The Christian and Alcohol

This is one of those very divisive issues in the church, with various positions passionately argued. My intention here is simply to look at the claims of some Christians that Scripture demands total abstinence of all alcohol for all believers.

It is of course quite clear that Scripture repeatedly warns about excessive alcohol use, resulting in drunkenness (see eg., Prov. 20:1; Eph. 5:18). And certain individuals or groups were told to abstain from alcohol (eg., the Nazarites – Num 6:1-3), or chose to avoid it (eg., Daniel and his friends while in captivity – Dan 1:8). But on other occasions the use of alcohol is given the Scriptural green light, as in Proverbs 31:6 and 1 Timothy 5:23.

Of course those promoting complete abstinence seek to argue that such verses do not refer to real wine, but to unfermented grape juice or radically watered down wine. How accurate are these claims? Who is right here? One need not examine every passage pertaining to alcohol to sort through these matters.

Simply looking in detail at one episode in the biblical narrative is sufficient here. The story of the wedding at Cana as recorded in John 2:1-12 is all about wine and its use, so a close inspection of the episode should suffice in sorting these matters out.

If one just took note of verses 9-10 that should make it clear that this was not water being changed into unfermented grape juice: “The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now’.”

Moreover, knowing a bit about first century culture and practice helps us greatly in ascertaining what is going on here. Craig Keener spends some time on this in his helpful two-volume commentary on John. He writes, “Wine was not merely unfermented ‘grape juice,’ as some popular modern North American apologists for abstinence have contended.

“Before hermetic sealing and refrigeration, it was difficult to prevent some fermentation, and impossible to do so over long periods of time. Nor was wine drunk only to purify the water, as some have also claimed. . . . Wine was a standard part of daily life in the ancient Mediterranean world, and Palestine was no exception.

“Seven or more Galilean cities and villages were heavily engaged in wine production, which constituted one of Galilee’s primary industries. Jewish texts assumed the importance (and necessity) of wine for festive occasions, including in the blessing for Sabbath meals and at weddings.”

Many teetotallers will try to appeal to the original terms here, especially in the New Testament. The trouble is, many of these folks know little or nothing about New Testament Greek – or about Hebrew and Aramaic in the Old Testament. Yet they will try to argue that the terms can refer to just grape juice, and so on.

Even respected Christian apologists like Norman Geisler try to claim that NT wine was extremely watered down wine, and you would need to drink heaps of it to feel any effect. These folks mean well, but we must remain true both to Scripture and what we know of Jewish culture and tradition.

Image of Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series)
Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series) by Joel B Green (Editor), Scot McKnight (Editor), I Howard Marshall (Editor) Amazon logo

D. F. Watson has penned a very important article on wine in the superlative Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. He begins with these words: “The main words for wine are the Hebrew yayin, the Aramaic h’mar, and the Greek oinos. . . . All wine mentioned in the Bible is fermented grape juice with an alcohol content. No non-fermented drink was called wine.”

He goes on in quite some detail, looking at old wine, new wine, strong drink, and so on. He continues, “Wine was consumed at daily meals (Gen 14:18; Judg 19:19; 1 Sam 16:20; 2 Chron 11:11; Is 55;1; Dan 1:5; Lk 7;33-34). . . . Wine used at the Last Supper was probably mixed three parts water to one part wine.”

He reminds us that in Scripture wine was associated with feasting and celebration (eg., Esther 1:7-9; Is 25:6; Dan 5:1), as well as weddings of course. And abundant wine was considered to be a sign of God’s blessing and favour (Gen 27:28, 37; Deut 7:13; Ps 104:15; Joel 2:24, etc). Conversely, a lack of wine was seen as God’s judgment (Deut 28:30; Is 16:10; Jer 48:33; Zeph 1:13).

He continues, “Jesus upheld the popular attitude toward wine. He drank wine (Mt 11:18-19; Lk 7:33-34; Mt 26:29) and permitted its use in festivities like the wedding of Cana. Jesus even used the imagery of wine to describe his teaching as ‘new wine’ (Mt 9:17; Mk 2:22; Lk 5:37-39).

Finally, as to the wedding at Cana, Watson says this: “It must be noted that both wine and its quantity are important symbols. In the Old Testament and Judaism abundant wine (and oil or milk) is a sign of the age of salvation (Jer 31:12; Joel 3 [4]:18; Amos 9:13-14).

“The image of abundant wine is associated with the blessing to accompany the arrival of the Messiah of Judah (Gen 49:11-12). The image of a banquet describes the coming time of messianic blessing (Is 25:6-8; 65:13). In Jesus’ parables the kingdom of God is portrayed as a wedding feast (Mt 9:14-15 par. Mk 2:18-20 and Lk 5:33-35; Mt 22:1-14; Lk 14:15-24; Mt 25:1-13; cf. Lk 12:36; Jn 3:29-30; Rev 19:7-9) or simply a feast (Mt 8:11-12). Jesus himself portrays the disciples in his presence as guests at a wedding (Mt 9:15; Mk 2:19; Lk 5:34).

“John’s account of Jesus’ conversion of such a large quantity of water into wine at a wedding feast is one way of announcing that the kingdom of God, the eschatological time of salvation, had arrived in the presence of the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus shows himself to be the Son of God come down from heaven bringing the blessing of the eschatological age symbolized by abundant wine. The miracle of Cana allowed Jesus to manifest his glory to his disciples and evoke their belief (Jn 2:11; cf. 1:14).”

It can be said that the case for teetotalism is much like the case for pacifism: neither can find full biblical warrant, certainly not from the teachings and example of Jesus. In the case of pacifism, if Jesus were fully against the use of force and warfare, he could have easily told any seekers from the military that the first thing they must do to inherit the Kingdom would be to renounce life in the military. Jesus of course never did this.

It is the same here. If the use of alcohol was altogether taboo for Jesus, he would not have had anything to do with it, whether at the Passover (Mark 14:23) or here at the wedding feast. Indeed, he could have used these ideal occasions to denounce the use of alcohol. But he never did.

And of course had Jesus never drunk fermented wine, charges made by his detractors would have rung rather hollow. Consider what Jesus said himself in Luke 7:33-34: “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

The truth is, much of Christian thinking on the issue is cultural in nature. For example, while alcohol use is extremely common in much of Europe, including by European Christians, it is less well accepted in certain American Christian circles.

And as is so often the case, finding the biblical balance is always crucial. There are two sets of extremes to avoid here. Generally speaking, license (doing anything and everything because we are under grace) is just as dangerous and wrong as legalism (creating man-made rules to keep people in bondage).

Specifically, we are to avoid the extremes of drunkenness, but we are also to avoid making up burdens to be placed on believers which Scripture does not place there. The believer has freedom in Christ, not to get drunk, but not to be placed under man-made regulations either (see 1 Cor 10:31 eg.).

