Convictions and Complexities about Drinking

Today I am going to take a stab at applying convictions and preferences to the subject of drinking. Let’s begin with convictions.

Convictions in General

A conviction is a belief or value we embrace as a crucial part of what we stand for and who we are. It is very different from a preference—or merely assenting to a belief or value.

For the believer, there are two levels of conviction. The first level—the deepest level—involves biblical conviction, although some deep convictions may extend beyond the Bible (e.g., a soldier surrendering his life for our country’s freedom). Our biblical convictions should be first and foremost. Where the Bible is emphatic, we must be clear and take a firm stand. This does not mean we must demand others to take that stand, but we certainly must urge fellow believers to follow what the Word actually says. This is not necessarily what we think it says, but what it actually says.

The difference between a biblical conviction and a preference is that we would suffer loss rather than disavow our biblical convictions. It may mean we lose a job, flunk a class, or be ostracized. In some nations, it means imprisonment or even death.

A preference, however, is something we prefer, but would not suffer for. For example, if we preferred to attend church Sunday mornings but lived in a culture where Friday was the national day off (as in a Muslim country), we could adjust and conduct church on Friday.

As our society becomes more aggressively anti-Christian, we are often disappointed to see supposed believers who (we thought had convictions) cave in. We discover that their “convictions” were actually preferences.

A lesser level of conviction involves beliefs that are not emphasized in the Bible; these are matters of conscience. Paul mandates we respect one another’s consciences in Romans 14:1-23 and I Corinthians 8:1-13.

Use of Alcohol, the Bible, and Evangelical/Fundamental History

Many Christians suggest that the Bible teaches moderation in drinking, while many others have concluded that the Bible teaches total abstinence. My suspicion is that the younger generations are more likely to embrace drinking, while the older generations oppose the idea.

Some of us choose to avoid alcohol—not because we believe it is wrong in moderation—but because it would be wrong for us. Take my case: I hail from a long line of alcoholics, including my father, uncles, and both grandfathers. I may have a genetic predisposition, so I am better off not getting into the habit.

How did abstinence and conservative evangelical/fundamental Christianity become paired together in the first place? In 1750, no Christians (to my knowledge) were against drinking in moderation. The Puritans, for example, would discuss theology while drinking ale. All churches used fermented wine for communion. How did things change?

Change began with the temperance movement. Evangelical Christians have a heritage of supporting the temperance movement of the early 20th century (that resulted in Prohibition). Because of the push against alcohol, a company named “Welch’s” began bottling unfermented grape juice—for communion use!

In addition, conservative evangelicals started rescue missions over 100 years ago—before the current secular “soup kitchens” caught on. People who have an alcoholic background are often brought down by just one drink, so our spiritual forefathers’ attempts at helping these people meant across-the-board abstinence for all church members. Some church covenants still require church members to totally abstain.

Today we battle all sorts of drug abuse, making substance abuse one of America’s premiere issues. Most people have concluded that Prohibition was a drastic mistake, and few of us are working with rehabilitated alcoholics. Like it or not, many Christians in America are now drinkers, at least on occasion. At the same time, we are completely free to abstain. We do not need to start drinking to prove with are with the times, free, or flexible!

When it comes to the Bible, alcohol use (in moderation) is the biblical example. The Greek word for unfermented wine (trux or trugia) is never used in the New Testament. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how someone could stumble over using grape juice (if that is what “wine” meant, as some claim) in Romans 14:21. A natural interpretation—and all Bible versions agree—tell us that Jesus turned the water to wine, not grape juice. We must pursue a biblical (rather than historical and agenda-driven) ethic.

Many Christians believe drinking alcohol is wrong, even in moderation. Others choose to abstain because of a logical argument (alcohol does more harm than good). Others take a moderation approach. But all of us need to be sensitive to others.

We do not allow alcohol at church events for good reason. Romans 14:21 (ESV) reads:

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.

Sometimes we need to adjust our habits based upon those around us, but only at the time. Otherwise we would all be abstainers and all vegetarians! Consideration for those who have sincere beliefs is a good thing; this is not the same as letting people with legalistic bents bully and impose their rules upon us.

Paul is talking about “weaker brothers” who would not be upset they didn’t get their way—but would be truly hurt—and perhaps emboldened to do things that bothered their consciences.

Moderation and Christian Alcoholics

Alcoholism within the Christian world is a genuine problem. Some people are typically driven toward excesses. Others (like Native American Indians) have a biological factor that makes alcohol highly addictive.

Drunkenness is a sin. Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (NASB). The problem, though, is that most alcoholics (or occasional drunks) live in denial. One time, I knew a man who became so drunk he got in a fight with a fire hydrant. He lost. But he would talk about being able to “hold his liquor” and “not being drunk a day in his life.” The denial factor is strong.

Because we seem to have two polarized camps—drinking is always wrong or drinking is okay—we have failed to give real guidance to those who do drink.

So here is my attempt to do so. If you do drink, do you have to drink every single day? Or do you generally drink more than two or three drinks in a given day, or more than ten drinks a week? Are you safely within the boundaries of moderation? (For more information on defining moderation, see www.moderatedrinking.com.)

If you have a problem, you should elicit the prayer support of discreet members of our church family (like our elders, for example). There is no shame about enrolling in a treatment program or seeking Christian counseling.

All of us have our struggles; we all need the Holy Spirit to work within us through the Word, prayer, and relational involvement with our church family. Sometimes the best way to overcome sin is to focus upon loving God and loving others.

