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Volume 2, Issue 10:

Drunkeness


It is worse to live like a beast than to be a beast.
- William Gurnall
He that will never drink less than he may, sometimes will drink more than he should.
- Thomas Fuller
My soul might be perpetually dropping showers of tears, if it might know the doom and destruction brought on by that one demon, and by that one demon only! Though I am no total abstainer, I hate drunkenness as much as any man breathing, and have been the means of bringing many poor creatures to relinquish this bestial indulgence. We believe drunkenness to be an awful crime and a horrid sin. We stand prepared to go to war with it. How many thousands are murdered every year by that accursed devil of drunkenness!
- Charles Spurgeon
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit...
- Ephesians 5:18
While the wine is in thy hand, thou art a man; when it is in thine head, thou art become a beast.
- Thomas Adams
Drunken porters keep open gates.
- Henry Smith
There is no medicinal cup to the body, that is poisonous to the conscience.
- Thomas Adams
Drunkenness is the devil's back door to hell and everything that hellish. For he that once gives away his brains to drink is ready to be caught by Satan for anything.
- Charles Spurgeon
Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things.
- Proverbs 23:31
...when night darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.
- John Milton
But they also have erred through wine, and through intoxicating drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, they are swallowed up by wine...they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that no place is clean.
- Isaiah 28:7-8
We eat and drink our own damnation.
- Book of Common Prayer


Is Alcoholism a Sickness?

By Douglas Wilson

"I have always been taught that alcoholism was a disease," she said. "What do you think?"

Susan was a young woman, newly married, who had come to Mrs. Hendrikson for some advice. Susan's next door neighbor, a professing Christian named Cathy, had an obvious drinking problem.
Mrs. Hendrikson went to the same church as Susan, and had a reputation there for having much godly experience and wisdom.
"Well, Susan," she said, "does the Bible teach that alcoholism is a disease?"
Susan shook her head. "To be honest, I really don't know. I've been a Christian for less than a year, and I haven't even read the Bible through once."
Mrs. Hendrikson smiled. "Let's start at the other end then. Have you read enough to encounter any passages on drunkenness?"
"Oh, yes. But you'll have to help me find them again."
"Let's start with Ephesians 5:18."
Susan turned to the place and read.
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit... She trailed off, and looked up.
Mrs. Hendrikson put down her coffee cup. "Now, what does this passage tell the Ephesian Christians to do?"
"It says that they are not to be drunk."
"Now do you recall any passages where Christians are required to avoid catching the flu?"
Susan laughed. "No."
"So then, if alcoholism is a disease, then Christians are commanded not to exhibit the symptoms of it. Is that correct?"
Susan thought for a moment. "But I can see some paralells between this and regular diseases. Someone can't help getting the flu, and alcoholics can't help what they do either."
Mrs. Hendrikson shook her head. "There is a difference between the inability that results from God's providence of the world, and the inability that results from sin."
"What do you mean?"
"Look at Romans 6:20-23."
Susan looked it up, and read aloud.
For when you were slaves to sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Susan glanced up.
"How are non-Christians described in this passage?"
Susan looked at the page for a moment. "As slaves to sin," she answered.
"Now does this sin cease to be sinful, simply because people are enslaved by it?"
"Well, no."
"So why should drunkenness cease to be sinful simply because someone is enslaved to it? Bondage to sin increases the guilt; it does not diminish it."
Susan sat silently for a moment. She had never heard anything like this in her life. Just a few months before, she would have rejected it as totally unscientific. But now, since her conversion...
"But surely there are some things which happen to us, for which we are not responsible? If I can be blamed for things over which I have no control, then why am I not blamed for getting the flu?"
"We must conclude that there is a biblical distinction between things we `can't help.' In Scripture, God doesn't prohibit the flu. He does prohibit drunkenness. Maybe we should look at another passage?"
Susan nodded.
"Turn to 1 Corinthians 5:11-13."
Susan did so, and read.
But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore, `put away from yourselves that wicked person.'
Mrs. Hendrikson asked, "Is drunkenness set aside as a different kind of sin here? Are the Corinthians warned about the possibility of wrongfully disciplining an alcoholic, as opposed to a drunkard?"
Susan shook her head. "No." But then a new thought struck her. "This passage requires that someone who gets drunk should be excommunicated!"
Mrs. Hendrikson nodded. "That is, someone who gets drunk, and who also claims to be a Christian."
Susan was staring at the page. "I know many people Christians, even who would be really upset if something like this were ever done."
"Why do you think that is?"
"I can just hear them now. They would say it is unloving, insensitive, hard-nosed, un-Christian, un-forgiving..."
"... but is it biblical?"
Susan was still staring at the page. After a moment, she spoke. "Right. It is biblical."
Mrs. Hendrikson laid a hand on Susan's arm. "It seems unloving to many people. But God is love, and He is the one who has told us to do this. I think we can trust Him. And there is something else."
"What is that?"
"I have been a Christian for over forty years, and I have been in many churches. I have been in churches where the teaching was biblical, and consequently hard on sin, and I have been in churches where the teaching was soft on sin."
"And...?"
"Hard teaching results in soft people. And soft teaching results in hard people."
Susan thought for a moment. "What do you mean by soft people?"
"I mean people who are tender-hearted. The Word of God is sometimes hard. Tender people receive it and by application are made more tender."
"And what did you mean by the other?"
"I have seen so many situations where there has been a refusal to call sin by its biblical name sin. Much of the time, the refusal is done in the name of sensitivity, caring and so forth. But the result of this disobedience is bitterness, malice, resentment, hatred, and so on. When sin is tolerated, sin grows. And where there is sin, there is always hard-heartedness. Soft teaching, hard people."
"How can I apply all this to my neighbor? Cathy acts as though she is ashamed of her behavior. But at the same time, she is adamant that no one else has a right to judge her because her problem is a condition. She says that what she needs is understanding, and so forth."
"Does she come to you for help?"
"I don't know. She comes over a lot, but she does most of the talking, and spends most of her time trying to get me to feel sorry for her."
"Do you give her what she wants?"
"I mostly just sit there. I think she
thinks I feel sorry for her and I do, but...you know, the reason I sit and listen is that I can't think of anything to say."
"You can't think of anything?"
Susan looked down at the table, and flushed slightly. "Well, I have thought of confronting her, but honestly, I am afraid to."
"Afraid of what?"
"I am afraid that I will scare her off. Right now, she does comes to me. If I confront her, won't she conclude that I don't love her, and go looking for help somewhere else?"
"No." Mrs. Hendrikson was shaking her head.
"What do you mean, no?"
"The only thing that will help her is the truth. If you tell her the truth, and she runs from it, then we can safely say that she is not looking for help."
"What is she looking for then?"
"She is looking for a way to get rid of her misery while keeping the sin. But God says that is not possible."
Susan had a tight feeling in her throat. She didn't really want to ask the next question. But she did.
"What should I do?"
"You should tell her you love her, and that because you love her you have to tell her the truth. And the truth is her alcoholism is not a disease, but rather rebellion against God. Like all rebellion, it does enslave. The good news, however, is that God will set free all who cry out to Him, confessing their sin as sin."
"What if she gets angry and leaves?"
"Pray for her. And your husband should go to the elders of the church she attends. He should tell them of her drunkenness, and request that they begin the process of church discipline. He should offer to help if they need your testimony."
Susan's eyes were wide open. "Do you know what church she goes to?"
"Yes. It is an evangelical church."
"Yes, but they would think this was awful." "Does God require it?"
Susan looked back at her Bible. "Yes."
Mrs. Hendrikson said, "So if her elders refuse to discipline Cathy, God will require an account of their disobedience from them. You will have done what you could. One more verse?"
Susan turned to Titus 2:2, and read.
...the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things...
She looked up. "It all fits, you know. You are a reverent woman, you are temperate, and what you say is good. Thanks."


