the Christian and drinking

Randy Jaeggli, The Christian and Drinking: A Biblical perspective on moderation and abstinence (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2008).

I want to recommend a little book by my friend, Randy Jaeggli. Entitled The Christian and Drinking: A Biblical perspective on moderation and abstinence, it appears that Randy is going to be spending his summers writing short books on various topics. I reviewed a short book by him here. Love, Liberty, and Christian Conscience was last summer’s project. I am pleased that this year’s installment carries Randy’s autograph inside the front cover. My son picked it up at the Seminary retreat for me. Randy asked him if I would be reviewing his latest. We aren’t sure if this was simply an effort to boost sales, or not!

Well, regardless of Randy’s motivation in getting my son to buy the book, I hope this review does boost sales. I can heartily recommend Randy’s treatment of the subject.

The book is broken into these chapters:

  1. Old Testament Teaching on Alcoholic Beverages
  2. New Testament Teaching on Alcoholic Beverages
  3. Historical Views of Alcohol Consumption
  4. Medical Views of Alcohol Consumption
  5. Christlikeness and Drinking

In the introduction, the subject is clearly stated: “What does the Bible, by direct statement, principle, and example, teach about drinking alcohol in moderation?” (p. 2) It is shocking to me that we need to be asking this question in fundamentalist circles, but such is the age we live in. One of the major challenges to fundamentalism in this day and age is worldliness, especially “The ungodliness the worldling loves” [drinking], to quote an old sermon title of mine. It seems that it is not so much doctrine that is under assault today but rather daily Christian living. Not orthodoxy [straight doctrine], but orthopraxy [straight practice], as some would have it.

In addressing this issue from a biblical perspective, Randy notes, “Above all we must never come to the Bible with an idea of what we would like it to mean and force it to say what we think it should.” (p. 5). Unfortunately, in some treatments of this subject in the past, Christians in their zeal for abstinence have made statements that distort the actual meaning of Scripture and have damaged their credibility in arguing for what I think is the godly position. It is critical that we determine our Christian standards by honest exposition and interpretation of Scriptural instructions. Our information from science, history and culture must also be accurately stated. Sloppy work here undermines our whole position.

Randy concludes his introduction with this: “So what does the Bible say? And how are we to apply what it says to the question of alcoholic beverages today? As we shall see, a cavalier attitude toward even moderate consumption of alcohol is not warranted by Scripture.” (p. 5) His last sentence gives a window into his ultimate conclusion, but I think it is one that he comes to carefully and honestly.

In his first footnote in chapter 1, Randy says, “The discussion that follows unavoidably deals with some technical details of exegetical significance. The footnotes discuss matters that may be beyond the readers level of linguistic comprehension. Some readers will wish to skip over details of Hebrew grammar and center more on what they can glean from the overall interpretive viewpoint.” (p. 6, footnote 1) This note reflects an admirable attempt to keep the body of the presentation as comprehensible as possible for the widest audience possible. The presentation that follows, however, does not completely avoid some technical matters in the linguistic discussions of chapter 1 and chapter 2. Those who do not have some linguistic background may find some aspects of these chapters a bit daunting. It is hard for me to be critical, as I am not sure that I could do any better in translating technospeak into the language of the common man! If there is a weakness in this presentation, this almost inescapable problem in the first two chapters is probably the most notable one in the whole book. Nevertheless, I would have to say that for the most part Randy’s presentation can be followed by the average reader. And his summary statements at the end of chapters 1 and 2 give the essential analysis everyone should come away with.

Near the beginning of chapter 1, Randy says, “An essential part of biblical interpretation is to avoid reading our cultural setting back into the Old Testament.” (p. 8). This admonition is important for any Bible study. We all have a tendency to think that the way things are in our time is the way things have always been. Anyone who is an adult today should check this tendency, if they will simply pause to think of the phenomenal change we are observing around us every day. Those of us over 50 are conscious of overwhelming change. The world of our childhood would be almost incomprehensible to children today. The world of the Old and New Testaments changed much more slowly, but they are profoundly different from our global cultural scene today.

