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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David R. Brumbelow's picture

Scripture also calls sour wine or vinegar by the name, “wine” (Matthew 27:34; Matthew 27:48; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36; John 19:29; John 19:30). 

Unfermented wine would ferment, unless one of several methods were used to prevent fermentation.  Then, fermented (alcoholic) wine would turn to sour wine or vinegar. 

So the Bible calls nonalcoholic wine, alcoholic wine, and vinegar – calls all of them by the name “wine.” 

David R. Brumbelow

JD Miller's picture

The following is a helpful summary from a Wikipedia article.  Notice how it distinguishes the moderation, abstinence, and prohibitionist postilions.  You can visit the article directly here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_views_on_alcohol

Moderationism[edit]

See also: Moderation

The moderationist position is held by Roman Catholics[187] and Eastern Orthodox,[188] and within Protestantism, it is accepted by Anglicans,[9] Lutherans[189][190] and many Reformed churches.[191][192][193][194] Moderationism is also accepted by Jehovah's Witnesses.[195]

Moderationism argues that, according to the biblical and traditional witness, (1) alcohol is a good gift of God that is rightly used in the Eucharist and for making the heart merry, and (2) while its dangers are real, it may be used wisely and moderately rather than being shunned or prohibited because of potential abuse.[65][166][196][197] Moderationism holds that temperance (that is, moderation or self-control) in all of one's behavior, not abstinence, is the biblical norm.[198][199]

On the first point, moderationists reflect the Hebrew mindset that all creation is good.[200] The ancient Canons of the Apostles, which became part of Canon Law in the eastern and western Churches, likewise allows Church leaders and laity to abstain from wine for mortification of the flesh but requires that they not "abominate" or detest it, which attitude "blasphemously abuses" the good creation.[201] Going further, John Calvin says that "it is lawful to use wine not only in cases of necessity, but also thereby to make us merry,"[202]and in his Genevan Catechism, he answers that wine is appropriate in the Lord's Supper because "by wine the hearts of men are gladdened, their strength recruited, and the whole man strengthened, so by the blood of our Lord the same benefits are received by our souls."[203]

On the second point, Martin Luther employs a reductio ad absurdum to counter the idea that abuse should be met with disuse: "[W]e must not ... reject [or] condemn anything because it is abused ... [W]ine and women bring many a man to misery and make a fool of him (Ecclus. 19:2; 31:30); so [we would need to] kill all the women and pour out all the wine."[204] In dealing with drunkenness at the love feast in Corinth,[47] St. Paul does not require total abstinence from drink but love for one another that would express itself in moderate, selfless behavior.[205][206] However, moderationists approve of voluntary abstinence in several cases, such as for a person who finds it too difficult to drink in moderation and for the benefit of the "weaker brother," who would err because of a stronger Christian exercising his or her liberty to drink.[207]

While all moderationists approve of using (fermented) wine in the Eucharist in principle (Catholics, the Orthodox, and Anglicans require it),[116][117] because of prohibitionist heritage and a sensitivity to those who wish to abstain from alcohol, many offer either grape juice or both wine and juice at their celebrations of the Lord's Supper.[189][192][193][208] Some Christians mix some water with the wine following ancient tradition, and some attach a mystical significance to this practice.[209][210]

Comparison[edit]

In addition to lexical and historical differences,[196][211] moderationism holds that prohibitionism errs by confusing the Christian virtues of temperance and moderation with abstinence and prohibition and by locating the evil in the object that is abused rather than in the heart and deeds of the abuser.[8][166] Moreover, moderationists suggest that the prohibitionist and abstentionist positions denigrate God's creation and his good gifts and deny that it is not what goes into a man that makes him evil but what comes out (that is, what he says and does).[40][212] The Bible never uses the word 'wine' of communion. Yet moderationists hold that in banishing wine from communion and dinner tables, prohibitionists and abstentionists go against the 'witness of the Bible' and the church throughout the ages and implicitly adopt a Pharisaical moralism that is at odds with what moderationists consider the right approach to biblical ethics and the doctrines of sin and sanctification.[197][213][214]

Abstentionism[edit]

See also: Abstinence

The abstentionist position is held by many Baptists,[215] Pentecostals,[216] Nazarene, Methodists,[217] and other evangelical and Protestant groups including the Salvation Army.[218]Prominent proponents of abstentionism include Billy Graham,[219] John F. MacArthur,[220] R. Albert Mohler, Jr.,[221] Steven L. Anderson[222] and John Piper.[223]

Abstentionists believe that although alcohol consumption is not inherently sinful or necessarily to be avoided in all circumstances, it is generally not the wisest or most prudent choice.[224] While most abstentionists do not require abstinence from alcohol for membership in their churches, they do often require it for leadership positions.[18][223][225]

