A Wisdom Case for Total Abstinence from Alcohol in Modern Times

In my view, the Bible is just ambiguous enough on the topic of beverage alcohol to put the question in the category of matters of conscience. But matters of conscience are not matters to “leave alone;” they’re not excluded from the call to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Heb. 10:24).

These issues call for respectful challenging of one another’s assumptions — and for pondering the path of our feet (Prov. 4:26).

So, I offer here a few thoughts, mainly with two groups of people in mind: those who are trying to decide what sort of stand they ought to make in their own lives, and those who are looking for ways to communicate a no-drinking position to others they care about.

I’m aware that most of the moderate-consumption advocates I know won’t find this at all persuasive, so in that sense, it’s not an entry in “the debate.” But in another sense, it is: some of the undecided and open minded may find something here that bears fruit later on.

Some framing

A strong wisdom case begins by pointing out a few facts and dismissing some distractions. For brevity’s sake here, just the facts.

  • Relative to today, people in Bible times had fewer beverage options; it was harder (maybe impossible) to avoid fermented beverages entirely, even if you wanted to.
  • In ancient times, wine was not normally fortified with alcohol as it often is today (more on this practice at winespectator.om, and winecoolerdirect.com, eater.com and of course Wikipedia).
  • If not before, certainly after the rise of Greek culture, wine was routinely diluted with water (NY Times, Wikipedia), often to the point that the mix was more water than wine (winespectator.com, “Wine and Rome.”)

Along with these background facts, a few logically obvious points are often lost in the fray in discussions on this topic.

  • Not everyone who ever got drunk started out with the intention of getting drunk.
  • Nobody ever got drunk without a first drink.
  • Nobody ever got chemically addicted to alcohol with the intention of getting addicted to alcohol.
  • More than 10,000 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in the U.S. in 2016 (“It’s Not an ‘Accident,’ It’s a Crime.” Sheriff & Deputy, March/April 2018). Nobody who ever drove drunk and killed someone had their first drink that night with a DUI crash fatality as their goal.

I could go on like this for some time, talking about cheating lovers, domestic violence, and all sorts of other alcohol induced or aggravated crimes. To many of us, these facts alone point to some obvious conclusions. But they’re just background lighting for a biblical wisdom case against beverage alcohol.

The argument from wisdom

For various reasons, a “wisdom case” against beverage alcohol consumption tries to avoid the argument that Scripture directly forbids beverage alcohol or that Jesus and the apostles drank only non-alcoholic wine.

The wisdom case I’ve taught in various venues goes like this:

1 Believers must be wise stewards.

A few passages help bring well-known principle into fresh focus.

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (ESV, Matthew 10:16)

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (1 Cor. 4:2)

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. (Prov. 4:7)

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Rom. 14:12)

The “so what” of this principle is that if a course of action is dumb, we shouldn’t do it. If there’s a smarter option, we should do that instead. It’s good stewardship.

2 We are called to keep our minds sharp.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, (Titus 2:1-2)

For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober … (1 Thess. 5:5–8)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Pet. 5:8)

These passages add up to strong direction to avoid anything that is likely to compromise our ability to stay sharp in tempting times.

3 Beverage alcohol poses dangers to both wise stewardship and sharp-mindedness.

The Bible’s warning passages in reference to “wine” and “strong drink” are well known, and it’s commonly claimed that they refer only to drunkenness and not to having the occasional drink. But as noted above, it’s really not rational to propose a complete non-relationship between drunkenness and “one drink.” You can’t have the former without the latter. They’re connected.

Since many get drunk without starting out with that goal, it’s absurd to claim that a single drink poses no risk at all of leading to drunkenness.

The likelihood may be low, but the stakes are high.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. 31 Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. 32 In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. 33 Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. 34 You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. 35 “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.” (Prov. 23:29–35)

To this and similar passages, we should add the humiliation of Noah (Gen. 9:20-26) and the degradation of Lot (Gen. 19:30-38). It’s significant that the first occurrence of “wine” in the Bible is a story of tragic family consequences. Did either of these men sit down with a mug that day thinking, “I believe I’ll get drunk now and do something ruinous”?

