Westwinds often gets asked about our position on alcohol. We meet on Sunday evenings in a pub. We made a charity wine. We have had satellite groups meet in pubs and one in particular centered around the theology of scotch called, Aqua Vitae (Water of Life). Below is our official position. It includes a fair amount of church history, biblical content, and cultural exegesis. Furthermore, it is consistent with our mission to Shadow God, Build the Church, and Heal the World
Alcohol and the Church through History
Do you suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused? Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?” – Martin Luther
“Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, which thou hast deigned to produce from the fat of grain: that it may be a salutary remedy to the human race, and grant through the invocation of thy holy name; that, whoever shall drink it, may gain health in body and peace in soul. Through Christ our Lord.” – Catholic prayer
Historically, God’s people have greatly enjoyed the drinking alcohol. And, in many cases, the process of making and distributing it.
- Saint Gall was a missionary to the Celts and renowned brewer.
- After Charlemagne’s reign the church became Europe’s exclusive brewer.
- When a young woman was to marry, her church made special bride’s ale for her, from which we derive our word bridal.
- John Calvin’s annual salary package included upwards of 250 gallons of wine to be enjoyed by he and his guests.
- Martin Luther explained the entire reformation as “…while I sat still and drank beer with Philip and Amsdorf, God dealt the papacy a mighty blow.”
- Luther’s wife Catherine was a skilled brewer and his love letters to her when they were apart lamented his inability to drink her beer.
- When the Puritan’s landed on Plymouth Rock the first permanent building they erected was the brewery.
- As far back as the 18th century, Paulaner German monks began brewing and drinking a heavy, malty beer called Dopplebock. Not only did they enjoy it casually, they drank it to sustain them through Lent and the 40-day fast. It is still in production today.
- For over 200 years, the monks of Westmalle have been farming, making cheese, and brewing some of the finest Trappist Ales in the world. True to the Rule of Saint Benedict, they ensure their own means of sustenance through these ventures. The brewery’s income, to this day, makes necessary improvements in brewing technology, supports Trappist communities, and is given to charity work (P.S. the Westmalle Tripel is my favorite ale. Period. And, it’s best on tap while sitting in a Belgium pub).
During the turn of the 20th century the prohibition movement came to dominate the church. Some denominations began to condemn alcohol as sinful and the Methodist pastor Dr. Thomas Welch created the Welch’s grape juice to replace communion wine in 1869.
Some Christians foolishly argue that such terms as new wine and mixed wine in the Bible speak of non-alcoholic wine. But, new wine can still intoxicate according to Scripture (Isaiah 24:7; Hosea 4:11; Joel 1:5), and mixed wine refers to special wines where various wines are mixed together and/or mixed with spices and does not refer to wine cut with water (Psalm 75:8; Song of Songs 8:2). The only time such a practice is mentioned in the Bible is in regards to merchants who cut wine with to rob customers (Isaiah 1:22). The Bible speaks of grape juice (Numbers 6:3) and if God meant to speak of non-alcoholic wine he would have used that word to avoid confusion.
One thing we often hear from recovering alcoholics is they appreciate Westwinds’ stance and our ability to use our influence to give people a good example of what it looks like to enjoy alcohol responsibly—to enjoy without abuse—to celebrate without sin. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Jesus turned water to wine as his first miracle. He turned perception on its head. Some might argue it was “grape juice” or weak wine but, make no mistake, in John 2 we read a clear story of the “kind” of wine he supplied. “ . . . the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:9,10)
Drunkenness is sin.
The Bible is very clear that drunkenness is a sin (Deuteronomy 21:20; Ecclesiastes 10:17; Matthew 24:29; Luke 12:45; 21:34; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 4:3).
An elder/pastor cannot be a drunkard (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7), and that no drunkard will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21).
Sins associated with drunkenness include incest (Genesis 19:32-35), violence (Proverbs 4:17); adultery (Revelation 17:2); mockery and brawling (Proverbs 20:1); poverty (Proverbs 21:17); late night and early morning drinking (Isaiah 5:11-12); hallucinations (Isaiah 28:7); legendary antics (Isaiah 5:22); murder (2 Samuel 11:13), gluttony and poverty (Proverbs 23:20-21); vomiting (Jeremiah 25:27, 48:26; Isaiah 19:14); staggering (Jeremiah 25:27; Psalm 107:27; Job 12:25); madness (Jeremiah 51:7), loudness combined with laughter and then prolonged sleep (Jeremiah 51:39); taking sexual advantage of others (Habbakuk 2:15; Lamentations 4:21); sloth (Joel 1:5); escapism (Hosea 4:11); depression (Luke 21:34); and staying up all night (1 Thessalonians 5:7).
Prohibitionists wrongly teach that all drinking is a sin and that alcohol itself is an evil.
- Psalm 104:14-15 “He God makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate-bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man . . .”
- John 2:1-11 is clear that Jesus first miracle was performing over 100 gallons of wine at a wedding party
- Matthew 11:19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”
Abstentionists wrongly teach that drinking is not sinful but that all Christians should avoid drinking out of love for others and a desire to not cause anyone to stumble.
- Hosea 2:8 “She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold-which they used for Baal.”
- 1 Timothy 4:1-5 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Moderationists rightly teach that drinking is not a sin and that Christian conscience must guide each person.
- Wine is spoken of as both good and bad in the same verses (1 Samuel 1:14, 24; 25:18, 37; Joel 1:5,10).
- Apart from good feasting alcohol in Scripture is rightly used for communion (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18), medicinal purposes (Proverbs 31:6; 1 Timothy 5:23), and Old Testament worship (Numbers 28:14).
- Proverbs 3:9-10 “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
- Ecclesiastes 9:7 “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart.”
- Psalm 104:14-15 “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate-bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.”
- Deuteronomy 14:26 “Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.”
At Westwinds, we ask that everyone act according to their conscience when it comes to alcohol consumption. Because of past sin, some who have had problems with alcohol may need to abstain for fear of stumbling into old sinful habits. For those who enjoy alcohol with biblical moderation, we recommend using discernment when providing hospitality for others who may have conscience or addiction issues.
Westwinds uses real wine as an option during the celebration of communion. Westwinds’ staff is permitted to enjoy alcohol within the biblical guidelines.
It’s been said, “Wine is agriculture’s finest artistic achievement.” We celebrate the artistry of making fine wines and alcohol. However, it is not our goal to get people to start drinking. If you drink, do so responsibly, and in good conscience.
Westwinds hosts a regular meeting in a local pub/restaurant on Sunday evenings. Guests are welcome to consume alcohol during this time. Based on the scriptural freedom we are given to consume alcohol and our mandate to go in to the world and preach the gospel, we do not see this as a conflict of interest. Rather, we see it as a dovetailed fit with the Great Commission.
Westwinds is in relationship with many recovering alcoholics and even supports/hosts multiple meetings throughout the week in connection with AA. This white paper has been prepared with the blessing and support of the leaders of those groups.
Best of all, we look forward to the day when our Lord and Savior will prepare for us a redeemed feast with wine:
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” – Isaiah 25:6-9