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From my understanding the bible is quite clear that Christians should not get drunk. However some denominations seem to go a step further and say that Christians shouldn't drink at all. From what I can work out the Old Testament Law doesn't prohibit drinking, and I can't find a record in the NT banning it.

How do any of these denominations support their belief that Christians shouldn't drink at all?

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Finally! One I can answer based almost solely on sermons I hear on a regular basis!!! –  David Stratton Jan 10 '13 at 5:34
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up vote 11 down vote accepted

My denomination is one that is very strongly in the "Christians shouldn't drink - at all" camp. Very strongly. And my Pastor, whom I love and respect, is very strongly in that camp as well. Yet even he, in his sermons, will tell you that nowhere in the Bible is drinking explicitly called a sin.

However, in many places, drunkenness and even alcohol consumption is called foolish. And to him, and every other Baptist Pastor I've heard preach on the subject (and that's quite a few), the problem isn't so much that drinking alcohol is a sin, it's that drinking alcohol lowers our inhibitions, and sinful behavior often follows. It's really easy to give into temptation if you're under the influence of alcohol.

That said, there are other theories about the prohibition against drinking.

From http://www.brucesabin.com/alcohol.html

In the history of Christianity, alcoholic prohibition is a relatively new idea. In fact, alcohol was a normal part of life. In Colonial America, the Puritans expected Christians to drink (Hearn, 1943). In the 1700s, a Baptist minister created the formula for bourbon whiskey (Hailey, 1992). During the 1800s, many Southern ministers operated stills, and sold alcohol (Hearn, 1943). Parishioners who owned stills would tithe their alcohol; and preachers' salaries often included whiskey. All this began to change, however, as the Temperance movement took shape (Hailey, 1992).

So even in Baptist Churches, it hasn't always been that big a deal.

However, the article does go on to echo some of the reasons for abstaining altogether.

One that I've heard from the pulpit, and that I personally can't argue with is echoed here:

For some Christians, a sense of love and justice leads them to abstain from alcohol. Seeing alcohol's devastating effects on society, these Christians feel compelled to act. Taking a strong stand against alcohol and its consequences is a tangible way that they can demonstrate their faith. These Christians believe that abstaining from alcohol is the best, possibly the only, solution to this societal problem. In addition, abstaining from alcohol guarantees that one will never fall prey to alcoholism (Hancock, 1999).

Quite frankly, even though most people never have a problem with alcohol, it can ruin lives. And in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 8:9 (King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.))

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak

It's just considered a good idea to set a good example. As my Pastor often says: "People are always watching you. The lost are always looking for an excuse to say, 'He's not a real Christian - I see him down at the bar all the time Who is he to try to act all holier-than-thou?'". In the interest of maintaining a good witness, and staying credible, it's simply more constructive to abstain.

As an added list of reasons some Christians believe that it's wrong, I'll include this link: http://www.scionofzion.com/drinking.htm

I am not saying I agree or disagree with any point on the list. I'm also not debating what my Church preaches is Truth. I'm just presenting it, like the rest of this answer to address why some believe drinking is wrong, not addressing whether drinking is wrong. My own views aside, this isn't the place to determine such things.

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I'm not sure I agree with the theology, but it certainly answers the question - Thanks! Thanks for all the references as well. Ido agree completely that it does ruin some peoples lives, and also agree with abstaining from drinking if it could cause others to stumble. –  Greg Jan 10 '13 at 5:38
    
@davidstratton Know what two Baptists call each other when they meet in a liquor store? A: Sir. –  Affable Geek Jan 10 '13 at 12:16
    
+1 for the neutral presentation. Still, I want to add that the "it has ruined some peoples lives" argument is not convincing. The same can be said of almost every activity: business, sports, eating hamburgers (to name a few). –  Ingo Jan 2 at 15:44
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Biblical Background

If you do an in-depth Bible study on alcohol, one finds that... it doesn't take that long. There really isn't much written about it. Just don't get drunk, but give it to those who are perishing (Proverbs). However, there is another key verse of note:

1 Thessalonians 5:22 is translated in the KJV to be "abstain from every appearance of evil". The NAS, ESV, and other translations render this as "Abstain from every form of evil".