Ed Vasicek Bio


Ed Vasicek was raised as a Roman Catholic in Cicero, Illinois. During his senior year in high school (1974), Cicero Bible Church reached out to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Ed earned his BA at Moody Bible Institute. He has served as pastor of Highland Park Church since 1983. Ed and his wife, Marylu, have two adult children. Ed has written many weekly columns for the opinion page of the Kokomo Tribune, published articles in Pulpit Helps magazine, and posted many papers at his church website. Ed has also published the The Midrash Key and The Amazing Doctrines of Paul As Midrash: The Jewish Roots and Old Testament Sources for Paul’s Teachings.

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Don Johnson's picture

I recommend that you read Jaeggli's book on the subject. I'm not going to attempt to convince you here beyond what I have said already. When I first addressed the issue for our people, I went to secular sources rather than Christian ones on the history of alcohol. They were unanimous in agreement on the difference between general alcohol consumption and production in ancient times vs. consumption and production now. Yes, people in ancient times could and did get drunk. Some of them drank for the purpose of drunkenness. However, for daily consumption as a beverage, they mixed their alcohol in such a way that it was far less potent than drinking it straight - this included Greek and Roman practices, not just Jewish practice. The alcohol they had available was in fact less potent than the alcohol available today. These factors contribute to our application of the Scriptures.

If you want to insist that it is simply a matter of liberty, then you have to resort to the same argument as marijuana is legalized. Christianity Today came out with an editorial just a week or so ago trying to argue (weakly) against marijuana use on a wisdom basis. Its basically all you are left with if you don't think the Bible can prohibit things it doesn't expressly prohibit. And it will result in the same problem: Christians drinking in the "liberty" churches and Christians toking up as well.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

The exegesis of difficult passages is always supposed to occur in light of other passages on the topic, and with an understanding of the culture to whom those passages were written.  For example, let's try to parse out 1 Tim. 2:15 without appealing to our knowledge of history and that culture.  Do we conclude that we need to keep our wives barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, or else they be damned?

 

If we exclude parallel passages and a reference to their culture, that is exactly what we ought to conclude.

 

 

1 Tim 2.15 is irrelevant to this discussion.

Romans 14 is not difficult. Paul is very specific about the kinds of things he is talking about. He is not talking about idolatry. Do you think that someone who spent three chapters dealing with idolatry amongst the Corinthians would not specifically mention it if he was dealing with the same issue with the Romans? Especially seeing as where he is writing from?

My point in this is not to take up the wider point of this thread, but to address the errant interpretation of Romans 14 that many people accept without dealing with the text. There is no way you can read Rm 14 as dealing with idolatry without reading that into the text. You have to leave your presuppositions aside and let the Bible speak.

No, 1 Tim. 2:15 is entirely relevant to this discussion, because it's a simple test of your exegetical methods, Don.  What happens when we ignore other similar passages and narrowly apply just that one?  Reductio ad absurdem, dear brother.

Same basic thing with Romans 14--I would argue that you're actually reading things out of the text by drawing a line between Romans and Corinthians.   The big difference in the temple markets would more or less be which deity of the Greco-Roman pantheon was being honored.  In Corinth, Aphrodite, and in Rome, a bunch of them.  The thigh bone and amphora was raised to Zeus and Aphrodite alike.

Now we can ignore the cultural milieu and parallel texts if we want, but we are almost guaranteed to come to erroneous conslusions.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Methuo, Drunk, Filled (John 2; 1 Corinthians 11:21)

Methe / Methuo - “In most cases this word would refer to the consumption of intoxicants. But it also may be used to refer to the profuse drinking of a non-intoxicant.” -Dr. Jim Anderson, Th.D., A Biblical Study on Wine, 1980, Belton, MO. Dr. Anderson is a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, MO and Chancellor of Midwestern Baptist College.

Note on John 2:10 well drunk. “This word does not of necessity mean that they were intoxicated, though it is usually employed in that sense. It may mean when they have drunk sufficient, or to satiety..” -Albert Barnes.

“Clement of Alexandria, c. AD 200, said intoxicating wine was not present at the Corinthian abuse of the Lord’s Supper because: first, women were present, and according to Greek sentiment, wine was prohibited to them; second, their eagerness in eating is the fault reproved, not their drinking; third, the contrast made is between those hungry and those filled.” -Dr. G. W. Samson, The Divine Law As To Wines.

Methuo is used in the Septuagint (LXX; Greek translation of the Old Testament, c. 200 BC) in the sense of being filled, not intoxicated (Psalm 23:7; 36:8; 65:10; Jeremiah 31:14).

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

I recommend that you read Jaeggli's book on the subject. I'm not going to attempt to convince you here beyond what I have said already. When I first addressed the issue for our people, I went to secular sources rather than Christian ones on the history of alcohol. They were unanimous in agreement on the difference between general alcohol consumption and production in ancient times vs. consumption and production now. Yes, people in ancient times could and did get drunk. Some of them drank for the purpose of drunkenness. However, for daily consumption as a beverage, they mixed their alcohol in such a way that it was far less potent than drinking it straight - this included Greek and Roman practices, not just Jewish practice. The alcohol they had available was in fact less potent than the alcohol available today. These factors contribute to our application of the Scriptures.

If you want to insist that it is simply a matter of liberty, then you have to resort to the same argument as marijuana is legalized. Christianity Today came out with an editorial just a week or so ago trying to argue (weakly) against marijuana use on a wisdom basis. Its basically all you are left with if you don't think the Bible can prohibit things it doesn't expressly prohibit. And it will result in the same problem: Christians drinking in the "liberty" churches and Christians toking up as well.

OK, first of all, mixing wine is today called a "wine cooler", "malt beverage", or "Mike's Hard Lemonade."  So we have that today, too, and any number of college coeds, especially in sororities, can tell you quite emphatically that it does not prevent a person from getting drunk.  In general the opposite is true--people guzzle them just like a Super Big Gulp.  The Biblical example indicates the same was operative in ancient times, as the ancients did not seem to have difficulty getting intoxicated.

