For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, May 3, 2007

An Argument Against Alcohol

“Dad, why don’t we drink alcohol?”

“Because the Bible says in Proverbs 20:1 that ‘Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.’”

“What does that mean, Dad?”

“It means that drinking makes you stupid, son.”

Case in point. Jeff Gordon won last weekend’s NASCAR race at Talladega; his second in a row and the 77th of his career, breaking the late Dale Earnhardt’s career total. Since Earnhardt won 10 of these races in Alabama, the faithful there took exception to Gordon’s surpassing their hero, and they rewarded him by tossing beer cans and other items onto the track. Drinking makes you stupid.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. A couple of years back Gordon defeated the legend’s son, Dale, Jr. at the same track and had a similar coronation display. This time, track officials even warned the fans prior to the race that such behavior would result in arrests. Yet the beer toss happened anyway; and indeed, 14 fans were arrested and banned for life from the Talladega Superspeedway.

The issue is not the fans' displeasure over Gordon; we’re all entitled to our opinions. But the beer barrage is not only in poor taste and shows poor sportsmanship; it is a danger to other fans, some of whom are children. Drinking makes you stupid.

The debate has been raging in SBC and MBC circles about the virtue or vice of alcohol. We’ve had the issue thrown in our face by some new church starts who think alcohol consumption is a non-issue and in fact even hold some of their Bible studies in bars and breweries.

The argument is that the Bible is neutral on the issue, sometimes holding up the virtue of drink, other times condemning its abuse. There is some validity to that on the face. But the issue runs deeper.

Scripture also says this:
Philippians 2:4 - Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Romans 14:21 - It is good not to eat
meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.

We live in a culture where alcohol is a problem for millions. They struggle with it’s effects in their lives and for us to take a casual approach to the issue may cause them to stumble. I have a friend who has that exact experience.

After years of sobriety, he attended a Sunday School gathering where alcohol was tolerated and even promoted. Seeing those he respected consuming alcohol broke down the barriers he had erected regarding the matter. As a result, he fell into sin. Drinking made him stupid.

Don’t misunderstand. This brother’s sin is his own. The SS class didn’t force him to do it. But their cavalier attitude toward drinking was in violation of both texts quoted above.

We need to open our eyes and quit pretending that we live in a culture in which we will never have to deal with brothers like this. They are everywhere. They are in our churches. They are obviously at the race track. Our Christian liberty needs to take a back seat to their best good. Abstaining from alcohol is the wisest choice for them and for us.

“Dad, why did those people do such a stupid thing? Someone could have gotten hurt?”

“You’re right, son. But remember ‘Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.’”

33 comments:

LoriAnn said...

What should I say? "You da dad"?
Yup, that would about sum up my thoughts. Very good article, Dad.
Luv ya. -LoriAnn

Rod said...

LoriAnn:

He really is great, isn't he?

...at least when he's not drinking!

Scott said...

Rodney:

After much thought, I have no real response for that. Besides, my wife is the one with the drinking problem. She downs so much Dr. Pepper that the C-Store where she gets refills offered to run her a tab!

Tim A. Blankenship said...

Scott,
Great article. I don't know why I had not seen it sooner.
You are right. It is stupid.
Thanks for your comment over at The Watchman's Trumpet.

Anonymous said...

I would like to get your thoughts on this discussion from
Greg Koukl at STR.org radio. The archive has a great discussion on the Romans 14 passage. It is
October 30, 2005 about 38 minutes into the show.

http://www.str.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Radio_Archives

Scott Weldon said...

Anonymous,
Interesting program, and I agree as far as the statement that alcohol consumption is not in itself sin. However, Paul clearly says in I Cor 12 that if those around us would be likely to see the action as libertine on our part, then abstaining is the wiser course. We live in a culture that worship the libertine lifestyle and alcohol consumption is a part of it; therefore it is simply wiser to obstain.
And why should I force my liberty to the neglect of my brother as well? We know there are those who struggle, so why should we flaunt it in their face. This is arrogant and un-loving.
And I still stand by the simply premise: drinking makes you stupid. It causes us to loose inhibitions and act in ways we wouldn't otherwise; and we are, after all, given a spirit of self control, are we not?
I have never said alcohol consumption is prohibited or a sin in and of itself. But the wise Christian will see abstaining as the wiser course, the more loving course for our brother. Three years on an Indian reservation and seeing the devestation on families and individuals was enough to convince me that my freedom to drink is simply not worth it.

