A Wisdom Case for Total Abstinence from Alcohol in Modern Times

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

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

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

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

Some framing

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

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

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

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

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

The argument from wisdom

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

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

1 Believers must be wise stewards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 We are called to keep our minds sharp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Avoiding pointless hazards is wise.

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

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

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

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

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

5 We should seek every advantage for successful competition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There are 211 Comments

Ron Bean's picture

I agree that alcohol is physically harmful as is smoking (which is why we don't follow Spurgeon's example). But why doesn't  abstinence form alcohol become a "popular fundamental doctrine" until the prohibition era. The Reformers and Pilgrims loved their beer, George Washington ran a distillery (I know that many of us don't consider him a Christian), and I suspect if you'd asked any Christian before prohibition what wine was, the majority would have said "wine" and not grape juice or rehydrated raisins.

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

Larry Nelson's picture

TylerR wrote:

I think Jesus turned the water at Cana into espresso.  

Nah, it couldn't possibly have been the real stuff. 

It must have been decaf.

Bert Perry's picture

Ron asks a great question about why prohibitionism started, really, in the 18th & 19th centuries in England and the United States.  It's pretty simple really, a question of how much grain you could grow vs. how much you needed to eat.  Fertile soil in the U.S. attracted immigrants, and that opened up farmland both in England and the U.S. for record setting yields.

The king didn't like low prices hurting farmers, so he reduced limits on distilling spirits, especially gin.  Think "Beer Street and Gin Lane".    Lots of hard liquor among people who had few other enjoyments (and a lot of free time) led to predictable problems, and well-meaning people thought that the problems would go away if they simply banned the substance instead of dealing with root causes.  But to ban it, you've got to have a moral argument, so "theologians" of the time constructed a quasi-theological basis for doing so.  In doing so, you'll find gin, farm policies, know-nothingism, anti-Catholic bias, Prohibition, slavery, the Indian wars, and a whole lot more wrapped up into one messy package.

If you look at the work of David, and Teachout, you'll not surprisingly see a ton of commentary from this era.  An early source on David's Genesis 40:11 claims is, for example, a commentary by a guy named Ellicott from 1878, and Teachout actually uses a 19th century dictionary (vs.a modern one) and ends up mis-defining "ale" as a result.  

And with what I've seen of these sources, I've learned to be wary of them, as they really tend strongly to "begin with the end in mind" rather than soberly appraising the data.  

One correction, though; alcohol is nowhere near as lethal as tobacco.  It's actually about an order of magnitude lower in terms of lethality, but if you limit the sample to problem drinkers (as really you should), what you really get is still that it's a lot less lethal than tobacco, but is actually pretty close to SAD in lethality.    We get worked up about it, again, because a portion of alcohol related deaths are quite frankly spectacular and bloody, not because there are more of them. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

And with what I've seen of these sources, I've learned to be wary of them, as they really tend strongly to "begin with the end in mind" rather than soberly appraising the data.  

Forgive me, brother, but I'm literally laughing out loud when I read this. It has been clearly shown that you have done the same thing with the various passages you have presented in support of your position.

 

Bert Perry wrote:

One correction, though; alcohol is nowhere near as lethal as tobacco.  It's actually about an order of magnitude lower in terms of lethality, but if you limit the sample to problem drinkers (as really you should), what you really get is still that it's a lot less lethal than tobacco, but is actually pretty close to SAD in lethality.    We get worked up about it, again, because a portion of alcohol related deaths are quite frankly spectacular and bloody, not because there are more of them. 

You're still stuck on deaths vs. deaths. I contend the impact alcohol has on society is worse than the impact tobacco has on society. (I am NOT contending Christians should be okay with smoking; although the Bible never prohibits or even warns against it ;))

 

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

David R. Brumbelow's picture

“why doesn't  abstinence form alcohol become a "popular fundamental doctrine" until the prohibition era.” 

First, I don’t consider abstinence from alcohol a fundamental doctrine, although Spurgeon just about went that far. 

But it is true that abstinence from alcohol, with exceptions here and there over 2,000 years, did not become prominent until the late 1700s and 1800s, culminating in Prohibition almost 100 years ago. 

But then, you could say the same about slavery.  Yet I believe in regards to alcohol and slavery, the Bible directly and indirectly condemns both. 

