Ambivalence about Alcohol

I just sat with a man whose wife was killed and his children hospitalized by a drunk driver. It was stunning and heartbreaking. Pray for this young family, the in-laws of my good friends, Steve and Toni Hafler.

The experience inspired a rant:

I understand the fact that the Bible’s teaching about alcohol is complicated. I’ve studied it and preached on it. However, I also understand that there is a cavalier attitude toward alcohol consumption in the modern church, especially among younger believers, and it’s alarming. I’m all for interpreting the Scriptures carefully. Yes. But young guns, let me uncork for a minute before you chase your Bible study with a Budweiser and urge others to do the same.

Unless you’ve counseled a worn-out wife about her husband’s alcoholism, unless you’ve comforted a teen whose parents have both been heavy drinkers for as long as he can remember, unless you’ve discipled a new believer trying to throw off his addiction before he loses custody of his child, unless you’ve wept with a woman who has tried and failed to get sober for the better part of two decades, and most of all, unless you’ve looked into the dull eyes of a husband who just an hour ago lost the mother of his two young children to a drunk driver—unless you have some real life experience with the dangers of alcohol—I don’t want to hear about your liberty to drink. I certainly don’t want to hear you encouraging others to drink. It’s time to grow up in your discernment and compassion and to be a warner rather than a tempter.

Alcohol abuse is one of the defining sins of our day. It’s life, not theory. We can’t afford to be ambivalent about it. We need a good dose of Proverbs 20:1 and 23:29-35. And we need grace.


120 Responses

  1. Well stated. Amen! Many will never make the right decisions about Christian liberty because they operate with the wrong premise and have the wrong perspective.

  2. shooting straight from your heart, p.c…. never change. let the family know they are in our prayers. terrible that the couple dont get to grow old together because someone found their answer/happiness/escape in alcohol. im not standing holier than that driver, but as someone who once served that venom. we are only caricatures of ourselves when we imbibe. it takes much more than it gives.

  3. Having lost a friend in gradeschool to a drunk driver, seeing it split marriages in my extended family, and having counseled more teens than I can count on how to deal with alcoholic parents, I can’t agree with you more. Christian liberty is a sorry excuse for indulging the flesh; and when the Bible warns more than it commends, we must give attention and live holy lives.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  5. Chris, thank you for visiting my brother and family. It breaks my heart. I agree with the perspective that real life hurts brings.

  6. Great post P.C. Sad for this man. Even if a Christian could argue for their “right” in this area, Paul gave up many rights to win the lost. In our culture where drinking is such a problem, Christians need the teaching and grace to grow in this understanding of giving up their liberties for the cause of Christ. We need to run the race without weights holding us back!

  7. I’m so sorry, Toni. I was honored to be able to pray with them and will continue to pray for them and for you. Grace to you.

  8. That was a great, much needed rant. My heart and prayers are for the family and for those who don’t “…pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19 ESV) in this and other areas of life.


  9. AMEN!!!!!!

  10. With you all the way, Chris. Could add many more heart-breaking stories on this point. This call needs to be sounded again and again.

  11. I have been widowed for 20 years now, because of a drunk driver. I had to raise my 3 sons (then ages 8, 6 and 1) alone. The driver got 5 years, of which he served 1 year and 3 months. Doesn’t quite seem right, does it. Praying for this dear family, and knowing the pain they will endure as a result of the stupidity of another…

  12. The real issue of alcohol is cultural. I have a hard time reconciling a Christian drinking alcohol that is strengthened to encourage drunkeness as much alcohol is today. To understand liberty is to go to 1 Cor 8-10 and Romans recapitulation. The key to Christian liberty is two fold 1. We leave judgment of other believers to God (who am I to judge another man’s servant) and 2 that our rights are to be used in a way that will not harm others. It seems today too many want to obey only one of these two boundaries to the doctrine. I will pray for the Haflers, as I know He is enough for them.

  13. […] Anderson, Ambivalence About Alcohol: Unless you’ve counseled a worn-out wife about her husband’s alcoholism, unless you’ve […]

  14. Needs to be said. Caused me to meditate again on what drink has honestly meant to my life. Each of these has a name… not one desired or expected the end that came, but all had this in common… someone took the liberty to drink. It has had a part in…. fighting, destroyed vehicles, wasted income, hatred, loss of respect, infidelities, divorces, loss of purity, loss of employment, brain damage of a scholarly 20 -something year old hit by a train while he was drunk- still suffering in his 40’s, the death of a mother who while drunk walked into oncoming traffic while on vacation, children who learned the ways of and walked in the footsteps of a drinker only to experience more of the same, a 20-year old became quadriplegic and committed suicide, the death of a sister and sister-in-Christ when she drove drunk, attempted homicide, a cousin committed murder and received a life sentence w/out parole, child abuse, child neglect, spouse abuse, sexual molestation, pregnancies out of wedlock, abortion, miscarriage, immeasurable damage to the cause of Christ.

    Sadly, I could go on but the point’s made. It’s deadly, the Bible tells us so. Truly, “in the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder”. Maybe we should post the positives of drink…. but then the post would end.

  15. Chris, I applaud you for this rant! Having grown up in a home with a physically- and verbally-abusive drunken father, I despise what alcohol does to individuals and to families. I remember as a child yelling at the TV when there were commercials with happy, with-it people enjoying beer together. I would yell, “You lie! Come film a short segment in our house to show people what it’s really like!”

    With that kind of background, “giving up” something I’m free to do is not difficult. I’ve often said, “When I get to heaven, I’d rather have the Lord tell me I could have lived it up a little more than to list for me the people who aren’t there because my selfish living displayed a life no different from theirs.”

    Keep at it, Chris!

  16. […] warning to those seeking liberty by Pastor Chris Anderson: Ambivalence About Alcohol Share this:SharePinterestLinkedInTwitterFacebookEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  17. Chris, I just actually heard it said in church recently, and my children heard it too- “did you know it is okay to have a drink?” Shocking when I grew up hearing from my Pastor “Never touch a drop of alcohol”. My heart goes out to Toni’s brother and family. I have such great memories of my summer at the Wilds with Toni
    and Steve. I hate to see them go through this. Thank you for your post and for taking this stand.

  18. Thank you! Sadly, even with this plea, people will tell you that your argument lacks any scriptural proof and is not valid. Sometimes Christians would do well to exercise just plain ol’ common sense and listen to the voices of wisdom and experience.

  19. Amen again. May more preachers begin preaching against alcohol, a mind-altering recreational drug. Such preaching is desperately needed today.
    David R. Brumbelow

  20. We need the Gospel. We need to build our lives around Christ. We need to uphold the Gospel regardless. We need to live in the Freedom of Christ, while not using our freedom to indulge our flesh. We need the Spirit to bear the fruit of self-control. We need to be more afraid of adding to the Gospel than we are afraid of how some might abuse their freedom. Gal. 5:2, “We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” Gal. 1:6, we need to not abandon Christ. We need to not add to the Gospel. We need to avoid using emotional times of loss to mount a soap box. I’ve counseled those people too brother but I can’t change the gospel.

  21. I agree with the contents of this post. However, it continues to baffle me that so many can preach against alcohol and drugs (and rightfully so!) but continue to ignore America’s #1 killer and addiction! Obesity and food addictions that result in heart disease and other illnesses are the MOST prevalant in America today and they are almost completely overlooked by Christians. The Bible speaks on the sin of gluttony. However you will see, time and time again, a morbidly obese preacher speaking on drugs and alcohol stating that they body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit and we contaminate it when we use them. Meanwhile, as soon as the sermon is over, everyone heads to the all you can eat buffet. In this area, I find Christians to be the MOST hypocritical.

  22. Hi, Tim. I don’t think your comment is a fair treatment of my position, especially in light of what I’ve said on the topic at other times. It’s complicated. I’m not for adding to the Scriptures, or taking from them, or twisting them. But the Bible does contain clear warnings like those in Proverbs, and it contains them for a reason. I think many who argue philosophically about their rights and freedoms need to take a stronger look at those warnings, both for themselves and for those under their influence. Pun intended, I guess. Grace to you.

  23. I think the London Baptist Confession sheds light both of wisdom and grace on this matter:

    -God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or not contained in it. So that to believe such doctrines, or obey such commands out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience and reason also.

    -They who upon pretence of Christian liberty do practice any sin, or cherish any sinful lust, as they do thereby pervert the main design of the grace of the gospel to their own destruction, so they wholly destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of all our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righeousness before Him, all the days of our lives.

    (I post this as the son of a man who was frequently given to drunkenness, whose (3) marriagies were ravaged by his behavior while drunk, and who killed himself while drunk.

