Home » Bible » Sober Saints: Epic Fail!

Sober Saints: Epic Fail!

I must apologise at the outset: I have no intention to cause upset or annoyance, but I feel it is inevitable that this blog will do that to some readers, who may have put their faith in a book; the only book I put my faith in is the Bible, and everything else I read on spiritual matters must fall into line with that, which is the clearest way we have of discerning the mind of God. This is like one of those essays that you had to do at school or university, on a subject you really didn’t like; it was necessary to do it, but there was no real desire in your heart. This is something that needs to be done…

First I shall ‘nail my colours to the mast’: I belong to a church where our pastor is totally abstinent from alcohol and preaches this. He made it church policy that anybody in a ministry must be the same. I myself do not agree with total abstinence, and believe it is a matter of conscience which comes under the auspices of the Apostle Paul’s instructions in Romans 14. That chapter deals with the issue of ‘meat sacrificed to idols’ chiefly, but extending it to drinking alcohol is a common and rightfully valid analogy since Paul mentions it in verse 21 (which leads to a misconception about the ‘weaker brother’ that I only discovered recently myself!). However, for the sake of unity and harmony (Romans 14:19), I, as a deputy coordinator of the worship team, have remained abstinent while at the church since its inception 4 years ago. This is out of my deep respect for a pastor who has a caring heart for all his people, a concern for every believer, and a passion for souls. Harmony is difficult when believers disagree, but we all need to be mature and agreeing to differ is the best way. For me, the “I don’t agree with that so I’m going somewhere else!” mentality is far too prevalent in the modern western church. I have learnt myself that ‘being right isn’t everything’ and though I could very well, in all righteousness, take an attitude of ‘I told you so’, this would not be conducive to harmony, as well as being an expression of pure pride on my part, when pride is so unbecoming of a Christian.

Now this deals with a book entitled ‘Sober Saints’ that was doing the rounds and gaining a lot of attention in the church; it was making a biblical argument, amongst others, that all believers should be totally abstinent. I was exhorted by a fair few people to read it, and I had mixed feelings. First, I had heard things being said about its claims that left me very dubious about its conclusions, but on the other hand, I always believe it is better for one to read something for themselves instead of relying on second-hand relaying, which may have picked something up wrong along the way. Second, I had a natural inclination to not particularly wish to read something that would prove me wrong after many years (who can honestly say that they would wish to face that?), but as a Christian, if I was missing something that I needed to learn from the word of God, I simply had to be humble enough to accept it, and act accordingly. So I bought the book from amazon (after trying to borrow it from a few eager readers, who were all still devouring its contents).

I knew from the outset that I had no interest in reading any of the social arguments since I had gone over these so many, many times over the years – I believe many in the church approach the issue of addiction either skewed in one way, or from a worldly, not biblical, point-of-view; or both (though I am not taking time to go into this here). I also skipped past all the quotes from famous church founders and preachers since they might all be wrong: one could quote from dozens of Roman Catholic scholars over the centuries who extol the veneration of Mary… I was solely looking for a biblical argument that alcohol was to be avoided completely, or prohibited for true believers; that alone would convince me. Now the comments about the book were so good, I was worried that I would have to succumb to this view and admit my folly. It was in this prayerful attitude I began to read it.

