Skip to comments.How Evangelicals Lost Their Way on Alcohol
Posted on 01/12/2011 8:57:47 AM PST by Alex Murphy
In the book Fire From Heaven: Life in an English Town in the Seventeenth Century, the late Yale historian David Underdown tells a story of how the Puritans of Dorchester adopted an unusual tactic to assist the town's poor: they opened a brewery. As in many English towns of the 17th century, problems of overcrowding led many residents and their children to the edge of destitution. But the Puritans' vision of salvation was holistic: the godly would demonstrate their souls' transformation by God in good works. They would not allow their fellow families to go hungry while they had the means to do something about it. So they opened the brewhouse, using proceeds from beer sales to bring poor children to school, instruct them in the faith and in useful vocations, and give them clothes and food. The brewhouse was a wonderful success, and significantly helped to alleviate the problem of poverty in Dorchester.
Fast forward to 2011. Much has changed in some conservative Christians' view of alcohol. Far from being a tool of charity, or even a sign of God's favor, as it was to David in Psalm 104 (God brought forth "wine that maketh glad the heart of man"), many see alcohol as evil, in and of itself. Not a drop is to pass the lips of a believer.
As old-fashioned as this argument may sound to outsiders, Southern Baptists are at one another's throats about it yet again. (Readers should note that I am a Baptist.) Shortly after Christmas, when the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina proposed to "study" whether alcohol consumption could be permissible for church leaders, anti-alcohol Baptists erupted with indignation, insisting that teetotalism is an essential Baptist distinctive. Indeed, the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006 made "total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages" the official policy of the denomination.
Obviously the Puritans of Dorchester did not believe that Christians could not take a drink; no Puritans believed that, contrary to our stereotype of them as history's great killjoys. When did American Christians adopt a stance not just against drunkenness (which is clearly prohibited in scripture), but against drinking per se? The notion of total abstinence from alcohol emerged in the early 19th century, in the midst of new reform movements associated with the Second Great Awakening.
Teetotalism responded to a serious evil, alcohol abuse, which was more prevalent in antebellum America than it is today. Historians estimate that Americans probably drank about five gallons of alcohol per capita per year in those days, more than double today's rate. This was partly because alcoholic beverages were often safer and more nourishing than other options, such as unreliable water supplies. But the high demand also reflected a tendency among many Americansmen, in particularto overindulge. Drunkenness and alcoholism produced its typical fruits, including domestic violence and poverty.
The temperance movement reacted to a real social and medical problem. We should not dismiss it as a product of Victorian prudishness. But then a focus on reducing alcohol abuse morphed into the conviction that it was a sin for any person to take a drink, period. This was a simpler approach, but it is not biblical.
Whatever teetotalers may say, they cannot get around the fact that Jesus turned water into wine, and that Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23 to stop drinking water alone, but to use wine to help his stomach ailments. (Teetotalers will respond that these beverages had very low alcohol content, an assertion not revealed in scripture, either.) A strict ban on alcohol for all Christians is a position of recent vintage (pun intended), with almost no precedent in church history before the 1800s.
Of course, nothing would prevent any Christian, as a matter of conscience, from voluntarily abstaining. There are good reasons to do this: a history of alcoholism in one's family, a wish to maintain one's reputation before others who might object to drinking, or a simple distaste for alcoholic drinks. I have a number of Christian friends who abstain for one or more of these reasons.
But imposing abstinence from alcohol as a non-negotiable behavioral standard for all Christians is a moral requirement unknown to scripture. It also causes unnecessary fights among conservative Christians. Evangelicalsand Baptists more than anyonewill no doubt continue to squabble about these kinds of non-essential issues. And to the extent that they do, they will communicate that the Christian faith is mainly good for fostering pickiness and backbiting. Their churches will also go on losing members. Personally, I'd rather throw in my lot with the loving, charitable, and beer-peddling Puritans of Dorchester.
....Obviously the Puritans of Dorchester did not believe that Christians could not take a drink; no Puritans believed that, contrary to our stereotype of them as history's great killjoys. When did American Christians adopt a stance not just against drunkenness (which is clearly prohibited in scripture), but against drinking per se? The notion of total abstinence from alcohol emerged in the early 19th century, in the midst of new reform movements associated with the Second Great Awakening.