  24. Chris,
    Thanks for your bibilical and practical insights on this matter. My father died in 1976 as a result of an accident caused by a drunk driver. I am praying that this articel with encourage us to thing soverly and to act accrodingly…God Bless!

  25. Chris, true story. Cookie monster has now changed to veggie monster. In order to deal with the rising obesity issue Sesame Street has banned cookies from the program. Our culture believes that the way to stop abuse of eating, we attack inanimate objects. The gospel doesn’t attack food, or drink but the heart of the person behind their abuse. Alcohol doesn’t make people drunk any more than guns murder people. What is the benefit in attacking inanimate objects and making them the culprit instead of the heart of gluttony, sensuality, etc. By attacking inanimate liquid we create people who stop doing an external all the while feeling good about themselves and actually never addressing the true depravity of the heart which reveals itself in many ways, not just overindulgence of drink. Also, there are always horror stories of someone who has abused something, but paraphrasing Luther “Men abuse the stars, women, and wine. Do we pull the stars from the sky, do we eliminate women from our lives?”


  26. I knew Steve and Toni a long time ago. My father died when I was a few months old and my brother was two. I am heartbroken for her two little kids and her husband. My church prayed for her family last night for a long time. I don’t know most of you, but I am thankful that we can go to Daddy together in times like these.

    If I could, as a ‘young gun pastor,’ throw out some thoughts.
    Was Jesus a tempter rather than a warner? He made wine at a wedding. The Greek word is Oinos, the same word that Paul used when he said “be not drunk with wine (oinos) but be filled with the Spirit” You can’t get drunk on grape juice.
    Alcohol kills. So does fried chicken, automobiles, skydiving, and crossing the street.
    The Bible warns against alcohol. But it warns against gluttony, and that doesn’t mean the Bible condemns food.
    50% of Americans are obese. Obesity kills the 2nd most people in America every year, behind cigarettes. Where are those sermons? Where are the posts on the evils of the Baptist potluck?
    I watched pastors twist Scripture my whole life to condemn things that the Bible never condemned. Movie theaters, make-up, pants on women,
    music, earrings etc. Given enough time, and an adenda, I can make anything sin based on ‘principles found in God’s Word.’ Alcohol is dangerous. I’ve looked into the eyes and seen the pain caused by alcohol. It doesn’t mean I get to add to Truth and condemn believers who interpret the Biblet accurately.
    God said “Be Holy’, not ‘Do my job.’

  27. You know what, I’m walking through Ingles regretting my post. I’m on my phone, so I can’t figure out how to erase it off you blog. Thank you for caring about hurting people. Thank you for being bold in how you’ve interpreted Scripture. Thank you for sharing the love of Jesus.

  28. Great post! Many are asking the wrong question, ” Why shouldn’t I drink?” The right question, “Why should I drink?” I personally can’t think of a single good reason.

  29. Chris,
    If I may make one additional comment:
    I believe the Bible does command abstinence from alcohol.

    In Proverbs 23 it gives a detailed account of alcoholic wine (they did not have a word for alcohol, so they described it by its effects), and then it says not to even look at that kind of wine. Also see Proverbs 20:1.

    In 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8, as well as other passages, we are commanded to be sober. The Greek word literally means “without wine.” The first drink of alcohol ends your sobriety.

    Biblical principles also condemn beverage alcohol.

    Ancients used the words for wine, much like we use the words drink, cider, punch, liquor, eggnog. They can refer to either an alcoholic or nonalcoholic drink.

    The Bible commends wine, it never commends alcohol. Jesus made wine, it never says He made alcohol. Scripture never describes alcoholic wine, then says to moderately enjoy it; it does describe alcoholic wine and says to stay away from it.

    They called both fermented (Proverbs 20:1) and unfermented (Proverbs 3:10; Isaiah 16:10; 65:8; Joel 2:24; Zechariah 9:17; Lamentations 2:11-12; Matthew 9:17) wine by the name wine.

    They knew and commonly used multiple ways to preserve grape juice or unfermented wine; methods that can be and are reproduced today. Unfermented wine was easily provided throughout the year.

    Last, obesity is bad. But on a dark, narrow, two-lane road would you rather meet someone in an oncoming car driving drunk or driving fat?
    David R. Brumbelow
    September 26, 2012

  30. I just want you to know that after this being shared with me on fb that I have posted it on mine.It is not only younger Christians who now think it is okay to have a drink now and then but also many older Christians who have begun doing this. Why do we even want to take a chance considering the warnings in Proverbs! Wake up!! The dangers are real.If one in nine people drinking(another study) do become we really want to chance it? It would be like handing one of my kids a gun and saying “You have a one in nine chance of the bullet getting you but pull the trigger anyway”. I know that sounds extreme.but why would we as parents take that “Liberty” when the outcome for our children could be devastating. The regrets we would have! I have four children in their 20’s and they have Never touched the stuff.They have seen enough with family members and have already lost a friend due to alcohol. Thankyou for posting this and I will continue to pray for this family!

  31. Thank you for your comments, Chris. Much needed. Thank you for your sound Biblical reasoning.
    Josh and Brent, I wish I could sit down and have a conversation with you about your posts. There is so much to address that it would be futile to try in a blog setting. I’m hoping, Josh, that one of the reasons you wanted to remove your first post is you realized how absurd it is to compare the dangers of alcohol to the dangers of fried chicken.
    We have come a long way in Christianity when someone gets accused of adding to the gospel simply because they argue for abstinence from alcohol.

  32. Matt, I know I’m on a conservative board so I agree some of this would have to be offline and I choose not to be divisive over this issue. I saw this post come up and thought a little push-back could be healthy to shake up a monolithic perspective among very conservative Christians. I’ll leave with one verse. In Colossians Paul preaches against gnostic asceticism which believed matter and pleasure itself to be evil so attacked matter instead of the transformation of the heart.

    Colossians 2:16-23 16 ¶ Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. . . 20 ¶ Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.


  33. “Why should I drink?” Good question. Wine in the Scripture is viewed consistently as a sign of God’s blessing. It is typically used in times of celebration or religious ceremony like Passover. New wine was the fruit of harvest and a good harvest meant a good economic year. A good harvest was equated with Gods blessing and was toasted. John the Baptist is said to have come not drinking. This was a shocker, but he wasn’t celebrating. Jesus didn’t come as a teetotiler. In Luke 7:33 Jesus says he drinks. So I drink in thankfulness to God for all His gifts. The same reason I enjoy sex, food, and rest. Can these be abused? Sure. Can I follow the culture and worship the gift and not the giver? Sure. Does the potential for sin keep me from enjoying God’s gifts? No. Does it cause me to moderate them? Yes.

  34. Here’s the bottom line- drinking and driving is criminal. Alcohol did not cause the accident, the individual abusing alcohol and driving did. The same argument is made with guns- “guns kill people” is not try true. The person holding the gun abusing it’s use kills people. Does the fact that guns kill people every day mean that no one should ever own a gun? They can be used for bad, so can alcohol. Just because someone owns a gun or drinks wine/beer/etc. does not mean that they are using them for evil.

  35. Brent,
    The text in Colossians that you cite is truth, but It deals with something besides Chris’ point. He didn’t say don’t drink–he specifically said he was dealing with a “cavalier attitude” toward alcohol consumption and about leaders leading others into the same. “Cavalier attitudes” toward alcohol are attitudes that don’t consider actions or consequences. Chris made the point that before people encourage alcohol use, just plainly consider the terrible results–and then gave real life examples. I’ve seen it personally in our ministry with other leaders proclaiming boldly their freedom and liberty in the area of alcohol and people who followed them going beyond self-control and becoming drunk–and not just one time. Wine is a mocker and strong drink is raging and whosoever is deceived by them is not wise. Christian leaders should very much consider the wise counsel given above and take into account the terrible consequences before they lightly go and commend alcohol under the guise of liberty. We would all do well to heed Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love rserve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Grace and Peace to you as well,

  36. Liz,
    Right on the gun analogy.
    We do have a warning from Scripture though about being deceived by alcohol. We don’t have the same warning about guns.
    Since it is so deceptive, don’t you think it would be better to have your conviction and liberty about alcohol to yourself, instead of making it public and perhaps causing another brother or sister to fall? Again, just trying to keep Galatians 5:13,14 in front of us. And, again, recognizing that you are free in Christ to do that after considering other things.

  37. Paul never, never, never used his liberty if it caused one to stumble. He let his liberties lie dormant in his tool box and once in a great while used a liberty to advance the kingdom and glorify God.