Chapter 1 describes the major Old Testament words for wine and strong drink. Chapter 2 describes the New Testament words. Essentially, the presentation of both Testaments and their vocabulary is the same. Alcoholic beverages are seen in the Bible as part of God’s blessed provision to mankind, an essential beverage in a time when potable water was in short supply and sometimes difficult to come by. In the presentation of alcohol as a blessing, it is also used metaphorically (especially wine, less so strong drink) for the blessings that accompany salvation. This metaphor is present in both Testaments. Alcohol, however, carries strong warnings because of the dangers of alcohol abuse. Randy offers this observation: “Unfortunately anything good can be abused.” (p. 12)

Besides presenting wine as a blessing (in normal, controlled, everyday use – while diluted with water), and warning against abuse, wine is also a metaphor for God’s judgement in both Testaments. “Because addiction to wine has such deleterious personal consequences, it is an appropriate metaphor of God’s judgment on sin.” (p. 18) In contrast, especially in the Old Testament, total abstinence from alcohol is a picture of total devotion to God. This is seen in the requirements for priestly ministry and in the case of the Nazirite. “The Nazirite vow was the Lord’s way of drawing His people’s attention back to Him. The Nazirite stood out from the crowd by voluntarily abstaining from the enjoyments to which he was otherwise entitled, simply because he loved God and wanted to be separated exclusively for service to Him. Other Israelites who witnessed the sacrifice of the Nazirite would find unspoken exhortation to make sure that the prosperity of a settled life in Canaan had not robbed them of their devotion to the Lord.” (p. 21)

Chapter 3 is devoted to historical concerns. Anyone approaching this issue for the modern Christian must have some appreciation for historical data, both in terms of changes in alcohol production over the centuries and in terms of historical attitudes toward alcohol consumption. Consultation of secular histories and encyclopediae are vital here, since they will not be presenting a polemical Christian viewpoint (from either side of the issue). Randy’s historical survey focuses mostly on differing attitudes to drinking historically. He touches on differences in alcohol production at various points in the book, but doesn’t spend a great deal of time on that point (perhaps this is a minor weakness in the argument).

The cultural attitude survey begins with the Greco-Roman attitudes of ancient times and the attitudes in the ancient Jewish world. Both cultures emphasized moderate beverage use, especially by dilution of wine with water. It is quite clear from secular sources that the ancients normally drank beverage wine in diluted form. Randy brings this out well. There may have been a number of reasons for this. Randy mentions that the Greeks and Romans stored wine in amphora lined with pitch. Their wine was often heavily spiced as well. Dilution may have helped with taste – I am sure that pitch-flavoured wine must be … unique! As I read, it occurred to me that dilution would also stretch supply. The vineyards of the ancient world would produce a finite supply of wine each year. It required a good deal of work to produce. Dilution would stretch the supply (and purify the water) as a matter of good money management for the average citizen. (Drunkenness is still possible with diluted wine, and of course one did not have to dilute the wine if drunkenness was what one was after.)

Randy also discusses the culture of the early church and its use of wine especially in communion. He includes an interesting quote by Cyprian who describes the union of water and wine in the communion glass as a picture of the union of the believer and Christ. Regardless of value of that theology, it stands as a clear witness to the early practice of the church.

