Shall We Drink To That?

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If you’ve been around The Provision Room with us, you might have noticed that Kristina and I enjoy a few things: our families, theology, hospitality.  And chocolate, cheese and wine.  We won’t be shy about recommending a good rosé to go with our favorite salad or sharing our pics going picnicking and wine-tasting.  You may see our husbands brewing beer or a recipe for our favorite cocktail.  Occasionally, we get comments from readers asking, in essence, Are you Christians? How can you be drinking wine?  While we could (and sometimes do) give a nugget answer, we thought the topic merited a longer and more in-depth response.

Shall We Drink To That

A little background: we both grew up with total abstinence when it came to alcohol.  It’s not that my parents ever taught that it was a sin to drink.  But, it was just something they never did.  It wasn’t how either of them were raised.  Both Kristina and my parents came up in wonderful Pentecostal churches where there was a big emphasis on holiness.  We will forever be grateful for this foundation.

My theology regarding drinking, or abstinence as it were, did not come wholly from my parents.  I heard it other places simply because I grew up in a conservative Protestant church culture.

For my 21st birthday, my brother gave me a small bottle of champagne.  Honestly, it was sort of a joke.  I just tucked it away.  When I got married six months later, my husband and I shared it on our honeymoon–mixed with some juice.

From that point on we would very occasionally have a little drink–like on our anniversary or once I stuck a single beer in my husband’s Christmas stocking.  Somehow, though, I hadn’t quite reconciled the thing inside me.  Was it OK?  Was it not OK?  How much of what I was feeling was genuinely the Holy Spirit’s conviction and what was simply embedded cultural theology?  So, I started digging deeper.

What Does The Bible Say?

The Bible references wine 228 times and strong drink 19 times.  And not all those references are negative.  In fact, quite the opposite.

Category

Wine

Strong Drink

Use accepted as normal part of culture 58 1
Symbolic (The wine of his wrath, etc.) 32 1
Wine called a blessing from God 27 0
Use in offerings and sacrifices 24 1
Loss of wine an example of a curse from God 19 1
Examples of abuse of alcohol 16 3
Vows of abstinence 15 6
Warnings against abuse 13 4
Gifts between people 9 0
Comparisons (x is better than wine) 5 0
False accusations of drunkenness 3 1
Rules for selecting deacons 3 0
Miscellaneous 3 1
Abstinence in deference to weak consciences 1 0
Total 228 19

(Source for chart)

The negative references to alcohol in the Bible equal only 16%.  Neutral references (like used symbolically and such) equal 25%.  Favorable references to alcohol equal 59%.

Realizing that over and over again in Scripture wine represents a blessing.  I grew up claiming Deuteronomy 28, that I was the head and not the tail, that everything I put my hand to would prosper.  Well, that passage says that the lack of wine is a curse.  That was something to consider.

Then there is Jesus.  His first miracle was turning water into wine.  He taught in parables of new wine in old wine skins.  The good Samaritan poured wine and oil on the injured man to heal him.  Paul told Timothy to take a little wine to aid his digestion. Jesus instituted the Eucharist during Passover, a meal in which four cups of wine are drunk.  Would the Passover and thereby the Eucharist make any sense in a prohibitionist world?  He said, “This is my blood.”  This was something else to consider.

What about all the arguments against drinking I had heard?

Let’s look at some of those.

1. You shouldn’t do anything to make another stumble.  Yes, this is true.  Romans 14:21: “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.”  Those who over the years have preached about not drinking were not vegetarians.  Why is this particular Scripture applied the way it is in regards to wine, but not as it applies to meat?  Ponder that.  Why does this one verse, only partially applied, overshadow the rest of Scripture when it comes to drink? There must be a way in which to apply this verse that is contextually correct.

There are two things mentioned: eating meat and drinking wine.  Paul says let those who drink not judge those who don’t.  And those that abstain should not judge those who partake.  Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.  (Romans 14:3) The whole passage stresses walking love with one another and not letting your liberty or lack of liberty be something that injures your relationship with others.  Relationship over rules.  Spirit over the letter.

