"It’s time to grow up in your discernment and compassion and to be a warner rather than a tempter."

“Unless you’ve counseled a worn-out wife about her husband’s alcoholism, unless you’ve comforted a teen whose parents have both been heavy drinkers for as long as he can remember, unless you’ve discipled a new believer trying to throw off his addiction before he loses custody of his child, unless you’ve wept with a woman who has tried and failed to get sober for the better part of two decades, and most of all, unless you’ve looked into the dull eyes of a husband who just an hour ago lost the mother of his two young children to a drunk driver—unless you have some real life experience with the dangers of alcohol—I don’t want to hear about your liberty to drink.” Ambivalence about Alcohol

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G. N. Barkman's picture

The use and abuse of alcohol has become more of an emotional issue than a Biblical one for many Christians.  It's hard to argue with the millions who have suffered from alcohol's abuse.  Who wants to defend the abuse of alcohol? 

However, if we are committed to being governed by the Bible, we must be honest with what it teaches in every area, including alcohol.  The Bible condemns alcohol's abuse, but permits its moderate use.

It's a tricky area.  As a pastor, I must honestly say what the Bible says.  As a pastor, I may also say what I personally recommend, as long as I make it clear that this is my personal recommendation, not "thus says the Lord."

Personally, I am an abstainer.  Personally, I recommend abstinence.  I believe it to be the safest course.  Biblically, I cannot require abstinence because the Bible does not.  I am required to give others the liberty that the Bible allows.  As long as one does not abuse alcohol, he is permitted by the Bible to partake.  Will I join him?  No.  I may even tell him why I choose not to partake.  I may warn  him about those I know who enjoyed their liberty only to eventually cross  the line and abuse it.  Its a slippery slope.  But I may not condemn one for that which the Bible does not condemn.   Emotions and cautions aside, we must be committed to sola scriptura.

G. N. Barkman

David R. Brumbelow's picture

To present the other side:
I believe the Bible does command abstinence from alcohol.

Proverbs 23 gives a detailed account of alcoholic wine (they did not have a word for alcohol, so they described it by its effects), and then says not to even look at that kind of wine.  Also see Proverbs 20:1. 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8, as well as other passages, we are commanded to be sober.  The Greek word literally means “without wine.”  The first drink of alcohol ends your sobriety. 

Biblical principles also condemn beverage alcohol. 

Ancients used the words for wine, much like we use the words drink, cider, punch, liquor, eggnog.  They can refer to either an alcoholic or nonalcoholic drink. 

The Bible commends wine, it never commends alcohol.  Jesus made wine, it never says He made alcohol.  Scripture never describes alcoholic wine, then says to moderately enjoy it; it does describe alcoholic wine and says to stay away from it. 

 

They called both fermented (Proverbs 20:1) and unfermented (Proverbs 3:10; Isaiah 16:10; 65:8; Joel 2:24; Zechariah 9:17; Lamentations 2:12-12; Matthew 9:17) wine by the name wine. 

 

They knew and commonly used multiple ways to preserve grape juice or unfermented wine; methods that can be and are reproduced today.  Unfermented wine was easily provided throughout the year; so they had a choice, just as we do today. 
David R. Brumbelow

David R. Brumbelow's picture

The above reference should be Lamentations 2:11-12.

I hate typos!

The point is that mothers do not give their infants alcoholic wine, but they do give them unfermented wine, grape juice, or juice boxes. 

Plato had a similar reference when he wrote in a letter that he was sending the children sweet wine.

David R. Brumbelow

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Folks have the liberty to use alcohol in moderation. I am OK with that.

However, I have the liberty to never trust their judgment if they have been partaking. I've never met a person who drinks who would admit when they were buzzed, much less drunk, even when they exhibited changes in their behavior. So I simply have to exercise my own freedom to dismiss anyone's word that they have been drinking in moderation and have full control of their faculties. Yes, this actually means that if someone tells me they drink in moderation and are not buzzed, I assume they are lying. Bummer. 

