Paul commands believers not to get drunk,

"And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God." (Ephesians 5:18-21).

Drunkenness is condemned in harsh terms in the scriptures, both Old and New Testament:

  • “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”
  • (Proverbs 20:1).

  • “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has 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. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: 'They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?'”
  • (Proverbs 23:29-35).

Paul warns,

"Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

As far as concerns explicit instruction in scripture, temperance is recommended. This is sound advice:

  • “And in this way when we are at entertainments, and when we are about to come to the enjoyment and use of luxuries that have been prepared for us, let us approach them taking reason with us as a defensive armor, and let us not fill ourselves with food beyond all moderation like cormorants, nor let us satiate ourselves with immoderate draughts of strong wine, and so give way to intoxication which compels men to act like fools. For reason will bridle and curb the violence and impetuosity of such a passion.”
  • (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, Book III, Chapter LIII).

William Hogarth, Gin Lane

Drunkards do not inherit the kingdom:

"Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: £adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21).

So far, so good. Can we take the next step, and agree that 'the Bible teaches we should not consume alcohol'? But what of the wedding at Cana, where Jesus changed water into wine? If they were better off drinking water, then what was He thinking? Banning alcohol altogether may be a step too far, although we can all agree drunkenness is condemned.

There is much more to be said about this however. :

"Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: 'Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die.'" (Leviticus 10:8-9).

The priests were not consume alcohol while on duty; why not?

Paul urges concern for the weaker brother:

"Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.  Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak." (Romans 14:19-21).

If alcohol consumption, intended by design to be in moderation, is a normal part of social life, then it can be safely predicted that whole army of people, perhaps ten percent of the total population, will end up under the subhuman degradation of habitual drunkenness. This means misery, not only for them, but for their children, employers, neighbors, non-participating spouses and other innocent victims. People in the churches should consider whether laying such a snare for others is worth it. The message the habitual drunkard hears from society is the 'therapeutic' message, 'It's not your fault.' This is a wonderful comfort for these people. Whose self esteem would not be enhanced by hearing over and over, 'You wonderful person, you,' even if they, or other providers or tax-payers, have to pay good money to hear such patently untrue sentiments expressed? This soothing message is such a big hit in the market-place that there is an entire industry devoted to promoting it. Business will always be brisk, as alcoholism rates only, always and inexorably rise under this regime. If the sufferers from this affliction heard a different message from the church, would there be any great harm done?

The guiding principle of the therapeutic industry which sought to shoulder aside moralistic preaching during the twentieth century was amorality. Moralism, they cautioned, produces only paralyzing guilt. Thus they silenced the temperance preaching which gave the drunkard motivation to change. Their very definition of the problem, the construct of 'alcoholism,' lacks any objective component, much less moral content. How much alcohol the subject consumes is irrelevant, nor do they apply any behavioral or performance criteria: being incoherent 24/7 does not make one an alcoholic. Rather, the person's subjective dissatisfaction with his life, if any, centering around alcohol-related issues, is the only potential problem these people can see. Thus, people who are drunk all the time, but do not aspire to anything better, have no problem, by their definitions, whereas people who hardly drink at all can still be 'alcoholics.' A satisfied customer is a repeat customer, and whatever it takes to keep their consumer base coming back for more 'rehab' is what they diagnose. The criticisms offered by those around the 'alcoholic' go unheard, except insofar as the 'alcoholic' himself lifts up their banner, if he can put aside his annoyance that he is sick and tired of these people criticizing him all the time. No effort is made to teach him empathy, nor any concern for how his behavior impacts others. That he may become a ball and chain attached to someone else's foot was a central concern of temperance preaching, but that has been laid aside.

Or is it an offense against Christian liberty to preach against drunkenness? The idea that no moral ideals can be set before a Christian audience beyond the plain instructions of scripture has a long and noble history and cannot be lightly discarded:

"There is another principle regarded as fundamental by all Protestants, and that is, that the Bible contains the whole rule of duty for men in their present state of existence. Nothing can legitimately bind the conscience that is not commanded or forbidden by the Word of God. This principle is the safeguard of that liberty wherewith Christ has made his people free. If it be renounced, we are at the mercy of the external Church, of the State, or of public opinion. This is simply the principle that it is right to obey God rather than man. . .

"Men still insist on the right of making that sin which God does not forbid; and that obligatory which God has not commanded. They prescribe rules of conduct and terms of church fellowship, which have no sanction in the Word of God. It is just as much a duty for the people of God to resist such usurpations, as it was for the early Christians to resist the authority of the Roman Emperors in matters of religion, or for the early Protestants to refuse to recognize the right of the Pope to determine for them what they were to believe, and what they were to do. The essence of infidelity consists in a man’s putting his own convictions on matters of truth and duty above the Bible."

(Hodge, Charles (2015-02-13). Systematic Theology: The Complete Three Volumes (Kindle Locations 29845-29863). GLH Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

Certainly Christians who wish to commend abstinence to their fellow-believers should realize they seek to persuade free men. Those who wish to commend moderate drinking, a view-point growing in popularity in the church, should realize there is a down-side to their proposal. Personally, I agree with Ambrose, “'All things are lawful to me,' says the Apostle, 'but all things are not expedient.' As, also, to drink wine is lawful, but, for the most part, it is not expedient.” (Ambrose, Concerning Widows, Chapter 11, Section 68).


The Southern Baptists are one large church who are making the transition to promotion of social drinking. But with this comes, of course, celebrity slip-ups, tearful confessions, and stints in rehab. Perry Noble has fallen from grace on these grounds. If they want it they can have it, the whole package, as it comes in one whole package; but I do not know why they want it, when what they used to have is better. That there was never unanimity in the practice is sufficient proof that Christian liberty was maintained. These inevitable stumbles provide all the more occasion for the modern Southern Baptists to flaunt their tolerance and their new-found devotion to 'therapy.' Certainly we should love and cherish our mentally ill brethren, but compassion for their sufferings is not shown by handing them over to quacks:


The Bible says that “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler. . .” (Proverbs 20:1), and among those who can testify to the truth of the saying that 'strong drink is a brawler' are women who have the misfortune to be married to a drunk, and have the bruises and broken bones to prove it. Leaving aside all inventive mythology about 'patriarchy,' the disinhibition consequent to alcohol use, leaving an angry man to lash out like an animal, is the real culprit in many of these cases. Ironically, the church's testimony against this barbarism was stronger and more consistent in the nineteenth century than it is today, when many churches encourage social drinking, with the inevitable consequences that go along with it, as night follows day, of drunkenness and alcoholism. Will you then encourage these women to stay married to the drunk and get beat up every night, insisting the Bible so teaches? But the Bible does not encourage drunkenness. The church of the nineteenth century had a positive, affirmative program to reduce domestic violence, and that program was temperance.