  38. Tim, great response. Two years ago our church did a joint Sater meal with a Messianic Jewish church. If you have ever done an authentic Sater meal it goes through the traditional Jewish passover with Hebrew blessings, etc. The key blessing is the blessing of the wine in which the person is required to drink 4 glasses over a three hour period of time. I asked the Christian Rabbi if it would bother him if we had Welch’s juice instead of wine and he said, “No, but God wouldn’t be happy”. He was tongue and cheek, but the nation of Israel has one of the highest alcohol drinking ratios while at the same time the lowest alcoholic percentage. How is that possible? Because they believe wine to be a gift to be enjoyed to the glory of God, not to be abused. For some Jews abstaining completely would actually be wrong because it is rejecting something God made for man’s good if used properly.

  39. Stephen,
    Emphasis on the “never.” :-)

  40. Brent, one problem with that is that we don’t live in Israel. We live in societies that are awash in drunkenness. Another problem would be that the vast majority of Jewish people today, apart from Messianic Jews probably, do not drink to or for the glory of God.

  41. Mike, if the issue is simply “cavalier” attitude then I agree with you. It seemed particularly from the post Chris was linking to that it was about the evil of alcohol itself, and those who drink may be ok, but most likely they haven’t matured or are riding a slippery slope. My point is that alcohol is not animate, nor a force, nor is it evil. People are evil. I’m saddened when people abuse it. I too have dealt with people addicted to alcohol, gambling, exercising, eating, religious rituals, etc. “Whether we eat, or drink, do all to teh glory of God” is the principle. If you attack the heart motivations with the gospel, attack sensuality, then the result will be life change across the board on multiple abuses. If you simple attack a cookie, or a drink then people will abstain from one thing with no true heart change or Jesus motivation, and they will replace the drink with something else because they are doing it in their own power, to feel good about their self-discipline, and they look at those who can drink in moderation as weaker than themselves.

  42. I lead a bible study at our local detention center. Among the scores of men who have attended over the last two years,the vast majority were incarcerated for crimes related to substance abuse–less than 10 were not related to alchohol or drugs. It is heart breaking and instructive. It helps me to remember that if I cause someone to stumble regarding alchohol, the consequences can be breathtakingly tragic. It cannot be taken lightly.

  43. Brent,
    Those who drink MAY be ok, and may not be riding a slippery slope. There is more to consider though today than just, “Am I free to do it?” I have heard people loudly flaunt their liberty and strength and end up very low–as we all can with any sin. I am only mentioning this one because it’s what has been brought up.

    I don’t feel good about my self-discipline. If you can drink in moderation, I very well might be your weaker brother–you being strong. I don’t look down on you for that. The “glory of God” principle though should be taken into account with more than just “am I free to do this?” it affects more than myself.

  44. I agree that obesity is a huge problem in American society (pun not intended). And I agree that it is a subject that is avoided from most pulpits (in some pulpits, with good reason).

    People argue for doing all things in moderation. And that’s great advice. I would argue that people cannot live without food. Period. But we can live without alcohol. So their analogy breaks down.

    Several scripture passages about all things:

    “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.” 1 Cor. 6: 12

    “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all thins build up.” 1 Cor. 6: 23

    I don’t have to do all things, just because I’m allowed to or just because they are lawfully enjoyable. Some things are simply unhelpful, potentially enslaving, and don’t build up.

    I will not tell someone else that they cannot do something, but I will tell them that what they plan to do comes with some majorly potential dangers and impact on others.

    Romans 14:20-21 tells us, “Do not, for sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is 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.”

  45. Tim, you answered the question well, “Why should I drink.” There are now and have been many believers throughout history who considered alcohol within the boundaries of Christian conduct. Mr. Brumbelow, your position is frankly indefensible on exegetical and historical grounds. I personally do not drink because 1) it would not bring blessing & enjoyment to me, 2) I don’t know if I have a proclivity to drunkenness (and don’t want to find out), and 3) I want to keep a pure testimony before my family and others, and booze could put me and mine in bad situations. Chris has mentioned those who not only quietly consume alcohol in moderation (which I would not quibble with) but also publicly promote their favorite drinks and denigrate those who abstain. I agree that they need to take a hard look at Romans 14 and other passages, to see if their exercise of liberty is doing harm to the body of Christ. Neither side may like the tension of just accepting the other side’s convictions in Christian love and patience–in this or other issues like homeschooling or Halloween observance–but that’s exactly what the NT urges believers to do.

  46. Mike, so I’m clear. Your view is we live in a society that abuses alcohol, therefore Christians should avoid it. So instead of Christians exampling how something God made for good can be used for his glory, we are to make a list of all things abused and stay far away from them all together? Seems like that creates an impossible standard because there is nothing that exists that isn’t abused by someone. So then the result is to pick and choose a particular thing “I don’t abuse” and make it bad but be fine with the things I do abuse. “I would rather have a glutton drive a car than a drunk” is the epitome of this argument. Downplay the sensual and idolatrous food abuser whose “god is their belly”, then elevate a particular abuse as the bad one.

  47. It appears that you lumped me in with several other posts and then just decided to make your point Brent–i.e., “would rather have a glutton drive a car than a drunk.” (For what it’s worth, I would rather face a glutton on a dark 2 lane road than a drunk, but that’s just common sense.)
    My point is Chris’ point (I think.) I see a lot of Christian people praising alcohol consumption and proclaiming their christian liberties WITHOUT giving any of the warnings that Scripture clearly gives. If I saw or heard them giving the warnings along with the “blessings of alcohol,” I don’t think I’d say anything. There are abundant scriptural warnings as well as real life experience warnings.
    My family lives in Mexico, and we very often see people who are sleeping on a sidewalk, totally out of life due to alcohol. I do NOT feel any reserve to say to my children: “That man, that woman, that boy or that girl would not be there right now if they had not taken the first drink.” Those people that we often see lying in the gutter had a first drink. I would be very happy if my children never took a drink when they grew up. That does not mean that I think they are christian children because they don’t drink.
    I mentioned that I would not look down on you if you do drink. What God looks down on are Christian people who claim to want to glorify God in their drinking when they have no concern or care for what consequences may come from their own irresponsible decisions about and public encouragements toward alcohol.
    It’s sad when Christians who choose to abstain are the ones who have to defend their position. I didn’t question your decision to drink–I even said you may be stronger than I.

    Zach’s points above are exactly the 3 reasons why I don’t partake of alcoholic drinks:
    “1) it would not bring blessing & enjoyment to me,
    2) I don’t know if I have a proclivity to drunkenness (and don’t want to find out), and
    3) I want to keep a pure testimony before my family and others, and booze could put me and mine in bad situations.
    Chris has mentioned those who not only quietly consume alcohol in moderation (which I would not quibble with) but also publicly promote their favorite drinks and denigrate those who abstain.”

    I couldn’t have said better what he did above.

    You mentioned: “Downplay the sensual and idolatrous food abuser whose “god is their belly”, then elevate a particular abuse as the bad one.”
    I didn’t downplay any sensual or food abuser and elevate a particular abuse as the bad one. The topic is alcohol. Seems to me that you have just downplayed the alcohol abuse, which came into play because a drunk driver just killed another lady, (a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, etc.,) and elevated the food abuse as the bad one.

  48. Your entire paragraph in which you state: “Until you’ve counseled a person, etc. etc. etc. I do not want to hear about your liberty to drink.”

    This is entire paragraph is unkind and un-Christian.

    People use computers to look at pornography. How far back of that sin do we put extra-Biblical regulation? Not allowed to use computer without a 2nd person in room? Not allowed to own a computer at all?

    Others have made this same case on this comment thread. That’s not my point. I have a real problem with someone placing a general regulation on another Christian with such strong language that is not based in Scripture.

    I have a cavalier attitude towards computer ownership, towards eating ice cream, towards watching professional sports on TV, towards investing my money… all of those can become an idol of the heart. I do not live my life in fear that I might turn everything good around me (including my ministry, my marriage, my children, my business, and YES my liquor cabinet) into an idol.

    Unfortunately, this blog post is an example of advice that probably needs to be delivered in the context of discipleship. This should not have been applied to Christians in general / Christians of a particular generation. It is very close to violating another Biblical command of not laying a chain around a believer’s neck.

  49. Well said, Chris. It’s time to end all the delicacies in this issue and take our stand against worldliness.

  50. DP,

    1 Cor. 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

    Paul was pretty unkind and un-Christian. Sounds like he was trying to lay a chain around other believer’s necks.

    (Just for clarification, no, he wasn’t. But there are very very few people who are arguing on your side of the argument who take Paul’s principle to heart.)

  51. Chris, thanks for being there for Shawn. My sister Heather is married to his brother Brian. We appreciate your prayers.

  52. PS–The only person I have ever heard on your side DP making the plea to consider many many things–God’s Glory, Weaker Brothers, the world who is watching, etc., is Albert Martin.

    Obviously there must be others, but he is the only one I have ever heard teach and preach in that way.

