Some thoughts on beverage alcohol

I perceive many here voicing an incredulity about the total abstention position taken by the many of Fundamentalist in the early parts of the 20th century and still voiced by "the old school" fundamentalists today.

I've gleaned these thoughts from the History Channel's various programs on the liquor industry.

  • Before prohibition, many of the saloons were owned by the various breweries. Think of the English model of pub ownership.
  • In many jurisdictions, there was no minimum age for the purchase of alcohol.

To the above add the minimal protection given under the law to abused wives and children. A man would be with in the law to drink his pay packet away before he made it home.

From what I have observed over the years, the liquor industry and culture Sunday, Jones, et al. faced bares little resemblance to the same industry we face today. If we were to look for a modern parallel, the modern equivalent might be the hard drug market. It was in this milieu the evangelists of old thundered forth against liquor for close to a hundred years and continued on after the repeal of Prohibition.

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Joel Tetreau's picture

Rob is right on the money......as always he helps us with a historical look at the topic. In fairness to the first generation of fundamentalists, the context was one of Prohibition. All things were not equal! It's not to say there are no cultural issues that impact the issue of drink here in the states today....there are. But there is and was a difference. Rob speaks to that well here.

Rob thanks for the quick thoughts.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Rob Fall's picture

  • Without minimum age limits, saloon keepers were allowed to sell to all comers regardless of their age or lack thereof.
  • At least one, leader back in the day made a remark about "martini drinking missionaries." In some ways this goes to a cultural split between those either from or taking their norms from upper class culture and those who did not.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Rachel L.'s picture

Thanks for the thread. I always enjoy discussions that help set the scene for why humans act and react the way they do.

Quote:
I perceive many here voicing an incredulity about the total abstention position

I don't hear incredulity at the position, but rather incredulity that some have allowed their position to be quilted backwards into how they interpret the Bible.

Rob Fall's picture

Rachel L. wrote:
Thanks for the thread. I always enjoy discussions that help set the scene for why humans act and react the way they do.

Rob wrote:
I perceive many here voicing an incredulity about the total abstention position

I don't hear incredulity at the position, but rather incredulity that some have allowed their position to be quilted backwards into how they interpret the Bible.

The problem is the men of old took a position for many good and sufficent reasons. However, these reasons many times went beyond the clear (to deny it is to deny the meaning of words and grammar) teaching of Scripture.

I'm seeking to deal with this matter in a historical context. We have other threads dealing with this matter in a modern context.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Rachel L.'s picture

Quote:
I'm seeking to deal with this matter in a historical context. We have other threads dealing with this matter in a modern context.

Sure, and don't-we-ever. Smile

I was not attempting to rabbit-trail this thread. I was merely commenting that I have not seen (in the other threads) a great deal of incredulity of the historical position. I see most people accepting the historical position as a "done deal" not to be railed against except in fairly evaluating the historical preaching/teaching. And, I was seeing this thread as part of that evaluation. It is always important to know the tone of an era before one attempts to analyze the words of the era's great speakers.

Which is why I'm following this thread with interest.

Silverghost's picture

Billy Sunday was involved in his evangelistic ministry during the movement towards Prohibition, and had a great influence upon our nation's attitude towards passing the 18th Amendment. Some may not realize that Sunday had been a upcoming baseball player as an outfielder in the National League. One day he was out drinking with his teammates, when they came upon gospel team from the Pacific Garden Mission, singing and preaching on a street corner. Although his teammates were not too impressed, Billy was enamored by the hymns, which he had heard his mother sing as a youth. He began attending the mission's evangelistic meetings, and was soon converted in 1886, yielding to the encouragement of a former society matron, who served there.

He soon started having a heart for the ministry, and began working full-time at a YMCA, after turning down a baseball contract in 1891. In 1893, he became a chief assistant to the Evangelist, J. Wilbur Chapman. Having to go in advance of scheduled meetings to establish prayer meetings, set up choirs, pitch tents, and finalize details, he gained much experience, which would serve him well later. In listening to Chapman preach, he learned much about doctrine and homiletics. Chapman also mentored Billy in his beginning attempts to preach, his theological development, and his commitment to prayer and Biblical Christianity. After Chapman returned to the pastorate in 1896, Billy began having his own evangelistic meetings.