I never understood probhibition by christians.. What was Jesus first miracle?
Anyone who believes that the Bible expressly prohibits the consumption of alcohol does not understand their Bible. It merely prohibits drunkeness. Not drinking is fine if that’s your choice, but to create a commandment where none exists...well the Lord has said “teachers” will be held to a higher standard in Heaven...
What gets me is how some are so willing to lie about the history of alcohol including its relevance in the Bible simply because they can’t handle their own weaknesses. IMHO, it is about control, nothing more, nothing less.
A person who abstains will never become the drunk that abuses his kids.
And didn’t the Puritans have some other problems??? I mean, these are not the people to emulate, are they.?
One must also consider the technology of the day, and the important role alcohol played in daily life.
* No refrigeration - cooking with wine/beer helped cover up the smell of meat that while still’good’ was beginning to smell and taste ‘ripe’.
* Mixing a little wine in the water, killed both parasites as well as other bugs that could cause disease. Bear in mind, a city may get water from the river; but just a few miles upstream cattle crossed the river - adding contamination to the town’s drinking water.
* Dressing a wound with bandages soaked in beer/wine had an anticeptic effect.
* Washing clothes and bedding with alcohol to kill lice and fleas
* A little ‘buzz’ helps you sleep through the night, ignoring misquitoe, flea and bed-bug bites
* Wine/beer store very well, where water goes stagnant quickly.
If a person has inner demons that gives him or her the propensity to abuse his children, he will do it whether he is sober or drunk.
But the day I saw that my in-laws bought a margarita maker, I breathed a sigh of relief.
“...well the Lord has said teachers will be held to a higher standard in Heaven...”.
People actually teach drinking?
Prohibition was, at one time, a logical step to address alcohol abuse. At the time widespread availability of safe drinking water and other beverages was not common. And, for certain people who just can't drink in moderation, it is still useful.
But to insist one must abstain from alcohol 100% to be considered Christian is a dogma no less than some of those who claim one must adhere to the majority view of the Trinity (or insert your other favorite dogma here) in order to be considered a Christian.
Jesus Christ alone will determine who passes the Christian test, not any organized church or extreme fundies who appoint themselves to that role.
“A person who abstains will never become the drunk that abuses his kids.”
I know a teetotaler that beat his wife to death with a fire poker. Deacon in a Church.
It’s irrelevant to the discussion.
People are assholes or they aren’t.
1 Timothy 5:23
Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, so if you have a pre-disposal to be violent, your ability to NOT act on your violent tendencies is lowered. You need not look very far to see that abused children report that their beatings usually took place when Daddy had been drinking.
People CHANGE when they are drunk. People will freely do things when they are drunk - that they would never seriosly consider doing when they are sober.
I grew up in a teetotaling home, a Baptist one. I didn’t have to worry about drunkenness, but I found a false sense of purity and righteousness in the church because of what they avoided, like dancing, etc. I eventually found my way to the calvinists who are more closely aligned to the Puritans; I am much more comfortable there. No, they are not perfect, but I value their emphasis on looking within and being aware of inner sinfulness rather than avoiding certain practices as a path to holiness. Their emphasis is on God Himself through Christ rather than their own actions as the way to holiness.
They would take out four small saucers and put a live worm in each one as the kids crowded around. Each saucer was filled with a different beverage, plain water, milk, a fruit or vegetable juice and whiskey. The worms in the other three saucers would swim around while the one in the whiskey saucer would shrivel and die.
The lady would then ask the kids what the demonstration proved. In nearly every case, they would respond it would show whiskey was bad for you.
When the WCTU came to my Dad's class, however, a little boy in the back raised his hand and answered "Drink plenty of whiskey and you'll never have to worry about having worms."
Jesus Christ alone will determine who passes the Christian test, not any organized church or extreme fundies who appoint themselves to that role.
Do you yourself hold to the "majority view", or to some other view?
A person who doesn't have kids won't abuse them either.