Of course much more could be said about all this, with many more texts appealed to. For example, it would be quite strange for Paul to write what he did in 1 Corinthians 11:20-22 where he chews out those who were getting drunk during the Lord’s Supper, if this was simply unfermented grape juice, etc.

But by this point I may be experiencing on a smaller scale that which happened to Jesus (see John 6:66!). Indeed, now many will be assured that I am the antichrist, and must be burned at the stake for heresy. Well, so be it. As a biblical Christian, I cannot run with the traditions of men, but I must hold fast to what Scripture says – and does not say.

And respectfully, those who want to get into a knock-down, drag-out fight over all this will not get too much of a hearing from me. Life is busy, and those who want to send people to the wall over this, and push their own pet peeves ad infinitum, ad nauseum might be best advised to do so elsewhere thanks.

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74 Replies to “The Christian and Alcohol”

  1. I agree that the case for pacifism may be fairly nuanced, I do not thing though that the comparison with teetotalism is warranted.

    Not only did Jesus not forbid others to drink wine he drank wine himself. This contrasts with the pacifism argument where he certainly did eschew any resort to violence. The fact that the short interchanges that are mentioned with soldiers do not include an injunction to leave the military seems to be a fairly thin argument. Using this argument we could justify a whole raft of unmentioned behaviour.

    In fact the little I know of the Roman empire of the time causes me to wonder whether a Christian could in good conscience join such an army? If our country were invaded by such a power would we encourage Christian to join their army based on the fact that Jesus is not recorded as telling any particular soldier to leave the Roman army?

    David Churchland

  2. Copied and pasted from another site from a few months ago:

    “I have been delivered from a servile bondage to alcohol (years now) and so for myself I do not drink. Ever. I am not however, nor would I wish to be authorized to bind the conscience of the church where God has not. Contrary to what ANYbody may wish to argue, 1st century Jewish weddings like the one at Cana were a rousing party down good time. Within Godly limits. Limits which this wedding did not exceed or Jesus would not have participated. They drank ALL the available wine and their spotless, sinless Messiah gave them more. SUPERNATURALLY. These kinds of celebrations also were not daily occurrences either.

    As it is the Word of the Lord, I joyously receive that standard for others though I myself may not imbibe. I don’t know if there’s a line one can put on paper to point to and say AHA! THAT’S where drunkenness starts. We all know however when it’s been crossed when we see it. Of course drinking that leads to other sin is itself sinful. “

    Greg Smith, US

  3. Thanks David. Now I regret having used the comparison! Not because it is indefensible – I think it is fully defensible and not at all too nuanced – but because I now have opened up two fronts in which people can assault me! Instead of one major topic for people to rail against me, I now have two! (Not that you are doing this!)

    But for what it’s worth, I have written at length about pacifism elsewhere. I think it is still similar to teetotalism in that neither one can be fully defended from Scripture in general, or Jesus in particular. But for that debate, see here for example:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/03/23/were-the-early-christians-pacifists/

    Or here:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2009/07/14/muddled-thinking-on-war-peace-and-justice/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. As you say Bill, there is no prohibition on drinking wine and nor should there be if only people could drink in moderation. If you are somebody like me who was born with what is termed “no swallow” or where the throat does not close off properly and alcohol can just be poured straight down. These types like me do not know moderation where alcohol is concerned. Like me many will become alcoholics just as I did and at 24 I spent 16 weeks in a military hospital with a ruptured stomach vomiting up blood after a 6 month period of never being sober but continually drunk consuming up to 18 large bottles of cider a day. I was told by the Doctors that unless a miracle happened I would be dead inside 3 months.

    What my Doctors told me prompted a decision to go cold Turkey and never drink again. A lot of people who like me who become alcoholics unfortunately can’t give up the drink without a great deal of help. They would claim the did not have the willpower, but as I would say it is not a matter of willpower but more a matter of won’t-power I won’t drink or I won’t smoke or whatever the addiction may be. I went through my own personal demons in going cold Turkey, but I succeeded and have never touched a drop of drink since then in 1974 when I made the conscious decision.

    Despite that I am still an alcoholic and get cravings from time to time and I know if I were to have just one drink I would be back consuming alcohol to the same extent as earlier times. That is the reason I continuously refrain from and have a total abstinence from Wine and other alcoholic drinks, not because it is totally forbidden. I abstain because of the inherent dangers of consumption and the addictive nature of such consumption.

    If we look at the bigger picture alcohol consumption has broken up more homes and families than any other drugs of addiction. A lot of people will say, but I know when I have had enough, but very few really do, and the majority just delude themselves. I have friend who daily drinks 7 bottles of Beer and his family is disintegrating because of it and He is now facing divorce. So there are many good reasons for total abstinence from drinking wine because of the damage it does in families and the cost in health to society as well as the cost to production in employment.

    Leigh D Stebbins

  5. Thanks Leigh. Yes there are enormous problems with the misuse of alcohol, and there are plenty of good reasons why someone may choose complete abstinence of it. My point here of course was simply to say that if you want to defend abstinence, you will have to do so on other grounds than biblical ones.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  6. Actually, regarding Jesus and the Roman military, all Jesus said was basically “Do your duty well and don’t shake anyone down.” Jesus DID resort to violence (unless of course you think that smacking the jeebies out of people with homemade whip isn’t violent) and ordered his own people to be prepared to defend themselves (knowing that He would soon be leaving them)

    The Greek word for wine is oinos and it simply means wine. Likewise, the Hebrew word for wine is yayin and again means wine. Noah drank the wine he planted and his heart was made merry. Obviously not a sin. More ridiculous man made rules which make the world laugh at us and despise us. If you can’t handle alcohol, don’t drink it, but don’t force teetotal totalitarianism on those of us who can.

    Ed Sumner

  7. Thanks Ed. Of course as we read in Genesis 9, Noah did drink to excess, becoming drunk, and getting into all sorts of strife.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. I made a mistake, I confused one incident with another. Noah did get plastered, apparently so drunk, he went to bed totally naked (unusual for Jewish men as I understand the culture) and one of his sons ended up being cursed for telling the other two their dad was stone cold naked, drunk and passed out in his tent. (Lack of respect for his father.)

    Ed Sumner

  9. good topic.
    The bottom line is; we are responsible for ALL our actions. If we find we are unable to “behave” after drinking wine [strong drink] we then moderate our consumption – [this of course, applies to all and any area of life !]
    There are no excuses for what we do whilst drunk – we are fully accountable.
    God has given many things to us to be merry with and by, to celebrate our Grace filled existence.
    Maturity is evidenced by our behaviour and we are acknowledged with leadership and responsibility in our exhibition and expression – as God has ordained.
    Glorify Him and then we will enjoy Him forever.
    Shalom
    Phil Ellery

  10. Thanks Bill. That was a well-balanced and researched article and makes perfect sense. I was brought up in a long line of staunch teetotallers (my grandparents actually came out of the Salvation Army where alcohol use was frowned upon because it ‘could make someone stumble’) and because of my upbringing, even though I knew that there was little to support that strong anti-alcohol line, I’ve always felt vaguely uneasy about it. Great to read the actual Scripture and the background.