Anonymous said...

Scott, you said, "However, Paul clearly says in I Cor 12 that if those around us would be likely to see the action as libertine on our part, then abstaining is the wiser course."

I just read 1 Cor 12 and I didn't see what you are talking about. Can you point it out?

Thanks

Scott Weldon said...

Anon.
Sorry, in my typing haste I simply mistyped the reference. I am of course talking about 1 Cor 10 and Paul's discussion of meat offered to idols. He tells us clearly that "everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial." That's the heart of my belief. Check the newer posting on this subject on my blog site.

Jason said...

For 1800 years Christians consumed alcohol as a common part of everyday life. While the dangers are real, it may be used wisely and moderately rather being shunned or prohibited because of potential abuse.Temperance (self control) in one's behavior, not abstinence, is the biblical norm.

You err by confusing the Christian virtues of temperance and moderation with abstinence and prohibition and by locating the evil in the object that is abused rather in the heart and deed of the abuser.

Scott said...

Jason, thanks for the comment. I've noticed that over a year and a half later, this is the most widely read post on this blog.

I'll simply say this in response. You err by misinterpreting my reason for abstinence. It's not the evil of the object, but the culture in which we live and the admonition I cited in the article from Romans 14:21 - It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.

It is simply wiser in our day and time for the Christian to abstain rather than cause our brother to stumble.

Thanks again for your comment. I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

But what about the atheists that enjoy having a beer every once in a while? They see Christians not drinking and it is only potrayed as a "holier than thou" attitude. What if instead of abstinence, we preached MODERATION. I would say i am a recovered alcoholic myself, but that would say that I have not been cleansed of my sins. I learned through Christ that some things are not bad, as long as in moderation.

I do agree that it could cause a stumbling block for somebody who is trying to clean up their life, but what if a Christian was their right beside them the entire time (such as they should be) not just TELLING them what they could do, but SHOWING them what is okay and what is not?

Remember, this is coming from a recovered alcoholic, not just some random person

Scott said...

Anon-
"But what about the atheists that enjoy having a beer every once in a while? They see Christians not drinking and it is only potrayed as a "holier than thou" attitude."
Bad argument. The world around us thinks the same thing anytime we refuse to participate in their lifestyle, including sexual promiscuity, etc. It doesn't matter what the world thinks of us, only that we are obedient to the Lord's call for holiness.
As for the rest of the post, I would think of all people you would realize the falicy of the "just one won't hurt" mentality. I stick to my original thought in the post, which is that my freedom to drink is not to be placed above my responsibility to my brother. Even if, in your own words "it could cause a stumbling block" then it is wiser for me to avoid altogether.
Thanks for stopping by.

Steve said...

I work at a college that makes you sign a contract saying you won't drink, smoke or dance. This has an appearance of wisdom but is actually self righteous legalism and is a sin. I understand the argument of abstaining from drinking if you know you're around someone with a problem. That's the right thing to do. But that doesn't mean you need to abstain always.

Scott said...

Steve,
Thanks for the comment. I continue to be amazed that this post gets so much attention nearly two years later.
As for your college, they are free to make whatever requirements they choose; and you are free not to work there. If you knew the restrictions going in, it is wrong for you to "buck it" now.
I don't know about the dancing part, but I would disagree with the rest of your comment. Asking folks who are around students to avoid drinking and smoking is not "self righteous" or "leagalistic" but simply looking out for the students' highest good. Let's not even get into the horrid stats about alcohol abuse on college campuses, etc.
Anyway, thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

Jared said...

The problem with your Biblical support for your argument lies in your attempt at proof texting.

If you look at the entire letter of Romans and the entire 14th chapter in particular, you will notice that Paul is writing to both Jewish and Gentile believers in the Church. The Roman church was dealing with problems of Gentiles lording their freedom in Christ over their Jewish brothers who were still grappling with the role of the Law in the context of Christ's resurrection and salvation. Therefore, we must keep this context in mind before we use a single verse to "prove" something.

