Previously I wrote about the history of the two wine theory (see link above).
I don’t discuss this issue terribly often because my fellowship is teetotalling. I don’t like to offend unnecessarily, nor do I want to be ‘marked’ as a drunkard and a winebibber, although I’d be in good company.
But when I do, somebody will usually ask me why I care. Am I a closet lush? Am I seeking permission for licence? Aren’t I worried about causing another to stumble? Am I trying to encourage people to get drunk? And, even if I’m right, just because it might be true that moderate wine drinking is not condemned in the Bible, don’t I agree that it’s not wise for everybody?
Why do I care? Let me count the ways. Facts matter to me. Sound, accurate, logically consistent reasoning matters to me. Lies always matter to me. Not teaching as doctrine the precepts of men really matters to me, and the idea that the Bible condemns all wine drinking is definitely a precept of men, not a God-given doctrine. That’s why.
If you live pretty much within the bubble of the two wine theory churches, you don’t realize that many of your arguments are circular (Jesus couldn’t have turned water into real wine because then he would have been participating in social drinking is not a convincing argument that it’s a sin to have a glass of wine with dinner- it’s a logical fallacy, you’re using your unproven starting proposition to prove your conclusion). You don’t realize that your idea about how unbelievers look at this issue is not very accurate.
“But it damages your witness as a Christian.”
That might have been true, and I’m not sure it was, during Prohibition, but that’s a cultural argument, not a biblical one. There are sound reasons to respect cultural arguments. The problem with this one, though, is that the culture has moved on. The only people it hurts your reputation with is your fellow Christians in tee-totaler churches, and there is something really, really wrong with that.
The logical fallacies, historical inaccuracies, and sheer foolishness people use to condemn all alcohol consumption, however small (rather than condemning drunkenness, which the Bible clearly does condemn) do more damage. You also don’t know the harm you are doing to your message by propagating certain theories and ideas that make it clear you don’t know what you’re talking about (one sip could make you drunk, one sip could give an unborn child fetal alcohol syndrome). I have no qualms about being a fool for Christ, but I do have qualms about being a fool for a precept of human invention.
There are a lot of people who recognize bad scholarship when they hear it, and *that* is a serious stumbling block. They see a man-made doctrine being taught as though it were one of the ten commandments and then have to wonder, if you are so blinded by human tradition in this area, where else are your teachings suspect?
Aren’t you worried about being a stumbling block?
I’m not immune to this argument. It does concern me. I don’t think I’m all that influential, but no, I don’t want somebody using my post as an excuse for drunkenness. The Bible condemns drunkenness in no uncertain terms. It also condemns allowing things to have mastery over you. However, I suspect that anybody using the debunking of the two wine theory as an excuse to be an addicted sot was somebody looking for such an excuse with such eagerness that one could be created out of nothing. So I don’t really believe that telling the truth about the history of the two wine theory is a stumbling block. I don’t really believe that telling the truth about the biblical view of wine (moderation, acceptable, a blessing, even) is going to drive somebody to drink any more than telling people that eating a piece of pie in moderation is acceptable is going to create gluttons.
If somebody thinks it is a sin to drink, they should not drink, but I do not see biblical justification for imposing that standard on others.
There’s more than one way to make yourself a hindrance to others. See above. I know we drive others to hiding something they believe is no sin at all because they fear the judgment of their brethren. That’s a spiritually unhealthy climate.
The arguments against moderate wine sipping are embarrassing, too. I don’t mean embarrassing in the sense of being ashamed of the gospel, I mean being palpably so false that they make the speaker utterly ridiculous and discredit him. I once heard an otherwise highly respectable minister argue publicly that one shouldn’t have wine in communion to save babies. Because, he said, many communion takers might be pregnant and not know it, and even that scant mouthful taken while pregnant could cause fetal alcohol syndrome- this is palpable nonsense and such an argument does real harm to the church.
