Friday, November 6, 2009
Some Christians think of alcohol as up there with adultery, idol worship, and South Park. I met a fundamentalist who argued that the "wine" drunk in the Bible is not wine at all but actually grape juice (I'm pretty sure Thomas Welch was behind that theory). I simply asked for a scripture reference which bans alcohol. He couldn't provide one. I wasn't lobbying for the alcohol industry, I was simply advocating for a balance of scripture.
When I don't have the answer on a topic, I search for one. Being a nerd, I found the experts of all experts, a conservative Christian oenophile named Daniel Whitfield. Whitfield has made an astoundingly exhaustive study of every alcohol reference in Scripture--all 247 of them. I quote his findings here:
On the negative side, there are 17 warnings against abusing alcohol, 19 examples of people abusing alcohol, 3 references to selecting leaders, and one verse advocating abstinence if drinking will stumble a brother. Total negative references: 40, or 16 percent.
On the positive side, there are 59 references to the commonly accepted practice of drinking wine (and strong drink) with meals, 27 references to the abundance of wine as a example of God's blessing, 20 references to the loss of wine in offerings and sacrifices, 9 references to wine being used as a gift, and 5 metaphorical references to wine as a basis for a favorable comparison. Total positive references: 145, or 59 percent.
[Note: Being an over-achiever, I also found one reference to medicinal alcohol in 1 Timothy 5:23. Maybe my grandma knew a little sumthin' sumthin' if you know what I mean!]
It comes down to the battle between the Bible's gusto for life, and the Bible's weariness of excess. Between it's Epicureanism and Puritanism. You can find both themes in Scriptures. The Epicurean side is best seen in Ecclesiates:
"There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and find fulfillment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God" (Ecclesiates 2:24).
So, what's do you think? How can we have our liberties, yet be mindful of our weaker brothers? Comments, suggestions, stones to throw?