The True Gladness of Wine

The debate over whether Christians ought to consume alcohol is not only an old one but, on the Web at least, a tired one. Much of the tiredness, though, is due to an excess of passion and a shortage of precision. Quarreling has been abundant and arguing scarce. I hope to contribute a bit here to the argument rather than the quarrel.

One example of arguing rather than quarreling dates back to the spring of 2006. I gather that Bob Bixby posted a case against the use of alcoholic beverages by Christians.1 Bob Hayton responded, in part, with an essay entitled “Wine to Gladden the Heart of Man”: Thoughts on God’s Good Gift of Wine. In the essay, Bob Hayton argues not only that “God gave us wine to bring us joy,” but also that the joy He had in mind is an effect of wine’s alcohol specifically.

Speaking of Judges 9:13, Ecclesiastes 10:19, and Zechariah 10:7, Bob observes:

It should be clear that even the intoxicating nature of wine is being praised, here. Wine lifts the spirit and gladdens the heart long before it actually overtakes you and makes one drunk. Wine can be enjoyed and its effects relished without losing control and becoming drunken.

This theme runs through the eight points that form the main structure of the essay. Following the eight points, a section focuses on counterarguments related to the biblical warnings against wine and the use of weaker brother passages. Though Bob wrote the post some years ago, I became aware of it during a discussion here at SI last year and pledged to write a response sometime. Here it is.

A little perspective

Before I delve into the particulars, a bit of framing. First, I believe that the decision to use (non-medicinal) alcohol judiciously or to abstain from it completely is a matter of conscience. Believers must apply the Scriptures and be fully persuaded in their own minds (Rom. 14:5) and must not despise one another (Rom. 14:3, 10) for arriving at different conclusions.

That said, matters of conscience (or liberty) are not matters we should avoid discussing or examining carefully.2 We owe it to our Lord, ourselves, and one another to have a conscience that is as clearly and truthfully informed as possible.

So it’s in that spirit that I’m going to try to upend the argument in Bob’s essay. I have the highest regard for him and for many of those who share his views on this question.

The eight points

In support of the idea that wine is God’s gift and we should enjoy it (the effect of its alcohol in particular), the essay offers eight points with supporting Scriptures:

  1. Wine is a gift of the goodness of God (Jer. 31:12-4, Ps. 104:14-15, 1 Tim.4:1-5).
  2. Wine produces joy—it “gladdens the heart” (Judg. 9:13, Ecc. 10:19 NASB, Zech. 10:7. See also Prov. 31:6-7, Jer. 16:7-8).
  3. Wine is used in rejoicing before God (Deut. 14:22-26, Isa. 62:8-9, Deut. 12:17-19. See also use of wine in drink offerings: Ex. 29:40, Num. 15:5, 2 Chron. 31:5, Deut. 8:4).
  4. Abundance of wine is a particular blessing from God (Joel 2:24-26, 3:18; Gen. 27:28; Deut. 7:13).
  5. Having no wine was a hardship or a judgment of God (Amos 5:11, Deut. 29:2-6. See also Deut. 18:39, Mic. 6:15, Zeph. 1:13).
  6. The absence of wine results in the absence of joy (Isa. 24:7-11, Jer. 48:33, Is. 16:10).
  7. Drinking wine is singularly festive, joyful, and celebratory (Ecc. 9:7, Isa. 22:13, Job 1:13, Esther 1, 1 Chron. 12:39ff, Gen 27:25 and several others).
  8. Wine will be part of the future feasting in Christ’s kingdom (Isa. 25:6-9, Jer. 31:12-14, Matt. 26:29, Luke 22:28-30, Matt. 8:11, Luke 13:29, etc.).

Points of agreement and contention

The crux of this particular debate is really not the eight points themselves but whether they truly support the thesis. Isolated from a particular conclusion, seven of the eight points are solid and well supported by Scripture. (Point six should probably be merged with point five since the passages listed there do not indicate a cause-effect relationship.)

But the argument as a whole hinges on a particular definition of “wine” and a particular view of wine’s relationship to one of its usual ingredients (alcohol). Since the pro-wine position needs to argue that fruit of the vine without alcohol is not a suitable modern-day substitute, it must attribute the blessings of wine to alcohol specifically. The thesis, then, is effectively that alcohol is a blessing God gave us to make us glad. Most advocates of the judicious use of wine maintain that if there is no alcohol, the beverage simply isn’t wine.

This is my main point of contention: Where passages do not clearly indicate the effects of intoxication (whether slight or severe), “wine” cannot be used validly as a synonym for “alcohol.”

The old non-alcoholic wine argument

At this point, I’m sure some have got me pigeon-holed as a proponent of the old “Christian people drank non-alcoholic wine” argument. But this is not where I’m going. I believe God’s people consumed wine with alcohol on a regular basis.

But does it follow that if wine usually contained alcohol, every statement in Scripture extolling wine is also extolling alcohol? A closer look at some of the passages Bob uses in his essay suggests an answer.

But the vine said to them, “Should I cease my new wine,
Which cheers both God and men,
And go to sway over trees?” (NKJV, Judg. 9:13)

Here, the “wine” cheers both God and men. Presumably, it cheers them both in a similar way—but how would God experience the cheer that comes from the early stages of intoxication? Since God is a spirit, the cheer in this passage is evidently not directly related to any ingredient the wine contains—and doesn’t even depend on drinking it. (Arguably, we could take this as a reference to God incarnate physically enjoying wine, but it seems less strained to see the cheer here as referring to the gladness of witnessing an abundant harvest.)

Joy and gladness are taken
From the plentiful field
And from the land of Moab;
I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses;
No one will tread with joyous shouting—
Not joyous shouting! (Jer. 48:33)

Gladness is taken away,
And joy from the plentiful field;
In the vineyards there will be no singing,
Nor will there be shouting;
No treaders will tread out wine in the presses;
I have made their shouting cease. (Isa. 16:10)

Consider this: how much alcohol does the “wine” in these verses contain? Here the term refers to the product of the press at the time it comes from the press—a liquid containing no alcohol at all. This use of “wine” in reference to the not-yet-fermented fruit of the vine is not unique. In Jeremiah 40:10 and 12 “wine” is what is “gathered.” In Amos 9:13, “wine” is what the mountains are dripping with. In Haggai 2:16, “wine” is still in the vat, and in Isaiah 65:8 the substance is “wine” even while still in the cluster!

Though it’s true (as far as I can tell) that wine was nearly always consumed with alcohol in it, the evidence does not support using “wine” as a synonym for “alcohol,” nor may we treat alcohol as an essential attribute. We can’t assume that all references to “wine” say something meaningful about alcohol in particular.

The real gladness

If we accept that “wine” does not refer to alcohol specifically, or even consistently to a beverage containing alcohol, we’re free to look at the wine-and-gladness passages with more openness and to allow the context to carry more weight in understanding what each reference reveals.

What that look reveals is that most of the passages which associate wine with gladness are about the gladness of physical nourishment or refreshment, the gladness of abundant harvest or the gladness of God’s blessing in general (many of these passages associate cheer with food as well in the same context). Most of the passages that associate lack of wine with sorrow are really about famine and loss due to God’s judgment. Few of these passages are actually about wine. Nearly all refer to it in service to some larger point.