    Dee Graf

  11. At the age of eight I spent three weeks in an infectious diseases ward with scarlet fever and remember one day announcing to the ward and the nurse present that when I grew up I would take all the beer in the world and throw it into the sea! As you may imagine, my extended family on both sides were mostly teetotallers and for many, alcohol was a real no-no. They included churchgoers but probably not many truly converted people. That of course was also the position of most Australian evangelicals in those days.

    I remember a Sunday school teacher giving us a “pledge” form to take home and ask our parents for permission to sign. Even though my mother was a non-drinker she was quite against my signing it, I’m glad to say.

    The tide has certainly turned and a few years ago I read an article in a strongly evangelical magazine in which the author virtually said that total abstinence was a bad as drunkenness. Sometimes we tend to go from one extreme to another.

    I have an occasional drink but not when in company where it could cause others to be offended- the approach taken by most Christians. My desire to drink alcoholic drinks is very slight and I don’t expect to become a big consumer in whatever time is left to me. It is clear that our views on matters such as this are very much influenced by our upbringing and other factors apart from Bible teaching. Let’s hope we can all be more ready to be tolerant of one another where the truth is not at stake.

    Thanks Bill for giving us a well-presented biblical account of the matter.

    David Morrison

  12. I didn’t think it was such a big deal to give it up in order to lend support to those tens of thousands of Australians who are in the grip of this devilish concoction. Are our ‘rights’ so important that we can’t reach out to the lost in that way? Or is it the need to be relevant rather than Holy? Muddled thinking I say, Stebbins and others excepted.

    Tony Morreau

  13. Thanks Bill,while I certainly agree that wine is not forbidden in scripture and that Jesus and the apostles drunk wine. As your article states, the wine was not the same as today. It was also not the strength of rum or spirits that people drink today. To justify drinking today by comparing it to biblical wine is not correct as the level was not the same. I will send you an article on it if needed.it might be acceptable to drink some alcohol in small amounts. But people should really cheak their motivation for wanting to drink alcohol. I personally don’t know why Christians feel the need to drink. Is it the lifestyle for appearance. With a aussi drinking culture we might just be giving people and excuse to drink. Especially for younger people like me. I have seen new converts destroyed by people’s “freedom”.

    Blake Cannon

  14. Actually the Bible allows the believer to make up his choice as to what he want to do with his body as long as two principles are followed. One that you don’t do it to excess and two that you are doing it for the glory for God. So that is why in the Bible there is allowance for those who think that because meat was offered to idols, you couldn’t eat it, but other thought that idols are nothing and thus the food is perfectly acceptable. I myself am a teetotaller since I know that I won’t be able to stop myself from drinking and most people my age drink to get drunk. By far the best thing to do is to remember if I do this, will I be giving God the glory?

    Ian Nairn

  15. What were all the vineyards referred to in the New Testament for?

    Jerome Gonzalez

  16. Thanks guys. Since the critics are starting to come in here fast and furious, ready to set up the gallows, let me say a few more things. I am sorry that some of these folks have either failed to read my article carefully, or have so badly misconstrued and twisted what has been said here. Those who claim for example that alcohol is different today from what is was then are simply incorrect. It is identical, and sometimes it was watered down to suit, while at other times it was not. But the point remains 100% true – the Bible nowhere orders teetotalism, or commands total abstinence. So to insist upon that is to do exactly what the cults do: add to the word of God.

    And let’s just take some of the criticisms here and apply them to a similar situation:

    ‘All over the world millions of people have been damaged by illicit sex, promiscuity, homosexuality, adultery, fornication, STDs, and a raft of other sexual problems. Millions have been damaged. Yet selfish Christians insist on their rights instead of helping others. Obviously we must ban sex now and abstain from it altogether, given how it is always being perverted and harming other people.’

    Indeed, we might as well argue that we must ban Christianity as well. Just think of all the cults, and heresies and Christian twisting going on out there. So let’s just ban Christianity because of its abuse and misuse.

    As I have said often now, if you don’t want to drink, then fine – don’t. And there are all sorts of good reason why people might abstain. But just don’t try to drag the Bible into such a ban, because you simply won’t find it there. Whenever someone adds to the Word of God, or seeks to make an absolute out of something God has not, that is simply dangerous and unbiblical. It is the very legalism Paul fought over and over again, and wrote so many epistles about. It is man-made tradition taking priority over the word of God. Indeed, those making such absolutes are effectively saying they have to correct God, because He is not as holy as they are.

    License is a grave sin, everywhere condemned in Scripture. But so too is legalism, and man-made traditions trumping the clear teachings of the Bible. So too is self-righteousness and Pharisaism, where some believers think they are superior to all others, based simply on what they do or don’t do. Jesus had a lot to say about such folks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  17. I agree that it is important to be tolerant of each others views regarding our walk of faith especially when the biblical evidence is relatively undogmattic. I too was brought up in a Methodist Church where alcohol was frowned upon if not prohibited and I was happy with this because my experience coming from a non-christian home was of many instances of the degrading and harmful effects of alcohol not only on the imbiber but their family and others, including my own. I won’t cite them all here.
    I took the view while it may be ok for me to drink, I did not really know until I tried it with maybe addictive results but even more importantly I did not want to be a “stumbling block” to others. I have maintained this stand all my life and have never needed it to help me enjoy life and celebrate whole-heartedly. There is no doubt excess alcohol consumption is a big problem in today’s world and it always has been. What saddens me most is the message that goes out that we must have it to “enjoy” life in the adult world. (I think It is more likely “drown your sorrows in drink ” and find yourself in a bigger fix!) My concern is that so often at Weddings and Parties nothing else is offered. It seems that no-one has heard of non-alcoholic wine which is a great alternative for celebrating. Some years ago when in hospital for an operation the menu offered free wines with your meals. I requested a non-alcoholic wine but they apologised that they didn’t carry any. This is the problem I see in today’s world. I am so glad a friend told me of Clayton’s and Dry at my first Office party after I left school and I had a very nice alternative to the alcoholic Punch the men were trying to ply me with. I also make some great non- alcoholic Punch’s for our family do’s and everyone likes them, including the little kids.
    I am afraid I am not about to take up drinking alcohol to please any who might think my abstinence is as bad as being a drunk. In today’s world I want to let our young people know it is totally possible to enjoy life to the full without drinking alcohol, smoking or doing drugs. But thankyou Bill for being brave enough to let us talk about this issue. PS I wonder why we don’t freely offer alcohol at Christian churches and functions if we don’t all see a need to set an example and prevent problems arising.