4 Avoiding pointless hazards is wise.

There is no risk-free living. Driving to work every day is a risky activity — but so is farming the back forty. We take these risks because they’re unavoidable and because the potential gain is worth the degree of risk involved. But acts with a high risk and low potential are just stupid, and recklessness is not a fruit of the Spirit!

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. (Prov. 22:3)

Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead. (Prov. 15:21)

When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord. (Prov. 19:3)

In our culture, we’d say the fool “gets it.” You have to enjoy life. Cut loose and have a good time … and it’s God’s fault when things go horribly wrong.

5 We should seek every advantage for successful competition.

Olympic athletes have a distinctive way of arranging their lives in pursuit of success. Their personal discipline amazes. They take advantage of every tiny detail of posture, clothing, or gear that might gain them a performance edge. Mostly, we respect that. They’re competing at the highest level.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:24–27)

Every Christian is called to Olympic-level godliness –- elite uprightness of character. Few can claim to have achieved that, but the pursuit is supposed to be where we live every day.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Heb. 12:1)

If there is spiritual advantage in total abstinence, shouldn’t we be eager to seize that advantage?

Avoiding fermented beverages wasn’t easy in ancient times. There is little evidence that most bothered to even try. But in our times, tee-totaling is easy. Alcohol is a much-to-risk and almost nothing to gain scenario, and abstaining is a negligible sacrifice with a significant benefit. Wasting that opportunity is simply not wise.

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There are 211 Comments

Bert Perry's picture

I dunno, Darrell,  Seems to me that I know a young man with a thyroid condition who's doing quite well because he went to the doctor and started taking his medication.  Maybe that's an impossible condition in your view, but honestly...

And reality is that every time one of you guys mentions "difficult cases", what comes to mind for me is the 95% plus of cases of obesity where there isn't any underlying physical problem for the obese except a tendency to put too much food down the 'ol pie hole while not getting exercise.  

It's a dodge, and a pretty pathetic one in my view too.  You've got 1/2 to 2/3 of most congregations overweight and obese, with 600,000 people dying from the consequences each year, and all you can do is say "we need to prevent Christians from enjoying a glass of wine because somewhere, somehow, someone might accidentally get drunk and get hurt."  And when people who have enjoyed wine responsibly tell you exactly why that's extremely unlikely, you ignore it.

If you wonder why pastors often don't preach the full counsel of God, and why you get hedging on things that are brutally affecting Christians, re-read this thread.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Darrell Post's picture

Bert,

Some people do lack self-control with their knife and fork--I never said otherwise. My point is that anyone who would preach on this topic had better be well-informed, understand medical conditions and approach this stewardship issue biblically. Paint with a broad brush from your pulpit and you will literally crush someone who already suffers from the shame of excess weight--someone who longs to be shed of it, but whose health condition and broken body prevents them from getting there--and then you stand in the pulpit and add the weight of them being guilty of the sin of gluttony and you will crush them.

 

 

 

JNoël's picture

Bert,

I assume all of the members in your church are thin, correct? Because, based on statements you have made in this thread, everyone who isn't is living in sin and are therefore subject to church discipline.

I'm curious to learn how the principles of gluttony as you interpret them are scripturally applied in your church. Can you share?

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)

Lee's picture

May I humbly suggest that we are defining biblical gluttony almost exclusively on the current American/western viewpoint of acceptable/unacceptable body image?  Frankly, beyond being a ridiculous assumption, the current emphasis on body image in the good 'ol USA is knocking hard on the door of being a cultural idolatry.  

Lee

Ron Bean's picture

A 44 inch waist on a six foot man is not a "body image" problem, it's a medically diagnosed and proven health problem.

If a doctor diagnoses your obesity is the result of an actual glandular problem for which you are not responsible, that's understandable. Just don't make excuses for yourself. Your bones aren't that big and the only glandular problem you have is your elbow gland.

Now let's get back to the OP and admit that alcohol is a wisdom issue but being overweight is as harmful to the human body as cigarettes and probably more so.

I think I'll have some raw kale for a snack!

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

JNoël's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Now let's get back to the OP and admit that alcohol is a wisdom issue but being overweight is as harmful to the human body as cigarettes and probably more so.

