The really important question, however, is “Are they right?” Or, more specifically, should Christians abstain from alcohol? Is it a sin? Is drinking unwise even if it isn’t actually sinful? Fortunately, we can all begin on the same foundation – Scripture.
Let me begin by stating plainly that there is not a single verse in all of Scripture that indicates that drinking is a sin. None. Na da. Zilch.
There are, however, many passages that condemn “drunkenness” as a sin (Proverbs 20:1, 23:29-35; Ephesians 5:18). Drunkenness, of course, differs from drinking in both amount and effect. Drunkenness is a mind-altered state that results from overindulgence in alcohol (i.e. having “too many”). It is lack of moderation, just as gluttony and sex outside the bonds of marriage are sins of immoderation. Drunkenness and gluttony are even mentioned alongside one another in Proverbs 23:21. Yet, we do not find our fundamentalist brethren condemning eating or making love to one’s spouse.
Additionally, while there are no passages that condemn drinking alcohol (only drunkenness), there are several passages that portray alcohol in a highly positive light. To preserve space, I will simply point you to Genesis 27:28, Deuteronomy 14:22-27, Psalm 104:15, Proverbs 31:6-7, Ecclesiastes 9:7, John 2:1-10, and 1st Timothy 5:23. Wine and strong drinks, like food, are blessings from God and are intended to be enjoyed in the moderation He requires.
Generally speaking, many fundamentalists will either veer off into emotional argument about their great grandfather who had a drinking problem or they will concede that they have no biblical ground for prohibiting consumption of alcohol. But, they aren’t done yet. “What about your testimony to the world? You shouldn’t drink because it would hurt your testimony.”
Well, let me begin by pointing out what should be obvious to those who have been around a while. By “testimony to the world,” they mean people in the South because most people outside the South have no problem with drinking and it has likely not crossed their minds that Christians would either.
I do think this matter merits consideration. If unbelievers are in view here, then I would consider the matter one of misinformation. If an unbeliever thinks Christians are forbidden to drink, then that unbeliever needs to be corrected on his understanding of the gospel. Think of it this way: if you met an unbeliever who was convinced that only people with red hair could go to heaven, what would you do? Would you go home and dye your hair red or would you correct their misunderstanding by telling them what the Bible really says? You would correct them. The same applies to the issue of alcohol.
However, if the object of the “testimony” question is another believer the discussion changes a bit. If we know, for example, a certain believer once struggled with abusing alcohol and God delivered him from that, we must be careful not to put a stumbling-block in front of him by drinking in his presence. But, we must distinguish that legitimate “weaker brother” situation with what is far more common – the “professional” weaker brother who refuses to grow up and face what Scripture really teaches because he feels superior, er…fine, just the way he is.
To wrap up this little discussion, let me point out that, we shouldn’t bulldoze over people who need to be gently taught the truth. On the other hand, we must not allow people who should know better to continue in the error of forbidding what God allows (1st Timothy 4:1-4). After all, who is man to call unclean what God has called clean? That idea is, truthfully, simply baptized Gnosticism (the idea that all or some matter is inherently evil).
Wine and strong drink is not “evil” and enjoying it is not a threat to testimony, provided we use common sense, Christian charity toward the genuinely tender, and moderation.