Study: Most churchgoers still abstain from alcohol

"While 41 percent of Protestant churchgoers say they consume alcohol, 59 percent say they do not. That's a slight shift from 10 years ago, according to the LifeWay Research survey, which was conducted Aug. 22-30, 2017." - BP News

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Aaron Blumer's picture


We could certainly skip the "debate." Pretty sure there is nothing new to say!

Interesting survey though. The trend in particular. Number of people who believe a Christian should never get drunk is up a bit from 2007, and the number of people who believe in never drinking at all is down slightly. Probably in the margin of error.

Bert Perry's picture

The proportion who drink is within the 95% confidence range (two sample proportion test, Fisher's exact, Minitab, p = 0.362), but the proportion who say a Christian ought never get drunk is shifted in a statistically significant way--p = 0.002, well below the threshold of p= 0.05.  So that number at least is going in the right direction.  You can still (and should really) quibble about how the questions were asked, to whom they were asked, all that, but to the extent that we can trust the methodology and sample, this is good news.  Slightly more Christians may be confessing to having a drink now and then, but significantly more Christians understand that it's wrong to get drunk.  The shift in the proportion of Christians who believe that Christians should never drink alcohol--29% before, 23% now--is also statistically significant.  

Hopefully this reflects an increasing level of theological maturity.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Most Churchgoers Still Abstain From Alcohol – Good.

Want to have happier, more peaceful Christmas and New Year’s gatherings?  Make them alcohol-free.  Doesn’t solve all the problems, but it solves one of them. 

David R. Brumbelow

Ed Vasicek's picture

Those statistics don't make sense. For example:

But when it comes to total abstinence, fewer than a quarter (23 percent) of Protestant churchgoers believe Scripture indicates people should never drink alcohol. A majority (71 percent) disagree.


Scripture indicates all beverages, including alcohol, can be consumed without sin (55 percent)

How do you explain the 16 percentage point difference?  Or are people that nebulous?




"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

Ed, it may be nebulousity in part, but my best guess is that a huge portion of that 16% difference simply reflects discomfort with hard liquor, especially cheap hard liquor.  It may also reflect discomfort with cheap liquor in general--think the vulgar jokes that one may have heard about "Coors Light" and such.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

mmartin's picture

One question I would like to ask is "Why."

With all the warnings in the Bible against alcohol and all of the societal ills & damage caused by it.


Why is it then OK for a Christian to drink?

For what purpose?

For what reason?

Why should any Christian consider drinking?

We keep going round and round, poking at the question of why a Christian shouldn't drink and some arrive at the belief that it is OK.  (Because in part, gluttony is far worse, right??)

But what about the other side of the coin.  That is, not why a Christian shouldn't drink, but rather why should they drink.

BTW, the answer of "The Bible doesn't command against it (or such type of a reply)," is not an answer.

josh p's picture

That is my position. I just don’t see any compelling reason to drink, especially since I never liked the taste of alcohol.

Bert Perry's picture

John 2, no?   Really, the Biblical witness is not just about warning and curses, but also about blessings associated with wine.  It's going to be served at the wedding supper of the Lamb, so maybe learn to enjoy it here?  Besides, if we need some kind of permission or reason do do something, we can write pretty much all of our enjoyments out of our lives.  Just enjoy some Rumfordsuppe, wear polyester clothes and plastic shoes, etc..

Reality is that throughout the Scriptures, God gives us hints that we are supposed to, within reason, enjoy the good gifts He's given us.  We could subsist on grains and legumes; He gives us meat and dairy as well.  "Take, Peter, kill and eat."  He could have worn rags; He wore a robe woven in one piece.  No seams to irritate Him as He walked.  He allowed a vendor of purple to help found a church.  He gave us sex for our enjoyment and not (as is the case for most animals) just for procreation.  He told His people to worship Him in dance (Psalms 149, 150) and joy, and part of that blessing was full wine-vats.  

And so those of us who can do so responsibly are free to enjoy this good gift of God that cheers the heart.  Or not, if that's your choice.  On a more earthly level, medicine is telling us that it's mildly helpful vs. heart disease and stroke, and on a culinary level, good wine teaches people how to sip and nibble instead of gulping.  Go around your church with a tape measure and measure waists if you doubt that's a good thing.  Moreover, there is a mood of conviviality over sensible use of wine--the Germans call it "Gemuetlichkeit"--that Christians, increasingly isolated from each other, would do well to learn.

Count me very glad that, with statistically significant shifts (in the right way) in views against drunkenness and for the responsible use of wine, evangelicals seem to be maturing regarding this hot button issue.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

mmartin's picture

Why is alcohol a "good gift?"  Does a Christian need alcohol to "cheer the heart?"  By "cheer the heart" do you mean in the same manner as it can be enjoyable to eat a good steak?

