I wanted to follow-up yesterday’s post on this subject, and I am thankful for all those who commented here and on Facebook.  This can be a contentious topic and I was very pleased with the dialogue that occurred even when there was disagreement.

I’ll share a little of my background, so you have full disclosure.  I didn’t place my faith in Christ until I was 20-years-old.  When I was at Drake University I abused alcohol.  I went out binge drinking a lot.  My intent was to get drunk, and that I did.  Some highlights of those days – puking my guts out outside my fraternity in a cold October rain, waking up in strange places not remembering how I got there, and people I hardly knew the next day smiling saying “dude you were awfully friendly last night” I had no idea what they were talking about.
So when I came to Christ I quit.  Cold turkey.  It had been an idol and I had to give it up.  I didn’t have a drink (that I can remember) for 10 years.
My belief about alcohol consumption for Christians has never changed in my time of abstaining and now moderate consumption.  Some thoughts:
1.  Underage drinking is illegal and therefore sinful.  We are to obey our governing authorities, (Romans 13:2).  Being 21 is the law of the land, and therefore even drinking without being drunk for somebody who is under 21 is out of bounds.  For countries whose laws are different, then that would be up to a young person’s parents for children are to obey their parents, (Ephesians 6:1).
2.  The Bible prohibits drunkenness and condemns poor behavior as a result of too much to drink.
  • “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise,” (Proverbs 20:1, ESV).
  • Proverbs 31:4-5, Isaiah 28:7-8, and Isaiah 56:12 speak out against leaders who drink irresponsibly to the point, Proverbs 31:5 says that the King forgets what he decrees.
  • “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them… Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink,” (Isaiah 5:11,22, ESV).
  • Ephesians 5:8 says that we are not “get drunk with wine,” but instead be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • Paul warns Timothy in the selection of deacons that they must not be those who are “addicted to much wine,” (1 Timothy 3:8).
  • Where the Bible prohibits the consumption of wine or “strong drink” it is with those taking a Nazarite vow  and priests in their temple service, (Leviticus 10:8-10; Numbers 6:3; Ezekiel 44:21).
3.  Much of the taboo regarding Christians drinking in moderation seems to be more cultural than biblical.
  • Eric shared a quote from Benjamin Franklin that always makes me laugh, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”  While Franklin had other issues both theological and social, he is correct with his sentiment.  Consider Psalm 104:14-15 – “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.”
  • Deuteronomy 14:22-27 shares commandments regarding the tithe and how it was to be used, notice verse 26 in particular, “and spend the money for whatever you desire – oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves.  And you shall eat these before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”
  • When it isn’t being drunk it is a sign of judgment, “no more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it,” (Isaiah 24:9, ESV).
  • Issac as he blessed Jacob said, “May God give you of the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine,” (Genesis 27:28, ESV).
  • Wine was used as part of the food offering, (Numbers 15:10).
  • “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine,” (Proverbs 3:9-10, ESV).
  • “Go, eat your hand with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved of what you do,” (Ecclesiastes 9:7, ESV).
  • Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana in John 2:1-11.  He turned it into “good wine,” and this was uncommon because typically cheaper wine was given later on in the wedding feasts (which would last seven days) when the senses became dull.  All commentators I have read agree that this wine did have alcohol (as it would still numb the senses).  Some say it was diluted to make it last and to make it less potent.  Other books I have consulted on “manners and customs” make no mention of this.  One thing can be said for certain is that alcohol was not added to it artificially like what we see today in the distilling process.

4.  We have liberty in Christ.

  • We have liberty to consume in moderation, and we have liberty not to.  Paul in Colossians 2:16 says, “Therefore (since Jesus triumphed at the cross) let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath”
  • Also going further Paul wrote, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings?”
  • Those who decide to not consume, and I’m not saying that is a bad thing – I made that choice myself for 10 years, shouldn’t judge when others make a different choice.  Likewise those who decide to shouldn’t look down on their brothers and sisters who decide not to.

5.  We have responsibility in Christ.

  • Several people mentioned it in their comments already, but namely we are not to be a stumbling block to those around us.  “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.  Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.  It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble,” (Romans 14:20-21, ESV).
  • I wouldn’t drink around current alcoholics, former alcoholics, or somebody who came from a family of alcoholics.  Not only are you a stumbling block, but it would simply be rude.
  • I don’t drink around people who believe that it is wrong.  Maintain relationships and unity, (Ephesians 4:3) is far more important to me.  If I’m in a ministry or church that says don’t drink.  I don’t drink.
  • Also we need to be mindful of our witness.  I personally do not attend events where the soul purpose of the event is for people to get completely wasted.  So that would now eliminate about all of the parties I attended in college.  That doesn’t mean I personally go to a bar because I have for certain functions but for me personally; it isn’t a regular occurrence.

6.  In all things moderation.

  • I don’t drink more than 1-2 beers or alcoholic beverages in a setting.
  • Motive check – why do I want to drink?  Is it because it tastes good or do I have another motive?  Am I drinking for comfort or because I’m in a bad mood?  Am I drinking due to stress?  Who should I be going to when I’m in pain, sad, stressed, etc?  Beer or God?  Bad motive, pray don’t drink then.  This could be said with anything.
  • When I say everything in moderation, that is what I mean.  You notice some of those churches that condemn alcohol consumption strangely have nothing to say about gluttony.  Why is that?

So now I personally will have a beer or glass of wine on occasion.  My conscience is clear.  I have liberty in Christ.  I do not overindulge.  This year I can count on one hand the number of alcoholic beverages that I have had (3, maybe 4).  We don’t keep it at home, and that is out of respect for my wife (who doesn’t drink).  I also don’t want it to always be around.  I enjoy it on occasion, but it doesn’t drive my social life.

