Saturday, September 13, 2008

Is it wrong to drink beer or wine?

"Was the wine that Jesus drank the same as wine today?"

There isn't really much difference between the wine made in Jesus' day and the wine made today. The process of fermentation FOR WINE is similar. However, after the time of the New Testament the invention of distillation rather than fermentation greatly increased the alcoholic content and made liquor possible. This type of strong drink was not available in Bible times.

Concerning Jesus turning water to wine at the marriage feast, I believe that God DID approve of Jesus' action. There are a number of references to Jesus drinking wine (examples: Luke 7:34; John 19:29). We know from the writings of the Jewish rabbis and the writings of the early church that the wine used in Passover/communion was one part alcoholic wine to 4 parts water. My understanding of the Bible is that the drinking of wine is acceptable. It is the abuse of alcoholic beverages that is sin. What the Bible speaks against is drunkenness, not drinking.

"But how can you drink wine and not feel its affect? People always say "there ain't nothing wrong w/ drinking as long as you don't get drunk", but the truth is even if you only have one glass of wine (not communion wine) you may not be so drunk where you'll fall over, but it will have some affect on you....right? And won't that be bad so to speak in GOD's eyes?"

Apparently this mild affect of wine isn't bad in God's eyes: "God makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate - bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart." (Psalm 104:14-15). Note that in this passage "God makes... wine that gladdens the heart." Wine is viewed as a gift from God.

This discussion of drinking brings up a broader issue that you might want to think about. I think that many Christians have a Greek view rather than a Jewish view of God's creation. By the time of the New Testament, the Greeks had become very anti-materialistic. The Greeks divided reality into two parts: spirit, which they thought of as good, and matter which they thought of as evil (or at the very least inferior to the spirit). This is why the Greeks sought to free their spirit from the body. The goal of this life was to purify the spirit and free it from matter. As a result, the Greeks (and Romans) burned the person's body upon death. The material was evil and something to be left behind. And if you really wanted to free your soul, you would avoid bodily pleasures and material things. The ascetic (the person who did without things) was viewed as the most likely to gain happiness in the next life.

The Jews, on the other hand, followed the Old Testament view of seeing the creation as good. God looked at all He had created and said that "it was very good" (Genesis 1:31). Even after the fall, no "thing" is evil in and of itself (1 Timothy 4:4). The Jews had a very upbeat view of material things. The physical body was viewed as something to take with you into the next life - hence, bodies were not burned, but buried to await resurrection (Genesis 15:15; 23:19-20; 25:9; 35:8,19,29; 47:30; John 19:38-42). The Jewish view of sex (in marriage) is very positive (Proverbs 5:18-19; Song of Songs; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5,33-34; Hebrews 13:4). Likewise food, wine, dancing, money, etc. are all viewed as good things that we can take pleasure in as long as they are used according to God's commandments (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-9; Psalm 16:11; Romans 14:14). At the risk of being misunderstood, I believe the Bible teaches a view of "Christian hedonism" - not living for pleasure, but living for God and enjoying all that He has created for our benefit and enjoyment (1 Timothy 4:1-5).

But sometimes Christian views on drinking, sex, or money come more from a Greek perspective than a Biblical perspective. In order to protect ourselves and others or in an attempt to become more holy or pure, we add rules or commandments that aren't in the Bible. But when we do that (even if we do it for a good motive), we have become legalists, rather than grace-oriented children of God. The Bible is clear that drinking alcoholic beverages (without becoming drunk) is an acceptable activity. In fact, Jesus even chose wine as an element for the Lord's supper. ONLY drunkenness is viewed as a sin (Proverbs 23:29-35; Ephesians 5:18). We can be tempted to add to God's commandments, because of the dreadfulness of alcoholism, drunk drivers, or simply observing the stupidity of drunk people.

However, if it isn't prohibited in the Bible or cannot be reasonably deduced from Biblical principles, then it's best that we not add to God's Word.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article. This has been a nagging hook in my life. When we first got saved we stopped drinking and later at Christmas or family events we began to have a glass with our families at dinner. In the last few years I have met some Christians who actually drink with their meals or a glass with friends and because I recieved a view from the beginning that this was a no no in God's eyes it has tripped up my heart. Lately I have been checking out the scriptures so not to offend anyone, especially our Christian friends who do not drink. My one concern is not to give licence to those who have a drinking problem.
Anyway, God is working it out in my thinking. Once again , thank you for this scriptural view. May the Lord continue to bless you and keep you.

BigRalphN said...

I agree with most of what you say. I do not think a glass with a meal or an occasional beer hurts.Beyond that, I would question it. It also boils down to a personal issue. If you feel led to abstain, then you should do so. If you feel you are sinning by drinking, and continue to drink, then you are sinning. If you are with people that feel it is a sin, and you drink anyway, then you again, are sinning against them, and against God. We need to be discerning in all we do as Christians.

Pastor Joe said...

