God Gave Wine. What the Bible Says about Alcohol. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

godwine.jpg

There are 3 views for Christians and alcohol: abstention, prohibition, and moderation.

From the book:

  • Moderation: maintains that alcoholic beverages are permitted to Christians if moderately consumed and in a circumspect manner.
  • Abstention: maintains that although Scripture does not expressly forbid alcoholic beverages in toto; however alcohol consumption in our society today is nevertheless imprudent and should not be condoned.
  • Prohibition: maintains that Christians should universally avoid alcoholic beverages as unfit for human consumption, being specifically forbidden by Scripture

I’ve been in the moderation camp for most of my adult (post-college!?) life, but I didn’t really know why. I had never truly studied the issue. Almost every church I’ve been a member of, or sermon I’ve heard while visiting other churches, or pastors and radio shows and/or podcasts, have been much more abstentionist or prohibitionists than moderationists.

The prohibitionist viewpoint that alcohol is forbidden by scripture just rang untrue — there are way too many verses that talk about alcohol, many pointing to moderation as a good thing (especially in the Old Testament/Proverbs), and even Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding celebration. Arguments about wine in the Bible being non-alcoholic seemed vacuous at best.

The abstention line is something that, to me, warranted closer evaluation. Scripture does call us not to cause our brothers to stumble. So, to me, if I am around someone that is an alcoholic or has alcoholic tendencies, or has a strong dislike of seeing anyone consume alcoholic beverages, I would certainly abstain.

Gentry takes the viewpoint of a moderationist, even though he rarely or ever drinks himself. He walks through many verses in the Bible, and shows why they all point to such a view. It is quite easy to follow, and a great study for anyone that wants to dig deeper into this area. The one slight complaint I have is that he often is addressing the view point of one Mr. Reynolds, who is a staunch advocate of prohibition. Sometimes it flows like a strict response to Reynold’s writing. Not that this is a major criticism in anyway, I just felt like it was not always necessary.

I suppose in my quest to read both sides of the story, I should at least find an article (if not a book), on the abstention and prohibition views, though right now, I have no strong desire to do so.

I only have a few quotes from this book:

  • Each of the three Christians positions on the use of wine condemns alcohol abuse and dependence. In fact, Scripture unsparingly condemns drunkenness, frequently and from a variety of angles.

  • Francis Bacon in 1623 wrote “Alonso of Aragon was wont to say in condemnation of age, that age appears to best in four things — old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.”

  • He had a little table which I won’t put here, but basically showed an argument like this, that I found funny:
    1. Scripture condemns drunkness/gluttony/infidelity
    2. Drinking alcohol can lead to drunkenness/enjoying food can lead to gluttony/enjoying sex can lead to sexual infidelity
    3. Therefore, Scripture condemns all alcohol drinking/ all food consumption/all sexual activity
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3 thoughts on “God Gave Wine. What the Bible Says about Alcohol. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

  1. breeves_2000

    Interesting. I’ve done a pretty in depth study on this years back, but had not heard of this book. If ever there was a verse to be taken out of context on this subject, this would be the one!
    Proverbs 31:6&7
    🙂
    So many Christian teachings are based on what I term “selective belief.” Many of these teachings were galvanized during the periods when the various denominations were being formed. I think for a more thorough understanding, one should investigate the original writings and context. Translations and subsequent hermeneutics open the door to more rampant subjectivity.
    Before I get on a long-winded soap box, I’ll finish with my motto for life: “Know what you believe, but more importantly, know WHY you believe it!” – Ben Reeves

    Reply
  2. Steve

    I have two questions. The first is a general question of where does the Bible (God) draw the line at drunkeness? How much under the influence is too much? Does the Bible only mean the “gladden” of our hearts means I have drank enough “wine” to surpass what my liver can metablolize and have it enter my circulatory system, pass the blood/brain barrier and now alter my neurology in certain amounts? With other express sins, the lines are drawn well such as sexual immorality and murder. Especially those two in light of Jesus’ teachings on those from looking at a woman lustfully to having hate in your heart towards another.

    My second question is what does Paul mean in Ephesians 5:18 when he uses the word “muthosko” for drunk intead of “methuo”. The difference being that the first is verb talking about the process the leads to becoming drunk, and the second is also a verb that means your are drunk? By having it contrasted by being under the influence of the Holy Spirit as opposed to under the influence of alcohol, I again reference my first question of where is the line?

    Alcohol effects every body type differently as it pertains to metabolization. So does God care if I “experiment” with alcohol and will he mind if I “accidentally” go over His limit? Does one sin really matter? Never mind the fact that Paul admonishes us to abstain from all APPEARANCE of evil.

    Reply
    1. seanb724 Post author

      Steve, I don’t have the answers to these questions. There was a recent post over at parchment and pen, one of my favorite theological blogs, that may interest you:

      http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/07/how-much-is-too-much-alcohol-and-the-christian/

      Read through the comments there, not just the post, to see all the different views out there!

      I would have to agree with your point about alcohol affecting each body differently, which in turn means you will have to learn on your own where the limit is. Or just follow this sage advice from George Herbert. 🙂

      Drink not the third glasse, which thou canst not tame,
      When once it is within thee; but before
      Mayst rule it, as thou list; and poure the shame,
      Which it would poure on thee, upon the floore.
      It is most just to throw that on the ground,
      Which would throw me there, if I keep the round.

      Reply

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