  53. African Christians are offended by Christian hymnody from the 1800’s because those songs don’t sound joyful to African ears. Should I repent from my use of hymnody?

    Paul says elsewhere that he refuses to allow someone to remain ignorant of the truth. It is impossible to live at all times not causing some brother somewhere from stumbling.

    People who cite I Cor 8:13 often treat that verse as if it were in a vacuum. If you read the last 4 chapters of Romans you would gain valuable context and see that it does not apply to what I’m talking about. You have no balance in your argument…. which is really what I was challenging the OP about.

    You assume that I have no balance, but I said nothing in my previous post that would allow for that. You are assuming that since I disagree…. that I must be unbalanced. That is not the case.

  54. Mike, I apologize. I quoted that phrase, but didn’t mean to associate it with you and in doing so created a straw man. I see your point about being wise with alcohol. In terms of someone being killed because of an abuser, I am saddened by it and have no intention of disrespect or pettiness for the pain of others.

    Good conversation.

  55. There is always somebody who is offended by anything we do. There is a big difference between a weaker brother mentioned by Paul in Romans 14 and a prideful, ignorant, and spiritually bigoted person. There are some Christians who refuse to grow, refuse to love, refuse to change, and are joined to their uninformed opinions. Paul is not talking about these kinds of people here. While we should be civil toward these kinds of people, we should not allow them to control our lives.

    The weaker brother is a reference to a believer who is immature in the faith and whose conscience has not been strengthened yet by the truth. A “weak” brother is not weak because he is easily irritable, but because he has an uninformed conscience. This weaker brother is to be lovingly guided into the truth. As we minister to him, we should not flaunt a freedom we have, because at this stage of his Christian experience, that will bother him and retard his spiritual growth.

    And that is my point…. we are not to flaunt it. Nowhere does the Bible talk about a “cavalier” attitude. The simple truth is alcohol consumption is not outlawed in Scripture. Nor is having a carefree attitude outlawed.

    Thus, there is no balance in the argument in the original post or yours.

  56. DP, agreed that there are people who will always be offended about something. The contexts though refer to people who are lead into sin (not just offended by us) by something that we do. Totally agree with your first paragraph.

    Alcohol consumption is not outlawed in Scripture. Nor is it commanded. And it does come with serious warnings. That’s the balance on the topic that should always be brought into play. I know Christian leaders who have flaunted it and it has created havoc in the church.

  57. I’m sorry I’m not able to invest more time in this discussion. I have a ton going on this week.

    I’m appreciative of Randy Jaeggli’s work on the issue, and I agree that it’s more complicated than we’ve generally acknowledged. The Bible speaks both positively and negatively about wine in both Testaments. I don’t want to twist Scripture to arrive at any position. But the arguments against the dangers of alcohol (even as an inanimate object in Proverbs) are seldom given serious thought by those arguing against abstinence, at least in my limited experience. In light of those warnings, the failure of even virtuous men in Scripture to practice moderation, the cultural distinctions, the availability of so many other beverages, issues of testimony, and the obvious problems with alcohol in our society(!), I have no problem urging people to abstain.

    If you don’t come to that conclusion, at least weigh seriously the dangers of alcohol, especially as a leader, and be faithful in preaching the whole counsel of Scripture on the issue, warnings and all. Let your influence frighten you a little bit, especially when our world gives us daily reminders of Proverbs 23:29-35. Be cautious rather than cavalier on the issue. Ultimately, you’ll answer to God, not me, which I’m sure is a relief to all of us.

    That’s all I have time for. Grace.

  58. Dr. John MacArthur has made similar cautions as Chris concerning alcohol here – and here Both preached in 2012.

  59. Can we please stop arguing about alcohol consumption and just support and encourage my brother-in-law’s family? I don’t think this string of debate is of any comfort to Shawn. Thanks.

  60. “Can we please stop arguing about alcohol consumption and just support and encourage my brother-in-law’s family? I don’t think this string of debate is of any comfort to Shawn. Thanks.”

    Obviously, my heart goes out to this person who lost a loved one. We have all lost someone close and dear and can certainly identify with that grief. But that grief was not what the blog post was about. The blog post was also not about encouraging or discouraging anyone.

    The OP encouraged this debate with his stance on the issue. I was responding to the challenge implicit in the blog post. It seems like there is confusion about what the original intent of the blog post was.

  61. My heart is breaking for Shawn and his precious children. I would suggest that as believers we join our hearts in prayer for them, their extended families and yes, for the driver of the other car. If he is still living I can only imagine the heartache he must feel. May we pray for him out of a love that comes only from Christ.

  62. I would love to forbid the beverage. I think its dangerous. But as a minister of the Gospel, I can’t add legislation to the Gospel. Jesus drank. He drank wine at about 7% alcohol equal to today’s beer the result of natural fermintation. We have beverages with higher liquor quantities than ever in history. We’ve applied science to increasing the potency, addictiveness of the beverage. It’s dangerous. Beyond that our culture has made it a sign of maturity, an expectation of hospitality, and a necessity for relaxation. We are truly conformed to this world. But we in our attempt to unconform we can’t knee jerk the other way into distorting the Gospel and the freedom Christ purchased for us. Its not my Gospel to mess with.

    We warn people. We preach self-control. But we shouldn’t use situations like this one to blog and mount our soap box. This should be a time of mercy not preaching about the dangers of alcohol. I’m thankful that Steve pulled his blog. I’m thankful he’s focusing on ministering to his wife, kids and extended family.

    I pray that the Holy Spirit will fill these people with the knowledge of their sonship. That they will cry “abba” and experience the comfort of God.

  63. […] read about this tragedy when the story first broke.  I saw the follow-up post this morning, Ambivalence about Alcohol.  I truly appreciated the writer’s larger paragraph in which he […]

  64. Oh, this is so sad! I totally agree with you re: the alcohol issue. This used to be one of the main things you just didn’t find Christians involved in. Alcohol can damage families in so many ways. I am so sorry to hear of this loss.

  65. […] post by Chris Anderson, a pastor friend in Ohio. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  66. The command of Lord God to the people of Israel: “and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or *wine or strong drink,* whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.” (Deut. 14:26) Was God being cavalier with alcohol?

  67. To those who say that forbidding alcohol is adding to the gospel, do you treat forbidding slavery, for instance, in the same way?

  68. Not to minimize or dismiss the difficult issue discussed about alcohol abuse effecting others around us. But I get nervous when people start blaming the object rather than the heart sin on these issues. Alcohol aside, the real sin with alcohol abusers is lack of self-control and discipline, hedonism, and disobedience to God regarding drunkenness. Even if these people weren’t abusing alcohol, it would be smoking, or drugs, or pornography, or gluttony, or physical abuse, or any other sin of hedonism. Jesus drank wine responsibly, and told the disciples that they would drink wine with Him in heaven one day. Let’s attack the heart sin, rather than the physical object. Mark 7:14-23.

  69. […] he has taken down his post commenting on the accident, but Pastor Chris Anderson posted Ambivalence About Alcohol after ministering to the family. I am sure the family would appreciate prayer during this difficult […]

  70. Let us be biblical about this issue. Clearly it is not wrong to drink…it IS wrong to drink to excess. We can be anecdotal about the problems of alcohol abuse, but the fact remains that God gave wine to make the heart glad…smacks of “blessing” to me.

    However, the Apostle Paul writes the following in Romans 14, and the body of Christ should heed its wisdom (there is something in it for us all):
    “13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

    20 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. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

  71. Paul,

    I’d like to reply your question:

    “To those who say that forbidding alcohol is adding to the gospel, do you treat forbidding slavery, for instance, in the same way?”

    A proper understanding of the Gospel eliminates the inequality between slave and free and ultimately the practice of slavery itself. It is not an addition to the Word of God to say that slavery is wrong. To this end I would recommend you to consider some of the classic defenses of the Bible’s handling of the issue of slavery (one of my favorites is CFD Moule’s reasoning in his commentary on Colossians). The end of slavery is a direct implication of the Gospel. Abstinence from alcohol is not even in the same category. At no time does the Bible commend or condone slavery; however, alcohol is commended and condoned on numerous occasions.

    For me it all comes down to this: I for years tried to argue that others should be conservative, wise, and safe and abstain. I preached it and taught it until it was made clear to me that this was not Jesus’ approach. Imagine the thought that I was trying to urge others to be more conservative, wiser, or safer than Jesus!?! In doing so I was treading down the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the whole of the Gospel and for that I am ashamed.

