The host of the marital celebration began to grow nervous when she realized she had left the wine out even though all her Baptist friends were coming over for the reception, and mentioned her predicament to MacArthur. “Woman, why do you involve me? I brought my own Dasani, just in case there were alcoholic beverages,” the pastor replied sternly. But MacArthur eventually relented and agreed to help her.
A team of Baptist archaeologists just announced they have discovered a bottle of Welch’s grape juice near the site of the Last Supper, where Jesus and His disciples famously celebrated Passover in the Upper Room. The 2,000-year-old, discarded bottle of 100% grape juice appears to have been used in lieu of wine at the traditional Jewish meal.
The Vatican -- a city-state of just a few hundred permanent residents -- has the world's highest per capita wine consumption. According to 2014 research by the California-based Wine Institute, the amount of wine consumed in the Vatican amounts to almost 20 gallons for each resident annually.
I appreciate all of the spirit, and much of the substance, of Ed’s work on this topic yesterday. It’s just reality that even in historically total-abstaining circles, ministry leaders are going to be working with Christians who believe Scripture allows them to consume alcohol. That being the case, we should do more to help these believers exercise wisdom and restraint—or to recover, if they’ve stumbled into problems with drunkenness.
For those of us (including me) who are persuaded that total abstinence is the right course, there’s some temptation to think “Well, just don’t drink—and if you do, the consequences are your problem.” But where’s the ministry heart in that? I’m reminded of Matthew 12:20. Our Lord was not in the habit of breaking bruised reeds or quenching smoldering wicks. The spiritual thing to do is “restore … in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1), “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thes. 5:14).
The debate over whether Christians ought to consume alcohol is not only an old one but, on the Web at least, a tired one. Much of the tiredness, though, is due to an excess of passion and a shortage of precision. Quarreling has been abundant and arguing scarce. I hope to contribute a bit here to the argument rather than the quarrel.
One example of arguing rather than quarreling dates back to the spring of 2006. I gather that Bob Bixby posted a case against the use of alcoholic beverages by Christians.1 Bob Hayton responded, in part, with an essay entitled “Wine to Gladden the Heart of Man”: Thoughts on God’s Good Gift of Wine. In the essay, Bob Hayton argues not only that “God gave us wine to bring us joy,” but also that the joy He had in mind is an effect of wine’s alcohol specifically.
Speaking of Judges 9:13, Ecclesiastes 10:19, and Zechariah 10:7, Bob observes:
It should be clear that even the intoxicating nature of wine is being praised, here. Wine lifts the spirit and gladdens the heart long before it actually overtakes you and makes one drunk. Wine can be enjoyed and its effects relished without losing control and becoming drunken.
This theme runs through the eight points that form the main structure of the essay. Following the eight points, a section focuses on counterarguments related to the biblical warnings against wine and the use of weaker brother passages. Though Bob wrote the post some years ago, I became aware of it during a discussion here at SI last year and pledged to write a response sometime. Here it is.