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Can Christians drink alcohol?

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“A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry”. Ecclesiastes 8.15

“O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! That we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!” 

-William Shakespeare, Othello….

The question as to whether Christians can drink alcohol or not is such a controversial one, which can generate some heated debate among Christians and even among church leaders and the clergy. It is an open secret that in modern day society, many Christians, church leaders and some ministers of the gospel consume alcohol, either secretly or in the open, but worse of all, Christian youth are hiding under the guise of social drinking and consuming alcohol in medically and socially unacceptable quantities.

To put it in context, I am referring to alcohol (specifically, ethanol) in whatever flavor or presentation. Beer, Guinness, Wine, “Agya Appiah”, Alcoholic Ginger extract, Gin, Brandy, Mandingo, “Akpeteshie” or Irish cream just to mention a few;  All contain ethanol, and for the purposes of this article, are treated as such despite the alcohol content. Be it 0.05% or 27.5%. .

The question however remains unanswered.  Can Christians drink alcohol or not? “is drinking alcohol a sin? Even though the answer to this controversial question may not be as straight forward as “can Christians fornicate?” a few schools of thought exist which can assist in arriving at an answer;

  1. Jesus Himself drank wine, and since Christians are followers of Christ, how can it be forbidden? Generally, those who make this argument add a moderate air: “but even so, drinking should not be done to excess.”


  1. A little alcohol for your stomach, so drink, but do not get drunk, after all “there is joy in a green bottle”: Paul tells Timothy “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). Those who make this argument suggest that the wine Paul recommends to Timothy is alcoholic. This demonstrates the Apostle Paul advocating the use of wine for medicinal purposes. It is worth mentioning that wine was used as medicine in Biblical times. Luke 10:34 records that the Good Samaritan in the parable used oil and wine as medications for the wounded victim of the thieves. They also argue that Christians are permitted to drink alcohol in moderate quantities, and their anchor in scripture is “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongue, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre” (1 Timothy 3:8 RSV – emphasis mine), but the questions is “how much is moderate”?


  1. Just a little alcohol to stimulate appetite: Alcohol indeed improves appetite, and a little alcohol can stimulate appetite to get one to enjoy his or her meal. This can mislead Christians to drink so much alcohol in the name of stimulating appetite. There are other equally effective ways of stimulating appetite apart from alcohol as the addictive side of alcohol might soon come to play to get one to drink more alcohol to achieve the same effect of appetite stimulation.


  1. Alcohol is highly addictive and destructive: People who support moderate drinking are always faced with the question of how much is moderate. Very few people who drink alcohol actually set out to get themselves drunk or become drunkards. Alcohol has the tendency to make one’s system so used to an amount of alcohol, such that he or she may need to drink more alcohol to achieve an experience previously achieved with a smaller quantity of alcohol consumed. People thus keep graduating to the next level of drinking till drunkenness sets in. It will therefore be practically difficult to set the threshold for drinking within the social and moral context as drinkers gradually build up tolerance to alcohol over a period of time and then end up taking so much alcohol. There are however scientifically and medically established safe limits for alcoholic beverages consumption. These are purely scientific and medical and not Christian-based.


  1. There are biblical experiences of alcohol consumption leading to disastrous outcomes: The first reference to wine is found in Genesis when Noah, after the flood, created the original fermented grape juice. “Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent” (Genesis 9:21). The record is that Noah drank and stumbled around naked and shamefully exposed himself to his sons. This first experiment with a new drug ended with a scathing curse falling on Noah’s posterity.

Lot also drank, and he was therefore easily seduced into having incestuous relations with his daughters. “So they made their father drink wine that night. And the first-born went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose” (Genesis 19:33). The offspring of this relationship became the nations of Moab and Ammon, the mortal enemies of God’s people.

Then there is the experience when the children of Israel drank alcohol, stripped themselves naked and worshiped a golden calf (Exodus 32:6, 25). This really ended in a horrible massacre.

Amnon, the son of David a known drinker, drank and raped his half-sister Tamar. Because of this incestuous act, he lost his life at the hands of his enraged brother while intoxicated (2 Samuel 13:28)


  1. Alcohol brings woe: The word woe means deep distress or misery—as from grief and/or wretchedness. The Bible is found using the word in different places; the use of alcohol however is often the reason why the word is used!
  • “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them!” (Isaiah 5:11).
  • “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who hath complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine.” (Proverbs 23:29–30). 
  • “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, Pressing him to your bottle, Even to make him drunk, That you may look on his nakedness!” (Habakkuk 2:15).

Alcohol indeed gets its drinkers to do things they naturally will not or may not be able to do. Often, people who drink never remember whatever they did whilst drunk, and this tends to bring so much humiliation to drinkers, and they tend to misconduct themselves so much, only to feel so much regret and humiliation when they recover from their drunken stupor.


  1. Drinking alcohol is the second biggest risk factor for cancers: Many people enjoy a drink without any problems. But drinking heavily over longer periods of time can have extremely serious health consequences; Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) increasing the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Drinking alcohol is the second biggest risk factor for cancers of the mouth and throat (smoking being the first). People who develop cirrhosis of the liver (often caused by too much alcohol) can develop liver cancer.


  1. Alcohol somehow increases libido, but eventually reduces sexual performance: Some Christians get to drink so much alcohol under the disguise of medication, either knowingly or unknowingly. A great number of alcoholic beverages are marketed under the pretext of improving sexual performance, but these products contain so much alcohol. These products indeed improve sexual performance in one way or the other, but eventually lead to erectile dysfunction in men. On the flip side, there is no shortage of evidence today that alcohol often leads to sexual immorality—such as adultery, rape, and incest.


  1. An Amazing Fact: Tests show that after drinking three bottles of beer, there is an average of 13 percent net memory loss. After taking only small quantities of alcohol, trained typists were tested and their errors increased 40 percent. Only one ounce of alcohol increases the time required to make a decision by nearly 10 percent; hinders muscular reaction by 17 percent; increases errors due to lack of attention by 35 percent — Paul Harvey (legendary award winning American conservative broadcaster for ABC radio)


It is my hope that these points will provide some guidance for readers and brethren to make their own decisions regarding Christians indulging in alcohol. Let me end by saying that it is often alleged that a stand against Christians drinking alcoholic beverage is unscriptural and is an improper binding of the conscience of others. While it is a fundamental principle of Christianity that each individual has a right to act in agreement with his own conscience before God and in the light of written revelation, it should always be remembered that conscience is not an infallible guide. Our conscience about a given issue is not to act independently of Scripture but is to be shaped by the teaching of the Word of God, whether that teaching is clearly stated or implied.


Credit: Laud Baddoo

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