However, I had only the first two chapters read when I had already become quite angry, if I am honest. The first surprising thing I had come across was that the Hebrew word yayin could mean both alcoholic and non-alcoholic wine, while tirosh represented the pressed juice fresh from the press; I accepted this as matter-of-factly as any reader would and read on, but then came across glaring errors that any biblical scholar would scream at. For instance, the author stated that the Greek LXX (Septuagint) was “the Bible used by Christ and the early church” – the LXX is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures for use by non-Jewish readers: Christ would have attended rabbinical school as all Jewish boys did, and still do to this day, and would have learnt Hebrew, despite its death and the supersession of the similar Semitic language Aramaic. All synagogues, to this very day, contain Hebrew scrolls of the Law and Prophets. He would have had no need whatsoever to read the scriptures in a language foreign to him (it is recorded in Luke 4:16-18 that he did indeed read from the Hebrew scroll), and the Jewish church in Jerusalem would have been the same. The LXX would have been used by the gentile churches, where Greek was the lingua franca of the eastern Roman Empire, but had no place at all with people who could read the original language. I shall not go into other points about linguistic translation principles here; too long-winded even for me. If you are wondering what qualifies me to make these observations, let me assure you that I have a Bible College Diploma obtained after 3 years’ full-time study (where I studied Greek for 3 years and Hebrew for 2), as well as a degree in Linguistic Science, and most recently, a Masters degree in Language & Linguistics; I would not boast about being an expert but I thank the Lord for giving me such ability and knowledge to be able to safely say I know what I’m talking about. Much of what is presented here (and from what I was shown later by an advocate of this view) seems to hinge on the LXX, as if this is a great authority for biblical truth. It is only a translation of the original scriptures into another language centuries later, just as any modern English version, and as such, can be just as flawed, depending on the knowledge and competence of the translators. It has value for proper linguistic (chiefly diachronic or ‘historical’) scholars who seek to compare words for semantic nuances of language of that time, but it has no bearing whatsoever on the meaning of the original language (that all evangelicals accept as inspired). Such clear mistakes caused me to go back and look at the other claims with my scholar’s head firmly in place on my neck. In particular, I was to examine the meaning of yayin for myself. I then sent the author a lengthy email outlining my own findings with the proposal that once this claim of an ambiguous yayin is dispelled, the rest of his consequent biblical arguments fall flat since they are based on an initial error. The man is a busy minister and politely said he was unable to reply to me at present but would get back to me. I understood and hope he is busy with a fruitful ministry and wished him God’s blessings, sincerely. He exhorted me to read the rest of his book, but I have decided not to, which I shall explain later.

Many say it’s just a matter of interpretation; yes, interpreting scripture is often down to personal views on a reading of scripture, but as a linguist, I draw a distinction between such differing viewpoints and incorrect translation of a biblical word. If we can look at theological scholars who differ on interpretation of scripture verses, which occurs on the reading of scripture in one’s own language, let us call this the macro-level. This produces as many different doctrines over any one passage as there may be theologians, which may divide into different denominational camps, like political parties, though within these denominations there may still be dissension on minor issues (that can lead to pathetic splits over nothing!). However, at the linguistic level (the micro-level), where the meanings of words in the original languages are discussed and how they might be translated, there is very little dissension. One has only to look across various current versions of the Bible to see that the different translations are almost always consistent with only fairly minor different synonyms with little diversion in meaning, and usually representative of the time in which each was made, considering that all languages change over time. The few words that may be unclear in meaning are usually outlined in most versions as footnotes. For instance, many of the animals forbidden in the ‘food laws’ are names of animals peculiar to the semitic region that have been lost over time and we cannot be certain which particular species they refer to. Some words are translated with difficulty, true: for instance, ‘love’ in the New Testament in most English versions can refer to both phileos and agape in the Greek, and this is well-known. They have two different meanings in Greek, which are hard to express clearly in single words in English; the KJV uses ‘charity’ for agape but that has changed its meaning so much it is no longer appropriate for distinction.

However, yayin is not one of these difficult words. A source quoted to me stated that it comes from a root meaning ‘to press out’ and so refers to the juice from the winepress initially. My own research came across a claim that its root meaning is ‘to ferment’ so naturally I was eager to quote this to others since it supported my own personal view, but actually, proper academic study reveals that both of these claims are purely hypothetical (I had expressed this in my email to the author before I had the chance to obtain a proper study book and so I must apologise for ‘jumping the gun’ and retract that claim). The root of tirosh is known to be the Semitic wrt, which means to press out, but the root of yayin is really unknown, so we can lay aside any speculation here as only that. I could suggest that across most Indo-European languages there is a similarity with all words containing a -in- root, though again, I am only speculating on that. Unfortunately, it may well be the very translation of these words into English that has caused much of the confusion in the first place, since we come across terms like new wine, sweet wine, strong wine, etc. This has led to speculation again, on what these different words refer to, which is fine and understandable if one wishes to determine the nature of the words. At the micro-level, however, speculation is unacceptable: linguistics is a science, an academic discipline subject to the rigour of scrutiny by many scholars, who usually agree regardless of any denominational bias.