Some reasons commonly given for voluntary abstention are:

The Bible warns that alcohol can hinder moral discretion. As discussed above, Proverbs 31:4-5 warns kings and rulers that they might "forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted." Some abstentionists speak of alcohol as "corrupt[ing]" the body and as a substance that can "impair my judgment and further distract me from God's will for my life."[226]

Christians must be sensitive to the "weaker brother", that is, the Christian who believes imbibing to be a sin. On this point MacArthur says, "[T]he primary reason I don't do a lot of things I could do, including drinking wine or any alcoholic beverage, [is] because I know some believers would be offended by it ... [M]any Christians will drink their beer and wine and flaunt their liberty no matter what anyone thinks. Consequently, there is a rift in the fellowship."[227]

Christians should make a public statement against drunkenness because of the negative consequences it can have on individuals, families, and society as a whole. Some abstentionists believe that their witness as persons of moral character is also enhanced by this choice.[225][226]

Additionally, abstentionists argue that while drinking may have been more acceptable in ancient times (for instance, using wine to purify polluted drinking water),[18][228] modern circumstances have changed the nature of a Christian's responsibility in this area. First, some abstentionists argue that wine in biblical times was weaker and diluted with water such that drunkenness was less common,[229][230] though few non-abstentionists accept this claim as wholly accurate[70] or conclusive.[199] Also, the invention of more efficient distillation techniques has led to more potent and cheaper alcohol, which in turn has lessened the economic barrier to drinking to excess compared to biblical times.[231]

Comparison[edit]

On historical and lexical grounds, many abstentionists reject the argument of prohibitionists that wine in the Bible was not alcoholic and that imbibing is nearly always a sin.[16][18]Piper summarizes the abstentionist position on this point:

The consumption of food and drink is in itself no basis for judging a person's standing with God ... [The Apostle Paul's] approach to these abuses [of food and drink] was never to forbid food or drink. It was always to forbid what destroyed God's temple and injured faith. He taught the principle of love, but did not determine its application with regulations in matters of food and drink.[232]

Abstentionists also reject the position of moderationists that in many circumstances Christians should feel free to drink for pleasure because abstentionists see alcohol as inherently too dangerous and not "a necessity for life or good living,"[14][225] with some even going so far as to say, "Moderation is the cause of the liquor problem."[225]

Prohibitionism[edit]

See also: Prohibitionism

William Booth of the Salvation Army

The prohibitionist position has experienced a general reduction of support since the days of prohibitionism as a movement, with many of its advocates becoming abstentionists instead. Groups adopting prohibitionist positions include the Southern Baptist Convention[233][234][235] and Seventh-day Adventists.[236][237] The former group resolved that their "churches be urged to give their full moral support to the prohibition cause, and to give a more liberal financial support to dry organizations which stand for the united action of our people against the liquor traffic."[234] Charles Spurgeon: "I wish the man who made the law to open them had to keep all the families that they have brought to ruin. Beer shops are the enemies of the home; therefore, the sooner their licenses are taken away, the better." [238] [239] The founder of the Salvation Army[218] William Booth was a prohibitionist, and saw alcohol as evil in itself and not safe for anyone to drink in moderation.[240] In 1990, the Salvation Army re-affirms: "It would be inconsistent for any Salvationist to drink while at the same time seeking to help others to give it up."[241] David Wilkerson founder of Teen Challengesaid similar things to The Assembly of God: "a little alcohol is too much since drinking in moderation provides Satan an opening to cruel deception."[242][243] Billy Sunday: "After all is said that can be said on the liquor traffic, its influence is degrading on the individual, the family, politics and business and upon everything that you touch in this old world."[244]

Prohibitionists such as Stephen Reynolds[245][246][247] and Jack Van Impe[248] hold that the Bible forbids partaking of alcohol altogether, with some arguing that the alleged medicinal use of wine in 1 Timothy 5:23 is a reference to unfermented grape juice.[13] They argue that the words for alcoholic beverages in the Bible can also refer to non-alcoholic versions such as unfermented grape juice, and for this reason the context must determine which meaning is required.[12][247] In passages where the beverages are viewed negatively, prohibitionists understand them to mean the alcoholic drinks, and where they are viewed positively, they understand them to mean non-alcoholic drinks.[249] Prohibitionists also accuse most Bible translators of exhibiting a bias in favor of alcohol that obscures the meaning of the original texts.[13][247]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest body of the Latter Day Saint movement, also teaches that "God has spoken against the use of ... [a]lcohol."[250][251] They base this teaching on the Word of Wisdom, a section in Doctrine and Covenants which is part of the Mormon canon, that recommends against the ordinary use of alcohol, though it makes an exception for the use of wine in the sacrament, a similar rite to the Eucharist.[252] However, the Church now uses water instead of wine in the sacrament,[253] and since 1851, the Word of Wisdom's advice for wise living has been considered "a binding commandment on all Church members."[251]