2. When you can turn water into wine, then you can drink it.  Believe it or not, I have heard this exact phrase.  Fairly bad Scriptural application there.  Jesus didn’t drink all the wine He created at the wedding in Cana.  He served it to all the guests and to the wedding party. When Jesus is serving wine, I recommend you drink.

3. The wine mentioned in the Bible wasn’t really wine.  It was just grape juice.  In Matthew 11:19 Jesus was accused of being a drunk.  How would that make any sense if He only drank grape juice?  And what about Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian church not to get drunk during communion? (I Corinthians 11)  My church serves an itty-bitty shot of white grape juice (less risk to the carpet, you know).  No one’s getting drunk on that.  Must have been something different served in Corinth.  Plus, the technology needed to have such a thing as unfermented shelf-stable juice wasn’t invented until 1869!  (Read about that in our post about breakfast foods.)  Grapes do not grow year around.  Yet we know that the early church celebrated the Eucharist daily.  Without fermentation that wouldn’t be possible.

4. What parents allow in moderation, children will excuse in excess.  This platitude is said with quite a bit of authority in some circles.  At first hearing you say, Oh wow. That’s true.  Because, we have all heard stories or known someone who sneaked their parents’ scotch from the liquor cabinet.  However, upon further evaluation, this doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I grew up watching my dad drink coffee in moderation.  I am not addicted to caffeine.

I grew up watching my mother occasionally fry chicken or make cake.  I’m not obese.

The logic just isn’t there and Scripture does not back this up.  Moderation is a good thing, a command in fact! “Let your moderation be known to all…” Philippians 4:5  “The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.” Ecclesiastes 7:18

5. Alcohol is bad because it’s mood altering. You should only rely on the Holy Spirit for that.  A very spiritual argument.  At face value this is a tough one to argue.  If you need a lift or to relax, you should go to the Lord.  Yes, I really do believe that.  But does that completely preclude a glass of wine after a hard day?

Well, let’s re-frame the question:

Is eating cashews a sin? A couple handfuls of cashews has the same mood altering properties as a prozac.

Is eating chocolate a sin? Dark-chocolate is hailed as an anti-anxiety drug–dating back to the Mayans.

Is taking a fish oil supplement a sin? Fish oil helps aid in depression, anxiety and managing anger.

So, is the fact that wine is mood altering a reason to avoid it completely?  The Bible seems to approve of such use: He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the service of man, That he may bring forth food from the earth, And wine that makes glad the heart of man, Oil to make his face shine, And bread which strengthens man’s heart.  Psalm 104:14-15

6. I don’t want to support an industry that has destroyed so many lives.  I really respect where this argument is coming from.  Alcoholism has destroyed a lot of lives.  In the same way that obesity and type-2 diabetes have destroyed a lot of lives.  Yet, we don’t swear off food altogether.  We believe in taking responsibility for our choices.

7. If it wouldn’t be OK for the kids to drink, you shouldn’t drink it.  Don’t be a hypocrite. I know a lot of people feel this way about alcohol.  But are our kids really incapable of understanding that some things are not meant for children?  My husband and I each have a cup of coffee or two with breakfast.  We don’t pour a cup for the kids.  They understand.

8. Drinking is dangerous because it can lead to drunkenness.  In the same way eating is dangerous because it can lead to gluttony.

Daddies were out on a walk with the kids so Daja and I poured a couple of glasses as we prepped dinner.

My Decision

So, I became neutral on the issue.  1 Corinthians 8:8: “Food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat we are the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.” I was in a position of liberty and a clear conscience before God.

I considered a few things.

1) I want my kids to see me live the values of moderation and liberty.

2) I want to give my kids a healthy context for eating and drinking.

3) I don’t want to glory in my own goodness.

So, I decided, very deliberately to start taking wine and occasionally other alcohol.  It was a conscious, theological and Spirit-led decision.

First of all, I take it in the context of food.  It is now a common thing that we have a glass of wine at dinner.  Or if it pairs better, a beer. This way the kids learn to view it as food–just as they do my morning cup of joe.

