Should a Christian drink alcoholic beverages? Christians are divided on the subject. Some Christians, known as prohibitionists, believe that drinking alcoholic beverages is morally wrong. Another group, known as abstentionists, believe that abstaining from use of alcoholic beverages is the wise and loving position. A final group, called the moderationists, believe that drinking alcoholic beverages is acceptable provided they are not abused to the point of drunkenness. All Christians agree that drunkenness is a sin.
Which view is correct?
Before I present my answer to that question, I think it is important to acknowledge that this is not an essential doctrinal issue. Some doctrines are closed-hand, not up for debate among Christians. Examples include the deity of Jesus Christ, the substitutionary atonement, the goodness of God, the resurrection of Christ, heaven and hell, the return of Jesus, etc. We hold these beliefs firmly with a closed hand. But there are other doctrines that are open-handed doctrines. They are doctrines like the timing of the return of Christ (pre-trib, mid-trib, etc.), the continuation or cessation of miraculous spiritual gifts, etc. These doctrines we hold with an open hand, willing to discuss with other Christians and with an open mind to be changed. Alcohol use is an open-handed doctrine.
It’s also important to note that while there are many people who are negatively impacted by alcohol, God is loving and gracious. We must not hold to our position with a pharisaical attitude or spirit.
I embrace the abstentionist position with an open hand. I have no Scriptural warrant that drinking in and of itself is a sin. Then why do I embrace this position?
Here are 21 reasons why I believe it is wise to avoid drinking alcohol:
(1) Because alcohol kills brain cells and delays thinking and reaction time. As one who wants to sharp and alert, alcohol is counterproductive.
(2) Because in biblical times the average person did not strap themselves (and their children) into large metal boxes weighing 1-2 tons and propel themselves inside those boxes at speeds regularly beyond 100 feet per second within a few feet of other people who are doing the same thing, I think the stakes of risking impaired judgment by alcohol use back then is nowhere near the same as we face today. Because alcohol has the potential to greatly impair my reaction time and my discernment, I do not think it is wise to put it in my system and operate heavy machinery. Driving a car is operating heavy machinery.
(3) Because people claim that they will not get behind the wheel if they’ve had too much to drink, and because they frequently do anyway, and because alcohol impairs my judgment, I do not want to have to worry about whether or not I am correctly assessing my ability to drive a vehicle because I might not be in the proper state of mind to make that decision for myself!
(4) Because so many people in our society have chosen to drink alcohol and drive and have therefore been the cause of so many deaths on the roads and highways, I do not want to be part of something that has caused so much pain and heartache for so many people.
(5) Because the alcohol industry promotes responsible use of alcohol publicly but privately lobbies for lax laws relating to drinking and driving and keeping the public accountable for responsible use of alcohol, I do not want to give my money to support companies, and an entire industry, that is hypocritical about responsible drinking.
(6) Because I know that a person who never takes a single drink of alcohol will never become addicted to alcohol, I believe the wise and loving thing to do is to abstain from alcohol use myself.
(7) Because drinking alcohol is not good for my body (see accompanying diagram).
(8) Because as New Testament Christians we have the Holy Spirit, we do not need wine to “gladden the heart.”
(9) Because it is safe to assume that several Christians, such as Timothy, in the New Testament chose to abstain, then choosing to abstain is following good Christian models.
(10) Because Timothy modeled all his behavior after the apostle Paul, it is reasonable to assume that Timothy learned abstaining from alcohol from Paul’s model to him.
(11) Because grape juice could not be stopped from fermenting in biblical times (yeast occurs naturally on grape skins; albeit it did not produce fine tasting wine), and because “new wine” referred to grape juice that had not developed into its fully intoxicating potential, and because “new wine” was looked upon favorably in the Bible, it seems wise to drink unfermented grape juice instead of intoxicating wine.
(12) Because wine in the Bible could only max out at a 14% alcohol rate and because modern wine-making regularly exceeds the 14% level, and because during biblical times it was common to water down the wine to make it less intoxicating, to praise the drinking of wine today by pointing to the fact that Jesus and the disciples drank wine is essentially comparing apples with oranges.
(13) Because alcohol is such a common factor in crime, domestic violence, and as an entry drug to more illicit drugs, it seems wise to simply avoid alcohol altogether.
(14) Because many people who have overcome alcohol addiction are best helped in their sobriety by avoiding social situations in which alcohol is present, the loving thing to do is avoid using or serving alcohol.
(15) Because nowhere in the Bible is abstaining from alcohol looked down upon or considered unwise and because people who abstained from alcohol were presented in the Bible in a positive light for their decision or vow to abstain, it is certainly wise and favorable to abstain today.
(16) Because I am shepherding four precious young souls, I want to show them that a life free of alcohol can be just as fun, joy-filled, and rewarding.
(17) Because I do not want to be tempted to run to alcohol during stressful times, but instead want to run to God.1
(18) Because as a pastor I have seen first-hand the heartache in homes in which alcohol addiction was present, and because I know that addiction is an easy thing to fall into, I want to have an alcohol free home.
(19) Because moderationists argue that drinking alcohol vs. the sin of drunkenness is no different than eating food vs. the sin of gluttony, yet I seem to notice that people that don’t drink alcohol don’t die of thirst while people who don’t eat food do die of hunger, I find this and many other arguments for drinking to be deficient.
(20) Because I believe alcoholism is a sin and not a disease, I believe you won’t “catch” the sin of drunkenness if you never drink alcohol to begin with.
(21) Because the Bible contains so many warnings about the dangers surrounding alcohol, I believe the safe and wise route is abstention.
These are 21 reasons why I think it is wise to abstain from alcohol. I do not believe it is a sin to take a drink, but I believe you are wise if you don’t.
More posts on this subject…
1 According to the CDC, heavy drinking rose significantly after 9/11, more than doubling in America from 1995 levels. See http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/datatable.htm