Study: Most churchgoers still abstain from alcohol

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

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G. N. Barkman's picture

I hear you, Bert, but I still think its wisest to abstain.  But not to worry, I'm not going to trample upon your Christian liberty to partake moderately.  I've just seen too many people who started out as moderate drinkers and ended up with serious alcohol problems.  That never happens to abstainers.  I think its wisest in our current American cultural setting, but I would take a different direction if I were a missionary in, say, Italy.  There, to refuse a glass of wine in someone's home is often considered insulting, especially if they made it themselves, which is often the case.  In that situation, I would graciously partake to avoid creating a barrier for the gospel.

But here, I see no advantage to partaking, and many reasons to abstain.  I think Christ's cultural setting was more like Italy's, and explains his partaking.  It was expected in the culture of that day, and refusing created an unnecessary gospel barrier.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

GN, first of all, you're conditioning your "wisest to abstain" argument on culture--in other words, you're not doing a general principle.

Even so, your argument requires that the ancients really didn't know about the issues of problem drinking.  However, Paul and Christ would certainly have known about Alexander the Great drinking himself to death, both would have pointed out Proverbs 23:35 as an example of what we'd call alcoholism today, and Greek literature records both a permissive attitude towards drinking and the likelihood of death by overindulging in stronger vintages from "areas with good yeast", more or less. 

And in light of that, Paul more or less encourages the Gentiles to adopt the Jewish attitude towards wine. That's huge, and we see modern parallels in the drunkenness/alcoholism rates depending on how liquor is produced and consumed.  We see it in the U.S., where wine-growing California's rate of DUI deaths is lower than every one of the Bible/bourbon Belt states save Virginia.  

Wiser to do something else because you've heard people claim they were "moderate" drinkers?  Nope, Paul had heard it all before, and he probably knew what counselors know here as well; the first signs of problem drinking are hiding one's drinking and lying about it.  That's why a "Hebrew" attitude that Paul promotes is so important. It gets it out into the open.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JD Miller's picture

If I say that I think it is wisest to drive a four wheel drive during the winter if you live in the upper Midwest, does that imply that I am trampling on other's liberty to drive a front wheel drive?  I understand that these are far different issues, but I am trying to get a better understanding of some of the concerns concerning Christians expressing their opinions about what the wisest decision is.  For example, with the 4wd, even though I think it is wise to drive a 4wd if the roads are bad, I do not think it is a sin to drive a 2wd- in fact, I do it myself from time to time.  Sometimes I even take the minivan on bad roads just to save some fuel even though I also have a 4wd, but that does not change my view that driving the 4wd is the safest and often wisest decision. 

I am not trying to be confrontational with my question, I am truly trying to understand which issues Christians should refrain from expressing their opinions about wisdom and which issues we should.  Is there is a proper way to do so and an improper way?  I would like some Biblical parameters for this, but am not opposed to hearing good cultural reasons as well.

Bert Perry's picture

JD, the question is not about one person's, or even one group's, choices, but rather of a general principle.  If I say, for example, that it is wiser for my family to have a large vehicle due to my six children, that is a different thing than me saying from the pulpit that God's people ought to be driving SUVs.  See the difference?   This is especially the case when we know that in the case being discussed, the apostle Paul knew of situations that were roughly analogous to our modern situations, and did not choose the "fundagelical standard" approach.

So it's not about whether one ought to, or ought not, comment on wisdom in individual situations.  Nor is it really an argument against arguing for wisdom in more general arenas.  Rather, it is simply a plea that when the Biblical writers are dealing with similar problems to those we have today, that our approach ought to as far as possible follow the Biblical approach.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

I may drink a beer a year if it's free. I grew up with an alcoholic father and around relatives who were professional drunkards. I think itsi a wisdom issue. Choosing to abstain is best. But choosing to drink in moderation does not mean you're not wise. Eating donuts isn't wise either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

JD Miller's picture

Bert, thank you for your quick reply.  I understand how positions and opinions can be abused from the pulpit, but what I was specifically interested in was your position on the statement that GN Barkman made when he said,

What I may do is choose to abstain.  That's my personal decision, and the one I believe is the wisest choice, given what we know about the effects and dangers of alcohol. 

I feel like I am missing something in your concern about his statement.  Perhaps I'm a bit slow today, but I am trying to better understand where you are coming from.  If your reply that came right after the post with that statement was not directed at that quote, that would also bring clarification, but if it was, then please elaborate further.