Secondly, food, and therefore drink, is meant to be enjoyed in the context of community.  Eating is a social thing.  It has been since our first taste of food at our mothers’ breasts.  Food is one way we connect with the larger community and culture.  So, now it is also common that when we have people over we open a bottle of wine to share or when we are celebrating something, we pop a bottle of champagne.

We know that we take a great risk in posting this that some will wonder why we bothered explaining something so trivial.  Others will think that we’ve lost our salvation.  Let me be clear: We do not feel that every Christian should drink. If God has not given you a taste for wine or you choose to abstain for religious/philosophical/health/whatever reason we will not try to compel you to drink.  If you came to dinner at either of our homes you would have complete freedom to partake or not to partake.  If you didn’t feel comfortable with it, we would all drink iced tea instead and be happy in your company.  We have come to the place where it is a non-issue in our homes.

I do believe that we must be responsible and eat and drink with integrity.  Everything we do must be for the glory of God–including how we eat and drink.

Cheers!


  1. Thanks for a great post.  All points this Baptist girl agrees with. 🙂 I so many times think of Romans 14:21 and substitute the American food idol of choice, SUGAR. How many times is dessert partaken of in front of someone struggling with their weight? 

    • That’s a very decent comparison! Sort of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Rachael - July 27, 2014

    Hello,
    I am new to your blog. I came across this posting on Pinterest. I am so glad I clicked through as this posting really resonates with me!

    My husband and I are Christian, both grew up in non-drinking Christian homes, but today drink alcohol in the exact same moderate manner you described. I find this to be a common story with most of our friends from the Christian college we attended. 

    I do have one question. Throughout my life I have heard the argument that the wine of biblical times was different than today’s wine, in that it was weaker and watery. Also that this watery wine was a necessity in those times due to poor quality water standards (meaning: people didn’t have safe drinking water and had to rely on weak, fermented beverages for heath-sake). Have you heard this? I was hoping to see your comments on this Christian anti-wine stance. especially since I’ve never really bought into it 😉

    • Daja - July 28, 2014

      Thank you for your comments and for stopping by!

      Throughout history people have fermented beverages (beer, wine, etc.) and the safety of the drinking water was definitely (one) motivating factor. It was often much safer to drink the beer than the water. (Still is the case in some places in the world!) Yet, I don’t see that as any kind of argument against alcohol consumption today. People also dried meat because they didn’t have refrigeration, yet I can enjoy beef jerky today, even though I may not NEED to have dried meat. (Does that make sense?)

      As for the wine being not as alcohol dense or watery–I think that would be a difficult thing to quantify. There are traditional means of fermentation all over the world and the alcoholic content of these beverages vary widely. For example, in Mongolia (where our family is from) people ferment mare’s milk to create an alcohol called airag. It’s not too strong, but does have alcohol. Mongolians also make vodka, which could take the paint off the walls. LOL! Just because something is an ancient or traditional ferment, is no reason to automatically think that it was weak or flavorless or watery.

      And in light of Scriptures that speak of drunkenness (the early Church’s warnings against drunkenness in Communion and Jesus being accused of drunkenness) I find the idea that it was mostly water not too convincing.

  3. Charlotte - July 23, 2014

    I just discovered your blog.  Love it!  Such a well thought out ‘thesis’ on this subject!  I agree wholeheartedly.  Thank you for clarifying the arguments.  Bravo!

  4. molly mathis - July 23, 2014

    Thank you for making so much sense!

  5. clare - July 22, 2014

    We are Catholic and all our non religious friends comment on how comfortable we are with alcohol! I am the same in our household, I dont want my children growing up with a stigma attached to anything in life. We live a very European lifestyle, living for our family, our food and our garden, and nothing need to be to excess as it truly is the simple things that are God’s real blessings and gifts. I think you girls are doing a fantastic job, we are one of the first home-centered families in our region but I dont mind, reading stories like yours gives me comfort, all the way from Australia! 

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