And drinking leading to smoking dope?  OK, that's the "slippery slope" fallacy combined with a heavy dose of the "guilt by association" fallacy. Let's try a real argument instead.  Wine differs from marijuana in that it has specific Biblical sanction and support.  It is a gift of God that can be used in moderation to make the heart merry (Ruth 3:7) without being sinful, used in worship, festivals, and in relieving the pain of the sick.  At the same time, we don't want someone driving or operating heavy machinery if their blood alcohol exceeds a certain percentage, and drunkenness is a sin.

OK, what of cannabis?  Well, let's apply the same logic, no?  Not specifically authorized (like coffee), but also not addictive, and it's been used as a therapy for cancers (the "munchies" are wonderful for chemo patients), and it may have some efficacy for concussions and other maladies.  Again, I don't want you operating heavy equipment while stoned, and I'd argue intoxication is a sin, but....it's really a lot less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, both of which can actually be addictive.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

I recommend that you read Jaeggli's book on the subject. I'm not going to attempt to convince you here beyond what I have said already. When I first addressed the issue for our people, I went to secular sources rather than Christian ones on the history of alcohol. They were unanimous in agreement on the difference between general alcohol consumption and production in ancient times vs. consumption and production now. Yes, people in ancient times could and did get drunk. Some of them drank for the purpose of drunkenness. However, for daily consumption as a beverage, they mixed their alcohol in such a way that it was far less potent than drinking it straight - this included Greek and Roman practices, not just Jewish practice. The alcohol they had available was in fact less potent than the alcohol available today. These factors contribute to our application of the Scriptures.

If you want to insist that it is simply a matter of liberty, then you have to resort to the same argument as marijuana is legalized. Christianity Today came out with an editorial just a week or so ago trying to argue (weakly) against marijuana use on a wisdom basis. Its basically all you are left with if you don't think the Bible can prohibit things it doesn't expressly prohibit. And it will result in the same problem: Christians drinking in the "liberty" churches and Christians toking up as well.

 

Don, even if it was watered down, it was still alcohol.  I don't hold to the watered down method as an absolute.  Some alcohol was just as strong and the Bible doesn't distinguish it.  Either way, it had alcohol and it could make someone drunk.  The Bible says both positive and negative things about this alcohol.  We know Christians drank it,many Christ created it.  Therefore it is a liberty Don.  I just don't see anywhere where Scripture makes it an absolute prohibition,  I personally abstain, and I would recommend others to abstain, but I will not tell someone who drinks it within the confines of Scriptural direction as someone who is living openly in sin.

Dan Miller's picture

article wrote:
Indeed, it is hard to imagine how someone could stumble over using grape juice (if that is what “wine” meant, as some claim) in Romans 14:21.
Ed,

Acts 18:1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.

While there, Paul is reassured that he will not be harmed at Corinth:
Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Paul writes to the Romans:
Romans 16:3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus...

Therefore, Paul wrote Romans during his year and a half at Corinth.

AD ~52:
Acts 18:18 After this, Paul stayed [in Corinth] many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 

FF Bruce in his Paul biography says that Paul probably took the vow in personal thanks for the promise God made to him that he would not be harmed in Corinth. 

If all that's right, then as Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, he himself was under a Nazarite vow. He had a Biblically founded conviction to avoid the fruit of the vine altogether - whether wine or grape juice.

 

I've actually been meaning to ask you about this for a while - your article reminded me.

AndyE's picture

Bert Perry wrote:
Which means that, absent evidence to the contrary, our initial estimate ought to be that Romans 14 is talking about food offered to idols.   Sorry, Don, this is really, really basic exegetical method here.

Bert,  you might want to check into that evidence and perhaps not be so quick to sigh and dismiss Don out of hand.  A quick check of Moo, Schreiner, Cranfield, Murray, and Boice (just to pick several of my available Romans commentaries) shows that while there are similarities in the passages, Paul is dealing with a different situation specific to the church in Rome. It's not just food offered to idols.  If you have a chance, you should see what they have to say. 

Don Johnson's picture

Again, I have to simply reiterate, if you think Romans 14 scruples have to do with eating meat offered to idols, you have to prove it from Romans 14 itself. There is not ONE word in the chapter that indicates this interpretation is correct. I certainly concede that it could be a possibility given the culture, but there is no direct link in any word of the text. Paul uses such a word clearly in 1 Cor 8ff. It's not like he forgot the word in the dozen or so years since he wrote 1 Cor, and he hadn't been transported to some alien culture. In addition, he provides another example in Rm 14.6 of the kinds of scruples he is talking about, i.e., the illustration of respecting one day above another or not.

It would be more likely that he is addressing scruples arising out of the OT law than out of idolatry, but even that I don't agree with, since OT dietary law scruple between meats, not against meat altogether.

Anyway, the misinterpretation of Romans 14 has perpetuated a huge misunderstanding of Christian liberty amongst many believers. It hasn't improved the life of the church at all.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dan Miller's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
...

It would be more likely that he is addressing scruples arising out of the OT law than out of idolatry, but even that I don't agree with, since OT dietary law scruple between meats, not against meat altogether.

...

Don, very interesting statement. There are a bunch of good reasons to see the issue as a Jew-gentile one. e.g.,

  1. "Common," Rom 14:14, is a term in Jewish culture for things forbidden, not Helenism.
  2. The whole of Romans deals with Jew-Gentile relations and how various theological ideas apply to the Jew first and also the Greek. 
  3. Rom 15:1-13, where Paul is describing the fruit of unity he expects to come from ch. 14 is clearly talking about Jew-gentile unity. 