The Gift of Drink

But the legalist then does a neat bit of logical gymnastics. He says that...whenever the Bible speaks favorably of "wine," it is not referring to the fermented beverage but rather to grape juice. On the other hand, whenever the Bible condemns "wine," it must be referring to the fermented beverage...this is nonsense.
-Andre Bustanoby
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.
-Genesis 14:18
...the biblical record frequently and clearly speaks of alcoholic beverages as good gifts from God to be enjoyed by man.
-Kenneth Gentry
He causes the grass to grow for cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man's heart.
-Psalms 104:14-15
It has been disputed whether the Hebrew wine was fermented; but the impression produced on the mind by...the above notices is...that the Hebrew words indicating wine refer to fermented, intoxicating wine.
-Classic Bible Dictionary
...Dilicious ale, and sipised and heize wynes...
(...Delicious ale, and spiced and high wines...)
-John Wyclif
We must picture these Puritans as the very opposite of those who bear that name today: as young, fierce, progressive intellectuals, very fashionable and up-to-date. They were not teetotalers; bishops, not beer, were their special aversion.
-C.S. Lewis
Now al is done; bring home the bride againe,
Bring home the triumph of our victory,
Bring home with you the glory of her gaine...
Make feast therefore now all this liue long day,
This day for euer to me holy is,
Poure out the wine without restraint or stay...
-Edmund Spenser
Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it...the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, "...you have kept the good wine until now."
-John 2:7-8,10b
...even as that which the servants put into the water-pots was turned into wine by the doing of the Lord, so in like manner also is what the clouds pour forth changed into wine by the doing of the same Lord.
-Augustine
You shall truly tithe...you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or strong drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.
-Deuteronomy 14:22a,26


Credenda/Agenda is sent free of charge to all who would like to receive it. It is a publication of Community Evangelical Fellowship, located at 110 Baker Street, Moscow, Idaho, 83843; the phone number is 1-800-488-2034. Editor: Douglas Wilson

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