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Alcohol and the Christian Faith

Copyright © July 1, 2019 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.

All Scripture Verses are from the New International Version (NIV) of the Holy Bible.


Introduction

Wine and Food The subject of whether or not a Christian has the right to consume alcohol in moderation is becoming a very sensitive topic in some Christian churches.

In order to impartially consider this question, the following sources will be examined in the following sequence:
  1. The Holy Bible: An unbiased discussion of this topic must begin with a review of what the Holy Bible says about alcohol. A review of scriptures from the Holy Bible must be balanced and it cannot focus exclusively on a few isolated scripture verses that are very carefully selected to support a specific point of view while ignoring an overwhelming number of other scripture verses that are in direct opposition to that point of view.

  2. The Beliefs of Several Major Christian Denominations: A fair and impartial discussion of this topic should include a summary of what several different major Christian denominations believe on this issue.

  3. A Brief Summary of the Above Information: This article will close with a very brief summary that will attempt to impartially answer the original question using the Holy Bible and a consensus of the beliefs of several major Christian denominations.

Alcohol and a Few Bible Verses

Most Christian Churches firmly believe that drunkenness is wrong because the Holy Bible says that it is wrong.
A careful reading of the above scripture verses will clearly reveal that all the above scriptures specifically refer to getting drunk, or drunkenness, and they do not prohibit the consumption of alcoholic beverages in moderation by anyone, including the overseers or leaders of a church.

The following scripture verse was written by the apostle Paul to Timothy who was a Christian minister of a local Christian church.
The above scripture verse could be legitimately interpreted in at least three different ways as follows:
  1. A minister should drink a little wine if he has digestive problems and/or frequent illnesses.
  2. A minister should drink a little wine because impure water could be the cause of his stomach problems and frequent illnesses.
  3. A minister should drink a little wine because wine could improve his overall health if consumed in moderation.
The above scripture verse does not say that a Christian minister can only drink wine if he has digestive issues or frequent illnesses. This type of interpretation would be in contradiction to other scriptures such as 1 Timothy 3:1-3 above and 1 Timothy 3:8 below.

The following New Testament scriptures address the consumption of wine by deacons and by women:
The above two scriptures give permission to deacons and to women to consume wine in moderation, but it also cautions them to avoid drinking too much wine and to avoid becoming addicted to wine, which is similar to becoming a drunk or drunkard.

However, the Holy Bible does have some restrictions on the consumption of alcoholic beverages by ministers. These restrictions applied to the priests whenever they entered the Tent of Meeting or the inner court of the temple.
In other words, ministers were not to drink alcoholic beverages when working. This is the same rule that most companies have for their employees -- employees are not to drink alcoholic beverages while they are working at their normal jobs.

Therefore most Christian Churches believe that the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages is not a sin.
The following is a direct quote of Jesus about Himself and it confirms that Jesus did sometimes drink alcohol:
When the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that he was going to be the father of John the Baptist the angel made the following statement about John:
John was the second of only two people in the entire Bible who were commanded to never drink any type of alcohol. Samson was the first person.

Therefore Matthew 11:18-19 tells us that John did not drink wine or other fermented drink but Jesus did drink some type of alcohol but the scripture does not specify what type of alcohol.

In spite of all the above scriptures that speak favorable about alcoholic beverages, there are a few Christian Churches that believe that anyone who consumes any type of alcoholic beverage is committing a terrible sin. They basically ignore Jesus' first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding feast, and instead they focus on verses such as the following:
The above verse is frequently used to condemn the consumption of alcoholic beverages because drinking may offend someone. People who support this interpretation advocate the complete avoidance of all alcoholic beverages all the time by all Christians. However, they do not insist that Christians stop eating all meat all the time to avoid offending a Christian who happens to be a vegetarian. In addition, the above scripture only recommends not eating or drinking in the presence of someone who would be offended and it does not say that you should stop eating and drinking when you are not in their presence. The above scripture also says "or to do anything else" and this implies that a good Christian will avoid doing anything that offends someone if the verse is taken to the extreme. For example, if a Christian prays in public and this offends someone, then does this mean that all Christians should stop praying in public? I do not think so.

Another verse that is sometimes used to condemn alcohol is the vow of a Nazirite:
During the time that a person was under the Nazirite vow he or she could not cut his or her hair, or go near a dead body, or drink wine or grape juice, or eat grapes, or raisins, or even the seeds or the skins. After the prescribed time had been fulfilled, the person would shave off his or her hair and then the person could once again drink wine. Christians who try to use the Nazirite vow to justify not drinking alcoholic beverages would need to obey all the rules and not drink grape juice, or eat grapes, or raisins, or raisin bread, or raisin bran, or participate in the Lord's Supper by drinking grape juice.


The Opinions of Different Christian Denominations on the Subject of Alcohol

The Catholic Church has continuously supported the consumption of alcohol in moderation. For many centuries some monasteries have brewed beer to support their ministries.

The Methodist Church has consistently warned people about the dangers of overindulgence in alcohol. However, the use of alcohol is left to the judgment of each individual Christian, and a Christian may choose to completely abstain from alcohol, or to partake of alcohol in a reasonable manner. Ministers are allowed to consume alcohol in their own homes. A person's use or avoidance of alcohol is not a condition for membership in the Methodist Church.