Many Prohibitionist Christians have claimed that the wine Jesus created in John 2 and drank at the Last Supper were non-alcoholic grape juice; however, the Greek word oinos, used in the account of the wedding feast in Cana, is also used to describe alcohol in Ephesians 5:18.[254]

TylerR's picture

Editor

Appreciate the article, especially the helpful categories. I''m with the abstentionists, for reasons Aaron outlined so well in this article.

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

Jason, if you dig down into any number of other doctrines, you're going to find a string of assumptions as well.  Not accusing, but don't be quick to dismiss something because it requires an assumption or two.  For example, the Trinity--nowhere stated in its Nicene form in the Scriptures (no matter what text family you prefer), but it is a valid inference.  

Plus, if you want a long string of assumptions, look at David's most recent comments.  He's actually assuming that new wine is non-alcoholic when the very context he refers to makes clear that it would burst the wineskins--in other words, it's got yeast growing in it.  It's a great example of using a few examples of figurative language to try to redefine a term against its primary meaning.  

And if David truly believes it's unwise to partake of recreational, mind-altering drugs, I look forward to his YouTube video where he smashes the church coffeepot and starts preaching against coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Jason, if you dig down into any number of other doctrines, you're going to find a string of assumptions as well.  Not accusing, but don't be quick to dismiss something because it requires an assumption or two.  For example, the Trinity--nowhere stated in its Nicene form in the Scriptures (no matter what text family you prefer), but it is a valid inference.  

I agree, but you can't say that a literal hermeneutic can be used with the wedding at Cana to show that Jesus consumed alcoholic wine. One must read into the text to come to that conclusion. And since neither you nor I will ever be able to exegete a Biblical prohibition or a declaration of the blessing to consume alcoholic beverages - because neither exist in clear enough terms anywhere without making many assumptions - Aaron's case for the wisdom to abstain is a far "wiser" choice than to choose to play with something that has ample scriptural warning against.

What does a Christian gain from consuming/lose from abstaining?

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

I believe Jesus turned the water at Cana into Red Bull.

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?

Larry's picture

Moderator

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. 

I am curious as to the "exegetical gymnastics" required to not say something that the text doesn't say. Can you explain that? 

Exegesis is a reading out of the text. If the text doesn't say something, then it doesn't seem to require any special effort to not say it. Especially after you admit that the text doesn't say it. Can you explain?

Larry's picture

Moderator

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! 

I am not convinced the public reading of the Scripture in the assembled congregation is a place to have fun, particularly when we are doing it without conscious thought or planning.

I think that may indicate a problem in this whole conversation--that we don't take the text seriously enough. We view it as a prop to support one position or the other. I don't want to be a killjoy or a hypercritical, but the older I get, the more I question the flippancy with which some seem to approach to Scripture.

Bert Perry's picture

JNoël wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

Jason, if you dig down into any number of other doctrines, you're going to find a string of assumptions as well.  Not accusing, but don't be quick to dismiss something because it requires an assumption or two.  For example, the Trinity--nowhere stated in its Nicene form in the Scriptures (no matter what text family you prefer), but it is a valid inference.  

 

 

I agree, but you can't say that a literal hermeneutic can be used with the wedding at Cana to show that Jesus consumed alcoholic wine. One must read into the text to come to that conclusion. And since neither you nor I will ever be able to exegete a Biblical prohibition or a declaration of the blessing to consume alcoholic beverages - because neither exist in clear enough terms anywhere without making many assumptions - Aaron's case for the wisdom to abstain is a far "wiser" choice than to choose to play with something that has ample scriptural warning against.

What does a Christian gain from consuming/lose from abstaining?

Take a look at how you get to that position, and you've got your answer.  You simply have to argue around a lot of cultural hints that it was real wine Jesus made and drank--and then you're left arguing that we are wiser than the One who almost certainly made and drank real wine.  The ugly reality is that doing so is pretty much blasphemy, not to mention a violation of Sola Scriptura and the First Fundamental, not to mention the perspicuity of Scripture.  Really, the core doctrines that established first of all the Reformation, then the Fundamental movement, pretty much require us to take seriously the most likely meaning of Scripture.  And that is that Jesus made, and drank, real wine.