Don says, "more likely ... scruples arising out of the OT law than out of idolatry," but there's no reason it isn't both. The OT Law certainly dealt with idolatry. That is the reason that Daniel is honored for refusing to eat the king's meat. 

I do see the text of Romans 14-15 as being primarily about Jewish Scruples. Certainly days is an obvious one for Jews. Meat I've dealt with here. Wine in another post above (it's a Jewish issue if one is under a vow). 

Given that it's about Jewish scruples, it makes the most sense if it deals with idol-meat. Because idolatry is the Jewish issue that leads to vegetarianism. 

That said, Romans 14-15 still probably deals with the meat of 1 Cor 10:25-30, but not the meat of 1 Cor 8-10:22.

Don Johnson's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

 

Don Johnson wrote:

...

 

It would be more likely that he is addressing scruples arising out of the OT law than out of idolatry, but even that I don't agree with, since OT dietary law scruple between meats, not against meat altogether.

...

Don, very interesting statement. There are a bunch of good reasons to see the issue as a Jew-gentile one. e.g.,

 

  1. "Common," Rom 14:14, is a term in Jewish culture for things forbidden, not Helenism.
  2. The whole of Romans deals with Jew-Gentile relations and how various theological ideas apply to the Jew first and also the Greek. 
  3. Rom 15:1-13, where Paul is describing the fruit of unity he expects to come from ch. 14 is clearly talking about Jew-gentile unity. 

Don says, "more likely ... scruples arising out of the OT law than out of idolatry," but there's no reason it isn't both. The OT Law certainly dealt with idolatry. That is the reason that Daniel is honored for refusing to eat the king's meat.

I would agree that the Jewish connection holds more weight. And I think that there may be a connection to idolatry, but that the text doesn't state it (when it could) and because Paul clearly forbids the practice when there is a connection to idolatry (1 Cor 8-10). Here, there is no prohibition, but tolerance. Hard to believe he would suggest tolerance in light of 1 Cor 8-10.

Dan Miller wrote:
I certainly do see the text of Romans 14-15 as being primarily about Jewish Scruples. Certainly days is an obvious one for Jews. Meat I've dealt with here. Wine in another post above (Jewish if one is under a vow). 

Given that it's about Jewish scruples, it makes the most sense if it deals with idol-meat. Because idolatry is the Jewish issue that leads to vegetarianism. 

That said, Romans 14-15 still probably deals with the meat of 1 Cor 10:25-30, but not the meat of 1 Cor 8-10:22.

If Rm 14 deals with idol meat at all, I would agree that it would be in the sense of 1 Cor 10:25-30, but not the meat of 1 Cor 8-10:22. But even in 1 Cor 10.25-30, he forbids the practice if the source is known. As noted above, Paul is here tolerating the practice. Would Paul tolerate in Romans what he would forbid in 1 Cor? I doubt it. I think we would have a serious problem with his authority if he did.

Consequently, I believe Rm 14 and 1 Cor 8-10 are talking about two different things, although there are some similar arguments for the attitude of those with a strong conscience.

I've been thinking about writing on this subject extensively, but... so many ideas, so little time.

Thanks for the comments, though, I appreciate the interaction

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dan Miller's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
...I would agree that the Jewish connection holds more weight. And I think that there may be a connection to idolatry, but that the text doesn't state it (when it could) and because Paul clearly forbids the practice when there is a connection to idolatry (1 Cor 8-10). Here, there is no prohibition, but tolerance. Hard to believe he would suggest tolerance in light of 1 Cor 8-10...
The phrase "connection to idolatry" is too unclear. 1 Cor 8-10 speaks of two different sorts of "idol-tainted" meat.
εἰδωλοθύτων - “idol-meat” - is meat that has been sacrificed to idols in the presence of the eater and eaten there, in the idol’s temple. That’s the stuff of 1 Cor 8-10:22.

1 Cor 10:25-30, though, is about meat from the market - much of which was leftover εἰδωλοθύτων - “idol-meat.”

Don Johnson wrote:
…If Rm 14 deals with idol meat at all, I would agree that it would be in the sense of 1 Cor 10:25-30, but not the meat of 1 Cor 8-10:22. But even in 1 Cor 10.25-30, he forbids the practice if the source is known. As noted above, Paul is here tolerating the practice. Would Paul tolerate in Romans what he would forbid in 1 Cor? I doubt it. I think we would have a serious problem with his authority if he did.
But Don, look at 1 for 10: 25-29

25 - go ahead and eat what is sold in the market

27 - If an unbeliever serves you meat, go ahead and eat it.

28 - BUT - if someone tells you, "This is idol-meat," then don't eat it for his sake.

29 - NOT for your sake. Only for the sake of the one who served it and ID'd it as idol-meat.

The fact that you know it's idol-meat doesn't mean you can't eat it. It's the fact that the other guy knows that it's idol-meat and cares enough to say so. And it's only for his sake that you abstain. The unbeliever is respecting the idol by telling you that the meat is idol-meat. 

So, no, the issue isn't precicely whether the source is known. This issue is always whether you or those you influence care and eat with respect to the idol.

For the Jew in the old covenant, being unsure about a particular piece of meat while knowing that most of it was tainted by idolatry would have made eating intolerable. They would all have known (as Josephus recounts) that if you believe idolatry is forbidden, you must know your meat is kosher. Unsure wasn't enough.

Paul "tolerates" market-meat in both if your conscience allows. But the watchers always matter, too.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

So new wine is not completely fermented--that's why it's also called "sweet wine"--but it definitely contained alcohol.  And which was better?  Well, look at Luke 5:39.  The ancients preferred fully fermented ("drier") wines, according to our Savior.  Part of the attraction for old wines was also that it was pretty completely fermented and would not become vinegar if exposed to air.  

