Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dr. Akin's Article

I know the next two articles have been posted on BP, I have had them before then but held them for the study. I post them for those who may have missed them and for the purpose of our study. Check out George Whitefield’s comment below.

QUOTES AND MORE: - George Whitefield

“It is true (as I observed at the beginning of this discourse) our blessed Savior did come eating and drinking; he was present at a wedding, and other entertainments; nay, at one of them worked a miracle to make wine, (you see I have been making some observations on it) but then it is not plain there had been more wine drank than was absolutely necessary for the support of nature; much less does it appear, that something had been indulged to pleasure and cheerfulness.
The governor does indeed say, "When men have well drunken," but it no where appears that they were the men. Is it to be supposed, that the most holy and unspotted Lamb of God, who was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, and who, when at a Pharisee's house, took notice of even the gestures of those with whom he sat at meat; is it to be supposed, that our dear Redeemer, whose constant practice it was to tell people they must deny themselves, and take up their crosses daily; who bid his disciples to take heed, lest at any time their hearts might be over-charged with surfeiting and drunkenness; can it be supposed, that such a self-denying Jesus should now turn six large water-pots of water into the richest wine, to encourage excess and drunkenness in persons, who, according to this writer, had indulged to pleasure and cheerfulness already? Had our Lord sat by, and seen them indulge, without telling them of it, would it not be a sin? But to insinuate he not only did this, but also turned water into wine, to increase that indulgence; this is making Christ a minister of sin indeed. What is this, but using him like the Pharisees of old, who called him a glutton, and a wine-bibber? Alas! how may we expect our dear Lord's enemies will treat him, when he is thus wounded in the house of his seeming friends? Sirs, if you follow such doctrine as this, you will not be righteous, but I am persuaded you will be wicked over-much.” (Whitefield – Marriage at Cana).


The Case for Alcohol Abstinence
Daniel L. Akin

I readily confess to a personal bias when it comes to the issue of alcohol. My wife Charlotte grew up in the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home because her parents were alcoholics. Her father died a lost alcoholic. Her mother, by God’s grace, was saved on her death bed. Her body had been ravaged by the twin killers of alcohol and tobacco. Today her sister and brother are lost alcoholics as is most of the rest of her family. My sister Joy and her husband Kevin King adopted a daughter born with fetal alcohol syndrome. She began life with two strikes against her through no fault of her own. Today there are more than 40 million problem drinkers in America. Alcohol is the number one drug problem among teenagers. One in three American families suspects that one or more family members have a drinking problem. Misuse of alcohol costs our nation $100 billion a year in quantifiable cost. Because of these experiences and many more, I have often said that even if I were not a Christian I would have nothing to do with alcohol. There is simply too much sorrow and heartache connected to it. Avoiding this devastating drug is simply the wise thing to do.

This year at our Convention we again passed a resolution calling for abstinence from alcohol. The resolution passed overwhelmingly, but it did generate significant debate both during and after the Convention. Some have accused those supporting the resolution of being pharisaical and legalistic, traditionalist and anti-biblical. It is said that we fail to understand Christian liberty and freedom, and that we even stand against Jesus. These are strong accusations from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. However, are they correct? Are those like myself who believe abstinence to be the best lifestyle choice really guilty of these charges? Let me respond as graciously and kindly as I possibly can, explaining why I hold the position I do. I share my heart with no malice or ill will toward anyone, but from a desire to honor the Lord Jesus, and to protect others from the evils alcohol has visited on so many.

We should remember from a Baptist perspective that there are historical precedents for affirming abstinence. In 1886 Southern Baptists issued their first resolution on alcohol. Since then there have been almost 60 resolutions that in a united voice have addressed the risk of alcohol and the wisdom of abstinence. For 120 years Southern Baptists have made clear their stand on this issue. Individual Baptists no doubt continue to take a drink as they had before 1886, but the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole has been crystal clear on where it stands for a long time. I am confident that our forefathers understood the issue of Christian liberty as they passed these resolutions. I am grateful for this tradition. I believe we should continue it.

There are moral reasons for affirming abstinence. John Piper teaches the wisdom of abstinence because alcohol can be a mind-altering drug, and it can be addictive. It does not help one in doing the will of God and can genuinely be a hindrance. Further, he notes “the carnage of alcohol abuse” and therefore chooses to boycott such a product. He then adds, “is it really so prudish, or narrow to renounce a highway killer, a home destroyer, and a business wrecker.” Some questions are in order and deserve an answer. Does alcohol make me a better person? Does alcohol draw me closer to God? Does alcohol help me run the race faithfully to the end (Heb. 12:1-2)?