From discussing the early church, Randy moves on to the attitudes of the Reformers (mostly for disciplined alcohol consumption), to the Puritans and the development of the attitudes of temperance and total banishment of the temperance movement in America. This survey of history is one I am not familiar with. It is helpful to have a quick survey of this development as a reference. He closes this section with a determined statement by Billy Sunday, then says, “It would be a shame if we, his heirs in the defense and propagation of the gospel, ever fail to issue just as clarion a call against the abuse of alcohol.” (p. 53)

The 4th chapter discusses the medical perspective. Randy wrote this chapter in collaboration with a medical doctor, surveying the devastating effects of alcohol abuse and the supposed healthful effects of moderate use. With respect to the harmful effects of alcohol abuse, Randy says “Drinking alcoholic beverages is the medical equivalent of playing Russian roulette with a real handgun loaded with real bullets.” (p. 58) As for the health benefits of wine, while some studies have suggested a link between moderate drinking and heart health, it is not clear to me that there is an absolute link between the two. Furthermore, as Randy points out, most people embracing this view often take ‘moderate’ to mean ‘the amount I like to drink’ rather than what clinical researchers consider to be moderate. (By the way, a recent article suggests that the supposed healthful benefits of ‘moderate’ use could be equally deleterious to the brain. See Moderate drinking could increase dementia risks: study from canada.com. Of course, this article came out after Randy’s book was published.) Randy points out that there are “vastly superior ways for people to increase their overall health and avoid cardiovascular disease.” (p. 62) It is very foolish for anyone to justify drinking as a ‘health benefit’ in light of the constantly changing conclusions and conflicting theories of science. Full knowledge of any healthful effects of alcohol remains to be discovered. In the meantime, a pro-alcohol position based on ‘health benefits’ is shifty ground on which to build.