  72. Sorry Phil. I don’t buy your analysis. Whether to drink alcohol or not is a debatable issue in my opinion, but trying to charge abstinence promoters with adding to the gospel isn’t a proper argument.( I don’t see how you can say slavery wasn’t condoned.) For people who are enjoined to be filled by the Holy Spirit what need is their for the paltry gladness that comes from wine and why risk the possibility of the dissipation associated with it.

  73. To explain my position more clearly: I would consider that holding other Christians to a higher standard than the Perfect Standard of Righteousness (Matt. 26:27; Luke 7:34; John 2:1-11) is a high crime against the Gospel (cf. Galatians). What Christians do in their personal lives is their essentially their own business so long as they do it in moderation (I personally can’t stand the taste, so I don’t drink); however, the point regarding Colossians 2:16 made earlier in this thread is *incredibly* pertinent for those who would admonish others towards this “higher standard.” In Paul’s mind, those who advocated this position were advocating something more (or, less, depending on how you look at it) than Christ alone. I would, once again, say that Colossians 2 is safe grounds for saying that trying to “promote abstinence” in the church (even with good motives, as Hendrickson notes regarding the Colossian philosophers) is tantamount to adding to the Gospel.

    To respond more directly to your 1st argument: if being filled with the Holy Spirit means that I should not pursue other sources of joy, then why get married, why marvel at the beauty of creation, or why enjoy anything whatsoever in this life? To continue the Colossian theme here: “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (2:23). As long as people keep their joys in proper perspective, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the good gifts of God. I would recommend reading CS Lewis (esp. Mere Christianity and Christian Reflections) on the idea of joy.

    To respond to your 2nd argument: if there is a risk of drunkenness in drinking, you would argue that one should not drink. Do we then not eat for obesity’s sake? What about prescription meds? What about sex, or driving cars, or using the internet, or playing games, or….you fill in the blank? There are inherant risks physically and spiritually in just about everything we do. Sure, a simple approach is to abstain, but are you really going to ask people to holistically apply that sort of standard?

  74. Phil, My main objection is to the use of the gospel “trump-card” in the debate. I don’t know of anyone in this debate that is saying that one must abstain from alcohol to be forgiven of their sins and imputed with the perfect righteousness of Christ. What’s at stake here is discerning how God would have us conduct ourselves in this world. I would submit that what we do in our personal lives is pertinent to others and sometimes we should abstain from exercising our liberties. In the case of drinking alcoholic beverages today, I think discernment is on the side of abstinence. I may be wrong, but I don’t think I am committing a high crime against the gospel.

  75. Paul, the Colossian philosophers were not trying to get people not to drink in order to be saved. They were trying to add to the sanctification process by arguing the need to follow particular additional rules. In this they attacked the Gospel and the sufficiency of Christ alone. This is no trump card. It is a legitimate issue for those who would add to Scripture whether in justification or sanctification.

    Here’s the tension that I would like to see your resolution for: Either I accept *my* higher standard of righteousness than Jesus and promote abstinence from alcohol in the church, or I accept the highest standard of righteousness in Christ who condoned and drank alcohol and let believers decide how to handle this in tension with the whole of Scripture.

    The former seems to me an insult to the Gospel which demands Christ as the perfect standard of righteousness. The latter seems to be an approach more in line with the Gospel and the whole counsel of God.

  76. Phil, I wouldn’t say that abstaining from alcohol perfects or completes one’s standing in Christ. Refraining from alcohol doesn’t make one holy and I am not recommending that Christians practice abstinence in order to progress in sanctification. Jesus did apparently drink alcohol during his earthly ministry. I’m sure you realize that many who are abstainers argue that the acceptable drinking of that time involved diluting the wine to a less intoxicating level – a wine that was already lower in alcohol than wine today. It is argued therefore that some of the consumption of alcohol that went on in that day was done in such a way that it would be difficult to get drunk. I assume you probably don’t agree with this, but I say it only to make the point that in the minds of those who see it that way, there is no intention of trying to set a higher standard than Christ followed. Lastly I would say that even if it is my prerogative to drink alcoholic beverages, it is in line with the whole counsel of the scriptures to refrain from using that liberty when I perceive that it would be for the benefit of the body of Christ. In the case of drinking alcoholic beverages, it is my belief that it would be best if all believers would abstain from alcohol. I don’t see that as an insult to the gospel.

  77. To state that it is “best” for others to refrain from doing something that is commended throughout Scripture establishes the exact kind of higher road approach that the Colossian philosophers proposed. To them Jesus and the Bible were all well and good, but in order to really and truly reach an appropriate level of holiness or morality, Christians were called upon to hold higher moral standards than enjoined in Scripture. Although you state on the one hand that it isn’t necessary to practice abstinence to progress in sanctification, you still argue that what is “best” for all believers is abstinence. Is moderation then *less* than God’s best for a believer? Can you see the implication that this bears upon sanctification when put this way? I’ve also heard individuals similarly speak of abstinence being the wiser option. The reverse implication is that the brother who drinks in moderation lacks the Gnosis (Colossian echo again…) and wisdom of the the brother who practices abstention. Once again this raises the issue to the level of sanctification. Either the boundary line is drunkenness (the biblical standard) or the boundary line is abstention (human standard). One stays within the frame of the Gospel and the Word of God, and the other goes beyond it. One allows Scripture to speak for itself, and the other “hedges” the law (that’s a whole discussion in itself).

    As to the watering down of wine, etc. I think you rightly understand that evidence for this position is weak. I would be happy to work through the evidence, but I doubt that this forum would be appropriate for that. Even the long-proclaimed distinction between wine (supposed to be diluted/weak) and strong drink (supposed to be undiluted/strong) is done away in Deut. 14:26.

    Finally, let me be clear that *my point has never been that it is not your prerogative to decide what is best for you or your family in light of your ministry.* I have some dear brothers who abstain because they work around many former alcoholics. I have other brothers who drink in moderation and use the opportunity to fellowship with other brothers and sisters and even do outreach. In strict fundamentalist communities I’ve seen both approaches exercised. Some abstain in order to gain an audience with those who see it as a sin to drink (although never personally tempted to get drunk) and others drink in moderation partially in hopes that those who perceive it incorrectly would be able to discuss the matter and learn charity on the issue. I don’t find fault with any of these approaches per se. Where I draw the line is when someone becomes an advocate for either moderation or abstention and begins declaring it as the “best” road. This is where personal liberty ends and undermining the Gospel begins.

  78. […] really seen drinking alcohol as a Christian liberty, not to be abused, in the past ten years or so. This blog post by Chris Anderson provided a very good counter point to the idea of drinking as a christian […]

  79. With all due respect, this article seems to be a violation of Romans 14. Phil has made the point abundantly clear that certain abstainers view their position & their practice as superior to that of those who choose to partake, i.e. the author believes he has more discernment, more compassion, more maturity, and more experience by virtue of his position to abstain from alcohol.

    This article seems far too reactionary for my taste. And it is troublesome that so many would applaud this rant as a good thing. After the Aurora shooting, we saw many political liberals arguing against the right or liberty or freedom to own a gun. In response, those of us who believe it is our right to own a gun argued that the tragedy of the shooting cannot & should not be used as grounds for the stripping of or arguing against our right to own a gun. But as it pertains to that right, the tragedy was irrelevant. For the record, I do not own a gun. In practice, I currently “abstain.” But I will defend the right or liberty nonetheless. I was accused of being insensitive by liberals because it was “inappropriate” to defend the liberty in the face of tragedy, while lives had viciously been taken. In fact, I was accused of contributing to the murders by virtue of my position. This rant reminded me of some of the very same accusations. Some of the same questions that “alcohol abstainsers” have asked were also asked of me on the gun issue. I had a professing Christian ask me questions similar to these abstainer questions, like “Are you motivated by the glory of God? Is it helpful for you and others? Does it have a high probability of being destructive to you or others in a negative way? Will it build up or tear down you and others?” After I responded, one believer point blank asked me why I was willing to put innocent children & citizens in danger. These questions weren’t meant to remind me of a Biblical position on the subject. They were loaded questions that assumed I was ignorant or dismissive of my responsibility as a believer. They were meant to show that in defending a right, I was in violation of the principle that each question sought to reinforce. In effect, he imposed a type of judgment upon others so as to impose guilt for defending a given position. Specifically, these were meant to passively express his spite toward me for not agreeing with him.

    But now I see this same line reasoning being used here. We have theological conservatives using the logic of political liberals to attack those who defend certain liberties. Like these liberals, we have used a tragedy as a platform to attack those who believe in moderation. This driver wasn’t practicing moderation, just as the aurora shooter wasn’t merely practicing his right to bear arms. Both were abusing a right, a liberty, a privilege. Then, after abusing the right, the driver further violated the law. This tragedy is the result of the sin drunkenness. To take this as an opportunity to rant against a specific liberty is no different than those who used the Aurora shooting to challenge the right to own a gun. Biblical/lawful understanding of our rights is not the issue here. If he wants to rant against drunkenness, by all means, do so. I will echo the condemnation. Drunkenness is sinful & condemned by our holy God. But to attack all who embrace a liberty APART from sin is to cross the line… and experience has little to do with the matter. He basically attempted to silence all opposition because he deems his experience as more relevant.