Update: Joe thanks for the link love!

2nd Update: Welcome Head Noises readers!

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  1. Shane,

    Possibly the most intelligently and honestly written pieces on this subject that I have ever read.

    Thank you so much for this series. This post, in particular, I am going to be sharing with my family.

    Thank you again.


  2. Ditto what Andy said.. very comprehensive and well thought out Shane.

    Here is part of what Scot McKnight (Jesus Creed) said on Monday:

    If God is God, and if God speaks to us in the Bible, then God spoke words that show that wine drinking is fine. One may choose not to drink, but that view is more extreme than what the Bible says. Drinking too much is contrary to the Bible, but not drinking at all is not what the Bible teaches (except for ascetic strands at time).

    But, let's not fall for the idea that being more biblical than the Bible is safe ground. Extremism is not righteousness; extremism is zealotry. Trust that what God says is what God wants.

  3. I'll drink to that. Ah … maybe the wrong thing to say.

    My dad drank heavily as I was growing up. He was not a falling down drunk but he did like his beer.

    I chose not to drink and it's only in the past several years, from my mid 30s to now my mid 40s, that I've started having an occasional drink. I've never been drunk in my life and don't intend to be. I enjoy a good glass of red or the occasional beer.

    Your post is very balanced and pretty much sums up my attitude to alcohol. Thanks.

  4. I'm not Christian, I'm a Jew… and I rarely drink. but frankly it is the Caffeinated stuff that is a danger to our culture these days. Speed is a huge problem. I speak not to lecture you because I abuse coffee too. I brew French Press and it's bad for me and I can't stop…. I drink a large thermos every day. It is part of my internet habit. I'd like to stop

  5. I come from a dry Baptist background, but my views have changed since I started living in Japan. I am unable to find any scriptures that prohibit drinking, but there are some the prohibit getting drunk. Some people may say that it is better to be safe than sorry (i.e. better to avoid it all together than run the risk of getting drunk), but it is a personal choice. I personally can't stand the taste of alcohol, so I don't drink anyway.

  6. Oh, goodie! Your mention of what kind of wine they had reminded me that somewhere– way back in my memory– it was explained that at Catholic Mass we add water to the wine, because only tacky folks didn't, Way Back When.

    Which led me to:
    I love the internet, and colleges.

    Now I've got to start a file on Ancient Alcohol…..

  7. I'll definitely agree with your summary Shane! And I'm glad for this conversation.

    While I lived in Northwest Indiana I always felt like Christian culture portrayed drinking as some horrible sin. As if anyone who takes a sip must be getting drunk. Even at Trinity U I felt it was being portrayed like that. I would like to say I have never been crazy, obnoxious, puking, cant remember where I was drunk, but I have had 3-4 drinks in a night span to where I had to make a decision not to take another drink in fear that if I did I might be on the road to too much. I've definitely had friends who chose not too drink for certain reasons and I completely respect that, but too often I would still feel the pressure of those who choose the non-drinking lifestyle to push it upon me. I love going out with some of the guys and just hanging out and talking about life while having a couple drinks, it's just always a great time.

    Now when I moved to the southern tip of Illinois, I felt a different Christian culture(and it definitely included NASCAR haha!). One that was all inclusive to drinking and had no reservations about it. It felt freeing for a bit, then not as much. But in both situations I felt that not many people had a real understanding of what the bible says about drinking. So, I am glad that you would speak on this. We love our church out here in CA and he has definitely touched on this topic just as you have.

  8. You are welcome Josh. I had issues with several of Trinity's standards… especially after I got married, but then I also knew if I wanted to go to school there I had to abide by them. Nobody forced me to sign the community expectations so integrity required it.

    One rule that really drove me nuts, and I don't know if they changed it when you and Ang were there was the “no hats in chapel” rule. Ugh.

  9. Just wanted to let you know I appreciate the work you put into this piece. When people find out that I've never been drunk, they're usually pretty surprised. I used to say something like, “I have a hard enough time controlling my tongue when I'm sober, why would I want to get drunk?”

    While that is true, I really would like a tactful, yet honest way to explain to them that beyond not embarrassing myself, I do not want to sin in this area. And, to demonstrate that it is possible to have a great time without being drunk.

    Then, as far as caffeine goes… I used to drink two pots from the bunn-o-matic at work each day. I realized it was a problem when I could not hold the mug steady enough to drink with just one hand. I decided to quit drinking coffee, cold turkey, to make sure that I was in control of my coffee, instead of my coffee controlling me. I think I had a headache for a week, but eventually life returned to something more normal, and the shaking stopped.

    I went to drinking one Starbucks Frappucino per day, and for a treat, maybe it was two.

    I stick to decaffeinated… been doing that for several years now. That is until I found Shane's Caffeinated Thoughts blog.

    The bottom line is: moderation in all things. Should we talk about gluttony? Or, how little exercise we get these days? Maybe I should get out the Wii Fit!

  10. Does that have something to do with worshiping with your head covered as a man, and not worshiping without your head covered as a woman? I've wondered about that, especially in light of the change Jesus said was coming when he talked with the woman at the well… “The Father seeks worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth.” — John 4

  11. Nah, I'm pretty sure it was no hats at all. I think it was a combo of it being disrespectful and not wanting you to fall asleep. I hated being forced to go to chapel, at greenville if you didn't go to chapel they just wouldn't let you get better housing. Good thing I left TIU when I did, my last semester I was like 50 under the chapel limit and they had just placed a new rule saying if you didn't make your chapels that you were getting kicked out. It was dumb, glad I left then, but I sure miss 104 and my friends from there.

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