Sunday, January 17, 2010

#111-Saying That Wine in the Bible = Grape Juice

Happy New Year everyone!

I know, it's way past New Year's, but that's when I started writing this post . . . I'm just now getting around to finishing it.

Wine denial
Well, off the heels of our annual New Year's Eve Watchnight service I'm reminded of a little controversy that always arises with regards to the drink of choice to represent the blood of Christ during communion. Oh, and also when we discuss Jesus' miracle célèbre, turning the water into, yes, wine. It's just that in our version he turned the water into Welch's.

I've always wondered what was up with that. Pentecostals, on average, suffer from what I'd like to call "wine denial."

C'mon. Wine was in the Bible. Wine, as in, a drink with alcoholic content. Seriously, Noah didn't get plastered from drinking some measly grape juice.

Disclaimer (you knew it was coming)
Does the Bible caution against excess? Indeed. Doesn't Proverbs say that "wine is a mocker"? Sure. I'm not saying let's par-TAY because Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his indigestion. But it's ridiculous to act like "good" people in the Bible never drank anything more than ancient Welch's at celebrations (or for an upset stomach).

I don't drink because of the atmosphere and connotations that usually go along with it. I was a Resident Assistant at a gigantic state university known for being a party school, and I was forever confiscating beer and liquor from underage freshmen. I knew 18-year-olds who went into rehab. That's also ridiculous. But I think it's hilarious that we like to redact scripture to make us feel comfortable because drinking alcohol isn't acceptable in our church culture.


  1. C'mon, Chantell. You know WHY they drank wine back in Bible times. The fact that their water was horrific was a huge problem. These days, in light of the Bible's admonitions about drinking, drunkeness and revellings, we have no good solid reason TO drink wine. We still have that 'ole problem with the flesh called lack of discipline. And Jesus knew that we would. That is why we don't do a lot of things, after all, right?

    As far as Welch's.... Very few churches that I know of drink the wine that was REALLY drank back then anyway. My own pastor squeezes purple grapes but doesn't let them get to the fermented stage. It was not in the "fermentation" of the grapes. It was the COLOR - signifying the blood.

    That's my two cents.

  2. Chantell I feel you. We don't condone drinking by any means, but I am with you that the wine back then was the same wine we have today.... Alcoholic...fermented.

    The sin isn't in the's in the loss of self-control with the drink. Just like sex isn't a's using sin outside of what it was made for that is a sin.

  3. I agree. Just continue the tradition of abstinence. It's associations have no place for Jesus followers. In the times of the NT, wine was often used to help settle the stomach due to poor water. As a result, wine was a regular part of society. That meant there was obviously no prohibition, except many cautions about being drunken, etc.

    It's not a great way to teach the Christian principles on alcohol by living in denial by what the Text means, and distorting things like wine = grape juice. Live with it. However, in today's society alcoholic beverages have a certain connotation with them, that even secular people don't expect religious people to partake.

    Have a glass of wine with your meal if you must, but identifying with the social drinking scene of beer cans and Vodka is just plain immature.

  4. The wine was most definitely fermented (to the first posters). It's the same "wine" where he urged them not to be "drunken with wine wherein is excess." The idea of it not being fermented is not properly informed by the realities of the first century.

    I appreciate some traditions to keep Welch's Grape Juice in business. But I also completely grant that permission to those who drink real wine for Communion. There are no such prohibitions of the drink, but of the drink not being used in moderation.

  5. So if you live in a part of the world where the water can be regularly harmful it's okay to drink wine on occasion but here in America it's not okay because our water is safe? I personally don't drink but the Bible says not to drink in excess so I certainly won't be judgmental and say someone is sinning if I see them drinking a little.

  6. Lest I was understood, I never said that the wine back in Jesus' day was NOT fermented. I just said that the "wine" we use in our own communion in my church was NOT fermented, because the communion was not in the fermentation, but in the "blood".

    This whole wine issue can be used similarly for many things we Apos avoid altogether. For those who do not have TV's in their home, it's not because the Bible says not to watch TV. It tells us to "set no wicked thing before our eyes". The justification can be that we can, of course, have a TV and just watch Disney. Or, we can avoid it altogether because very few people can practice true discipline.

    This is one of those "slippery slope" issues....

  7. Sorry, that was supposed to be "misunderstood" in the first line.

  8. There are no tidy categories for those without Christian discipline anymore. If you can't control yourself on a TV, you won't control yourself on the internet.

    Back to the wine, I actually agree with the majority of Christendom, and their tradition of abstinence when it comes to alcohol. The practical need for alcohol to be a more normal part of society thousands of years ago makes sense. With the exception being for those who want wine with a fancy meal, it's better to not even open that door for our young people, families, and the millions that have come to Christ that struggled with liquor.

  9. The fact is this is mostly a U.S. Ap/Pent issue. Most believers in other countries use wine when celebrating communion. Just sayin'...

  10. That's an interesting observation. The legal drinking age in most countries is also much lower. Could it be that when something isn't taboo, people end up having a less . . . controversial/polarized relationship with it/concept of it?

  11. Chantell,

    Great post. I did not even realize the controversy behind the issue until last year in a class at UGST. I have grown up my whole life in a church where one could drink wine (with alcohol) or grape juice for communion. I had always assumed it was normal and accepted everywhere. Lo and behold, in class last year my teacher asked anyone if they drank alcohol for communion. My buddy from a near-by church in MI and I raised our hands. Except we were the only ones to do so in class. And the LOOKS we got! I swear if there was a lethal injection chair nearby, we would have immediately been strapped to it.

    That said, it's difficult for me to see the issue behind this controversy. The fact that people genuinely believe it is alcohol that is a sin and not just drunkenness blows my mind. Most things have scriptural principles for us to abstain from this or that (the need to be sober). But there is nothing, not even a fragment of a verse we can derive from the Word that attests to the banning of alcohol in moderation, or worse yet, for communion.

  12. Chantel, you sound like a "legalize drugs" advocate.

    Could it be America (and the West's) prosperity and bounty have something to do with it? Add to it immediate accessibility? Where are the stats for this so-called drinking gap based on age of drinking?

    Alcohol prohibition is clearly not sinful or biblical. But in an effort to promote people from being drunken, the refraining of social drinking is completely understandable. Ironically, alcohol affects one's reasoning and decision-making capabilities. A little buzz goes a long way.

    Good discussion.

  13. Sara, I sound like an advocate for legalizing drugs because I'm pointing out that people in the Bible drank wine with alcoholic content?

    I myself abstain from alcohol and don't think it's a bad idea. I say Christians are better off abstaining from it. But it's true that the Bible never prohibits it, rather it advocates moderation.

    If you Google "legal drinking age," you'll find that the US has one of the highest.

  14. Chantel, I was referring to this comment:

    "Could it be that when something isn't taboo, people end up having a less . . . controversial/polarized relationship with it/concept of it?"

    I understand that the US has one of the highest. However, I don't think that is a reliable instrument to prove the US's alcohol usage has a direct relationship. I'm not even sure what the "stats" are for such a claim.

  15. I wasn't attempting to make a claim, it's just something I often wonder about. Whenever something is tagged as "forbidden fruit," if you will, I think it affects the concept people have of whatever that thing is.