After seeing the devastation that alcohol had brought to many lives, including some of his former teammates, and in the lives he saw at the Mission and the YMCA, Sunday took a hard stand for abstinence in his ministry. He declared for himself: "I am the sworn, eternal and uncompromising enemy of the Liquor Traffic. I have been, and will go on, fighting that damnable, dirty, rotten business with all the power at my command." When Billy came in 1917 to Buffalo, NY, the bars, taverns, liquor stores, and night clubs closed under his preaching. This phenomenon occurred in other cities as well. In many places, he had given funds to Rescue Mission efforts, such as his beloved Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. But in Buffalo, he gave the proceeds from the 8 week campaign to the Buffalo Evangelistic Association to start a Rescue Mission. The original location for the Buffalo City Mission was in Fenton’s Pekin Cabaret, a former nightclub and opium den, which closed under Sunday's preaching.

The preachers of those days saw the evil of alcoholism. To simply pass off their fervent preaching as influenced by the Prohibition movement, ignores their involvement, and the involvement of the churches of the day with the movement. The hard liquors and even wines of today are much stronger than the naturally fermented wines of Biblical days, yet Timothy evidently had a compunction to stay away from the wine of his day. Too many have been fooled, which behooves us not to be soft on the dangers of alcohol.

Open our eyes, Lord. Luke 24:31,32,45 KJV <·)}}}>< Silverghost °Ü°

Rob Fall's picture

Silverghost, please note what I said

Quote:
If we were to look for a modern parallel, the modern equivalent might be the hard drug market. It was in this milieu the evangelists of old thundered forth against liquor for close to a hundred years and continued on after the repeal of Prohibition.
Yes, the Prohibition movement had it roots the Churches of America. However, regretfully, the views on the matter is very much rooted in a given culture's history.

Baptists are divided among three basic cultural division; Anglo-American (those in Great Britain North America and their missionary children*), German (pretty much those in Europe whose roots are in the German diaspora) and Slavic. Total abstention is only common with the Anglo-Americans. The Continentals don't mind a beer with their brats. The Slavs serve wine at their commemorations of the Lord's Supper (I had a sip of Manischevitz' last Sunday).

*Missionary Children-those groups founded through the efforts of North American and British missionaries.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Joel Tetreau's picture

Rob,

Do you know of any other reasons than "culture" that would account for why Continental Baptists and our Slavic Baptist brethren would allow for some drink? It is interesting to note these differences. Great thread.

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Bob Hayton's picture

This thread deals with history, and the following quote by JR Graves, one of the most influential men in the Southern Baptist Convention in the 19th century, may prove interesting. Graves advocated Landmarkism, and in his 1880 book Old Landmarkism: What Is It? he had this to say about the wine used in Communion: (You can read the section in his book at Google Books for yourself here.)

Quote:
The Wine.--The Savior used wine made of "the grape"--it was "the fruit of the vine" he commanded; and, if it was not lawful for leaven to be used in this feast, He certainly did not use an element that was little less than leaven itself. It could not have been unfermented wine he used and commanded, as some, more zealous than wise, are now teaching; for unfermented wine, in the first place, is a misnomer. There never was, there can not be, a drop of wine without fermentation. It is must, and not wine, until fermentation ensues, and unfermented juice of the grape is but a mass of leaven. It is this element in the juice that causes it to ferment, and fermentation is the process by which it throws off, and clears itself, of this impurity. Thoroughly fermented wine contains no leaven, and, therefore, it is only after this natural clarification of itself, that the Savior used, and commanded his churches to use it; and, limiting this element to wine, he forbade the use of any other liquid than the pure juice of the grape, when fermented and clarified.

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

Rob Fall's picture

Joel Tetreau wrote:
Rob,

Do you know of any other reasons than "culture" that would account for why Continental Baptists and our Slavic Baptist brethren would allow for some drink? It is interesting to note these differences. Great thread.
jt

As best as i can figure out, tee-totalism was never a part of the Continental tradition. Drunkeness was unacceptable for Christians but they saw nothing wrong with drinking their bread. With the Slavs, the only alchohol they drink is the wine at the Lord's Table and the odd tot of vodka when they have a cold. In either case, drinking to escape reality is unacceptable.

As for Brother Graves. try getting "unfermented" grape juice in the dead of winter in Siberia or in anyother place outside the marketing footprint of Welch's. He like other Anglo-American writers on the topic seeks to fit Scriptures into a 19th century mold. Me, I have no idea as to the alchohlic (if any) content of the wine our Lord served at His Table or at the marriage feast. I do know wine was served diluted by at least half.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Bob Hayton's picture

Rob, not sure you understood Graves' comment. He is advocating the use of fermented wine for Communion. He is saying unfermented wine is a misnomer. He is arguing against the prohibition-influenced, well-meaning Christians of his day who were saying Jesus used non-fermented wine.