The table below classifies all of the primary texts from Bob’s essay, and most of the secondary ones as well. (Some passages could be classified under more than one heading.)

Passages associating wine with the gladness of abundant harvest or God’s blessing in general

Jeremiah 31:12-14, Deuteronomy 14:22-26, Zechariah 10:7, Judges 9:13, Isaiah 25:6-9, Isaiah 62:8-9

Passages associating wine with the gladness of nourishment or the pleasure of eating and drinking

Psalm 104:14-15, Ecclesiastes 10:19

Passages associating lack of wine with the sorrow of meager harvest or loss of God’s blessing in general (judgment)

Amos 5:11, Deuteronomy 29:2-6, Deuteronomy 28:39, Micah 6:15, Zephaniah 1:13, Isaiah 24:7-11, Jeremiah 48:33, Isaiah 16:10

Passages associating wine with gladness vaguely (specific reference to intoxicating property not clear, but possible)

Ecclesiastes 9:7, Isaiah 22:13, Song of Solomon 1:2-3, 4:10 (and others in Song of Solomon)

Passages not associating wine with gladness (mostly with other items representative of God’s provision and grace)

Exodus 29:40, Numbers 15:5, 2 Chronicles 31:5, Deuteronomy 12:17-19, Joel 2:24-26, Joel 3:18, Genesis 27:28, Deuteronomy 7:13, Matthew 26:29 (and Luke 22:17, 20), 1 Corinthians 11:21

Passages simply indicating that wine was consumed along with food, mostly on some special occasion

Job 1:13, Esther 1:7, 1 Chronicles 12:39-40, Genesis 27:25, Luke 7:33-34

Passages referring to medicinal use of wine

Proverbs 31:6-7

Passages that do not mention wine but would fit under one of the other headings if wine is assumed

1 Timothy 4:1-5, Luke 13:29, Luke 22:28-30, Matthew 8:11

Since the gladness and cheer in these passages do not depend specifically on the presence of alcohol, those who enjoy the fresh juice of the grape (or of the grapefruit, for that matter) cannot be accurately characterized as rejecting the blessing of “wine” or of missing out on the biblical gladness it brings.

Notes

1 Bixby’s post appears to be no longer available.

2 I also do not believe there is any reason that congregations may not agree together on some matters of conscience/liberty that they deem to have special importance and include these convictions as part of their membership standard.

[node:bio/aaron-blumer body]

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Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
Two separate thoughts:

a) Did God create the "natural" fermentation process?
b) Did God create humans to be impacted, possibly to drunkenness, by a process that renders squishing of grapes gradually toxic to the human body? In other words, were Adam and Eve, prior to the fall, capable of becoming intoxicated if there was actually a process that God's created fruit of grapes underwent resulting in a fluidic substance that contained a toxin?

Neither of those can be proven no more than one can prove God created a process that would result in squished grapes to develop into a toxin or that he created humans to be able to be impacted by such a toxin to the point of drunkenness. That's all I'm saying.

a. No, but he did charge humans with the cultural mandate to harness the resources of this world in order to reflect God's glory (Gen. 1: 26-28; 2:15)

b. Let me ask a question to answer this question: Did God create humans to be slaughtered by the millions with weapons of bronze and iron? Yet it was part of the development of culture. Bronze and iron were developed by Tubal-Cain from the ungodly, wicked line of Cain (Gen. 4:20-22) yet we have used bronze and iron for tools, sculptures, and many other things that are good. These resources, whether bronze, iron, musical instruments, and even fermented wine are part of God's common grace. But even a hammer (which was made for good) from these tools can be used for bad. Years ago, in our urban ministry, I had a parent of one of our 2nd grade students, that used a hammer to crush another lady's skull, which of course killed her. We don't ban the hammer or the material that the hammer came from because someone used it for evil. My point is, as God's image-bearer, God has given us the responsibility to use these resources for good. It is very possible to use fermented wine for good.

Let me give you an example from my own life. Our inner-city ministry is fraught with stress. I deal with violence on weekly basis (for instance, we had to shut down our basketball program this week because of a fight where a young man threatened to shoot and kill the person he was fighting) When I come home from work, in a situation like this it will take me a couple hours to unwind. Sometimes when I need to really relax, my godly wife will insist that I have a glass of wine. Why? Not because it gives me a buzz because it doesn't. Not because I am trying to drink away my problems.....

No, its because it is a natural way for me to relax and be calm and it helps take away the harsh edge that I would bring home, which used to negatively impact my family. I used to resist this because of all the fundy/prohibition baggage that many of us have talked about. To be honest with you, the only ones that have a problem with me drinking a glass of wine once in a while are the judgmental conservative Christians that don't even have a drinking problem. I rarely bring this up because it just leads to stupid fights and misunderstandings among some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Its not the alcoholics that I cross paths with.......Now if I was a drunk, then those who struggle with alcohol would also have a major problem with me and would consider me quite the hypocrite and they would be right.

By the way, out of the 20 or so years of doing inner-city ministry where I deal with people who are alcoholics on a weekly basis, I have rarely come across people that accidentally got drunk, which led to their demise. No. There was something much more deep which led them to intentionally use alcohol because they were intentionally trying to get buzzed or drunk in order for them to deal with their internal problems of a failed marriage, abusive father, losing their job, and etc.....

_________________________________________

http://www.utmgr.org/blog_index.html

Mike Harding's picture

Key Hebrew Words
(yayin) wine.
The word is used 140 times, 12 of these in combination with sh¢k¹r (KJV "wine and strong drink"; NIV sometimes "wine and beer"). Its intoxicating properties are mentioned at least twenty times. It is mentioned as a common drink, an element in banquets and as the material used in libation offerings. These are called "drink offerings" in KJV, NASB, NIV, etc., but they were not drunk. The related Hebrew verb (n¹sak) means "to pour out." These offerings were poured out on the sacrifices upon the brazen altar (Exo 29:40 and Exo 30:9), but in sarcasm the heathen gods are spoken of as eating the food and drinking the drink offerings given them (Deut 32:38).
Abundance of wine, however, is taken as a symbol of affluence (Gen 49:11-12; 1Chr 12:40; Ezek 27:18). There are places that speak of the lift to the feelings that wine brings (Zech 10:7; 2Sam 13:28; Est 1:10; Ps 104:15; Eccl 9:7-10; Eccl 10:19; Isa 55:1). It may be questioned whether in these verses that wine is commended because of this lift or if the verses use the freedom from inhibition as a symbol of plenty and blessing–cf. Nathan's reference to David's polygamy as a symbol of God's giving him great riches (2 Sam 12:8). Wine is also used in symbolic ways of the Lord's wrath (Jer 25:15; etc.) of Babylon's judgment (Jer 51:7) of violence (Prov 4:17) and of desire (Song 1:2; Song 4:10).
All the wine was light wine, i.e. not fortified with extra alcohol. Concentrated alcohol was only known in the Middle Ages when the Arabs invented distillation ("alcohol" is an Arabic word) so what is now called liquor or strong drink (i.e. whiskey, gin, etc.) and the twenty percent fortified wines were unknown in biblical times. The strength of natural wines is limited by two factors. The percentage of alcohol will be half of the percentage of the sugar in the juice. And if the alcoholic content is much above 10 percent, the yeast cells are killed and fermentation ceases. Probably ancient wines were 7-10 percent alcohol. Drunkenness, therefore, was of course an ancient curse, but alcoholism was not as common or as severe as it is today. And in an agricultural age, its effects were less deadly than now. Still, even then it had its dangers and Proverbs 20:1 and Proverbs 23:29-35 are emphatic in their warnings. To avoid the sin of drunkenness, mingling of wine with water was practiced. This dilution was specified by the Rabbis, for the wine then was customary at Passover. The original Passover did not include wine (Deut 20:6) (W. Dommershausen, “Yayin,” TDOT, vol. 6, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990 ], pp. 64-65).