So is God contradicting himself? How does that passage compare with the obvious preference by all for the new wine?

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

Ed Vasicek's picture

I appreciate all the fine discussion going on, but there are a few points I want to add or fortify.

First, if you look at Arndt and Gingrich, p. 564  (which deals with the Greek of both the Bible and other current literature, not just the vocabulary of the NT) article on oinos, you will find trux is a word for unfermented grape juice.  Trugia is another form. The New Testament authors had that word available, but chose NOT to use it.  They could have SPECIFIED unfermented grape juice if they wanted to do so.  The only word for fermented grape juice is oinos.  So a possible inference is that they chose oinos either because they meant fermented wine, or they chose it because it did not matter.  It is also possible they were weak in Greek, but that does not seem likely.

Second, it takes a lot of self-confidence, IMO, to contradict every single translation of the Bible into English.  To disagree with almost all the scholars of even the most conservative versions is not something I would feel comfortable doing.

Third, I do agree that there were differences in wine quality, mixing wine with water, etc., but we know at the Corinthian church, people were getting drunk during the love feast (I Corinthians 11:21), and Paul's solution is to wait for everyone to arrive.  He does NOT say, "No more wine."

Fourth, on the other side of the equation, I think we have a bit of insensitivity.  It is true that legalists have an agenda to follow man-made rules they have embraced without objectively and fairly re-visiting them in light of Scripture, and so they make the Scriptures fit their agendas, and thus want to impose these rules upon others in the name of the weaker brother. I think we are foolish to be enslaved in this manner; that law was the issue in Paul's day, but the principle applies. (Galatians 5:1),  You can usually detect such people because they have a host of rules and are into control, security, and sameness.

But there are many people who have been deeply hurt and scarred because of alcohol abuse.  My dad was an alcoholic (whom I would have known better if he were not), but he was not a mean one; I was never physically or sexually abused, nor did he abuse my mom in this way. But, in many (perhaps most) cases of physical/sexual abuse, alcohol or another drug is involved.  In addition, over half of all traffic deaths involved alcohol or drugs. Some people are really HURT to see believers drinking because they have been hurt by people under the influence.  This was the impetus for the Prohibition movement.  And they want to fight back, perhaps vowing to themselves as abused children that they would never have anything to do with alcohol.

I don't think we weigh these deep hurts enough.  I appreciate when lost people avoid swearing around me because I am a believer, although they will go back swearing when I am gone.  Part of this comes under the simple of idea of being considerate.

 

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Jim's picture

"Individual Soul Liberty" defined:  Every individual, whether a believer or an unbeliever, has the liberty to choose what their conscience or soul decides is right in the religious realm. This also involves the personal and individual accountability of each person before God.

Now it seems they are BaptXsts. (By the way ... when was the last time you heard anything about "Individual Soul Liberty"?! Anymore it seems it is My Way or the Highway!)

View A is anti-liberty. 

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dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

It seems that under View A pastors often believe that they have soul liberty, but that their congregations ought to follow their convictions.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

JNoël wrote:

Bert Perry wrote:

So new wine is not completely fermented--that's why it's also called "sweet wine"--but it definitely contained alcohol.  And which was better?  Well, look at Luke 5:39.  The ancients preferred fully fermented ("drier") wines, according to our Savior.  Part of the attraction for old wines was also that it was pretty completely fermented and would not become vinegar if exposed to air.  

 

So is God contradicting himself? How does that passage compare with the obvious preference by all for the new wine?

Preference by whom for sweet wines?  Yes, wine is an acquired taste, much like coffee or Tabasco sauce.  But that said, those who have acquired the taste have a general disdain for excessively sweet wines, even as a dessert wine. And even dessert wines (most whites, a few reds) that are "sweet" are not "sweet" like juice or pop, but rather have a hint of the sugar that existed in the original juice before it fermented. One analogy is that those who learn to ditch the Super Big Gulp find after a few weeks that a carrot tastes sweet.   It's all about appreciating subtlety, really.

It's also worth noting, per Ed's comments, that alcoholism and the consequences of it (e.g. cirrhosis of the liver) correlate really well to the drinking of hard (distilled) liquors, but really poorly to the drinking of wine.  This is because it is (a) difficult and (b) expensive to get drunk on decent wine, plus wine culture discourages people from drinking that much that quickly.  Beer is in between--it's difficult to drink enough to get drunk (I'd have to drink a 2 liter to get to .08, and the Bible describes drunk at around .2% BAC), but there is a culture of drinking (cheap) beer to excess.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Lee's picture

Since this thread has degenerated into a discussion of Rom. 14 (Is the meat idolatrous?) vs. I Cor. 8-10 ("I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils...") let me put in my 2 cents worth.

In a matter of dispute of interpretation always fall back on what you absolutely know.  What we KNOW about the matter of meat (or other things tainted by the idolatry of the culture generally referenced as "pollutions of idols") is that refraining from them as an obedient believer was an ABSOLUTE--it was not a liberty issue at all but a rightly defined conscience matter.  This is discerned by a chronological walk through the presentation of this abstinence injunction beginning with Acts 15, I Cor. 6-10, Acts 21, with the concluding summation given by the post-incarnate Christ Himself in Rev. 2. 

Don has done an admirable job pointing out that Rom. 14 does not reference idolatry in any way (idolatry hasn't been referenced in this epistle since chap. 2).  Furthermore, since Rom. 14 chronologically follows I Cor. and is also written under inspiration, if Rom. 14 references the meat of idols Paul is either  qualifying his previous statements (which would contradict the absolute of Christ in Rev. 2) or he is contradicting his previous inspired instructions.  Neither is legitimate for consideration. 

