Woo! 21, Time To Drink!

Wooo! I am 21 now, and in America, that means I am the legal age to purchase and consume alcohol! If you are German, that probably seems incredibly odd, since the legal age in your country is 16. Regardless, 21 is the magical age here!
Lately, however, I have come across a number of people and articles making the case that alcohol is sinful, or at the very least, shouldn’t be consumed by Christians. Growing up, for the longest time, I didn’t even realize there were Christians who thought drinking alcohol was wrong. Labeling alcohol as sinful just  didn’t make any sense to me. After all, the Bible speaks very positively of alcohol.
Amos 9:14 offers a great promise, the restoration of Israel. Drinking wine is included, “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”
Ecclesiastes 9:7 instructs, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.”
The Psalms also speak favorably of wine:  “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” – Psalm 104:14-15
Paul even instructs Timothy to drink wine for his health: “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” – 1 Timothy 5:23
If the Bible speaks favorably of wine, why then do some Christians think it is wrong to drink it?
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The Bible condemns drunkenness:
The Bible certainly condemns drunkenness. No one can dispute this fact. (Ephesians 5:18, Galatians 5:21, Proverbs 20:1, etc). Paul also instructs us not to be dominated by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12). Therefore, we can definitely say becoming addicted is wrong.
However, while the Bible is clear that drunkenness is wrong, we don’t see any evidence that drinking alcohol in and of itself is wrong. Yes, drunkenness is wrong, but drinking alcohol doesn’t automatically make you drunk. You have to drink excessively to become drunk.
Ultimately, I think the biggest flaw in the argument that alcohol is sinful is that Jesus turned water into wine.
Jesus worked for Welch’s?
I find the story of the wedding at Cana pretty comical. Jesus, his disciples, and his mom are at this wedding party, which apparently went on for several days. On the third day, they ran out of wine, and Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine.”
This is EXACTLY something my mom would say to me, or one of my siblings. Not about the wine specifically, but if she wants someone to fold the laundry, she won’t say, “Go fold the laundry,” but, “Is the laundry done?” I usually just reply with, “I don’t know,” forgetting the secret code she uses. I think I’m starting to get better though.
Jesus apparently did understand his mother’s secret code, and replies to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary, unfazed, tells the servants to do what Jesus tells them, apparently knowing Jesus would do as she wished, despite His protest that it was not time to reveal His true identity.

Sure enough, Jesus did do what his mother wanted, and turned six stone jars full of water into six stone jars full of wine.

There you have it! JESUS turned WATER into WINE! Case closed. Game over. We can all go home, or to a wedding party, and drink alcohol now.
“Not so fast,” say those opposed to alcohol. The wine Jesus made was actually grape juice, or at most, the alcohol concentration was so diluted that it was not possible to get drunk on the wine back then unless you drank gallons of the stuff. There are a lot of problems with this theory.
Grape Juice?
Aww, yeeeah. Jesus knew how to par-tay.
The ancients did not have refrigerators or any other way of preserving unfermented wine. In fact, it is likely, “that the ancients knew little, if anything about unfermented wine.”1 Additionally, it was much safer to drink wine in ancient times than water. Of course, the wine actually has to be fermented for it to be safer. Fermentation is what makes wine, wine, and not grape juice. The wine mentioned in the Bible actually is talking about wine, not grape juice.
Despite this fact, some still claim that the wine Jesus created was a non-fermented type called “new wine”. In other words, grape juice. There is no Biblical support for this argument.
New wine actually was fermented, and it was certainly capable of causing intoxication. This fact is made obvious when we look at Acts 2:13. On the day Pentecost when the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues, some mocked and said, “These men are full of new wine.” The mockers were accusing the apostles of being drunk. Clearly, it is possible to get drunk on new wine.
Wine is wine is wine, and wine is fermented. Whether old or new, it is possible to get drunk on it, and it’s the kind of wine Jesus made.
Diluted wine?
Maybe the wine Jesus made was watered down? Some make the claim that wine in the New Testament was a very dilute version, so the wine Jesus made must have been watered down to the point where you would have had to drink an insane amount to get drunk. Therefore, it was okay to drink wine back then, but wine and other alcoholic drinks today are much more potent. This argument is historically inaccurate, and not supported by the Bible.
In fact, wine in ancient times may have been even more alcoholic than wine of today.2
While diluted wine is spoken of in the Bible, it is done so in negative terms. For example, in Isaiah 1:22, the infidelity of Israel is compared to both a prostitute, and watered down wine. Clearly, watered down wine was not seen as a very good thing in ancient times, and this is why we can say with adequate certainty that the wine Jesus created was capable of causing intoxication.
Our biggest clue is the response Jesus’ wine receives. The master of the wedding feast, not knowing a miracle had occurred, called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” In other words, he is saying that normally people serve the best wine first, and the poor wine later on when people are less discerning because of the alcohol already in their system.
“According to Jewish wedding tradition, fermented wine was always served at weddings; if Jesus had provided only grape juice, the master of the feast would have complained.”3 The wine Jesus made was up to par with the “good wine” which is capable of making people drunk. It was a wedding party after all.
If that wasn’t enough, Jesus drank fermented wine, and said so himself in Luke, “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:33-34).
Whatever kind of wine Jesus was drinking, it was the kind of wine capable of causing drunkenness. If he was just drinking grape juice, no one would have accused him of being a drunkard. Of course, Jesus was not a glutton or a drunkard, proving that it is possible to both drink wine and eat food in moderation and free of sin. Jesus also drank wine as part of Passover (Mark 14:23).
Jesus drank wine, and He made wine. The wine in the New Testament definitely was capable of causing intoxication. After all, the Bible condemns drunkenness. How were people getting drunk on watered-down wine?
Consuming alcohol, in and of itself, is not sinful.  Drunkenness is sinful, but alcohol, consumed in moderation, is neither harmful nor addictive. On the contrary, drinking wine in appropriate amounts can even have some health benefits.