    Lesley Kadwell

  18. God has a sense of humour I’m sure as i was having a Friday afternoon glass of wine when I opened the blog today.
    (Only one glass mind you)!!
    Thanks again Bill for bringing some balance to the debate
    God bless
    Dave Billingham

  19. Thanks again guys. Of course in many respects this article is not so much about alcohol and whether or not believers can imbibe, but about much broader and much more important biblical principles. These include the believer’s freedom in Christ, and the dangers of man-made laws and legalism.

    It is also about how people think they can be spiritually superior to others by adding to the word of God. The truth here is quite simple: if you don’t feel good about drinking, then don’t. And there are many good reasons why you may choose to abstain. But there are also many bad reasons, such as legalism, Pharisaism, sham spirituality, and so on.

    Some believers actually think that if a Christian has a cold beer on a hot day by the barbecue they may send many to hell as a result. But based on the clear warnings of Jesus, there may be far more people sent to hell because of self-righteous and Pharisaical believers.

    I am not aware of too many Christians who condemn and jump all over those who choose to abstain. But I am aware of many Christians who will condemn and jump all over those who enjoy their liberty in Christ. Paul spent so much time on this issue, that I am surprised I even have to discuss it here.

    Indeed, so many of these believers who condemn others for having a drink now and then are likely doing many other things which are not doing all that much for the Kingdom – and may even work against it. How many hours of TV do they watch every day? How many computer games do they play each week? How much junk food do they consume? How many trivial pursuits do they engage in? Yet they are quite happy to condemn others on the issue of alcohol use, and look down on them in their self-righteousness and fake piety.

    There are a millions things we can do – or choose not to do – because of our freedom in Christ. And there are many things which are questionable or not clear. Paul says each believer must be fully persuaded in his own mind. But I have discussed this elsewhere: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2013/11/15/on-adiaphora/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  20. Hmmmmmnnn…

    Deuteronomy 14:26: “You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”

    Maybe “Rejoice” is not the same as “Enjoy” …

    Phil Ellery

  21. Thanks Bill, like I said the Bible does not forbid drinking alcohol. It is very clear that drinking alcohol is okay. In this way I have not added to the word of God at all. I have also not or would I ever try to impose my conviction on another. My comment was merely given with the goal of getting people to think about why they drink and why they need to drink. As Paul said (or agreed with) all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me but I will not be brought under the power of any. But like I said the wine in Jesus day although not grape juice was watered down. Your own article says this. “D. F. Watson has penned a very important article on wine in the superlative Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels . . . . Wine used at the Last Supper was probably mixed three parts water to one part wine.” That is not the same as what is drunk today. Yes the wine they made was just as strong but they did mix it and water it down. That is not the same in strength as wine today or spirits like Rum for example. Unmixed fermented drinks in Jesus day were called strong drink. Wine was mixed. If you want to read another side to this debate and consider it then please read this article: http://www.swartzentrover.com/cotor/bible/Doctrines/Holiness/Drugs%20&%20Alcohol/Wine-Drinking%20in%20New%20Testament%20Times.htm

    I am not trying to stop people from drinking but as this article points out. What is drunk today is not the same as in Jesus day. It certainly was not grape juice but it was not as strong as today.

    With respect for you and you great ministry

    God bless
    Blake Cannon

  22. Thanks Blake. Of course my recent comments have been generic in nature, so I was not singling you out here in much of what I had to say.

    As to watering down wine, yes sometimes it was done, and in varying degrees. And sometimes it was not done. Exactly like today. We have low alcohol beers, and full strength beers. We have wine coolers, etc. So one cannot claim things are different today. They are just the same.

    And again, regretfully, you are wrong here. Strong drink did not even refer to wine back then, as Watson and other scholars have clearly demonstrated. The term even comes from different Hebrew and Greek words. It refers to fermented beverage made not from grapes but from barley – making it much more like beer in fact.

    But thanks for your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  23. I have never drunk alcohol in my life save for a taste when I was a kid. It burnt my throat and swore I’d never want that experience again. I also saw a lot of raging alcoholics growing up too. I have quite a compulsive personality and feared that I may become that which I despised therefore alcohol is not for me, me being the operative word. I have absolutely no problem socialising with people who drink in moderation but will run a mile from parties where people drink to excess. Just can’t stand what grog does to some people. Great essay Bill. Agree completely.

    Phil Box

  24. Thanks for your response, I do not intend to continue this discussion to the point were it will become divisive as I really respect your ministry, and it is okay with me if we disagree. Did you read my article ? Stein gives very conclusive historical evidence that wine was mixed and that strong drink was different to wine and different to the percentages of most alcohol today. He is also a biblical scholar, he was the translator for the Jewish bible. So as you know with all theological propositions we must test Scholars arguments trying to match it with history and the facts being as objective as possible. We cannot just take one scholars opinion when both have studied the subject in depth. like I said I would not forbid drinking as scripture does not, but to say that responsible Christians should drink alcohol today not taking into account the strength of it is as it is not really the same as the wedding of Cana for example I think is not giving everyone the full information. I would like you to respond to the article I gave you or could you please show me where he is wrong. If I am wrong I will admit it but I would like something that refutes the historical points made. If you could point me where to look I would appreciate it. But at the moment I cannot see anything that you have said or quoted that refutes what Stein has written. God bless, this may not be the place to debate it but as you said it is a divisive issue and people have strong opinions on it.

    With love in Jesus Christ our Lord
    Blake Cannon

  25. Thanks Blake. Yes scholars can and do disagree. And as I said in my article, it is not my intention to take this on into infinity. Tomorrow another article will go up generating even more controversy. That will add to the 2737 articles already here, and the 40,473 comments. Those who want to beat this thing to death are welcome to do so, but I cannot be a part of it, sorry. Time permitting I will look at the article. Of course if I look at every article people expect me to read, I would not have time to run a website! But thanks again for your thoughts. At least you don’t want to tar and feather me – yet. So that is a relief!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  26. “Run a website…” – when there are all those good books to read!