Regarding gluttony vs alcohol, upon which subject does the Bible speak more of, both "for" and against?

Ron Bean's picture

Meanwhile business is still booming at Krispy Kreme, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the all-you-can-eat buffets! SMILE

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

Bert Perry's picture

Deuteronomy 7:13, 11:14, 33:28, Judges 9:13, Psalm 104:5, Proverbs 9:5, Ecclesiastes 9:7, Song of Solomon 1:2-4,  4:10, 5:1, 7:9, 8:2, Isaiah 25:6, 27:2, 55:1, 62:8, 65:8, Jeremiah 31:12, Joel 2:24, 3:18, Amos 9:14, Zechariah 9:17, 10:7, John 2, 1 Tim. 5:23, no?

In short, God says it's a good gift, though it is of course at some times a blessing and at other times a curse, just like food.  Again; ask your cardiologist or endocrinologist (diabetes) if you doubt that food can be a curse--excess of food and lack of exercise kills about 7-8 times as many people as does excess of alcohol.  

Regarding counts.... would we subject other Biblical principles to "counts" as you propose?  I don't think so, as it's not a valid hermeneutical principle.

What's the "cheering" of the heart?  Well, you can look up the Hebrew and see how God describes it, no?  One of the phrases used (I've looked it up) is that to be merry is to have a "good heart".  Our German friends would describe it as social conviviality and relaxation, a subtle release from the tensions of the day, a slowing down with good conversation and a bit of food to boot.  A "need"?  Of course not, but definitely a good gift that a Christian can use in good conscience.  

Really, if it's all about what we "need", make sure you show me pictures of yourself eating rumfordsuppe, wearing polyester clothes in an "8x 12 four-bit room", and single, no?  You don't "need" tasty food, comfortable clothes, a nice home, or a wife.  But God in His Providence provides these to many of us, and we should not be afraid to enjoy these good gifts.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

Wow by those Stats The Pentecostals have the Baptists beat  hands down on the no drinking of alcohol issue. Seems to me their more obedient to our Lord.  Maybe the FBFI could learn a few lessons from those Pentecostals. 

Andrew K's picture

Had a Dutch Reformed friend who liked to brew beer in his basement. He told me he once had a Pentecostal fellow over, and the hobby sort of came up. The Pentecostal firmly rebuked him and told him he was "in sin." My Reformed friend related as an aside, "You know, that same guy not long after that ran off with another man's wife."

mmartin's picture

From the study I've done of this subject, it is problematic to equate the work "wine" in the Bible to an alcoholic drink.  The Hebrew and Greek words often translated into English as "wine" in the Bible often has other original meanings other than an alcoholic beverage.  So, to list a series of passages from the Bible using the word "wine" is not complete.  We need more than that.

I also feel that to equate gluttony as equal with the abuse of alcohol to be silly at best and the epitome of being asinine at worst.  It is a cheap argument and a cop-out of reality.  

True, lack of proper diet and exercise is damaging and does cause societal problems.

But over-consumption of pizza & twinkies is not the cause of death, rape, sexual assault & abuse, family break-ups, & criminal activity the same way alcohol has and does.  There is no such thing as "Mothers Against Over-Eating" because someone who just polished-off a foot-long sub has t-boned their daughter's car at 60mph.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

The Bible commends wine, not alcohol.  John 2 says Jesus made wine; it does not say He made alcohol.  Wine was used as a generic word in the Bible and in ancient times. 

I agree with those here who ask, Why would a Christian want to drink alcohol?  No good reason for a Christian to take a recreational mind-altering drug. 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

Martin, outside of "two wines" theory proponents, there are no scholars of the classics who will argue that large amounts of grape juice products were drunk out of season without being fermented.  To get unfermented grape juice products out of season, you have to kill the yeast, and that requires pasteurization.  That process was invented in 1865 and vaccuum evaporation a bit later made Thomas Welch (yes that Welch) famous.  Yes, there are some reports of boiling must, but it's not described in Scripture, was generally done in a lead pot, chimneys were invented around 1100 AD, and would have been done in the heat of late summer.  Can you say deforestation, scurvy, lead poisoning, smoke inhalation, and heat stroke?  It's a tremendously bad idea.  

Furthermore, the very word "yayin" has its roots in the word for to "effervesce", which is a great description of carbon dioxide bubbles coming out of a fermenting mixture, and where the effects of "yayin" and even "tirosh" are mentioned, they generally refer to effects that range from mild intoxication to full out drunkenness.  So for me, the "two wines" hypothesis is a nonstarter--you simply have to define a word too opportunistically (if it's good, no alcohol, if it's bad, alcohol, more or less), and that's simply bad exegesis and hermeneutics.  

