz. glass for wine (alcohol percentages today ranging from 9-13%), and a 12 oz. mug for beer (alcohol percentages from 3.2%-7%). Each glass or cup is roughly equivalent with one another in the punch that it packs - and this will vary by body type and constitution.

All of this is to say that whatever the percentage was back then (and the data I've read says it was between 4 and 8% or so), it was enough to get drunk on (and thus also enough to enjoy without getting drunk on). The same applies today but there is need for more caution.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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