What's to gain by enjoying God's good gift?  Really, the same thing that is gained when men enjoy God's good gifts of other foods in moderation, plus the simple fact that learning about and partaking in wine is a good way of getting a clearer picture of what's going on in Scripture.   Wine can be used for good (nutrition, a good heart/"merry"), or for evil (drunkenness).  It can be part of God's blessing or judgment, depending on the setting.

It is worth noting as well that since wine is sipped and not guzzled, having a glass or two from time to time can be great training to actually smell and taste your food before it goes down the hatch.  That's a lesson Americans, and American fundamentalists in particular, need to have.  

It doesn't mean that everyone must use it, but quite frankly I think that fundamentalism as a whole would be better off if those fundamentalists not prone to alcoholism laid off the Super Big Gulp and Old Country Buffet (among other purveyors of gluttony) and learned how to enjoy a glass of wine.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

Larry wrote:

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. 

I am curious as to the "exegetical gymnastics" required to not say something that the text doesn't say. Can you explain that? 

Exegesis is a reading out of the text. If the text doesn't say something, then it doesn't seem to require any special effort to not say it. Especially after you admit that the text doesn't say it. Can you explain?

Simple.  You view it in light of His entire ministry and Jewish culture.  A wedding was a week long feast where (to this day) taking part in the celebration is a commandment or Mitzvah. It is to this day.  He made some wine when the provisions ran out, which indicates (a) he had no problem with the guests having a drink or two and (b) he was participating in the festivities fully. He wasn't content to make a low end table wine, but rather saved the best for last as a picture of His ministry. 

Couple that with the cup at the Passover meal at the last supper, the taunts of the Pharisees (and His response "the Son of man came eating and drinking"), His reference to the next time He would enjoy the fruit of the vine, and the rest of Scripture, and the notion that Jesus would have enjoyed real wine is, in that context, as surprising as a non-Mormon cubicle dweller enjoying coffee.  

To argue that He didn't, you've more or less got to argue against all this.  Ironically, the references in Scripture to the effects of too much wine/drunkenness make this more clear by making it difficult to argue that "yayin" or "oinos" don't actually refer to wine.  It forces the person doing so to adhere to a hermeneutic of convenience, really a tautology. 

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

There are plenty of warnings against the consumption of wine and strong drink, which, again, makes the wisdom of abstinence the most prudent choice in our culture. I gain nothing from consuming alcohol. I gain safety by abstaining. I will never offend a brother by abstaining (unless I preach abstinence is required for holiness - which, I must say here, because many do that - I do NOT), yet there is risk of doing so if I consume (Paul said he would rather abstain from eating any meat at all if he found it would offend a weaker brother). I have only continued this conversation because I am trying to understand how you come to your conclusions, how you use scripture to make your claims. There is obviously a difference in the way we approach scripture, and that is what concerns me most in this conversation.

Bert Perry wrote:

Take a look at how you get to that position, and you've got your answer.  You simply have to argue around a lot of cultural hints that it was real wine Jesus made and drank--and then you're left arguing that we are wiser than the One who almost certainly made and drank real wine.  The ugly reality is that doing so is pretty much blasphemy, not to mention a violation of Sola Scriptura and the First Fundamental, not to mention the perspicuity of Scripture.  Really, the core doctrines that established first of all the Reformation, then the Fundamental movement, pretty much require us to take seriously the most likely meaning of Scripture.  And that is that Jesus made, and drank, real wine.

Strong words based, yet again, on "a lot of cultural hints" - not scripture. "Most likely meaning" is not something about which we can be dogmatic. We can only stand on what scripture says. The Bible never says anywhere that Jesus drank alcohol. It never says he consumed anything at the wedding at Cana, never mind alcohol. You, sir, are mishandling scripture to make that assumption, not I. You are guilty of violating Sola Scriptura, not I. I stand on what the Bible says, not what I want it to say based on my presuppositions. You need to take a long, hard look at your position and ask yourself whether or not you believe more strongly in your belief that the Bible condones, even blesses consumption of wine or your belief that the Bible stands on its own - regardless the ambiguities and seeming contradictions we have been given. There are countless questions to which we will only gain answers in the future. We will never know the answer to this particular conundrum; we must love one another, despite our differences, and stand on what scripture and what scripture alone tells us. God gave us all we need for life and godliness. He left us with unanswered questions, and we must humbly accept that. Comparing the warnings against the non-warnings and even verses referring to wine being a blessing (again, assuming that "wine" always means an alcoholic beverage), I stand with those who encourage abstinence and preach Spirit-filled living rather than being controlled by wine (meaning that drunkenness is sin - I know we both agree on that count) or allowing for non-drunk, moderate consumption.

The associated risks are too high; the benefits (I have yet to see any worth exploring) are too few.

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

Simple.

