I have never hit my wife. I have never even threatened to hit my wife. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever had the desire to hit my wife. Even when she unashamedly criticizes my impeccable driving skills (in the interest of full disclosure, I am a much worse backseat driver than she is). Now that we have that out of the way…..
Based on what I was taught, that is a rare thing. Why? Because I drink alcohol. And I was taught that alcohol turns the nicest men into raging terrors just about 100% of the time. As far as church was concerned, I never heard a story in a sermon or a Sunday School lesson about alcohol that did not involve a man beating his wife and children. I started to develop the idea that alcohol was like a magic potion that created monsters and left nothing but destruction in its path.
However, without even going to the Bible, I have a big problem with this thinking. Namely, alcohol is not to blame. But this is the kind of teaching that you get when people who have never had a drop of alcohol in their lives teach other people who have never had a drop of alcohol in their lives about how dangerous even drinking one drop of alcohol is.
There are many great academic articles out there on alcohol and the Bible, so I don’t feel the need to get extremely deep here. But I will stray just a bit from my typical post format to dig a little deeper into exactly what it was that changed my mind about drinking.
Does the Bible teach that drinking alcohol is intrinsically wrong?
No. It does not.
Of the 31, 103 verses (give or take a few) in the Bible, NOT ONE of them teaches that the act of drinking alcohol is wrong. The closest that the Bible comes is to say that there are boundaries for consumption of alcohol. Eph 5:18 – ‘do not get drunk with wine.’
Are there Bible verses that warn against the effects of alcohol?
Yes. There are many.
The book of proverbs contains many verses that detail what effects too much alcohol can have from making someone look foolish to memory loss and many things in between. It even goes so far as to say that being deceived by the effects of alcohol is unwise. But still, it does not say that we should abstain from drinking alcohol.
Are there Bible verses that encourage or allow alcohol consumption?
Yes. There are.
In regards to taking the annual journey to the temple, God says that if you are coming from far away and you won’t be able to finish the trip, you should stop where you are and buy whatever you heart desires including wine and strong drink (liquor) to have a roadside feast to the Lord (Deut 14:24-26).
At a marriage celebration Jesus turned water into wine. In the IFB I was taught that the wine mentioned in this story was not fermented. This in spite of the fact that the word that ‘wine’ is translated from is the same root word used in other passages of the Bible where the context is obviously referencing alcoholic wine. Just for the record, there is ZERO support for that argument.
And of course, Paul admonished Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake.
There are a few places that the Bible allows drinking without explicitly stating it. For example, when listing the code that the priest had to adhere to while performing their duties in the temple, abstaining from all alcohol consumption is mentioned. But there is nothing stating that they could not drink when they were not performing their duties. And when Paul rebuked the Christians who were getting drunk at the observation of the Lord’s supper, he did not tell them not to drink at all. He merely rebuked them for drinking too much.
Is there a period in history in which Christians drank alcohol?
Up until the temperance movement started, it was not uncommon at all for Christians to have alcohol as part of their normal lives. Ask Martin Luther.
Did Jesus drink alcohol or condone the use of alcohol?
Yes. There is no denying this at all.
Even if you don’t infer that He drank alcohol from the accusations against Him of being a drunkard, it is impossible to deny that he drank alcohol during the last supper in the upper room.
After considering all of this, I had to come to the conclusion that everything I had been taught about alcohol was really someone’s preference and not a biblical standard. If you choose not to drink, I support your decision 100%. However, it is irresponsible, misguided and dangerous to create a doctrine from the Bible that alcohol consumption is sinful.
What was your experience with alcohol like in the IFB and has your position changed since you left?