The word in question is the Greek word εἶδος. The KJV itself translates the word differently in different places as follows:

shape 2, fashion 1, sight 1, appearance 1

There is a significant distinction between avoiding every appearance of evil and avoiding every form of evil, and it is perhaps this possible mistranslation that has given rise to things such as the abstinence from all alcohol, because the Bible never completely prohibits the consumption of any alcohol at any time. One would indeed wonder why God created the process of fermentation if its only usage was evil.

Biblical Application

The logic goes like this... Drunkenness is strictly forbidden in Scripture, but to avoid the appearance of evil--that is, ever being drunk--one should never consume any alcohol at all.

This is also applied to other things as well. Some movies have scenes in them that give rise to the sins of lust. Therefore, in order to avoid the appearance of evil--that is, going to see such a movie--one should never go to a movie theater at all. (I have personally attended a church where this was actually taught.)

Of course the list can go on and on... don't eat a restaurant that serves alcohol... don't have cable... don't have a television... don't go to a movie rental store...

Conclusion

So, there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits the consumption of alcohol. As David mentioned, the Bible does exhort us not to use our freedom to indulge the sinful nature or to make our brothers stumble. Alcohol should be, in my opinion, something that a Christian is willing to give up entirely. It should not be a right we demand. It just isn't a big deal.

The idea of "avoiding the appearance of evil" may possibly be a mistranslation that has led to the position that no alcohol should ever be consumed by any Christian in any situation--not because it's wrong, but because someone might think you could get drunk.

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Wish I could vote up more than once, just for " Alcohol should be, in my opinion, something that a Christian is willing to give up entirely. It should not be a right we demand. It just isn't a big deal." –  David Stratton Jan 10 '13 at 23:32
    
Thanks for all the info - I wish I could select two answers as the answer to my question. The argument for avoiding the appearance of evil reminded me of 1 Timothy 3:2 - an overseer (and I think it can be extended to Christians) should live a life above reproach. –  Greg Jan 14 '13 at 10:21
    
The giving up of alcohol I agree is something we should be willing to do. Giving up any freedom (what we eat/drink/watch/do) we have been given through Jesus should be something we are willing to do if it allows us to preach the gospel to others, or if it will prevent a fellow Christian from stumbling. –  Greg Jan 14 '13 at 10:22
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I'm not personally from a denomination that believes drinking alcohol is wrong (we in fact have a theology class that meets in a bar and drink beer during it), but my understanding from talking with Christians that don't believe in drinking tend to stem from the passage "all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial" (1 Corinthians 10:23)

Thus, while it may not be spoken to as a sin, they see it as causing more harm than good and since most would agree that the goal of a Christian lifestyle is to be more Christlike, they seek to remove things that they don't see as beneficial.

The same argument can be applied to many other things that the broader church more commonly considers to be negative, such as swearing (other than using the Lord's' name in vain which is directly mentioned), premarital sex (only adultery is really strongly spoken against and there are actually cases of use of prostitutes in the old testament by Godly people who were not spoken against (neither was it approved of). Ultimately though, the core derivation is trying to live a better life and avoiding things seen as having only negative impacts.

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Great use of the 1 Corinthians verse. Not sure I agree with all of your examples - I think the bible does talk about sex outside of marriage (including premarital sex or sex with a prostitute) as sin. But I agree with your argument of trying to live more Christ-like. –  Greg Jan 14 '13 at 10:14
    
@Greg - yeah, they are more fringe examples, personally, I'm still in the camp of thinking they are probably sin or at minimum, ill-advised, but maybe that is a topic for another question some time. –  AJ Henderson Jan 14 '13 at 14:12
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