It's doesn't seem quite that simple. As you admit, there is no evidence in the text that he drank. It is all outside the text. Furthermore, it is not unthinkable that someone might refuse to drink alcohol, even at a social event like a wedding. On top of that, it seems that Jesus was trying to remain rather incognito at this point. There is no indication in the text that anyone knew where the wine actually came from except the disciples and a few servants. The text simply doesn't say he drank. It doesn't say he didn't. It says nothing at all. Therefore, exegesis would say nothing at all about that. It seems rather that it requires exegetical gymnastics to say anything about Christ drinking or not drinking.

But more to the point, this passage teaches us very little about drinking and all of it indirectly. It is a stretch, to put it mildly, to make it about wine. The notion that John and God included this story to support drinking or to argue that wine was actually grape juice is an illegitimate use of the text. 

To argue that Jesus didn't drink is not the point of the text. To argue that Jesus did drink is not the point of the text. It says nothing about that. 

 

Perhaps the problem is that people would rather talk the result of the miracle than the meaning of the miracle. I can't help but imagine John the Apostle alternating between crying loudly and laughing hysterically that people are using his story this way.

 

Joeb's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Take some grapes, put them in your hand, and try to squeeze them into juice, David.  Put the results on YouTube.  I guarantee you that you will get nothing but a mess--and you seriously need to learn to recognize figurative language.

Sorry, David, but I'm quite frankly tired of you spreading your nonsense on this topic, and you are one of the top people who seriously need to visit a vineyard and learn something.

Joeb's picture

Bert your use of the English language  and intellect and common sense are terrific.  

Joeb's picture

I recently was in a debate where a believer said that if drinking or use of illegal or legal drugs (opioids medicinal marijuana) clouds ones mind then it is a sin.   Thus prohibiting the use by a Christian of medicinal marijuana or prescribed opioids.  

I argued that with pain killers one can’t avoid the clear mind issue. So are believers sinning by using Doctor prescribed opioids. Maybe some one could give me some guidance.  

You have believers with cancer who literally may fight it for 7 years before they die.  So this believer would be in sin using opioids for severe pain. There is no doubt in my mind a person gets a  cloudy mind from taking opioids around the clock.  

Where does the clear mind issue apply biblically.  You could also have some one with 10 to 20 seizures a day who by smoking marijuana or ingesting it cuts the seizures down to two or none a day. This could be a 8 year old child.  No doubt he would get high, but the trade off is few or no seizures.  So is the child or adult in sin due to the clear mind issue.  

I’ll be honest I’m still taking two percs before bed to sleep due to pain.  When I wake up the percs definitely cloud my mind to a degree. A cup of coffee usually lifts that cloud and I’m Okay.  Also I do have about a ten minute euphoric feeling when I wake up but nothing that makes me want to take another pill. So am I in sin are these other examples in sin with the clear mind rule applied.  I’m looking into medicinal marijuana but now 60 taps of 5/235 percs runs $1.50. I’m sure medicinal marijuana is going to be $50 to $100.00 a month. 

Bert Perry's picture

Let's be blunt; do we fundamentalists tend to refuse to use extra-Biblical evidence to shed light (or darkness as it were) on a passage?  Do we, for example, refuse to add information about drunkenness when we discuss alcohol?  Do we fail to bring in incidents related to that?  Of course not.  This very thread is clear evidence of that!  

I thus fail to see how an earnest discussion of Hebrew wedding customs would fall out of reasonable explanations that a fundamentalist ought to heed, except that it treads on a sacred cow of rules fundamentalism.  No one would quibble if we said Jesus ate lamb, beef, olives, or cheese, as these were common, after all.   We might quibble if tofu were eaten in ancient Israel, but not foods we consider "normal", no?  (I enjoy tofu, FWIW)

And let's be blunt here about the Biblical testimony.  Verse ten tells us that the feast-master is well aware that taste is dulled with a dose of alcohol at that point in a wedding celebration, and the simple fact that Jesus makes more wine does in fact indicate that whatever is going on, He is NOT telling the party to cool it despite alcohol having been there.  He moreover contributes to the party by making more.

There is a little assumption here; that the guy who made the wine would have actually sampled it,I guess.  But don't 99.999% of cooks, vintners, and brewers sample what they make?  It's a basic habit any good chef/vintner/brewer needs to have to ensure a good product.  Moreover, there's a very simple practical reason Jesus--keeping quiet as you say--would likely have simply enjoyed whatever was offered; because requesting something else would have drawn attention to Himself.