David R. Brumbelow

JNoël's picture

David R. Brumbelow wrote:

But then, you could say the same about slavery.  Yet I believe in regards to alcohol and slavery, the Bible directly and indirectly condemns both. 

Please don't get me started on "slavery" - which I put in quotes because we all know and agree that American slavery, as it was in our country and as it was outlawed, rightfully so, is easily condemned by scripture. But the concept of one owning another is most certainly not.

I do NOT say this to drum up conversation on the topic of human ownership, I say it to hopefully help others understand my position on hermeneutics. The Bible never condemns alcohol, but it certainly warns against it. The Bible even more so never condemns slavery - and it even gives instructions on how to properly be an owner of another human. There is instruction in the Bible on consuming alcohol - don't get drunk by it.

 

So, there you have a question:

The Bible warns against wine, and commands us to not get drunk.

The Bible instructs us how to own other humans, and commands us to love one another (the most fundamental argument prohibiting American slavery).

 

So I concede that the Bible does not explicitly prohibit consuming alcohol. It also does not explicitly prohibit human ownership.

 

Who wants to be the first to propose human ownership, showing the many benefits which could be possible with such arrangements if done in accordance with God's commands?

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)

Joeb's picture

Arron actually as a whole people’s teeth back in biblical times  were actually better than we are today ie no mass sugar from sugar cane.  All the skulls examined at Pompeii proved that.  The Archeologists were amazed how perfect the teeth were on all the skulls regarding the lack of rot and bad formation.  

Also an Archeologist at University of Pennsylvania who has ready access to many ancient skulls due to to their large collection at their museum has determined that ancient people had perfectly formed teeth and determined that this was due to women breast feeding babies to up to 4 years old. She had access to ancient Egyptian skulls and the Truscans who predated the Romans in Italy.  Hence the example of ancient Dentistry is a poor example.

Bert uses the correct examples in making his point.  David mes think your a little weak in your arguments.  Better luck next time. 

Id like to add that the wine at the wedding had to be alcoholic versus Welches grape juice.  No instant fermentation and aging no miracle to behold period. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

Bert and Andrew, Once again, my point isn't that Jesus drank wine or didn't drink wine. My point is (1) the text of John 2 doesn't say and (2) it isn't the point of the story. Therefore, a pastor/preacher/teacher/Christian should not make it a point one way or the other from this text. It is certainly true that cultural context informs our exegesis and what they did may give some indication of what we can do (although there are a lot of factors before we get there). But again, that is to miss the point.  

The point of exegesis is to arrive at the meaning of text in order to find its theological meaning. This text has nothing to do with wine or weddings. Those are simply props for the theological point about who Jesus was. This was a private miracle, done in a backroom, and the headmaster did not know who had done it. (That we know by actual exegesis.) And remember the idea of not drinking is known in the first-century as well (Remember John the Baptist.) So the idea that everyone must drink is simply not true.

No one would quibble if we said Jesus ate lamb, beef, olives, or cheese, as these were common, after all.  

I would absolutely quibble with that on the same grounds -- that the text says no such thing. For all your talk about the "first fundamental," why abandon it now? Why do you feel so free to add to the text?

Preaching the text means preaching the text. I know that sounds odd for those who want to use the text to make some other point. But the idea of Jesus drinking or abstaining should never come up from this text because it isn't in the text.

There is a little assumption here; that the guy who made the wine would have actually sampled it,I guess.

You guess? You are making a rather major point based on a guess? It might be true, but there is no reason to believe it based on what God, through John, said. And that returns us to the question of authority: The text inspired by God or Bert's guess. Bert may be right, but then we have to wonder why God didn't bother to tell us that. Perhaps because it isn't relevant to the point God wants to make. Which may, to be sure, be different than the point Bert wants to make. But in the end, the text must be our authority.

And let's be blunt here; Jesus here is clearly pointing at His upcoming wedding supper,

How is that clear? Having just preached this text a few weeks ago, I didn't find that to be clear at all. I found no reason for it in the text. Some suggest it but the reasoning was unconvincing to me. And it was unconvincing to others too. This was the beginning of signs by which Jesus demonstrated his identity. In this story, that appears to be limited to his disciples who were with him. It does not appear to be any broader, again, based on the text itself.

Really, I don't see the fuss. 