(shakar) to become drunk
The term means to become drunk, drunken, or be full (BDB, p. 1016). The verb is used nineteen times in the OT, twelve of which are in the prophetic books. In the Qal stem (ten times) the verb is intransitive, "be drunk." In the Piel and Hiphil stems (four times each) it is transitive, "make drunk."
With very few exceptions sh¹kar and its derivatives are used in a highly unfavorable and negative context. But the few passages where the root is used in an acceptable sense should be observed. First, "strong drink" was to be used in the drink offering (Num 28:7) which of course was not drunk, but poured out as a libation. Second, the annual tithe to be paid to the Lord, the owner of the soil, might involve strong drink (Deut 14:26). Third, sh¢k¹r could be used as a medicinal stimulant–Prov 31:6, "Give strong drink unto him that is about to perish" (and cf. Mt 27:34; Mk 15:23 at the cross). Thus, of the nearly sixty uses of the root sh¹kar, only a few refer to something good and acceptable.
Several instances of intoxication, caused by sh¢k¹r, are noted in Scripture: (1) Gen 9:20-27, Noah; (2) 1Sam 25:36, Nabal; (3) 2Sam :28-29, Amnon; (4) 1Kings 16:9, Elah; (5) 1Kings 20:16, Ben-hadad 1. Of special interest are those passages which indicate that God sends drunkenness upon people. Jeremiah 13:13 says, "I am going to fill with drunkenness (kings, prophets, and priests), " or Isaiah 63:6, "I will make them drunk in my fury." The idea is that drunkenness indicates helplessness. Thus, God says to his people (Isa 49:26), "I will make your oppressors eat their flesh and they shall be drunk with their own blood." Here, "to be drunk" means "to be helpless, " "I will reduce your oppressors to a state of total helplessness" (cf. Jer 25:27; Jer 51:39, 57) (TWOT, vol 2, pp. 926-27).

(shekar) strong drink.
This term means intoxicating drink, strong drink, or beer and is usually condemned (Isa 5:22; 28:7; 28:7; 28:7 56:12; Mi 2:11, Pr 20:1; BDB, p. 1016). Most likely it does not mean "liquor" for there is no evidence of distilled liquor in ancient times. It denotes not just barley beer but any alcoholic beverage prepared from either grain or fruit. In all but two of its twenty-three uses in the OT (Num 28:7; Psa 69:12) it appears in connection with yayin "wine," usually following it, once preceding it (Prov 31:6) (TWOT, vol 2, pp. 926-27).
Other Hebrew terms for wine are tirosh (new wine), ‘asis (sweet wine), mimsak/mezeg (mixed wine with herbs), and shemer (aged wine) (A. R. S. Kennedy, “Wine and Strong Drink,” Dictionary of the Bible, rev. ed. [New York: Scribner’s, 1963 ] pp. 1038-39).

Key Greek Words
The key NT words for wine and strong drink are oinos, gleukos, and sikera. Sikera (strong drink) is used only once in the NT (Luke 1:15) for a grain-based alcohol or intoxicating beverage made from other sources of fruit. Oinos is used more than thirty times in the NT and usually refers to fermented drink. Gleukos (new wine or sweet wine) represented wine that was not fully aged or wine that had a higher sugar content (Wayne House, “Wine” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988 ]). Professor A. C. Schultz points out that “Usually the new wine was left in the vat to undergo the first fermentation which took four to seven days. It was then drawn off. . . . The whole period of fermentation would last from two to four months when the wine would be ready for use (“Wine and Strong Drink,” in Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5:938).

In general, the OT and NT terms for wine referred to the fruit of the vine usually in some stage of fermentation. Exceptions could be “sweet new wine,” fresh wine from the harvest (Isa 16:10; John 2), and diluted wine.

Pastor Mike Harding

JNoël's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:
My point is, as God's image-bearer, God has given us the responsibility to use these resources for good. It is very possible to use fermented wine for good.

Let me give you an example from my own life. Our inner-city ministry is fraught with stress. I deal with violence on weekly basis (for instance, we had to shut down our basketball program this week because of a fight where a young man threatened to shoot and kill the person he was fighting) When I come home from work, in a situation like this it will take me a couple hours to unwind. Sometimes when I need to really relax, my godly wife will insist that I have a glass of wine. Why? Not because it gives me a buzz because it doesn't. Not because I am trying to drink away my problems.....

No, its because it is a natural way for me to relax and be calm and it helps take away the harsh edge that I would bring home, which used to negatively impact my family. I used to resist this because of all the fundy/prohibition baggage that many of us have talked about. To be honest with you, the only ones that have a problem with me drinking a glass of wine once in a while are the judgmental conservative Christians that don't even have a drinking problem. I rarely bring this up because it just leads to stupid fights and misunderstandings among some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Its not the alcoholics that I cross paths with.......Now if I was a drunk, then those who struggle with alcohol would also have a major problem with me and would consider me quite the hypocrite and they would be right.

By the way, out of the 20 or so years of doing inner-city ministry where I deal with people who are alcoholics on a weekly basis, I have rarely come across people that accidentally got drunk, which led to their demise. No. There was something much more deep which led them to intentionally use alcohol because they were intentionally trying to get buzzed or drunk in order for them to deal with their internal problems of a failed marriage, abusive father, losing their job, and etc.....

Appreciate the anecdote, but I disagree with the analogy (in similar ways to how Aaron disagreed with the analogies of sex, salt, and spirits).

There are many things that can be used for evil and good. Guns, drugs, food, etc. Alcoholic beverages are not, in themselves, evil, at least in my opinion. I'm guessing there are "judgmental conservative Christians" who believe alcoholic beverages are, in themselves, sinful - I don't agree with that. I do agree that fermented grape juice can be used for good, but not in the same way drinking a cup of coffee, iced tea, hot chocolate, or Welch's relaxes various people. I differentiate those beverages from alcoholic ones because of the fact that alcohol, in itself, is not healthy, it is toxic. The health benefits gained from alcoholic beverages can easily be had elsewhere, so that argument is null.

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

Mike Harding's picture

Why Believers Today Should Abstain From Alcohol as a Beverage

1. Wine in the NT era and wine today are not identical.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Yayin and Oinos usually refer to wine in some state of fermentation beginning with fresh, sweet juice available immediately after grape harvest (Isa 16:10; Jer 48:33) that quickly starts the fermentation process in the absence of refrigeration or pressurized bottling. Fermentation is a natural process that takes place when the grape juice comes into contact with the yeast released from broken grape skins during the treading of grapes.

