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.
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.
Even Laz wouldn't ...
No, they're not. From all appearances, you're already a Christian. They're trying to convert you to their man-made un-Biblical cult.
One of the things that has made the modern Church virtually irrelevant today in society is that they have promoted all sorts of things which are not sins into the category of being sinful.
Smoking is a great example. Smoking is not a sin but the modern-day Christian has made it a requirement of all Christians to not smoke. Sure, it’s bad for you but so is eating fast food and I still see people doing that.
I know lots of people who think that drinking is a sin and they brag about how “alcohol has never passed my lips”. I tell them that God is not impressed with that and they get very offended. Besides, if they have ever had nyquil or most types of cough syrup they have had some alcohol.
Christians need to get back to the basics instead of trying to shape society to meet all of their personal wishes — which is what the liberals do.
You are right. The Bible prohibits excess or drunkenness. Christ’s first miracle was turning water into wine, and the scripture does allow that God created the fruit of the vine to make wine which maketh merry the heart of man. It’s not logical the way it has been taken to the extreme. In fact, I’ve often thought that a lot of men would have been better served to be able to sit down in their own homes, at their own tables and have a gracious glass of wine with their meals rather than having to go out to a beer joint and drink out of sight of their wives.
“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. “
Quite true but irrelevant to the discussion.
This is about whether it is a sin to drink, not whether it’s bad for society.
You forgot this one:
David in Psalm 104 God brought forth “wine that maketh glad the heart of man”
And several other verses from the Old and New Testament that go against your moral view which is not Biblical, but cultural.
“They are legends in their own mind when it comes to spiritual purity.”
The thing I love about people like that is they have so much joy in their lives. /sarcasm
Well thank you for all the posted verses. The problem is all of those verses within their context have to do with over indulging, excess, or drunkenness. All of which yes the Bible clearly condemns. We should learn from that and insure that we don’t commit the same sin. For some of us that means abstaining at all times either because of a low tolerance level towards alcohol or simply lack of self control. For others who don’t have any of these issues, it would not be sin to have a glass of wine with dinner.
And with that said, you cannot get around that Jesus turned the water into wine at Cana. That’s just fact and that’s just Scripture. And you can’t suggest that well, it must have been grape juice or cheap wine or some such nonsense which clearly contradict what the Scripture in fact says.
And you can’t then suggest that well, water wasn’t safe to drink back then, blah blah, wine was safer etc. etc. Why? Because Jesus is God. He is the Creator (Colossians 1:16). Safety and health wouldn’t have been an obstacle for Him. He could have created the most wonderful, purist, cleanest, tastiest water you will have ever drank if he had wanted to. He didn’t. Instead he created the BEST WINE.
Think on that.
Growing up in West Texas, there was a saying:
“They have a Babtist bar”.
It meant that they kept the liquor under the sink.