My fuss is simple: The text doesn't say what you say. 

I have offered no opinion on whether Jesus drank or didn't drink, or whether it was wine or grape juice, or whether we should drink or not drink. My point is that the text is being misused to say something it doesn't say.

If we are going to talk about the first fundamental (as you put it), then we should actually limit ourselves to that. Use the words text in line with its intentions, not with your desire to make some other point. 

David R. Brumbelow's picture

“It was a wonderful miracle, and yet, after all, it was just a duplication of what our Lord Jesus Christ has been doing for millenniums on ten thousand hillsides, changing water into wine.”  -H. A. Ironside (AD 1876-1951), author and pastor of Moody Memorial Church, Chicago, Illinois. 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

Larry, exactly how are we to understand the parables and such in Scripture if we don't have an understanding of what's left unsaid?  Or, for that matter, the most recent quote David posted--if indeed John 2 says nothing directly about water being made into wine on ten thousand hillsides, and it doesn't, I look forward to your evisceration of Ironside.

Or, quite possibly, the use of external information to infer reasonable conclusions from the context has been done by every theologian of note in history, and your claims simply don't hold water.  Any serious look at Biblical or systematic theology is going to build on a lot of connections--"types" is one kind of this--that are often not specifically mentioned in Scripture.  Yes, it can get reckless, but you can bound the realm of possibilities by a serious look at the culture involved.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ken S's picture

Larry wrote:

The point of exegesis is to arrive at the meaning of text in order to find its theological meaning. This text has nothing to do with wine or weddings. Those are simply props for the theological point about who Jesus was. This was a private miracle, done in a backroom, and the headmaster did not know who had done it. (That we know by actual exegesis.) And remember the idea of not drinking is known in the first-century as well (Remember John the Baptist.) So the idea that everyone must drink is simply not true.

The statement in bold above highlights part of the struggle I have when I am told that wisdom requires me to abstain. Matthew 11 states that John did not drink wine, but Jesus did. The accusations in Matthew 11 while not explicitly mentioning the wine as alcoholic, make it hard to understand it as anything but alcoholic wine. So John did abstain, but Jesus did not and he could have if he wanted to. If Jesus did not abstain, why does wisdom require us to abstain. I'm sure some will say Matthew 11 does not refer to alcoholic wine, but I view that as a stretch given the context in Matt 11. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

The statement in bold above highlights part of the struggle I have when I am told that wisdom requires me to abstain.

Perhaps someone who will tell you that wisdom requires you to abstain will explain that. I will wait and see.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I think Jesus turned the water into mocha, coconut frappuccinos.

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

Ron Bean's picture

The Mormon View:

As introduced by the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, Joseph Smith, the sacrament included the use of fermented wine, though the church now uses water.

Commanded in an 1830 revelation to Smith[5] not to purchase alcohol from enemies, the church focused on producing its own wine, eventually owning and operating vineyards and wineries in Utah Territory and California during the 19th century.

In 1833, Smith received the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom, part of which prohibits the consumption of alcohol, with the exception of sacramental wine. Initially, the Word of Wisdom was treated as a recommendation, and the early Latter Day Saints would still drink alcohol on occasion. During the late-19th century, church leaders began to interpret the Word of Wisdom as a mandatory requirement for members. This increased respect for the Word of Wisdom, combined with other scriptures in Doctrine and Covenants[6] led congregations to begin substituting water for the sacramental wine. The practice was officially adopted church-wide in 1912.[citation needed]

Occasionally, a lack of access to bread will result in the use of food other than bread in the sacrament. Crackers and tortillas are sometimes used in outdoor, rugged settings, such as church-sponsored Boy Scout camping trips.[citation needed] In such situations, the word "bread" is typically retained in the prayer.

Then there are the Amish (from Ask the Amish):

The Amish have two communion services per year. One in spring around Easter time and the other in the fall. Some communities use wine, while others use only grape juice.

 

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

Bert Perry's picture

TylerR wrote:

I think Jesus turned the water into mocha, coconut frappuccinos.

