Monday, November 26, 2012

On the consumption of alcohol....Part 1: Overview

This is not a confession (because, as we'll see, I don't consider drinking to be an absolute sin); rather, it is a statement of position — i.e. where I'm "coming from" currently. It is not a statement of how I got here, or why I'm staying here. That follows below.


I drink. Not very much (I don't like the weight gain and brain damage it does if consumed in quantity for a long time), and usually not in large amounts at a time, either (I also don't like the feeling of being drunk; buzzed is great — drunk, not so much). But socially, sure, and also every once in a while at home when experimenting with different mixes, cooking, etc.

However, I was raised in a community and household that taught that consumption of alcohol was evil. There was some him-hawing over whether Nyquil counted or not, but the general idea was that consumption of alcohol for recreational purposes is absolutely verboten for all people at all times.

This stance was supported by Scriptures such as Proverbs 20:1, and others, taken in a woodenly literal, "exact words" sense, combined with certain assumptions about those verses.

Passages that seemed to support the recreational (John 2:1-11) or medicinal (I Tim. 5:23) use of alcohol were explained away using various historical/cultural and linguistic gymnastics.

How then, did I come to be a joyous consumer of the stuff? And what limits have I placed on this consumption, and why? How might this be applicable to your own practice?

Well, as I began to study the issue for myself, I found that a) the explanations provided for the "supportive" passages, and b) the assumptions made about the "prohibitive" passages were both somewhat suspect, in different ways.

Then, one day during my personal Bible reading, not related to studying, I discovered a key verse that had never been addressed, either positively or negatively, in all of the various discussions, sermons, etc. which I had come across on the topic. As far as I can tell, this verse admits of no other hermeneutic but that completely destroys the false assumptions mentioned above.

In fact, it admits only a hermeneutical hypothesis that allows us to make complete sense of both the prohibitive and supportive passages, understanding them as a coherent whole, rather than holding them in opposition.

All of this study was done under the personal ethic, "I don't drink". However, as I began to progress in this journey, my reasons for not drinking shifted from "It's not right" to "I'm not comfortable with it". By the time I finally started, I was obviously firmly in the "I'm OK with it, within reason" camp, and have been ever since.

The key point here is that I reached that camp based on my study, not the other way around. (i.e. I wasn't influenced to change my hermeneutic in order to justify my behavior; rather, I changed my behavior based on careful analysis an updating of my hermeneutic.)


In Part 2, I will present the "prohibitive" passages, along with the teachings that I was originally taught about them.

In Part 3, I will present the "supportive" passages, along with the teachings that I was originally taught about them. (e.g. How they were dismissed.)

In Parts following those, I'm not sure what order I'll do things in yet. (I'll update this post when I do it.) But I'll be covering:

  • a point-by-point deconstruction of the tactical errors of the teaching from my childhood (EDIT: This has been included in the second and third Parts),
  • the neglected verse I mentioned above, and how it affected everything, and
  • how it reordered everything (this will include an re-exposition of the prohibitive and supportive passages from this new perspective)

I may even include some meditations on the strategic errors of my childhood indoctrination, and possibly some anecdotes regarding the specific events in which I put these new discoveries to practice; I haven't decided on this part yet.

I'm also not sure as to the release schedule of these posts. I'm hoping for one a week, although it may wind up being once a month. If you feel it's been too long, and you're just on the edge of your seat waiting for the next one...let me know, and I'll try to prioritize a little better. :)


  1. I am already on the edge of my seat...

  2. Very interesting. I wonder where this sorting will lead?

    You might be interested in these 2 treatments of the subject:

    1. @Alice: I will take a look...thanks for the links!

      My focus for this series is going to be a bit more recent, and also a bit more abstract (but not too much, I hope! :) )

      From my initial scan, that looks like good material, though, and I'll keep it in mind. :)

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