Friday, August 07, 2009

The Debate over the Prohibition of Alcoholic Beverage part one

In my lifetime, I cannot remember a debate about the prohibition of alcohol among people in churches with Bible as sole authority. What has happened? I believe it has started with the acceptance of alcohol in evangelical, non-separatist churches. One important way that these churches have become popular is through their compromise. They reduce this matter of drinking alcohol to a non-essential issue, so that membership in their churches are comfortable drinking. The men that pastor these churches are the ones being published by the very weak Christian publishing companies and then offered by the very weak Christian book distributors. The people that write books against these positions must publish and distribute them on their own. This makes these books look out of the main stream and less scholarly. After all, you can't get published unless you write some thing really good. And that's why the anti-alcohol books don't get published by mainstream publishers. People want to read a book that says it's OK to drink and the Bible gives them permission to do so.

Another reason for the popularity, I believe, is a modern day revival of reformed theology. I choose to call it reformed theology rather than Calvinism, because obviously alcohol is not related to Calvinism. Reformed theology isn't even necessarily a pro-alcohol position, but a lot of reformed are drinkers. They would look to the the drinking of the reformers as a basis for acceptance of their practice. Those who would defend a pro-alcohol position would attach themselves to the history that is found in the Protestant Reformation. Luther was a drinker, for instance.

A third part of this is where we're at today. Professing fundamentalists are being influenced by the writings of mainstream evangelicals. Young, disenchanted fundamentalists were fed a lot of cultural separation type of sermons when they were kids. They believe that they missed some of the deep, glorious truths of theology and the gospel in the teaching they grew up hearing. They are reacting to that. They are reading especially the conservative evangelicals, and the ones writing are both reformed to some degree and do not separate based upon cultural issues. They don't mind rock music, a lack of gender distinction in dress, and movies, and they are tolerant of the drinking. And you have some, like a Douglas Wilson and Mark Driscoll, who promote the drinking. They say that God doesn't just permit alcohol, but that God wants us to enjoy it.

So even professing fundamentalists are trying booze and attempting to become educated in the various types and brands. It does fit with modern academia to be a connoisseur of adult beverages, much like Solomon was in his search for satisfaction in Ecclesiastes. They like the idea of being deep and having answers, these young fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. And there has become an overlap on who is fundamentalist and conservative evangelical. The line is blurred now. You can see that in online forums like SharperIron where on their blogroll they have men from many various stripes all treated the same. The message is that the delineation between these, fundamentalist and evangelical, really doesn't matter. And so there is more acceptance than ever among fundamentalists of those who don't mind tipping back a few.

And last, the scholarship of evangelicalism has eroded the fundamentalist institutions. Recently Bob Jones University Press published a small book that advocated prohibition of alcohol, but it did not use the conventional arguments that fundamentalists have used in doing so. The book, written by one of its seminary professors, Randy Jaeggli, took the one-wine position, saying that all "wine" in scripture is alcoholic, so anyone in the Bible who is drinking "wine" must be drinking alcoholic wine of some kind. His argument would say that much of the "wine" was so weak in is fermentation that it would be almost impossible for someone to be inebriated or that water was added in those days so that someone could not become drunk from partaking. This is new for most fundamentalists.

The young fundamentalists and the conservative evangelicals have latched on to this book by Jaeggli. He has corroborated their positions. In a foundational way, he agrees with those who believe scripture permits drinking alcohol. Actually Jaeggli argues against it, but he uses other arguments than that there was a non-alcoholic wine in scripture. He tries to use cultural argumentation, a position that would allow Bob Jones to continue taking their traditional prohibitionist view.

The result of Jaeggli's book was that for the most part, prohibitionists were against it and moderationists were for it. Prohibitionists wrote many reviews against it. They weren't happy. Older BJU graduates in many cases weren't happy with few exceptions. It was not the kind of anti-alcohol presentation that they would have expected from their alma mater. For that reason, BJU pulled the book and is revising it. This saddened some of the younger fundamentalists especially. It brought some jeers from the young conservative evangelicals, pointing to, in their opinion, the politics of fundamentalism that they so long have disliked. A lot of younger fundamentalists were really, really happy with the Jaeggli book. It did allow them good standing with conservative evangelicals for one, that they often emulate. All of this created a controversy that still exists. And we await the revision to see what it will say.

