(Published Jan 5, 1999 in Christian Week,

by Robert Brow   (web site -

I was converted from atheism my first week at Cambridge University through the InterVarsity group (CICCU). I soon picked up the idea that Christians don't drink beer, wine, or anything alcoholic. After a few regrettable lapses at family weddings, I managed to be a total abstainer for the next twenty-five years. My wife was a Baptist, and as missionaries in India no one ever served wine at table.

After coming to Canada, we noticed that Jesus' first miracle was turning water to wine at a wedding. There were six jars each holding twenty gallons, and the vintage was superb (John 2:1-11). When Paul told Timothy to "take a little wine for his stomach's sake" it can't have been unfermented grape juice (1 Timothy 5:23). And why would Jesus use the metaphor of new wine being put into new skins to describe new spiritual life in the church ? (Luke 5:38-39) So when a frail old lady served us a small glass of wine each, we drank it.

On the positive side my wife and I have found that accepting wine at table and for the toast at a wedding moved our witness from "we don't drink wine, smoke, dance, etc." to the good news of what the Holy Spirit can do in our lives. And I see no evidence of drunkenness among people who drink wine with their meals (partying with hard liquor is something else). If we have guests we always offer juice as a first option, and with some of our friends we keep wine out of sight. I abhor drinking and driving, and I am sure that AA and the Salvation Army are right to recommend total abstinence for alcoholics.

But we also note that Jesus did not seem upset that people viewed him as someone who enjoyed his food and wine at table (Matthew 11:18-19, Luke 7:33-34).

A postscript to answer an objection to the above article :

Nobody would become an alcoholic if they abstained from wine
Nobody would get downed if they abstained from swimming and water
Nobody would die in a plane crash if they abstained from flying
Nobody would get run over is they abstained from walking in the city
Nobody would get killed in a car accident if they abstained from driving

The art is to enjoy the risks of life with proper care and moderation.

 model theology home | essays and articles | books | sermons | letters to surfers | comments