Maybe this whole debate about beverage alcohol should center on determining whether alcohol is a 21st century equivalent to the meat of 1st century Corinth. IOW, is beverage alcohol an integral part of the predominant cultural idolatry that has been incorporated into the commerce and/or customs of society as was the meat of Corinth? If so, then abstinence is the absolute.

Lee

BrianW's picture

When the Pilgrims came to North America the Mayflower was stocked with 50 barrels of beer.  Many say that they drank beer because the water was bad in Europe.  Some water in the cities may have been tainted,  but the English and Europeans did not like drinking water. There was plenty of pure water from springs and creeks and wells.  They felt because water was free, it wasn't as good and it didn't nourish like the ale.

The temperance movement was really kicked off by many of the industrialists in Europe and US because they didn't like the workers drinking on the job (and rightly so). 

John Kellogg the originator of the breakfast cereal was a staunch advocate of the temperance movement.  He was a brilliant doctor.  Kellogg a Seventh Day Adventist also advocated not eating meat, avoiding sex because it was unhealthy (boy he got that wrong).  He also had a strange fascination with stopping people from self stimulating to the point of advocating mutilation.

I only mention Pilgrims because they were true conservatives.  They walked the talk- practiced what they preached and were true lovers of God's Word.  Luther was also known to have his ale as a good German.  Did not these men know the Scriptures?

As an amateur (heavy emphasis on that word) church history hobbyist, I have found no evidence of tee totaling as part of a church culture before the 1800s.

 

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding Don's exegesis, he's more or less arguing that since Romans 14 doesn't flat out state that the issue with meats and wines is idolatry, that we cannot assume that.

Now on one hand, there is the objection which Dan raises; that since the same person (Paul) is writing to similar populations (churches with mixed Jewish/Gentile converts with Oral Torah/idolatry issues), we would have to assume that Romans 14 is at least in part dealing with this.  In fact, we must infer some level of spiritual issues because Paul describes it as a matter of faith--again, personal preference does not suffice to make this argument.

At a more basic level, arguing that something was not a concern of a person because it was not directly mentioned in the text is a basic fallacy of arguing from silence.  Let's draw a picture; you are talking with your wife.  Now just because she does not mention something is important to her, is it safe to assume that it really isn't important to her?

The wise husband says "no way" and understands that in every conversation, there is a subtext; unspoken assumptions are instinctively assumed by one culture, but another culture must have them stated openly.  An example from the Odyssey is that when Homer wants to describe pagan sacrifices, he rarely says as much.  The phrase used is some form of "waving the thigh bone" to the deity being sacrificed to.  The original readers/hearers would have understood this automatically; we have to have it explained to us.

In the same way, the meat & wine portions of Romans 14 have a subtext, just like any other literature.  Notice that Paul does not explicitly say why one might object to eating meat or drinking wine; he simply notes that some have a scruple in this regard.  This is--just like the conversation with your wife--not the place to assume that there is no subtext.  It is the place to make a good analysis to figure out that that subtext might be.

And in 1 Corinthians 8-10, we have the same author writing to people from pretty much the same culture, and in this case, he mentions that temple markets are the issue for meat and wine.  Now we can posit that the Romans may have had yet other reasons for disdaining meat and wine--reasons that we might deduce from a good understanding of other passages and Roman history--but that does not change the fact that there is a subtext in Roman culture that we will do well to heed.

Now what is at stake?  Simple; if indeed Romans 14:1 's comment about receiving those who are weak in faith suggests that there is something bigger than mere preference/offense involved, as the 1 Corinthians parallel would suggest, then Romans 14 does not constitute permission for a believer to say that he has a problem with "behavior A" and infringe on the liberty of others.  To use a picture Don used in a sermon, Romans 14 does not require the pastor to switch to a KJV to preach when he notices people he suspects are KJVO in the congregation.  

Or, to use the more direct picture, if someone tells me (cue Jim's graph) that they have a conviction against the use of alcohol, there is nothing wrong with asking them how this impacts their faith.  In fact, just as most KJVO activists really need someone to ask them "what real evidence to you have that non-TR manuscripts are corrupted?", most "Group A" people in Jim's taxonomy of liquor need to be asked "how does the drinking of liquor affect your faith?"

As I noted before, and as Jim noted, Romans 14 serves all too often as a means for legalists to hold their brothers in Christ hostage and abridge individual soul liberty.  If we take a good look at the subtext, however, we get rid of this.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

BrianW wrote:

I only mention Pilgrims because they were true conservatives.  They walked the talk- practiced what they preached and were true lovers of God's Word.  Luther was also known to have his ale as a good German.  Did not these men know the Scriptures?

 

Devil's advocate: David was a bigamist.

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

DavidO's picture

JNoel,

Any scriptures you can post recognizing bigamy as a good gift from God?

Two categories are important to maintain in this discussion:

  1. Use
  2. Abuse

May the twain never meet. 

 

JNoël's picture

DavidO wrote:

JNoel,

Any scriptures you can post recognizing bigamy as a good gift from God?

No; can you refresh my memory on scriptures that recognize consumption of alcoholic beverages to be a good gift from God?

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

BrianW's picture

I think Deuteronomy 14:26

but I am at work so didn't look up....

back to work.

Bert Perry's picture

JNoël wrote:

 

DavidO wrote:

 

JNoel,

Any scriptures you can post recognizing bigamy as a good gift from God?

 

 

No; can you refresh my memory on scriptures that recognize consumption of alcoholic beverages to be a good gift from God?

Here you go.