"New wine" in Hebrew and Greek respectively (tirosh / gleukos) may refer to the juice of the grape that was fresh or in the first year of fermentation. Mixed Wine in the OT was wine flavored with herbs and quite intoxicating (Prov 23:30). Undiluted wine in the NT era was approximately 7%-10% alcohol and usually not taken as a beverage without proper dilution. On account of extra yeast and controlled heating conditions, some standard table wines today by comparison are as much as 14% alcohol. Fermented wine in the Greek and NT eras was regularly diluted with water (“Wine Drinking in New Testament Times” by Robert H. Stein, Christianity Today, June 20, 1975, pp. 9-11). The Talmud (200 B.C—200 A.D.) records the Jewish practice of regularly reducing the effects of wine by a 3/1 or 2/1 ratio of water to wine. In the rabbinic period “Yayin is to be distinguished from Shekar [strong drink ]: the former is diluted with water; the latter is undiluted” (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901, vol. 12, p. 533). The Jewish Mishnah said, “They do not say the Benediction over the wine until water has been added to it” (The Mishnah, Berakhot 7.5 ed, by Herbert Danby [Oxford Press, 1893 ]). The normal mixture for the Jews was three parts water to one part wine (Shabbath 77a). In the Passover ritual during NT times the four cups every Jew was to drink during the ceremony had to be mixed three parts water to one part wine (Pesahim 108b). This practice is reflected as common during the inter-testament period in 2 Maccabees 15:39: “It is harmful to drink wine alone, or again to drink water alone [bacteria issues ], while wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious and enhances one’s enjoyment” (See “Wine” in The New Encyclopedia of Judaism, ed. Geoffrey Wigoder [New York: New York University Press, 2002 ], pp. 798ff).

This dilution process reduced the alcoholic content of the wine down to approximately 2.25–2.75%. In contrast to the ancient world, the modern world does not dilute the effects of alcohol. Beer is 3.5% to 4.5% and typically served in 12-16 ounce containers; table wines are as much as 14%; fortified wines are 18-24%; hard liquor is 40% (80 proof). A diluted wine would reduce the risks of drunkenness from that of an undiluted wine.

“In NT times the practice of dilution seems to have been usual” (A. R. S. Kennedy, “Wine and Strong Drink,” Dictionary of the Bible, rev. ed. [New York: Scribner’s, 1963 ] pp. 1038- 39).

"The wine of classical antiquity was very different from modern wine. They . . . always diluted it with water before consumption . . . . Only barbarians drank undiluted wine" (Maynard A. Amerine, Collier’s Encyclopedia, 1994, vol. 23, p. 518).

“In all these countries [Syria, Palestine, Egypt ], wine was always diluted with water, a long-standing custom in Mediterranean regions, where pure potable water is not very common” (R. J .Forbes, Professor of the History of Pure and Applied Sciences in Antiquity, University of Amsterdam, in Encyclopedia American, 1989, 29:44-45).

“At a latter period, however, the Greek use of diluted wines had attained such sway that the writer of 2 Maccabees speaks (15:39) of undiluted wine as ‘distasteful.’ This dilution is so normal in the following centuries that the Mishcan take it for granted and, indeed, Rabbi Eliezer even forbade saying the table-blessing over undiluted wine. The proportion of water was large, only one-third or one-fourth of the total mixture being wine. Note— The wine of the Last Supper, accordingly, may be described in modern terms as a sweet, red, fermented wine, rather highly diluted [emphasis mine ]” (Burton S. Easton, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1984, vol. 5, p. 3087). The reference in Isaiah 1:22 to diluted wine as bad should not be taken as a proof that Jews did not dilute wine, but as a metaphor of spiritual adulteration (cf. Isa 1:21).

“The use of wine at the paschal feast . . . had become an established custom at all events in the post-Babylonian period. The wine was mixed with warm water on these occasions . . . . Hence in the early Christian Church it was usual to mix the sacramental wine with water” (Merrill Unger, “Wine,” Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., [Chicago: Moody Press, 1981 ], p. 1169).

“He, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength [“akratou” from “akratos” meaning “undiluted” ] into the cup of his wrath” (Rev 14:10a)

The Greeks practiced dilution and it eventually spread throughout the Roman world including Palestine. Pliney's work entitled "Natural History" mentions an 8 to 1 ratio of water to wine. Other Classical Greek writers mention similar ratios: Hesiod--3 to 1, Alexis--4 to 1, Diocles -- 2 to 1. Mnesitheus of Athens said: “The gods have revealed wine to mortals, to be the greatest blessing for those who use it aright, but for those who use it without measure, the reverse. For it gives food to them that take it and strength in mind and body. In medicine it is most beneficial . . . . In daily intercourse, to those who mix and drink it moderately, it gives good cheer; but if you overstep the bounds, it brings violence. Mix it half and half and you get madness; unmixed, bodily collapse" (Stein, “Wine Drinking,” p. 9).

According to Stein, dilution was practiced in the early centuries of the church. Justin Martyr (150 A.D.) described the Lord's Supper as "Bread is brought, wine and water, and the elder sends up prayers and thanksgiving" (Apology, I, 67, 5). Cyprian (250 A.D.) said, "Thus, therefore, in considering the cup of the Lord, water alone cannot be offered, even as wine alone cannot be offered. For if anyone offers wine only, the blood of Christ is dissociated from us; but if the water be alone, the people are dissociated from Christ. . . . Thus the cup of the Lord is not indeed water alone nor wine alone, unless each be mingled with the other" (Epistle, LXII, 2, 11 and 13). Clement of Alexandria (late 2nd century) said, "It is best for the wine to be mixed with as much water as possible. . . . For both are works of God and the mixing of the two, both of water and wine produce health. . . . To the necessary element, the water, which is in the greatest quantity, there is to be mixed in some of the useful element" (Instructor, in James Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicence Fathers [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans ] vol. 2, 2.2).It appears that Paul sets the standard for the early church in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 of "not beside wine," not "much wine," and not drinking water exclusively but using a little wine for one's stomach. "Strong drink" (sikera) seems to be completely off limits in the NT; it is only mentioned once in the NT in reference to the abstention of John the Baptist.

Pastor Mike Harding

Jim's picture

JNoël wrote:
Did God create the "natural" fermentation process?

  • Did God create the microorganisms that are the agents of fermentation (eg Saccharomyces - see below)? My position = "yes"
  • Did He create them in the six day creation process (day # 6)? My position = "yes". Were they "good"? My conclusion = "yes"
  • Not sure how much time from creation of Adam and Eve and the Fall, but if the microorganisms were created on day 6 then it would have been possible for Adam and Eve to stomp grapes and initiate the fermentation process of wine making "prior to the fall"
  • I'm not a scientist but I did take H/S and college biology. Several fermentation articles (that are worth reviewing!)
  • Fermentation is not decay (some have used this argument). It is not inherently evil. It is natural and part of God's creative order.
  • Many products are the result of fermentation: Breads, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sauerkraut ]sauerkraut , cheeses, yogurts, etc (also beers, wines too!)
JNoël's picture

Jim Peet wrote:

  • Did God create the microorganisms that are the agents of fermentation (eg Saccharomyces - see below)? My position = "yes"
  • Did He create them in the six day creation process (day # 6)? My position = "yes". Were they "good"? My conclusion = "yes"
  • Not sure how much time from creation of Adam and Eve and the Fall, but if the microorganisms were created on day 6 then it would have been possible for Adam and Eve to stomp grapes and initiate the fermentation process of wine making "prior to the fall"
  • I'm not a scientist but I did take H/S and college biology. Several fermentation articles (that are worth reviewing!)
  • Fermentation is not decay (some have used this argument). It is not inherently evil. It is natural and part of God's creative order.
  • Many products are the result of fermentation: Breads, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sauerkraut ]sauerkraut , cheeses, yogurts, etc (also beers, wines too!)