JohnBrian's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

The use and abuse of alcohol has become more of an emotional issue than a Biblical one for many Christians.  It's hard to argue with the millions who have suffered from alcohol's abuse.  Who wants to defend the abuse of alcohol? 

However, if we are committed to being governed by the Bible, we must be honest with what it teaches in every area, including alcohol.  The Bible condemns alcohol's abuse, but permits its moderate use.

It's a tricky area.  As a pastor, I must honestly say what the Bible says.  As a pastor, I may also say what I personally recommend, as long as I make it clear that this is my personal recommendation, not "thus says the Lord."

Personally, I am an abstainer.  Personally, I recommend abstinence.  I believe it to be the safest course.  Biblically, I cannot require abstinence because the Bible does not.  I am required to give others the liberty that the Bible allows.  As long as one does not abuse alcohol, he is permitted by the Bible to partake.  Will I join him?  No.  I may even tell him why I choose not to partake.  I may warn  him about those I know who enjoyed their liberty only to eventually cross  the line and abuse it.  Its a slippery slope.  But I may not condemn one for that which the Bible does not condemn.   Emotions and cautions aside, we must be committed to sola scriptura.

 

Exactly what my pastor preached on a week ago

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David R. Brumbelow's picture

Susan R.,
Last year I had surgery and was asked by the nurse if I drank.  I replied no.  I then asked her how many replied yes.  Seems she mentioned practically all. 

She then made an interesting comment,

“Everyone lies about how much they drink.” 

She said however many drinks they claim, she takes that number and multiplies it by three.
David R. Brumbelow

handerson's picture

while Scripture doesn't demand abstention (imho), it certainly shows that there is value in giving warnings about the dangers of alcohol. Funny that this is exactly what is being questioned--the right of a pastor/blogger to warn about the very real, very painful ramifications that happen through a careless attitude toward alcohol.

To me that's what's at stake here and what is probably propelling the warnings more than anything--the immaturity and carelessness of Christians improperly and naively exercising their "liberty."

 

 

 

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

To handerson:

I hope I'm not being thin skinned here, but I am assuming my blog is the one that you refer to as questioning the practice of warning against alcohol.  That was certainly not my intention.  In fact, I don't think that is what I was saying at all.  So, just for the sake of clarification, is that what you thought I said, or were you addressing someone else?

G. N. Barkman

L Strickler's picture

Steve Hafler's right to warn was questioned in another post.

L Strickler

Jim's picture

handerson wrote:
To me that's what's at stake here and what is probably propelling the warnings more than anything--the immaturity and carelessness of Christians improperly and naively exercising their "liberty."

 

Questions:

  • Who is improperly and naively exercising their "liberty"?
  • What does it mean to "improperly and naively exercise "liberty"?
  • Why is "liberty" in quotes

Help me understand you

 

Thanks

 

dmicah's picture

The abuse of alcoholic beverages is indeed problematic. But emotion and loss can't override the clear teachings of Scripture. Alcohol was giving as a blessing to humanity as much as any of the other pleasures of life that are often abused by sinful humanity including Christians.

The notion that wine and strong drink described in the Bible weren't alcoholic is a preconceived conclusion based on gobbledygook eisegesis, not simple hermeneutic. 

One can drink in moderation. One can think clearly while drinking in moderation. Discernment & maturity matter with this lightning rod of a subject, but the Bible's clear teaching must be the voice and standard. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Perhaps it boils down to this.  If you issue only warnings against alcohol's abuse, and either teach or imply that because of abuse, Christians must not partake, you are distorting Scripture.  That dishonors God.

If you begin by teaching accurately that the Bible allows the moderate use of alcohol, you are in a position to warn strongly against its abuse without distorting Scripture.  To put it another way, if you give equal treatment to the Bible's warnings as well as the Bible's permissions (and even its praise for wine as a blessing bestowed by a wise and benevolent God), you can then teach principles of Christian liberty, and show why the Scripture says more about restraint than exercise of liberty.