In 2006 the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution stating "our total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages." The resolution was passed with 80% voting "yes" and 20% voting "no." The majority ruled but it was not unanimous. However, some Southern Baptist Churches now expect their members to 100% support this resolution, or individual members may be expelled from the church. Some Southern Baptists now believe that the conscience of individual Christians must conform to the majority collective view of the Church leadership. (Note: This is similar to the belief of the Catholic Church in the infallibility of their current Pope.) This is in contrast to the history of the Baptist denomination which was founded on the belief that all believers have an individual personal relationship with God and therefore Baptists traditionally rejected formal creeds and doctrines that would be binding on all their members. The reason Baptists traditionally objected to this was because they did not believe that newly constructed creeds and doctrines would be infallible. It should be mentioned that the Southern Baptist Convention does not represent the views of all Baptist Churches because a lot of Baptist Churches are not part of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Episcopal Church does not prohibit the serving of alcoholic beverages to its adult members who have attained the legal age to drink. If alcoholic beverages are served at a Church function then food must also be served and non-alcoholic beverages must be made available to anyone who does not wish to consume an alcoholic beverage. In addition, all local, state, and federal laws must be observed, and moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages is expected.

In 1986 the Presbyterian Church adopted the following official statement: "The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) does not advocate the prohibition of alcohol, a policy which would appear to attribute the entire problem to alcohol itself. Responsible and non-problematic uses of alcohol have been part of human experience and the Judeo-Christian heritage since the beginning of recorded history. The considerable risks and immense suffering that follow from excessive and unwise uses of alcohol do, however, impose upon all Christians individually and corporately the responsibility to make and encourage judicious and well-informed choices regarding personal and social uses of alcohol.
"To that end, the General Assembly encourages and supports personal decision to abstain from alcohol. For those who choose to drink and can do so without becoming dependent, the General Assembly urges a pattern of moderate and responsible drinking behavior. Finally, the General Assembly recommends and supports a comprehensive public policy approach to regulate the availability and use of alcohol in a manner consistent with its special character and the potential risk to persons and society inherent in its use; and it continues to recommend and support appropriate treatment for all who are affected by alcohol-related problems.
"The following general principles should guide personal and corporate choices about the use of alcohol:
1. Abstention in all situations should be supported and encouraged.
2. Moderate drinking in low-risk situations should not be opposed.
3. Heavy drinking in any situation should be vigorously discouraged.
4. Any drinking in high-risk situations (e.g., during pregnancy or before driving an automobile) should be vigorously discouraged, as should all illegal drinking."


Summary

An independent survey conducted by LifeWay Research in the year 2007 found that 3% of Southern Baptist pastors and 29% of Southern Baptist members drink alcoholic beverages. This can be compared to the results of that same survey where 25% of Protestant pastors and 42% of Protestant members drink alcoholic beverages, where Protestants includes non-Southern Baptists as well as other Protestant denominations. A Protestant is any Christian who is not of the Orthodox or the Catholic faith.

As I have previously mentioned, a person can prove almost anything he or she wishes to prove by carefully picking a few scripture verses that appear to support their interpretation and by ignoring all the other scriptures that are in complete opposition to that interpretation. This is one of the reasons why there are so many different Christian denominations. Each denomination decides what it wants to believe and then they find specific scripture verses to support their beliefs and they completely ignore other scriptures that contradict that interpretation.

If there are not enough scriptures to support a specific interpretation then some individuals, who have very good intentions, will sometimes quote extrabiblical sources, such as the comments of a few Christian evangelists of the past who happen to agree with their interpretation, but these same individuals will completely ignore any evangelist or pastor who does not agree with their interpretation. They may also mention a variety of stories and statistics, and they gradually build a very strong case for their point of view. However, these same individuals would openly condemn anyone else who used this same deceptive strategy to support a scriptural interpretation that they did not believe was correct.

Unfortunately the above strategy eventually results in a Church doctrine, or a tradition, that is passed down from generation to generation. Jesus publicly condemned this practice when He said:
Jesus came to this world to save the lost. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of everyone who would confess Him as Savior, and this includes alcoholics, prostitutes, and thieves.

If a person enjoys drinking alcohol occasionally in very small quantities, or frequently in moderation, but not to the point of becoming drunk, and if that person was interested in knowing more about Jesus, then would that type of person consider attending a church service where they knew that the people of that church preached prohibition and abstention in regard to the consumption of alcoholic beverages? Will each of the members of that church be welcomed by Jesus into heaven with a "Well done my good and faithful servant."?


Conclusion

I have been attending a Christian Church for about 65 years. I do not remember ever hearing the following topic mentioned in a Church sermon or in a Sunday School lesson:
The above letter to Christian Gentiles was drafted by James the brother of Jesus Christ, and by Jesus' disciple Simon Peter, and it was delivered by Judas (called Barsabbas), and by Paul, Barnabas, and Silas who were apostles to the Gentiles. A Gentile is anyone and everyone who is not a Jew. A Gentile believer is a Christian Gentile.

Each Christian can decide for himself or herself whether or not it is appropriate to alter the above Holy Scriptures in defiance of the expressed will of the Holy Spirit and add that Christians should also abstain from alcoholic beverages.

Each Christian can also decide whether or not God will be pleased with his or her behavior if he or she looks unfavorably on other Christians who do drink alcoholic beverages in moderation.

Acts 4:19 - "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God."

Respectfully,
Grandpappy.


Grandpappy's e-mail address is: RobertWayneAtkins@hotmail.com

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