This is a topic that I have never intended to write on, primarily because of the inevitable knee-jerk reactions it will provoke. Those reactions will be along the lines of, “Yeah, right. Here’s another libertine trying to justify his sin, another carnal Christian (a fictitious character, by the way) indulging his flesh in the name of Christian liberty.” In a post on another blog, and in the subsequent comments (the provocation for this post), the observation was made that the only people who seem to care about this issue are precisely that kind of person. That observation, which in my experience has been accurate, was intended to demonstrate that only the unsanctified and self-centered would defend such an indefensible practice, but the spiritually mature know better. I believe the commenters who questioned the motives of those who defend this practice were sincere, but very often that charge is little more than a way of disqualifying their opponents by attacking their character — Clearly, if you were more holy, you would see it my way — so, because of the very predictable ad hominem, very few are even willing to take on the argument. Well, like a modern day Mighty Mouse, here I come to save the day!
The topic, in case you have forgotten your chemistry (like me — I had to look it up) is beverage alcohol use. The purpose of this post is not to defend myself, but the sufficiency of Scripture and the character of God. That may seem grandiose, but I believe the stakes are that high. You will see why as this topic unfolds. The purpose of this post is not to persuade anyone to drink wine who doesn’t want to. Also, I do not believe I am under any obligation to prove anything. I am not trying to bind anyone’s conscience, and I believe Scripture is plain enough to place the burden of proof on the prohibitionists, not me.
Although it should go without saying, this is not a defense of drunkenness. It’s a shame that I have to say so, but there are those who refuse to separate drunkenness from the enjoyment of a gift from God. They will probably continue to do so in spite of this disclaimer, but there it is.
Another reason I have not formally addressed this issue is the fact that many men whom I deeply respect disagree with me. In fact, the one Bible teacher who has had the greatest influence on my theology, of whom I can say with no exaggeration, “I am who I am because of his ministry,” will disagree with me on this. I won’t name him, because that would require me to explain just how we disagree in order to avoid misrepresenting his views, so I’ll leave it at that. On the astronomically unlikely chance that he is reading this and knows who he is, with all due respect, Sir, I think you’re wrong; but you’re still my hero.
Some of the issues I will address, not necessarily in order, are:
- Is drinking alcoholic beverages a sin?
- Is abstinence a higher standard?
- Is moderation acceptable, but abstinence wiser?
- Are the “rules” different now than they were in “Bible times?”
- What about the “weaker brother?”
I will not be addressing the “wine back then was Welch’s” argument. With all due respect to some pretty smart guys who say so, I just don’t think it’s a viable theory worthy of consideration. [Update, 2008-08-07: Bob Hayton has addressed this here.]
I really have nothing to say about this that has not already been said. If readers from Doulogos come over here and suspect that some of my remarks are copy & pasted from my comments there, well, that’s possible. Additionally, much of my understanding of this issue comes from God Gave Wine by Kenneth L. Gentry. If readers of that book suspect me of plagiarism, I confess right up front; but it’s not intentional.
Finally, some may ask, “Why address this at all? If it is such a contentious, divisive issue, why not just give it up? Why not just abstain for the sake of peace and unity?” Because peace and unity cannot be had at the expense of truth. The truth cannot be sold, especially so cheaply.
This issue is being discussed currently because the Southern Baptist Convention has written a resolution condemning alcohol use. Consequently, the question has been asked, “How Does It Feel To Exclude Jesus From Your Denomination?”
Tune in next time for Sola Scriptura and the SBC.
Read How Does It Feel To Exclude Jesus From Your Denomination? by Brent Thomas.
Read The Sword and Spirits, Drinking with Jesus, & Akin on Alcohol by Joe Thorn.
Buy God Gave Wine by Kenneth L. Gentry.