Thank you, Jim. I'm not dogmatic in my opinion about whether or not God created fermentation, it was only food for thought. I'm also aware of leaven/bread, molds/cheese, etc. All certainly appear "natural." None of us will ever know exactly how God's creation has been impacted by sin and the fall of man until he makes it new again in the future. Will grapes still ferment in the new earth? Will mold and leaven still do their work? I think the answer is yes, but it is still not possible to prove either position. I think the larger questions are what impact, if any, did fermented wine (i.e., alcoholic) have on Adam and Eve prior to the fall (if they drank it), and what impact, if any, will fermented wine (i.e., alcoholic) have on our new, sinless bodies in eternity (if we drink it). Both are unanswerables, but the exercise is good.

JN

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

Bob Hayton's picture

Three quick points

1) According to Isaiah 25:6, there will be aged wine (wine on the lees) in the new earth. So fermentation seems to be expected in that regard. Also, since Mike Harding has done some excellent research above, we can see that the Passover wine used in Jesus' day was most likely 2.5% alcoholic (or perhaps more). That is what Jesus promises to drink again with us in the new earth.

2) I do take issue with Pastor Harding for arguing from silence that the NT must not condone the use of strong drink (because it doesn't mention it at all). This is highly suspect reasoning. I do note also that he doesn't give much time to Deut. 14:26 just calling it a tithe of strong drink. Let me just type the verse out in full for its full effect, it was a special sort of tithe meant to be eaten in a feast before the Lord. Almost no one disputes that the word shekar (strong drink) was not alcoholic in nature.

Quote:
Deut. 14:24-26 (ESV, emphasis added)

And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire - oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.

3) I don't have an issue saying wine today is different than wine in Bible times, or that the culture surrounding wine today is different than what it was then. But we are going beyond the page of Scripture to conclude that this difference means that Christians should abstain from wine period. Scripture doesn't go that far. It warns against drunkenness but also lauds the joy-producing qualities of wine (as Mike Harding admits). But it does not forbid drinking alcoholic drinks. In some cases it commends drinking them (see Deut. 14 above). I don't mind if people take the warnings and the teachings on wisdom and what have you, and apply it to their culture and choose not to drink. But usually this is not what happens. They then go beyond that and say that Scripture teaches you shouldn't drink at all - or Scripture forbids drinking. Scripture explicitly calls drinking wine a liberty issue (Rom. 14:21) of the same sort as eating meats. And yes we need to be willing to forego our liberties for the sake of others, I'm not arguing against that. But if it is a liberty, then it is a liberty!! And people have the liberty to enjoy this God-given gift that is alcoholic wine (in moderation, of course).

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

Mike Harding's picture

2. The use of diluted wine is no longer necessary today in modern society.

In the NT era there was little else to drink. It would have been quite difficult (not impossible) not to drink wine in those times and under those conditions. The alcohol content made wine one of the safest liquids to drink, because the water supplies were often contaminated. Alcohol had a medicinal effect in that case. With modern purification of water and a host of alternatives that are completely safe, it is not necessary today to drink diluted wine for one's health. The American Heart Association does not normally recommend alcoholic beverages as a treatment for heart conditions. Whatever minimal health benefits are offered by a moderate drinking of wine can be obtained by the use of pasteurized grape juice.

3. Drunkenness is clearly forbidden as it has the potential to replace the influence of the Spirit in a believer's life (Eph 5:18-20).

Christians are not to associate with so-called Christians who get drunk (1 Cor 5:11). Drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9ff; Gal 5:19ff). Many NT passages call Christians to sobriety ("napho"; 1 Thess 5:1-11; 2 Tim 4:5; 1 Pet 1:13, 4:7, 5:8) and temperance ("naphalios"; 1 Tim 3:2, 11; Titus 2:2; Otto Bauernfeind, TDNT, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964 ] 5:165 ], argues that both these terms include a literal as well as a figurative sobriety).

4. In the NT era Christians used diluted wine (see previous post).

1 Timothy 5:22-23 says, "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses" (NIV; cf. Luke 10:33ff). Timothy was avoiding the use of diluted wine perhaps out of motivation to be pure (1 Tim 5:22a). It is clear here that diluted wine had a necessary medicinal value to Timothy for his digestive system. God's people could use it as such in the NT era. In vs. 22 hudropoteo means "to drink water without wine mixed in" (Gordon Fee, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, p. 92). Paul commands Timothy to drink diluted wine as a medical necessity and to stop drinking plain water. For this reason pastors and deacons were not to be "beside wine" or partakers of "much wine." These men could drink diluted wine as long as it did not impair their judgment.

Excursus on 1 Timothy 3:3
KJV "not given to wine"; NIV "not given to drunkenness"; NASB "not addicted to wine";
NKJV "not given to wine"; ESV "not a drunkard"; HCSB "not addicted to wine"

Definitions of Paroinos
BDAG – “drunken, addicted to wines”
Thayers– “given to wine, drunken”;
Exegetical thoughts
The definitions of paroinos offer a few exegetical possibilities:
This word may tell us that a man is not qualified for the office of a overseer if he is beside wine (This of course is the simplest rendering of the word.).
This word may also tell us that a man is not qualified for the office of a overseer if he spends time beside wine (regularly drinking alcohol as a beverage).
The leadership of the OT (kings – Proverbs 31:4, and priests– Leviticus 10:9) were supposed to abstain while performing the duties of their office

Application thoughts
It is clear that leadership of God’s people ought to be extremely careful as to what they consume so that they are not impaired from doing their office.

It is strongly encouraged that any man who is to be qualified for ministry be able to demonstrate that he is not one that is "given to wine." One very good way to do this is to have a commitment to abstain from all alcoholic beverages which is easily accomplished in our modern world (cited from Chris Anderson).

Pastor Mike Harding

Mike Harding's picture

5. Christians should act responsibly concerning their personal testimony and influence.

a. Alcoholic beverages today are much stronger than those of the biblical era and thereby much more likely to produce impairment of judgment and drunkenness. Today, 5 ounces of wine equals 12 ounces of beer which equals 1.5 ounces of whiskey, approximately three times the alcohol contained in an 8-ounce cup of diluted wine in NT times.

b. Alcoholic beverages today provide no spiritual benefit but have the realistic potential for harm. Paul cites the Corinthian motto, "Everything is permissible," and then counters, "but all things are not beneficial" (1 Cor 10:23-24). Paul is condemning libertarianism and advocating that we do that which is spiritually beneficial, constructive, and good. As a matter of Christian witness we should not do anything that could seriously jeopardize our witness to others. Many lost people expect that Christians should not drink. Others who have been victimized by alcohol-related crimes are extremely sensitive to this issue. They might conclude that social drinking Christians are callous and out of touch with the real world. Our concept of freedom should not allow us to participate in activity that has been so injurious to millions of people in the world. Also, our own lifestyles will influence others both outside our home and particularly inside our home. Children will likely follow the example of their parents in alcohol related matters. People have to eat, but they do not have to drink in modern society. Social-drinking is purely a choice and not a compulsion. It is a choice that is offensive to some and deadly to many.

