Suddenly Sour Grapes

By J.S. Smith

”The government said Monday that a few drinks a day may not protect against strokes and heart attacks after all.” Oops!

For years, scientists, doctors and our government have been recommending that we all hop off the wagon and moderately belly up to the bar to enhance our health. Christians searching for any excuse to abandon tee-totaling celebrated with popping corks and a return to the high life. Surely God could not really condemn a practice so healthy and governmentally-approved.

The Associated Press article by Daniel Yee, however, now reports that researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admit, “The science around moderate drinking is very murky” (“Alcohol’s healthfulness in doubt” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 19, 2005). The CDC now worries that “Americans are getting the wrong idea” about drinking and estimates that one in three Americans drinks too much.

While we scientific laymen were never certain about the medical benefits of alcohol, as Bible students, we clearly understood the spiritual injuries that would follow. Wisdom warns: “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine. Those who go in search of mixed wine” (Proverbs 24:29-30). Alcohol leads to impaired inhibitions against sin, a deluded perspective on reality, a tongue loosened to speak perversity and addiction (Proverbs 23:31-35). Even if alcohol should somehow buffer the muscle in the middle of the chest, the spiritual damage done to the heart would far outweigh any such benefit.

Even moderate use of alcoholic beverages and similar drugs requires the Christian to ignore the warnings of the apostle Peter: “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles -- when we walked in ... drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties ..." (1 Peter 4:3). These three words among a group of six indicate three different levels of alcohol use. Drunkenness is self-explanatory -- a state of inebriation often punctuated by unconsciousness. In the middle are the revelries, defined by Thayer as “a nocturnal and riotous procession of half-drunken and frolicsome fellows.” Not quite inebriated, but half-drunk. And wrong.

The last phrase is “drinking parties” but that is really the translators’ complication of a simpler term. Literally, Peter is condemning “a drinking” (Barnes). Regardless of the extent one intends to drink, alcoholic beverages are to be avoided, so that the Christian may “walk properly” and “make no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:13-14). The first drink is necessary to make the second possible and every alcoholic, derelict and drunk driver started with what Peter condemns -- drinking.