Matthew Fitzsimmons

Of Wine and Whine

I was recently involved in a couple of forum threads discussing alcohol on a fundamentalist Christian blog. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were more people who admitted that the Bible approved of alcohol consumption than I would have thought (about 25% of poll responders said they partake, while about 80% said they believe the Bible allows for it, but they don’t partake.)The ones who admitted that the Bible allows it, but decided it was unwise for them to partake didn’t bother me much. I think they should be learning liberty, but I have no major problems with their decision.

There are two categories, however, that really sadden (and sometimes anger) me:

“I don’t think Christians should even have this as a topic of discussion!

While the Bible doesn’t completely condemn alcohol, I have plenty of other biblical reasons for saying that no Christian should drink the stuff.”When pressed, these people never come up with these other “biblical” reasons, instead throwing about catch words like worldliness, testimony, offend, etc. While their arguments may be acceptable (we should stay away from worldliness, we should try to have a good testimony in front of the world, we should not cause weaker brother’s to offend), they rip these kicking and screaming from any sort of context that would make them meaningful to the discussion. Instead, they say essentially that “because I think alcohol is worldly, etc., that means that the rest of the world thinks so too, so you should avoid it.”

They like to throw in anecdotes about how “if you ask an unsaved person what Christians don’t do, what will they say? One of them would include drinking.” Not only is this not even an argument that has any biblical basis, but it is also a bogus claim. It is usually made by people who actually have very little contact with the world. The ones that I have spoke with on the subject would only say something like that if pressed by someone who holds that view, but most of them wonder why some Christians don’t drink (they realize that it is not all Christians, and that the Bible doesn’t condemn alcohol).

“Wine doesn’t always refer to a fermented beverage in the Bible.”

This one really bugs me. It might be true. I don’t know if it is or not. Perhaps Pitchford can shed a little more light on the original languages.The fact of the matter is that “wine” means an alcoholic beverage in (at the very least) most instances in which it is used in the Bible, including ones where it is praised, as is clear from the context. The OT also praises “strong drink” in a couple of places, and that is most definitely alcoholic.

The problem with proponents of this view is that they constantly derail the discussion back to this point, when it doesn’t really make any difference in the discussion. When you try to bring them back to the Bible, they try to take you back to “wine doesn’t always mean wine.” In the rare occasion that you can get them to argue biblically, they demand a verse from the New Testament that says “wine is good.” The problem is that these verses primarily exist in the Old Testament. The evidence in the New Testament is primarily that of the status quo being maintained.

The reason they try so hard to exclude the Old Testament is that they think they can prove that oinos doesn’t always mean an alcoholic beverage, so they try to say that it is alcoholic only when referred to as bad (i.e. drunkenness) but non-alcoholic in all other instances, which is an obvious fallacy. The reason they want to exclude the Old Testament is that the Old Testament clearly praises the use of alcoholic beverages.

This probably explains why Covenant Theologians are more likely to partake of alcoholic beverages than are Dispensationalists. Many Dispensationalists think that they can pick and choose what they want from the previous “dispensations” and deny others. This is a very dangerous position to be in, but is obviously the position that many of them take on the alcohol issue.

My concern is that other things are being lifted up above the truth of Scripture, and used to push their pre-conceived notions back onto the Bible. This is completely contrary to what Fundamentalists claim to stand for, and yet it is pervasive in the movement. I am concerned that these same hermeneutical problems will rear their heads more and more in other areas as well.

December 24, 2005