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Christians, Alcohol, and the Bible.

Christians, Alcohol, and the Bible

“Don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t go with girls that do.” It may be bad poetry, but at least it has the virtue of being clear. And fifty years ago, many American Evangelicals would have agreed that alcohol consumption was a sure sign of worldliness, if not a lack of genuine faith altogether.

But times have changed, as a recent CT article shows, citing Moody Bible Institute lifting its ban on alcohol and tobacco use for full time employees. This change is part of a larger shift in how Evangelicals think about cultural activities once deemed questionable. Consider, for example Brett McCracken’s recent book Gray Matters: Navigating the Space between Legalism and Liberty, which discusses Christian consumption of food, music, movies, and alcohol.[1]

Emotions run high on this issue. This is understandable considering the destruction and heartbreak many have experienced because of alcohol addiction and abuse. No thoughtful person would advocate that all Christians should drink, but some believe total abstention is the only reasonable Christian position.

As with all matters of Christian living, the foremost question is, “What does the Bible teach?”

Curse or Blessing?

Is alcohol a curse or a blessing? Scripture certainly speaks negatively about alcohol.

·         Drunkenness is condemned in multiple passages, such as Ephesians 5:18: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”

·         The language of 1 Corinthians 6:10 is even stronger, warning that drunkards “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

·         Jesus warned against drunkenness in Luke 21:34.

·         And the book of Proverbs, full of warnings against drunkenness, especially warns against the disorienting, addictive, and destructive consequences for those who “tarry long over wine”:

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.” (Proverbs 23:29-35)

To top it off, the Old Testament prophets frequently use drunkenness as a metaphor for God’s judgment and curse on sinful human societies. (See Jeremiah 13:13-14 and Ezekiel 23:38-33.)

But alongside these negative passages, Scripture also says that wine is a gift from God. For example, the Psalmist praised God for the gifts of wine, oil, and bread in 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.

And this is not the only positive reference to alcohol — there are many others. In fact, the number of positive references to wine in Scripture is almost surprising.

·         Wine is viewed as the blessing of God (Genesis 27:28Deuteronomy 7:13).

·         The benefits or promises of wisdom are favorably compared to wine (Proverbs 9:2-5).

·         The blessings of romantic love in marriage are compared with wine (Song of Solomon 5:1).

·         The gracious promises of the gospel are compared to wine (Isaiah 55:1-2).

·         Many passages anticipate a great eschatological feast at the end of time when the nations will gather to enjoy “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine” prepared for God’s people by the Lord himself (Isaiah 25:6-9Amos 9:13-15).

·         And then there is the practice of Jesus, who not only began his ministry by miraculously transforming water into wine (John 2:1-11), but also drank it himself (Luke 7:33-35).[2]

Use or Abuse?

A close look at the relevant passages show that Scripture condemns not the use but the abuse of alcohol.

This is the same perspective we’re given regarding food and sex. Eating food is not a sin, but its abuse through gluttony is. Sex is a good gift from the Lord when enjoyed in the context of the loving covenant relationship of marriage. But Scripture condemns the misuse of sex in extramarital relationships.

The same can be said of alcohol: alcohol itself is not a sinful substance, but the abuse or misuse of alcohol is both sinful and destructive.

Liberty or Love?

It seems clear that the moderate consumption of alcohol is a matter of Christian liberty. So, should a Christian be willing to forego the exercise of this freedom for the sake of others? Absolutely. Paul makes this clear in Romans 14.

Paul doesn’t say a believer can enjoy liberty only if everyone else agrees with him. Nor does he advocate laying down all liberties on all occasions. But when a believer with a “strong” conscience is in the presence of a believer with a “weak” conscience, he or she should not participate in anything that tempts the weaker believer to sin. There must be love for and sensitivity to others in this issue.

Love always trumps liberty.[3]
Brian G. Hedges is the lead pastor for Fulkerson Park Baptist Church and the author of Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change and Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin. Brian and his wife Holly have four children and live in South Bend, Indiana. Brian also blogs at www.brianghedges.comand you can follow him on Twitter @brianghedges.


[1]This book is helpful in many ways, not least of which is his survey of the history on each of these issues. See, for example, Christians and Alcohol: A Timeline, excerpted from his book.

[2]Some would argue that the different words for wine in the original languages prove that the positive references are to new, unfermented wine, with the negative passages targeting all intoxicating beverages.

With the Old Testament, contrasts are made between the Hebrew words tirosh (often translated “new wine”), yayin (“wine”), and shekar (“strong drink”), while a similar contrast is made between the words oinos (“wine”) and gluekos (“new wine”) in the New Testament.

But these distinctions don’t hold up under attentive exegesis. Gluekos only appears once in the New Testament (Acts 2:13) and even then the context shows that it could intoxicate. Tirosh (“new wine”)clearly has intoxicating effects in Hosea 4:11, though considered a blessing from God inDeuteronomy 7:13and many other passages.