You may also consider the comparison of drunkenness and gluttony as silly at best, but keep in mind that in several places, that is precisely what Scripture does.  In the Torah, the disobedient son is a "glutton and a drunkard".  In Proverbs 23, gluttony and drunkenness are described and proscribed in the same passage.  Jesus, who came eating and drinking, was described as a "glutton and a drunkard."  Paul rebukes the church for (1 Cor. 11:21) "love feasts" where some go hungry and others are drunken.   And really, what is drunkenness besides gluttony for the foods called wine, beer, and hard liquor?

And yes, certainly the results of drunkenness end up in different places in the papers than do the results of gluttony, but let's remember two things.  First, nobody's arguing for drunkenness, which dominates alcohol related deaths.  Second, the gross death counts for gluttony and lack of exercise are indeed 7-8x larger, according to no less than the CDC.  Pareto Principle, brother, especially given that if Christians are less likely to drink (probable) and far less likely to get drunk, the effects of gluttony are going to be even more disproportionately severe on us.

Finally, let's get back to what drunkenness really is--gluttony for alcohol--and contemplate the fact that if we preach effectively against gluttony, we have in effect preached against drunkenness, too. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

I think I have this figured out. If the Bible talks about wine positively it's grape juice or some non-alcoholic equivalent. If the Bible talks about wine negatively then it's alcohol. Right?

I have an idea. Let's have everyone in these alcohol discussion use the same dictionary because it seems that each of us have their own.

I'm retiring to peanut gallery to watch this circus.

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

Mike Harding's picture

Alcohol content in modern wines, beers, and distilled liquors (which did not exist in Ancient Times) are substantially higher in their alcohol content than their comparable products in ancient times.  Volume consumed today is also larger. The potential for abuse is thus increased in a modern age as well as potential disaster. Many of my relatives have died prematurely directly from Alcohol abuse, including my father, most of my uncles, and many of my cousins. I have performed their funerals. I recommend Dr. Randy Jaeggli's book Christians and Alcohol:  A Scriptural Case For Abstinence (Revised Edition). He makes the best case for abstinence regarding the Christian in a modern age.  Randy has his Ph.D. in OT Interpretation and another degree in chemical engineering.

Regarding the FBFI comment, in my 35 years of being a member, I have only known of one member who imbibed.  Unfortunately, that was Pastor Rod Bell who was saved as a young man who admittedly had been addicted to moonshine prior to his conversion.  For most of his life he abstained until for medical reasons his doctor prescribed a daily glass of wine.  Eventually he became addicted and was discovered by a police officer asleep in his car parked beside the road.  He was intoxicated, arrested, and publicly disgraced.  It was a tragic ending of what had been a good ministry.  I was with Dr. Mark Minnick when we got the news, and I remember how Mark deeply grieved over this (Rod Bell had been the founding pastor of Mt. Calvary).  These are very serious matters and should not be treated flippantly.


Pastor Mike Harding

Joeb's picture

Mark obviously Rod had a medical problem.  This problem had to be one with no real resolution if the Doctor told him to drink a glass of wine every night.  

I have IBS D.  I have had it for 40 years.  It’s no fun.  Recently it got real bad so I went to the Doctor.  There is two new treatments for it.  One is a antibiotic the other is a type of narcotic.  The antibiotic is s treatment you take for two weeks every 6 months.   The narcotic you take two times a day for ever.   Both are very very expensive but thank the Lord my cost is only $30.00 a month for the narcotic treatment   

Whatever Rod had maybe he was depressed about it and self medicated by drinking.  Even if Rod was arrested and as you say humiliated it seems to me that is a little harsh treatment by a church and a community and to himself to make it a job and life ending event.  If anything it would be a time for his congregation to rush to his support get him help without threatening a loss of his Pastorate.  To me this incident would be a small mistake by a Godly man who when nursed back to health could return to the pulpit.   

The question to me in these matters is to ask if it is an over reaction by a church because a person has violated one of their Legalistic rules.  We have all  heard the stories  of how Evangelical/Fundy parents over react to their teenage gals or guys  smoking a joint or drinking and then shipping them out to these Torture Chambers pretending to be Special Boy or Girl Schools ie Gothard Like Brainwashing Schools  

The point I’m making is maybe the over reaction by Christians to the sin of drunkenness or drinking alcohol itself is worse than the misuse of the alcohol.  Any one of us if reacting to a tragic event in our lives could turn to drinking   So a non condemning attitude is what is needed.  

During these times I would praise the Lord that none of my kids is hooked on heroin.   If I had a child or friend abusing marijuana or alcohol I’d thank the Lord that’s all I had to deal with.  That’s being realistic in the Times we live in now.   