I'm not trying to be flippant, but the drinking isn't the root cause of the the abuse; rather, it's the man.
To your other point about Puritans not being the people to emulate, you have seemingly refuted your first point. First, you wish people to emulate a particular behavior so as to avoid certain outcomes (namely, child abuse). But you go on to say that we shouldn't emulate Puritans because of (unnamed) 'problems'.
Sorry, but I just don't get it...
I have two fundamentalist coworkers who berate me about drinking (I’m Catholic so I must be a drunk). BTW they are so fundie they think Rev. Billy Graham is a communist.
But whenever I mention the wedding at Cana they fall into sullen silence or insist Jesus turned water into grape juice. But the chief steward criticized the bridegroom for “saving the best wine until now” because by now the guests were too snockered to tell the difference. And if what he tasted had turned out to be nothing but grape juice, he would have said “I quit!” and stormed out.
Then, my evangelists conclude that of course the chief steward thought the water-made-wine was the best he had ever tasted because Jesus’ divine nature would allow nothing less.
Google “the grape juice myth” for more insight. BTW, the Mormon prohibition on alcohol is strictly a 19th century thing.
Jews do not recognize Jesus as Messiah.
Protestants do not recognize the Pope as Vicar of Christ
Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store.
“The use of wine, and of all intoxicating drinks, was solemnly forbidden to the priests under the Mosaic law, when engaged in the performance of their sacred duties; Leviticus 10:9-10. The same was the case among the Egyptian priests.
Clarke; compare notes on 1 Timothy 3:3. It is not improbable that the same thing would be regarded as proper among those who ministered in holy things under the Christian dispensation. The natural feeling would be, and not improperly, that a Christian minister should not be less holy than a Jewish priest, and especially when it is remembered that the reason of the Jewish law remained the same - ‘that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and clean and unclean.’”
My takes also:
Jesus apparently drank enough to be accused of being a drunkard (Luke 7:33-35)
Nazirites in the Bible were Samson, Samuel & John the Baptist. Nazirites were forbidden to cut their hair or consume alcohol. Question: If it was taboo for all to consume alcohol,what purpose did the Nazirite vow serve?
On the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on the disciples, the disciples were accused of being drunk on new wine. Peter responded to the charge. He could have said, “We don’t drink wine”, but he didn’t. He essentially said, “Are you crazy? It’s only nine in the morning!”
A person who abstains will never become the drunk that abuses his kids.
Theres plenty who abuse their kids without the drink...
at least the drunk has an “excuse”
its not the drink that causes abuse...
I would have read the sign and asked, “Is that a promise?”
Perhaps so, but the addition of alcohol into a family is never a positive thing, not ever.
Genesis 19:32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
Genesis 19:33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
Deuteronomy 29:6 Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.
Proverbs 20:1 ¶Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
Judges 13:4 Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
Isaiah 28:7 But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
As a former Southern Baptist-—and a complete teatotaler-—I agree. The Bible is clear on wine, and all the proscriptions are against drunkenness, not having a drink. I just hate the taste of alcohol, the way my brother-in-law can’t stand the case of coffee—but drinks plenty of beer.
I am a Baptist...who does not drink. It is by choice, not the Baptist law. There isn’t much the Baptist don’t do today that is considered sin...we gamble,lie,cheat, have affairs....I suppose even some of us are murders.
I think in this day, the question should be, as a Baptist, do you really know the Lord. Do you love Him? Dr. McGee said that Christianty is a love affair. Have we ask Him to help us truly love Him as Lord of our lives? He will help us love Him as we ought.
Habakkuk 2:15 ¶Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
16 Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the LORD’S right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory.
My theory :) :
I think that Modern thinking—that of Locke, Aquinas, Montesquieu, Aristotle—the logic, reason and science which was the basis of our Constitution and the basis of all rational thinking at that time in Europe—is being destroyed and eliminated by the Postmodern German philosophy that originated in the 19th century.....based in the Kantian-Hegelian-Marxian-Nietzsche mold if you combine it all and create this godless society which will throw out the logic and reason of all the modern thinkers that based their common sense on Natural Law Theory.
