Featured Post

The Essentials of Christianity

Most of the various groups/organizations which call themselves Christian have formulated some kind of official statement/summary of their b...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

God and Alcoholic Beverages

A friend recently forwarded to me an interesting piece by Paige Patterson that appeared on the Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary website on July 11, 2016. The full article, "Concerning alcoholic beverages," can be accessed at this address: http://swbts.edu/news/releases/first-person-concerning-alcoholic-beverages/ (It is well-researched and offers a very comprehensive treatment of the subject from a Scriptural perspective).

The author correctly points out that the term translated into English as "wine" covered a number of different kinds of beverages derived from grapes in biblical times. He goes on to acknowledge that "the ancients...imbibed without reluctance." However, Pastor Patterson is quick to point out that Nazarites were prohibited from imbibing any alcoholic beverages, and that John the Baptist (whom Christ referred to as "the greatest born among men") also abstained from drinking them. He goes on to quote a number of scriptures that speak of the negative effects of drinking alcoholic spirits (e.g. impaired judgment, weakening inhibitions, overindulgence, etc.). This is followed by an attempt to explain away Christ's first miracle at Cana (changing water into wine) and Paul's admonition to Timothy to take a little wine for the sake of his weak stomach. Patterson concludes his article by pointing out that alcohol is either the cause or a significant contributing factor to much of the human misery that exists on this planet (e.g. bad parenting, violent deaths, divorces, crime, damage to property, etc.)

The Pastor talks about three categories of behavior relative to Scripture: "the prohibited, the acceptable and God's ideal." He reasons that Christians should want to live God's ideal and that anything less amounts to sin. Patterson summarizes his thesis thus: "Even if a Christian wished to demur from the idea that to take a drink is sin, strict biblical evidence establishes that imbibing strong drink is not God’s ideal for the believer. The question then becomes: Can it be anything less than sin for a believer who is genuinely grateful for the atoning power of Christ in his life to pursue anything other than the highest—God’s ideal—the best that he can be for Christ?"

That reasoning reminds me of the methodology employed by the Pharisees in erecting a law around THE LAW to ensure that it was never violated. Although my former church culture (Armstrong Church of God) clearly abused the fact that alcoholic beverages are not strictly prohibited by Scripture, Pastor Patterson's apology for his denomination's stance on the use of alcohol does not change/alter/disprove the fact that my former culture was correct in its characterization of the Scriptural position (that imbibing of alcoholic beverages is not prohibited). Nevertheless, the Pastor is correct in his assertion that overindulgence or abuse is a sin.

For me, the subject of what is acceptable for Christian's to eat or drink is a matter of personal conscience. It should NEVER be an occasion for one Christian to label the behavior of another Christian in this area as a SIN. In my opinion, if God intended for any behavior to be prohibited, then that should be spelled out in no uncertain terms by God - no equivocating, no need for extrapolating principles. God is responsible for setting the standard of behavior, PERIOD (not you, me or some organization of men). In other words, if it's not clearly spelled out in Scripture, then it must not be very important to God! Why leave something fuzzy and nebulous that's important?

It seems to me that we would all do better to pay more attention to whether or not our own behavior is motivated by LOVE (something that is mentioned over and over again in Scripture) than whether or not smoking, drinking or eating pork should be classified as sin. If we allowed our conscience to evaluate our behavior based on this standard (LOVE), we might indeed come to the conclusion that imbibing any alcohol would be a personal sin; but that same standard would never allow us to judge the same behavior in others as such. What do you think?   

No comments:

Post a Comment