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I Love Beer: One Christian’s Take on Alcohol Part I

July 9, 2008

I really do.  Good beer.  I’m not talking about Budweiser or Coors, but the stuff from Europe:  Guiness, Paulaner, Corsendonk– dark, thick, smooth.  Delicious.  In the summertime I also really enjoy a Corona with lime.  Sitting on the beach, getting burnt by the sun, and drinking a corona with my Dad and brother are some of my favorite memories.  Of course I also grew up in the heart of the Bible Belt in South Georgia, so my enjoyment of this particular beverage has not come without a few odd looks or discouraging glances.

As a Christian, I take seriously the Bible’s view of alcohol (commonly called wine).  Now let me just say this first.  I heard as a young boy and teenager that the wine in the bible was not fermented; it was more like grape juice.  While I think that was a pretty creative ploy (and I know/hope that it wasn’t intentional), it is simply not true. 

A couple examples should suffice:  Jesus turned the water into the “best” wine at the wedding right?   It was common at weddings to serve out the best or strongest wine at the very beginning of wedding reception.  Why would they do this?  Well, if you’ve have stronger wine in the beginning, you will be intoxicated enough to not notice the not so good wine served at the end.  You won’t care that the wine is not good, because you will have already been partying with the good stuff!  So when Jesus turns the water into wine, the host of the wedding comments on how “good” this wine served at the end is.  He couldn’t believe that they would save the best (a.k.a. the stuff that can get you drunk) until the end of the party.  Also note that the wine was in danger of being gone.  Now,  I’m pretty sure that we’re not talking about one bottle of sipping wine disappearing here, but more likely gallons upon gallons.  And Jesus refilled them!    Isn’t it interesting that Jesus would do this?  I wonder if He would have made such “good” wine if he thought that in it of itself it was morally “evil.”

Secondly, throughout Paul’s letters, he warns people to not “be drunk with wine.”  I will talk more about this in Part II, but isn’t it kind of odd that he would give that warning if you couldn’t in fact get drunk with wine?  To get drunk with unfermented grape juice, you would have to drink yourself unconscious by consuming too much liquid.  It’s not likely that’s what he was referring to. 

But the Bible has a lot to say about alchohol, and as I said, I take it seriously.  There are around 247 references in the Bible concerning wine and strong drink in the Bible.  That’s a lot of talk about drinking in our inspired scriptures!  Did you know that of all the references to alchohol in the bible, just 40 references are negative?  That’s only 16%.  On the flip side, there are 145 references in the Bible that put alcohol in a positive light– that’s 59% with the rest being nuetral.  So the Bible has an overwhelmingly positive affirmation for alchoholic beverages!

Let me give a few examples.

Psalm 104:14-15 “He [God] causes grass to grow for the livestock, and provides crops for man to cultivate, producing food from the earth, wine that makes man’s heart glad…”

Here David gives credit to God for the wine that makes our heart’s glad.

In Isaiah 25, we have a prophetic word of the Restoration when God will consummate His kingdom and finalize His reign upon the earth.  It sounds very similar to Revelation as in verse 8 Isaiah says that God would “destroy death forever…and wipe the tears from every face” (sound familiar?).  But in verse 6 Isaiah states:

“The Lord of hosts will prepare a feast for all the peoples on this mountain [Zion], a feast of aged wine, choice meat, finely aged wine.” (!!)

Now whatever symbolism we apply to these verses, it can’t be said that Isaiah [and God] view finely aged wine in a negative light.  It’s used to explain how wonderful salvation will be!

One more:  when Solomon attempts to explain the the love of the Beloved from the Shulamite (may we compare this to the unfathomable love of Christ?), what does he compare it to??

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— For your love is better than wine.” (Song of Solomon 1:2)

We may go too far in assuming that this is related to God’s love, but in any case, the writer chooses to compare love with wine! 

These are simply a few examples among many that show that alchohol itself, far from being morally repugnant, is a blessing and gift from God, a symbol of salvation and restoration, and a qualitative measure of a devoted love.

However, as with many of the beautiful, wonderful blessings of God, the things that God gives as a blessing can be distorted and used as a source of destruction when placed in the wrong hands.  It is this idea that prompted my rant on alchohol in the first place, and because of the length of this post, must wait for Part II.

Because of the provacativeness of this topic, would you please withold criticism until I’ve posted my complete thoughts on it?  You  might be surprised what I have to say in Part II.