    On another note, does this author even know what the word “ambivalence” means? – 1) uncertainty or fluctuation, especially when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things. 2) In Psychology – the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.

    Who’s the target audience of this article? His title would imply that it is those who are unsure of their position on the matter. Is it really appropriate to “go off” on our brothers who are trying to weigh both positions? But then he specifically states “I don’t want to hear about your liberty to drink. ” His target audience seems to include all who defend moderation, without exception or clarification. We should all just shut up, because he doesn’t want to hear it. He is addressing the one who defends this specific liberty, not just the partaker; not just the uninformed or conflicted. In effect, he is “ranting” against anyone who is not an abstainer. And of this target audience he makes the assumption that they are “encouraging others to drink.” And he says to them “It’s time to grow up in your discernment and compassion and to be a warner rather than a tempter.” His logic is basically, if you’re not an abstainer, you’re encouraging people to drink; you lack discernment; you lack maturity; you lack compassion; and you are a tempter… oh, and if you don’t share my level of experience then you’re simply not qualified to speak on the matter… I know others may interpret the article differently. But that’s the way it reads to me. So not only is the author saying that his position is superior to those who partake; not only is he saying his position is superior to those who perhaps defend moderation while they themselves personally abstain; he’s also saying that if you have mixed emotions or conflicting thoughts on the subject, then your position is inferior to his.

    Romans 14 addresses this attitude of contempt when it says “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”

  80. Reblogged this on DiscernIt and commented:
    I have been sober 28 years now only by the grace of God.

  81. JAG: awesome *distillation* of the post and discussion. I remember asking other believers those exact same questions in regard to music, clothing, or alcohol before. I honestly believed that they could not answer all of the questions correctly and still continue doing what they were doing. Only by the grace of God have I begun the process of not looking down my nose at those who don’t fit my cookie-cutter. Christianity is about people being conformed to Christ’s image, not Phil’s image. In the end its not about food or drink or things that just go to waste. Its not the gun that kills, the woman or her skirt that made him cheat, the drug that made him an addict, the music that made him lust, the school that made him leave home, or the alcohol that made him crash his car. Its a sin problem. Yelling about alcohol really solves nothing in the end and can lead to disastrous ends such as the self-righteous superiority of those who make the “best” or “wiser” choices as well as a faulty view of sin and righteousness.

  82. One more try. If I hold to a 2 wine theory(fermented and unfermented), drinking alcohol is wrong for myself and others. If I think that drinking alcohol in ancient cultures and today is not the same(because of different alcohol content, the practice of diluting it, lack of other sources of hydration,etc.), I can reasonably make the argument for abstention based on those differences. If I think that drinking alcohol then and now is essentially the same, I can still believe that because of its dangers it is better to abstain and I can advocate for that choice for myself and others. None of those is a violation of the gospel. There is no colossian heresy involved here and no longing down the nose intended.

  83. That should be “looking” down the nose. It is kinda long.

  84. Paul, you’ve got a lot of “ifs” in there. I’d still be interested on your handling of Deut. 14:26 as well as John 2:1-12 from a “2 wine” position. Further, the “2 wine” theory simply doesn’t solve the Col. 2:16 problem. Clearly the philosophers are commanding abstention from alcoholic drinks (nothing else would make sense in context), and Paul shoots down their position. How is that any different from those who are advocates for abstention for all believers today?

    Here’s the crux of the issue: is it wrong for another brother to drink in moderation? If yes, then you’re speaking absolutely where the Bible doesn’t speak (and, in fact, against Scripture). If no, then you should not enforce a higher road on your brother. It really is that simple.

  85. I was listening to a Piper sermon the other day and this thread popped into my mind. Here is one of a number of quotes that might be appropriate:

    “If any of you still wonders why I go on supporting this amendment [i.e. the one replacing the old abstinence amendment in the Bethlehem Baptist Church Covenant] after hearing all the tragic stories about lives ruined through alcohol, the reason is that when I go home at night and close my eyes and let eternity rise in my mind, I see ten million more people in hell because of legalism than because of alcoholism.” – John Piper

  86. I have thought about adding more to what I’ve already said in my comments, but I didn’t want to sound like I’m on a mission with this. But since comments continue to drip in on this post, I thought I’d go ahead and post again.

    I greatly appreciated a blog post Chris did almost 3 years ago – – with a link to a sermon he had recently preached on alcohol in the Bible – – and I share those links here for anyone who wants to pursue them. They need to be easily accessible to anyone who is following the thread of this post.

    As I read some of the comments, I get the impression that I am somehow out of God’s will or disobeying God for my choice not to drink alcohol. My previous comments to this post and to the post I linked above explain why I don’t drink, so I won’t totally rehash that here.

    But I have to ask, is God displeased with me because I choose not to do something He allows me to do? I’m not trying to impose my choice on others, I just believe that I don’t need to drink and that with my family background, drinking would be an unwise, very risky proposition. My three adult children, of their own free will, have chosen not to drink, at least partially because both of their grandfathers (my dad and my wife’s dad) destroyed their lives with drink. They know that they might have a propensity, even genetically, that they do not wish to take a chance on. Is God displeased with them too?

    When the apostle Paul said in 1 Cor. 7:7 concerning celibacy, “I wish that all were as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another,” was he saying that no believer should marry? Of course not. But he saw great advantages in remaining celibate, and he was convinced that that was what God wanted for him. Was Paul displeasing God with that choice? Was he trying to impose what was right for him on others?

    In regards to alcohol consumption, “I wish that all were as I am,” to quote someone famous. I see great dangers in what is now the alcohol available. I see Biblical warnings concerning the dangers of alcohol. I might be able to “control it,” but I might also not be able to control it, especially with my family history. I don’t even want to risk that for myself. However I am not saying that others are doing wrong by drinking alcohol.

    Does Christian liberty go only in the direction of license? Or do believers also have the liberty to choose not to do something that they believe would be unwise for themselves or that could ruin their chances of presenting the gospel to others?

    Reading some of the comments here, it sounds almost as if drinking alcohol is the 11th commandment and is the only way to realize fully God’s joy and peace here on earth. If I’m wrong and I’m dishonoring the Lord by my choices for my life and for what I would see as a wise choice, please tell me.

  87. Rob, when considering your thoughts I could not help but think that those who sound like they are saying all Christians should drink… don’t you think they are responding from a place of frustration? The legalism that makes it so difficult to share the love of Christ is what takes the death of a wonderful wife and mother and capitalizes on it with an article against drinking alcohol. It doesn’t bring the best responses from people who have come out of that “walk this line or God will hit you over the head” circle of believers. We love walking in a daily relationship with Christ, dependent completely on His mercy and His grace and laying aside all pride, self righteousness and finger pointing. Whether we choose to drink alcohol or not, we hate to see others using opportunities to slam believers who chose to.

  88. I will as quickly defend a believers right to not drink as their right to drink. I’ve tried to make the point in my ongoing interaction with Paul that my concern is with believers trying to impose their conclusions on others. That’s the issue.

    It should be noted that there was at least one teetotaler in the NT. Paul had to urge Timothy to use wine for his health. The implication is that he was refusing to take the self-evident approach for some reason. Granted, this is a tough example, because Paul essentially urges him against his conscience, but that is a conversation in and of itself. My point is that those who personally abstain have just as much warrant as those who drink in moderation.

    I haven’t ever commented on here prior to this post (although I’ve been following for quite some time), but I decided to post because I felt that the personal abstainers (of whom I am part) were unnecessarily beating up on the moderationists.

  89. My reasons for not drinking alcohol have changed over the years. I was your average ‘partier’ when I received the gospel. I knew in my heart my alcohol consumption was wrong. We drank to get drunk and party. It was part of a lifestyle that was worldly, and no longer what I wanted to represent. Simple.

    As time went on I was in a fairly up-front, visible role in the local church. Although I didn’t think it was a sin to have a glass of wine with dinner, I always kept in mind what one of the teenagers from my church would think if they bumped into me at a restaurant with a glass of wine. Teenagers don’t usually have a ‘big picture’ mindset, and I felt it would be confusing and probably even seen as an endorsement of ‘drinking,’ so I didn’t drink. Simple.

    Then I had my own kids. I tell them not to drink alcohol- again because young people don’t usually drink because they so enjoy the finer tastes of alcohol. They drink to ‘party’ -not to mention it is illegal. So I don’t drink. Simple.