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Many years ago, a pastor in Florida was on something of a crusade to persuade Christians regarding the joys and benefits of drinking wine.  One day, he posted something like this on Facebook:  "You may be a Baptist if you believe drinking is a sin."  I replied with a statement similar to this:  "You may be a Presbyterian if you believe Christian liberty is something which must be practiced by everyone alike."

I'm happy to give Bert the liberty to drink in moderation.  I hope he will be willing to give me the liberty to abstain.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

JD, read the rest of the comment by GN.  It's a fairly broad argument, effectively stating that at least for Americans, Canadians, and "Europeans speaking Slavic or Germanic languages", the wisest course is teetotaling.  Hence I respond by pointing out that for something that crosses cultures like this, we ought to start with Scripture's example.  

You can argue some risks and benefits either way.  Risk is obviously alcoholism and the vast majority of those 88000 deaths related to alcohol--the counterpoint is that the CDC and others point out the big risk is binge drinking, not drinking in general.  Reward is the benefits of compounds in grapes as modified in fermentation, some beneficial cardiac effects of (moderate) alcohol, and the ability and tendency to nibble and sip one's food and drink vs. "inhaling" it.

In a country that loses 7-8x more people to gluttony and sloth than to drunkenness, that last bit is huge.  To draw a picture, upon seeing pictures of those working in the wine industry and those enjoying the fruit of their work, I was struck by how much healthier they all looked than the average person of their age in the churches I inhabit.  Overall, the science is debated (and not just here), but here's an example of what I'm talking about.  Here's another.  

Now you might be able to get a lot of that goodness simply by adopting a Mediterranean diet and such, for sure.  That noted, what if portions of the whole experience keep people "on the wagon"?  It's well-known (www.eatright.org,Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) that a diet that's not enjoyable won't be followed in the long term, and that many eaters tend to eat until a certain amount of "taste" is enjoyed.

You might suggest that a glass of wine and a cheese/olive/bread/fruit smorgasbord pushes out the Super Big Gulp and plate of hot dogs.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

A Christian who discovers that he has the liberty to drink alcohol and then declares that liberty a major cause of personal joy and praise is like a Jew who converts to Christ and perpetually rejoices that he can eat bacon!

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

Mark_Smith's picture

Ron, I just had an insight! BBQ'd pork ribs with a pint of beer... try that for your next community outreach! Come one and come all. Don't do ice cream as well though, you wouldn't want to cross the line into gluttony.

 

I still can't get past this. Say I'm at that BBQ outreach, and there is a wife with her kids and alcoholic husband who has been off the bottle for a while. He sees you, the pastor, the head deacon, the elder, the choir director, etc. taking a big swig of brew... and he thinks. Why can't I do that in Christian liberty? And he descends back into the hole he came out of.

My liberty should never be a stumbling block for someone else. You do what you feel led to, but that is what I am going to follow.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

G. N. Barkman wrote:

I'm happy to give Bert the liberty to drink in moderation.  I hope he will be willing to give me the liberty to abstain.

I'm going to abstain with or without his permission. Smile

Jim's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Ron, I just had an insight! BBQ'd pork ribs with a pint of beer... try that for your next community outreach! Come one and come all. Don't do ice cream as well though, you wouldn't want to cross the line into gluttony.

 

I still can't get past this. Say I'm at that BBQ outreach, and there is a wife with her kids and alcoholic husband who has been off the bottle for a while. He sees you, the pastor, the head deacon, the elder, the choir director, etc. taking a big swig of brew... and he thinks. Why can't I do that in Christian liberty? And he descends back into the hole he came out of.

My liberty should never be a stumbling block for someone else. You do what you feel led to, but that is what I am going to follow.

I don't think that Ron or Bert are promoting beer at church events

Mark_Smith's picture

"Show me the verse" excluding alcohol at church functions if everything else they have written is valid? Why not?

Bert Perry's picture

Once again, what I'm saying is that that everyone should drink, but rather that those who say that it is in general wiser not to drink simply do not have Biblical support for their position.  You don't want to drink for whatever reason, fine; just don't tell the world things that the Scriptures don't support.

(by the way, I've said this repeatedly in this thread, hint, hint)

Regarding Mark's example, maybe consider the many churches that do have beer or wine served at social events where many sip (not swig) the beverages without causing the problems he suggests?  

Really, the whole example pretty much assumes that the dry alcoholic hasn't learned the self-control (Galatians 5:22-3) to know what his limits are with regards to alcohol, and that's simply not how the "dry alcoholic" makes it through his day, when he'll typically need to hear/see dozens of advertisements and drive past (or go into) a similar number of establishments that sell or serve liquor.  You may as well argue that those of us who have violated Matthew 5:27-8 (all of us, probably) are powerless at the sight of a pretty girl, no?