Finally, the last chapter of Randy’s book deals with “Childlikeness and Drinking”. This is perhaps the strongest chapter of the book, using careful Bible study to build a biblical philosophy of abstinence. The chapter has three sections. First, “Personal Holiness has a Positive Focus” which calls the Christian to “be a continual display of God’s holiness to unsaved people around us.” (p. 66) Second, “Personal Holiness Mandates a Negative Response to the World System”. In this section, Randy capably demonstrates the general biblical teaching of separation from the world. Then he turns, third, to “Is Drinking Alcohol a form of Worldliness?”. Randy demonstrates that “the broad spectrum of those who drink, all the way from the sophisticated wine connoisseur to the undiscriminating bum in the gutter, is united by the desire to have some experience that satisfies human pride or lust.” Then he asks, “Why would a Christian want any association with such a lifestyle?” (p. 69) He also points out that drinking in our culture creates a community of drinkers, a “bond of solidarity” among people sharing a worldly world-view. (p.70) The section and chapter closes with a strong appeal to the matter of testimony to the world, to other believers and within one’s own home.

~~~

Some Christians might read this book and mock the godly teaching it offers. They ought to consider carefully the wisdom of Psalm 1.1: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” Do you really want to sit down with the scorners of this world and have a drink?

As I said above, I heartily recommend Randy’s book. I am planning on ordering a number of copies for our church book table. You should too.

The book doesn’t have a bibliography, but you can find some good references in the footnotes to other articles that are helpful on the subject. In particular, I would like to also recommend an article found in a book by Robert H. Stein, “Is New Testament ‘Wine’ the Same as Today’s Wine?”. It is found in a book called Difficult Passages in the New Testament. The article is a reprint of a 1970s Christianity Today article. This book is, I believe, out of print, but worth getting for this and other articles.

don_sig2

Comments

  1. I am pleased that this year’s instalment carries Randy’s autograph inside the front cover.

    Um… I think I got his autograph for you on the other book too! :) In fact, I’m sure I did. Your post on that book affirms it!

    I am planning on ordering a number of copies for our church book table.

    You might also want to see the other book that came out this summer in the Seminary’s series. It’s called Upright Downtime: Making Wise Choices About Entertainment. Of course, I guess that would mean I’d need to send you a copy. ;)

  2. Hey, buddy, I have no problem with my memory. It’s just that its… ahh… what were you saying??

    Yeah, that sounds like a good one too. If you send me one, be sure to get it autographed!

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  3. Well, that can probably be arranged. Just remember that if I do it will cost you another book review :)

    On another note… have you thought about recycling your sermon & study notes on alcohol into a series of blog posts? That would be interesting to see.

    Anyway, if you need any more work let me know I guess ;)

  4. Thank you, buddy, that’ll do for now!

    Actually, that might not be a bad idea… I’ve been slowly digitizing some of my old messages. I am now in 2000, before we bought the building. I listen to bits and pieces of those old messages as I copy them to the computer. It is amazing, some of them sound pretty good! That sermon title I put in this message came from one of my Galatians messages on the works of the flesh from the spring of 2000.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  5. I recently wrote a review of Jaeggli’s book, and I have come to a very opposite conclusion. I think the book is soft on booze because he holds to the “one wine theory.” I will be glad to send you a copy of my review if you’re interested. (I purchased the book to help some Christians I know who believe social drinking is OK. After reading the book, I determined I could never give it to them.) Let me know if you want an electronic copy of my review in Word format.

    • Thanks for the note, bro. Monte. I sent you an e-mail directly so please do send the review to the address I wrote you from. Thanks.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

    • Hello again, bro. Monte

      I read about half your review (the first third and last sixth). I think you mention being a student at BJU in the 80s. I don’t recall ever crossing paths, but that could be because I was in grad school during those years. Randy Jaeggli and I were classmates and both of us received the MDiv at the same time.

      I truly appreciate your passion and am as militantly against the use of alcohol as you are. No alcohol, no way, never. It isn’t acceptable.

      However, I believe we must be accurate in all we teach. Even though the Bible gives strong warnings against alcohol, it clearly doesn’t entirely prohibit its use. It is equally clear from detailed word studies that we cannot make “wine” in the Bible ever mean “non-alcoholic juice”. I think Paton is simply wrong here.