Whether or not the wine Jesus made was diluted, doesn’t really matter in the end concerning whether or not alcohol is sinful. Even if the wine was very watered down, there was still some alcohol, and apparently consuming that alcohol isn’t sinful. That takes us back to where we started. Drinking too much is bad, yes, but drinking in moderation is fine.
Drinking harms your witnessing capability?
Yet, even if someone were to admit that it is not sinful to drink alcohol, they may still make the case that drinking harms our ability as Christians to witness to non-believers.
Out of 2,300 Christians surveyed by ChristiaNet.com, 66% felt that drinking alcohol would hurt a Christian’s witnessing ability for Christ.
I have heard this argument, but no one has ever been able to explain to me exactly how drinking alcohol would hurt a Christian’s “witnessing ability.” It sounds like some kind of video game to me. Drink alcohol, lose 30 witnessing ability points.
One survey taker stated, “In itself, drinking alcohol would not hurt a Christian’s witness, but whatever will make people look down on your Christian faith, should be avoided.”
This is a pretty poor argument, but I’ve heard it given before, not just concerning alcohol. What matters is what is true, not what will make us look the best in the eyes of the world. In our modern society, being against same-sex marriage because the Bible says it is a sin will cause a lot of people to look down on your Christian faith.
As we saw in Luke, people looked down on Jesus because He drank, but this did not stop Him from drinking. Shouldn’t Jesus have avoided alcohol so as to, “avoid even the appearance of evil”? Shouldn’t he also have avoided prostitutes and tax-collectors to avoid being associated with such people?
As Jesus pointed out, those who were against him were simply looking for an excuse to hate him, since the same people claimed John The Baptist had a demon since he refrained from drinking. If someone refuses to repent and accept Christ because you drink alcohol in moderation, they are merely choosing to use that as an excuse.
Just because something has the potential for harm, doesn’t make it sinful:
I think we as Christians have a tendency to sometimes demonize things just because they have the potential to harm.

Guns have the capability to do a lot of harm, yet most conservatives are extremely enthusiastic about guns. Cars also have the potential for great harm. We could save thousands of lives every year simply by outlawing cars, and yet, we don’t. Why? Because we think the good have having cars out-weighs the risks.
It’s easy to point at alcohol and say, “This is the cause for all these problems.” Or to point at guns and say, “Guns are the cause of murder and violence.” It’s easy to blame things for our problems because generally, we have control over objects. We can ban guns and alcohol for example, but many times, it is not stuff that is sinful, it is us, and people are harder to change. We are the ones that often turn something neutral into something good or bad.
You know what else does a lot of harm? Food, or rather, overeating—gluttony.
The Bible teaches moderation:
Just like it’s wrong to drink too much alcohol, it’s wrong to eat too much food, and yet we don’t see too many Christians claiming that it is sinful to eat food.

As Proverbs 23:20-21 states, “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”

 A little later, Proverbs 28:7 declares, “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.” And Proverbs 23:2 proclaims, “Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.”

Gluttony is mentioned in the same context as drunkenness. If we are to outlaw the drinking of alcohol because it can lead to drunkenness, then I think we also have to be against the eating of food, since it can lead to gluttony.
Perhaps I should be more concerned about eating too much food this Thanksgiving, rather than possibly getting drunk on my 21stbirthday.
And now, a confession: beer doesn’t actually appeal to me, and I’ve had wine before as part of Communion at different churches, and found the drink to be repulsive. However, I do think I’ll have a margarita. Because I can.