But if you teach only one side of the issue, no matter which side you promote, you distort the Bible.  Those who only warn against alcohol's evils leave the impression that God condemns all use of alcohol.  He does not.  Those who promote the use of wine, and fail to warn against its dangers also distort Scripture.  When you teach accurately what Scripture says, you honor God, edify the people of God, and avoid giving the enemies of Christ occasion to blaspheme the name of Christ or to ridicule Bible preachers as being dishonest or incompetent.

G. N. Barkman

Jim's picture

This phrase:

It’s time to grow up in your discernment and compassion and to be a warner rather than a tempter

  • It's basically with the "or" component .. specifically " be .... rather than"
  • It begs the question - "who is the tempter"?
  • It presumes that all who drink (even those who drink in moderation) are immature (time to grow up) ... lack discernment and have no compassion
  • It presumes that all who drink (even in moderation) tempt those who do not

I mean if one does not drink (and I presume that probably most on S/I do not) and if someone drinking temps us:

  • Are we/you consistent by NOT going to baseball / football / other sporting events where people drink (I have a story about that: Took my Dad to a Phillies game years ago and exuberant fan behind him spilled beer down the back of my Dad's shirt. We managed to NOT overreact and did not have beers!)
  • Consistent about not going to any store (like your local grocery store) where beer and/or liquor is sold
  • Avoid all TV and media where beer / liquor drinking is advertised or modeled
  • Eschew every restaurant where liquor is served

I'm one who both warns about drinking and believes that drinking in moderation is permitted. Surely we understand that there are many godly Christians who do drink in moderation. They're not out there promoting their position, flaunting it (they're not serving liquor at Bible studies or bringing beer to the Church picnic!). Are we to understand that they all are immature? Lack discernment? Have no compassion? Drink and drive? Cause fatal accidents?

The above statement is an emotionally charged statement that does not advance the discussion.

handerson's picture

My original comment was in response to both this discussion and discussions I engaged elsewhere regarding this particular situation--I probably imported some of that into this thread without realizing it.

Also, in answer to Jim, I assumed a certain audience for the original post by Chris Anderson--perhaps rightly or wrongly so--I assumed he was addressing the category of young evangelical/fundamentalists who having grown up in tee-totaling cultures suddenly have been "liberated" to drink. My  observation and concern has less to do with whether they do or do not drink (I recognize that Scripture does not condemn and at times even celebrates alcohol); my concern has more to do with the naive and careless approach that they often take by means of ignorance.

Because many of them have not grown up around alcohol in social settings, they come to it somewhat underestimating its power. They see it simply as something that before had been off limits (like cards or dancing or certain types of music) and end of using it carelessly. I have friends who have obviously reached a point of being buzzed but didn't have enough experience to know to hand off the keys or to recognize how they have been affected. On the other hand, I have friends who are unbelievers but have grown up around alcohol and know how to properly use it including making sure you compensate by eating and drinking enough water to dilute the alcohol content of your blood. They also know enough to designate a driver at social gathering etc.--my Christian friends who have embraced drinking often don't have this same background and rely on "how they feel." This is what I meant by careless and naive approach to alcohol. (Certainly many unbelievers are also careless and naive, but you get the point.)

Also I used "liberty" in quotes because I believe that many young people misunderstand what liberty is and how to use it. Liberty most certainly does mean not being brought under legalistic bondage but liberty also includes not being so consumed with your new-found rights that you come under bondage to that--your "freedom" to do something can very quickly dominate you and drive your choices, leaving you no freer than you were previously. 

And as far as the benefit of warning against alcohol, I think of it this way. In order to hunt, you have to take hunter safety courses--at least where I grew up you did--because guns by their very nature are highly dangerous things. This does not mean that they are wrong or that we should not use them. It does mean that we should warn and educate people about the danger of them. And so likewise, I don't see anything wrong with warning about the danger of alcohol. MADD does it every day.

So the problem isn't really the warning itself. Maybe it's the need to articulate a more complete understanding of how the Scripture engages alcohol.

Jim's picture

I'm attaching an image I captured off F/B just this minute. I blocked out the person's name, picture, ministry name and graphic, and URL

I'm neither criticizing nor commending.