      Many of the young fellows (and gals, sadly) who are trying to justify the use of alcohol know the things I just said are true. We must have strong arguments to hold to a total abstinence position. I believe that we can make these arguments from Bible principles, but not from direct Bible imperatives. Let me hasten to say that I agree that the passages in Proverbs are especially strong warnings and have an imperatival force, but we don’t just proof-text, do we? We have to consider the entire Scriptural presentation of the subject, not just pull the verses we like out of context. And by context, I don’t just mean the chapter they are in, but the whole of the Bible. Scripture doesn’t contradict scripture, so the meaning of these passages must agree with all the other passages in the Bible on the subject. And there are other passages that seem to encourage moderation on their face, aren’t there?

      So in order to take a total abstinence position, we have to take into account all the passages (as well as principles derived from passages non-specific to alcohol) and come to a Biblical conclusion. We must also bear in mind the facts of history (as best they can be determined) and the facts of medical science. They are not conclusive, but on this subject, absent strictly consistent Bible prohibitions, we do need to bear these things in mind as we come to our conclusions.

      I will say that as I read Randy’s book, I was worried about where he was going until we got to the end. I think that perhaps he could have written in a different way for the first four chapters. But I think his approach was to concede what is known to be true, especially by the ‘moderate’ advocates, then overturn their arguments with the concluding chapter and Bible principles. I think that although I might have written differently, one has to consider his book as a whole and not isolate complaints against it chapter by chapter. Randy comes to a certain conclusion, it appears to me to be the same conclusion I have, and he does it in a way that is intended to win a certain kind of argument.

      I realize that you will likely not agree with my assessment, but I do thank you for commenting here and for sending my review. I checked out your church website and thank the Lord for your ministry in Indiana. May the Lord continue to bless your work.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. Dear Don: I don’t recall meeting you at BJU, but I was in the undergrad in the 1980’s and did not go to the seminary there. Your assessment of Dr. Jaeggi’s arguments is accurate. Dr. Jaeggli would agree (I believe) with your assessment that “even though the Bible gives strong warnings against alcohol, it clearly doesn’t entirely prohibit its use.” In fact, I think Dr. Jaeggli would argue that the Bible does does not “give strong warnings against alcohol,” but that it only warns of the “abuse” of alcohol. Dr. Jaeggli was completely consistent with his use of the word “abuse” rather than “use” in describing the Bible’s condemnation of alcohol.

    I hope you will read carefully my entire review. I am certainly not arguing that Dr. Jaeggli uses alcohol himself, nor am I saying that the University’s policies toward alcohol use have changed. I am saying that Dr. Jaeggli states that the Bible allows for the use of alcohol in moderation. You have stated as much in your last post, and you are correct. You have read Jaeggli rightly.

    For Dr. Jaeggli to assert that Jesus produced and distributed full strength alcoholic wine (which he does) eliminates any possible argument for abstinence from a biblical standpoint. I may argue abstinence from a health standpoint, but not from the Bible. It is illogical to hold to abstinence from a biblical standpoint if Jesus, as Dr. Jaeggli asserts, was involved in the production, distribution, and use of an alcoholic beverage.

    In addition, I don’t understand the scholarship of Patton and Reynolds being so easily dismissed. As you can guess, I have reread Patton and am currently reading Reynolds. Just because Patton’s work is “old” doesn’t make it wrong. I think Jaeggli needs to demostrate where Patton’s research is incorrect, including the section of Patton’s book where he details the 4 ancient methods used to preserve grape juice unfermented in Bible times. In addition, Reynolds holds a doctorate from Princeton in ancient languages. He is a scholarly icon of evangelicals, having served on the translation committee of the NIV. I think his work deserves more than a dismissal. Jaeggli must address these arguments if he is to be credible.

    Your addmission that you “worried” about Jaeggli’s direction during the first 4 chapters (of a 5 chapter book) indicates the inherent weakness of his arguments. Many who read the book share your worries, including me.

    It appears that the administration of the University believes that Jaeggli’s book “declares in the most unambiguous way that drinking of alcohol by Christians is unjustifiable and wrong.” You and I both know that is not what the book says. If it did, Jesus Christ would have, according to Jaeggli, done something “unjustifiable and wrong.”

    Don, you have accurately read Jaeggli’s book. We come to differing conclusions. I do not believe one can argue effectively for moderation and then come to an abstinence conclusion as Jaeggli does–particularly since he claims that Jesus produced, distributed, and drank an alcoholic beverage. (Had Jesus been a student at BJU, He would have been expelled! How’s that for logic.)

    I think BJU needs to reassess this book, and–as you suggest–rewrite the first 4 chapters differently.