[Update: I had a margarita, and it was gross. I have also had a rootbeer beer rootbeer float (yes they exist, also not good, though not awful). Pina Coladas with rum are ok though. I can definitely sympathize with Captain Jack Sparrow.]
When drinking alcohol is wrong:
Having said all of that, I think there are times when drinking alcohol would be wrong.
One example would be if you have more of a propensity to become addicted. If drinking alcohol creates too strong of a temptation to drink to excess, then drinking would not be wise. Additionally, Jesus taught that we should avoid temptation if possible.
The other case in which drinking alcohol would be wrong would be flaunting it in the presence of those who do find it to be wrong. As Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians 8:13, “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” We should not “wound the weak conscience” of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In conclusion, we should have moderation in everything, even moderation itself. Let us always seek the truth. The Bible condemns drunkenness, but does not condemn the drinking of alcohol in moderation. You can disagree, maybe I’m wrong, but when I meet Jesus and Paul one day, I don’t want to have to try and tell them that that drinking alcohol is wrong.
1-2http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2012/11/did-jesus-turn-water-into-fermented-wine/

8 Comments

  1. That's very interesting, I thought the argument was that the alcohol made then was more like homemade wine, and wasn't as fermented as wine is today. Also that drunkenness was akin to gluttony because you had to drink a great deal of it in order to become drunk. Perhaps that was a different argument. I really haven't looked into it.

    Personally, I haven't anything against drinking really, only that I know people who don't drink in moderation, so I don't intend to drink at all once I'm the magic age. (I've heard it tastes awful too;) My dad doesn't drink for similar reasons. My mom doesn't drink because it gives her a headache.

    That's so cool that you just turned 21! (Congratulations!) My sister turned 21 on the 24th, and we went out with family and had a lovely time. She didn't get a drink though. I think for the same reasons I have, and maybe because I warned her against it. (She's already addicted to soda and sweets;)

  2. I don't personally know anyone who drinks without moderation, though I did have some football teammates who drank and got drunk, and of course they were all under-aged, and not Christians.

    I'm with you, alcohol is pretty gross in general. Pina Coladas are pretty good, but otherwise. Yeah.

    Happy birthday to your sister! Yes, the less things we are addicted to, the better! Haha!

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Great article. I pretty much agree with you – although leeway should be given in other cultural contexts. In Liberia, where I live, the only reason you drink wine or beer is to get drunk – so my mission makes it a practice to outlaw drinking liquor while a missionary is on the field. (There's a chapter in Romans that talks about making sure you don't make your brother stumble, which is where we Biblically source this rule.) ^_^

  4. Glad you liked the article. I don't know much about drinking in other countries, so the post was meant to apply to American culture.

    That said, I certainly do give leeway. As I say in the post, there are times when drinking would be wrong. Not causing others to stumble would be one example.

    Thanks for the comment!

  5. I don't drink at all, primarily because all of the alcohol I've tasted has tasted gross to me, and it's expensive. My husband does have a margarita occasionally (inexplicably, he really likes them!!??)
    My reasoning also has to do with my own family and history–there have been alcoholics, including one who committed suicide, and my grandma was adopted out of her birth family because her parents were alcoholics and abused their children…so you can probably imagine that alcohol doesn't have a good reputation in my family–though no one claims it's inherently sinful, we have certainly experienced the effects of alcohol in excess paired with sinful human nature.
    I certainly agree with your reasoning–and cross-cultural experiences have definitely shown me how the matter of drinking/not drinking carries different connotations in different cultures, which are important if you have dealings within that culture.
    My husband has been on a mission lately, researching gluttony and how ignored it is by so much of Christianity as a sin, it's very interesting to hear the results he comes up with!

  6. I will say part of the reason I will avoid drinking is my family has had a history of people becoming taken to drink and Iniquities run in the family line.
    If you look in proverbs we are told what wine to avoid. It tells us not too look on the wine that giveth its color in the cup or moveth itself upright. We are also told to give the strong drink too those that are ready to perish. Though drinking is completely fine we are warned not to be given too it and not to drink the strong drink.

  7. As I say in my article, there are situations when it would be wrong to drink. It's also fine to avoid drinking all together if you wish. My family does not have the baggage that yours does when it comes to drinking. I've always liked to see my dad with a beer because he was always in a good mood, and we were usually watching a football game together, or having a family movie night.

    As with just about everything, we must practice moderation.

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