He's actually arguing that grape juice has leaven in it and is unfit for use as Communion wine. I've heard the exact opposite argument made concerning wine, so I thought the comment was pretty interesting.

Graves being American, and very influential among Baptists in the 1800s, makes this a uniquely important quote, too. It was common among Southern American Baptists to use fermented Communion wine.

I have a post on Charles Welch myself at my blog, which goes into the origins of unfermented Communion wine. It's entitled Welch's Grape Juice, Worldly Wisdom and Wine.

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

Rob Fall's picture

Bob Hayton wrote:
Rob, not sure you understood Graves' comment. He is advocating the use of fermented wine for Communion. He is saying unfermented wine is a misnomer. He is arguing against the prohibition-influenced, well-meaning Christians of his day who were saying Jesus used non-fermented wine.

He's actually arguing that grape juice has leaven in it and is unfit for use as Communion wine. I've heard the exact opposite argument made concerning wine, so I thought the comment was pretty interesting.

Graves being American, and very influential among Baptists in the 1800s, makes this a uniquely important quote, too. It was common among Southern American Baptists to use fermented Communion wine.

I have a post on Charles Welch myself at my blog, which goes into the origins of unfermented Communion wine. It's entitled Welch's Grape Juice, Worldly Wisdom and Wine.

That being the case, I retract my previous statement. Regretfully, I can't go back and edit it. But, he is correct about the fermentation process using up all the leaven in a given juice. Rather, the fermentation stops when all of the sugar is eaten and the yeasts die off.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Bob Hayton's picture

No problem, Rob. I'm not quite following your last two lines here. So Graves was slightly incorrect about fermentation and yeast? Or he was right? I'm not exactly sure how that process works. It's interesting that many modern Christians will say alcoholic wine can't be used because it isn't pure, or something like that.

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

Rob Fall's picture

Bob Hayton wrote:
No problem, Rob. I'm not quite following your last two lines here. So Graves was slightly incorrect about fermentation and yeast? Or he was right? I'm not exactly sure how that process works. It's interesting that many modern Christians will say alcoholic wine can't be used because it isn't pure, or something like that.
He just wasn't expressing himself like a person whose parents took the family for day trips to the Beringer Winery. The winery had tours of the facilities.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Becky Petersen's picture

Rob Fall ][quote=Joel Tetreau wrote:
With the Slavs, the only alchohol they drink is the wine at the Lord's Table and the odd tot of vodka when they have a cold. In either case, drinking to escape reality is unacceptable.

There are different groups of Slavs.

This isn't true for all of them. I'm writing from Poland and they do allow "social drinking" here. They might not like it described that way, but if they drink wine on special occasions or keep beer in the fridge, that is my definition of social drinking.

(And I doubt that the ones who drink wine or beer define it as "to escape reality" ;))

Rob Fall's picture

Becky Petersen wrote:
Rob Fall wrote:
With the Slavs, the only alchohol they drink is the wine at the Lord's Table and the odd tot of vodka when they have a cold. In either case, drinking to escape reality is unacceptable.

There are different groups of Slavs.

This isn't true for all of them. I'm writing from Poland and they do allow "social drinking" here. They might not like it described that way, but if they drink wine on special occasions or keep beer in the fridge, that is my definition of social drinking.

(And I doubt that the ones who drink wine or beer define it as "to escape reality" ;))

True, there are different groups of Slavs. The diffiniton I gave uses the word to reference the group whose roots are in the former Soviet Union\Russian Empire, in particular, the Evangelical Christian-Baptists. The EC-B's roots are in St. Petersburg and the Volga River region. Today, EC-B (both registered and unregistered) churches can be found from Moldova to Kamchatka.

I would hazard Polish Baptists trace their roots back into the German Baptists. So, I agree with your satement

Quote:
And I doubt that the ones who drink wine or beer define it as "to escape reality"

As for "escaping reality", in my view, it's one thing to treat wine like a seasoning at the table (e.g. a glass of a good red with lasagna or a decent white with salmon) or a pint of Guinness with fish and chips. It's quite another to need a six pack to relax or to need a keg to have a good party.

The problem comes because for many and various (good and bad) reasons Anglo-Americans do not distingush between the person who has a bottle in the fridge for the odd pot of marinara or coq au vin and an alcoholic. Or the person who likes a bottle of beer with his brats.