Your argument is weak because you say that Christians should never drink because it may cause someone to stumble. However, this passage is talking about "weaker" BROTHERS, NOT the unbelieving culture where drunkenness is prevalent. If there is a situation where a brother, say, a recovering alcoholic, is present, it is wise for the "stronger" brother who has no issues with alcohol to abstain for the sake of his brother. This is what Paul is talking about given the context of the entire book of Romans and chapter 14. However, if the reason somebody "stumbles" is because they are offended based on their convictions, that is not a Biblical grounds for abstaining. You could use the same argument to say that no one should ever point out ways that you are sinning because it causes you to be sinfully angry. That is an absurd argument. Again, if somebody chooses not to drink because of their convictions, that is between them and God. You cannot make a sweeping statement that Christians should never drink and if they do, they are causing people to stumble and are therefore sinning. Alcohol in and of itself is nowhere condemned in the Bible (if it were, Jesus would not have partaken of it). It is a matter of conviction (Again, what Paul is talking about).

To take this in a different direction, I believe that you would reprimand Jesus Himself for drinking wine if He lived today. You say that we should not pretend that we live in a culture that doesn't have problems with alcohol. However, you ignore the fact that every single culture from the beginning of time has had a problem with alcohol. Yet, Jesus Himself partook of alcohol. In order to say that we should abstain in all situations for all people, you would need to condemn the behavior of Jesus too.

Feel free to disagree with me. All of this was said in a loving manner. However, I really do not like when people take verses out of the context of their chapters and books to support a point.

Scott said...

Jared, thanks for stopping by. This is still the most widely read article on this site, though I'm not sure how often folks get all the way through the comments.

Anyway, thanks for the comments. I agree with you about the context, and that was the precise point I was making. We have so many brothers in our churches who have/are struggling with alcohol, it just seems wiser to abstain, since we don't know who they are. I don't see why drinking alcohol is such an advantage that we should risk the damage just to imbibe.

I also agree that nowhere does Scripture prohibit alcohol. That never has been the argument here. I've never said that. I'm arguing on the basis of love for brothers, wishing to promote holiness, etc. It's just not worth it. All things are lawful, but not all beneficial.

I just don't understand why some folks are so enamored with drinking that they think it's something we have to fight to do when we are just as well off without it.

I've met with a woman whose husband struggles with alcohol, but she doesn't see why that should keep her from having a drink now and then. I see that as a microcosm of the whole thing. People who don't really care about those around them enough to abstain. I still say it violates the spirit of the texts here presented.

Thanks again for stopping by. I know this subject will continue to be unresolved, but the discussion is always beneficial.

Jared said...

I would agree that we should take into account those that we are not familiar with who may struggle with alcohol. Certainly you shouldn't have alcohol at church functions where you do not know the condition of every brother or sister present. However, to come down hard and fast and say that drinking is never an alright thing to do may be missing the point. If a person doesn’t want you to drink around them solely because they have a different view about it, that’s a convictions issue and it’s really none of their business. Chapter 14 in Romans goes both ways. The “weaker” brother is also told not to pass judgment on those that partake. There are plenty of people in the church who make it their job to be offended even though the matters at hand really have nothing to do with them. If I want to drink a beer in my own home where no alcoholics are present, what is that to other people? At that point, we are venturing into judging others, not looking out for our “weaker” brothers. Obviously the woman whose husband struggles with alcohol should abstain for his sake. But when the reason to abstain is because somebody else disagrees with people drinking alcohol (rather than it being a stumbling block), that is an unfair and selfish pronouncement to dictate someone else’s behavior.

Jared said...

