Friday, July 04, 2008
I have put off writing this entry for a while because I have good friends who will undoubtedly disagree with me. I do not want to damage those friendships. That is not my goal. My goal is to get these friends and other Christians who drink alcohol to consider some reasons why it may be best to abstain. Much of this is borrowed from Danny Akin, whose article can be downloaded here. Here is my list of reasons why I believe it is best for today's Christians to completely avoid alcoholic beverages:
1. Drinking alcohol sets an example that could lead other people and their families into terrible suffering. I'm sure you know someone whose life has been torn apart by alcoholism, whether the addiction was their own or someone else's. We all know people who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers or whose marriages have ended because of alcoholism. When Christians drink alcohol, they are sending a message that could do more than just "hurt their witness" (although that is also a strong possibility). Even if you are somehow strong enough to drink in moderation, most of those who see you drinking are not that strong. Your consumption of alcohol as a Christian sends a message to those around you that drinking is acceptable, and those people will probably not understand the nuances of your opinions on moderation. Your example could unintentionally lead to alcoholism, broken homes, and even to the death of the innocent. In this respect, abstaining from alcohol is a matter of Christian love and social responsibility.
2. Every drink of alcohol carries with it the risk of losing one's sobriety. All of us have probably seen someone become drunk, and we all know that the person who is drinking is almost never aware of quite how drunk they are. When someone thinks they are fine, you can tell they are a little bit off. When they think they are "buzzed", you know they are drunk. When they admit they are drunk, it is well beyond the point of no return. Why should Christians who claim to drink in "moderation" think that they are exempt from this? I have personally witnessed multiple Christians getting drunk and even ending up with hangovers when they started with the intention of moderation. The Bible not only condemns drunkenness, but it commands us to be sober-minded. Does the stuff really taste good enough to risk falling into sin so easily?
3. There is reliable documentation that the tamest alcoholic beverages of today are far more potent than the wine that Jesus drank. Wine was usually watered down intentionally in biblical times in order to make it last longer. A popular formula was three parts water to one part wine. The goal was not to have a great tasting wine but a long lasting, sanitary beverage. Proverbs 23:31 even gives a warning about undiluted wine: "Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly." What we have today is much more like what the Bible calls "strong drink," a beverage which Jesus did not drink. It took a great deal of time and effort to get drunk on wine in those days, but getting drunk on strong drink was fast and easy (like it is today).
4. Modern sanitation makes the drinking of alcohol unnesessary. Many Christians who support the comsumption of alcohol like to point to 1 Timothy 5:23, where Paul says, "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine..." However, they often neglect the rest of the sentence: "because of your stomach and your frequent illness." In biblical times every drink of water carried with it the risk of disease, so it was helpful to take an occasional drink of aclohol to help kill stomach viruses. Today we do not have this problem, so we have no need to drink alcohol.
I will stop there for now, but I encourage you to read Dr. Akin's article, where he gives several more great biblical reasons to abstain.
I have no doubt that many people who read this will quckly label me a legalist, but I think that is just a knee-jerk reaction. Examine what I have written carefully and tell me whether I have declared all consumption of any sort of alcohol to be sinful. I cannot do that without accusing my Lord and Savior of sin. However, I do firmly believe that in today's world of widespread sanitation and easy access to potent beverages the Christian principles of wisdom, sober-mindedness, and love for our neighbor should lead us to total alcohol abstinence.