I, for one, am very pleased to see you come to agree that alcohol is a wisdom issue - it is unwise to consume it!  Wink

I will not concede, however, that a) being overweight = sin of gluttony or that b) it is as harmful to the human body as cigarettes.

On that note, you should do a study to find out which is more detrimental to society (to the individual and to others combined) - tobacco products or alcohol. You may be surprised to find the latter easily outranks tobacco use problems. Interestingly, the Bible doesn't specifically warn against smoking but it certainly does warn, in very strong terms, against alcohol. Kind of difficult to get around those warnings, brother, and I just can't for the life of me figure out why you insist on claiming God blesses something and give strong caution against it.

 

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)

JD Miller's picture

Bert, I encourage you to do some in depth research on thyroid conditions if you start writing your article on gluttony.  Thyroid conditions can be the result of an overactive or an underactive thyroid, so just using the example of someone you know may not be the the whole story.  My wife's issues were also thyroid related.  Her thyroid was actually going from under to over active and back and forth.  She was actually undernourished and still gaining weight (most of it water, but some fat as well.  She had went from being on the lower end toward the higher end of the BMI recommendation).  Essentially because of the thyroid problem and other issues she could not get all the nutrients she needed from her food.  Sure, you can reduce calories to reduce fat, but if that kills you because you are undernourished that is not honoring to the temple of the Holy Spirit. 

We are praising God that we found someone who specializes in such things.  She is now taking a dietary and supplement approach.  This was not as simple as just going to a dietitian and finding a healthy recommendation.  Crystal has regular blood tests and checkups to keep things in line and she is at a healthy weight- even by your standards.  Most people do not even have access to the type of treatment she is getting because it is a new cutting edge approach.  Most would consider it alternative medicine, but it is actually coming out of one of the main hospitals in Sioux Falls, and there is a waiting line to get in. 

I am not suggesting that being overweight is not a sin issue for some people,  I am just concerned that we not paint with too broad a brush. 

Bert Perry's picture

.....maybe I've learned that with a degree of tweaking, either hyperthyroid or hypothyroid can be treated? Yes, there would be a few "corner cases", and perhaps your wife's was one of them, but....we're going to build theology off of corner cases?  Really?  

Well, I guess to be fair, that's exactly what the "wisdom" argument is for completely abstaining from alcohol instead of simply avoiding overindulgence, which is of course what Scripture actually says.  The argument is a corner case that a few moderate users might fall into drunkenness accidentally and have horrendous results.    No actual statistics are presented, of course, but it could happen.  Maybe.

Really, a lot of this debate bears a lot of similarity to Jason's absurd claim that more people die from alcohol than tobacco.   For alcohol--including the drunks that all parties here agree are sinning--it's 88000 per year from all causes, and for tobacco, 480,000 people die each year .  More or less, tobacco kills about half of those who ever smoked.  (come on, Jason, you can do better than this--this is a 30 second Google search)

And fine if you want to believe that associating obesity with gluttony is just cultural, but quite frankly this is not exactly something that started with Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda.  For that matter, look at Deuteronomy 32:15--Jesherun grew fat and rebelled.  Ahem.  And what was the sin of Sodom?  Look in Ezekiel 16:49; they were overfed, among other things.  What does Proverbs 30:9 say?  Huh, isn't excessive fat a sign of too much food?  

Sorry, guys, but you're arguing against Scripture here, both by arguing that we can be "wiser" than our Savior if we don't do what He did, and by arguing that gluttony is not something that we ought to be interested in.  Science and Scripture come together here.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Really, a lot of this debate bears a lot of similarity to Jason's absurd claim that more people die from alcohol than tobacco.   For alcohol--including the drunks that all parties here agree are sinning--it's 88000 per year from all causes, and for tobacco, 480,000 people die each year .  More or less, tobacco kills about half of those who ever smoked.  (come on, Jason, you can do better than this--this is a 30 second Google search)

Be careful, Bert - you put words into my mouth. I did not compare deaths, I compared which is more detrimental to society. I've never heard of domestic abuse or sexual assault associated with tobacco use, nor have I heard of a BTC (Blood Tobacco Content) level or experienced any MACSD (Mothers Against Cigarette Smoking and Driving) campaigns. I am in the Navy. Even the Navy is beginning to "get it" - that most sexual assault and abuse cases occur when someone is intoxicated...and they don't know what to do with it (drunken sailors, after all).

