Scriptural support for non-drinking?

I have noticed among many Christian Churches, specifically Baptists denominations, remaining abstinent from alcohol is encouraged, if not required, in fellowship. Is there scriptural basis for this?

My recollection of Jesus’ first miracle (water into wine) seems to be a clear sign that the Big Guy finds nothing wrong with taking a drink now and again…how did this become such a widespread practice?


I’m going to perform a miracle of my own, and change this thread from a GQ thread into a Great Debates thread.

That’s the proper place for religious discussions.


Seems like a pretty straightforward question to me. Take a breath, Rico

There are certainly scriptural admonishments to the effect that drunkenness is bad; if I could be bothered, I’d find one. Methodism went teetotal in Victorian times (more or less)simply as a reaction to there not really being any such thing as moderate social drinking at the time; if you went out for a drink, you went out to get totally bladdered. They’ve recently relaxed a bit on this stance.

I tend to agree with the OP. Wine drinking is just all over the bible. Hell, for Christians, it’s part of their most sacred sacrament. That’s one thing I’ve always liked about the Catholic religion-- no strangers to the drink, they. :slight_smile:

I’ve heard a couple of things cited to support abstaining from alcohol despite what seem like the obvious examples of Christ drinking or encouraging it. I’ve been told by several people that there’s a word used in the bible that means “new wine”, a supposedly unfermented grape drink, and one that refers to fermented wine. The argument is that Jesus partook of the non-alcoholic kind. I’m not arguing for this, just reporting it. In addition, there are admonitions against drunkeness and also against drinking (and doing other things) that we can do in moderation, but which someone among us may not be able to moderate.

Theology professor and teetotaler here. I concur, there is no biblical prohibition against drinking alcohol. Drunkenness is condemned as a sin, but not drinking in moderation, and no reasonable exegete would argue otherwise. The wine in Jesus’ miracle would not have had as high of a content as wine today, but it wasn’t alcohol free.

Personally, I don’t drink. (I do however eat things made with alcohol and also cook with it.) Mostly it’s a cultural thing. In the U.S. and parts of Asia, many Christians (mostly conservative Protestants) view any drinking at all as a sin. Actually other religions such as Hinduism and Islam think so too. So to avoid giving offense or providing a “stumbling block,” we abstain as well.

Go to Europe, on the other hand, and people from those same denominations and churches will be drinking just like everyone else. Again, it’s mostly a cultural thing, not really a religious or biblical question.

BTW, the bible condemns gluttony nearly as strongly as drunkenness, though not as frequently. Now that’s not a message you hear preached often!

It’s an interesting position for Protestants with an affinity with Biblical Literalism/Authority.

And what was Noah up to in his latter days?

Hope someone answers the OP’s question, since I’ve often wondered this. There are several places in the Seder where wine drinking is mandatory, and the Saturday morning services I went to included it. (When I was a kid we drank grape juice.) I think the only blessing I remember in Hebrew is for wine - it is short and you say it over and over in the Seder.

Is this a case of some Protestants being holier than thou, where thou is Jesus?

Proverbs 20:1
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:

29. Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
30. They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
31. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
32. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
33. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
34. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
35. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.

Those are the verses I always heard against any degree of drinking, along with
the claim that the wine Jesus & the early C’tian drank was so diluted as to lessen any alcoholic effect, or that it was just grape juice (supposed “new wine”, except that in Acts 2, the tongues-speaking Apostles were accused of being drunk with that).

Oddly enough, while I am a moderate drinker, the two main churches I’ve attended (C’tian & Missionary Alliance & Assemblies of God) both really encourage total abstinence.

The people who claim that the wine Jesus drank was had no alchohol seem way off base to me. As mentioned Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. And when the wine was sampled the wedding guests marveled that it was better than the wine that was originally served.

Also when Jesus was confronted about drinking the replied “John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking and you called him demon posessed. The Son of man comes both eating and drinking and you call him a glutton and a wine bibber.” If there were no alchohol in the wine, the label wine bibber doesn’t make sense.

These verses all seem to be against drunkeness to me. “Strong drink is raging”. “Riotous eaters of flesh” - gluttons and drunks. “Tarry long at the wine.” Is that the best the teetotalers can come up with? In most things, that overindulgence is sinful does not make moderation sinful, right?

They that hang out in Great Debates. 'Night, all!

I’ve always wondered about this line. “Giveth his colour in the cup”…does that mean simply undiluted red wine, or that the wine color transferred itself to the actual cup?

And what does it mean where it says, “when it moveth itself aright?”

For total abstinence - no.

For sensible/social drinking - yes.

1 Timothy 5:23

As Voyager said, all quoted verses condemn drunkeness - a perfectly reasonable position to take.

Here’s my take on it:

If you are part of a Christian denomination that does a lot of work with disadvantaged communities (as the Methodists and Baptists in the UK have historically done), you will encouter many people with substance misuse issues.

Remember that bit in the Lord’s Prayer about “lead us not into temptation”? Well, a lot of groups decided that in order to minister effectively and sensitively to individuals with substance misuse issues, it was appropriate to give up alcohol completely.

For a recovering alcoholic, there’s no such thing as “drinking in moderation” - you avoid it completely, and in order to help with this Christians who offer spiritual and practical support avoid booze, in order to “lead not thy fellow man into temptation” (sort of thing!).

No doubt for some it’s driven by a puritantical streak, but mostly it’s about setting an example and recognising that although I might be able to drink in moderation, those I’m trying to help cannot.

So yes, alcohol per se is part of God’s wonderful world and can / should be enjoyed, but if you’re working with people who have alcohol misuse problems going teetotal is the decent thing to do.

Daniel’s a biggie. I grew up attending a fundamentalist Protestant church, the Seventh Day Adventist, who also maintain strict abstinance. I remember the book of Daniel being held up as a support for these views - unlike their captors, the boys (Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednigo, I believe) didn’t drink, keeping their mind clear of distractions and thus, the story went, were able to focus on their god and walking in his footsteps. The parallels were drawn for you: as they did, so should you do.

Sadly, I’m not familiar enough with the actual text of Daniel - I doubt there’s any verses that forbid drinking itself. I’m betting the verses point out why the boys didn’t drink without putting any weight on either their behaviour or the behaviour of the others.

Note, also, that my recollection comes from a collection of Bible story books - not the Bible itself. In my church, it was common for typical fundamentalist Protestant dogma to be inserted into such books, dogma that often has no basis in scripture. So it’s possible my recollection doesn’t have any scriptural basis. (I’m poking around for the book of Daniel as we speak to see if I can find any, but am having little luck so far.)

Ahhh. There is scriptural basis, but it’s as I thought: it merely reports, it doesn’t seem to assign any weight. Here we go:

I’m quoting from the NIV, from this site:
Bible Gateway