Bert Perry's picture

OK, we have a number of people who obviously used alcohol irresponsibly--I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that since his father and uncles both became alcoholics, that heavy drinking was a consistent feature of their lives--at least when they were young.  In other words, like the vast majority of alcoholics, they acquired the addiction (physical reliance on a substance) through persistent over-use.  

Now let's ask a question; why is it that we assume that the misadventures and misfortunes of those who abuse alcohol preclude the rest of us from enjoying God's good gift of wine?  Do we apply the same logic when someone abuses food, automobiles, work, or sex?  Of course not.  We show them how to use it responsibly--or at least we should.  

There are great reasons not to drink; don't like the taste, past history with problem drinking or alcoholism, don't want to pay for it, and don't want to bother are all great reasons.  The fact that other people have abused it and suffered the consequences is not, however, one of them.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

The ideal (per Mike & David) vs the reality:

  • The ideal (per Mike & David): NO CHRISTIAN should imbibe 
  • My ideal is that if Christians imbibe, they do so responsibility [not offending and not to the forbidden threshold of drunkenness]. 
  • From an earlier post on another thread - my best case for total abstinence here
  • The reality is that some Christians imbibe (perhaps even in Mike's and Dave's churches!)
    • Some will drink responsibility​​​​​​​
    • Some will not
  • I chose to minister in the messy reality!
  • How one fundamentalist pastor has addressed this - "in this room there are Bible believing, God fearing brothers & sisters who believe alcohol is a gift from God requiring moderation and other Bible believing, God fearing brothers and sisters who sincerely believe that it is a sin for Christians to drink alcohol in any form other than medicinally." [Link] [from this thread]
JD Miller's picture

I was surprised recently to hear about some friends that believed that it was not a sin to get drunk as long it was not a lifestyle of drunkenness.  I would like to ask them if they felt the same way about stealing, lying, or adultery.   

My brother recently joined the volunteer fire department and he is one of only 2 members that do not drink.  The other man does not drink because his son was in an accident where someone got killed.  His son was not above the legal limit but had had a drink and always wondered if it would have been different if he had not drank (perhaps it would not have, but this man doesn't ever want to have to wonder if something happened in his life so he doesn't drink).  My brother does not drink because our dad hung out in the bars and he grew up watching dad and his friends being rude to their wives as they had more and more to drink throughout the night (we were often in the bar with dad).  My brother does not want to end up mistreating his wife or others as he drinks (neither of us knows how much it would take for that to happen).  I abstain, not because I believe it is always a sin to drink alcohol, but because I was around it so much that I saw first hand its effects. 

I remember sitting around a campfire as a teenager when another teen started to give me a hard time for not drinking.  A friend of mine who was about 18 at the time and weighed about 300 lbs walked up to the other kid and told him to knock it off.  That big friend was already an alcoholic and told the other kid to knock it off because he understood what alcohol can do to a person.  Just recently I heard that now almost 30 years later that friend is still struggling with drugs and alcohol.  Please pray for him.  My cousin has reached out to him and even took him to church, but he keeps falling back to his addiction.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Because an accurate understanding of Biblical teaching on alcohol precludes the prohibitionist posture, I must yield to the authority of Scripture and refuse to adopt a prohibitionist position.  However, there is nothing in Scripture that requires that I partake, and much to require that I warn others about the dangers of alcohol.  Wine is clearly a mocker, and far too many are deceived by it, including a fair share of Bible believing Christians who have been encouraged by a lopsided view of Christian liberty.  It's cool, but it's not very wise.

What I may do is choose to abstain.  That's my personal decision, and the one I believe is the wisest choice, given what we know about the effects and dangers of alcohol.  The above article is one of many citing similar studies.  It seems that medical science has gone from saying moderate use is good, even beneficial, to moderate use is risky, and the previously touted benefits are questionable.

Therefore, I continue to abstain, even though I know that Scripture doesn't require it.  And I occasionally declare my personal decision and some of the reasons for it.  I offer my personal advice to others to make the same decision.  But, I cannot go any further.  I must not distort Scripture to try to make it say what it does not say.  To do so is to dishonor God's Word and compromise my integrity as an expositor.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

GN, I'm with you until you mention the claim that it's "wisest" to abstain as a general principle.  For many it is; they have personal troubles that they ought not ignore with the substance.  But that said, if "the Son of man came eating and drinking", and if indeed His first miracle was creating wine, and if indeed the Scripture talks about blessings of full wine-vats, I think we need to balance the warning about the dangers of excessive alcohol/wine with Biblical teaching about the blessings of wine in moderation.  

Really the same teaching we'd have about food or any other good gift God's given us, no?  Or, put more bluntly, if "wisdom" compels us to do something different from what Christ is recorded as having done, maybe we need to work on our analysis a bit.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.