JNoël wrote:

On that note, you should do a study to find out which is more detrimental to society (to the individual and to others combined) - tobacco products or alcohol. 

........

Bert Perry wrote:

Sorry, guys, but you're arguing against Scripture here, both by arguing that we can be "wiser" than our Savior if we don't do what He did, and by arguing that gluttony is not something that we ought to be interested in.  Science and Scripture come together here.

Conjecture. You are assuming Jesus drank alcoholic wine.

And I am not arguing that gluttony is not something in which we should be interested.

 

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)

Larry's picture

Moderator

Huh, isn't excessive fat a sign of too much food?  

In the OT/ANE being fat was a sign of being rich or prosperous. It was not a sign of gluttony or sin.

So in Deut 30:9, it is an irony that Israel got fat off of God's blessing and then rebelled. Ezekiel 16:49 is about an excess of food due to prosperity (which is the very next phrase). Prov 30:9 references the well-known phenomenon of someone becoming prosperous and turning away from Lord because they no longer sense their need of him.

Besides you missed the classic reference in Amos 4:1 where wives are called "cows of Bashan," basking in their prosperity and demanding more of their husbands. No discussion of gluttony is complete until somebody's wife has been called a cow. 

Listen, failure to understand the Bible in its historical context leads to silly applications. We should condemn gluttony as the Bible does, but don't take an image of prosperity from God and make it an indicator of sin. People who are in impoverished states are thin because they are unhealthy, not because they are righteous with respect to the sin of gluttony. And let's not forget that genetics plays a major role, as does lifestyle, other health factors, etc.  

Frankly, all the stuff about food seems little more than a red herring, an attempt to draw away attention. Scripture does not warn about the intoxicating and altering affects of food the way it does about alcohol. It is simply bad exegesis and bad biblical application to pretend the two are the same. And that doesn't mean all drinking is sinful or that gluttony is acceptable. It simply recognizes that the Bible does not treat them the same.

We also should note again, as has been pointed out, that we are using modern categories of health to describe 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

An interesting pattern: quite a few police department policy manuals expressly forbid the consumption of any alcohol while on duty. Why don't they say "moderate consumption only while on duty"? Interesting, isn't it? These are not churches with a temperance movement legacy.

On sources of information: several have observed that there are many conflicting claims and it's near impossible to find accurate information on this topic. It really isn't. I recommend sources that do not have a dog in the fight as far as the Christian-living/church debate goes. ... which is why my article uses only sources that have no interest in that battle.

The rest is reasoning and biblical principle. It's not hard.

---

"Folks, the simple fact of the matter is that the words for gluttony and drunkenness are used together at least seven times in Scripture."

They are also used separately quite a few times. The logic of "appears together ergo must be preached together" doesn't follow. Lots of other things appear together that we do not preach together. It's called focus.

Ken S's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

An interesting pattern: quite a few police department policy manuals expressly forbid the consumption of any alcohol while on duty. Why don't they say "moderate consumption only while on duty"? Interesting, isn't it? These are not churches with a temperance movement legacy.

On sources of information: several have observed that there are many conflicting claims and it's near impossible to find accurate information on this topic. It really isn't. I recommend sources that do not have a dog in the fight as far as the Christian-living/church debate goes. ... which is why my article uses only sources that have no interest in that battle.

The rest is reasoning and biblical principle. It's not hard.

 

 

Hopefully not putting words in your mouth, but I read your article and comments and get the idea that you are setting this up as a Biblical mandate based on wisdom and reasoning. I could go along with that if the Bible never mentions alcohol in a positive light, but that is not the case. The Bible speaks of alcohol positively while also giving warnings about the abuse of it, so why could wisdom not be the careful use and not abuse of alcohol? If God truly wishes for no alcohol consumption in a modern world where it is not needed, why would he not restrict the positive mention of it in Scripture? When there are people who drink alcohol in moderation without getting drunk, and have done so for many years, and they are told that it is a wisdom issue that they should avoid alcohol, it does not compute with them...and I know many people like this, saved and unsaved alike.