    More recently I’ve realized, as my sister says, we have a ‘genetic reason’ to not drink. My grandfather was an alcoholic who drug his family through hell with his drinking. My brother is probably an alcoholic.

    I once asked a Baptist pastor if it is a sin to drink alcohol. He said no, but he’d never seen anything good come of it, so he figured he’d stay away from it. For most of us, the liberty to drink has to weighed against the possibility of causing a brother to stumble.

  90. It is not a betrayal of the gospel to abstain from alcohol and to urge other believers to do likewise.

  91. So, Joy, it’s ok to say that you love being spiritual and that you love laying aside pride, self-righteousness, and finger-pointing while accusing Chris of being a legalist and “capitalizing” on tragedy (by suggesting that it’s unwise to encourage others to drink)? Perhaps pride is just as deceptive as alcohol.

  92. No, Jon. My statement was not from a place of pride at all. I don’t claim to have all of the answers, I don’t claim to do it all right. I was just trying to say that the responses of so many were so adamant against him because they are reacting to a lifetime of others being legalistic toward them. Yes, I was concerned that the focus of the tragedy was turned from the needs of the family to the arguments over alcohol. I don’t happen to be one that chooses to drink alcohol; my interest in this whole debate comes from the place of a mother, a youth worker, a counselor and a church member who deals daily with people who just need to be pointed to Christ. They revel in all of the arguments among believers – they are confused by our controversies and they are turned off by our lack of true love and compassion for one another. That is where my frustration came from. A man lost his wife (I’ve been there. I was widowed at 23 with 2 small sons). His children have lost their mother. (My boys were fatherless). It happened suddenly and without warning. (My husband was killed in an automobile accident). My heart was broken for them and their needs are great!!!!!! We should be talking about how to support them through this instead of alcohol. That’s all. I am very sorry that I came across as prideful or condemning. That was not my heart or desire. My desire was to be iron sharpening iron: bringing another point of view for consideration.

  93. Paul,
    Let me re-state. It’s not a denial of the Gospel to abstain if you’d like. It is an affront to the Gospel (i.e., trying to make believers like me rather than like Christ) to urge other believers to abstain who in good conscience drink in moderation. You can argue otherwise if you’d like, but as I mentioned, you need to overcome some of the major exegetical difficulties I’ve presented you with. If you want to continue the dialogue, I suggest that we begin there.

  94. About Deuteronomy 14:26.
    The word sometimes translated strong drink or even beer is the Hebrew word shekar. Many authorities believe this word always refers to alcohol, but not all. Significant authorities believe that, like the words for wine, shekar referred to the juice of fruit other than grapes that could be either unfermented or fermented. It could be preserved either way.

    The New King James Version (NKJV) translates shekar in Deuteronomy 14:26 as “similar drink.” Elsewhere, when it is obvious shekar is referring to an alcoholic drink, it uses the term, “strong drink.”

    “It is tolerably clear that the general words ‘wine [yayin; oinos]’ and ‘strong drink [shekar]’ do not necessarily imply fermented liquors, the former signifying only a production of the vine, the latter the produce of other fruits than the grape.” -Dr. Lyman Abbott, A Dictionary of Religious Knowledge,

    Shekar – “Sweet drink (what satiates or intoxicates).” -Dr. Robert Young, Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, Eerdmans, 1970.

    Interesting how some magnify Deuteronomy 14:26, yet minimize Proverbs 20:1 and 23:29-35.
    David R. Brumbelow

  95. I don’t think we should magnify or minimize either passage. We need to take the whole counsel of God into account.

    The problem with trying to read non-alcoholic beverages into Deut 14:26 is twofold. First, the lexicons as well as OT usage demonstrates that usage of ‘shekar’ as non-alcoholic is entirely non-demonstrable within the canon. Second, the use of ‘shekar’ in connection with ‘yayin’ is about as conclusive as one can get for a reference to alcoholic beverages (note especially the connection of these two terms even just within the Pentateuch). In other words, given the usage of the word and the connection with ‘yayin’ the burden of proof remains on those who would claim that some fringe reference exists in just this passage to non-alcoholic beverages.

    A holistic perspective of Scripture (as you have noted is essential) then would be that God Himself endorses the use of alcoholic beverages and warns against them in other cases; therefore, the Christian should take both into account in deciding whether or not to abstain or to drink in moderation.

  96. Or, perhaps some are trying to read alcohol into Deuteronomy 14:26.

    A complete, balanced view of the Bible and wine would include these references to nonalcoholic wine: Judges 9:13; Proverbs 3:10; Isaiah 16:10; 65:8; Joel 2:24; Zechariah 9:17; Lamentations 2:11-12; Matthew 9:17. Of course they also had alcoholic wine.

    Isaiah 16:10 uses the Hebrew word yayin, and it is in reference to unfermented wine. Wine just pressed from grapes is unfermented wine or grape juice.

    “No treaders will tread out wine [yayin] in the presses.” Isaiah 16:10
    David R. Brumbelow

  97. David,

    Your response doesn’t connect to my point. While I don’t for a minute disagree that ‘yayin’ is used occasionally to refer to non-alcoholic substances, the key word in Deut. is ‘shekar.’ Not only is the predominant use (I could argue the *only* use) of ‘shekar’ in the OT is to refer to alcoholic beverages, but when combined with ‘yayin’ the context is exclusively in reference to alcohol. What you’re trying to argue is that the common sense of ‘shekar’ and the definitive use of ‘yayin’ and ‘shekar’ in an immediate context should be overridden by the occasional use of ‘yayin.’ That is why I said (and any good hermeneutics textbook would affirm) that the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that this is (1) one of the few uses of ‘yayin’ as non-alcoholic in the OT, (2) the only(?) use of ‘shekar’ as non-alcoholic in the OT, and (3) the only use of ‘yayin’ and ‘shekar’ together as non-alcoholic in the OT. To that end I would say that it is not I who reads alcohol into the text because of my presuppositions, but it is you who excludes it from the text due to yours.



  98. David,

    I also thought it necessary to examine your sources on Deut. 14:26. Here is what I’ve found:

    In terms of translational support, you offer the NKJV, which translates “similar drink.” While admittedly this is a bizarre translation of the word, the point must be made that even this translation does not preclude what every other modern translation (e.g., ESV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, KJV) concludes, namely that the word in question refers to an alcoholic beverage. In other words, the NKJV translators could have assumed that the reader knew that “wine” was alcoholic, and simply translated ‘shekar’ as “similar drink” (i.e., similar to wine). Thus I would find the translation of the NKJV as at best inconclusive or at the worst a poor translation of the word. There is nothing contextually or textually to force an aberration in translation in this verse.

    In terms of lexical support, you offer Young, who presumably indicates that two options exist for how the word is used (“satiate” or “intoxicate”). I’ll first note that Young, whose concordance is now over 100 years old, is not entirely conclusive either. He just suggests a possible interpretation of the word with no textual or lexical support. But he is quite alone in this suggestion. I find it fascinating that you didn’t pull from the better-known English concordance, Strong, or the more thorough Brown-Driver-Briggs, or the academic Hebrew lexicon by Koehler, Ludwig, Baumgartner, et. al., who unanimously argue that the word refers to an intoxicating beverage.

    In terms of other support, you suggest Abbott, a non-academic and practically unknown resource to suggest that the word should be understood otherwise. The reality is that every reliable commentary which addresses this point admits that alcoholic beverages are in view. For a short list: Cragie (NICOT), Christensen (WBC), Thompson (TOTC), Deere (BKC).

    In conclusion, I would argue that the support for your position on this verse lacks any real translational, lexical, and commentary support.

  99. Its hilarious how people want their “freedom” so badly that they go out of their way to argue for alcohol…. would the same people defend biblical doctrines with such fervency and passion? Just thinking.

  100. I resent the ad hominem implication that those who defend the freedom of believers to decide freely how to avoid drunkenness (via abstaining or via moderation) are somehow weak on the doctrines of the faith. To me this line of reasoning smacks of the Gnostic elitism of Col. 2.

  101. Phil,
    If I am allowed to choose to not drink alcohol, then I would think others are also allowed to choose not to drink. If they are allowed to make that choice, am I not allowed to urge them to make that choice?

  102. As much as you or I would like, we’re not allowed to urge others to make the choices that we make on extra-biblical matters (cf. Rom 14). If we talk about the dangers of alcohol (Proverbs passages), then we need to talk about God’s blessing of alcohol (Deut. 14:26). We can always urge our brothers and sisters to not be drunk, but rather be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). And when it comes down to it, if I really believe Ephesians 5:18, and I really believe that my brother is being filled with the Spirit, my last concern is whether or not he has a glass of wine with dinner.