Well said! After 12 years of abstinence I realized that my kids had a very legalistic attitude toward any alcohol consumption at all. I began drinking wine with meals and an occasional beer (where did all these microbrews come from!!) and their attitiude has changed to a healthy "freedom from sin, freedom to obey" discerning with the Holy Spirit. It's extremely hypocritical to not allow something that was clearly a gift from God as Jesus modeled it in various ways.

Pastor Joe

Paul Waltz said...

Excellent article. I was raised in the Lutheran Church and I will tell you they definitely didn't shy away from alcohol. I agree with you that most things are gifts from God and they only become sinful when they are used in excess. Too much of a good thing and all that.

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Sean said...

Brian, I'm a musician, degreed electronics person, tinkerer of amps, pedals, and musical things, and even a bit of a philosopher. I was lead to your blog through your website which I've always appreciated as a great source of information. I think you're on to something with your observations about Christians today being influenced by Greek anti-material thinking regarding alcohol consumption. I was raised by Christians and there is a strong anti-material, anti-pleasure attitude among most of the Christian fundamentalists that I routinely speak with including those Christians involved in my upbringing. I will often tell them that I know them better than they know themselves, but I don't think they like hearing it! In a nutshell, I'm no longer a Christian, but I'm always encouraged to see the very occasional and rare Christian who actually sees the value of a REAL discussion about his/her faith. Good thoughts!

Keilah said...

I understand what you are saying. Christians get caught up in rules and regulations rather than the glory of God. However, I feel led to give you my thoughts on this subject. I have a few: While I do not know of any scripture that speaks of never drinking alcohol, I wonder what the benefit is to the Kingdom of God in doing so. "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable." 1) The fact is that our culture heavily indulges in drinking and, though it may not cause you to beat your wife or go on an ungodly rampage, it does cause many people to do so. It is my conviction that not causing my brother to stumble is more important than my right to a sip of alcohol. (See Romans 14) Yes, you may justify yourself with this verse as well, but look at the love with which Paul speaks. Are we as Christians so concerned with our rights, that we do not realize what non christians may see in us and consequently what they would see of Christ. How should one who observes you drinking alcohol know that you do not get drunk? "Let all things be done for edification."

Sure, we can get caught up in the "but if drinking is wrong, then everything else is wrong..." arguement, but let's not get caught up in justifying one questionable thing by another questionable thing. If they are both wrong, get rid of them both!!

Additionally, we are part of a culture of Christians who believe it is ok to be like the world. But the Bible clearly says we are to be in the world not conformed to it (Romans). I believe that if we need to destress, we should not turn to alcohol to free us and lift us up because Jesus should be the only place we turn in time of need, the only thing that matters to us. Not to say His creation is not given to us and it is beautiful, but we have a generation of people who see no difference between us and them except that we live under a bunch of "rules" that they deem as legalistic. However, dwell with me on this one point before I go: if we were more concerned about the blamelessness of our witness, the glory of God and the holiness of this great and awesome Savior and our giving back to Him, and less concerned about our rights, what is "lawful", I think we'd be a heck of a lot more influential in a culture of indulgence and unholiness. We need to step up and realize that the blood of this generation is on our hands if we do not take the holiness and the "set-apartness" of Jesus Christ seriously. I admit, I do get frustrated when it appears to be of more concern to christians to debate what we can and cannot do and we stop asking "what would Jesus do" and "what would bring the most glory to one we serve, to the one who gave up His rights to save the world." Can we not give up our rights to save the world? Maybe you do not agree that this would save the world, but if by not drinking you could set yourself apart from the world, you could explain to those who question that you love Jesus so much that you want Him to have your stress, not a drink, and you love them so much that if ever they had an addiction to alcohol that they couldn't break or ever they thought you abused alcohol or ever it hurt them in anyway, you would lay down even just the right to take a sip of alcohol, I think you will have truly showed the love of Jesus Christ to a dying world who knows very little about self sacrifice for another person.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I agreed with you article and will use this information to my boyfriend :) you see, we had a conversation about drinking alcohol, whether it is good in the eyes of God of bad. I told him those biblical versus to him but then he showed me Proverbs 20:1 "Wine is a ridiculer, intoxicating liquor is boisterous, and everyone going astray by it is not wise." he told me that his church (Seventh-day Adventist Church) do not drink alcohol because it causes damages to the liver and God does not approve on it. I told him that only Drunkenness is prohibited even Jesus approved it. Then he went on that it was grape juice that Jesus used and because the wine we use today is alcohol. I stopped and listened to him because i didn't want to start an argument, and decided to investigate. so far i keep getting the same results and feel happy that i can show him evidence :) thank you so much!

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twest70 said...

Check out this article about how it is wrong to drink. How could two views be so different. I don't get it, you are saying it is okay where this other article is quoting scripture too and saying it is okay? Who is right? Whose interpretation is correct? Both said you looked up the word wine and both came up with something different.
http://www.scripturessay.com/article.php?cat=&id=822
Confused!

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