 

Not to conflate yet another topic with this issue, but I don't look at alcohol as much different from sexual appetites. The Bible gives us healthy ways for sexual appetites to be expressed, and gives many warnings about all the problems that ensue when expressed in unhealthy/unbiblical ways. And the answer is not that wisdom requires us not to have sex except for procreation, it is to use the appetite in the way God intended as acceptable.

JNoël's picture

Ken S wrote:

The Bible speaks of alcohol positively

Does it? Or does it speak of oinos (or pick one of the other original language words that we translate into "wine") positively?

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)

Ken S's picture

JNoël wrote:

Does it? Or does it speak of oinos (or pick one of the other original language words that we translate into "wine") positively?

 

I guess that depends on whether you are a two-wine believer or not, and how you are able to arrive at determining which is which. I struggle with the "wine spoken positively=automatically means unfermented" and vice-versa position.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Does it? Or does it speak of oinos (or pick one of the other original language words that we translate into "wine") positively?

That's correct. It does not speak at all of the ingredient we call alcohol. There are some passages that speak of results that we today know are specifically from the alcohol. These are all negative (other than medicinal use). There are positive passages about the whole called "wine" but zero of these refer unambiguously to the part that is alcohol.

Part-whole fallacies are very common in writing on this topic.

Wikipedia and others refer to the error ad composition fallacy. 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_composition

Ken S's picture

I guess maybe I should add that I'm not completely denying the application of wisdom to this topic. It was mentioned earlier of some who struggled with alcohol and was encouraged by others in a new church setting to partake. That was a bad choice and unwise not only on the part of the person who fell back into alcoholism, but also those who encouraged him to partake knowing his background. Love and wisdom would have caused them to consider his weaknesses.

Ken S's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Does it? Or does it speak of oinos (or pick one of the other original language words that we translate into "wine") positively?

That's correct. It does not speak at all of the ingredient we call alcohol. There are some passages that speak of results that we today know are specifically from the alcohol. These are all negative (other than medicinal use). There are positive passages about the whole called "wine" but zero of these refer unambiguously to the part that is alcohol.

Part-whole fallacies are very common in writing on this topic. 

 

So am I to assume that the beverages mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:26 are non-alcoholic and that when Jesus was accused of being a winebibber that the wine he drank was non-alcoholic? 

JNoël's picture

Ken S wrote:

I guess that depends on whether you are a two-wine believer or not, and how you are able to arrive at determining which is which. I struggle with the "wine spoken positively=automatically means unfermented" and vice-versa position.

I agree. I think there's a legitimate challenge either way. Either we wrestle with the two-wines concept, or we wrestle with the blessing of enjoying vs. the warnings against. Let each be convinced in his own mind and lovingly accept others who disagree. But I think the Bible is ambiguous on whether or not the beverage itself was alcoholic. In other words, the original language words are not, in themselves, defined as requiring alcohol.

 

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)

Ken S's picture

JNoël wrote:

 

Ken S wrote:

 

I guess that depends on whether you are a two-wine believer or not, and how you are able to arrive at determining which is which. I struggle with the "wine spoken positively=automatically means unfermented" and vice-versa position.

 

 

I agree. I think there's a legitimate challenge either way. Either we wrestle with the two-wines concept, or we wrestle with the blessing of enjoying vs. the warnings against. Let each be convinced in his own mind and lovingly accept others who disagree. But I think the Bible is ambiguous on whether or not the beverage itself was alcoholic. In other words, the original language words are not, in themselves, defined as requiring alcohol.

 

I think you're pretty much right on with this post.

Bert Perry's picture

Folks, the simple fact of the matter is that when I read Teachout's thesis, and as I've interacted with Mr. Brumbelow, the times when either actually has workable evidence are precious few.  As I see things, the only credibility of "two wines" theory is among teetotaling fundamentalists.  

To draw a picture, I have yet to hear anyone name another substance besides alcohol that could result in the dulling of the senses referred to in John 2:10.  I have yet to read a reasonable explanation of how, if the wine Jesus made at Cana had been (per the Bee) akin to Welch's grape juice, nobody would have noticed.  Weddings were not held during harvest, for obvious reasons, and wine ferments quickly.   I have yet to hear anyone name another beverage besides wine (or later, distilled spirits) that actually gets better with age per Luke 5:39.  