    Phil Ellery

  27. Yes just think of all the neat books I could read if I did not have to write articles and spends eons arguing with people!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  28. Great article, and thank you. I was brought up (a long time ago) in a Church which forbade alcohol in any way, yet many of the men would smoke (NEVER the ladies – or at least not openly), the ladies were told that any make up was a sin, as was going to Church without a tie for the men. All man made rules and utterly useless for spreading the Gospel. Most of the young people left as soon as they were able to – particularly as dancing was regarded as utterly sinful and would only lead to premarital sex – most of us went to another Church which held regular Saturday night dances for young people and what a joy that was. I actually told my parents I was going to Youth Group[ – well it was partially true, and as my brothers were with me, I was very safe indeed. Actually, although I agree with your views, I personally have chosen not to drink, although I did try it out a couple of times – didn’t really like the taste, and I loathe and detest the taste of grape juice – unfortunately the time of Communion is spoiled when I partake of the ‘wine’.
    God bless
    Joan Davidson

  29. Good one Bill!

    Bill, do you have two of, in my opinion, the best books on the subject:

    1. Drinking with Calvin and Luther: A History of Alcohol in the Church – http://www.christianbook.com/drinking-calvin-luther-history-alcohol-church/jim-west/9780970032607/pd/032607

    2. God Gave WIne: What the Bible Says about Alcohol – http://www.christianbook.com/wine-what-bible-says-about-alcohol/kenneth-gentry/9780970032669/pd/032668/1382334827

    3. You can even order the two-pack here: http://www.christianbook.com/wine-drinking-with-calvin-luther-pack/pd/668X/1382334827

    The Law of God clearly advocates drinking wine and strong drink. In Deuteronomy 14 the Israelites are told to use some of their tithe money to go and buy whatever their soul desires – food, wine and/or strong drink. To feast! This strong drink is the Moses Stout! I enjoy my Moses Stout, it is good for the gut and enjoyable, refreshing and a gift from God. Alcoholic wine ought to be served in the Lord’s Supper.

    Deuteronomy 14:26
    And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.

    Heck – Christians’ feasting should be rich, fun and above all else good. God is not a prude, He is no killjoy and above all He gave wine for the pleasure of man.

    PS…due to all the sexual promiscuity perhaps we should look down on the marriage bed, let’s all promote the office of Eunuch!

    Trevlyn McCallum

  30. Ed Sumner 29.11.13 / 4pm said:

    Actually, regarding Jesus and the Roman military, all Jesus said was basically “Do your duty well and don’t shake anyone down.”

    but Ed, I think you might be referring to John the Baptist who when asked advised those who came for his baptism of repentance on the sort of fruit they should be seeking.

    John Angelico

  31. No one talks about the weak and the vulnerable here…perhaps alcohol is their only means of surviving! Let’s not judge…Jesus loves these suffering souls more than we know!!

    Mrs Jane Byrne

  32. Thanks again guys. Can I suggest that we all can benefit greatly by reading carefully what Paul has to say in Romans 14. All 23 verses need to be thoughtfully considered in light of this discussion. Thanks again for all your input.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  33. Lesley Kadwell 29.11.13 / 7pm wrote:

    “My concern is that so often at Weddings and Parties nothing else is offered. It seems that no-one has heard of non-alcoholic wine which is a great alternative for celebrating.”

    Yes, indeed.

    At our wedding many years back my wife’s family background clashed with my family background – my Italian Dad enjoyed his wine (carefully, with meals only), but my mother-in-law was firmly teetotal.
    So our respective brothers were given the job of keeping alcoholic drinks separate from non-alcoholic, and offering guests the choice for the toasts. But the drink trays became mixed up and no-one could tell the difference!

    However, within the church our stance is that we will not endorse alcoholic drinks at official church functions because
    a) we do not want to put a stumbling block before a brother and
    b) we have no idea of people’s backgrounds or prior conditions (as per earlier comments above) and consider the risks too great – the stumbling block might become a millstone.

    John Angelico

  34. Interesting, just reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones now on Romans 14, where he says: “Did you know that it was only in the 1830s that ministers and leaders in the church began to become teetotalers? Prior to that, ministers, all Christians, took alcoholic beverages and they did not think that there was anything wrong in it. And most of them smoked. . . . When the temperance movement first came in, it was opposed by many of the great old saints. They said it was violating the principle of Christian liberty.”

    I may post more of his comments here in days to come. Not that he is the last word on the subject, but he offers a bit of perspective here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  35. The Misian Libertarian; Rothbard has an excellent article on the Unitarian manipulated Rockefeller [Presbyterian apostate] funded Liberal attack on orthodox Christianity … and one of the fronts was the temperance movement – very well documented with original sources.
    I’ll hunt for it and post. Very Challenging.

    Phil Ellery

  36. One point that Dr Peter Masters raised in his book on whether Christians should drink is one that, I think, is worth considering. By drinking alcohol Christians are supporting an industry that causes misery and harm (in various forms both physically and spiritually) to many, many people, both directly and indirectly. Whilst this hasn’t stopped me from enjoying an occasional glass of beer or wine it has, at times, encouraged me to think twice as to whether I should.

    Does anyone else have any thoughts on this? (I should add that Dr Masters’ book was written with the express purpose of convincing Christians not to drink alcoholic beverages.)

    Mick Koster.

  37. Thanks Mick, yes there is much harm that can be associated with the world and trade of alcohol. But the trouble is, what he says can be true of just about everything. When you buy a pair of cheap shoes, they may have been made overseas with near slave labour-like conditions. When you buy cheap food stuffs from overseas, people may have been grossly exploited in the process. When you get groceries at one of the two big chains here, people working in other smaller stores may be suffering as a result. When you buy petrol at certain stations, the company may be involved in all sorts of cruel or harmful practices elsewhere. When you pay your taxes, some of your money may go to aborting babies or promoting homosexuality. When you buy a cheap TV from overseas, the workers there may have been paid a mere dollar day. See what I mean? The list can be endless. One would almost have to retreat into a cave for life if one worried about every possible negative outcome of what they do in the world. We live in a fallen world, so everything we do can have some negative consequences.

    But again, we are to do what we feel persuaded to do, as Paul instructs us in Romans 14.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  38. Re: my previous comment; I just noticed Leigh Stebbins’ comments above. That’ll teach me for not reading the comments before commenting!!

    Mick Koster

  39. You start to put your feet on dangerous ground when you invent laws that are not specified in the Bible by God – Eve did it remember – And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
    Gen 3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
    “Neither Shall ye touch it, lest ye die” – God did not say don’t touch it” – Eve said that –
    By all means your righteousness should exceed that of the Pharisees – but not that of God himself!
    Malcom Witney

  40. Hi Bill , Well written.

    As a Catholic with some tt Protestant acquaintances I confront the ‘strictly no alcohol allowed at this or that social event’ rule all the time. It is a real problem for Catholics trying to socialize with Protestants. I usually either don’t go to the event or don’t drink if I do attend.

    Another aspect of the drink question is ‘when has the line been crossed into drunkenness’ ?

    I was in the US recently and heard a media advert from their Federal government’s warning that ‘ …if you’re buzzed you ‘re drunk ! Don’t drink and drive buzzed ! ‘ It’s a handy standard for those who like a drink.