Oh yeah, and if you happen to stumble onto this post and are struggling with alchohol or looking for a good excuse to go drink (especially you teenagers! 🙂 ) would you wait a day or two and read my next post?  There’s a balance to all of this.

And no, I’m not drinking a beer as I write this!

Until then, blessings.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. Sam permalink
    July 10, 2008 2:34

    Great post, man! That’s so interesting about the percentage of scriptures in favor of legitimate alcohol consumption. Can’t wait to hear the other side of your argument…

    Sam

  2. July 10, 2008 4:13

    Jonathan, Jonathan, Jonathan…………You sound so much like me!
    Listen my friend, all Alcohol contains enough strength/power to hit your health BAD !
    My late husband & I were NOT binge drinkers nor drunks, never unemployed or even any sick days off work. Very health, happy, hard working, and loved to drink with friends, family, work associates & each other.
    After nearly 30 yrs of that, it hit our health bad. And yet some people have done & are doing the same until 95 yrs of age!
    There is NO ryme or reason to it at all !!
    And, yes, that was one of my favourite lines, ‘Christ turned the water into wine’………..
    Well, he did, yes, but it was of such a LOW amount of actual toxic alcohol in it, that it really cannot compare to what we have now a days !
    If you would like to know the full story, just let me know & I’ll send it to you.
    JUST BE CAREFUL, please…………….
    It destroyed not only our health but our lives ! And I would not want anyone else to have this same wretched problem !! Or any other, either !
    /sjg

  3. jonathangroover permalink*
    July 10, 2008 10:43

    Hey Sheila,

    Thanks for commenting and for your concern. It’s obvious from your post that this has been a tough issue in your life, and for that reason alone, I would not dare to offer a rebuttal for the sake of winning an argument.

    And you’re right, we have more “toxic” today than back then (but their’s would not have been non-alcoholic…it would have had a 10-14% like any fermented wine today)if you’re referring to hard liquors.

    I would love to hear your story. You can email me at jbgroover@hotmail.com. I would also appreciate it if you would stick around for my next post or two. My only desire in this post is to paint what our scriptures say positively about alchohol and the way we may view it in a right context.

    That would never negate the inherent dangers in the abuse of alcohol. But neither does the abuse negate the goodness that God might have intended it to have.

    Blessings.
    Jonathan

  4. July 10, 2008 5:01

    I’m proud of you for not drinking as you said in part I and in part II, too.
    You’re the man!

    your buddy,

  5. jonathangroover permalink*
    July 11, 2008 7:27

    Sam

    Thanks for the encouragement and the email!! 🙂 I was rolling!

  6. July 25, 2008 3:19

    my sister to dring is a sin jesus did not make wine with alcohol the wine he made it was just sweat juce read habakuka2:15that miracle was only made4 to make person happy but i dont thing people use to be happy when they are drunk becouse they stsrt to do what they are not suppose to do when they are sobber and its clear in revelation that out side will be drankard if you are a drunk the sprit of God is not in you.

  7. Harry Lee permalink
    September 8, 2008 9:07

    I too have questions about Christianity and drinking. Much of the religious crowd that is against drinking are probably secret imbibers. Smoking is the same, they probably wouldn’t do it on church grounds but thats another subject. I personally go along with the Apostle Paul when he said let no man judge you in what you eat or drink. Paul also said if eating meat would cause a weaker brother to stumble, he would no longer eat meat. I disagree with Paul on this, I would prefer to educate my weaker brother than to miss out on a good steak now and then. Physical life is to short to be under the judgment of another human being, yet we judge each other all the time.

    • July 8, 2010 9:01

      I am a home brewer but drink VERY little. I enjoy a glass of wine now and then and a couple of beers at home. I turned my small garage (2/3) into an office and brewery. Man room, you could say. Bible study also. The other part is for producing ceramics. There are now whole churches the brew their own. Moderation in anything is the key. Some should never drink alcohol. I started a brewers club with Christians and non. Men and women. No drunks allowed. We now have 107 members in one year. We also help the community. I went 26 yrs. without a drink untill I discovered a little is very good for you. A new study has said beer has 4 time more vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxcidents than dark wine. In 6 and 1/2 years, I will be 80 so judging me has no effect. Enjoying my later days.
      http://www.rimcountryhomebrewer.com

  8. February 20, 2009 6:55

    Hi
    I heard that all the wine back in jesus’s time was fermited. It was not untill Welches as in grape juice figured out how to keep it from fermitting that we had “grape juice”.It was just as strong as it is today . It fermits naturally as do several other things also.
    Sincerely
    Tom

  9. jonathangroover permalink*
    February 20, 2009 8:29

    Hey Tom,

    Thanks for stopping by. You’re right. The above two examples I hope made it clear that there was no way the wine could have been alcoholic. Otherwise people couldn’t have gotten drunk! Thanks for the info.

