Matthew Fitzsimmons

Alcohol and the Christian Part Deux

Now, I understand that, despite the weight of Scripture in the previous article about alcohol, some will still have objections. I intend to deal with some of these objections here.I must preface this by noting that this is mostly not of my creating. We have been discussing alcohol in Sunday School, and this list of objections, and many of the responses, came from that, although I’ve taken the liberty to phrase them as I wish.

The previous article also came out of this Sunday School series, although I took nothing from that except some of the structure. The research was done on my own. It repeated, in many points, what was mentioned in Sunday School, but I wanted to make sure I understood the weight of Scripture myself as opposed to how it was interpreted by another.

These, however, are more practical issues, so I’ll stick primarily with the outline from Sunday School.The first objection, one I have personally heard many times, is an attempt to say that, “yes, the Bible does talk about wine, but ancient wine had a much lower alcoholic content than wine today.” My first answer to this is that (in fewer places) the Bible still has good things to say about strong drink, which is undoubtedly highly alcoholic given the context and meaning of the words used.

My second answer is that there are many places in the Bible where the same alcohol that is commended is the same that made people drunk. In fact, the same words are used to commend alcohol as to condemn it. There is no difference.

From what I can find, although sometimes ancient wine was watered down (I can’t determine if it was in the time and place of the New Testament or not), this would put the alcohol content still somewhere between beer and modern wine, and quite possibly higher than modern wine when not watered down.Essentially, if there was a difference in the alcohol content of wine as it was consumed in Biblical times and the way it is now, it is a negligible difference, and may even at times go the other way.

The second objection to the use of alcohol is that some people have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. The first response to this is that alcoholism is not a disease, it is a sin. The fact is that even if there is such a thing as a genetic reason that causes some people to become alcoholics quicker than others, the root problem is still spiritual. God never commands “don’t sin, unless you have a genetic predisposition to it, then it’s not your fault.”

Now even if there is a gene that predisposes someone to alcoholism, there would have been these same people in the time when Christ turned water to wine, drank wine himself, and used it for the Lord’s Supper. Likewise, when Paul was passing on Christ’s teaching of the Lord’s Supper, he continued the use of wine.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, no indication is made of God ever making room for this kind of excuse.

Another objection is that Because wine is potentially destructive, it is best to leave it alone. While it is true that wine is potentially destructive, this is also true about food, money, sex, and any other good gift of God. Not only do the people who advocate total abstinence from wine for this reason never apply it to these other items, but the Bible also never commands this about anything. There is never a case in the Bible where we are told to avoid a good gift of God because it can be abused.

Wine is singled out as the scapegoat because it’s destructive effects are easier to see, whereas the effects of things like materialism can be just as spiritually damaging, in a less visible way.

This argument also ignores the praise of wine in the Bible. Would God praise wine if he wanted us to avoid it because of it’s potentially destructive nature?

Another objection to the use of alcohol by the Christian is that we are to avoid all appearance of evil. Not only is this a misinterpretation of that verse (it means to avoid every instance of actual evil, not things that would look like evil), but it applies it assuming that the consumption of alcohol is a worldly practice. The application of the verse to tell us to avoid things that may appear to be evil is wrong, but were it correct, the consumption of alcohol does not even fit that interpretation.

Another objection is that, although alcohol may be acceptable in other cultures, it is unacceptable in ours.

While I have heard this argument, I’m not sure exactly what it is trying to convey. Perhaps that our culture abuses alcohol more than other cultures? This may be true, but if so, the response of the church (just like in sex and food) should be to show the proper use of alcohol, not abstain from it.

Is it trying to imply that our culture views it as wrong, so the testimony of the church would be damaged? If that’s the case, I’d have to say it’s wrong. When I was anti-alcohol, I met many unsaved people who respected my position, but couldn’t understand it. Some of them would even say that wine is all through the Bible, so it can’t be wrong. I just don’t see how this argument can hold water.

The last one we come to is that, “Wine may be okay for you, but you should abstain because of the weaker brother that may be offended.

The point of Paul’s “weaker brother” discussion is twofold:

  1. While wine and meat are okay, we should avoid them in instances where it may cause a brother with a weaker conscience to partake and thereby violate his conscience (“cause them to offend”, not “offend them”). But we are not to make a new law for ourselves out of their weakness. It’s clear that he is speaking of specific instances in which our liberty should be set aside, not setting aside our liberty perpetually because of someone’s week conscience.
  2. The weaker brother needs to be learning liberty.Now in the cases where it is right to set aside your liberty, if you are unable to do so, than the alcohol has become your master, which is wrong.I obviously may have overlooked some objections, so please feel free to post your comments.

September 4, 2005