    Cheers Paul Connelly

  41. I gotta be honest. I don’t find this one to be that difficult. Our church is in the ghetto of Detroit Mi, USA

    Drugs, alcoholism, violence and debauchery are a way of life here. (well, death actually) There are plenty of redeemed lowlifes in our church including me. We neither encourage nor forbid the consumption of alcohol. It’s between you n God. As long as senior leadership doesn’t hear about it, they don’t wanna know.

    IF there is a charge of drunkenness or related sin then an examination ensues based upon that. I’ve never seen anyone in my church drink alcohol, but I know some do and they are powerful saints of God who can enjoy His bounty to His glory.

    I don’t know what would happen if I drank again, but I can think of a dozen real good reason why, by His grace I will never find out. It would be the very definition of foolishness for me to toy with temptation like that. I also have a couple customers who have me fix the computers in their bars. The stocked shelves and coolers do not disgust OR entice me.They simply have nothing to do with me.

    I don’t know why it’s difficult to rejoice in the freedom of others where it is legitimate. Of course there’s plenty of carnality that is rationalized in the name of alleged “liberty” today, but that’s a different topic.

    Greg Smith, US

  42. Great article. I get SOOOOOOO tired of Christians creating new laws, just as the pharisees of Jesus’ day did. Who needs the devil when we do so much to harm ourselves?!
    Chris Driscoll

  43. “… but because I now have opened up two fronts in which people can assault me! Instead of one major topic for people to rail against me, I now have two!…”

    “Assault you” “rail against you” strange thing to complain about when making public comments. (Agreed though, that some people take offence at the drop of word and do assault like their life depends upon winning the argument. Sad state of mind to be in). however;

    I have a question: Is it true that all yeast (representative of sin) had to be removed from the house at the Passover celebration. Was Jesus, at the time of the last Supper still under the “Passover law’?

    I am not trying to be argumentative Bill as I follow your comments on many subjects. This is a genuine question.

    Dave Powell

  44. Thanks Dave. As I demonstrate in my article, real wine was used, as we often find recorded in the gospels. Exodus 12 gives the restriction primarily on bread, and Jews even to this day are divided as to how far this goes in Pesach. As but one example, a contemporary Jewish rabbi has argued, “Of the hundreds of species of yeast, the Passover prohibition only applies to yeast which is a product of one of the following five grains: wheat, barley, oat, spelt, or rye. Yeast which is the product of grapes, or its sugars, is not considered Chametz (leavened food).”

    And regardless of what was taught at the time of Moses, or even by the Jews in Jesus’ day, we know that Jesus in effect reinvented OT types and customs, giving them new Christological significance. So he took the old Jewish traditions and institutions and gave them new meaning and purpose centred on himself and his Messianic mission. Consider his arguments with the Jews of his day over things like the Sabbath for example.

    And besides, while yeast is often used in a negative sense, it is not always. Sometime yeast is used in a positive sense, as in places like Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:20 where Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to yeast. So if one is trying to argue for teetotalism based on the issue of Pesach and yeast, one cannot go very far with it. And even if one did concede this point, there are still all the other Biblical texts which have to be dealt with as well (see my article for some of these).

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  45. Thanks Bill. We are blessed to be out from under the burden of the law. One preacher, since called home, said on one occasion people are not cast into hell because they sin “sins” but because they reject Jesus.

    I do like your comment (in your article) about the extremes in law and grace. Paul had a battle with them in both cases.
    Keep up the good work.

    Dave Powell

  46. Leigh Stebbins has a compelling argument. We have all seen the plummeting behaviour of drunk people portrayed on the nightly news. Look at our sporting heroes, schoolies, drunk drivers for example

    The problems connected with alcohol consumption probably out weigh the positives now-a-days and as our society continues to swim in a sea of me-ism the problems will only get worse.

    We all like to be right (or at least thought to be so). The solution to this debate may not be so much in having the correct theology but the practice of it.

    Will I let my freedom become a bondage to weaker people?

    Dave Powell

  47. First, I’m not making judgements on other Church’s practices, just explainingn our own: Nazerites, the High Priest, and others that wished to be close to God and/or hear from Him (during fasts, etc) would abstain. We are told to be drunk on the Holy Ghost and not on wine (Eph 5:18). So, as a Church that longs to walk and talk with God, obeying the leading of the Holy Ghost daily, this is why most of us abstain from alcohol. Many of us have children, and there are also ex-alcoholics among us, so we also do not want to make others stumble. That said, it is clearly not a hellworthy offence in Scripture, so members are free to drink if they choose, so long as they do so privately, and don’t flaunt it before others that might stumble, etc. I guess there is also the issue of, we are free to do all things, but not all things are beneficial for us, and we will not be mastered by anything. etc Finally, drunkenness is listed as one of the traits to be avoided if one wants to be a Church leader (1Ti 3:3), and we are encouraged to imitate our leaders. Gal 5:19-21 lists (excessive) drunkenness as one of the works of the flesh / sinful nature, which one seeking the life of the Spirit will avoid.
    Grant Vandervalk

  48. Thanks again Dave. Yes what you say is half of what Paul says in places like Romans 14. To be faithful to the text, we must also cite the other half of his important argument, namely that the weaker brothers should not judge the stronger, and should not seek to impose a new works righteousness and legalism on him. This is just as dangerous and damaging. Paul’s argument is always the same in this regard: license is always wrong, but so too is legalism. Christian liberty is very important , and something Paul argued about often – just think Galatians for starters.

    Of course as to pastoral concerns, there are plenty of things one can do to be sensitive to the weaker brother: not drink in their presence; don’t insist that they do; be discerning as to where and when one does drink; and so on. This is common sense and common courtesy type stuff.

    But like Paul (and Martyn Lloyd-Jones who writes with so much biblical common sense in his commentary on Romans 14) it is the weaker brother who tends to judge and criticise others, not the other way around. I often find this to be true. I do not know of many stronger brethren who are always attacking and judging the weaker ones, but I know of plenty of weaker ones who constantly judge and criticise the stronger ones.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  49. Thanks again guys. To repeat, for the umpteenth time now, this article was primarily about just a few things:

    -there are plenty of great reasons to abstain from alcohol if one so chooses, but doing so because of the express commands of Scripture is not one of them.

    -making absolutes out of that which Scripture does not make an absolute is adding to the Word of God, and is anathema. It is exactly what all the cults do, but it should not be what biblical believers do.

    -there can be just as much traditions of men in so-called Bible-believing churches as anywhere else. What we have here is a classic case of this.

    -License is sinful, but so too is legalism.

    I am not sure why I have to keep reiterating all this, but it seems I do.

