Does Scripture Prohibit Alcohol? (Part 1)

PMT 2013-007b by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Below is a study of three Christian views on alcohol consumption.

Few issues have fermented longer (no pun intended) than the bubbling debate among Christians over the morality of alcohol consumption. The dispute has generated responses ranging from local educational temperance movements to federal amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Certainly there is evidence of widespread abuse of alcoholic beverages today; this few would deny. Furthermore, the Bible clearly condemns all forms of alcohol abuse, by binding precept and by notorious example. Yet the ethical issue before us is: Does the Bible allow for a righteous consumption of the beverage alcohol? The fundamental question is ethical, not cultural or demographical; it requires an answer from Scripture, not emotions.

Before I actually engage the biblical argument in the next few articles, I would like to present the matter in terms of if its three basic perspectives, then point out the importance of the debate.

Three Viewpoints

Among evangelicals the fundamental approaches to alcohol use may be distilled (no pun intended — I really must quit this bordering on puns) into three basic viewpoints.

(1) The prohibitionist viewpoint universally decries all consumption of beverage alcohol. Adherents to this position do not find any Scriptural warrant for alcohol consumption, even in Biblical times.

(2) The abstentionist perspective discourages alcohol use in our modern context, though acknowledging its use in Biblical days. They point to modern cultural differences as justification for the distinction: widespread alcoholism (a contemporary social problem), the higher potency distilled beverages (unknown in Biblical times), and intensified dangers in a technological society (e.g., speeding cars).

(3) The moderationist position allows for the righteous consumption of alcoholic beverages. This position, while acknowledging, deploring, and condemning all forms of alcohol abuse and dependency, argues that Scripture allows the partaking of alcoholic beverages in moderation and with circumspection.

In this brief study series I will be defending the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages. I would like to point out up front that I myself do not drink wine or any form of alcohol. For me this is a purely ethical issue rather than a personal one.

The Importance of the Question

Often, non-moderationist argumentation inadvertently and negatively affects certain aspects of the Christian faith. It can undercut the authority of Scripture (in that any universal condemnation of what Scripture allows diminishes the authority of Scripture in Christian thought). It may distort the doctrine of Christ (in that any universal censure of something Jesus did detracts from His holiness). It adversely affects our apologetic (in that any denunciation of that which Scripture allows sets forth an inconsistent Biblical witness).

My approach to the issue before us involves three presuppositions: (1) The Bible is the inerrant Word of God. Therefore (2) the Bible is the determinative and binding standard for all ethical inquiry. And (3) the Bible condemns all forms of alcohol abuse and dependence. The moderationist viewpoint in no way compromises any of these three fundamental commitments.

Helpful studies

God Gave Wine (book)
by Kenneth Gentry
For more information or to buy: click here

This book studies the ethical question of wine drinking. It defends a moderate use of alcohol on the basis of biblical exegesis. It respects the problems of various kinds of alcohol abuse. And it responds to critics of the moderationist view by carefully answering various objections to concerns about alcohol consumption. Helpful for all Christians considering the issue from either side of the question. Deals with all the major Bible passages touching on the subject.

Reformed Sunday School (2 CDs)
Two sermons by Kenneth Gentry
For more information or to order: click here

Two sermons on issues sometimes debated in Reformed circles:

(1) Women & Ministry. Defends women’s role in church in teaching women and children while maintaining that they are not to teach men.

(2) Reformed Theology & Sunday School. An historical and exegetical defense of Sunday school from a Reformed perspective, against both home-church and reformed arguments. (2 CDs)

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