c. Alcoholic beverages today could lead to sinful slavery. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, "but I will not be mastered by anything." Modern alcoholic beverages are extremely addictive. The easiest way for believers to obey this verse is to abstain unless medical necessity compels it.

d. Alcoholic beverages today will more than likely cause others to spiritually stumble (Phil 2:4; Rom 14:19-21). "It is better not to ... drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall."

e. Alcoholic beverages today have greater potential of drunkenness and thus are more closely associated with the unsaved life (1 Cor 6:9ff; Gal 5:19ff). The mind is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, not alcohol (Eph 5:18).

f. We should appropriately treat the human body as the temple of God (1 Cor 6:19-20). Our bodies our God’s workmanship. Alcohol consumption subjects God’s temple to unnecessary risks which far outweigh the benefits (Centers for Disease Control, http://www.ede.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm). One can receive the benefits of grapes by grape juice today or special vitamins which capture in concentrated form the benefits of large amounts of wine (20/20 ABC News, April 2008, Barbara Walters, “Long Life”).

g. Alcoholic beverages today are easily and regularly abused and lead to other forms of wickedness. "And these also reel with wine and stagger from strong drink . . . They are confused by wine . . . They totter when rendering judgment" (Isa 28:7). Alcohol abuse is a causal factor in 70% of drownings/chokings, 50% of “freak accidents,” 27,000 deaths per year via liver disease, 30% of suicides, 20% of airplane crashes, 50% of fire deaths, and alcohol contributes to 500,000 injuries per year. Alcoholics outnumber all other addicts. Approximately 77% of all high schoolers use alcohol and nearly 30% drink heavily. Amazingly, over 40% of 8th graders drink. About one in ten of all drinkers will become alcoholics. In addition, 45% of all homeless people in America are alcoholics (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).

According to national surveys, alcohol is a contributing factor in 65% of all murders in the USA, 40% of assaults, 35% of rapes, 55% of domestic violence, 60% of child abuse, 60% of traffic fatalities (Scott Williquette, “The Christian and Alcohol,” Sola). Interestingly, during Prohibition (1920-1933) many social ills in America decreased such as cirrhosis (66% drop), disorderly conduct (50% drop), and the rate of increase in homicide was actually higher before Prohibition than during it (US Government “Wickersham Commision Report” at www.druglibrary.org.). In addition to all of this, regular consumption of alcohol increases one’s chance of heart attacks, cancer, birth defects, insanity, impotence and sterility. In light of the above I don't believe drinking modern alcoholic beverages as a beverage is an option for Christians except when in circumstances similar to those encountered by NT Christians in the early church era. Even then the same precautions should be taken now as were taken then.

6. Abstention from using alcohol as a beverage is not legalism.

The Apostle Paul refuted legalism when he said, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1; cf. 15:5, 24). He also said, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law . . . ?” (Gal 3:2). Legalism is the belief that one can gain God’s favor by keeping divine or human laws, whether for justification or sanctification–the belief that grace can be merited by good works (see Rom 4:5; Titus 3:5-7). In general God forbids “strong drink,” and modern alcoholic beverages today qualify as strong drink. Applying Scriptural principles to our culture which is significantly different than ancient cultures is not legalistic either. We do so out of our love for God and our fellow man.

Conclusion

Philippians 2:4 tells us, “Do not merely look out for your own interests but also for the interests of others.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 also reminds us, “Whether, therefore, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” There is no glory to God in the willful pursuit of pleasure that has no regard for one’s influence or effect upon others. “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Cor 10:34). How many of you would fly is you knew that there was a 1 in 10 chance the plane would crash? The chances that the moderate drinker will become an alcoholic is 1 in 10; the chance that the moderate drinker will become a problem drinker is 1 in 3 (“A Plea for Total Abstinence,” The Evangelical Beacon, Nov. 13, 1979. p. 2).

Furthermore, if you abstain from alcohol as a social beverage, you can encourage others to forsake illegal stimulants such as marijuana, heroin, or cocaine without fear of inconsistency. Our joy need not come from a alcoholic stimulant. On the contrary, “in Thy presence is fulness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever” (Ps 16:11). God wants His children to have peace without unnecessarily risking that we go to pieces. The liberated mind-set of the Corinthians did not help their church, nor will it help ours.

“Certain neighbors of mine laugh at me for being a teetotaler, and I might well laugh at them for being drunk, only I feel more inclined to cry that they should be such fools” (Charles H. Spurgeon, John Ploughman’s Pictures, p. 42, [Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, rep. 1974 ]; also see C. H. Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore (Moody Press, 1984), pp. 181-83, which details the turning of young Spurgeon from alcohol to total abstinence).

Pastor Mike Harding

Aaron Blumer's picture

Quote:
So I posit a causal role for wine. Wine causes merriness (the sort that is displayed by drunken people, as well as other sorts of merriness). You are saying that wine brings gladness and merriment generally and not particularly, and it is joy in the harvest and all that. This may be, but we have in 1 Sam. 25 and these other passages a statement that wine causes a particular sort of merriness and that this is a causal connection.

Just to clarify how I see it:
Wine does have a causal relationship to things like merry hearts, gladness, and cheer in several passages. I'm not disputing that. I also don't dispute that wine has a causal relationship in drunkenness passages.
But these facts do not work together to support the conclusion that passages that identify the gladness of wine as God's blessing must be speaking specifically of the cheer that comes from alcohol intoxication.

(As for preserving non-alcoholic wine in ancient times, I don't think I've seen any solid evidence for that. "New wine" in Greek does not necessarily mean new as in just out of the vat, but even if so, that would not be evidence of preservation. In any case, the only non-alcoholic "wine" I'm aware of is simply "fresh" fruit of the vine in passages where it is clearly just being made--or even not yet made.)

Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
As a matter of Christian witness we should not do anything that could seriously jeopardize our witness to others. Many lost people expect that Christians should not drink.

You've lost me here. This is an extremely subjective argument. I haven't met a single unbeliever that holds to this. And this comes from my 20 years of experience of inner-city ministry with relationships with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lost people, many of whom are alcoholics or related to those who are alcoholics. Its not even on their radar screen if a Christian (even a Baptist pastor) has a little wine or a beer every so often. They don't care and it isn't an issue unless the person gets drunk. Then it becomes an issue.

Lee's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:
Quote:
As a matter of Christian witness we should not do anything that could seriously jeopardize our witness to others. Many lost people expect that Christians should not drink.

You've lost me here. This is an extremely subjective argument. I haven't met a single unbeliever that holds to this. And this comes from my 20 years of experience of inner-city ministry with relationships with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lost people, many of whom are alcoholics or related to those who are alcoholics. Its not even on their radar screen if a Christian (even a Baptist pastor) has a little wine or a beer every so often. They don't care and it isn't an issue unless the person gets drunk. Then it becomes an issue.

And my experience is just the opposite. I've worked as a sports official with hundreds of different unregenerate men for over 30 years. Sports officials, and especially basketball refs, are notorious drinkers as it helps them unwind. I don't think I've ever said anything particular about drinking (most have bigger problems than that) but every one I've worked with, knowing I am in ministry, has had every expectation that I not drink, and most will apologize for their drinking even as they kill a brew. Now, most of these are corporate professionals or military and not inner-city, and that may be a difference.

