Thursday, September 13, 2012

What does the Bible say about drinking? (Talk Back Series)


What does the Bible say about drinking? The Church of the Nazarene?  KNU International English Church?  Is there such a thing as drinking in moderation? Acceptable drinking?
[This is a response to a question shared on a "Talk Back" card at our church. Answered by Adam Jantz and Josh Broward.]

These are all very good questions, and we're glad you asked! 
First, let’s start with what the Bible says about drinking.  The Bible talks about alcohol over 70 different times, and many of them can seem confusing or contradictory. It is very common to hear one of two answers. “Yes, it is okay to drink as long as you don’t drink too much.”  Or “No, you should not drink at all because it is a sin!”
For example Leviticus 10:9 says “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.”  Judges 13:4 says “Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, “ - So we should never drink – check!
But according to Ecclesiastes 9:7 “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.”  And Psalm 104:14-15 “ You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart. “  - So we can drink?!?
Also, Paul told Timothy to stop drinking only water and to drink some wine because it was good for his stomach (1 Timothy 5:23).  Furthermore, Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana in John 2:1-11.  It had to be real, high quality wine because the people said that Jesus’ wine was the best wine at the party!
On the other hand, though, the Bible is clear that drunkenness is dangerous and sinful (Ephesians 5:18, Galatians 5:19-21, Proverbs 23:29-35).  We should not be mastered by anything on this earth (1 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:19), and drinking alcohol can easily become addictive to many people.   Also, the Bible explains that we shouldn’t do anything that might offend other Christians or that might encourage them to sin (1 Corinthians 8:9-13).
So what do we get when we put all of this together? 

(1) Getting drunk is clearly wrong and also foolish since it can cause us to do stupid things.  Also, we need to beware of the dangers of alcoholism.  (2) It’s clear that the Bible isn’t totally against alcohol since Jesus turned water into wine and several verses speak positively about alcohol.  (3) On some controversial issues, it’s up to the individual to decide the best course, but we need to be careful to show respect to those around us.

What does the Church of the Nazarene say about drinking?
First, here is our official stance, according to The Manual of the Church of the Nazarene
We hold specifically that the following practices should be avoided… 
The use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage, or trafficking therein; giving influence to, or voting for, the licensing of places for the sale of the same; using illicit drugs or trafficking therein; using of tobacco in any of its forms, or trafficking therein.
In light of the Holy Scriptures and human experience concerning the ruinous consequences of the use of alcohol as a beverage, and in light of the findings of medical science regarding the detrimental effect of both alcohol and tobacco to the body and mind, as a community of faith committed to the pursuit of a holy life, our position and practice is abstinence rather than moderation. Holy Scripture teaches that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. With loving regard for ourselves and others, we call our people to total abstinence from all intoxicants.
Furthermore, our Christian social responsibility calls us to use any legitimate and legal means to minimize the avail- ability of both beverage alcohol and tobacco to others. The widespread incidence of alcohol abuse in our world demands that we embody a position that stands as a witness to others. (903.12-3.14)
(Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-24:2; Hosea 4:10-11; Habakkuk 2:5; Romans 13:8; 14:15-21; 15:1-2; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:9-12, 19-20; 10:31-33; Galatians 5:13-14, 21; Ephesians 5:18) 
(Only unfermented wine should be used in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.) (413.11, 427.7, 428.2, 429.1, 802)

Explanation – The Church of the Nazarene began in the late 19th century among poor people in the USA.  In their communities alcoholism was a huge problem. Saloons were also places of gambling and prostitution, so when a saloon came to town, it destroyed many families.  Many Christians (and non-Christians) decided that the solution to this problem was to outlaw alcohol.  Many early Nazarenes were also leaders in the prohibitionist political movement.  Our traditional stance against alcohol is rooted in this historic desire to protect individuals and families from the consequences associated with alcohol abuse.
However, as the Church of the Nazarene has become more multicultural, our pragmatic stance on alcohol is slowly softening.  For example, even many Nazarene pastors and leaders in Europe often drink in moderation, and at the 60th anniversary celebration for the Church of the Nazarene in Korea, the communion wine was alcoholic.  Also, even within the USA, Nazarenes are debating openly about whether our traditional stance should remain or be changed.
The basic point remains, though.  Alcohol is dangerous.  Some people choose to avoid it completely.  Some people choose to use it cautiously.  Both are acceptable Christian options, but we also need to be careful to show respect to each other.

What is the stance of KNU International English Church?
Because we come from so many different denominations and cultures, we don’t take an official stance on drinking alcohol - except for avoiding drunkenness.  However, to be sensitive toward those who always avoid alcohol, we always use grape juice in our communion cup.

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