  10. August 30, 2009 4:39

    Thanks for writing this great blog I really enjoyed.

  11. John Hailes permalink
    January 14, 2011 11:28

    Hey, I am unsure about some of what you are saying. Having read both posts I don’t think you have taken a look at the scriptures under the English language, ie. the original forms, hebrew and greek. In the new testament the greek word for wine doesn’t differenciate between grape juice or alcohol, don’t you think that is a big stumbling block for us in our understanding?

    I also find it interesting that you assume the best wine would be the strongest. In a wedding feast that would last a whole week why would they drink the strongest wine first? I would argue that in the culture of the time, the best wine was the least alcoholic and the best taste. The host didn’t want the best wine wasted on people who were drunk and couldn’t taste the difference in quality. I think it is very nieve to just assume it was alcoholic, especially as if it is then Jesus is openly encouraging drunkenness which is a sin.

    • Doug Pritchett permalink
      March 9, 2012 5:52

      There was simply no way to store grape juice without it becoming an alcoholic beverage in Bible days. There was no refrigeration capability in those days. The passover occured in the spring and grapes are harvested in the fall in that region (just like they are here).

      It is physically impossible for Jesus to have drank grape juice in the spring at passover. It simply had to contain alcohol – there was no other way to preserve it. Sorry but the wine Jesus drank had to contain alcohol.

  12. openti permalink
    March 19, 2011 5:16

    well…as a christian…can u choose to take maybe beer once in a while?i’ve heard beer is healthier than soft drinks like coca-cola..
    and is it only a sin when u get drunk with alcohol…?

  13. Doug Pritchett permalink
    March 9, 2012 6:14

    Legalism has woven itself into the very fabric of Christianity today. While Jesus plainly says in Mark 7:15 and 7:18 that nothing that you take into your body can defile you, today many Christians are certain you are a sinner if you drink alcohol. The Pharisees had questioned Jesus about his disciples not doing the ceremonial hand washing before eating that was required by the Jewish Oral law (laws that Jesus frequently broke), but instead of answering the hand washing question Jesus made an all-inclusive statement that nothing we take into our bodies can defile us. For me that is the end of the debate, since we take alcohol into our bodies it can not be a sin according to the Lord.

    Moderation is important when dealing with alcoholic beverages, alcohol causes many problems when it is abused – but drinking alcohol is not a sin.

    • Xander permalink
      May 5, 2012 2:41

      Doug- I think you have a conviction with alcohol. What the heck are you saying!!! Why don’t we just smoke pot in moderation too. People keep putting lips stick on the pig. Alchol is a drug just like all other drugs. Do we tell our kids it’s okay if you smoke crack but just do it in moderation. God wants to use us so we can expand his kingdom.

      • jonathangroover permalink*
        May 5, 2012 11:39

        Coffee is a drug too Xander. Just sayin…:)

  14. Paul permalink
    September 3, 2013 2:49

    I sat in a service the other day with a visiting missionary who said, “the people of country X think their saved but they still drink and chew a certain root (can’t remember the name of the root)” As a born-again, spirit filled Christian who occassionally drinks, I found that to be a silly and offensive statement. Am I saved because I give up drinking or because I believe and confess Christ (retorical)? That seems to be what many churches are teaching. I went several years without touching alcohol. As an Air Force Fighter Pilot I was surrounded by alcohol and highly encouraged to indulge, yet I refrained.
    Maybe drinking isn’t God’s best but its not forbidden and I decided the world wasn’t going to end if I had a beer or 2.

Trackbacks

  1. The Wine that Mocks: One Christian’s Take on Alchohol Part II « You can take everything I have…just don’t leave my side
  2. Some Picture Blogs « You can take everything I have..
  3. Book Review of Alchohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence « You can take everything I have..

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