To answer your statement that alcohol is “not worth it” or that there is no advantage, I’ll give this example: my friends are in a band and the purpose of their band is to bring Christ’s light and hope to the darkest places (i.e. bars, clubs, etc.). Before and after the time that they play, they talk to the unsaved people there and build bridges and break down walls. They are open about their faith and are not afraid to share it with people. While at these bars, they partake in alcohol (though never get drunk). Some of their most meaningful conversations about faith and why they believe what they believe take place over a cold beer. These unsaved people at the bar see this band reaching out to them and becoming one of them in order to win them for Christ, or at least plant the seed. My friends are not sinning by drinking alcohol, nor are they causing any of their brothers to stumble. They are reaching people where they are in a way they relate to. Isn’t that what Christ did? Isn’t that worth it?

Jared said...

P.S. This particular blog post might be so popular because it was the first hit I got for "Biblical argument against drinking alcohol." I'm glad it's getting you a lot of traffic :) Keep writing!

Scott said...

Jared, thanks again for the comments. If you read the original post you will see that the issue was indeed the public drinking/church supported idea; not necessarily private. However, after living on a Sioux Reservation that has been devastated by alcohol, I found that even going into the store to purchase alcohol for private consumption would have been disastrous to our witness there.

I have never said consumption was a sin. I have argued again and again that the issue is concern for a brother, and that issue remains the same. I know that Jesus ate with sinners, etc. But he always called them out of their sin. And by his very life he showed a holiness that folks couldn't resist. I would suggest that unless you are so filled with a Christ like Spirit that those folks in the bar recognize that extreme difference in your life, that it is very dangerous and unwise to continue in that approach. Notice dangerous and unwise, not hellfire sinner.

My argument has always been, and will remain, that given the dangers, it's simply unwise and better for Christians to abstain. There are plenty of other opportunities to share with folks without hanging out in bars if you are willing to make the effort.

Thanks again for the comments. Pray that Christ is always exalted, and all is for His glory.

SDG

David said...

"...given the dangers, it's simply unwise and better for Christians to abstain."

You appear to be relying on a slippery slope fallacy - if a lot of alcohol is bad (true), then a little is unwise (fallacious). One could could also argue that, given the dangers of sex (true) it is best for the Christian to abstain (obviously fallacious). Or alternately, given our society's rampant abuse of sex (true) it is better for Christians to abstain (obviously fallacious).

However, the historic Christian response to dealing with abuse of a God given gift in society is not to abstain altogether but to teach, by word and example, that God's good gifts are to be used in their proper context and moderation. So, instead of looking at how the world abuses sex and how many people's lives are destroyed by such abuse and concluding that it is best if Christian refrain altogether from sex, we as Christian instead preach (and practice) the virtues of monogamous sex within marriage. I suspect that you would even agree that sex within a faithful Christian marriage is *good* witness to the unbeliever.

Yet when it comes to alcohol we suddenly take the position of the ascetic? That refraining altogether is a better witness and practice than portraying the proper use of God's good gifts to the world? Why not instead take the same attitude towards alcohol that we do towards other things the world abuses, for instance, like the attitudes we take towards food and sex.

"There are plenty of other opportunities to share with folks without hanging out in bars if you are willing to make the effort."

This sort of statement is just a red-herring. There are many ways one can partake of alcohol outside the setting of a bar.

Scott said...

David,
Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. This is obviously and issue the good, godly brothers will continue to disagree on, and that's fine. It ultimately comes to a matter of conscience. My conscience before God will not allow me to flaunt the freedom to drink in the face of so many who struggle.

In that light, the sex illustration really isn't a good one. Yes it is a good thing in marriage, but it is also a private thing. It's not something done or even talked about publicly. So I can exercise that freedom with great abandon without being a stumbling block to those who struggle.

Most alcohol consumption is done socially, so it's a bit different. Even for the private drinking, someone would see me purchasing it, etc.

As I've often said in the comments, etc. there is no prohibition to drinking outright. But the commands regarding concern for our brother should cause us to think of them instead of our freedom. I don't think anyone is missing some great blessing by avoiding alcohol, but they could very well avoid harm to a brother. Which is why I say it's simply wiser to abstain.

Thanks again for the comments. May we do all things for His glory.

Anonymous said...

Great article on this subject. Love your attitude. If more Christians loved Jesus and others more than they do themselves, maybe we could make more of a difference than we do in the lives of others. That's really what this is all about. Love. If you really want to get a clearer picture of the right or wrong of drinking... go to this excellent site on the matter. Helped me to see more clearly. http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/books/wine_in_the_bible/5.html

Anonymous said...