With what other Biblical word would we allow a casual substitution of definitions that inexplicably works conveniently for our social habits?   Maybe bread that nourishes us is good ancient whole wheat pita or barley loaves, and the bread that makes us fat is Wonder?  Or vice versa?  What about we substitute a different definition for salvation, or faith, in certain contexts?  Anybody going for that?

Really, the "two wines" theory isn't just a crime against evidence and the ordinary rules of exegesis and hermeneutics.  It's an assault on Sola Scriptura and the First Fundamental.    

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

JNoël wrote:

JNoël - Thu, 03/22/2018 - 12:55pm

I'm just trying to figure out whether or not you take things like gluttony the same way as other things in scripture. In other words, you and others here must have a different overall hermeneutic to be coming to such differences in opinion on scripture. From the way you talk, it seems you believe Aaron Blumer to be intellectually dishonest in his choice to brush aside gluttony and, instead, focus on alcohol. But I don't think you really believe that, I just think you interpret and apply scripture differently than him and others - which is why I asked questions about other things in the Bible, to try to gauge how you interpret scripture.

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Aaron Blumer - Fri, 03/23/2018 - 9:37am

That's correct. It does not speak at all of the ingredient we call alcohol. There are some passages that speak of results that we today know are specifically from the alcohol. These are all negative (other than medicinal use). There are positive passages about the whole called "wine" but zero of these refer unambiguously to the part that is alcohol.

Part-whole fallacies are very common in writing on this topic.

Bert Perry wrote:

Bert Perry - Fri, 03/23/2018 - 10:27am

Really, the "two wines" theory isn't just a crime against evidence and the ordinary rules of exegesis and hermeneutics.  It's an assault on Sola Scriptura and the First Fundamental.    

This is why I asked you questions outside this topic yesterday, because clearly we are not interpreting scripture in the same manner.

 

At this point, the hermeneutical discussion becomes most important, because it will reveal where our differences truly lie.

 

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)

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding the repeated "sad case" of the wife beater, it's worth noting that it is, again, drunkenness, not moderate alcohol use, that leads to this kind of crime.  This, along with the fact that few people actually become "accidentally" drunk for many reasons, ought to exclude this topic from the discussion.  Nobody on either side denies that drunkenness is a sin.

Regarding the requirements for police officers to come to work stone cold sober, absolutely.  It makes a difference when you may apprehend violent criminals after 100mph+ car chases, but then when they are off duty, they merely need to be within the bounds of the law.  OK, tell me why we would hold people whose daily lives do not include these things ought to be regimented more strictly than those of peace officers.  This "argument" makes absolutely no sense.

Besides, if we want to talk about the requirements for police officers, let's talk about physical fitness requirements.  If we can be required to totally abstain from alcohol in part because officers need to be stone cold sober to handle criminals and high speed chases, why don't we apply that, too?

Oh, no takers?  Why not?

And to expand on the "two wines" thing, what the theory basically does is tell people that Scripture does not mean what it clearly says when it's inconvenient.  Sorry, but that's going to leave a much bigger mark on Christian life than a few glasses of wine and beer drunk by the faithful.

Really, if "two wines" advocates really believe what they're saying, they need to come up with a new translation that "corrects" this, much like the JW's created the NWT.   Hint; it's a bad idea for exactly the same reasons the NWT is a farce.  Lots of  evangelical teetotalers, many who would make similar arguments to Aaron's, worked to create the NIV, ESV, NKJV, and HCSB, but none of them dared to attempt the translation malpractice that would accompany such an effort.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

And to expand on the "two wines" thing, what the theory basically does is tell people that Scripture does not mean what it clearly says when it's inconvenient.  

In your opinion, using your exegetical hermeneutical approach, which I have yet to figure out.

Your arguments are wearying and have moved away from what seemed to be well-grounded discussion points into a soap box. Forgive me if this comes across as holier-than-thou, but I'm moving on, because there is little being said any longer that is helping to bolster your position.