Some respond by saying the issue is not abstinence but moderation. They draw an analogy to both eating and sex. There is however a significant difference. We must eat to live. We must engage in sex to procreate. Alcohol is not a necessity for life or good living.

I am in total agreement with my spiritual hero Adrian Rogers who said, “Moderation is not the cure for the liquor problem. Moderation is the cause of the liquor problem. Becoming an alcoholic does not begin with the last drink, it always begins with the first. Just leave it alone.” My friend James Merritt wisely says, “It is impossible to be bitten by a snake that you never play with.” Alcoholism cannot strike unless it is given the opportunity. That happens the moment one takes the first drink.
There are biblical reasons for practicing abstinence. Let me quickly note several. 1) It is consistent with the principle of edification (1 Cor. 6:12). Alcohol does not build you up or make you better for Jesus. Avoiding it ensures you will not harm yourself with it. 2) It is consistent with the principle of refusing that which enslaves (1 Cor. 6:12). Alcohol is a drug that can impair the senses and has a potential addictive element. Like addictive pornography, it should be avoided at all cost. 3) It is consistent with the ethic of love for believers and unbelievers alike (1 Cor. 8:13; 9:19-22; 10:32-33). Because I am an example to others, I will make certain no one ever walks the road of sorrow called alcoholism because they saw me take a drink and assumed, “if it is alright for Danny Akin, it is alright for me.” No, I will choose to set an uncompromising example of abstinence because I love them. 4) I will seek my joy and filling in the Spirit not in alcohol. I love the Phillips translation of Ephesians 5:18 which reads, “Don’t get your stimulus from wine (for there is always the danger of excessive drinking), but let the Spirit stimulate your souls.” Psalm 4:7-8 adds, “You [O Lord] have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” 5) It is true Jesus drank wine, and I am sure I would have had I lived in the first century. However, there is no evidence that he ever partook of “strong drink.” As Bob Stein has carefully documented, “The term “wine” or oinos in the ancient world, then, did not mean wine as we understand it today but wine mixed with water… To consume the amount of alcohol that is in two martinis by drinking wine containing three parts water to one part wine [a fairly common ancient ratio], one would have to drink over twenty-two glasses. In other words, it is possible to become intoxicated from wine mixed with three parts water, but one’s drinking would probably affect the bladder long before it affected the mind.” It should also be noted that children would have drank this diluted mixture of water and wine. It seems clear that there is no one-to-one correspondence with first century wine and twenty first century distilled liquor. Concerning the latter I believe the Lord Jesus would have no part.
Let me conclude with some practical considerations. Should those who practice abstinence look down on those who do not? The answer is an unqualified no. That is pride and therefore is sin. It is true that alcohol has contributed to many going to hell, but pride, no doubt, has done so in even greater numbers. A smug, prideful abstainer without Jesus is just as lost as the poor drunkard who is always in search of another drink. Those who believe in abstinence should be gracious and humble, kind and caring, loving and patient.

As a pastor or church leader, would I demand abstinence for church membership? No, I would not. Would I demand it for leadership? Absolutely! The principle of Proverbs 31:4-5 is appropriately applied here, “It is not for Kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.”

I agree with John MacArthur. Can I say it is always a sin to take a drink? No. Can I say it is almost always unwise? Yes, because it violates the biblical principles of wisdom and witness. One of America’s leading pastors is Andy Stanley. He wrote a book entitled The Best Question Ever. That question is this, “What is the wise thing for me to do?” I challenge anyone to show me the superior wisdom of drinking “in moderation,” as opposed to not drinking at all. This is not legalism but love. This is not being anti-biblical but pro-brother and sister. This is not working for evil but for good. Given the world in which we live I believe such a lifestyle honors the Lord Jesus. I believe it pleases Him. Without question it is the wise thing to do.

For those intersted I have replied to ConcernedSBCer's latest post in my comments.


brad reynolds said...

In concernedSBCer's latest post, he still refuses to place his name by his beliefs. Which begs the question of his concern:)

And does not address my questions from Alcohol Abstinence: Bias or Biblical. Again, attacking other's positions without defending one's own is a great debating tool but a weak position.

