On Alcohol: Modern Views & Their Flaws

In case you haven’t been a Christian long, let me let you in on a little secret: there’s a lot of disagreement over whether or not Christians can or even should drink alcohol. In fact, if you ask 4 Christians about alcohol, you’re likely to get 5 opinions! Recently a dear friend contacted me to share a 37-page PDF that contained every Bible verse relating to alcohol. It’s the fruit of a year of reading the Bible and he’s just now beginning to study the topic in depth! He asked me and another friend of his if we had any thoughts on the issue so here’s what I told him. I hope that you’ll read this with an open mind and let me know what you think of it.

Regarding the use/consumption of alcohol, the way I see it, there are essentially three stances in modern American Evangelicalism:

  1. All forms of alcoholic consumption are evil.
  2. Light moderation is acceptable, but getting drunk is a sin.
  3. My “Christian freedom” lets me do whatever I want, therefore all things are permissible.

I think all three are flawed and I’ll critique each in turn.

  1. All forms of alcoholic consumption are evil. This view is flawed because, as far as I’ve been able to discern, it’s rooted in 19th & 20th century prohibition-ism and is directly contradicted by the Bible. I’m going to assume we all agree with this, are aware of 1 Tim 5:23 and other similar verses, and can move on. (Truth be told, I don’t know how anyone actually defends this stance biblically, although there are plenty of places online where they try.)
  2. Light moderation is acceptable, but getting drunk is a sin. While this view might be the most prevalent today, I think it is actually more restrictive than the Bible and, for that reason I’m hesitant to adopt this rule. We should never try to be “more biblical than Jesus.” I’ll explain why I believe this in a future post, but first…
  3. My “Christian freedom” lets me do whatever I want, therefore all things are permissible. While it is true that Christ has set us free (Gal. 5:1), he did this so  that we would not fall back into slavery. I think everyone has seen too much “liberty” taken by far too many Christians, especially the doubting world. We all probably know at least one guy (read: young, restless and reformed) who drinks, smokes, and cusses…all in the name of ‘Christian liberty.’ Meanwhile, he has ambitions to go to seminary or to lead in some form of ministry in the future. Personally, when it comes to guys like this, I don’t think his conduct is above reproach (1Tim 3:2). I don’t think he is living in a wise, intentional way that honors God (Eph. 5:16). Nor do I think he cares that he is being a stumbling block to many of his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (Rom. 14:13, 1 Cor. 8:9). In the end, I think, when it comes to a guy like this, his testimony is tarnished and he is robbed of his credibility because he’s too busy having a good, carnal time. I think John MacArthur said it best: “one cannot be genuinely “Reformed” and deliberately worldly at the same time. The two things are inconsistent and incompatible.” Ironically, I believe guys like this are slaves to their freedoms.

As far as I can tell, those are the three predominant views that most modern Christians subscribe to. If you can think of any others that don’t fall into those three categories, please let me know. Of course, I’ll be writing more on this topic, so very soon you’ll see a 4th view!

  • Jordon Hufford

    Well, I would agree with you wholly on all three, and I think anyone who bases there ability to do something off of “Christ has freed me to do whatever” has a lack of understanding of what Christian freedom really is at its core (To seek the Kingdom first and foremost).

    I have seen all three of these beliefs regarding alcohol used, and to me (as well as to you) they are flawed in that none of them can truly claim to be exegetical. None of them account for the whole of scripture, and none of them seek to understand it above a blanket reading of proof texts. For example, Paul says, “Be not drunk with wine, whereas in excess, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Many people make the subject of that verse wine, and the reason of that verse “Be not drunk.” But clearly they have grabbed this script out of context. Paul is interested in overall Christian living in the Spirit, and is merely saying seek the Spirit over drunkenness. Another key term in there is “whereas in excess.” I haven’t heard anyone ask the real question of “What to Paul is excess?” And if they do they say Paul is saying don’t drink to whereas in excess, but his wording is don’t be drunk whereas in excess. So is he saying don’t be drunk alot? Don’t get to drunk? Don’t drink to where you’re drunk? What is “in excess” These are questions all three of the above fail to answer. Also what does one do with where Paul offers wine to the widows and hurting (emotionally), or where David said God made wine to make merry the hearts of men? Obviously he is not taking about a glass of wine over dinner. These would be direct dealings with at minimum a recommendation of buzzedness, or causing of buzzedness of others who are hurting. At the same time there is another side altogether, which for sake of space and time, I digress. :)

  • http://www.kenholt.net Ken

    Well said Daniel, I’m looking forward to the next post.

  • Rob Martin

    Nice writing Daniel. I personally agree with #2. I drink occasionally. I don’t see where the Bible says it’s a sin to drink. How can it be a sin if Jesus drank wine? The Bible does say not to be a drunkard and hang around drunkards. It also says Jesus’s first miracle was changing water into wine. Why would he do that if it was going to cause others to sin? The Bible also says that drinking wine is actually good for the stomach and you should drink wine instead of water at times. I believe it is okay to drink alcohol as long as you don’t allow alcohol to take control of your mind and body.

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