I guess some people just love alcohol more than God (Yes, I have really heard this in a context where all that was being discussed was that it was acceptable to have an occasional glass of wine)
I consider that judging people’s hearts, something you do not know. Perhaps it’s not because they love alcohol more than God and not because they wouldn’t give up alcohol if they believed that’s what God wants, but because they easily see that this teaching is speaking where the Bible does not speak, and it gives them cause to wonder just where else this same type of error is occurring.
You never know how much is too much for you, so it’s better not to start at all.
I think God disagreed, given the approval with which He refers to wine in the Bible (see below). The question about ‘how much is too much’ can be asked about a lot of things, and for most of them, it can only be answered by the person involved. How much do I eat before it’s gluttony, or can you not overeat at all, yet still be a glutton (yes, IMO)- how much money can you make before you’re being greedy, or avaricious? How much morphine can a badly wounded man take before he crosses over into addiction, and who has the right to make that determination for somebody else? The amount for me won’t be the same as it is for you.
How can you say the Bible speaks approvingly of wine? It clearly condemns it- see Proverbs 23: “Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who tarry long over wine;
those who go to try mixed wine.
Do not look at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a serpent
and stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things,
and your heart utter perverse things.
You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
like one who lies on the top of a mast.
“They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt;
they beat me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake?
I must have another drink.”
I see the words ‘tarry long’ and I know that God is not speaking here of a glass of wine with dinner, of moderate use of alcohol.
These verses are a unit, a word picture, not a checklist of don’t do this, this, or this. And if merely drinking a glass is the sin he is condemning, there’s not much point in also condemning tarrying long over the cup.This passage is written to people who used wine in their feasts, by God’s command.
Highly respected, sincere, godly people believe the two wine theory and teach that all wine drinking is a sin. Are you saying they are wrong?
Are you saying they cannot be wrong about anything?
I also have heard sincere, much beloved, respected preachers preach on the two wine theory and insist that even one glass of wine with dinner is wrong. Some of my favorite preachers in the world believe in the two wine theory. But no matter how beloved and well respected they are or how much I regard them otherwise, the fact that I love and respect them does not blind me to the fact that believing in the long debunked two wine theory is poor scholarship and it does not blind me to the knowledge that the two theory is based on faulty premises. They may not have been the poor scholars, they may have relied on the work of poor scholars. It happens. And people filter what they read through their own preconceptions and assumptions- we all do that. A teaching is accurate or flawed on its own merits, not on the character of the men who present it.
Honest belief does not in itself make the teaching true, and I believe it is a harmful teaching that has elevated the teaching of men over sound biblically based study, caused unnecessary divisions, encouraged brethren to judge one another unscripturally, and driven people away. (driven them away over a man-made doctrine- if it was biblical, driving them away wouldn’t matter, but since I do not believe it is, it’s a grievous thing)
Why are you scrambling so hard to convince yourself and others that it’s okay to drink?
I wonder why people scramble so hard to hold to something so obviously untrue. When the same person over time argues that alcohol is a sin because of the two wines theory, and then they are forced by facts to give up the two wines theory, so they instead argue that it’s wrong because it’s bad for your health, and then they are forced to accept that the science just does not support that at all, in fact the opposite is true, so then they maintain the same ban they always have, but now it’s a different reason (addiction, for example)- along with Bible verses quoted out of context (sometimes half a verse, whether the full verse says the opposite of what they are claiming for it)- when this happens, I know that facts and truth are not what matters to that person- they picked a position and will hold on to it no matter what the facts are. I understand that, I really do. I just don’t think it’s a good place to be.
The fact that historically, grape juice was introduced to communion in the 19th century by a Methodist who went on to run a multimillion dollar company based on his newly discovered process is quite fascinating to me, as well as very enlightening. I believe he was sincere. I also know he had a financial stake in getting churches to switch over.
In ancient times, they diluted their wine, so drinking a glass of wine undiluted is not the same thing.
Maybe the Greeks and Romans diluted their wines because they drank more than a single glass at a meal. We know that even diluted, they still drank enough to get drunk. Maybe the Greeks and Romans aren’t a great standard anyway. Today’s wines (I just looked this up) can be anywhere from 5% to 15% alcohol content, and the lower figure *IS* equivalent to a glass of diluted Roman wine.