And let's be blunt here; Jesus here is clearly pointing at His upcoming wedding supper, which will be a celebration to end all celebrations (or start them, seeing as Heaven is eternal), and He's also saying that His Kingdom (and wine) is superior to the previous dispensations.  If we would assume He didn't enjoy the wine He made--or the previous wine at Cana--one would have to infer He's going to be the only person not raising a glass at His own wedding feast.  He is showing His own superiority without enjoying it Himself?  Sorry, can't go there. 

Really, I don't see the fuss.  The only real reason to quibble over whether Jesus drank wine is because one has already decided it was wrong, and that's quite frankly circular reasoning.  Moreover, it's a tautology without a moral purpose, since if it's wrong to drink wine, wouldn't it also be wrong to make more wine for the party, and for that matter wouldn't it be wrong to keep the party going by making fake wine?   And it's finally a tautology with no moral purpose that seems to contradict other parts of the New Testament indicating Jesus did drink wine and understood viticulture as well.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Andrew K's picture

I'm sorry, but if you know anything at all about traditional hospitality cultures, you'll find the whole argument about the silence of the text re. Jesus's drinking the wine rather absurd.

JNoël's picture

Andrew K wrote:

I'm sorry, but if you know anything at all about traditional hospitality cultures, you'll find the whole argument about the silence of the text re. Jesus's drinking the wine rather absurd.

More than the wine conversation, my concern is about exegesis. You and Bert choose to apply a different method of interpretation than others; you prefer to make assumptions (

Bert Perry wrote:

Let's be blunt; do we fundamentalists tend to refuse to use extra-Biblical evidence to shed light (or darkness as it were) on a passage?  Do we, for example, refuse to add information about drunkenness when we discuss alcohol?  Do we fail to bring in incidents related to that?  Of course not.  This very thread is clear evidence of that!  

), I do not. Yes, I have brought in cultural examples of the dangers of alcoholic beverages to help support my position of the wisdom of abstinence. And the Bible also expresses applying wisdom. I would be more than comfortable to never mention the obvious cultural impacts of alcohol (domestic abuse, drunk driving incidents, sexual assault, substance dependence, etc.) and to simply look to the passages that tell us that drinking alcoholic wine is an unwise choice. But I have not made claims that the Bible never makes to support my position: you both assume Jesus drank alcoholic wine and that all wine is alcoholic.

My contention isn't about wine, it is about the manner in which you are using scripture to support 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)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

As often happens on this topic, we're now mired completely in meta-debate: debate about points that are not actually relevant, especially debate about the debate.

Absent any doctrinal teaching on the topic, what Jesus and the apostles drank given the options of their day has no bearing on what we ought to drink given the options of our day.

Should we all go back to first century dental hygiene since that's what Jesus and the apostles (presumably) did? If it was good enough for them, it has to be good enough for us, right? The emptiness of this reasoning is obvious to anyone with an even half way open mind.

As for the (irrelevant) miracle at Cana, if you read with incorrect assumptions to begin with, you'll arrive at incorrect conclusions about what it proves. Biggest erroneous assumption is a semantic error: selecting a particular meaining from the range of meanings of a word and assuming it, rather than starting with the rull semantic range and letting the context determine its meaning.

Oinos was used of everything coming form the grape, from the stuff right out of the press to the stuff drunk by the ordinary Joseph every day, to the stuff people mixed to purposely give it a bigger kick. It isn't valid to read its most common meaning into every context, especially when the context provides some compelling reasons for doubting that meaning. Wine does not normally come from water. This wine did.

But the inescapable fact is that we are not told what its composition was, and any claims on that point are somewhere on a range of probability, with high uncertainty, at best.

Andrew K's picture

JNoël wrote:

 

Andrew K wrote:

 

I'm sorry, but if you know anything at all about traditional hospitality cultures, you'll find the whole argument about the silence of the text re. Jesus's drinking the wine rather absurd.

 

 

More than the wine conversation, my concern is about exegesis. You and Bert choose to apply a different method of interpretation than others; you prefer to make assumptions (

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

Let's be blunt; do we fundamentalists tend to refuse to use extra-Biblical evidence to shed light (or darkness as it were) on a passage?  Do we, for example, refuse to add information about drunkenness when we discuss alcohol?  Do we fail to bring in incidents related to that?  Of course not.  This very thread is clear evidence of that!  

 

 

), I do not. Yes, I have brought in cultural examples of the dangers of alcoholic beverages to help support my position of the wisdom of abstinence. And the Bible also expresses applying wisdom. I would be more than comfortable to never mention the obvious cultural impacts of alcohol (domestic abuse, drunk driving incidents, sexual assault, substance dependence, etc.) and to simply look to the passages that tell us that drinking alcoholic wine is an unwise choice. But I have not made claims that the Bible never makes to support my position: you both assume Jesus drank alcoholic wine and that all wine is alcoholic.