There is no common sense in the thinking of elites (media) and people writing curricula—those who form the “thinking” of our children.
Of course, there are some people, like me, who were so grounded in love by parents and a Catholic upbringing(you are special and unique because you are a child of God), that I never ACCEPTED the godless Marxist paradigm—of, no logic. I (to me) seem to have tremendous logic and common sense. I am grounded and tied to Natural Law Theory.
Stay with me. Natural Law theory is based on a
Higher Power, and, the atheists had to destroy that Christian paradigm, so the Progressive/atheists since the 1800’s have co-opted the ideas of universities—and through it—their COMPLETE insertion and conditioning into Marxism ideology—(pragmatism/godlessness/materialism). ALL who get degrees are immersed in this ideology and if they aren’t accepting of it—they get the bad grades or don’t get into the elite schools and the cushy jobs of writing curricula like Ayers.
They inserted the ideology of immorality/godlessness into our schools to “mold” the ideas of the young which actually repudiate Natural Law Theory (and a God). It is like Buckley said in Man and God at Yale in 1951—by the time these people graduate from Yale (a once Christian college) they are turned into an atheist, collectivist. They don’t even understand why and their parents (unknowingly) are paying for the outrage.
Anyhow, I have researched curricula and OBE is designed to PREVENT the acquiring of knowledge and the desired “outcome” is to decide everything with “gut feeling” without any knowledge to back up the opinion.
This is intentionally put into our curricula by Progressive/Marxists.
So, in short, logic and reason is never used anymore in deciding anything. Oliver Wendell Holmes inserted the Progressive/Marxian non-logic to kill moral thinking into our legal system in the early 1900s. He and his friends whose thinking was formed by the Universities which had been invaded by the Postmodern Philosophers.
Logic and reason is not allowed in a political correct world—PC is a product of the Cultural Marxists—Gramsci, Lukacs and Marcuse.
Aristotle—The Father of Logic— was kicked out of curricula. He was all about virtue being between two extremes. So, you would think that some drinking is fine....the idea that people can have no control over their actions is actually not very Christian.
As long as you live in the flesh, the ONLY righteousness you will ever have is that which is imputed from Christ.
Often in our discussions, journalists refer to ordinary evangelical believers as evangelists as if the roughly 70 million conservative Protestants in America were all traveling preachers like Billy Graham and Luis Palau or, more to the point, televangelists like Jim Bakker and Jimmy [Swaggart]. Hey, arent all evangelicals really pretty much like these last two, or rather as many reporters tend to see them scandal-prone limelight seekers with ambitions to impose a repressive Christian moral order on all America? Other journalists simply cannot pronounce evangelicals at all. They get confused and flustered, and after a few uncomfortable tries at evangelics and evangelicalists they give up and resort to referring to evangelicals simply as them. These are the knowledge-class professionals who are supposedly informing millions of readers about religion in America.
-- from the thread Attack of the Evangelicalists!
Fundamentalist: A term created during the turn-of-the-20th-century Protestant church splits to define those who held to the fundamentals of Christianitythe inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus and his literal resurrection from the dead. The term is now considered pejorative. (Wheaton College philosophy professor Alvin Plantinga famously observed, The full meaning of the term can be given by something like stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine.)
-- from the thread New Kids In The Flock
"I find it amusing that it was Calvinists and Presbyterians who came up with the "Five Fundamentals" (where the perjorative "fundamentalist" comes from) as an ecumenical tool to find common ground with Christians of all persuasions (including Catholics and Orthodox). I myself can find fruitful, common ground with any and all Trinitarian Christians (Trinitarianism being my personal "outermost circle" for defining Christianity."
-- Alex Murphy, September 17, 2010
No, I think that’s wrong.
My younger brother has problems with alcohol. Recently, due to a violent episoded with his first wife, that I witnessed and had to interfere in, I tried to get him committed. Frankly, I thought he was bi-polar or something. He was insane.
Turns out, after a 10 minute psychological evaluation, it was determined that he was merely alcoholic, and so the State of Alabama had no resources to treat him. His eldest daughter asked the pschologist, “What happens after he kills someone?”. He said, “There’ll be plenty of resources available then”.
