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Friday, October 20, 2006

Should Christians Use Intoxicating Beverages? Part Two

I have known for some time that there were disputes about the passage in John 2. What we are being asked to believe is that an intoxicating beverage was served at the wedding. Those present drank all of it and thus had their senses dulled so that they were willing to tolerate an intoxicating beverage that was inferior which Jesus supposedly provided but in this case what he provided was a superior intoxicant. If this is the case then it seems it could be equally argued that Jesus was at worst encouraging drunkeness and at best not discouraging drunkeness. The participants already had there senses dulled to the point that they were willing to accept an inferior intoxicant, Jesus provides a superiour intoxicant so that they can have their senses dulled even more?? This is not a stretch I can make.

Let us also examine some other passages dealing with wine and strong drink.

Deut. 14:26 - And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household.
The term wine, as pointed out, does not necessarily indicate intoxicating beverages. The term strong drink is another interesting term because in the modern usage clearly implies an intoxicant. In fact the Hebrew word for “strong drink” indicates a drink that was dervied from a fruit other than grapes. It is also a gerneric word that must be understood in the context in which it is used.

Prov. 31:6 - Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
I think it is important here to look at the complete context.

Proverbs 31:1-7 - The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows? Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
What do we learn here? The first thing we see is two parties to an infamous trio (wine, women, and song) soundly condemned in relation to a king. There is the warning in 3 concerning giving one’s strength to women. Then there is the warning concerning wine. Kings are not to drink wine or strong drink (vs.4) Sounds like total abstinence! From what kind of wine and strong drink were they to abstain? The kind that causes one to forget the law and pervert judgment (vs.5). Obviously making reference to intoxicating beverages. People in positions of leadership are to refrain from this kind of beverage. Then she proceeds to give her son what amounts to cynical advice (vs6,7). How can this be anything other than sacrasim. To take it literally one would have to contend that it is condoning drunkeness. After all can a person "forget his poverty" and "remember his misery no more" by drinking moderately. And in fact using an intoxicating bevearge (no matter if it is a Budwiser or a bottle of fine wine) to "forget your poverty" and "remember your misery no more" in fact only exacerbates the problem. If you have drunk enough to "forget" and "remember no more" your problems are only going to be compounded which in turn will require you to return to the intoxicant. While this is the lifestyle of many certainly this is not what the passage is encouraging.

Ps. 78:65 - Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.
A simple comparison is being made here attempting to impress upon the mind of the readers the severity of God’s judgment.

Ps. 104:14,15 - He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.
There is no reason to believe this is speaking of an intoxicating beverage.

Eccl. 9:7 - Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
There is no reason to believe that this is speaking of an intoxicating beverage.

Isaiah 55:1 - Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
There is no reason to believe this is speaking of an intoxicating beverage.

My friend Eric, in a comment on the previous post, stated that “the idea that there was unfermented wine in Bible times is completely unsubstantiated”. He calls the position a myth. He no doubt is not alone in this assessment but it may very well be a conclusion that itself is unsubstantiated.

Intoxicating wine is not God’s gift. It is the taking of God’s gift and transforming it into something that the Scripture declares “At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.”
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