Ahhh. Few mixed drinks are simpler, and to me, few more satisfying.
There, out in the open, if it wasn’t before. I drink, and not just the occasional small glass of wine, or bread dipped in communion wine, but I enjoy Guinness (disliking most other beers), wine, and particularly spirits. Gin and tonic/grape juice (don’t know why but I tried and it was good)/citrus juices, Martinis, spiced rums (generally with coke), Long Island Iced Teas, whiskey, brandy, port, good wines leaning towards Shiraz and Merlot. I’ve tended bar, andenjoy it.
Actually, if I may digress from my main thesis, mixing drinks, and exploring new (to me) and coming up with different concoctions, that I, and especially others, enjoy, is something I find great joy and delight in. Maybe it’s the kid in me who wanting to mix things together (which mixed itself with a penchant for explosions lead to an interest in chemistry, but, another another story…), or maybe it’s something I love that is an avenue for connecting with others, and something that could be used to serve and maybe be an opening for the gospel?
Anyway. So I drink. I’m also a fervent (or desire to be, for as much as I am not) Christian. I believe the Bible.
But can I justify this from the Bible? Does God authorise, encourage, discourage or prohibit my consumption of alcohol? I believe so.
To be open right off the bat, I’m going to refer to a series of posts by Preston Sprinkle over at Eternity’s faculty blog. His research and exegesis are undoubtedly far more thorough and articulate than my own. And I’ll start how he does, but outright saying that the Bible condemns drunkenness and enslavement to alcohol (or anything else except Him, for that matter).
Now, let’s not go straight to the Bible, but let’s look at Church history, and alcohol(ic) history a little.
Going back to the Middle Ages, the church, and monasteries were major producers and distributors of alcohol. One thing Martin Luther loved about his wife was that she was a skilled brewer, and he apparently even advocated occasions of heavy drinking (I’ll assume on a reading of Proverbs 31:6). If we journey forward to some of the earliest Americans – fleeing what they considered licentious and sinful Europe as well as persecution – part of their reason for stopping at Plymouth was that they were running short of “victuals…especially, our beer” – and apparently a brewery was the first permanent structure erected, before a church. Arthur Guinness and family started a brewery, with the express purpose of providing an alternative to gin as a beverage, as a nutritious dietary supplement especially for the poor, to whom much of the profits from the enterprise were used to aid and educate (if you’re interested, the book The Search for God and Guinness is an excellent read).
I write this to illustrate that, before we get down to the Bible, our forefathers in the faith, and the traditions handed down, did not disavow alcohol, but rather prized it, not finding within their interpretation of the scriptures conviction against it’s production and consumption. This should inform us, and make us wary of holding to drastically different doctrine.
The next myth is that alcohol consumption in the Bible and later was condoned as a healthful alternative to “dirty water” and not as a worthy beverage in itself. This is funny – who knows that without water we get dehydrated and die pretty easily? Well water would have been pretty good back before preindustrial times, and in the Middle East wells were prized. Beersheba with it’s sweet well that David’s men snuck past the Philistines to get him water from? Obviously not bad water, and the goal the Australian Light Horse needed to get to in WW1 to water their horses, incidentally opening up Palestine for the allies. Ditto into the Middle Ages. However the normal situation was, castles did not survive months or years long sieges without a good water supply.
If we look at the Old Testament, we can find in a nutshell, that scripture not only condones, but actively encourages consumption of alcohol, that it was considered a blessing…
But this has gotten long, so I’m going to make this a series. Here’s my rough plan:
Old Testament – alcohol as blessing, encouraged.
OT prophecy for post Jesus’ return/consumption in the Kingdom.
Wine in Bible times – was it even alcoholic, could it get you drunk?
New Testament – Jesus’ consumption, Cana, Paul’s view and Timothy’s tummy.
Stumbling? Materialism etc – not an irrelevant issue, but possibly overblown. I can have two shirts or cars and not cause people to stumble over wealth/possessions, right? Drinking to celebrate and glorify Him, rather than to get drunk.
I may combine or eliminate some of these, maybe move consideration of Cana/Acts into a discussion of whether wine in Bible times contained alcohol, but we’ll see.
I’ll leave you with a quote from one of Preston’s articles:
– While the Bible condemns drunkenness and enslavement, it never says that the best way to not get drunk or enslaved to alcohol is to never drink.
This is important. If God knows the best way to be sanctified (I’m assuming He does), and if He never said that the best way to avoid drunkenness is to never drink, then logically, those who advocate abstaining from alcohol as the best way to avoid drunkenness are trumping God’s wisdom for our sanctification. (If that sentence was confusing, then read it again slowly. It’s important.) This may sound bold, but I don’t know of another logical conclusion. I’m assuming, with Paul, that the Scriptures are sufficient for our sanctification, and yet the Scriptures never advocate abstinence as the wiser way to avoid drunkenness (or enslavement).
We’ll come back to that point another time. I’ll probably even quote it again, because it is succinct, and vitally important. The same point is valid for our walk with God in general – God knows best, and we should pay attention to what He does and doesn’t say, before we start adding rules for ourselves.