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:
- Scripture condemns drunkness/gluttony/infidelity
- Drinking alcohol can lead to drunkenness/enjoying food can lead to gluttony/enjoying sex can lead to sexual infidelity
- Therefore, Scripture condemns all alcohol drinking/ all food consumption/all sexual activity