By the way, pointing out David's polygamy (not bigamy, that would be only two wives) is a "guilt by association" fallacy.  Such "arguments" ought to have no place in theological discussions among mature believers, as they are the rhetorical equivalent of a spitball fight in junior high school.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

The phrase "connection to idolatry" is too unclear. 1 Cor 8-10 speaks of two different sorts of "idol-tainted" meat.
εἰδωλοθύτων - “idol-meat” - is meat that has been sacrificed to idols in the presence of the eater and eaten there, in the idol’s temple. That’s the stuff of 1 Cor 8-10:22.

 

1 Cor 10:25-30, though, is about meat from the market - much of which was leftover εἰδωλοθύτων - “idol-meat.”

Don Johnson wrote:

…If Rm 14 deals with idol meat at all, I would agree that it would be in the sense of 1 Cor 10:25-30, but not the meat of 1 Cor 8-10:22. But even in 1 Cor 10.25-30, he forbids the practice if the source is known. As noted above, Paul is here tolerating the practice. Would Paul tolerate in Romans what he would forbid in 1 Cor? I doubt it. I think we would have a serious problem with his authority if he did.

But Don, look at 1 for 10: 25-29

 

25 - go ahead and eat what is sold in the market

27 - If an unbeliever serves you meat, go ahead and eat it.

28 - BUT - if someone tells you, "This is idol-meat," then don't eat it for his sake.

29 - NOT for your sake. Only for the sake of the one who served it and ID'd it as idol-meat.

The fact that you know it's idol-meat doesn't mean you can't eat it. It's the fact that the other guy knows that it's idol-meat and cares enough to say so. And it's only for his sake that you abstain. The unbeliever is respecting the idol by telling you that the meat is idol-meat.

Dan, I am with you on the interpretation up to this point. But here is where we see it differently:

1 Corinthians 10:25 Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake;

Why no asking questions? What happens if the question is asked and you find out that in fact the meat sold in the market is idol-meat, what then? Isn't the implication that as soon as you know it is idol-meat, it is off limits?

The way I understand 1 Cor 8-10, the bottom line is "Don't eat idol-meat if it is identified as such" - although as meat by itself, it won't hurt you. There are three reasons given in the passage but it all comes down to this, "don't do it."

In Romans, IF it is idol meat, he makes NO such prohibition. He says, "tolerate each other in your differences." Since idol meat is prohibited in Acts 15 and related passages, since it is prohibited explicitly in 1 Cor 8-10, and also churches are condemned for allowing it in Rev 2, how can we say that Paul is now saying in Romans, "Oh, about that scruple about meat, tolerate each other." If it is idol-meat, that is. Doesn't make sense to me.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

By the way, pointing out David's polygamy (not bigamy, that would be only two wives) is a "guilt by association" fallacy.  Such "arguments" ought to have no place in theological discussions among mature believers, as they are the rhetorical equivalent of a spitball fight in junior high school.

Thank you for the link to the article. After clicking, I realized I read it several years ago. The fact that many minds far greater than mine continue to have the discussion reveals to me the issue is not as clear cut as the article tries to make it. I think the problem may be the apparent contradiction - if so many scriptures warn against consumption of alcohol, how does that contrast with those scriptures that apparently encourage it?

---

My point in bringing up David's polygamy is that God didn't deal with that sin the way I think he should have. God judged various other sins severely while seeming to ignore polygamy. But that does not mean God endorsed it. The fact that consumption of alcohol is seen in scripture does not automatically validate it. That's all I meant by bringing up the multi-marriage comparison.

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

Don Johnson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Regarding Don's exegesis, he's more or less arguing that since Romans 14 doesn't flat out state that the issue with meats and wines is idolatry, that we cannot assume that.

"more or less"? - Bert, it is a little disturbing that you don't seem to make an effort to understand what I am saying. 

 

Bert Perry wrote:
In the same way, the meat & wine portions of Romans 14 have a subtext, just like any other literature.  Notice that Paul does not explicitly say why one might object to eating meat or drinking wine; he simply notes that some have a scruple in this regard.  This is--just like the conversation with your wife--not the place to assume that there is no subtext.  It is the place to make a good analysis to figure out that that subtext might be.

And in 1 Corinthians 8-10, we have the same author writing to people from pretty much the same culture, and in this case, he mentions that temple markets are the issue for meat and wine.  Now we can posit that the Romans may have had yet other reasons for disdaining meat and wine--reasons that we might deduce from a good understanding of other passages and Roman history--but that does not change the fact that there is a subtext in Roman culture that we will do well to heed.

No he doesn't mention the temple markets except as an appendix to the main argument, meat eaten in idol temples. The markets aren't mentioned until late in chapter 10. You need to read Gordon Fee on this, or, if you don't have access to his commentary, read Tom Constable's notes which rely a good deal on Fee. You can find Constable online and download his notes free.

Further, you are basing your argument on your assumption that you know what the so-called subtext is. In fact, you don't. You are just guessing. That is called eisegesis, not exegesis. You aren't getting it out of the text.

Bert Perry wrote:
Now what is at stake?  Simple; if indeed Romans 14:1 's comment about receiving those who are weak in faith suggests that there is something bigger than mere preference/offense involved, as the 1 Corinthians parallel would suggest, then Romans 14 does not constitute permission for a believer to say that he has a problem with "behavior A" and infringe on the liberty of others.  To use a picture Don used in a sermon, Romans 14 does not require the pastor to switch to a KJV to preach when he notices people he suspects are KJVO in the congregation.  

Or, to use the more direct picture, if someone tells me (cue Jim's graph) that they have a conviction against the use of alcohol, there is nothing wrong with asking them how this impacts their faith.  In fact, just as most KJVO activists really need someone to ask them "what real evidence to you have that non-TR manuscripts are corrupted?", most "Group A" people in Jim's taxonomy of liquor need to be asked "how does the drinking of liquor affect your faith?"