Even shekar (“strong drink,” translated “beer” in the HCSB) is allowed in Deuteronomy 14:24-26: “And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money . . . and spend the money for whatever you desire–oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”

[3]For more on the issues of both alcohol and Christian liberty, see Kenneth Gentry’s helpful bookGod Gave Wine: What the Bible Says about Alcohol.

Brian Hedges



Pastor Drinks Beer in the Name of Jesus at Bar-Based Bible Study.

drinking beer
Should Christians drink beer or not? (

In between a sip or two of beer, a group of men delved deeper into the Bible at a bar off Route 67 in Oxford, Conn. last week, the Associated Press reports. The story goes on to paint a picture of men digging deeper for a better understanding of themselves and a better relationship with God.

Is that biblical? The Rev. John Donnelly of Christ Church Quaker Farms thinks so. The way he sees it, a lot of men won’t go to Bible study in church—but they might be willing to listen to Jesus with a cold brewsky in hand.

That’s why he launched a group called Beer, Bible and Brotherhood. The first meeting drew 10 men who downed beer while contemplating Bible verses, the AP reports. He’s hoping to build the group of suds-sipping seekers to 50.

“Downstairs in a banquet room Wednesday evening, the men gathered at long tables, with pints in front of a few of them. Donnelly had Samuel Adams Boston Lager, while some sipped Samuel Adams OctoberFest,” the AP says.

Donnelly’s club may be a sign of the times. There’s a definite cultural shift in the body of Christ to open the bottles, er, the gates to alcoholic beverages. Moody Bible Institute in September lifted its alcohol and tobacco ban.

“Generally, permissive attitudes about alcohol within an evangelical denomination or school are looked upon by many conservative evangelicals as a hallmark of decline, perhaps even of apostasy,” Larry Eskridge, associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, told RNS.

“By contrast, more ‘progressive’ elements within the evangelical community these days are likely to look upon those institutions with strictures against alcohol use as legalistic and accuse them of ‘majoring on the minor.’”

So which is it? Are churches that frown on Christians drinking alcohol legalistic and majoring in the minor or is the acceptance of alcohol and tobacco a gateway to apostasy that will usher in sexual immorality and all manner of sin? Would you want to attend a church where the pastor downs a few brews with the boys in a bar over Bible study? Or does that send the wrong message?

Let your voice be heard in the comment box below.


Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also the author of several books, including The Spiritual Warrior’s Guide to Defeating Jezebel. You can email Jennifer at or visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Millionaire Borden of Yale Gave All for Christ.

Dan Graves, MSL

Millionaire Borden of Yale Gave All for ChristWilliam Whiting Borden was a millionaire at 21 and ordained at twenty five on this day, September 9, 1912. Many young men have been ordained; few began as rich Borden or used their wealth as generously for the sake of Christ.It was Borden’s wealth which showed him the need for Evangelization of the world. Few sixteen year olds can afford a world tour. Borden could. It was while making this tour that he woke to the desperate need of the world’s people for the gospel. He determined to carry the message to the most difficult clientele he could imagine, Chinese Muslims.Spiritually precocious, Borden was a director of Moody Bible Institute, National Bible Institute, and the China Inland Mission in his early twenties. Among the leaders of the Christian world movement who influenced him were Samuel Zwemer, Apostle to Islam, and John R. Mott of Student Evangelism Movement fame.He trained at Yale University (accordingly, he is often called Borden of Yale) and at Princeton. Many do not avail themselves of the opportunities that are at hand. Borden, however, did not wait to reach China to begin his missionary work. He funded the Yale Hope Mission while still training. It was while he was at Princeton that he was ordained.

In 1912 Borden offered himself for the China Inland Mission. Upon his acceptance, he sailed for Cairo, Egypt, proposing to study Arabic in North Africa before going on to his work among China’s Muslims. But in Egypt he contracted cerebrospinal meningitis and died in 1913. He was only 26.

This loss of a rich young ruler who had given up all for Christ galvanized many Christians into action. Mrs. Howard Taylor wrote a biography of him which inspired a multitude of recruits for mission service. Even his wealth effectively advanced his purposes after he was gone, for in his will he left almost a million dollars to Christian causes.


  1. Taylor, Mrs. Howard. Borden of Yale. Various editions.
  2. Various internet articles.

Last updated April, 2007.

Faye Edgerton Gave God’s Word to the Navajo.

