I have to take a break from the book I have been reading in order to respond to an article found in Wesleyan Life by Den Guptill. This is not to attack his character, I still have respect for people who choose not to drink due to the covenant membership requirements found in our Discipline and this man seems quite respectable. What I do not agree with is trying to substantiate it by using poor biblical studies in order to make it look like the responsible form of Christianity. I will list out some of the things he says that are in need of dire peer review. I will also cover some of the issues that I may or may not be against.
(Sources will be listed in asterisks)
1. They drank wine 2000 years ago because there weren’t many options…
This is a tricky claim, so I’ll hit it first. Wine itself is hard to define, since there are references to new wine (tiros) 38 times in the Old Testament. This “wine” would have had less alcohol, although it still had intoxicating capability. Also juice (asis) in the Old Testament actually does exist. Although hard to store, it was an option. It’s even trickier that the term for festivals and celebrations had the connotation of being based around the consumption of wine. The common alternative is milk. There are multiple animals to gain milk from. Two examples would be to use goats or cows. What animal to use would depend on where you are from.* It seems ironic that juice and milk are mentioned by the article as part of the options, since my source says that those two options were available in the days of Christ and even further back into the Old Testament.
Another point is to attack the statement of clean tap water, which is not necessarily true due to the astounding amount of synthetic pesticides used for plants finding their way into tap water all the time with effects lasting for multiple years. This also implies that the people who drank wine in the places that had clean water (which is a fact here and there**) were not faithful.
2. When the Bible speaks of strong drink, it’s referring to unmixed wine…
This is false. According to my source, the “strong drink” is different from wine altogether. It is closer to a beer brewed from barley. So wine is actually still a hands on drink, which is funny, because beer has a lower alcohol content than wine.*** If one is to substantiate this claim, they are going to have to prove it by going into biblical scholarship and deny the common consensus among the scholars.
3. The Alcohol Industry “destroys lives, wrecks marriages, and kills people”…
This is one I can’t disagree with simply put. I have heard how the industry works and how there are macro-brews (large producers of alcohol) that produce a massive amount of alcohol, to which I say shame on them. It’s bad enough that we have a problem with consumption and want more for our buck when the responsible thing to do is to face the facts that a more expensive product sometimes is the more responsible way to go, and that money is needed in places other than our selfish wants. If you drink, I don’t condemn, I have known men that drink that in all honesty I would nominate for sainthood before many that I know that do not drink. But I will say that you should buy responsibly, drink responsibly, and realize that alcohol is like a firearm. Danger is found in ignorance and lack of control. The author is well within his rights to use the fact that alcohol has had connection to death and abuse. I personally do not drink, but I do not connect it with evil. I also do not connect with those party-goers that drink to escape and feel the buzz. As one of my friends in seminary once said, “Drunk people give alcohol a bad name.” That was probably truer than many of us realize.
3. If you so badly want to drink, ask yourself why. And ask yourself what would be missing if you gave it up…
To the ones who are not part of a church body that says not to drink, ignore this part. You obviously are good to go.
This challenge is surprisingly a legitimate question. You do have to ask yourself that question if you are part of an organization that prohibits your consumption of alcohol. I agree that to sign on to an agreement to not drink and turning around to drink is detrimental to the drinker in this case. It’s okay not to drink, and you’re not going to be any less of a man if you do not. I have had people tease me for not drinking, but they will not be able to say I went back on what I said I would do. This is not simply an alcohol issue, but an issue of honor and respect and integrity. If you want to push change and wait, I respect that. If you want to switch denominations, I respect that too. But just be honorable with your promises.
I do not post these points to discount any notion of the Holiness Movements incentive to abstain from alcohol. Nazarites in biblical times were the same thing. They would take upon themselves to abstain, and it was respectable. It is still respectable today. But such vows are holy in that they actually bring one closer to God and others. There are many drinkers who understand this. There are many non-drinkers who do not. Instead of trying to simply substantiate our views so that we may look holier, let’s respect each other and move toward the important things that actually ail society, like lack of responsibility, inclinations to hate, having jealousy, dwelling in greed, and pursuits of violence, as well as the lack of pursuit of God…at least in the Church.
and the saints.
Grace and peace to you all.
*King, Philip J., Lawrence E. Stager; Life in Biblical Israel. Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville. 2001. pg. 101-103.
**King, Stager, Life in Biblical Israel pg. 122-129.
***Green, Joel B., ed.; Scot McKnight, ed.; Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL. 1992. pg. 870-873.