Christian Liberty and Drunkenness
Alcohol consumption for Christians can be a controversial topic. But it shouldn’t be. The Bible is full of evidence that God created wine and alcohol for man’s enjoyment. Sure there are warnings in the Bible concerning alcohol. But there are many warnings in the Bible about excess anything. God has established bounds which the Christian must live within, this includes Christian liberty and drunkenness. There are two simple laws which sum up these bounds: love God and love neighbor.
And even more, the Bible explicitly tells us how we are to love man and neighbor. There are 10 basic laws which are divided into many statutes and principles. These statutes and principles are explained, according to Jesus, in the law and the prophets (or the Old Testament). Wisdom literature celebrates these principles and gives great insight into their meaning. And finally the New Testament reiterates everything written in the Old (with a few anticipated changes).
This means that anything not expressly forbidden, commanded, or implied in the Bible falls into the category of Christian Liberty; and concerning alcohol, Christians have the liberty to drink under three basic conditions.
- Do not be drunk.
- Do not be addicted to much alcohol.
- Do not harm your weaker brother.
We will examine each of these in light of Christian liberty. This post will discuss Christian liberty and drunkenness.
Do not be drunk.
What exactly is drunkenness? The answer to this question is not as simple as it may seem. The terms drunkenness and intoxication are interchangeable. According to Drug-rehabs.org, there are seven stages of intoxication.
- The earliest stage of intoxication is called the sub-clinical stage and occurs with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .01-.05%. At this level of intoxication, there are no noticeable signs of drunkenness.
- The second stage of intoxication is the euphoria stage “because it is during this stage that the person experiences mild euphoria and a feeling of pleasure.” During this stage, according to Drug-rehabs, there are other mild impairments. The BAC here is between .03-.12%.
- The third stage is the excitement stage with a BAC between .09 and .25%. Here “there is instability in emotions, impairment of perception, memory and comprehension, loss of judgement skills, lowered self-control, decreased sensory response and increased reaction time.” In addition, vision and speech is impaired.
- Stage four is the confusion phase with a BAC between .18 and .34%. Here “the muscle incoordination is increased which leads to staggering gait or ataxia. There are disturbances in vision, change in perception and vertigo.”
- Stage five is the stupor stage at .25 to .40% BAC. “This stage is characterized by decreased response to stimuli, marked muscle incoordination, urine or stool incontinence and gradual loss of motor functions.”
- Phase six is the coma stage with .35 to .50% BAC, where a “person goes in to a state of complete unconsciousness or coma.”
- And finally the seventh stage is death. With .45% BAC and upwards, “the person dies due to cardiac arrest.”
There are factors that affect these statistics and explain the variances of BAC in each phase. The above are only guidelines according to Drug-rehabs.org.
No Room for Christian Liberty and Drunkenness
If we were to take the above stages of alcohol intoxication and look to the Scripture which says “Do not be intoxicated,” we might falsely conclude that we should abstain from alcohol altogether since Drug-rehabs.org calls each phase “intoxication.” But we have already established that God has given his blessing on wine and alcohol consumption in moderation. We might also be tempted to falsely conclude that only the “sub-clinical stage” was acceptable within the bounds of Christian liberty since there were no “noticeable affects” of the alcohol.
But this conclusion would contradict Scripture, which says that God “gave” wine to make man’s heart “glad.” We’ve already established that it is the alcohol in the wine that makes the heart glad (mildly euphoric). So we can’t call the euphoria stage sinful. We still have Christian liberty and drunkenness by God’s standard has not occurred.
However, some significant and problematic changes occur beginning in stage three, the excitement phase. There is nothing wrong with being excited, but when judgment, self-control, vision, and speech are impaired, drunkenness is beginning. These things are contrary to life and health. And they are contrary to walking by the Spirit. Here we no longer have Christian liberty. We have crossed the line.
As Christians, the gauge is not so much the amount of alcohol consumed or the BAC, but rather the behavior the alcohol elicits. When we lose control over our faculties, the Spirit is no longer controlling our lives, but rather the alcohol — and this is sin.
I polled a group of Christians who drink alcohol, asking them where they draw the line between Christian liberty and drunkenness. The answers were all in accord with what I have written above. But the best answer I received came directly out of the Bible. At first I thought the response was a way to get out of answering the question thoughtfully. But as I pondered and researched this topic, I saw great wisdom in this answer because it explains exactly where the line is drawn. The passage is from Proverbs 23:29-35:
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has contentions? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who linger long over wine,
Those who go to taste mixed wine.
Do not look on the wine when it is red,
When it sparkles in the cup,
When it goes down smoothly;
At the last it bites like a serpent
And stings like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange things
And your mind will utter perverse things.
And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea,
Or like one who lies down on the top of a mast.
“They struck me, but I did not become ill;
They beat me, but I did not know it.
When shall I awake?
I will seek another drink.”
As long as the Christian does not lose control of their mental and physical faculties and causes no harm to their physical bodies or the bodies of others, they are not in danger of abusing their Christian Liberty and drunkenness is not a problem.
Some Health Issues to Consider
Here are some additional thoughts to consider concerning your health and alcohol consumption. God has given His law for our good always and our survival. He is concerned about our life and physical wellness. The Old Testament is full of promises of health and long life for obeying His righteous statutes. To turn aside from God’s ways is to turn toward death. Christ came to give us abundant life.
If your alcohol consumption is causing a negative influence upon your health, then you are going against His commands. Here are some thoughts to consider in this regard:
- Are you waking up with a headache?
- Does alcohol make you feel nauseous?
- When you like down, does your head spin?
- Are you forgetting what you did the night before?
- Do you get angry and violent with others?
- Has your vision become impaired?
- Do you have to “sleep it off”?
- Are you losing self-control?
If you are answering yes to any of the above questions, you are probably drinking too much alcohol. There are benefits to drinking alcohol, especially wine. But the above signs may indicate that you are drinking too much. And all the benefits of wine turn into detriments to your health when you drink too much. Concerning alcohol, we have Christian liberty and drunkenness is a sin because 1. God says it is and 2. it harms our bodies.
Christian Liberty and Alcohol Addiction
But there are more factors to consider concerning Christian liberty and alcohol. And our next post will consider alcohol addiction.
Return to: Biblical Health Study
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