    Thanks for your honest appraisal of this book. You got the message. We both agree on abstinence. Dr. Jaeggli is in favor of abstinence. In my view, we simply can’t take the moderation arguments and force them into an abstinence position–especially when one believes that Jesus Christ produced, distributed, and used an alcoholic beverage.

    Thank for your time and for the good work you do in the great land of Canada. I have a young Canadian preacher boy, Ryan King, who is doing a great job for the Lord in Nova Scotia. He’s originally from BC, but the Lord called him east after a stint of education in the states.

    Thanks!

    Pastor Monte

    • Hi bro. Monte

      I am not familiar with Reynolds. I first came across the notion that the wine of today was quite different from the wine of ancient times from a lecture at BJU by Jesse Boyd, I think. I remember one roommate of mine scoffing at what was said, but I later decided to do my own research to see if what I was taught was correct. I decided to use secular histories of beer and wine from our local library, since they would be unlikely to have an axe to grind in favour of my own position.

      In reading these books, I found my earlier teaching to be confirmed, much of which Jaeggli summarizes in his book. I think Patton is just plain wrong in his finding of a non-alcoholic kind of wine in the ancient world. Other than freshly squeezed grape juice, there is no possibility of there being anything other than alcoholic wine. That being the case, the argument against alcohol use must be made in a different way than Patton’s. I think bro. Jaeggli does a good job making that case.

      You suggest Jesus would have been expelled from BJU for alcohol use… well, so would almost every person in church history up until the last 150 years or so. That doesn’t actually weaken the argument against alcohol, because for most of that history we are not talking about the same things – the customs of the past clearly demonstrate an entirely different use of wine up to at least the 700s AD and likely beyond.

      In any case, it is fruitless to argue these points. The position for total abstinence is the right position. You may not agree with the way it is arrived at, but it is nonetheless the right position for Christians today. I think you would agree with that.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  7. Kent Brandenburg says:

    Bro. Monte,

    I’d like to read what you wrote. I think you’ll get my email if you click on my name here.

    Kent Brandenburg

  8. Roy Magnuson says:

    “”However, I believe we must be accurate in all we teach. Even though the Bible gives strong warnings against alcohol, it clearly doesn’t entirely prohibit its use. It is equally clear from detailed word studies that we cannot make “wine” in the Bible ever mean “non-alcoholic juice”. I think Paton is simply wrong here.””

    True. Though I did these same studies I remained a immoderately censorious myself. . . .

    Thank you. Word studies in the Greek clarify this that you said, Bro. Don, as you also have discovered. So do English Bible (KJV at least) studies corroborate and require.

    “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess,” cannot be clearer, can it? This verse is direct, clear and essential to the understanding of Spirit-fulness, praise God! :-).

    The Apostle does not say, Do not drink, he says do not drink too much of that which is excess, do not get drunk.

    And he does not even say do not drink, (I am in error on purpose), he says do not get drunk in the Greek. Then adds, as it is well translated frankly, “to excess.”

    A simple idea written without modifications or explanations as if it was also a simple concept to understand for the culture there among the brethren who read these things, the saints there in Ephesus (where walking in light, in love and in line were carefully instructed all three of which requires moderation in this world, a huge principle!).

    It cannot be strongly enough stressed in my humble estimation, that if Paul wanted to teach abstinence he could have, (and would have!), but rather taught something much different, here and elsewhere.

    This is very much the same as to say that the bishop and deacons must be ones who are NOT allowed to be “given to much wine.” The Apostle does not say the bishop should drink no wine. The Apostle under divine direction does not require or even suggest abstinence.

    It would be simple and direct to say Drink only a very little wine and perhaps be like the Rechabites if those in your community may be tempted above what they are able in enjoying this wonderfully symbolic drink from the vine, which our Lord Himself created in the first sign miracle and reported purposefully in John’s Gospel as the first of seven sign proofs of His Creatorship and Lordship.

    No. I am sorry if it offends that I finally had to be strong against myself and become a NON-abstentionist based on simple and correct Bible interpretation.

    I must be a Biblicist, and let God speak, for He has spoken clearly and without confusion or self-contradiction. The simple meaning is the best: the Apostle was not an abstentionist, and it cannot be shown that he was Biblically. I too have studied intriging historical consideration from scholars. But scholars and the Bible are often at odds, and historical revisionism has been with us since Genesis three.