My contention isn't about wine, it is about the manner in which you are using scripture to support your position.

 

You are using a hermeneutic and approach here that you would use on no other matter of practical Biblical exposition or doctrine; because, on this issue, you are blinded by your culture and traditions.

Let me put the matter plainly:  If I were to preach from this text that drinking alcohol is acceptable because Jesus drank alcohol at Cana, resting on the silence of the text as proof, and the proof as the license, that might be construed as eisegesis. 

Were I, however, to argue that given the cultural practices of the time, as well as other Scriptural references aforementioned, the absence of specific reference to Jesus drinking fermented wine puts the burden of proof on those who say he did not rather than on those who say he did, then submit that logical inference as part of a body of evidence in favor of a holistic Scriptural teaching favoring the "moderation" approach to alcohol... well, call that what you like, but it is how the majority of our systematic doctrines are constructed. You might disagree, but to call it "eisegesis" is preposterous.

Incidentally, I see this whole debate as a peculiarly American cultural product, having little relevance elsewhere in the world, excepting those places where we have exported it.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Bert Perry and Joeb,

You can amuse yourselves by hand squeezing table grapes, and mocking, if you want. 

But you apparently fail to understand, there is a big difference between wine grapes and eating grapes.  Wine grapes are smaller, filled with seeds, have thicker skins, and a lot more juice.  The grapes you buy at the grocery store are table or eating grapes. 

Another consideration is that someone who did this on a regular basis (Genesis 40:11) would develop an unusually strong grip and skill.  What you could not do, he could.  Hand squeeze wine grapes into a cup, six days a week for a year, and then get back to me.  I bet you’ll be good at it by then! 

I also fail to understand why you disbelieve and mock a common practice (pressing grapes into a cup to make wine) that is told in Scripture and repeatedly in ancient literature.  And, in the ancient world they also had numerous types of grapes that were used for different purposes, much like today. 

I grew up gardening, preserving produce, grafting fruit trees, etc.  In that environment you learn much about preserving and the different keeping qualities (and other qualities) of various fruits and vegetables.  Get recipe books written before pasteurization (pre AD 1864) was discovered, and you learn much more about the ancients.  Some modern day books teach the same, such as modern day books on lactic fermentation. 

The documentation is in “Ancient Wine and the Bible,” but I’m sure some would not lower themselves to read a book they disagree with. 

But if you are going to do an experiment to prove or disprove an ancient practice, at least research it enough to do it the way it was practiced in the ancient world. 

Another example – Bert’s furiously boiling frozen grape juice concentrate and then saying his flawed experiment proves the ancients could not have boiled wine to produce a nonalcoholic product.

Unless you do an experiment today like they did it back then, you are proving nothing except your own lack of knowledge and lack of understanding. 

But again, the original article here is right – It is unwise to drink alcohol (or take other recreational, mind-altering drugs), or encourage others to do so. 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

David, the simple fact of the matter is that Genesis 40:9-11 discusses a dream where a vine grows up before the eyes of the wine-steward, where grapes form before his eyes, and he then squeezes them into the cup.  Now if you argue that this proves they drank their "wine" as fresh squeezed grape juice, you must simultaneously agree that this means that the Egyptians knew grape-vines that grew up in the time-space of a dream, instead of over years, and that they produced ripe grapes in the time of a dream, instead of over months.

We might even infer from this method of exegesis that the grapes formed did not even need to ripen, but rather budded from the stems fully ripe.  Miracles in ancient Egypt lost to mankind!

For my part, I know I have a number of dreams where quite frankly there is no particular reality to the matter, and to ascribe a cultural meaning to the dream is iffy at best because we know the rest of the dream simply doesn't happen.  There never has been such a grape-vine as the dream describes, and hence we assume that this is simply a picture--truncated--of his restoration to his position.

More fun with this; I am quite frankly dubious of the idea that, 3000 years before the invention of toilet paper, that anyone would desire grapes squeezed by hand and not allowed to ferment.  Think about it for a minute--to this day in many Asian and African societies, you do not eat with your left hand because that's the hand that's used.  Even the right hand is suspect--if you doubt this, put some dye on your left hand and see how long it takes to get all over.  

Come on, David, give it a try.  Don't protect your absurd claim by saying your hands aren't well developed enough yet, give up using toilet paper for a couple months, squeeze some of those grapes, put up the result on YouTube.  Tell me how you feel after a few days, I might even pony up for your antibiotics.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

9 Everyday Behaviors that Make You Look Dumber than You Really Are

Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/common-behaviors-that-make-you-look-dumb-...

Came across this completely by accident a little bit ago.