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)

Bert Perry's picture

We have a few doctrines affected by this.  If the ordinary meaning of "wine", both in English and in the root languages, is an alcoholic beverage, the general rule is that when we see that word in the text, we use that definition.  Sometimes the context can make it clear that it's being modified, or is being used in a figurative way, but the trick is that you have to demonstrate from that immediate context that the ordinary definition cannot apply.

This is critical to any essentially literal exegetical or hermeneutical method, and is at the root of the "perspicuity of Scripture", Sola Scriptura, and the First Fundamental.  

For "two wines" theorists, however, there is (with a few inconsequential exceptions) little attempt to justify assumptions like that you're making for John 2.  Rather, the assumption is made simply that because Jesus is holy, He could not have made real wine.  There is no textual hint that would lead us there, but rather the fact that some uses could be figurative (true) is used to conveniently assume that in this case, it is a non-literal use.

Notice here that the interpretation of Scripture in cases like this becomes circular reasoning, a tautology.  We go in assuming Jesus (and Christians) ought to have nothing to do with wine, and not surprisingly end up at the exact same place.  

Worse yet, the tautology is worked through a filter, a Magisterium if you will, of church tradition.  Yes, I am saying that in effect, "two wines" advocates end up on the wrong side of the Tiber, though obviously not in the same ways as the church of Rome.   It also sets up the creators of this Magisterium as de facto heads of the church.

Obviously this is a dangerous place to be.

One more comment here; the way you prove me wrong is to provide the historical and textual context that would indicate that specifically in John 2 (or other disputed passages), the right translation is indeed something not meaning an alcoholic beverage.    The door is open.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

This is critical to any essentially literal exegetical or hermeneutical method, and is at the root of the "perspicuity of Scripture", Sola Scriptura, and the First Fundamental.  

For "two wines" theorists, however, there is (with a few inconsequential exceptions) little attempt to justify assumptions like that you're making for John 2.  Rather, the assumption is made simply that because Jesus is holy, He could not have made real wine.  There is no textual hint that would lead us there, but rather the fact that some uses could be figurative (true) is used to conveniently assume that in this case, it is a non-literal use.

I have been chewing on this for a few days, and I'd like to continue the conversation, if we may. I have a few questions.

Do you believe "wine" applies to all alcoholic beverages available today (beer, whiskey, etc.), or only to wine?

Concerning John 2:

1) Do you believe Jesus drank wine at the wedding? I ask because I can't see anywhere in the text that this account tells us that Jesus and/or the disciples drank wine there. This might not matter in the discussion; I thought I saw somewhere at some time someone assuming Jesus drank wine at the wedding. It would be an assumption, as far as I can tell, because none of the translations I referred to (KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, ESV, CSB) say Jesus drank wine there.

2) Does the Bible tell us anything about the difference between good wine and poorer wine (good wine vs. that which is worse; good wine vs. poor wine; choice wine vs. cheaper wine; pick a translation)? There clearly must be some difference, because the text tells us that when the person drank the miracle wine that it obviously tasted different from something else. If the Bible does not tell us what the difference is, then that leaves us with an unanswerable question, one in which there will always be room for disagreement (i.e., scriptural ambiguity = matter of conscience).

 

 

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)

TylerR's picture

Editor

In church today, I taught on Zech 9:9-11, and the prophesy which led to Palm Sunday and Jesus' triumphal entry. When I read the text aloud, I came to this (Zech 9:17):

      Yea, how good and how fair it shall be! 
      Grain shall make the young men flourish, 
      and new wine the maidens. 

... and, without consciously thinking about it or planning it, I added, "clearly, Zechariah was referring to Welch's grape juice," and then continued to read the rest of the chapter. The entire church erupted in laughter. 

It's nice to have fun every once and a while! 
 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Let's do the numbered questions first.  Did Jesus actually drink the wine there?  It doesn't say so explicitly, but that would certainly have been the custom then, and hence it would have been noted by those there if He hadn't--perhaps would have even been seen as rudeness.  I'd be about 99% sure He did just from the social context, especially since nobody called out "nonsense" at other times when He was accused of being a "glutton and a drunkard" by the Pharisees--and He responded by noting that the Son of Man came eating and drinking.  He also noted (timely point here) at the Last Supper when He would next enjoy the fruit of the vine, implying that....He'd been enjoying the fruit of the vine at various points before.