On the other hand there are many who do use alcohol as an anesthetic to either escape or amiliorate the realities of life. Remember there's only a couple of molocules difference between drinking alcohol and ether.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Mike Durning's picture

NOTE: Re-posted from another thread by request.

The Temperance Movement, as a movement supporting total abstinence from all alcoholic beverages, had its birth in the mid 1820’s under the influence of Pastor Lyman Beecher, a Connecticut Minister, and others like him. In 1826, the American Temperance Union – the first such national organization to support total abstinence – was formed. The American Temperance Union rode a powerful wave of religious support and interest at the time, gaining 1.5 million members in the first few years. The issue became inextricably interwoven with religion – and in particular Revivalism. But lurking beneath it all was an American movement now known as Progressivism.

The belief of Progressivism was that it was possible for man to better himself and society through wisdom, technology, and education. It properly belonged to the political left of the time, which, unlike today, had great support in conservative Christian circles. It is viewed by sociologists as a response to the changes in culture and frustrations brought about by the Industrial Revolution. It taught that by law and reform, the social evils that rose to the surface during the Industrial Revolution could be overcome.

This Progressivism movement marched arm-in-arm with a great change in American religion. As Revivalism, particularly in the style of Charles Finney, unseated from favor the Calvinism that had characterized earlier spiritual awakenings, the belief among most Bible believers was that social change would better society as the gospel transformed the hearts of individuals.

Revivalism was, in the mid to late 1800’s, concerned with externals. As Douglas Frank puts it in his great book Less Than Conquerors: How Evangelical Entered the 20th Century, “…revivalism is closely associated with an inordinate attention to appearances. A revival is the most visible and obvious and seemingly irrefutable outcropping of a spiritual reality. In revivals men and women may actually see God at work, may quantify and gauge that work empirically.” Marsden observes “the revivalist particularly centered their attacks on…visible sins and demanded strict abstinence from them as evidence of conversion. Prohibitions on all sorts of observable activities such as drinking, smoking, dancing, Sabbath-breaking, card-playing, and theater attendance thus became indelibly associated with Protestantism in this tradition.”
Most Abstentionist preachers would drink heavily from both Revivalist and Progressivist streams. Drinking was both sinful and destructive to society. It was both wrong and irrational.

The movement for abstinence gained ground for nearly a century before Prohibition. Various denominations abandoned fermented drink for communion (thanks to the science and marketing of Thomas Welch – that’s right, of Welch’s Grape Juice fame)*. Individual states and communities adopted regional abstinence ordinances. Mandatory public school teaching against alcohol and its dangers was mandated in every U.S. state and territory, under the influence of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Out of these social streams came the preaching of revivalists such as Billy Sunday and Bob Jones Sr., who could preach on one night an entire sermon against alcoholic consumption of any kind (based almost entirely on Progressivistic arguments that drinking created poverty, child abuse, crime, etc.), and then preach a strong gospel appeal the next night based upon the Scriptures. A simple survey of the sermons of Billy Sunday against drink, or the political friends of Dr. Bob Jones Sr., reveals their tight ideological and social connections with the Progressivist movement and the Abstention-teaching Temperance Movement in particular. Sunday’s sermons against drink are particularly notable for a near total lack of meaningful Scripture use – and in some cases use no Scripture at all! Each sermon is built around Progressive Movement propaganda.

The link between religious Abstinence teaching and Progressivism is best demonstrated by the famous Billy Sunday quote on the night that Prohibition was finally passed: "The reign of tears is over," he asserted. "The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs." Note that the issue to him is not the glorifying of God, but the reformation of society. In fact, many towns believed similarly, selling their jails or converting them to other uses – but only for the first few weeks of Prohibition. Within a few years, many of the same towns would need still bigger jails.
____________

*Spend some time studying the Welch’s marketing campaign among American Methodists and you’ll see where the “two wines” view really gains ascendancy. It was actually marketed as “Biblical Wine”. But I have never found any support for this view prior to the marketing campaign by Welch’s.

Interesting article here http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/1091124904.html

Susan R's picture

Quote:
As for "escaping reality", in my view, it's one thing to treat wine like a seasoning at the table (e.g. a glass of a good red with lasagna or a decent white with salmon) or a pint of Guinness with fish and chips. It's quite another to need a six pack to relax or to need a keg to have a good party.