Dearest Author of this most peculiar article. if drinking makes you stupid does this mean that the majority of the world are morons? if the actions they orchestrate end in a bloody feud or fight, is it any different from the never-ending fight over "the promise land" or the fight between Kane and Abel? the bible consists of multiple stories, most of which show consequences for actions, thus convincing us to do otherwise. but if alcohol "makes you stupid" does this mean christ himself, whom turned water into wine and getting a party of peoples drunk is, how did you state? "stupid"? it is frankly illogical to summarise the general population of alcohol consumers in two sports car races. Of course alcohol is source of countless fights and battles, but such is the bible for those killing in the name of christ and country. i do not expect you to authorise this to be on your wall, but please take into consideration that ANYTHING can be bad for you if overused. wether it is alcohol or religion. i'v seen plenty of men kill in the name of god and plenty of men die as the result of drinking.

Scott said...

Dearest “anonymous” writer of an equally peculiar response. You, like so many others, try to speak about biblical issues with obviously no real knowledge of the subject.

Anyway, you are right in saying that people have done a lot of stupid thing down through the years in the name of “religion,” not just Christianity, but all religions. The question is whether the stupid acts are the result of genuine interpretation of the Sacred Text, which in the case of your examples, they are not. People who act stupidly can’t use the Bible as an excuse, since as you pointed out, the text clearly gives examples of that stupid behavior as guidance of what not to do.

So what’s your point? Because sinful men do things in violation of Scripture, it makes it ok to do other stupid things against the better advice of Scripture. I don’t think I follow.

I never said that every person who drinks around the world is stupid. I simply say that alcohol can and does impair your mental ability; proven fact. Which is why the wise course of action is to avoid it. Not everyone drinks to excess, but with the potential, why not simply avoid it when you have so many other alternatives.

Thanks for stopping by my lowly blog. This is only one of many, many articles about life and faith. Life is about so much more than drinking or not drinking. It’s a shame so many have made this the focus, when God offers so much more. I hope you’ll take time to read some of the other things discussed here, like articles about genuine conversion and God’s love for a sinful people like us. May God’s mercy and blessing become real in your life through the power of His Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that christians should abstain from eating unhealthy foods and not serve them at church gatherings ? Obesity is certainly a real and present problem in our culture (and churches) and causes many to stumble. Does a large dessert tray at a church picnic present a stumbling block for many who struggle with overeating? Lives are ruined from obesity, it entraps thousands around us, yet we give it no mention. How is this different?

Scott said...

Dear latest anonymous commenter:

You have a valid point in that we need to be more aware of the struggles of those around us. But let's get real. Food is a necessity of life; beer is not. I can gladly abstain from alcohol, but can't avoid food altogether. We should be more conscious of what we serve, but the comparison is weak. And while you are right in saying that obesity is a danger to many, in our culture, going to a buffet and going to a bar have very different connotations. One will harm my witness, the other will not.

I still don't know why some will go to such lengths to defend their "freedom" on this issue by trying to compare it to so many other things. This issue has been argued to death, so we'll leave it at that. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be tired of defending your point so don't feel that you have to post this, but in response I would say food is a necessity, unhealthy food is not. Also, recognize that you are making a judgement based upon your cultural experience. (which seems to be shaped by the beer guzzling out of control Nascar fan). You admit that in different cultures (Jesus' time) that it was acceptable. Well this is still true. It is naive to take your small cultural experience and then use it to speak for all christians in all cultures. No one here has defended flaunting their freedoms, yet that is what you constantly refer to as the alternative to abstinence. We (christians) are here to show the world how to rule and enjoy God's creation the way that he intended. If anyone is able to truly enjoy the finest wines, it is we who are able because we understand it for what it is and what it is not (a means to get drunk). In addition, having a drink socially can break down certain social barriers and give christians access in a way that may not have been available otherwise. You may think that the drink is not necessary, but I disagree because my experience has shown me otherwise. In this instance, what is true for you (in your setting) may not be true for everyone, God has given us all the responsibility to make that decision for ourselves.