I'd be very surprised, then, if he hadn't partaken at Cana.  You simply have to do a fair amount of exegetical gymnastics to argue otherwise. 

Regarding what makes good wine or bad wine, you've got  Luke 5:39, really.  The old wine--aged without the presence of air--is better.  You would further have the well known difference between wine and vinegar--there's that air again--but after that, it would be matters of taste.  Sweet or dry?  Oaked or young?  

Regarding your initial question, I assume you're asking whether a permission for wine permits beer or hard liquor.  If we admit that Scripture does allow the moderate use of the intoxicant we now know as alcohol, then we would say yes--even with Everclear, though I fail to see the purpose in that particular spirit.  (Everclear is a 95% alcohol version of vodka to which no particular effort has been devoted to taste)

Really, it all comes down to about the same hermeneutic that we fundamentalists like to insist upon with the word "Israel" as meaning the Hebrew nation and not the church, and the same hermeneutic that we insist on with the first few chapters of Genesis.  For me, it's "God said it, that settles it.".  When I see the word "wine"--and look it up in the original languages to mean about the same thing as it does today--it takes a big reason for me to believe it's anything else.   

The door is open, but I simply don't see any hints in the texts to translate it any other ways, and quite frankly I see a lot of hints that it's translated correctly.   (like the tastebuds dulling, the wine-skins bursting, the old wine is better, etc..)  I could be convinced, but it's going to take a LOT better arguments than I've seen so far. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Did Jesus actually drink the wine there?  It doesn't say so explicitly, but that would certainly have been the custom then, and hence it would have been noted by those there if He hadn't--perhaps would have even been seen as rudeness.  I'd be about 99% sure He did just from the social context, especially since nobody called out "nonsense" at other times when He was accused of being a "glutton and a drunkard" by the Pharisees--and He responded by noting that the Son of Man came eating and drinking.  He also noted (timely point here) at the Last Supper when He would next enjoy the fruit of the vine, implying that....He'd been enjoying the fruit of the vine at various points before.

I'd be very surprised, then, if he hadn't partaken at Cana.  You simply have to do a fair amount of exegetical gymnastics to argue otherwise. 

Okay, well I guess we've come to the point of understanding why we believe differently. You believe exegetical gymnastics are required to argue that Jesus didn't consume alcohol, yet nowhere in the entire passage of the wedding at Cana does it say Jesus consumed wine. What you just did is eisegesis, not exegesis.

 

The Bible also never explains whether or not "fruit of the vine" is alcoholic, so that is still on the table as assumption. The argument that all crushed grapes poured into a glass instantly include alcoholic content is irrelevant, because you know full well that the alcoholic content is so low that it would take more of it than the body could hold to even get a slight buzz.

 

Bert Perry wrote:

If we admit that Scripture does allow the moderate use of the intoxicant we now know as alcohol

More conjecture.

 

I appreciate your response, and it does help me understand a little of why you believe not only Jesus consumed alcholic wine but also why Christians today should welcome it and consider it a blessing. I would willingly fellowship with you as a Christian brother, but I find the arguments you make include far too many assumptions, and with something as dangerous as alcoholic beverages I stand with the opinion that abstinence is the wiser choice.

 

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)

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Interestingly, the Bible never says Jesus made alcohol.  It only says He made wine.  What kind of wine is your interpretation. 

If you want to interpret the Bible by believing that the sinless Jesus went to a drunken party and made additional great amounts of alcohol, then go ahead, but the evidence is otherwise. 

The Bible calls both alcoholic and nonalcoholic wine by the same name, “wine.” 

In the same verse, Jesus referred to both unfermented and fermented grape juice as “wine” (oinos) in Matthew 9:17. 

Scripture refers to grapes on the vine as wine (Isaiah 65:8). 

It refers to grape juice just treaded out of the grapes as wine (Nehemiah 13:15; Proverbs 3:10; Isaiah 16:10; Joel 2:24). 

Scripture refers to many kinds of wine (Nehemiah 5:18). 

And, in the final analysis, Aaron Blumer’s article here is right.  It is unwise to partake of recreational, mind-altering drugs.  It is also unwise to encourage others to do so. 

David R. Brumbelow

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