Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Christians and Alcohol: An Abstinent View. By Mark H. Creech


(Christian Post)  In an article titled, "Christians and Alcohol," posted on January 9 in The Christian Post, Shane Vander Hart made the case for what he believes is the biblical teaching concerning alcohol use and abuse. Vander Hart's personal story of alcohol abuse during his days in college and his decision to quit after becoming a follower of Christ, was, in this author's estimation, where he should have stopped. The rest of his article, unfortunately, made the so-called case for imbibing responsibly.

Vander Hart was right, however, about one point: "This issue will forever be debated by Christians." It's a hot issue. It may come as a surprise to many, but as a Christian activist, whether I am addressing the issue of abortion, gay marriage, pornography, capital punishment, guns, taxes or healthcare, no subject produces as much emotion from readers as this one.

Moreover, the subject is very complicated and difficult. To discover what the Scripture actually says on the matter cannot be ascertained in a cursory approach. One has to dig, really dig. Let me also add that alcohol policy, which is a signature issue for the two organizations I represent, the Christian Action League of North Carolina and the American Council on Alcohol Problems, involves some of the most complex legislation and public-policy codified.



But the question of alcohol consumption, especially for Christians, is a critical one and all-too-often underestimated in its import. Unlike any other social issue our nation has faced, we've had two constitutional amendments on alcohol and its marketing. Furthermore, the states have developed thousands upon thousands of laws to address its problematic nature. These facts alone should refute the claim that it isn't a big deal.

With these thoughts in mind, as well as with the deepest respect for those who may disagree, I want to take up each point made by Vander Hart for moderation and respond with a view for abstinence.

1. Underage drinking is illegal and therefore sinful. It is indeed required that Christians obey the law of the land, therefore, underage drinking is wrong. But to claim that something is wrong simply because it's illegal doesn't make for a strong moral argument. Its legality alone doesn't make it right, nor does it make it acceptable.

In scientific fact, alcohol is a mind-altering drug. Christians who abandon the position of abstinence from alcohol set themselves up for a quandary when it comes to using other mind-altering drugs recreationally. If it is acceptable for a Christian to legally drink, perhaps it is now tolerable to also smoke marijuana where its legal, in places like Washington state and Colorado. After all, if a Christian can moderately take one mind-altering drug (alcohol), then why not another – especially when it's legal? Will some Christians now argue I don't smoke more than one or two joints at a setting?

The safest and wisest position is to abstain from alcohol, marijuana, and any mind-altering drug used recreationally.

2. The Bible prohibits drunkenness and condemns poor behavior as a result of too much to drink. On this point every Christian should be agreed. However, many Christians believe the Bible also prohibits drinking. While the ancient writers did not have a word for alcohol, the Scriptures depict alcoholic wine by its effects. Therefore, in Proverbs 23:29-35 it describes the effects of alcoholic wine, then commands that we not even look upon it, much less to drink it moderately. Proverbs 20:1 refers to alcoholic wine as a "mocker." Condemnation of drunkenness is a given, but in Proverbs 20:1 Solomon points the finger at the commodity as the source of one's folly. 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 contrasts sobriety with drunkenness and directly commands that we be sober. Interestingly, the Greek word for "sober" literally means "wineless." Thus, Jerry Vines, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, rightly argues, "Moderate drinking is moderate intoxication."

It must be understood that in Scripture, "wine" is not synonymous with "alcohol." The biblical words for wine were used generically and referred to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. A similar use of such generic wording in the English language is liquor, cider, punch, and drink. For example, the Bible calls "wine" that which is grape juice (Proverbs 3:10; Isaiah 16:10; Joel 2:24), vinegar (Mark 15:36), and even grapes on the vine (Isaiah 65:8). And of course, it also refers to an alcoholic wine. Jesus referred to both kinds of wine in Matthew 9:17 and called both "oinos" (wine). The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible c. 200 BC) also uses words for wine interchangeably. This also addresses the reason wine is condemned (alcoholic) in some places of the Bible and lauded (non-alcoholic) in others.

Over and again, non-alcoholic wine was called by the name "wine" and was common throughout the year. Contrary to the assertions that unfermented wine could not have been readily available before the days of refrigeration or pasteurization, the truth is the ancients practiced a half dozen or more ways to preserve grape juice and other kinds of fruit juices as either alcoholic or non-alcoholic. They were considerably more resourceful than we often give them credit.

The determination of whether the Bible is speaking about fermented wine or unfermented is the context ... ► Read the full article by Mark H. Creech in Christian Post



Author: Rev. Mark H. Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina Inc ... more



 

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