There's that gluttony thing again with those drinks coming in at 400 calories apiece.... and what couple doesn't want a good strong hit of caffeine to prevent any sleep after the most exhausting day (or week in Hebrew culture) of their lives....?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Lee's picture

Larry wrote:

Bert and Andrew, Once again, my point isn't that Jesus drank wine or didn't drink wine. My point is (1) the text of John 2 doesn't say and (2) it isn't the point of the story. Therefore, a pastor/preacher/teacher/Christian should not make it a point one way or the other from this text. It is certainly true that cultural context informs our exegesis and what they did may give some indication of what we can do (although there are a lot of factors before we get there). But again, that is to miss the point.  The point of exegesis is to arrive at the meaning of text in order to find its theological meaning. This text has nothing to do with wine or weddings. Those are simply props for the theological point about who Jesus was. This was a private miracle, done in a backroom, and the headmaster did not know who had done it. (That we know by actual exegesis.) ...

Agree.  The point of the narrative is not on what Jesus made but on that he could and did perform a miracle to meet the perceived need of the hour for the purpose of revealing himself as the One with exclusively God attributes now beginning public ministry as a human being.  If the perceived need was ping pong balls He would have miraculously made ping pong balls for identical reasons.  And that is not a guess because Mary knew what He would do because she knew Who He was (forever answering the question in the silly Christmas song [okay, that is an opinion] "Mary, did you know"?).  They were out of oinos; they needed oinos; Mary knew He could and would provide oinos; He miraculously provided oinos. Jesus was there not to approve marriage, which He did elsewhere, or to approve wine.  He was there to identify Himself as the Savior come to earth.  That was the message of the text, and, quite frankly, the only message of the text. 

Lee

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Matthew 11

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 

19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”

Several things to note about John Baptist and Jesus. 

1.  John Baptist did not eat or drink with the people.  He did not socialize.

2.  Jesus came eating and drinking, socializing with the people.  That does not state He drank alcohol.  I eat and drink with people, but do not drink alcohol. 

3.  It was Jesus’ enemies who slandered Him saying He was a winebibber (and glutton).  Don’t take the word of those who hated and slandered Jesus as the gospel truth. 

4.  Some say Jesus must have drank alcohol for Him to be accused of being a winebibber.  In other words, there had to be some truth to the accusation.  Well, Jesus was also accused by His enemies of being demon possessed and mad (John 10).  So, would the same people insist there must be some truth to this or His enemies would not have said it? 

Of course there was no truth to Jesus even being a little bit demon possessed or a little bit mad. 

And Jesus being falsely accused of being a drunk in no way proves He drank alcohol. 

David R. Brumbelow

JNoël's picture

David R. Brumbelow wrote:

And Jesus being falsely accused of being a drunk in no way proves He drank alcohol. 

I think it's also noteworthy to remember (it's easy to forget sometimes; forest/trees analogy) who the author of the Bible is.

His accusers were indeed his enemies. If you want to believe his enemies' accusations and build your doctrine around that, I think you are making a mistake - especially since that isn't the point of this passage in the first place.

A Sola Scriptura, First Fundamental Literal, Historical-Grammatical Hermeneutic exegesis of this passage does not tell us whether or not Jesus consumed alcohol, period.

 

That's two down (John 2 and Matthew 9). I'm guessing there are other passages you pro-Jesus-consumed-alcohol folks have to support your claims; let's see if they hold up any better to sound exegesis than what you have offered with these. My mind is still open; I am still reading and listening; I have been searching for others on the web to see if anyone else has solid, exegetical support showing Jesus (1) consuming and (2) approving/blessing the consumption of alcohol. I'm coming up short so far.

 

Side-note:

Some of you have referenced "wine, that makes the heart merry." I'm fascinated to hear your thoughts on that matter. Are we saying the intoxicating effects of alcohol (i.e. a buzz, which many DOT's refer to as being drunk (buzz driving is drunk driving)) are being promoted by the Bible? If not, then what other "merriment" comes from alcohol that I can't get from grape juice or the countless other things I can eat or drink? This is a serious question; I'm not mocking or trying to make a case for or against, I'm just trying to understand what it is about wine making merry.

 

 

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

Bert Perry's picture

Exactly what level of statement would it take to persuade the abstentionists here that Jesus did, indeed, drink real wine?  With the insistence that you have to actually follow real, alcoholic wine past His lips and into His stomach, you'd have to have something like this:

It was a dark and stormy night, and Jesus raised the glass of real wine, the kind that will make you drunk if you have too much, to His lips and drank.  And then he swallowed the wine.....