1. Holding an alcoholic drink

It's pretty obvious that drinking yourself into a stupor can make you look ridiculous. But a 2013 study found that simply holding a drink can make you seem less intelligent.

The authors dubbed this phenomenon "the imbibing idiot bias." Drinking and idiocy are so closely linked in our minds, they say, that when we see someone carrying a Corona, we assume that person will act like a buffoon.

In one experiment from the study, managers saw photographs and read transcripts from a hypothetical dinner interview. Results showed that the managers perceived the candidates who ordered wine instead of soda as significantly less intelligent and less hirable.

But I'm sure it would work to just hold a sign that says "I only drink in moderation."

Bert Perry's picture

OK, Aaron, if you're going to cite Business Insider, I'm going to feel pretty good about citing basic biology, history, and the like.  Never mind that there just might be an issue of "setting" in when it is, or is not, allowable to have a drink, or perhaps the kind of drink had might make a difference.   Yes, it matters whether it's beer, wine, spirits, or mixed drinks, it matters when it's enjoyed, the brand matters, and quite frankly the amount matters.   It's a very silly article you've cited, really.   

And really, your assertion that the specific substance at Cana doesn't matter just boggles the mind.  Early readers were taking all kinds of lessons from that miracle, and yes, it does matter that Jesus made good wine(Luke 5:39, John 2:10), wine that the feast-master knew would dull the taste.  In other words, the alcohol-containing wine that was the common daily drink  because Louis Pasteur and Thomas Welch were 18 centuries in the future.  It speaks to the wedding supper of the Lamb, God's choice of Israel (and later the Church) as His bride, and a whole host of Biblical doctrines related to this.

It means we cannot say that wine is ipso facto "wrong" or "unwise" without making that same accusation of our Savior.  It says something about the nature of the coming celebrations in Heaven.  Making it a miracle juice or grape juice simply would not convey the same picture to that ancient culture.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

David, yet another place where you're wrong.  I did not boil it furiously, but rather had it in an All-Clad pan with aluminium sandwiched by stainless steel to spread the heat on a light boil, not a rolling boil.  Much better heat flow than the lead pans that the ancients used 2000 miles from Israel in Spain, not to mention my smooth top stove has much better heat control than an open fire, and hence much less carbon taste than Columella and his guests would have "enjoyed" on their way to lead poisoning induced madness.

Honestly, it boggles the mind that you keep claiming that this was done in Israel when it has zero archeological support in that country.  It boggles the mind even more when one remembers that doing so on a large scale would have resulted in mass lead poisoning, smoke inhalation and heat stroke deaths among those unfortunate enough to be required to make it, infectious disease deaths among those deprived of real wine, scurvy because Vitamin C is destroyed at 170F, and deforestation because all the wood in the country would have been required to do the boiling.  

And those lucky enough to survive all that would have then been far more at risk of diabetes because all that sugar would be hammering their pancreas.  Yum.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I think Jesus turned the water at Cana into espresso.  

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?

Andrew K's picture

TylerR wrote:

I think Jesus turned the water at Cana into espresso.  

Those are the 'kingdom jitters.'

But I've gone sour on all these wine jokes, Tyler. Let's try to be a little more sober, shall we?

;) 

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

not to mention my smooth top stove has much better heat control than an open fire

Not necessarily. Smooth top electric stoves have actually relatively poor stable temperature control because the heating elements cycle on and off. Older, open coil electric stoves were superior in that the coil actually had a regulator circuit that would keep the coil at a particular voltage output to provide a single, stable output of heat. Smooth-tops don't work that way due to safety concerns with the glass top.

Did I mention I have a background in electrical theory?

Wink

 

 

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

Yes, smooth top stoves are less control than a gas stove, but we are comparing to a fire made from twigs from vines, not a Viking gas stove.  And lead's thermal conductivity is about a sixth that of aluminium, and about half that of steel.  

And I'm a EE who's been cooking since the age of six.  Gotcha beat.   I know very well how to boil liquids without needless carbonization, and the simple fact is that without burning the liquid on the bottom of the pan, the resulting goop (I'm being generous here) had the distinct taste of charcoal.  There is a reason we know the name of Thomas Welch, and it ain't because boiling down juices is an economical and tasty way of preserving them safely. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Another wisdom consideration is the fact that alcohol increases your risk for cancer. 

“The importance of alcohol drinking as a contributing factor to the overall cancer burden is often underappreciated. In fact, alcohol drinking is an established risk factor for several malignancies.” 

“Alcohol is causally associated with oropharyngeal and larynx cancer, esophageal cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer. Even modest use of alcohol may increase cancer risk, but the greatest risks are observed with heavy, long-term use.”

-American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2017 

http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2017/11/alcohol-and-cancer.html

David R. Brumbelow

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