    Nor was Jesus an abstentionist, according to Biblical canonical record, the only trustworthy reports. He made wine, and made no distinctions about which wine was which wine, and discipled Paul, the Apostle very carefully we believe for three years.

    Jesus could easily and many times have decried the allegations of himself as fellowshipping with (or ministring to, depending on whose jargon/dictionary one uses) wino’s, yet this reputation did not seem to bother him, nor did he use it as a springboard to pound forth the truth that he was not drinking with them, only evangelizing, and neither should his disciples drink with the gluttons and real winebibbers.

    “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit” must be dealt with. Anyone wish to speak to the grammar of that verse in the Greek? It strengthens the argument since BOTH phrases are present tense.

    Thanks for your passion, your Biblicity and your humility, Brother Don, and for Dr. J’s willingness to call it AND write it, as should be done – in honor of the original intent of the holy men who were “inspired” of the Spirit.

    Honesty after careful first source material study is critical, as is careful homework from within the spirited words, the Greek spirited words (theopnustos is God breathed or God spirited), that holy source given and preserved by our Lord Jesus, who Himself is the same yesterday, today and forever.

    I will conclude by asking, who is the wiser/stronger man, the man who is moderate in all things according to the Scriptures, and teaches others so to be, so as to grow strong and be a fisher of men as was Jesus and as Paul required of the bishops, or the one who is radical and censors things not censored in the Bible (for whatever reason), and mostly because he fears he cannot control that which is allowed, or cannot teach others to be moderate in all things as they grow from babyhood, to youngmanhood, to fatherhood in the faith?. . .

    August 6th, I am sorry to hear Steven Jones state that they will rewrite this book! Now, I can find it NOWHERE on line! It has been censured utterly, or I would have bought it by now having to have a copy for our Scriptorium and for posterity. Anyone know where I can buy a copy? It seems to be NOWHERE available. Amazing, amazing, the ability today to lockdown truth.

    Agree or disagree, I Thank you who have read these poor words, for hearing and considering this simple watchman’s words.

    Yours for the revival of Jesus words and ways, and Paul’s as based on and consistent with our Lord’s lifegiving words,

    The moral of the story? Blessings to all through GOD’s grace, and be filled with the Spirit, not drink of any kind, or foods, or drugs, or sex, or movies, or cars, or sports, or . . . . or Christian entertainment.

    a fellow BJ grad, Roy. Cheers!

    • Hi Roy

      First regarding Randy’s book, it will reappear and hopefully be stronger and maybe even longer!

      Be that as it may, I am afraid you are making an error here that is far bigger than the ‘two wines’ theory error. At least the ‘two wines’ theory comes to the right application, if not an entirely correct interpretation.

      You seem to be taking only the one verse: “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit” and making that the governing verse for your position. Even if your interpretation is correct, it couldn’t rest on that one verse alone, but must rest on all the scriptural admonitions, especially NT admonitions, on drunkenness. They all stand equally, although the less clear must be interpreted in light of the more clear. That is biblical theology.

      With respect to ‘be not drunk with wine’, it cannot mean that Paul is giving permission thereby to ‘drink moderately’. Why? Because he gives us the alternative, ‘be filled with the Spirit’ — Paul isn’t suggesting that we should be ‘moderate’ in taking in the Spirit is he? Where the Spirit is, there is no room for the flesh and its desires. The Ephesians passage is perfectly consistent with the Galatians 5 passage (works [desires] of the flesh vs. fruit of the Spirit).

      Please see my more recent post on ‘what about drunkenness‘ for more.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  9. PS Ferguson says:

    I am always curious that those who advocate drinking in moderation do not advocate taking hard drugs in moderation. Many may argue that hard drugs are illegal, but some are legal tender in countries such as Holland. Save for Doug Wilson, no preacher that I have read will dare to say it is ok to take heroin in moderation for recreational use!

    Although I have not read Randy Jaeggli’s book, if as is stated here he posits that Christ made alcoholic wine, then Jaeggli is in serious trouble. This would implicate Christ in the sin of making drunk men who were already “well drunk.”

    • Paul, you need to read John 2 properly. The ruler of the feast was making a comment about traditional practice, not a comment about the state of the guests at that wedding. There is no evidence that anyone was drunk at the wedding of Cana. There is no evidence that the wine was anything other than wine. There is no evidence that the people at the wedding were drinking wine in any way other than normal first century custom – relatively low alcohol content diluted with water. You can’t make a case for “non-alcoholic wine” from the text of John 2. It isn’t there.

      You also can’t make a case for non-alcoholic wine from the Bible, by the way. Wine is wine.

