To Drink or Not to Drink
Dr. Charles Taylor, M.D., M.S., F.R.C.S.(C), is a neuro-surgeon at Calgary, Canada. This is the first part of two more informative articles from him. It would be well to spread, particularly among the young, the facts he deals with in these important papers. These papers are the substance of addresses, delivered at Bethany Chapel, Calgary, Alberta.
Traveling about the country, one cannot help but be impressed with the insidiousness with which this problem of alcohol and alcoholic beverages is making as to its inroads into Christian communities. This is true even of some local assemblies of God’s people, particularly in the larger cities of the United States. It is a further disturbing factor to see this trend creeping northward into some of the larger metropolitan areas of Canada, and if this trend continues it won’t be long until this is a problem in the local assemblies of Canada as well.
One of the best ways to deal with problems is by prevention, and your indulgence is sought in bringing these remarks before you on this topic from the Christian point of view. This was not a problem twenty years ago, but the next ten years may unfold a definite change.
A Subtle Problem
First of all, let me suggest how this problem has crept into Christian communities across the country. Twenty and thirty years ago there was a tendency to regard Christianity as something negative. A tremendous emphasis was put on separation, and we separated ourselves from the world. In fact, we tended to become an isolated fellowship with the result that local groups of Christians became clubs for holy living, virtually isolated from the world about them. This was our erroneous concept of what separation meant. However, one of the purposes for which Christians are left in this world is to have contact with it, to be in but not of it, and to exert an influence for Christ and His Kingdom on those with whom they come in contact. How can we do this if we wrap ourselves up in our cozy Christian brotherhood and have nothing to do with those around us? Happily, in recent years there has been a healthy tendency for Christian communities, and the individuals who compose them, to feel their responsibility to interact with fellowmen in the world, and to so interact as to win their confidence and to confront them with the message of the Christian faith.
Few would gainsay that all this has been to the good, but having taken up a more positive attitude toward the world of humanity about us it appears that we have tended to relinquish some of our negative attitudes toward worldly pleasures. Such questions have been raised as, What’s wrong with drinking? Why shouldn’t I indulge a little on occasion? After all, didn’t Jesus at Cana of Galilee turn water into wine? Didn’t the Apostle Paul exhort Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake? Such references in the Scriptures are used by Christians to support social drinking, but the fact remains that we must be very careful in our interpretation of these passages. When the Lord Jesus turned water into wine He was demonstrating His power over the physical universe. This was why He did it, and as you read the record carefully it is discovered that after this His disciples believed on Him. It had the effect of opening their eyes in a wonderful way, there being nothing in the passage to indicate that Christ condoned the use of wine (see John 2:1-11).
As for Paul’s advice to Timothy (see 1 Tim. 5:23), “Doctor Paul” passed along to his younger colleague a sort of “home remedy” bit of advice, something that perhaps had been helpful to the Apostle himself during illness. Paul did not urge Timothy to no longer drink water, but not to be a water-drinker only. His instruction must be understood in the light of Bible times, and also that wine in those days was a common remedial agent, though in Timothy’s particular case it was not a good prescription from the standpoint of modern medicine. Today, it is a well known fact that alcohol causes the stomach to be upset; doctor’s call it “gastritis.” Furthermore Paul qualified his instruction by saying, “use a little wine,” and that, for a medicinal purpose only. Therefore, this Scripture can hardly be intelligently used by Christians to in any way condone the use of alcohol.
One other point to keep in mind is that where the word wine is found in the Bible a number of different words in both the Hebrew and Greek are used, and they do not always refer to fermented wine. Sometimes a word is used which refers to the fruit of the vine in its non-fermented state. Thus we must be careful in our interpretation and use of Scripture.
Our Christian Responsibility
In dealing with matters of Christian ethics the Church must always turn to the Scriptures, for the Word of God is the foundation of all Christian truth. And if you read your Bible concerning that subject of alcohol, you will find almost without exception that wherever it is mentioned it is absolutely scathing in its denunciation of drunkenness. In fact, much more is said of drunkenness that of the sins of blasphemy, stealing, pride, and adultery. Actually, 70 specific passages in both the Old and the New Testament deal with this topic in a total of 160 verses. A study of these passages is exceedingly interesting and is urged upon every reader of this article.
On the subject of drunkenness consider such flesh and blood illustrations as Lot. We tend to be hard on Lot because he went to Sodom and lived a life that was not wholly consistent with his faith, and for this he is not to be excused. However, far worse than this was Lot’s subsequent conduct after God’s judgment of Sodom and the deliverance afforded him and his two daughters. We spare you the details, but do look them up for yourself (see Gen. 19:30-38).
Think of a man like Noah. He found grace in the eyes of the Lord when the earth was filled with wickedness. God graciously preserved the human race through this man, and when the flood was over, with Noah and his family once more on terra firma, his faith in and thankfulness to the Lord were demonstrated in the sacrifice of certain of the animals he had taken into the ark for this very purpose. Then Noah took to agriculture. This led to cultivating grapes and to the use of alcohol, the subsequent story again being one, the details of which, we would spare you (see Gen. 9:20-23). So much then for what the Bible teaches concerning the use of alcohol. Everywhere its indulgence is harshly, strongly and unequivocally denounced in the Holy Scriptures.
The Value of a Life
As we read and study our Bibles, we cannot fail to be impressed with the value which God places upon the individual spirit, soul and body. Indeed, one of the things that shook me when I visited the Far East some time ago was their utter indifference to the value of a person. Someone was killed and they tended to shrug their shoulders with a “so what” sort of an attitude with the thought that, “Well, he’s gone to another reincarnation, and maybe he’ll make out a lot better this time.” If things went wrong in the hospital and a person died because of someone else’s carelessness who was not fully attendant to what should have been done for the patient, again there was this shrug of the shoulders. In the hospitals of Canada and the United States no one would get away with that sort of thing. A doctor would be on the carpet in no time flat and perhaps end up losing his hospital privileges.
When we come to the Bible, God’s precious Word, we find tremendous emphasis placed on the value of every man, woman and child. Our bodies we are told are the temple of the Holy Spirit if we are truly born again, and in Romans 12:1 we are taught that it is our Christian responsibility to present these bodies of ours, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto Him. This is our reasonable service.
Have you done this? If so, do you really think that God is pleased when a slug of liquor is poured into the very temple of His Holy Spirit?