But to the main point I'm making, whether or not a church decides to allow wine/beer/whatever at events is not the point.  The point is opposition to a blanket "wisdom" argument to be made for all Christians.  

But to Mark's question, a church may decide to allow, or prohibit, alcohol at church events for a variety of reasons.  Ability, or inability, to monitor how much people are drinking is high on the list.  You might also decide not to serve based on whether people sip, or guzzle, their beverages, or for other reasons.  Just can't go with a blanket ban, because that seems to be contradicted by the second chapter of John.   

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

Your hypothetical scenario misses reality.

Those Christians I know who drink in moderation are highly respectful of those of their brethren who abstain. They usually pass on drinking in public gatherings other than restaurants. I've never heard them bring up the subject. If guests come to their home there are not wine and beer bottles on display.

BTW, I recently attended a Christian wedding where the couple had wine and beer available for the reception. No one got drunk or buzzed or whatever and I was there for the whole thing. 

While I know that there are a few drinking Christians who flaunt their liberty there may be as many abstainers who long for the days of Carry Nation and Prohibition.

 

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

G. N. Barkman's picture

Bert, I was not making a Biblical argument for my personal decision to abstain.  You are the one who seems to want to force it into a Biblical argument.  You seem to want to promote alcohol consumption because Jesus drank, etc.  I don't need a Biblical argument to choose not to exercise a Christian liberty.  All I need is a personal reason why I believe it's better for me to not exercise that liberty.  I may believe it is safer, or I may believe it removes a potential stumbling block for others. 

Furthermore, I don't need a Biblical argument to communicate my personal decision to others and tell them why I believe that is the wisest decision.  Doing so does not prohibit anyone from exercising his Christian liberty.  Like the Apostle Paul, it is simply my way of telling others why I made that particular decision.  Paul says a whole lot more about refraining from exercising Christian liberties than exercising them.  "If eating meat causes my brother to stumble, I will eat no meat while the world stands" etc.

G. N. Barkman

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

Once again, what I'm saying is that that everyone should drink, but rather that those who say that it is in general wiser not to drink simply do not have Biblical support for their position. 

I assume there was supposed to be a not in place of the first that in your sentence?

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

dcbii wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

Once again, what I'm saying is that that everyone should drink, but rather that those who say that it is in general wiser not to drink simply do not have Biblical support for their position. 

 

 

I assume there was supposed to be a not in place of the first that in your sentence?

Nope.  What I'm saying is that if indeed Scripture sometimes speaks of wine as a blessing--and it emphatically does--and if indeed Scripture indicates our Lord both created and partook of it--and it does--who are we to decide that it is wiser for all Christians to abstain?  You can really only sustain such an argument if one demonstrates that wine in the Bible was totally different than wine today, and given that Alexander the Great basically drank himself to death, and that other Greek writings indicate that alcohol-induced comas were well known in areas with stronger wine, you simply cannot sustain that notion.  

(one other possibility; that we're somehow being wiser than Christ, but let's discard that, because that's blasphemy)

Warn caution?  I'm with you, especially vis-a-vis hard liquor.  Requirement to partake?  Absolutely not.  Can a group decide (per Mark's comment) not to allow it at certain events?  Absolutely, especially if they don't know how to handle it safely and well.  (same thing with BBQ, really)

I simply don't think that, in light of the Biblical evidence, you can support a contention that it is "wiser" for all Christians not to drink.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Did I say that it was wiser for all Christians to abstain?  Did you miss my saying that if I were a missionary in Italy I would partake in certain circumstances?  Mehinks you are promoting your position a bit too vigerously.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

And I quote:

 However, there is nothing in Scripture that requires that I partake, and much to require that I warn others about the dangers of alcohol.  Wine is clearly a mocker, and far too many are deceived by it, including a fair share of Bible believing Christians who have been encouraged by a lopsided view of Christian liberty.  It's cool, but it's not very wise.

Now I'll grant that you granted an Italian exception, but I specifically acknowledged that when I pointed out that, in effect, you were saying that those in North America and the non-Latin-speaking regions of Europe ought to abstain.  

Moreover, when you declare your view to tell others that it's wisest to abstain, you are implicitly arguing that for the generic person not in Italy, France, or Spain, that they ought to abstain.  And even for those regions of Europe, you conditioned your allowance as such:

 I think its wisest in our current American cultural setting, but I would take a different direction if I were a missionary in, say, Italy.  There, to refuse a glass of wine in someone's home is often considered insulting, especially if they made it themselves, which is often the case.  In that situation, I would graciously partake to avoid creating a barrier for the gospel.