Thankfully, the Gospel writers didn't write like Bulwer-Lytton, and that really presents a problem for those who would insist on this level of proof; Scripture doesn't read like that because the society at the time didn't talk like that.  There was nothing remarkable about drinking wine that would justify such prose. 

In short, I'm afraid you've set up a theory that is unfalsifiable, and unfalsifiable theories are inherently....false.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Exactly what level of statement would it take to persuade the abstentionists here that Jesus did, indeed, drink real wine?  With the insistence that you have to actually follow real, alcoholic wine past His lips and into His stomach, you'd have to have something like this:

That is a very easy question to answer - there is no scriptural passage or passages that links Jesus drinking wine resulting in a merry heart (or for medicinal purposes, for that matter). If there were, I doubt there would be any controversy.

But it has been demonstrated that your conclusions are not based on sound exegesis, but on inference and assumption.

 

Here is the summary of why I believe what I believe:

"it" = alcoholic wine

1) We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit, not wine (drunkenness)

2) We are commanded neither to consume it nor to abstain from it, therefore, it is a matter of conscience

3) The choice to consume may cause a brother to stumble

4) We have far more passages warning about it than passages praising it

5) We know some who abstained

6) We know none whose consumption of it was approved and/or encouraged

 

These are all facts taken directly from scripture, not by inference or assumption based on a predisposition.

 

As a Christian with freedom to make choices in areas not clearly commanded/prohibited by scripture, my assessment of the consumption of alcohol is that consuming it has high risks while abstaining from it has virtually none; the only possible benefits to non-medicinal consumption specifically mentioned in scripture are superficial (a merry heart) and insufficient for me to be willing to take on the risks.

Therefore, it is a wise choice to abstain.

This is why I agree with Aaron's article.

 

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

Bert Perry's picture

I did not ask you whether you thought there was evidence to prove Jesus drank wine.  I asked the forum what kind of evidence would suffice to demonstrate this.  Again, if your hypothesis cannot be falsified--and that is your contention right now--it is false.  Period. 

So let's have what kind of statement that would fit in the Hebrew mindset of the time that would suffice to convince you.  Once again, if you cannot falsify your hypothesis, neither can you prove it.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Exactly what level of statement would it take to persuade the abstentionists here that Jesus did, indeed, drink real wine?

The "level of statement" it would take to persuade me is one that does not violate the rules exegesis, which is why I kept coming back to my question of trying to understand how you exegete scripture - because you must be applying a different hermeneutic than others in order for you to believe Jesus "did, indeed, drink real wine."

 

Bert Perry wrote:

Exactly what level of statement would it take to persuade the abstentionists here that Jesus did, indeed, drink real wine?

I may also have read your question too quickly and possibly incorrectly included myself with your queried audience. Were you directing your question to those who demand abstention as a scriptural mandate, or were you including those who believe the Bible does not demand abstention, leaving it a matter of conscience? I do not believe the former, although I grew up in a church that did.

It took me too many years to come out from that kind of church and recognize that we must never add to what the Bible says.

 

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

Ken S's picture

JNoël wrote:

The "level of statement" it would take to persuade me is one that does not violate the rules exegesis, which is why I kept coming back to my question of trying to understand how you exegete scripture - because you must be applying a different hermeneutic than others in order for you to believe Jesus "did, indeed, drink real wine."

 

I would agree with you here that the Bible does not explicitly say Jesus drank wine in Matt 11/Luke 7 and I would be wrong if I try to claim that it did. However, it's not wrong for me to read the passage and come away with several reasons why it is my opinion that the wine was most likely alcoholic, or at least that in my opinion there is no reason to assume otherwise. I won't go through my reasoning here because there is no doubt that those with the opposite view will remain unconvinced. There are other passages (Deut. 14:26, Num. 28:7, etc,) that speak about wine in a positive or non-prohibitive way, however I know that those who abstain have reasons why they are not convinced these passages permit consumption of alcohol. I've studied this issue extensively and am not able to come to the same conclusions.

