19 Feb Christians and Alcohol: Part 2
Christians from the United States often have a bit of culture shock when they travel to other nations. In parts of Europe, as well as other areas of the world, the local pub is a bit of a living room where people gather to socialize, students study, and lonely folks make friends. The atmosphere is often family friendly and very unlike the typical dive bar in America with cheap shots and ladies’ night. Add to this the fact that many people have had their lives (or the lives of loved ones) wrecked by drunkenness, and it is understandable why the issue of alcohol is so emotional.
I am currently in the midst of preaching verse-by-verse message series through John’s Gospel. In 2:1–12, we find Jesus’ first miracle – turning water into wine.
Subsequently, we will commit a few daily devotions to the matter of Christians and alcohol.
The story of alcohol and God’s people is likely surprising to most. In his book Drinking with Calvin and Luther, Jim West shares some interesting historical trivia, including the following:
- Saint Gall was a missionary to the Celts and renowned brewer.
- After Charlemagne’s reign, the church became Europe’s exclusive brewer.
- When a young woman was to marry, her church made a special bridal ale for her, from which we derive our word bridal.
- Pastor John Calvin’s annual salary package included upwards of 250 gallons of wine to be enjoyed by him and his guests at events.
- Martin Luther explained the entire reformation as, “While I sat still and drank beer with Philiip and Amsdorf, God dealt the papacy a mighty blow.”
- Luther’s wife, Catherine, was a former nun and skilled brewer that he snuck out of her convent, and his love letters to her when they were apart lamented the fact he didn’t have her beer on hand to drink.
- When the Puritans landed on Plymouth Rock, the first permanent building they erected was the brewery.
At the turn of the 20th century, with the temperance movement in the United States, some denominations began to condemn all alcohol as sinful. This includes the Methodist pastor Dr. Thomas Welch who created Welch’s grape juice to replace communion wine in 1869. It was also at this time that many Christian denominations began to forbid all alcohol consumption.
At that time, Bible teachers also started to more frequently argue that when God’s people consumed alcoholic beverages in accounts in the Bible, they were actually non-alcoholic. For those whose families have a history of devastating consequences of drunkenness (like mine), the pain can understandably cause caution. But, we also must be careful to not edit or alter God’s Word on this or any other matter.
Some Christians, including some amazing Bible teachers who are friends I hold in the highest regard, argue that such terms as “new wine” and “mixed wine” in the Bible speak of non-alcoholic wine. But, new wine can still intoxicate according to Scripture (Isaiah 24:7; Hosea 4:11; Joel 1:5), and mixed wine refers to special wines where various wines are mixed together and/or mixed with spices and does not necessarily refer to wine cut with water (Psalm 75:8, Song of Songs 8:2). God refers to pouring out the wrath of His mixed wine on His enemies, which does not mean He will dilute justice (Psalm 75:8). The only time the practice of diluting wine is mentioned in the Bible is in regard to merchants who cut wine in order to rob customers (Isaiah 1:22). The Bible speaks of grape juice (Numbers 6:3), and if God meant to speak of non-alcoholic wine, He could have used that word to avoid confusion.
Do you believe that all alcohol consumption should be avoided by a Christian? Why or why not?