  103. We don’t agree Phil. If abstaining from drinking and drinking but not getting drunk are both legitimate options for the believer in the gospel, I believe I am free to urge others to choose to abstain. The problem with alcohol is that in many instances what starts out as a glass of wine with dinner becomes something much more over time. My concern for myself and other believers in this matter is not contrary to the gospel.

  104. Like I’ve said, this is no small matter. It’s just as much a sin to permit what God forbids as it is to forbid what God permits. That’s the crux of the issue in Colossians 2. The moment I start telling believers what skirt length is modest or what beat patterns are holy or what translation is preserved, I’ve crossed the line. Further, I’d contend that your slippery slope argument here seems to ignore the power of the Spirit in sanctification (cf., Eph. 5:18). That’s what we should urge our brothers and sisters towards. And if they’re filled with the Spirit and don’t dress, drink, listen, look, etc. exactly like me, that’s okay.

  105. Let me add, as I’ve noted before, I don’t doubt that your intentions are good and that you sincerely want to help your brothers and sisters. I’m sure that you don’t intend to be prideful in what you preach or teach. But no matter how sincere we are, if we’re adding burdens to other believers that are designed to hedge about the law (the command is not to get drunk, and the hedge we’ve added is to not drink; the command is to be modest, and the hedge we preach is no skirts above the knee), then we fall into the same trap as the Colossian philosophers, the Pharisees, and a whole host of teachers through the centuries who did the exact same thing.

    Let me be clear: This is no minor disagreement, but a major paradigm difference on how we view the role of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, the role of man-made rules to effect sanctification, the sole sufficiency of the Word of God for all matters of faith and practice, and so on.

  106. I’m going to agree with Phil here. We should not be “urging” other believers to not drink. I think you would end up unduly pressuring the conscience of individuals beyond scriptural warrant. I do think we have scriptural warrant to warn of the dangers, though, just like we have scriptural warrant to warn people of the influence of certain friends.

    Best regards, Bill

  107. Pastor Chris… PREACH IT!!!!!

  108. Bill and Phil – I’m not making any rules, setting up a hedge, or putting pressure on anyone’s conscience. All I am doing is recommending not drinking as the surest way to avoid the dangers of alcohol. It is the choice I make and I recommend it to others. We are allowed to make that choice – it doesn’t interfere with the work of the Holy Spirit. I am not saying drinking alcohol is wrong or condemning those who choose to drink. In all of the above I am not betraying the gospel.

  109. Hi Paul,

    I appreciate what you are saying, but I think there is a difference between making a “recommendation” and “urging.” To me, urging is continual and vigorous. We should urge people towards the gospel. We should urge people to repent of sin. We should urge people toward moral purity. We should urge people toward truthfulness. We should urge people towards patience, mercy, and love of the brethren. I hope you get my point. To me, urging implies necessity.

    I agree with Chris’s original post. I take it as a warning…a needed call to personal prudence. The lack of personal prudence often has public implications.

    I don’t see Chris “urging” abstinence. It is just as wrong to urge someone not to drink in spite of their conscience as it is to urge someone to drink in spite of their conscience.

    What we see in scripture are warnings of what happens when we take a good thing too far. How dare we go farther than scripture?

    What we should urge is to think of others as more important than ourselves. That will play out differently in various circumstances.

    If what you are saying truly is a “recommendation,” then I trust you retain an untainted view of the person who considers and rejects your “recommendation”. Depending on whether you are bothered by it or not, to me, will reveal to you where your heart really lies.

    That is how I determine where my heart is on any given personal standard. Am I playing God, or do I realize I am a member of a body whose master is Christ?

    Just some thoughts.

    Best regards,

  110. I really can’t add to Bill’s statement. I make recommendations about debt or education or other life decisions to people with the caveat that it is just my opinion. They can take it or leave it and it shouldn’t affect how I or others view them. As Bill said, the test of a recommendation is how I feel about those who don’t follow my recommendation. Do I see them as ignorant, weak, unwise, carnal, etc.?

  111. Scripture does not directly condemn (as in a “thou shalt not”) gambling, slavery, crack cocaine, abortion, pornographic DVDs.
    Any of you ever speak against them?
    Any of you ever say, “While I don’t own a slave, I believe whether or not you own a slave is according to your personal conscience”?

    Scripture speaks directly to some issues. I believe it speaks directly against alcohol, though not all would agree.

    Scripture obviously does not speak to every issue in life.
    Scripture does, however, give principles to live by.
    Scriptural principles certainly teach against gambling, slavery, crack cocaine (even where it might be legal), abortion, pornographic DVDs.
    Scriptural principles also teach against taking drugs for pleasure and recreation. A quick example is loving God with all your mind.

    Last, an additional quote on shekar and Deuteronomy 14:26 (more could be given).

    “Not only the word yayin, but also shekar can refer to grape juice as well as to wine (cf. Deuteronomy 29:6; Numbers 28:7; Exodus 29:40).” -Dr. Robert P. Teachout in his doctoral dissertation on The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, 1979, Dallas Theological Seminary.

    David R. Brumbelow

  112. Hi David,

    I guess I would completely disagree with you regarding your assertion that the scriptures do not directly condemn the killing of unborn children or condemn pornography. Wow. They most certainly do.

    Without going into a discussion of all the issues you’ve listed, I would like to point out a key difference between all of those you mentioned and the drinking of wine. As far as I know, none of the other issues are ever “encouraged” in scripture, while drinking wine is. Wine is presented as a blessing.

    With that said, even good things can be taken too far. Manna was a blessing from God, but the people were not allowed to store it. If they were deceived into storing it, there were consequences. Similarly, wine (along with all food) is a blessing from God, but don’t be deceived as to what it’s abuse will lead to.

    Best regards,

  113. David, what Bible are you reading? Mine says “Thou SHALT NOT KILL” and I’m pretty sure abortion would fall under the category of killing someone… Mine also says “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “If a man even looks on a woman to lust after her in his heart, he is committing adultery”. Pretty sure that would cover any and all pornography. I hope you study your Bible a little closer before you go teaching or preaching to anyone!

  114. But alcohol is never praised in Scripture.
    We do not find alcoholic wine described, as in Proverbs 23:29-35, and are then encouraged to drink it.
    Instead, when alcoholic wine is described by it’s effects (they had no word for alcohol), it is condemned.
    David R. Brumbelow

  115. David, wine is never condemned in the Bible! Being drunk is condemned. Drinking to the point of losing control over oneself is condemned. Where is your Scripture reference for alcoholic wine being condemned?

  116. Hi David,

    It seems you are reading into the text something that is not there. God does not condemn inanimate objects. He condemns behavior. Notice the choice of words in the text. He condemns sinful choices. He condemns the relinquishing of self control.

    We do indeed read that passage in Proverbs, which condemns a certain behavior that revels in alcohol, and then we do see the Apostle Paul encourage Timothy to drink wine for the sake of his stomach, unless you’re suggesting Paul was not aware of the passages in Proverbs.

    Presumably, the wine had medicinal benefits. I could be way off base here, and even wrong, but I’m not aware of any medicinal benefits of Welches grape juice. I’ve experienced the medicinal benefits alcohol has on my stomach. There are health benefits of grape juice, for sure, but I’m not aware of any benefits specifically helping a gastrointestinal ailment.

    Best regards,

  117. How do I feel about those who drink? Concerned – drinking alcohol is deceptive. What is moderation? When is the line crossed from sobriety to drunkenness? What if David is correct about wine in the Bible culture? What if acceptable drinking in Bible culture was the drinking of wine that was significantly diluted? Let’s not look down on those who encourage(humbly advocate) abstaining from alcohol. I believe it is not inconsistent with the gospel to do so.

  118. Hi Paul,

    There is nothing wrong with abstaining from wine, nor recommending others do the same. I noticed you’ve changed your “tone” a bit (from “urge” to “recommend” to “encourage”). Just be as careful with the conscience of one who does not abstain as you are with the conscience of one who does. I doubt anyone here is suggesting anyone should look down on those who abstain. I would hope by your use of the word “concerned” you don’t question the spirituality of those who successfully exercise the fruit of the spirit (i.e. self control).

    Best regards,

  119. You guys have worn me out. In the spirit of Presidential moderators, I’m going to assume everyone has made their closing arguments. Be careful out there. Comments closed. Grace to you.

  120. […] Before You Take a Sip, Consider This & The Christian and Alcohol – “I’ve never seen a beer commercial featuring battered children, broken lives, fractured families, or teenage amputees.”  This is a wonderfully balanced summary of a sermon on a text frequently cited in order to revel in our freedom.  Read it with grace and truth.  (cf. Ambivalence about Alcohol) […]

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