Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bible Views Alcohol as Both a Joy and a 'Mocker'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bible Views Alcohol as Both a Joy and a 'Mocker'

Article excerpt

A certain segment of Americans, mostly Protestants who profess strict fealty to the Bible, associate true Christian living with total abstinence from alcoholic beverages.

It was such Protestant folk, especially women, who got the Constitution amended to forbid alcohol sales nationwide from 1919 to 1933. Some Protestant colleges still require students and faculty to be teetotalers, as do other religious organizations.

But Christians with a different opinion can cite support in the Scriptures. The Old Testament praised God because he brings forth "wine to gladden the heart of man" (Psalm 104:15). Searching to express high praise, the Song of Solomon began with the woman telling her man, "Your love is better than wine."

The New Testament added mention of medicinal benefits: "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (1 Timothy 5:23).

However, the Old Testament coupled its basically positive attitude with sharp warnings against drinking to excess: "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler; and whoever is led astray by it is not wise" (Proverbs 20:1). The Apostle Paul also denounced overindulgence: "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery" (Ephesians 5:18).

The New Testament church made indulgence a barrier to holding church office. Deacons must not be "addicted to much wine," said 1 Timothy 3:8.

As for Jesus Christ, his attitude is summarized in Matthew 11:18-19. There he said John the Baptist "came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon' " while the Son of Man (that is, Jesus) "came eating and drinking, and they say, 'behold, a glutton and a drunkard . . .' "

That means, wrote J. Lawrence Burkholder in Christianity Today -- a mainstream magazine for the sort of conservative Evangelicals who once demanded strict abstinence -- that Jesus thought arguments about drinking and diet "were petty and distracting. They drew attention from the real issues facing the nation."

It's also evident from this passage that Jesus taught that John's total abstinence was a perfectly acceptable lifestyle for believers, but so was the temperate use of alcoholic beverages that he himself practiced. …

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