As I noted before, and as Jim noted, Romans 14 serves all too often as a means for legalists to hold their brothers in Christ hostage and abridge individual soul liberty.  If we take a good look at the subtext, however, we get rid of this.

I am not sure what you mean by this last line. Romans 14 admonishes believers to be tolerant of one another over religious scruples, not over differences regarding things tainted by evil (i.e., idolatry). And more than being tolerant, it admonishes the strong to restrain their practices for the purpose of building up the spiritual life of the weak (not convincing them their scruple is wrong).

I think  you misunderstand my illustration about the KJV, but I'll leave that aside since we don't need to sidetrack the discussion further!

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Don Johnson wrote:

...for daily consumption as a beverage, they mixed their alcohol in such a way that it was far less potent than drinking it straight - this included Greek and Roman practices, not just Jewish practice. The alcohol they had available was in fact less potent than the alcohol available today.

Let's examine this.

What I see today is that many abstentionists will "excuse" the consumption of alcohol in biblical times because it was mixed/diluted with water.  (The presumption is that this was done because water quality was often suspect, and the alcohol in wine would purify/make safe contaminated water to drink.)

The ratio of water to wine that is typically stated is 3 parts water to 1 part wine (a 3:1 ratio).  (Sometimes you'll see claims that the ratio was as much as 20:1, but this ratio actually comes from Greek mythology: Homer's Odyssey.  In the poem, there is mention of a magical wine that was potent even at the extreme ratio of 20:1.  In practice, such a dilution rate would be too weak for the alcohol to have the intended effect of purification.)

Since (non-fortified) wines are typically in the range of 8% to 14% alcohol, dilution at a ratio of 3:1 would reduce the alcohol content to, let's say, 3% to 4% (just to round off).  Compared to today's alcoholic beverages, this would fall roughly in the range of many common beers (per Google):

3.5% Heineken Premium Light, Amstel Light
4.0% Guinness Black
4.2% Bud/Coors Light
4.6% Corona Extra
5.0% Coors/Budweiser/MGD/Stella Artois
5.0% Heineken

So at a ratio of 3:1, mixed/diluted wine in biblical times would appear to have alcohol content comparable to many of today's common beers.

-----------------------------------------

If wine consumption in biblical times gets a pass because it was often diluted, let me present a scenario for today:

Joe B. Liever walks into a restaurant & orders a ribeye.  He thinks a glass of red wine (approx. a 5.5 oz. serving) would complement the steak, so he orders one.  (Let's say its alcohol content is 14%.)  As he sips the wine, he alternates sipping from a 16 oz. glass of water.  The net effect of the 16 oz. of water mixing with the 5.5 oz. of wine in his stomach is a dilution of about 3:1.

Questions: Does Joe get the same pass that is afforded to wine-drinkers in biblical times?   Has Joe just sinned?  If not, what is the real issue behind a belief in abstentionism today?

 

Bert Perry's picture

No, Don, I understand your argument.  You have argued, repeatedly, that since the word idolatry does not appear in Romans 14, that we are powerless to infer it.  In other words, you are committing the logical fallacy of an argument from silence.  

Sorry, but sound exegesis do take a look at parallel passages from the same author and the culture at hand.  One may get it right, and one may get it wrong, but either way, there is a subtext--things that Paul did not need to say, but we need clarified.  In this case, Rome and Corinth shared a common Apostle, a common language, common pagan gods, and common institutions, including temple markets where the poor could buy food cheaply.  Hence it is a reasonable inference that part of what Paul was getting at--beyond Jewish traditions--was not a simple "scruple", but rather a genuine concern over whether a believer ought to be buying meat that had been sacrificed.

And in that light, we find that a lot of the "scruples" that fundamentalists entertain--like an abhorrence of wine (but not meat of course) or the Majority Text or the Eclectic Text--are not what Paul was getting at.  They need to be confronted, not coddled, because they're really about personal preference and not any test of faith.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

JNoël wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

By the way, pointing out David's polygamy (not bigamy, that would be only two wives) is a "guilt by association" fallacy.  Such "arguments" ought to have no place in theological discussions among mature believers, as they are the rhetorical equivalent of a spitball fight in junior high school.

 

 

Thank you for the link to the article. After clicking, I realized I read it several years ago. The fact that many minds far greater than mine continue to have the discussion reveals to me the issue is not as clear cut as the article tries to make it. I think the problem may be the apparent contradiction - if so many scriptures warn against consumption of alcohol, how does that contrast with those scriptures that apparently encourage it?

---

My point in bringing up David's polygamy is that God didn't deal with that sin the way I think he should have. God judged various other sins severely while seeming to ignore polygamy. But that does not mean God endorsed it. The fact that consumption of alcohol is seen in scripture does not automatically validate it. That's all I meant by bringing up the multi-marriage comparison.

The question, however, is not whether Scripture mentions it.  It is whether Scripture mentions it as a blessing from God.  I think if we're honest, we've got to say that yes, God's word emphatically describes wine as a blessing to His people--in moderation, of course, but a blessing nonetheless.  Hence an appeal to the principle that "description does not equal prescription" fails for the simple reason that God's word does not merely describe the use of wine, but rather notes that it is a blessing for God's people.

Again, we don't have to drink, and certainly we ought not forget the plight of the alcoholic or problem drinker.  But when we take a look at Scripture as a whole, we cannot support the notion that all alcoholic beverages are evil.  It simply doesn't come from the text.  Put bluntly, do we believe Sola Scriptura and the first fundamental, or do we not?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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