Her's a guy ministering in a cultural setting where wine and cheese is considered appropriate. (It's not in the US)

(I know a pastor who is now stateside. He was a missionary in a European country (not naming to protect him). He beat his head against the wall (figuratively) to get those Europeans to not drink wine. He's now stateside ... for a reason)

 

 

Dan Miller's picture

handerson wrote:
...I assumed he was addressing the category of young evangelical/fundamentalists who having grown up in tee-totaling cultures suddenly have been "liberated" to drink. My  observation and concern has less to do with whether they do or do not drink (I recognize that Scripture does not condemn and at times even celebrates alcohol); my concern has more to do with the naive and careless approach that they often take by means of ignorance.
Well put. Real danger there. 

I think that the danger is worsened by the previous isolation, which insulates one against the dangers.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Some comments above stand out to me.

“…Also know enough to designate a driver at social gathering etc.” 
So Christians think it is perfectly fine to take a drug, not for medicine but for pleasure, that makes you incapable of driving a car?  It seems to me several biblical principles would contradict that view. 

“One can think clearly while drinking in moderation.”
I know even drinkers who would strongly dispute that statement.  The first thing alcohol does is take away your normal, good, judgment.  States are now even emphasizing how alcohol levels below the legally drunk limit are causing accidents. 

“The notion that wine and strong drink described in the Bible weren't alcoholic is a preconceived conclusion based on gobbledygook eisegesis, not simple hermeneutic.”
Note that no exegesis for this view is given; no Scripture is given.  Is alcoholic wine in Scripture?  Of course it is.  Does that mean every reference to wine in Scripture is referring to alcoholic wine?  No. 
A number of Scriptures are listed above that refer to wine than is nonalcoholic or unfermented.  Even ancient non-biblical writers spoke of how some wine was intoxicating and some was not. 
And it is very interesting that Proverbs 23 meticulously describes the effects of alcoholic wine so there is no misunderstanding; then says not to even look at that kind of wine. 
David R. Brumbelow

G. N. Barkman's picture

In my early years, I took a position similar to David Brumbelow's and defended it from Scripture, as far as my understanding informed me at that time.  I preached that position, and even wrote an article defending it in our church publication.  However, as I continued to study the Bible, I became increasingly uneasy about "the Bible requires abstinence" position.  It didn't fit all the texts.  It's not easy to change, but commitment to Scripture, and integrity as a pastor required me to swallow my pride and honestly teach a more accurate understanding.  It created the most difficult crisis our church ever faced.  We lost a few good people.  I thought we might suffer a church split, but the Lord graciously kept us together.

A former youth pastor chided me for changing, and even sent me a copy of the article I wrote more than two decades before.  He strongly disagreed with my new understanding.  I can identify with those who take the "abstinence is required" position, because I've been there, done that.  I can especially understand those, like Pastor Brumbelow, who have written books to defend that position.  When you have a published position, it is difficult to change, or even give another interpretation an unbiased examination.  There's a great deal at stake. 

Required abstinence has a long history of Baptist tradition in America.  A lot has been written over the last two centuries to support it.  Many have quoted "ancient" sources to defend the abstinence position.  After two centuries of citation in numerous books and articles, these quotations begin to take on unquestioned authenticity in the minds of many.  They have been cited so many times that one begins to think they must be true.  A dubious claim, repeated endlessly for two hundred years begins to take on a life of its own.  I'm afraid many have allowed these questionable claims to color their study of Scripture.  I know that was true of me.

However, the real issue is not what the ancients do or do not say, but what does the Bible say.  Careful Bible exegesis does not support the abstinence is required position.  Like all pastors, I can only proclaim what God enables me to understand from His Word.  Like others, I pray daily for God to enlarge my understanding.  I doubt there will ever come a time when all God's people agree on this issue.  That's why Paul wrote Romans 14, to inform us how to relate to one another in the face of differing opinions.  I love and respect my brothers in Christ who believe the Bible requires abstinence.  I appeal to them to keep studying.  Perhaps we shall reach agreement some day, and if not, we can continue to rejoice together in God's amazing grace.

 

G. N. Barkman