My New View on Alcohol

Understanding the Tension of Modern Biblical Decision Making

The consumption of alcohol continues to be a controversial topic. I shared my personal thought process a while back (3 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol). After a discussion with my wife about the topic and potential interpretations, I’ve come to realize it sounded more narrow-minded than I ever intended. I was hoping it would help readers come to their own conclusion.

My New View on Alcohol

So, since this blog is about our spiritual journey, let me apologize for my lack of clarity and let me share with you my new view on drinking alcohol.

Lessons learned…

No matter what your view may be, this topic is personal enough that not all will agree. Sometimes we can argue facts, but the reality is, much of this conversation is based on personal experience.

For example, a family impacted by an alcoholic family member, will almost certainly view this subject differently than a family who has created a culture of responsible consumption. And, if we were honest, there’s about thousand different situations in-between.  We have to respect each and every one of these situations.

I also wanted to give Christians (especially believers who abstain from alcohol) the ability to see an example of “thinking it through.” Growing up, I really wasn’t given the opportunity or space to ask questions to define my own answer to whether or not I would consume alcohol. Did my original post successfully help people think? Probably not the way I would have liked.

My 3 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol were never meant to be prescriptive to every Christian, nor do I judge any Christian who responsibly consumes alcohol. I have many Christian family members and friends who choose to consume – and do so in front of me. I certainly have no problem with that.

In fact, the reasons I give for not drinking, can easily become the reasons why a Christian could drink responsibly.  It’s a healthy tension that each believer must weigh out as they make their decision.

So in light of that new understanding, I’ll give you three tensions a Christian must weigh out. Remember these are personal tensions – one that each believer must work through.

1. “No alcohol” versus “conservative alcohol.”

We don’t know for sure, but it’s safe to say that Jesus and his disciples consumed wine.  It was part of their culture and it was never mentioned as being an issue.

Like I mention in my previous post, the only time the Greek word for “new wine” (gleukos, meaning “sweet unfermented wine”) is used, is in Acts 2.  When the disciples were filled with the spirit, several witnesses were making fun of them as if they could get drunk off of weak wine.1  Why? Because they weren’t known to be drunk.  Their view of alcohol was clearly on the conservative side.

THINK: How conservative do I need to be to gain the kind of reputation the disciples had?

2. “Sin” versus “Boundary.”

The only sin we see in scripture is drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-25).  Unfortunately, drinking too much alcohol leads to drunkenness.  So the natural tension becomes one of sin versus boundary.  Because of his stomach and sickness, Paul told Timothy to have a little wine (1 Timothy 5:23).  Obviously, the journey wasn’t towards sin but towards a healthy boundary.

THINK: What boundaries do I have to put in place in order to stay away from drunkenness?

3. “Culture” versus “Witness.”

There’s a vast discussion here alone.  The tensions of particular situations, local cultures, and ethnic traditions, all impact how we understand alcohol.  That, paired with our potential witness to others, could dramatically impact our view.

Paul said, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 10:23).  Likewise, “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25).  No matter the situation, we need to be willing to put our own desires aside for the sake of the Kingdom and live in that tension.

THINK: How does my culture and witness impact my view of alcohol?

Your turn…

How do you reflect on these tensions regarding alcohol consumption?

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Andrew lives in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland with his wife, Deidre, and two children (Rae and Pierson), where he is the Lead Pastor of Bethel Pentecostal Church. He is a graduate of both Memorial University (BBA) and Tyndale Seminary (MTS). His passion is to help people become true disciples of Jesus.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Charley Gee

    I feel your first article gave your personal perspective and reasonings why you abstain, which are perfectly legitimate, while this article expanded on reasons why others may not abstain, and the boundaries to which they should probably adhere to. The fact is, outside of our particular denominational culture (and increasingly within) there are many Christians who drink alcohol regularly and not in excess. I remember dining with an Anglican minister and his family who all drank wine and you couldn’t have a better picture of a loving Christian family. They were in fact largely the reason the Alpha program was implemented in Atlantic Canada and are likely responsible for dozens if not hundreds of people coming to Christ.

    • Thanks for your comment Charley! You are very correct – there are so many people who responsibility consume alcohol. Finding that balance within your particular context is the key.

  • Carl Holm

    My new view on alcohol. Growing up in a family that did not promote alcohol but neither looked down on it, we abstained because it was considered safer and healthier to abstain. Personally, in the absence of a good reason to partake that was fine for me. It was not until going back to university and doing Engineering that my real distain for alcohol emerged.

    Three reasons I do not partake.

    1. Positive Sociological effects. I was told that alcohol helped you “come out of your shell” it helped you socialize, it loosened you up so that you could have more fun. I could grow a taste for it and once hooked i would enjoy it. These were regular arguments presented to me in my teens and twenties. My response was simple, “you know I have lots of fun and have no problem socializing with you and yet do not drink”

    2. Funny Sociological effects. It started by seeing peers bragging about loosing control because of alcohol and thinking this is somehow funny. Then I started to recognized that our society from kids cartoons to adult sitcoms consider drunkenness ‘funny’ While my heart was crying people were laughing. I don’t want this as an acceptable goal for my family nor myself and if i don’t want to promote it, then I will abstain from it in my house so that it will be natural for my kids as well.

    3. Healthy living. You do not have to do much real research to see that a good healthy diet does not require alcohol. Yes you may find some rare case where it is useful but it is rare. The vast majority of evidence points to all alcohol consumption has a negative affect on the brain. It is widely accepted now that the goal for mothers is 0 alcohol during pregnancy. And the effects of ‘binge’ drinking is absolutely devastating. Yet i have many people that i respect still do it regardless of the evidence. Even moderate drinking shows measurable shrinkage of brain matter.

    So where does that put me. In my teens and twenties I had conservative friends that expected me not to drink and unbeliever friends trying to persuade me to partake. Now in my thirties to fifties I have unbeliever friends that just accept that I do not drink and in fact respect it as a choice. However, ironically the only ones that now try and persuade me to partake are follow believers. That is ironic.

    So by now you might notice that I have not brought scripture in the mix at all. Does it really add? The way research is developing, We don’t really need a theological debate. If you want a good healthy living you need a good diet and alcohol is not required, and if needed should be in extremely low quantities.

    I figure the debate will look after itself, or at least that is my two cents 🙂