Notice here that what you've done is not to say that it's not unwise to drink; you're effectively saying that you would accept a bit of foolishness for the sake of the Gospel.  As such, I am very comfortable saying that you're making a fairly general case that it is not wise to partake of God's good gift of wine.  See what I'm getting at?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

dcbii wrote:

Bert Perry wrote:

Once again, what I'm saying is that that everyone should drink, but rather that those who say that it is in general wiser not to drink simply do not have Biblical support for their position. 

I assume there was supposed to be a not in place of the first that in your sentence?

Nope.

I'm not addressing your contention about wisdom, positive or negative.  It was about the first part of that sentence.  Read more closely.  So without that not I suggested,  your contention is that "everyone should drink."  I suspect that's incorrect (if not, you can correct me again), but that's the way this clause reads (albeit awkwardly with the double "that"):

"Once again, what I'm saying is that that everyone should drink..."

I was just trying to clarify to be sure I understood you.

Dave Barnhart

Joeb's picture

When it comes to Believers enjoying alcohol the rest of the gang taking the opposition arguments can’t hold a candle to Bert’s positions.  Especially when opposition operates in the Legalistic realm.  All one is doing is driving Youth away from Fundementalist churches by doing this 

A young couple in my church were both saved in the one BJU connected church in my area.  Probably one of the best examples of an IFB Church practicing a true walk of Christ I have ever seen.  Unfortunately those from the IFB Fringe go out their way to attack the Pastor of this church on the Internet.  

That being said the husband of this family comes from a BJU legacy family and he has chosen to worship Christ at my church not his home church but never criticized his roots.  Not once have I heard him speak an ill word about his home church.  

This husband is a brilliant young man reflecting the fine education he received at BJU.  However that being said he and his wife enjoy CRAFT BEERS and don’t have any problem having one.  My house church leader is also from an IFB background and from what I can tell neither him or his wife drink alcohol but never say anything about it one way or another.

 In fact during communion my church offered real wine and plain grape juice but only have regular grape juice now.  I suspect that change came from the fact that my church makes a real effort reach out to the down trodden in our area. Hence you do have people who struggle with addictions coming to the church and being saved. My church is very loving and always trying to reach others for Christ at a personal level.  

The point Bert is making is that it is very  Biblical for one to enjoy alcohol God has given us as long as we don’t misuse use it.  No one in my church gets all bunched up in knots about drinking and those who choose to abstain so be it and those that don’t so be it.  Any problems be it the misuse of alcohol or drugs whatever are handled in love and with concern.  

Bert Perry's picture

Dave, yes, you are correct.  I confess that I was looking in the wrong place due to the bolding.  Thank you, belatedly, for that.

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

Dave, yes, you are correct.  I confess that I was looking in the wrong place due to the bolding.  Thank you, belatedly, for that.

No worries.  Partially my fault.  I probably should have changed your bolding and marked your quote as edited, but I didn't realize that leaving it as it was could be misunderstood.

I was reasonably certain I understood what you were saying, but just wanted to be certain. With any topic like this where the participants disagree, and where we really need exactness to be correctly understood, it's way too easy for us to either read past what the other is saying or take the wrong thing from it.

With regard to "wisdom," I would agree that we do need to be careful not to declare our own convictions to be wisdom in general without a clear Biblical mandate, or to be wisdom for others except in special circumstances (like, e.g. for those who have a problem with drunkenness).

Dave Barnhart

G. N. Barkman's picture

The Bible encourages us to enjoy the good blessings of meat.  And yet the Apostle Paul declared that he was ready to forego meat if it would cause a brother to stumble.  Was Paul wrong to say this?  Did he not know the wonderful benefits of meat?  Did he ignore the requirement to keep his personal opinion to himself about this important matter?

To partake or not to partake of wine is a Christian Liberty issue.  To choose to abstain is a legitimate position, and it is not wrong to state that position and the reasons for it.  It appears that some who enthusiastically promote wine-drinking do not well understand the principles of Christian Liberty.  It's your liberty to partake.  It's mine to abstain.  It's your liberty to explain why you choose to partake.  It's mine to explain why I choose to abstain.

G. N. Barkman

G. N. Barkman's picture

Thanks, Jim, for sharing this.  That would be our response as well.  But I do not apologize for issuing an occasional pulpit warning against the dangers of abuse.  When partakers are so sensitive that they object to such statements, which are entirely Biblical, it makes me wonder if their conscience is not as settled on this issue as they want us to believe.

G. N. Barkman

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