Scott said...

You are right, I am weary. If you had read all the comments here and the other two posts I've made about this (which is a lot to ask!), you may have learned that it's not just my "small culture." We've lived in several states as well as an Indian reservation. Everywhere we've gone we've seen the devastating effects of alcohol on individuals and families. I can honestly say that I haven't counseled any families who have been crushed and torn apart by eating junk food, but I've dealt with plenty who have been ripped apart by alcohol.

This being the case, why not just avoid it? It's not necessary. It's not needful. It's not like we have a command to "go and drink beer." So why not just avoid the potential problems and abstain? This is not just my little world, it's a national problem.

As I've said numerous times, I have not said, and will never say, that alcohol is prohibited in Scripture. But we are commanded to care for our brothers, not to be a stumbling block, to restrict our freedoms for the good of others, etc. With the well documented problems alcohol causes, with the families that are destroyed by it, it seems to me that the caring, loving, responsible thing for a Christian to do is just avoid it.

Anonymous said...

I question the entire article because it is based upon scripture that is not from the King James Bible. Words are changed, and therefore the meanings are as well. Not to mention that the Bible says the scriptures are not to be subject of individual interpretation (not quoted). I agree with your arguments for abstaining, but not where you say it is not prohibited. When wine is spoken about in Jesus' time, it is referring to grape juice. When Jesus turned the water into wine, it is grape juice. Strong drink is alcohol. We aren't even to look upon it as it moves itself aright in the cup... I am still learning, but I see many flaws in this, and I wanted to point them out. The sin nature of man came from Adam and Eve. We see that in Romans 5:12. If you look back in Genesis, when the serpent was talking with Eve, the first mistake we made was changing the Word of God. Eve changed what God said from not being able to eat of the tree... to not being able to eat or touch it. This took away the power of the Word of God. John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." When you start changing things, meanings change and standards go down.

There is a lot in this post, please think carefully on it and consider what is said. Don't think of this as my "opinion" but as what the Bible says. My personal opinion is not worth anything, but what the Bible has to say cannot be given a price.

Scott said...

Anon,
I'm afraid your argument is faulty on many levels. First, King James is itself a translation. If you really want to have a debate about "word changes" etc, let's only deal with the Hebrew and Greek texts. Everything else is a "change" based on language. English is not a divine language.

Furthermore, the wine as grape juice argument doesn't hold water, pardon the pun. Too many issue to go into, but it's obvious from the text that Jesus' miracle involved fermented drink, at least those present believed it to be.

You are right in that we are not to question or "change" the Word of God. Translation, however is necessary, and was done by the KJV translators just as all previous and subsequent English translations and all other language translations.

You may be interested in this article: http://pspoteet.wordpress.com/2006/10/02/106/

I pray you will continue to look into these things, and that God will bless your efforts.

Anonymous said...

It's been my experience that when such issues are argued with such intensity on one side or the other, that the answer is usually found in the middle. Yes, Christ drank fermented wine. No, the fermentation in his time was not the same as it is now. Consequently, the amount of alcohol in Jesus' wine was not enough to get folks drunk except over a period of time and consumption.

You'll note that when the people accused the disciples of being drunk when they were speaking in tongues (other languages), that Christ didn't say that the disciples didn't drink, He said it was "too early in the day" for that to be possible. In other words, they hadn't had sufficient time to consume the amount of wine needed to be drunk.

Today's fermentation process results in a much higher alcohol content in wine and will/does result in drunkenness in short order. No need to have been drinking for hours (or in the case of wedding feast, for days) to get drunk.

That said, those of us who are Believers have the Holy Ghost abiding within us. He will convict us if our actions are not in accordance with God's desire for our lives. I don't look to the Bible to see if if what I want to do is prohibited or not, but turn to the Holy Spirit for that determination. He's never steered me wrong. Never.

Jason said...

They must of had really long church services back in those days for the Corinthians to get drunk on communion wine. I always interpreted Acts 2:15 as the third hour being 9:00 a.m., The Jewish day starting at 6:00 a.m. Normally 9 in the morning is not party time. Most drunkards are like cockroaches and are darklings, carouse excessively at night.