      The case you can make, and which Randy makes in his book, is that the wine of ancient times is different from today and that the culture of drinking was different from today so that we are talking about entirely different things.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  10. Roy Magnuson says:

    Brother Don states, “The case you can make, and which Randy makes in his book, is that the wine of ancient times is different from today and that the culture of drinking was different from today so that we are talking about entirely different things.”

    Don, “entirely different things?” Entirely?

    C’mon.

    Overstatement serves the purpose of proving a point illegitimately, but we know you are not doing that so please be a bit more conscientious about your use of terms, thank you. (grin grin).

    Now about me. You seem to have gotten bored by my thoughts? I used TWO passages, not one singular verse, as a point of springing into (and centering on) an argument. Why two? Because I believe in the principle of a double witness….. in my Biblical Theology pursuits – as do you I trust.

    Therefore how is is that you mischaracterize my effort by saying I “seem” to only use ONE verse? Certainly your read my whole lil note? I specifically quoted Paul in addressing a church and then secondly quoted Paul in another passage in addressing the qualifications for a pastor, since the KJV translated both in the same way, and my readings in the Greek seemed to confirm the veracity of their terminology.

    I also alluded to the silence of Jesus in regards to “abstention” regarding wine, and the silence of Paul also in regards to “abstention.” Hence I am not promoting non-abstention. I am only affirming what I see the Bible is saying, and asking for clear postitive teaching regarding abstaining from wine as we see abstaining from evil appearances. One should abstain from appearing drunk it would seem, except even here our Lord Jesus seemed to have in some way caused the accusation of being a winebibber and glutton, even if only through association.

    Sola scriptura is best, even if modern men are so weak as to seem to have to be tee-totallers for fear grace will not work in such a scenario. One drink may overcome the man, or an innocent bystander.

    Finally, dear Don, and what was most “fun” (if you will so allow) to observe, was that you yourself refer to the true issue: “. . . [We] must rest on all the scriptural admonitions, especially NT admonitions, on drunkenness” said you.

    Yes you said “drunkenness.” Thanks for clarifying.

    Drunkenness means drunkenness, not abstention.

    Thank you for affirming the issue and allowing my point to stand. Drunkenness is out of the question and a sin, obviously. The wretched Christ haters tried to nail him with the sin of drunkeredness (coining words, so tired, sorry :-)

    In a day when many in the church do like the rabbis, making mens’ laws authoratative, and judge against (kata-krino) others for their own personal choices/convictions so as to stay as far away from sin as possible, it seems the saints are getting nowhere near sinners, for fear of temptation or taintedness.

    Of course, Jesus did not fear being called a winebibber or a glutton, but let a believer hang around with folks at a party where cocktails are served and hmmmm, my experience is that slander is generally unavoidable.

    However the poinst is that slander must be abstained from. Must wine also? I thought wine must not be taken to excess – in the Biblical writings. And that “strong drink” should be abstained from. There is a huge difference there in “kind.”

    Sorry I missed your response last month. Just wanted to clear up the fact that the two comments by Paul on this issue are satisfactory to me since they align perfectly with other passages regarding the issue in my readings, perusals of God’s words.

    You really should take some time and read Eph. 5:18 in the Greek in context. I do not find your arguments valid.

    Let us stand up for Jesus words, our Lord’s positive directives, (who never outlawed drinking wine though he easily could have on a couple of occasions). His words we agree I trust are sufficient for doctrinal foundations, and Paul, who was based on and consistent with our mutual Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ likewise never forbade drinking, though he did forbid not being drunk!

    Soberly yours, Roy

    • Roy, I can’t respond to all of this, but I will give you a few comments.

      First, in discussing this same subject with a young fellow, I realized that I was overstating my case to say “entirely different things”. So I agree, they aren’t entirely different. However, I believe that the normal approved use of wine in Bible times was quite different from modern usage. The difference is so significant that today’s usage and ancient usage can’t really be compared and the Biblical passages are describing something quite different from what people are practicing today.

      With respect to you resting on one passage, I took your earlier note to be primarily resting on the Ephesians passage. The reference to qualification of a pastor seemed to me to be resting on the Ephesians passage (in your mind) rather than being a separate point. That may just be my interpretation of your words, however. In the end, it doesn’t much matter whether you cite one passage or two, all of Scripture on this subject needs to be brought to bear in order for us to come to a biblical interpretation, not a few select passages.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3