What is my position? I'm going to give a simple lay-out of a scriptural prohibitionist's view as a follow-up to this. I do see the moderationists position to be very weak, actually unbelievable. I don't believe that Jaeggli's position is true. I don't believe he proved his position. I can understand the furor that his book caused. Stay tuned in coming days as I expose the scriptural teaching on drinking alcoholic beverages.


Jeff Voegtlin said...

I'm tuned in. Have you read Peter Master's book, "Should Christians Drink, The Case for Total Abstinence"?

Kent Brandenburg said...

I haven't read it. I've seen you mention it, and thought every time, "I'd like to read that." Do you guys have it in your bookstore?

Jeff Voegtlin said...

I don't think we do, but you can get it through this link at Amazon.

philipians2511 said...

Very good post Bro Brandenburg, I have been reading the book "Bible Wines" by Patton and my Father In Law hollered at me a while back with the common excuse "Jesus drank wine so its okay". I read a review for Patton's book and found that there are those who stand in opposition to Patton and the 2 wine theory among them this reviewer and his belief:

I bought this book after it was recommended to me as THE authority on the "Two Wine Theory" - I almost feel that I wasted my money, but at least I have documented proof that the "Two Wine Theory" is completely absurd (which is THE ONLY REASON I give it 2 stars).

Much of the material for this book (originally published in 1874) came from two articles (Bacchus and Anti-Bacchus) which were thoroughly refuted in 1841 by John McLean in the April and October issues of the Princeton Review.

This book begins with false "facts" about fermentation, which are then used as a basis for "proving" that much of what was called wine 2,000 years ago could not possibly have been fermented. The book describes several ancient processes for preventing fermentation. But John McLean clearly documented that they are actually methods of improving fermentation. The truth about fermentation can be found easily by researching fermentation, or even winemaking, in a local library, encyclopedia, or internet search engine.

The book also makes claims about the Hebrew and Greek words for wine and "strong drink" (that they are only alcoholic when they are "bad"). As I mentioned above, Rev. John McLean showed from Pliny, Aristotle, Columella, and others from the time of Christ and earlier, that these claims are false.

If you're really interested in the subject, enter "Two Wine Theory" (including the quotes) into a search engine and start reading. :-)


I still prefer abstinence by conviction.

Respectfully Submitted,

Bro Steve

Gal. 2:20

Kent Brandenburg said...


I should get it and read to see what he has to say.


I'm actually what would be "two wine" even though I've never read Patton. I take the position based on exegetical basis. Read what I write and give it your evaluation over the next few days and weeks. Thanks for dropping by again.

Don Johnson said...

Kent, I will be interested to see if you can prove two wine exegetically. I don't think it is possible, but I would LIKE for it to be.

A couple of comments on your post:

1. I think your comments on the rise of interest and tolerance among so-called fundies is correct. In general, there is a wide-spread denial of separation from the world, always a hallmark of true fundamentalism. This hits many issues besides alcohol.

2. I don't think Randy's argument is that it would be impossible to become drunk on 1st century wine, but that the product of that day is sufficiently different, and the culture of that day is entirely different, from the product and culture of our day so that we are not making proper comparisons to suggest that the Bible is talking about the same thing we are confronting today.

(Whew! That's a long convoluted sentence. Hope it makes sense!)

3. I think that you are mistaken in thinking moderationists support Randy's book. I think he is getting heat from all quarters.

Finally, I think the revised edition will be stronger. I hope that it will be longer, so that Randy can present the arguments even more fully.

As for Patton, while I applaud the motivation and desires, I think he is just wrong on the meaning of the words and undocumented on the actual practices of ancient times. I would like for his statements to be true, but I am afraid they just aren't.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Don,

When I say moderationists support his position, I'm basing that on what I'm observing as BJU pulls the book from the market. The moderationists are criticizing BJU for doing that. Why?