Lee

Aaron Blumer's picture

The testimony argument is an interesting one. We can't just dismiss it. On the other hand, it sort of begs the question.
If those without Christ expect Christians to behave in a certain way does it follow that this is how we should behave? On the other hand, if we know that many in a particular community or culture will get the wrong impression if we behave/fail to behave a certain way--and that a barrier to witness will result--that's something to take seriously. We don't want to needlessly offend or confuse.

But this leads to another question, "Does the public in this culture/region have an accurate view of how Christians ought to live?" I suppose they never do, entirely, so we have two goals: (1) not to needlessly offend/confuse and (2) to teach the truth about what the Christian way of life really is.
So with #2, we're back to where we started: does Scripture reveal principles that, in our day, call for abstinence? We can't really answer that by appealing to what unbelievers expect from us because what they expect is only ultimately only relevant if they're right.

Susan R's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
The testimony argument is an interesting one. We can't just dismiss it. On the other hand, it sort of begs the question.
If those without Christ expect Christians to behave in a certain way does it follow that this is how we should behave? On the other hand, if we know that many in a particular community or culture will get the wrong impression if we behave/fail to behave a certain way--and that a barrier to witness will result--that's something to take seriously. We don't want to needlessly offend or confuse.

But this leads to another question, "Does the public in this culture/region have an accurate view of how Christians ought to live?" I suppose they never do, entirely, so we have two goals: (1) not to needlessly offend/confuse and (2) to teach the truth about what the Christian way of life really is.
So with #2, we're back to where we started: does Scripture reveal principles that, in our day, call for abstinence? We can't really answer that by appealing to what unbelievers expect from us because what they expect is only ultimately only relevant if they're right.


This reminds me of a conversation I had with some missionary wives. The culture where they ministered called for women and men to be segregated in church services, and public displays of affection were inappropriate- for a man to hold his wife's hand or put his arm around her actually communicated that he did not trust her. Obviously there is nothing about some PDF between husband and wife that is immoral Scripturally, but in that culture it would be.

The guys where my husband works would all say that it is wrong for a Christian to drink. They might not have a Biblical (or even intelligent) answer if you asked them why, but they definitely equate alcohol with immorality.

Another thing to consider is problems like 'holiday heart'- even a small amount of alcohol can cause atrial fibrillation, which can be very dangerous. I know that one from an experience with a shot of Nyquil. Yowzers. For anyone who has never consumed alcohol, don't get too excited about exercising your newfound Christian liberty- it might land you in the ER.

(I wonder what would happen if marijuana became legalized- would that be a liberty issue as well?)

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/03/28/who-report-europeans-are-worlds... WHO report: Europeans are world's heaviest drinkers

Mike Harding's picture

Joel,

Thank you for your comment. I don't question your personal experience in inner-city ministry. I personally came to Christ while living on the south side of Chicago. Afterwards, I had ministered for years at the Pacific Garden Mission with thousands of addicts. This is the most famous rescue mission in the US. I am sure you have heard of the famous radio program, "Unshackled," which broadcasts amazing stories of conversions at the mission. There was a firm policy of abstinence at the mission for all workers and residents. It was unthinkable that those preaching and counseling would imbibe. It was equally impossible for us to teach the new believers to embrace a policy of moderate social drinking. So my experience has been radically different than yours.

As a young boy I spent my life in the bars with my father on 51st street in Chicago. I understand the drinking-scene better than most. I made a promise to my mother that I would never drink. My dad is dead. Most of his five brothers died, lost in their sins, of alcoholism in their twenties, thirties, and forties. As I have witnessed and preached to many of my relatives in Boston, it would be inconceivable to them for me to drink.

Pastor Mike Harding

Joel Shaffer's picture

Mike,

By the way, I understand your decision for abstinence. We all have different experiences. And I actually do respect your reasoning for abstaining even if you didn't have this experience.

JG's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
But this leads to another question, "Does the public in this culture/region have an accurate view of how Christians ought to live?" I suppose they never do, entirely, so we have two goals: (1) not to needlessly offend/confuse and (2) to teach the truth about what the Christian way of life really is.
So with #2, we're back to where we started: does Scripture reveal principles that, in our day, call for abstinence? We can't really answer that by appealing to what unbelievers expect from us because what they expect is only ultimately only relevant if they're right.

(emphasis added)
Aaron, since you are talking about unbelievers / testimony concerns in this comment, I'm seriously doubting your #2. Where do the Scriptures say we are to teach them in this way? I don't see anything in Paul's teaching on testimony concerns relative to meat, for instance, that would fit this idea. He seems to pretty much stop with #1, to say not to eat it in circumstances that would offend/confuse, and he doesn't address #2 at all.

Am I missing something?

Shaynus's picture

Quote:
[23 ] “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. [24 ] Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. [25 ] Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. [26 ] For “the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.” [27 ] If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. [28 ] But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—[29 ] I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? [30 ] If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
(1 Corinthians 10:23-30 ESV)

JG,

Let me run this one by you. Read the above passage and look how Paul is arguing. He asks believers to "eat whatever is set before you." Why? I think in part it's because we are to live in a way that tells unbelievers that "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" and another is to partake in thankfulness to God and your host for what they have set before you. (As an aside, picky eating can be sin.) Once the unbeliever informs you that the meat had been offered to idols, you are to refuse it. Why? Because now you would be communicating something different to your host. We are to watch out for our unbelieving hosts in this regard.

Ron Bean's picture

Consider what the Bible says:
People in the Bible, including Jesus, drank wine yet it labels drunkenness a sin
Consider history:
The Reformers and the Pilgrims drank alcohol (George Washington even made whiskey)
Abstinence didn't rise to the status of a stated position until Prohibition
Consider personal observation:
Most of us have seen the damage caused by alcohol consumption

Maybe it's a personal decision.

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

JG's picture

In practice, I agree (re: picky eating, as well). If we're going to be guests, we should be good guests. But I don't see this as saying we're supposed to be educating our hosts. The reference to the earth being the Lord's is a reminder to believers that we'll take no spiritual harm from eating the food that is put in front of us.

There is not the least hint in this passage that the guest should say to the host, "Oh, you don't understand what the Christian way of life really is. It's ok for us to eat this because the earth is the Lord's." You simply say, "Ok, thank you for telling me," and eat something else. There is no Biblical basis of which I'm aware for doing anything else.

The testimony factor in I Cor. 10 is strongly determinative on behaviour even if the activity in question is not in the least doubtful to the believer. In the presence of unbelievers who consider it wrong or inconsistent with Christian behaviour, for the Gospel's sake we should not partake even if we are convinced it is completely acceptable. If there is a strong strain of this negative thought towards a practice within society at large, we should probably not partake (or purchase for that matter) in public.

Shaynus's picture

JG wrote:
In practice, I agree (re: picky eating, as well). If we're going to be guests, we should be good guests. But I don't see this as saying we're supposed to be educating our hosts. The reference to the earth being the Lord's is a reminder to believers that we'll take no spiritual harm from eating the food that is put in front of us.