Faye Edgerton Gave God's Word to the NavajoThe Navajo Indians gave Faye Edgerton a name: “The One Who Understands.” The reason was simple: she had spent close to half a century with them, learning their language (they called it Dine bizaad) and translating the New Testament into it. To the Indians it now seemed as if God spoke Navajo! In fact, they challenged her when she tried to revise it. How dare she change God’s words!Faye Edgerton was born on this day, March 26, 1889. Her youth was one long social whirl, although she did well in school and became a competent musician. She had sought God at a young age and even become involved in church work, but had never known Him as a presence in her life. A bout with scarlet fever nearly killed her and left her virtually deaf for several days. This forced her to acknowledge her purposeless ways. When her hearing returned, she praised God. From then on, she was His.

Immediately, she showed a new concern for her parents. And as soon as circumstances permitted, she studied at Moody Bible Institute and became a missionary. On a long voyage across the Pacific, she studied Korean. By the time she reached the peninsula, she could read it well. But Korea proved hard to her. The cold sapped her strength. She had a nervous breakdown her first year. But she learned lessons of obedience. Finally bad health forced her home.

After her father died, she took up mission work in Arizona, where she hoped the climate would be kinder to her health. Increasingly she became aware that the Navajo people needed the Bible in their own language. After taking a course at the Summer Institute of Linguistics, she became convinced she could do the work and that God wanted her to. But finding the necessary time was impossible. She decided to leave the Presbyterian mission and join Wycliffe Bible Translators.

It was still many years before the New Testament became a Navajo book. But she had several willing helpers. One of them, Roger, had taught himself to read his native language from an English-Navajo dictionary while recuperating in a hospital! He once said, “This is not just a missionary talking to us in another language–this is God’s word in Navajo. It is just like God talking!” The expression for soul was “that which stands up in you.”

Near the end of the translation, Faye became worn out. And then she was thrown out of a car and dragged a great distance. Miraculously she survived with minor injuries. In 1954, the completed translation was sent to the American Bible Society for publication. It was not until 1956 after proofreading, revisions and corrections that the book finally came off the press. It was an instant success, a bestseller in the tribe. It spurred the Navajo to new efforts to learn to read their own tongue. Even before the book was off the press, Faye, now in her sixties, with a helper named Faith, began learning Apache so they could translate the Bible into that language. Nine years later the Apache New Testament also went to press. But Faye did not stop working on new translations and revisions until just days before her death in 1968.


  1. Wallis, Ethel Emily. God Speaks Navajo. New York: Harper and Row, 1968.

Last updated May, 2007.

Dan Graves, MSL

Evangelization Society to Storm Chicago.

Evangelization Society to Storm ChicagoMany Christians have heard of Moody Bible Institute, some by meeting a worker trained at the school, others by listening to its radio broadcasts, still others by reading its magazine or some book issued by Moody Press. The noble enterprise we know as Moody Bible Institute is linked with all those things. But Moody Institute itself was the offspring of an organization formed on this day, February 5, 1887 under the name Chicago Evangelization Society. That day also happened to be Moody’s 50th birthday.In addition to its other work, the Institute has trained thousands of Christian leaders whose impact has been felt across the world. Emma Dryer, a Moody associate, who had been principal of the Illinois State Normal University, saw the need for the school before he did. After the Chicago Fire, she not only helped those who had lost everything, but developed Bible lessons which she taught to Chicago women. Dryer urged Moody to set up an institution to conduct this same sort of work on a larger scale. When he did not act, she and several others went to their knees in prayer.

Moody’s daily experiences confirmed the need for a Bible training institute. People crowded forward in response to his preaching, desperate to learn how they might be freed of their sins and find peace. He could not personally speak to each person, and it was hard to find counselors to assist everyone who needed instruction. In 1886 the subject of a training school came up in a meeting. Moody addressed those present, saying, “I tell you what I want, and what I have on my heart, I believe we have got to have gap-men: men to stand between the laity and the ministers; men who are trained to do city mission work. Take men that have the gifts and train them for the work of reaching the people.” Emma Dryer’s persistence, backed by the Holy Spirit, had prevailed!

At first the institute was primarily interested in evangelistic work. In May it held a series of training classes known as “May Institute.” One of Moody’s ushers, John Morrison, pointed to a vacant lot and urged Moody to begin praying for it that a school might be built there. Seeing the success of the 1889 May Institute, Moody trustees purchased the lot Morrison had pointed to, and three neighboring houses. The institute opened with eighty students. Moody died in 1899. The following year, the institute was renamed Moody Bible Institute in his honor. Evangelist Reuben A. Torrey developed a program of practical ministries and established a resident faculty and correspondence courses. Succeeding leaders added other ministries, including the Moody Institute of Science.


  1. Moody Church.” (
  2. “Moody, Dwight Lyman.” Dictionary of American Biography. New York : Scribner, 1958 – 1964.
  3. “Moody, Dwight Lyman.” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
  4. Moody, William D. Life of D. L. Moody by His Son. New York: Revell, 1900.
  5. Pollock, John. Moody: a Biographical Portrait. 1963.
  6. Various encyclopedia and internet articles.