His comments about Shekar leaves one to assume that we must ALWAYS interpret it as a drink that the Hebrews drank without dilution contrary to the overwhelming evidence that Strong drinks were diluted.

If the text implies the drink was undiluted (people were getting drunk) then we interpret it as such...If the text does not imply this, then we must assume they were using it, as was the normal use in culture...dilution.

The rest of his comments are pretty much ad-hominal which is the lowest form of debate (attacking me - "arbitrary twisting of Scripture"; "not able to defend my position," etc). Coming from an anonymous person: ironic.

There have been some moderationists who have engaged in excellent thoughtful and scholarly discussion here on this blog...and I have admired their consistency as well as their well-thought out responses. They really are seeking truth and have readily admitted the evidence of the practice of diluting wine and strong drink. They have even interacted with it, rather than dismissing it. I have been very impressed with both their openness and their engagement with the challenges to moderation.

Thus, true discussion should be void of
anonomity, rhetoric and ad-hominal statements.

I am addressing myself first. It is easy to see these problems in others and not ourselves. If the truth be known we have all done some of this in the past. May we try harder.

However, we should all assume that: 1)ConcernedSBCer is a brother or sister who loves the Lord; and 2) his motives are pure. Further, he does an excellent job of researching the problems he sees with the Abstention position. And finally he should be admired for His study of God's Word...a good example.

brad reynolds said...

One last thing about true Christian discussion: it should not be for the purpose of argument but for a search for truth.

posttinebraelux said...

Only one point - Just because people were getting drunk does not imply that the drink was undiluted. It simply implies that the people drank too much. Your assertion is from silence. Otherwise, preach on, brother!

Grace and peace,


Tim Batchelor said...


Here are some thoughts for you to consider.

Ps 60:3
You have made Your people experience hardship;
You have given us wine to drink that makes us stagger.

This verse would seem to indicated that there was wine that did not make one stagger.

When we place Ps 104:14-15
(So that he may bring forth food from the earth, And wine which makes man's heart glad,
So that he may make his face glisten with oil...)

beside Jer 48:33 ("So gladness and joy are taken away From the fruitful field, even from the land of Moab. And I have made the wine to cease from the wine presses; No one will tread them with shouting,
The shouting will not be shouts of joy.)

we see that the “glad heart” is the not necessarily the result of the effects of alcohol as some moderationists have sought to prove from this verse but the result of the joy of God's provision.

Shekar which is usually translated Strong Drink in the NASB has proven to be difficult product for Scholars to identify.

Is almost always mentioned in connection with Yayin.

Is to be poured out Numbers 28:7

Can be purchased and offered as a tithe if one must travel too far to bring one’s own Deuteronomy 14:25

Could turn to vinegar indicating an alcohol content of below 15% Numbers 6:3

Forbidden to the Nazarite Judges 13:4, 7

Is warned against in Proverbs 20:1

Not to be drank by rulers 31:4

Is recommended for the dying and mentally ill Proverbs 31:6

Those who pursue it are condemned in Isaiah 5:11, 22

Is mixed with something Isaiah 5:22

David Jordan in his Doctoral Dissertation “An Offering of Wine” postulates that Shekar could not refer to whiskey because distillation is not known or Beer because of the amounts of water needed and no evidence of production but does suggest that it might refer to a concentrated wine. Here’s a quote that is relevant. Also note his expert opinion of potential alcohol levels in ancient wines.

Given the idea that a term may refer to strong drink rather than standard wine, perhaps it is about alcoholic strength that observations need to be made. Wine, in exceptional circumstances, can reach alcohol levels as high as 17%, however it is typically 8.5-14%.300 These concentrations are initially dependent on the concentration of sugars in the grapes, but are also limited to the maximum alcohol the yeasts in the ferment can survive.301 Most wineries develop a natural yeast concentration, which produces table wines of these strengths, but before the natural yeast developed the ancient winemaker would have been dependent on wild yeasts, which commonly may have only had an alcohol tolerance of 5%. Another limiting factor on the production of high alcohol beverages is yeast's intolerance of high sugar levels.302 This intolerance is what prevents honey from fermenting unless diluted. Similarly, it gives dates a longer life than grapes without spontaneous fermentation and date honey would sometimes need dilution for effective fermentation to take place. One other method of concentrating alcohol could have been used in ancient times, and that is evaporation. The alcohol level of a wine could be increased by drying the grapes to increase their sugar concentrations before fermentation.3 “An Offering of Wine” David Jordan p. 88

In her article “Delightful to Look at, Even Better to Hold” (An article referencing Union University’s Pottery Collection) Deborah R. Deboer of Union University makes an interesting statement with reference to the pottery discovered and its uses.