    BTW, the very large amount of comments here (and on other sites) about this proves another point: far too many believers seem to delight in majoring in minors. You never hear a peep out of many of them when I discuss clear-cut biblical issues, but on things indifferent (adiaphora) they seem to come out of the woodwork in droves! But see more on this here:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2013/11/15/on-adiaphora/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  50. Yes you make good points as usual. The weaker brethren do criticize from their store of inexperience and ignorance often but I’m assuming you accept that the stronger brother always has the overriding responsibility to the weaker brother even to the point of suffering a loss.

    Dave Powell

  51. Thanks Dave. Yes to an extent. Paul often speaks about being willing to relinquish some of his rights for the sake of the gospel. But he also speaks just as much about the need to resist legalism and champion Christian liberty. He may forego some liberties himself, but he will fight to the death for other believers to enjoy their rights and freedoms in Christ.

    And that basically is all that I have been trying to do here. By all means, if you want to relinquish your rights for others, then feel free to do so. More power to ya. But I will also fiercely fight for biblical liberty and against man-made rules, legalism and a new Pharisaism.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  52. Have you ever wondered about the custom – so old that human memory runs not to the contrary – of adding a little water to the wine at communion. It is usually rationalised as the water and blood in John 19:34, but it really comes from the practices of the ancient world.
    In the ancient world you were considered a drunkard if you drank undiluted wine. The Greeks diluted wine with 3 or 4 parts water, the Romans 1:1. This is still the case in some places. A visitor to Tuscany was surprised to see her host mix water with the wine at meals.
    Also, without distillation, it is rarely possible to obtain any drink stronger than 15% alcohol because, above that level, it kills the yeasts involved in fermentation. But most of the wine of that period would have been of a lesser alcoholic level – essentially, cheap plonk.
    For these reasons, although there would have been the occasional drunkenness in the ancient world, alcoholism was probably fairly rare.
    I might add that these customers tend to develop as a matter of cultural natural selection, in that those who practise them tell to live longer and healthier lives. Until recently, water supplies were pretty awful. Adding a bit of alcohol to it at least gave your body a fighting chance against the germs. In England the drink of the lower classes was “small beer”: a very low alcohol drink which, because it had been brewed, was germfree. In one notorious case, typhoid struck one side of a street, but not the side with the brewery, because the workers there did not drink from the local well. Of course, in China the custom was never to drink water, but always to boil it first to make tea.
    Malcolm Smith

  53. Malcolm Smith: For these reasons, although there would have been the occasional drunkenness in the ancient world, alcoholism was probably fairly rare.”

    Friend, this is just not a defensible position. Both the existence of (Jesus chides the pharisees for calling Him one for instance) and warnings against “drunkenness” or being “drunk with wine” or being a “drunkard” etc, all built on the same Greek stem are well attested throughout the NT. Not to mention warnings against excessive alcohol consumption in the OT, such as in Proverbs.

    The bible is well stocked with discussions of sinful drinking while declaring the reality also of lawful consumption. I’ll even go so far to say that drinking enough alcohol to affect you (like at a wedding celebration) is also not sinful in itself or why would God bother creating alcohol at all?

    Greg Smith, US

  54. Thanks Greg. Yes I was going to make a similar reply about that particular point. Both biblical and non-biblical sources attest to alcohol-related problems and drunkenness in antiquity. And the many biblical warnings about such matters in both Testaments make this quite clear as well.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  55. Hi Bill, I liked your post. I always thought the greater sin was a lack of self-control, for the Fruit of the Spirit is love joy, peace…and self-control or a sound mind. Some people don’t have a sound mind when they eat gluten (me). Some people don’t have a sound mind when they drink wine. Some people don’t have a sound mind when they drink milk. Some people don’t have a sound mind when they take pharmaceuticals. I could go on… Jesus taught that if something causes you to sin, cut it off – but know that He also said that the food or drink are never the real root of the problem – that has always been the brokenness of man or the uncleaness of his heart within. It is there that we must ask our Saviour to address His efforts of sanctification.

    Mark 7:15 “Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’. ”

    Sharon Stay

  56. Hi Bill, thanks for another biblically sound article.

    My father always made it clear that to drink alcohol or not was a personal choice. He chose not to as his father had been a drunk, although that never stopped him from drinking the communion wine.

    We are free to make those choices and ought not have them forced on us, no matter how much good intention there is behind it. I also have chosen not to drink alcohol but there are no biblical grounds for comdemning those Christians who do so responsibly.

    Again, great article, stick to your guns (grounded in scripture alone).

    Mark Bachelor

  57. I choose not to drink
    Those at church who do, I bless. I do not bless those who choose to drink to excess as this then becomes a sin of the flesh. I have spent the most part of my adult life as a slave to alcohol and so know the misery attached to this choice. And it is that, a “choice”
    As you state Bill, not only is it incorrect to misrepresent what the NT teaches, it is dangerous.
    Ps Drink a little wine for your stomach (if you so choose) you’ll see it is scriptural.
    Dameon McManus

  58. Yes Dameon that is my story as well, which I mentioned above.

    I rejoice that others can partake of this blessing in a lawful, joyous, Christ honoring manner. I truly do LOL!! I also rejoice when my brethren (and sistren) are blessed in other ways as well. I love them. I WANT God’s best for them. Their blessing is mine.

    It’s selfish to not be willing to recognize a propensity to excess in yourself without binding others where God has not. Again, there are other areas where license is clearly proclaimed as liberty today. My belief is that the CONSUMPTION of media culture is one horrific example, but alcohol is not.

    Greg Smith, US

  59. When I first read your last line of your article, deflecting expected critisism, I thought you were being a little sensitive, Bill, but now, having read all of the above comments, I am more astonished at the passion that this, what I thought to be a minor part of our Christian walk brings out in people. I mainly am with Lesley though, even if my reasons for being a tea-totaller are probably totally different. I was pretty much an alcoholic when I became a Christian and after God took smoking from me without withdrawal symptoms, the next thing to go was the alcohol.
    6 months after I was saved, I went to an anclican church for the first time and nearly fell over backwards when I tasted the fortified whine offered there for communion. What I think is important if we want to convince anybody of anything worth believing is the freedom and joy we ourselves can live with those choices we have made. As Sharon said, our degree of Christian freedom is directly connected to the degree of self-control we possess. When our oldest son turned 21, we invited families to join us on a river cruise with no alcohol available at the bar. People were amaized at the joy, peace and good time that was had by all, I know, because thy commented on it.