Last updated May, 2007.

By Dan Graves, MSL

Deadly Force Incidents on the Rise in US Churches and Ministries.

New Life Church
Carl Chinn was part of the team of responders directly involved with the active shooter at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. in December 2007 (David Shankbone)

Deadly force incidents at churches and other faith-based organizations in the U.S. are on the rise, according to ministry security expert and church violence researcher Carl Chinn.

In 2012, Chinn reported, there were 135 “deadly force incidents,” a 36 percent increase over 2011. More than half the 2012 incidents were attributed to domestic violence situations that spilled over into the church, personal conflicts and robberies. Seventy-five people died as a result of those attacks.

Chinn’s first encounter with ministry-related violence occurred in 1996 when an angry gunman took hostages at the Colorado-based Focus on the Family, where Chinn worked as a Building Engineer. He believes ministry safety and security must be a leadership decision based in faith and managed in action.

Chinn and others began developing an intentional security program for New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was part of the team of responders directly involved with the active shooter in December 2007, and he continues to serve New Life security as the threat investigator and liaison between law enforcement and ministry security operations.

On his website,, Chinn maintains current statistics on church and ministry-related violence, a chronicle of church crime history and offers advice on safety and security measures.

“Faith-based organizations,” he states, “must increase their awareness of, and preparation for, the accidental, criminal and environmental hazards capable of compromising their primary ministry purpose.”

In his book, Evil Invades Sanctuary, Chinn writes: “Unlike other organizations, Bible-based entities struggle with the perceived conflict between divine protection and active security planning. But there is no conflict; just because we pray for God’s protection before driving does not mean we speed or dismiss the value of seatbelts. Likewise, faith-based organizations must intentionally provide for the safety of staff and visitors.”

Chinn, a frequent speaker for the National Organization of Church Security & Safety Management, has been featured in national media and publications, including Focus on the Family, The 700 ClubPreaching magazine, Christianity Today, Moody Bible Institute and radio interviews.


Obama to Use Lincoln, King Bibles for Swearing-in.

Obama inauguration
Barack Obama takes the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States as he is sworn in by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha by his side during the inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009 (Reuters/Jim Young)

President Obama will take the oath of office with two Bibles that once belonged to a pair of civil rights icons: Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

King’s “traveling Bible” was provided by his family, while the Lincoln Bible is from the Library of Congress and was used during the 16th president’s inauguration on March 4, 1861; Obama also used the Lincoln Bible during his first inauguration in 2009.

The Lincoln and King good books will be used during this year’s public swearing-in ceremony on Monday, Jan. 21, the Presidential Inaugural Committeeannounced. King’s Bible will be stacked atop Lincoln’s.

“President Obama is honored to use these Bibles at the swearing-in ceremonies,” said Steve Kerrigan, president and CEO of the inaugural committee. “These Bibles are rich in tradition and reflect the great American story that binds our nation.”

In a statement, Martin Luther King III said he is proud that his father’s Bible will be a part of Obama’s inaugural, “and I hope that our great nation uses the moment to reflect on the enormous responsibility we have to serve our neighbors and communities.”

King added: “Thousands of Americans joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the National Mall in the fight for equality and justice 50 years ago, and I am excited that my father’s legacy will be honored as thousands more join President Obama to begin his second term.”

The second term officially starts on Sunday, Jan. 20, when Obama holds a private swearing-in ceremony at the White House. For that event, he will use a Bible belonging to the family of first lady Michelle Obama.

“The Robinson Family Bible … was a gift from the first lady’s father, Fraser Robinson III, to his mother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson, on Mother’s Day in 1958,” said the inaugural committee, which noted that she used it regularly. “Mrs. Robinson was the first African-American woman manager of a Moody Bible Institute’s bookstore.”

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, will be sworn into a second term using his family Bible.

According to the inaugural committee, the Biden family Bible “is five inches thick, has a Celtic cross on the cover and has been in the Biden family since 1893. He used it every time he was sworn in as a U.S. senator and when he was sworn in as vice president in 2009.”

The Presidential Inaugural Committee also described the Obama Bibles:

“The King Bible was Dr. King’s ‘traveling Bible.’ An avid reader who was constantly on the road, Dr. King typically traveled with a selection of books that included this Bible. It was used for inspiration and preparing sermons and speeches, including during Dr. King’s time as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.”

“The Lincoln Bible is part of the collections of the Library of Congress and was originally purchased by William Thomas Carroll, Clerk of the Supreme Court, for use during Lincoln’s swearing-in ceremony on March 4, 1861. The Bible itself is bound in burgundy velvet with a gold-washed white metal rim around the three outside edges of both covers, and all of its edges are heavily gilded.”

Copyright 2013 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.


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