She references Amos 6:4-7
"Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away." Amos 6:4-7 (NRSV)
and then states:
“Now Amos's party animals are really far gone. They're entertaining themselves in a manner far too extravagant for such a dismal time. Amos notes in his description of their disrespectful merriment that they're drinking wine out of bowls. This in itself would not be unusual since during this period people did ordinarily drink from thin-lipped vessels, que'em, about the size and shape of a present-day cereal bowl. Amos uses, however, the word midrach, the bowls commonly used for mixing wine and water for parties, as well as for preparing everyday meals. Proper folk helped themselves to wine, dipping their que'em into the midrach, so Amos is telling us that these gluttonous fools taking their ease in Zion are drinking straight out of the punch bowl”

posttinebraelux said...

Good points. You're right about the distillation issue. The technology to distil alcohol didn't come about until WELL after new testament times. Thus, if there is truly a difference in Hebrew connotation between yayin and shekar (which I think there is), then shekar must be some form of highly fermented wine or beer. Remember that the technology to produce beer was available back to ancient Egypt. We don't hear much about beer in the Bible because of the region that most of the Bible is set - grapes were much more adaptable to that climate than grains. You're also right about the 'typical' alcohol content of contemporary wines. Generally, they will be between 10% and 15%. Usually a wine with stronger alcohol content (17-20%) is designated at a port. If, in fact, the 'undiluted' wine represented shekar, then we are wise to be very cautious about it's potential to inebriate. I'm not quite so convinced about the 'wine from bowls' metaphor. Your point is well taken that it is possible that the liquid in the bowl represented shekar, but at least two things should be noted: (1) the argument is from silence, (2) the people are not condemned for drinking from bowls 'per se', but for their attitudes. If it was the drinking from bowls that was being condemned, then would it not follow that they were also being condemned for eating lambs from 'the flock' and calves from 'the stall'?

Muddling through,


brad reynolds said...

It is true that it could have been diluted. But, with the "normal" dilution rate of oinos one would have to purposely drink vast amounts which would effect the blatter before the brain.

brad reynolds said...

Thanks for the research. It is going in my file:)

C. T. Lillies said...

Dr. Reynolds

These are all pretty good articles but have you considered putting up Ben Cole's article from the Dallas Morning News? I thought that was a pretty good one too.

Much Grace

volfan007 said...

dr. reynolds,

thank you for taking on the extreme theological tangent of five point calvinism. God bless you. maybe one day christians will just love the Lord and believe His Word without trying to make it fit into a system.

thanks again,


brad reynolds said...

CT Lillies

Ben’s article and Dr. James Merritt’s response are neither one a part of this study. To understand the study Methodology please see that post.

But thank you for your kind spirit

I am not the first professor Calvinists like this have come after. I think the majority of Calvinists are mild-mannered soul-winners who just have a different perspective of Soteriology than myself. They are more in line with Dr. Mohler than some of the more radical fringes. I honestly, think some want to only have 5 pointers teaching in our seminaries and they want take over our SBC. It is that group which is causing the caricature of all Calvinists to be mean-spirited. It is that group which will end up hurting Calvinism in the SBC.

I’m like you my friend I don’t want to be called a Calvinist, or an Arminian. I like Dr. Jerry Vines’ words who said years ago “Call me a Biblicists.”

Mopheos said...

Hello Brad,

It just occured to me that I have heard the term "Biblicist" very often in conversations, but I have thought little about an actual, specific definition of the term. How would you, or how do you think Dr. Vines, define(s) a "biblicist?" Just now curious...

Grace and peace,


mom2 said...

Here is one for you to define for me.
I have been accused of making an idol out of the Bible (not on this site). The word used was something like a biblidolitor. Since Jesus is the Word made flesh, how am I going wrong by having strong feelings for the Word?
I think everyone here loves God's Word and probably a part of the problem lies in our human nature - assuming more than we need to about each other and failing to express ourselves to the others approval. There is so much for us all to learn and may we continue to search the scriptures and apply them to our daily lives for His glory.