Thursday, February 24, 2005

To drink, or not to drink?

I know that this post is going to spark much discussion, debate and reflection. I’m no psychic or anything, but I’m fairly certain that we aren’t all going to agree – however, I sincerely desire to see where you guys stand on this issue. This subject has really been a point of deep thought, consideration and study for me during the last year or so. It has challenged me in all areas of my life to study and to consult the Word concerning my beliefs instead of what I was told as a child or what I learned as tradition. At least 10 times in the last few weeks this discussion has come up, with friends, family or on other blogs and so I decided I would break down and address it here and find out the consensus.

My entire life, I was taught that the consumption of any alcohol was sinful. I believed that wholeheartedly and would have willingly taken my belief and a water pistol and stormed Hell. It was never really even an issue that I studied at any depth at all because it was supposedly cut and dry. I accepted that for years – until recently I began to actually investigate what the Bible had to say concerning alcohol. Honestly, I went in looking to prove myself right – I wasn’t at all expecting to have my entire view shaken from its foundation. I kept searching and searching for the verse that prohibited drinking alcohol. When I couldn’t find the verse, I thought surely there must be somewhere that the overarching theme of a passage will show me that alcohol consumption is wrong. Well, as of late, I’m still looking.

One of the arguments I’ve heard against drinking alcohol is that in the New Testament the Gospel writers didn’t know the difference between wine and grape juice. So, places in the text that refers to wine, actually speaks of grape juice. That view falls apart fairly quickly - mainly, because there would be no prohibition against drunkenness if the writers were speaking only of juice. And it’s funny to me because some of the staunchest adherents to this view are supposedly emphatic when it comes to the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture (as I am)? Doesn’t make much sense. And also, when Jesus performed his first public miracle, he turned water into wine. When we read the comments in John 2 concerning this situation, it is very obvious that Jesus didn’t turn the water into Welch’s.

While studying this it has been made even more clear to me that many of our problems in society stem from the abuse of one of God’s gifts. God has given us the wonderful ability to distinguish between thousands of different flavors and enjoy them – in moderation. Certainly, there are people in society who are abusers of food – and the Bible gives harsh warnings against gluttony – but that doesn’t make food in and of itself wrong. Food is a gift, but we have to exercise balance and not over indulge. Sex, in the confines of marriage is beautiful – but outside of marriage, or with the same sex, or forced upon someone, or with a child, or with an animal is perverted and destructive. But just because it can wreak some serious havoc, doesn’t mean that we should avoid it entirely. It means that we should use it in the manner for which it was intended. To say that no one should ever have sex would be to miss out on a gift of God.

You know where I’m going. I had to realize that concerning this issue, I had allowed my Christian sub-culture to shape me more than I had the Word. I was guilty of following the traditions of men and not the Scripture. Personally, I found total abstinence from alcohol to be one of the numerous Christian taboos that goes beyond Scripture. One of those issues where we think it necessary to be holier than Jesus.

I know that this issue is touchy. It is a non-negotiable that drunkenness is a sin – no wondering, no questions, and no middle ground. The abuse of alcohol – which would include addiction and intoxication - is dangerous and the Bible certainly speaks of that clearly – much like it speaks of the misuse of food, sex, money and the like. Another point that is not up for discussion is that there are times when it’s not okay to partake of alcohol – in the presence of someone who has difficulty with moderation or in the presence of someone who you know has a moral issue with it. Most people I know would have a coronary if they saw me take a sip of anything that even had a hint of fermentation – so I wouldn’t do so in front of them. Also, it is perfectly okay for someone, because of reasons of conscience, to abstain – but I don’t think it’s biblical to take that personal conviction and slap it across the board. As Christians, we have to be careful to not lapse into legalism and compile rule upon rule that goes beyond what is written.

Let me know what you guys think…

posted by Rick and Christie