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Monday, 02 June 2014 20:57

Question on Drinking and Consuming Alcohol

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Question:

I would be interested to hear your views on Christians drinking and consuming alcohol.

There are various views saying that when the bible talks about wine, it is referring to grape juice and not alcoholic wine. There are also commentators who reference the wedding at Cana, saying Jesus wouldn't turn water into alcoholic wine so that people could become drunk, ie causing them to sin.

Would love to hear your views, or happy for you to point me to a previous article you may have written on the subject.

God Bless.
Emilio

Answer:

Drunkenness is a sin. The use of alcohol as a non-medicinal intoxicating drug instead of as a beverage with meals is wrong and saved Christians should not engage in it.

We do note however that in The New Testament Paul taught the medicinal value of wine for infirmities, the notion that Jesus in scripture is speaking of grape juice however is ignorant nonsense. While it is the same word in Greek (oinos), in the Hebrew text wine (yiyn) and juice (mitz) are two different terms.

The parable of new wine in old wine skins bursting proves there was a fermentation reaction yielding a CO2 bi-product otherwise the skins would not have over expanded burst. To say it was grape juice is a ridiculous assertion that is a chemical impossibility.

There is a mishnaic source however that informs us that the wine popularly drunk was diluted in Jesus' day (probably 2/3 water) and was essentially wine used to purify and flavor water.

Hyper fermented wine (akin to what we call brandy or cognac) was likely the "strong drink" referred to in Proverbs. We should not be 'given' to it. But what 'given to it' exactly means is open to some interpretation.

Whiskey did not exist in biblical times as distillation was not invented until the 8th century, ironically by the Arabs.

Obviously drunkards were disqualified from church leadership by the apostolic criteria in Paul's Epistle to Timothy.

Moriel's policy is to leave it to the discretion of the individual believer on the basis of Christian conscience with two provisos:

  1. If a Christian had an addictive drinking problem before getting saved they should refrain from its consumption. 
  2. Never consume alcohol in the presence of a brother or a sister in faith who had an alcoholism problem before becoming a believer so as not to place a stumbling block and guard one's testimony where alcohol could affect one's testimony adversely.

How this plays out practically can vary culturally and sociologically. In England a pub lunch is no problem because a pub is as much an eating establishment with one kind of atmosphere as it is a drinking establishment. In Celtic cultures however, one must be very careful. A pub usually carries a very different connotation.

It is not a mere restaurant that serves alcohol with food but can be seen as a social club based on over imbibing. As with Celts and Russians, alcohol can also be problematic among Romani Gypsies. Among French, Spaniards, and Italians and Portuguese - alcohol is not that kind of a spiritual and cultural cancer.

The environment we are in becomes a determining factor as to acceptability.

Personally, if I am in a church that takes The Lord's Supper with juice I am happy to take the juice, and if I am in a church taking it with wine, I am happy to take the sip of wine.

Alcohol abuse is statistically rare among Jews and my own family being Jewish believers, we do the Passover with the four small cups/ sips of wine as Jesus did. I do not particularly care about the extra biblical religious objections of certain sectors of Gentile Christianity who confuse culture and church tradition with scriptural theology. We follow the original version. We also take a sip of wine when we do Kiddush Shabbat. Again however, it is a ritual use and we are only talking about small sips.

Not all of the Gentile church however agrees to dogmatic absolute alcohol abstinence. I have had fellowship with wonderful Italian and French and other continental European believers, including many pastors, who drink wine with their meals and none of them are drunkards.

Culture and tradition are one thing, biblical doctrine is another. I even know Italian holiness Pentecostal pastors who make wine and these are otherwise very strict conservatives almost to the point of nomianism in everything from women not wearing make--up to or jewelry to not engaging in commerce or watching sports on Sunday. Yet they make wine and drink it with nearly every meal and find the notion that it is a sin to be ridiculous.

Those who propose the bogus argument that Jesus drank grape juice and alcohol is always a sin are either doctrinally ignorant or what Paul calls "weak in faith", but I avoid offending them as Paul says it is not worth the argument.

As a matter of taste, I anyway prefer to drink alcohol free beer. However, If I catch flu and risk laryngitis when I have to preach, I gargle with a combination hot lemon juice, whiskey, and crushed aspirin. This medicinal alcohol use helps alleviate the symptoms.

A small glass of red wine is often recommended by cardiologists to reduce cholesterol to lessen reliance on Statin drugs which can have side affects. I know committed Christians who are medically instructed to do this. There can be certain valid medical uses to alcohol in small amounts.

Finally, where does one draw the line in this regard? I know a believer in Australia who signed a pledge in a holiness Pentecostal church as a child never to touch alcohol and she never has, not even medicinally - or so she thought. She was dumb-founded when I showed her that the antitussive cough formula she and her family were taking was 70 percent alcohol and had a higher alcohol content than straight whiskey ! I also once had this Christian friend in New York named Gary; a really nice guy, who was from The Church of The Nazarene who avoid alcohol and he was a semi-professional chef and in fact a very good one who probably could have earned a living at it if he tired of being an actuarial accountant.. Whenever a recipe called for cooking sherry or wine as an ingredient he would just leave it out, oblivious to the fact that alcohol vaporizes and dissipates at 76 degrees Celsius anyway, so you don't consume it even if you flavor with it. None the less, without thinking about it he had no problem adding vanilla or almond extract to a dish he was preparing not even noticing the natural aromas were in a high concentration alcohol base that could be 60 - 80 percent alcohol. Obsessive Tea Totaling can easily gravitate into a religious irrational legalism.

The Moriel policy are the two principles listed above. The rest is a private matter between the believer and The Lord.

This is about all we can say on this issue and we cannot comment further,

In Jesus,

JJP/ Moriel

Read 8375 times Last modified on Monday, 02 June 2014 23:27

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