On the product being different, you stated it better than me, but it is what I meant. I know that the distillation process wasn't existent yet. All of that history stuff is not the basis of my position, which I will be presenting. My position is not new. I've read others who take the same one, but we'll see what the reaction is.

Thanks for the comment.

Don Johnson said...

With respect to pulling the book... I don't think the reaction of moderationists proves anything. I think that they think the book will be revised in their favour. I also think they are nuts.

If it were me, I would simply have done the revision first, then pulled the first edition (and been really slow at filling orders for the 1st edition in the meantime). But then what do I know?

I am sure the revision will be stronger, but I doubt that it will please anybody. Except me, maybe.

But then I'm not anybody!

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...

But in Christ you do have all things that pertain unto life and godliness.

Don Johnson said...

Amen to that last one.

I am thinking of a post along those lines for my own spot.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Anonymous said...

"In my lifetime, I cannot remember a debate about the prohibition of alcohol among people in churches with Bible as sole authority. What has happened?"

What has happened is that we have a lot of evangelical, and even professing fundamentalist, individuals and churches for whom the Bible is no longer the sole authority.

Troy said...

Kent, I enjoy your blog and hope to encourage its circulation. For clarity, you might choose 'separationism' or 'separationist' over 'separatist' as separatist has today more to do with geo-political affairs than fundamentalist vs. neo-evangelical arguments.

Keep up the good work and fighting the good fight,


Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks. Interesting comment on separationism. Thank you.

Troy said...

Kent, in recent months the neo's on the west coast have taken it to dissect and define us fundamentalists. They better understand our position these days by that use. I assume they're "watching" us now, and desire your blog to impact them, too. Many are now pondering our biblical case for "separationism" due to the open discussions on blogs like yours...well done!

Ronald said...

I have to disagree with the poster who said that the methods Patton mentioned that prevented fermentation actually did the opposite and helped the fermentation.

After much debate with others on whether these methods actually did prevent fermentation, my wife and I decided to test it. We decided to test the boiling process that Patton stated was practiced in ancient times.

We purchased many grapes from the store adn squeezed the juice out of them, and then brought the juice (morre than a gallon) in a pot on the stove. We allowed it to boil down to well less than a gallon as prescribed by Patton's book.

According to Patton, Cato wrote that boiling arrested the fermentation process.

After boiling, we sealed the juice in an airtight container. Patton's book suggested putting it in an amphora (a jar) and sealing the jar with pitch. Our airtight container was a freezer bag which, when used with the Seal-a-Meal, was completely airtight and the bag had no air in it in accordance with the prescription of the ancients.
We placed the bag in our refrigerator (Patton's book suggested sinking the juice in a mill pond for refridgeration) and allowed it to stay there for the thirty days prescribed.

The bag was placed in the freezer and the contents froze. (now, we know that alcohol does not freeze in the conventional home freezers)

Two years later, we wanted to put the liquid to its final test. That of drinking.

After two years of refridgeration, we cut open the bag and poured its contents into glasses. Not small glasses, mind you, but the 18 ounce red plastic cups you buy at stores.

My wife sipped hers. I guzzled mine down in a matter of less than a 30 seconds.

Guess what? No drunkenness... not even the slightest tipsiness.

So, I have to attest to the fact that what Patton wrote in his book was indeed fact... that there are ways of arresting the fermentation process.

I have not tried the other three methods Patton gives yet, but hope one day to prove them as well.

Anonymous said...

Folks, the Old Testament and New Testament contain warnings against alcohol and examples of men getting Noah for one. To assume that the "wine"... Juice of the grape mentioned in the Bible is always non-fermented or non-alcoholic is absurd. If so, it would be impossible for those men to have gotten drunk and the warnings of the Holy Spirit unnecessary...who can believe it

Anonymous said...

If there is enough alcohol in the blood stream, long enough, that will cause alcoholism. Real Native Americans, genetically, don't have enzymes to change alcohol into sugar, therefore, it is easy for enough alcohol to remain in the blood stream long enough to cause us alcoholism.