The reference to the earth being the Lord's is making the statement you say. There will be no spiritual harm for the believer. But the emphasis in this passage is how to love one's neighbor. "Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor." Paul then immediately talks about what kind of neighbor one should watch out for. He's going to an unbeliever's house, and he's to watch out for the unbeliever's conscience. So I don't think the emphasis is on the believer's conscience here ("I do not mean your conscience, but his.")

JG wrote:
There is not the least hint in this passage that the guest should say to the host, "Oh, you don't understand what the Christian way of life really is. It's ok for us to eat this because the earth is the Lord's." You simply say, "Ok, thank you for telling me," and eat something else. There is no Biblical basis of which I'm aware for doing anything else.

You're right, it's all non-verbal. The entire passage is about how to communicate non-verbally what you also believe and speak verbally. We can be easily misunderstood. In fact, this would be one argument for public abstinence of alcohol in areas in which you'd be likely to find people who believe, even if falsely, that Christians are forbidden to drink. In the passage I think the host's intension for saying "this has been offered to idols" (or anyone else at the meal) is to trap the Christian into worshiping false gods along with him in a sort of "gotcha." By refusing to eat the meat, you're refusing to participate in what your hosts/audience thinks is part of idol worship, but you're also being a bad guest. Paul is saying to always choose to be a bad guest over appearing to participate in idol worship. The focus is always on how to clearly portray in word and deed what the truth is. I think that's the goal for all of us here, but how things come across to different audiences in different situations is really touchy.

JG wrote:
The testimony factor in I Cor. 10 is strongly determinative on behaviour even if the activity in question is not in the least doubtful to the believer. In the presence of unbelievers who consider it wrong or inconsistent with Christian behaviour, for the Gospel's sake we should not partake even if we are convinced it is completely acceptable. If there is a strong strain of this negative thought towards a practice within society at large, we should probably not partake (or purchase for that matter) in public.

I just don't interact with many people who think like that where I am in my daily activity. In my very first comment on this issue here, I said this issue has geographic dimensions. The culture where I am is such that people are more shocked at the idea that Christians think drinking in moderation is wrong, than if they see a Christian drinking. As if to illustrate the point, I'm sitting feet away from my company's large and diverse corporate beer fridge, where after 5:30 PM you may have a free beer on the house. The only other Christian I know at work in our office of 100 just grabbed one. This is the culture. Nobody cares. Different people's contexts will be different, and I wonder how many Christians for fear of being tainted with the difficulties of sin, haven't been to their non-Christian friend's house for dinner. . . or don't really have non-Christian friends.

Aaron Blumer's picture

JG wrote:
Aaron Blumer wrote:
But this leads to another question, "Does the public in this culture/region have an accurate view of how Christians ought to live?" I suppose they never do, entirely, so we have two goals: (1) not to needlessly offend/confuse and (2) to teach the truth about what the Christian way of life really is.
So with #2, we're back to where we started: does Scripture reveal principles that, in our day, call for abstinence? We can't really answer that by appealing to what unbelievers expect from us because what they expect is only ultimately only relevant if they're right.

(emphasis added)
Aaron, since you are talking about unbelievers / testimony concerns in this comment, I'm seriously doubting your #2. Where do the Scriptures say we are to teach them in this way? I don't see anything in Paul's teaching on testimony concerns relative to meat, for instance, that would fit this idea. He seems to pretty much stop with #1, to say not to eat it in circumstances that would offend/confuse, and he doesn't address #2 at all.

Am I missing something?


It's teaching the gospel. (The way of life is a necessary inference of the new birth). But it's also just love of truth. There is no advantage to having the lost be confused about what Christian living is. The more they know the better.
(I'll add that every truth supports every other truth in some way or other... so it's all good. But in this case, the benefit for clear communication of the gospel in particular doesn't take a lot of imagination to see.)

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Along the lines of Greg's post, would those who are arguing the toxicity of alcohol also call for complete abstinence from morphine (highly addictive opiate used medicinally for pain relief), coumadin (rat poison used medicinally to thin blood), or aspirin for that matter (lethal in overdose)? These are all toxic substances.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Chip,
I would simply say morphine, coumadin, aspirin are drugs that should be used medically as drugs and not for recreational purposes. Neither should the drug of alcohol be used as a beverage for recreational purposes.

As for alcohol and sugar:
Suppose you are driving at night down a dark two lane road with steep ditches on each side. A car is coming to meet you. Would you rather the oncoming driver be driving fat or driving drunk?
David R. Brumbelow

Greg Long's picture

I'm not arguing that point, David. I fully agree that sugar does not impair in the same way alcohol does. I'm simply responding to the argument that we should abstain from any alcohol intake because it is toxic.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Greg Long wrote:
I'm not arguing that point, David...I'm simply responding to the argument that we should abstain from any alcohol intake because it is toxic.

Ditto for me.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Mike Harding's picture

Surveys show that a staggering 64 percent of Protestant lay persons socially drink alcoholic beverages. Nationally, about 60 percent of the USA population drinks alcohol recreationally (July 2007 Gallup Poll of 18 year-old and above protestant laity in the USA). Methodists were some of the first proponents of complete abstinence in the mid-1700's. Southern Baptists have had a record of abstinence dating back to pro-abstinence resolutions as early as 1896 and as recent as 2006 (Richard Land and Barrett Duke, “The Christian and Alcohol,” Criswell Theological Review [Spring 2008, 19-38 ], p. 20). Why the sudden change? Broader social acceptance of drinking, a lack of preaching and teaching on the subject, the secularization of the church, and an increase independence among adult church members have all contributed to the toleration of the social use of alcohol consumption among Protestant church members. The societal cost of drinking has risen to $184 billion per year and is a factor in as many as 105,000 deaths annually in the USA (Land, p. 21). In a recent USA Today/HBO poll, 20 percent of Americans said that they “had an immediate relative who at some point had been addicted to alcohol or drugs” (Rita Rubin, “In Tim Ryan’s Family, He is the Addict,” USA Today, July 20, 2006). According to the same source, each addict negatively affects at least four to five people on a regular basis. Alcohol is commonly referred in the drug trafficking community as the “gateway drug.”

Pastor Mike Harding

Jim's picture

mike harding wrote:
Surveys show that a staggering 64 percent of Protestant lay persons socially drink alcoholic beverages. Nationally, about 60 percent of the USA population drinks alcohol recreationally

What I mean is:

  • "drink socially" is almost always used in pejorative way. But is that the opposite of:

    • Drinking "anti-socially"? OR
    • Drinking "lonely"?
  • "Recreationally" has the same problem (in terms of definition)
    • Does it mean "as a pastime"? OR
    • "occasionally" ?

I mean:

  • If someone has a glass of wine with dinner and his spouse is there ... well that's socially
  • If someone only drinks with a meal (say a beer with pizza) that would be occasionally / recreationally.

If 64 percent of Protestants and / or 60 percent of the USA population drank like this it would seem innocuous

Suppose the surveys said (and there is some kind of a survey out there I'm sure):

  • a staggering 64 percent of Protestant lay persons socially eat ice cream OR
  • 60 percent of the USA population plays billiards recreationally

(The above (ice cream and pool) are true of me)

I raise this point - perhaps some think I am being silly - because in my long tradition as a fundamentalist Baptist I've heard this phrase AND used this phrase often: "I'm against social drinking".

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