When my book is published, I am fairly certain that the chapter “Drinking to the glory of God” will be the most controversial. It may be what requires me to self-publish! But I also believe it will be one of the most important because so little Biblically sound things have been written on the topic. That is my opinion of course, but I wrote this little post to show the Biblical research I have done on the Bible’s attitude on alcohol, in its own words.
The Study Itself
I began by doing a search on every place where the words beer and wine (and any other synonym I could find for alcohol) occured. I ended up with 215 verses. I then notated each verse. The main thing I looked at was the Bible’s basic attitude (“Biblical Stance”) towards it, using a scale from 2 to -2. Obviously this was slightly subjective, but I think I applied it fairly.
- 2: Clearly positive view of alcohol. Includes when it is described as a blessing from God (Deut. 7:13), its removal marks a removal of God’s blessings (Deut. 28:39) or it is given as a sacrifice for God – if God approves of it, it must be pretty good (Exo. 29:40).
- 1: Neutral but somewhat positive view of it (Gen 14:18).
- 0: Neutral or “Not Applicable.” Includes when it is used as an analogy for something else (Gen. 49:12).
- -1 Neutral but somewhat negative view of it (Gen 39:32ff) or when it is part of a Nazarite vow, hence it is fasted from for a period of time (Num. 6:3).
- -2 Clearly negative view of alcohol (Prov. 20:9). By and large this is when is being misused (more on that later).
At the same time, I also looked at some other elements of interest (labeled “2nd Data” for lack of a better title):
- A: Used as an allegory or in a non-literal sense (37x).
- B: Seen as a blessing from God (25x).
- BR: Shown as an example of a blessing of God’s removed (13x).
- S: Given as a sacrifice to God (22x).
- D: Drunkenness or actions directly related to (23x).
Finally, I noted whether the issue was alcohol itself or misuse thereof (“Misuse” this was notated with a “0” for “no” and a “1” for “yes”). This assumed that is was possible to use alcohol properly, but given that God himself directed its use (such as with his sacrifice), that seemed a safe assumption.
In order to get a true sense of what the Bible thinks about alcohol itself, I decided I needed to remove the places where it was being used as an analogy for something else and the places where it is being misused (drunkenness, for instance is something the Bible clearly condemns; there is no need to research that). That left 135 references, which broke down thus:
- Clearly positive (2): 65x (48%)
- Neutral, but positive (1): 27x (20%)
- Neutral (0): 21x (16%)
- Neutral, but negative (-1): 18x (13%)
- Clearly negative (-2): 4x (3%)
These results, as well as having studied all of these passages and the specific nature of the -1 and -2’s leads me to this conclusion: The Bible is overwhelmingly positive about alcohol when it is used as intended. Or as I say in my sermon:
“It is radically normal to view alcohol as a blessing when used to God’s glory but a curse when misused.”
Of course that leads to the question “How can we drink to God’s glory?” For that, I encourage you to listen to the sermon, or else wait for the book to come out!
In case you are interested, here is the Beer and Wine Study. If you don’t have Excel, you can download a viewer from Microsoft here. This is a rough draft so I apologize for the spelling and grammatical errors.