What if you need a cuppa' joe to get your eyes open in the morning? http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-sleep026.gif[/img ]

I watched an episode of Food Detectives and it seems that wine acts as an anti-microbial in the intestinal tract and helps prevent food poisoning.The phytochemicals responsible for this are found in the skins of grapes, though, so I wonder if fermentation is important, or if good ol' grape juice would have the same effect. In any case, I can imagine that was an issue before modern methods of preserving and inspecting meat came into practice.

Charlie's picture

Mike Durning wrote:

The belief of Progressivism was that it was possible for man to better himself and society through wisdom, technology, and education. It properly belonged to the political left of the time, which, unlike today, had great support in conservative Christian circles. It is viewed by sociologists as a response to the changes in culture and frustrations brought about by the Industrial Revolution. It taught that by law and reform, the social evils that rose to the surface during the Industrial Revolution could be overcome.

This Progressivism movement marched arm-in-arm with a great change in American religion. As Revivalism, particularly in the style of Charles Finney, unseated from favor the Calvinism that had characterized earlier spiritual awakenings, the belief among most Bible believers was that social change would better society as the gospel transformed the hearts of individuals.

I find this whole time period very fascinating. The New School Presbyterians (high class) link up with the Methodists (low class) in support of Finney, who isn't even a Christian! Of course, the Methodists started out Arminian and the New School was at least heavily influenced by the Pelagianizing New Haven theology, so there are a lot of similarities. Neither group could relate to the theology of revival present before and during the First Great Awakening, for that was founded in solidly Calvinistic groups. (See Iain Murray's Revival and Revivalism, George Marsden's The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience, and Nathan Hatch's The Democratization of American Christianity for more info.)

In short, the Presbyterians ruined America by selling their own doctrinal convictions and replacing them with social agendas.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Mike Durning's picture

Charlie wrote:
I find this whole time period very fascinating. The New School Presbyterians (high class) link up with the Methodists (low class) in support of Finney, who isn't even a Christian! Of course, the Methodists started out Arminian and the New School was at least heavily influenced by the Pelagianizing New Haven theology, so there are a lot of similarities. Neither group could relate to the theology of revival present before and during the First Great Awakening, for that was founded in solidly Calvinistic groups. (See Iain Murray's Revival and Revivalism, George Marsden's The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience, and Nathan Hatch's The Democratization of American Christianity for more info.)

In short, the Presbyterians ruined America by selling their own doctrinal convictions and replacing them with social agendas.

Charlie,

The book to read about this period and the spiritual tones that drove it is the aforementioned "Less than Conquerors" by Douglas Frank. It's available used on Amazon, and I give away about 5 copies per year to brother pastors. That's how important I think it is.

Mike D.

Rob Fall's picture

Thanks., Mike for this contribution.

Mike Durning wrote:
NOTE: Re-posted from another thread by request.

The Temperance Movement, as a movement supporting total abstinence from all alcoholic beverages, had its birth in the mid 1820’s under the influence of Pastor Lyman Beecher, a Connecticut Minister, and others like him. In 1826, the American Temperance Union – the first such national organization to support total abstinence – was formed. SNIP

Other factors at work in the Prohibition movement were nativism and a touch of "class struggle" (for lack of a better term).

By nativism, I mean the Irish (those priest ridden Catholics) drink whiskey, Germans (those lousy no good Huns) drink beer, Italians (those dark, thieving, knife weilding dagos) drink wine. Real Americans drink coffee.
By "class struggle", I mean those wealthy, plutocrats and their alcohol drenched parties. They spend their money on fine French wines and their after dinner brandy and cigars. Money better spent on the Lord's work.

Yet another factor was to my mind a mistaken outcome of "we can bring the Kingdom in" thinking.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Joel Tetreau's picture

Rob, Mike, and the rest of you.

************ Moderator Action

Congratulations. This has been one of the best (both in content and spirit) "discussions" on the issue dealing with the believer and the use (or non-use) of "drink." It's been fun seeing this thread develop over the last month. As a moderator I want to commend you all for speaking your mind but being "Cbristian" in tone. Rob, you really have done us a favor in bringing a historical Baptist eye from outside North America. Often I think we are blinded by that which has happened on either side of the Pacific or Atlantic both culturally and historically. Now if we can just see this same kind of thing happen when we talk about Fundamentalism, CCM and a few other hot-button items, we'll really be accomplishing something special in our movement(s).

Straight Ahead! Cool

Joel

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;