“Wines can range anywhere from 5% to 15%. It all depends on the amount of sugar that has been fermented into alcohol. You use yeast (specifically wine making yeast) to convert sugar to alcohol. BUT don’t think by adding a lot of sugar that you can increase the alcohol content. There is only so much sugar that yeast can convert to alcohol before it expires. Typically wines made from fresh fruits will have a lower alcohol content than a wine made from crushed grapes.” Wine coolers s are also lower, and beers can be even lower. “Dating back to at least 121 BC, the Romans made a wine called Falernian that had an alcohol content up to 15% to 16%” (see here and here)
But I don’t really agree with using external historical sources to create an extrabiblical standard anyway, so I don’t agree that it’s biblically inconsistent to drink a glass of wine without diluting it.
What about addictions?
And what about addictions? They’re bad. All things are lawful, God says, but not all are profitable. Don’t let things run your life. Don’t give up your self control. I’ve given up my self control to a box of ding-dongs (hey, I was pregnant- see me make excuses?) in a way that was just as harmful and yes, even sinful, as succumbing to drunkenness (I’ve done that too, as a teenager).
We could make many of these same points about sugar and chocolate. Sugar as most of us know it was unknown to the ancients. The amount of white, refined sugar (and flour) we eat as a nation is really appalling. I’m quite sure it affects our judgment at times, causes all of us to buy things we shouldn’t, to be gluttons, damages our health- but you wouldn’t know it to look at the dessert tables at our potlucks.
In teetotaling circles, any time alcohol is brought up, even if it is acknowledged that it is indeed authorized in the Bible, we automatically have a discussion about whether it’s wise or not and talk about all the ways we should limit it- but we tend (I’m talking generally) not to acknowledge this at all about sugar. There is no medicinal use for white sugar (well, it fixes hiccups, but so do other things)- but we indulge in it, rely on it, crave it, and are indeed very addicted to it.
Why do you want to be okay with drinking alcohol?
I want to be okay with whatever God is okay with, and I do not want to create barriers He didn’t and make rules that He didn’t, and I have seen zero evidence that He is not ‘okay'; with somebody having an occasional glass of wine.
similar issues to drinking-
I do not like tattoos, personally, but I do believe they are a matter of liberty, and I would object just the same to somebody insisting that they are sinful. I would defend a Christian who got a tattoo, although it could easily be said it ‘harms’ their influence- it does, in some circles. But it doesn’t in other circles. I would not assume somebody was getting a tattoo for sinful reasons or that somebody defending tattoos had some illicit reason for it. It would not be a test of fellowship for me because that would be me imposing my extra-biblical standards on somebody else.
I don’t like public schools at all. I think they are wrong in all sorts of ways. But I wouldn’t fellowship at a church that denied fellowship to those who put their kids in public school, and I would defend somebody sending their kids to school as a matter of Christian liberty, even though I honestly do not believe that is the wisest thing to do, because that is not a line that the Bible has clearly drawn.
I know people who feel the same way about medically prescribed morphine for pain management as they do about liquor- it’s wrong, a Christian shouldn’t do it, why risk it, you don’t know if you might be the sort of person to become addicted, and while that is an acceptable stance for them, I think it’s seriously problematic, and even harmful, if they impose it on somebody else.
This question is just like asking, “To those of you who are okay with or want to be okay with eating meat, why do you want to be okay with eating meat?” Well, because the Bible doesn’t say it’s a sin to eat meat. It’s not about the booze- it’s about the teaching, which I believe to be unsound.
But the Bible does condemn drinking: “Isaiah pronounces ‘woe’ to men who drink wine and intoxicating drink (stronger alcoholic drinks) in 5:22.”
Context: “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!” “…Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!”
This is not moderate drinking. This is drinking to get drunk, this is letting alcohol master you, something clearly condemned elsewhere.
Well, but alcohol is different because it alters your state of mind.
Well, it can, if you overconsume. But the same is true of sugar, sleep deprivation, caffeine, and, frankly, sex (and you don’t even have to abuse it for it to alter your state of mind).