    May I just make a comment on your comparison between TT and pacifism. I also don’t believe it is quite correct, but for totally different reasons to David above. There may be situations in life where we have to use force in order to allow justice to be done. Though peace is better than violence, because we live in a broken world violence sometimes has to happen in order for right to be done. I can’t imagine though that there could be situations where I am forced to drink alcohol in order that right should be done. Maybe, at the marriage supper of the lamb, if the whine there is only alcoholic and I have the choice to either drink that or not be admitted, well, then I will drink alcohol with gladness, knowing it is offered by my heavenly bridegroom and therefore could not do me or anyone else harm.
    This has been an interesting discussion.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  60. Wow, 62 comments. Oh well, I guess you didn’t have to be God himself to have seen that coming LOL.

    I agree, it would be terrible if everyone had to abandon sex because some people abuse the privilege.

    David Williams

  61. Parents who drink alcohol set a very bad example for their children.

    Grace Hartnett

  62. Grace Hartnett 3.12.13 / 10pm
    Parents who drink alcohol set a very bad example for their children.

    Does this then mean that when Jesus used His divine power to provide a wedding celebration with additional wine when they had exhausted the available wine that He provided the direct means by which the participants would be a stumbling block to their children? The same Jesus who said that those who would do such a thing were worthy of a millstone necklace and a watery grave?

    Madam, abstain if that is your choice as it is mine, but when you exalt yourself to the place of God by binding the conscience of men where he has not, with all due charity, YOU are the one setting a bad example for your children.

    Greg Smith, US

  63. Bill you may be right that those who drink get put down more often than those who don’t. I have never been told I am ungodly for not drinking coffee but have been told I am ungodly for not drinking alcohol even though I made both choices for the same reasons. The passage in Romans says he who thinks he sins, sins and so, though there is room to disagree, I don’t think those who choose not to drink should be pressured to by those who do.
    Kylie Anderson

  64. Thanks again guys. As I have said (perhaps far too often now) a chapter like Romans 14 really ought to settle all this. “Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind” (v. 5). Disobeying the commands set out there (eg judging others for what they can do with their Christian liberty) can also set a bad example for children. And I have not said here that non-drinkers must drink. Nor has anyone else here, as far as I can see. As I have said already, license is sin. But so too is man-made legalism.

    And as I have remarked elsewhere, I find it interesting that when I post a general article about loving God, or holiness, or Christian discipleship, I get almost no responses. But dare to discuss something like alcohol and the whole world comes knocking on your door – and some rather angrily! I better not write a piece on smoking, or dancing, or going to the movies, or tattoos!

    But thanks again everyone for all your thoughts. It is all good, and we need to hear each other.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  65. Nothing wrong with a good Tattoo!
    I look forward to the one each year broadcast from Edinburgh!
    Phil Elery

  66. if you are ever down my way, you are welcome to join me in a glass of fine wine. My favourite at the moment is a Cabernet Shiraz blend.

    i don’t water it down until I open it.

    Roger Marks

  67. I agree with most of what you write Bill, and I agree with many of your points in this article, but there is also quite a bit that I don’t agree with in the article and your further comments.

    I do agree that Scripture probably does not make a clear blanket statement on the issue, but then I don’t know that many Christians actually claim that it does. Rather, most of the arguments for abstinence are more nuanced or are non-biblical ones.

    I think it’s a stretch to say that “the use of alcohol is given the Scriptural green light, as in Proverbs 31:6 and 1 Timothy 5:23”. The point of the former is to warn the king—who has to keep his senses—against drinking wine or beer, adding that it should be left to those who are perishing or need to drink to forget. Hardly an endorsement for drinking. The latter (Timothy) is for medicinal use.

    Contrary to one commenter’s opinion that the article was balanced, the discussion of the wedding of Cana fails to discuss one of the key arguments against it being alcoholic wine. As you say, the Bible does warn against drunkenness. It also warns against causing our brother to stumble. So the pro-alcohol view has Jesus supplying around 600 litres of wine to the guests of a party that had already drunk all that was available. Does that really sound like something Jesus would do?

    You say that “If one just took note of verses 9-10 that should make it clear that this was not water being changed into unfermented grape juice:”. Sorry, but what about those verses indicates that? That it was the “best wine”? Isn’t that begging the question? It was alcoholic because it was the best wine; it was called the best wine because it was alcoholic?

    Contra D. F. Watson’s assertion, the Greek-English Dictionary in The Complete Biblical Library apparently has this to say:

    It is important to note that the Hebrew word tirosh, “grape juice, unfermented wine,” appearing 38 times in the Old Testament (Harris, “tirosh,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2:969), is almost exclusively translated by oinos (36 times). In other words, oinos can and does refer to either unfermented or fermented wine in the Septuagint.There have been endless tirades and debates on the nature of the wine made by our Lord at the wedding in Cana (John 2:9,10). Sides are drawn not on the basis of the word oinos, but on the view of abstinence held. The issue seems to be whether or not Jesus would create fermented wine and contribute to the further inebriation of the wedding guests. (Had the wine been unfermented, it would not have had time to ferment since it was consumed immediately.) From the Septuagint usage noted above, the oinos could be fermented or unfermented. Suffice it to say, the “better” wine of course does not in any way imply or demand a more alcoholic, or even an alcoholic, wine at all (one would presume that any wine that God had made would be better than man-made wine).

    Since when are man-made laws necessarily dangerous? I agree that claiming biblical authority for something not covered by the Bible would be adding to the Bible, but banning dangerous drugs (because that’s exactly what alcohol is) is a proper thing for the law to do.

    You say in a comment that “I am not aware of too many Christians who condemn and jump all over those who choose to abstain. But I am aware of many Christians who will condemn and jump all over those who enjoy their liberty in Christ.” Well, as a life-long teetotaller, my experience is the opposite. I have often been “jumped over” for being an abstainer, yet I don’t mention it myself unless someone else brings it up first (as you have done with this article).

    I expect to get dismissed as another who “want[s] to beat this thing to death” or similar, but I find your sensitivity to disagreement unfortunate and your painting of critics as “angry” and your implication that those who disagree do not hold fast to Scripture somewhat derogatory. As I said at the start, I agree with most of what you write, but in this case I’m sorry to say that I think you’ve not been fair and have unfairly impugned those who take a different position. I accept the point that claiming biblical mandate is wrong. I reject that that is the typical approach of those who promote abstinence, as the article implies.

  68. Thanks Philip. I think I have covered all this already in my article and comments. As I said, it is not my intention to start WWIII over this. And I will let others decide if I am being unfair or not.

  69. Wow Bill! Looks like you opened up a real can of tequila worms 🙂

  70. My main issue with drinking is the large numbers of youth who go out clubbing after church or after youth group. The atmosphere where alcohol is served is often not the right place to be to just kick back. I’ve heard youth say they go there to witness – but the only fruit I see of this is drunkeness, hangovers and broken relationships – including broken marriages. I agree that there probably isn’t a prohibition on drinking in the Bible, but the destruction I’ve seen would lead me to believe that it would have to be one of the habits least helpful to building the Kingdom.

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