Here’s the thing. His first wife told me that he had never beaten her. That he only cheated on her under while under the influence. I can believe the first assertion, but I don’t know about the second.
But anyway, by the time he got married again, he seems to have been willing to beat his wife. Of course, it probably didn’t help that she also had a problem with the sauce, and actually was diagnosed as bi-polar.
But anyway, as his first wife told his two eldest daughters once, “Your father didn’t just get up one morning and decide to be a full raging drunk”.
The behavior seems progressive, in my observation.
Alcoholism is a real problem in this world. And drinking in excess causes all sorts of problems, not the least of which is lowering the immune system response when germs attack and washing away the protective mucosa of the throat and stomach (why smoking when drinking, especially drinking hard liquor, will up the odds of mouth, throat and stomach cancer ... just look at Christopher Hitchens or Michael Douglas). But a little wine helps with digestion, and a beer will help the flora of the bowel. Besides, wine tastes good with cheeses and dipping veggies.
And what's the actual rate of "abstention" - and of alcohol problems - among those who preach teetotalism, rather than preaching moderation?
"...The Protestant fundamentalist churches, which have no culturally defined role for alcohol, i.e., those which advocate abstinence, have the highest probability rate for drinking pathologies. Of these groups, the southern Baptists have the highest drinking pathology probability rate. The probable reason for this is that they isolate attitudes toward drinking from other inhibitory and controlling aspects of the personality.... [These conditions] necessitate that drinking be learned from dissident members of the group or members of other groups who may suggest and reinforce utilitarian drinking attitudes." French and Bertoluzzi, "The Drunken Indian Stereotypes," p. 17.
I’m Baptist, and part of the SBC, and I get some odd looks at times if I mention drinking a glass of wine. However, scripture is the rule to look to, not the Southern Baptist Convention.
What drives me nuts is grape juice for the Lord’s Supper - talk about ignoring scripture!
That would seem the most likely reason. Wouldn't it be better to simply say, if you can't stop at one drink, you shouldn't have the first!
The ban on alcohol for the problems of the few seems an awful lot like the left trying to ban guns...
I think I would counter that sign with,
“Eyes that can see will never kiss thee”. Or
“It would take a lot more than hooch to give you a smooch.”
Now give us some verses from the New Testament
What drives me nuts is grape juice for the Lords Supper - talk about ignoring scripture!
What about plain water ???
A guy who beats his wife will do it drunk or sober...
dont blame the alcohol...
Plenty of them know just what they are doing...
and they are NOT out of control...
It is just barely possible that I was being the teensiest bit sarcastic about referring to my coworkers as fundamentalists and evangelists. They are legends in their own mind when it comes to spiritual purity.
Maybe “fanatics” would describe them more accurately. They declare the Pope to be the devil, and boast that in a one on one debate each could administer severe theological beatdown to the current Pontiff. I’ve offered to fly them to the Vatican. One way.
In effect, they are trying to convert me to Christianity. Neither gives Christmas gifts to his children, calling that practice “pagan” and “of the devil”.
I have a calendar in my shop featuring paintings that depict the Infant Jesus and Mary His Mother, by various Renaissance artists. Drives them bonkers.
Yours if you favor them.
Maybe in a lot of cases. I don’t think so in this one. He definitely progresses in his other failings, so why not this one.
A 100% blanket statement is almost always wrong. but only almost.
I was raised in a church that forbade alcohol, and to this day I don’t drink.
Over many years, I finally came to the conclusion that drinking is not sin, and I refuse to make my rule for me apply to you. At this late stage of life I see no reason to introduce something into my life that has never been a part of it, and I recognize all the pitfalls that can come from alcohol. But I also recognize that most people are able to enjoy a beer on a Saturday afternoon and no harm no foul.
So, my attitude is that the alcohol-free life is probably better, but its a mistake to make a fetish of it. There are Christians the world over who don’t have any misgivings about it (I’ve heard of Brits holding bible-study at the pub). We have a lot of freedom in Christ.