 

For those who truly believe that the Bible prohibits all alcohol consumption, they do right to abstain and to tell others to abstain based on what they believe the Bible teaches. While I disagree, I can respect that they are sticking with their Biblical convictions. But I do buck against the wisdom argument as applying to all believers, mainly because I grew up in church background similar to what JNoel described. The wisdom argument is perfectly fine for individual believers as they can apply the argument as their conscience dictates. But when saying that the Bible does not actually prohibit alcohol consumption and at the same time putting the wisdom argument out there as a reason why ALL believers should avoid alcohol, I believe that is a way of backdooring a prohibition that the Bible itself does not make.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Bert, somebody literally is going through this thread, and systematically disliking everything you write!

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

JNoël's picture

Ken S wrote:

For those who truly believe that the Bible prohibits all alcohol consumption, they do right to abstain and to tell others to abstain based on what they believe the Bible teaches.

Perhaps it is time to break out the various positions being expressed in this conversation.

Some demand abstinance (drinking alcohol = sin).

Some demand the Bible teaches that consuming alcohol is a blessing from God, to be enjoyed, but that drunkenness is sin.

Some believe the Bible lacks any clear commands against consumption, making it a matter of conscience.

 

I am in the third category. I do not in any way believe the Bible condemns or condones it, I believe it is a matter of conscience. I do not break fellowship with those who disagree.

 

As a parent, I believe the wisdom of abstinence is a good position in instructing my children why I choose not to consume. I can explain to them the variety of scriptural references about alcohol - not only the warnings, but the others, too. If I teach my children that Jesus drank alcohol and reference passages that Bert and others have referenced, they may grow up asking the same questions I have asked - why we are leaning on passages that don't actually say that Jesus drank alcohol? That is not honest exegesis - it is eisegesis. But it would be just as wrong for me to try to build a case of consumption being sin - because the Bible doesn't say that, either.

 

Ken S wrote:

But I do buck against the wisdom argument as applying to all believers, mainly because I grew up in church background similar to what JNoel described. The wisdom argument is perfectly fine for individual believers as they can apply the argument as their conscience dictates. But when saying that the Bible does not actually prohibit alcohol consumption and at the same time putting the wisdom argument out there as a reason why ALL believers should avoid alcohol, I believe that is a way of backdooring a prohibition that the Bible itself does not make.

I wholeheartedly agree. I think it is more difficult to write on this subject than it is to play it out in real life. Honestly, the conversation about alcohol rarely ever comes up at church, in my home, or even with my unsaved co-workers (when we may be out at a dinner somewhere). If it does, I begin with telling them that I prefer not to drink alcohol because I find the risk too great. If they want me to expand on the conversation, I can, and reference what the Bible says about alcohol (and what it doesn't), and how alcohol continues to ruin lives (finances, domestic violence, workplace problems, sexual crimes, vehicular situations, health, etc.) but I don't pressure anyone into choosing to abstain - and I also don't look down on them as being lesser than I because they may choose to consume. Of course I don't think they are wise to do so, but it is still their decision to make, and I respect their decision to choose for themselves. I have personal friends I regard as role models regarding their manner of Christian living who enjoy beverage alcohol; I disagree with them on that decision, but that doesn't make me holier than them.

 

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)

JNoël's picture

TylerR wrote:

Bert, somebody literally is going through this thread, and systematically disliking everything you write!

Just for the record, it isn't me.  Smile

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)

JNoël's picture

I have a bottle of Newport riesling in my fridge right now. It is absolutely delicious in various (cooked) recipes.

It makes my heart merry.  Smile

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

David R. Brumbelow's picture

The Bible never says Jesus drank alcohol.  To say He did is your opinion, your interpretation. 

And, of course, that works both ways.  Although Matthew 26:29 and Mark 14:25 imply Jesus preferred the fruit of the vine and new wine – indications of drug-free wine. 

Another big indication is Jesus’ sinless nature. 

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink.  -Proverbs 31:4 NKJV

For the record, I’ve not “liked” or “disliked” any comment here. 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

Jason gave a game try, but abstentionists need to come up with some kind of statement,that would prove the matter to them.  So far, bupkus.  And if you cannot come up with something, you automatically must discard your hypothesis.

Really, the argument being presented here, moreover, is that arguments of likelihood are inherently invalid.  Now that's hardly how one would analyze any other text--you make inferences, read between the lines, introduce knowledge about the society you're looking at, all that--but if you're going to insist on that, the ugly fact of the matter is that you're pretty much insisting on something like the Bulwer-Lytton formulation I wrote above, which is pretty much impossible in that culture.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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