I went through every instance of yayin in the Old testament myself but could not find anything to make me believe that it referred to a non-alcoholic beverage in any example, save maybe for Lamentations 2, where the children do cry for bread and wine. This on its own should not change the meaning of the word since we are applying modern values to an ancient time; we may not give alcoholic drink to minors but to say that people in those times would not have done so may well just be an anachronism, and without witnesses to testify, or other sources to confirm that minors were never given any alcohol, we cannot make that claim. Even if that is granted, I then was looking at only one reference (from a peculiarly poetic piece of prophetic literature, as Lamentations is) out of around 140, that might lend itself to a retranslation. The author seems to suggest that examples of it being used in contexts of ‘the harvest of wine from the winepress’ thus describes the unfermented juice as pressed out; these are clearly simply references to the harvest of the final product, which I can only describe as a ‘temporal incongruity’ – we even use the word ‘winepress’ in English when clearly the product coming out of the press is not yet wine, but juice! The same verses sometimes speak of the harvest of oil (shemen) as if it were brought in from the olive trees, yet clearly olives (zayith) still need to be pressed. I find no argument to retranslate shemen to mean olives because this is not in contention by anyone (see Jer. 40:10 as just one example where harvests of both yayin and shemen are used in this ‘incongruous’ manner) . Linguistically it’s a dead end. And so the only possible verse left is in Lamentations 2. The author points out Hosea 4:11, where there is a single use of tirosh in an apparently intoxicating rôle, saying correctly that this is not enough to change the semantics of tirosh to include alcoholic drink. Similarly, this one verse in Lamentations (which may well be a poetic irony) where yayin appears to be non-alcoholic, is not enough to change the meaning. There is no ambiguity but for an invented one.

Let me suggest where this error may have come from: students of scripture come across all the various verses which refer to wine, where some seem to praise its qualities, while others warn of the dangers of drinking it. This seems contradictory, especially as we can see around us the terrible problems associated with alcoholism (chronic drunkenness) and alcohol abuse (‘binge-drinking’ is the modern term for it!) – a natural question is ‘can the Bible really be extolling alcoholic drink?’ and so explanations are sought. Such debate is welcome and should be looked at properly, in the light of our social problems and the prevalence of alcohol around us, but this is a HUGE debate I have neither the time nor the inclination to go into here. What has angered me is how these speculations have filtered down to the original language of scripture and sought to alter it, reinterpret it, or at least place some doubt on its meaning. This is the word of God, people! Once you try to change it, you enter very dangerous ground. We all know of many heresies that arise from poor translation: for instance, I have debated with Jehovah’s Witnesses, who say that Christ has already returned as their founder predicted, but that it was a spiritual return, unseen by the world – I point out that the word for revelation (Rev. 1:1) is apokalupteo, which literally means ‘uncovering’ or ‘revealing’ – yes, a real revelation! They can’t answer that. While yayin is a much more ‘minor’ issue, I feel that seeking to change the meaning of any original word is in the same vein as such heresies. (N.B. for some it is major, but I argue that biblically it is not, or it would have much clearer commands in the line of “thou shalt not…” – even though that would be dependent on a reading of scripture outside of grace, which is an IMMENSE topic!). So some people have concluded that these ‘positive’ verses could not refer to alcoholic drink, since alcohol is obviously evil. Wrong! Evil cannot reside in an object, it is borne from the wrong, selfish, sinful desires of our heart, which our Lord made clear (Matt.15: 10-20). And so ‘evidence’ is sought to justify this ambiguity in a word that has never been ambiguous! One only has to stop for a moment to think: if we are to argue that there is a word in scripture that has such an ambiguous meaning that we need to reinterpret practically all the translations we have, are we not setting a precedent for others to argue for changes in translation or reinterpretation of other words? What might come next? Are we not undermining the very book we base our faith on? Let us draw back from this brink; quickly!

This desire to reinterpret yayin as something ambiguous, meaning both alcoholic and non-alcoholic would clearly lead to confusion since there is no way to tell which kind each instance refers to. The argument that ‘context disambiguates’ may be used to go back to the hypothesis that where the semantics of the word are positive, it is non-alcoholic, and only alcoholic where it is negative, and this sounds fine, since ‘context disambiguates’ is a linguistic maxim, but that refers to different words which appear the same i.e. in English, we have two words spelt (homograph) and sounded (homophone) the same: ‘duck’ – one is a water bird, the other a verb denoting that one stoops down. In context, one can safely be assured that “the man had to duck and dive behind the wall” does not refer to the bird, clearly! If a golfer ‘hit an eagle’ there may be some ambiguity there IF there were actual eagles on the golf course in the line of fire of his golf balls, but 99.9% of the time, we know that he ‘scored an eagle’. To apply the same rule to one word that has no division or double meaning is a backward argument based upon an academically unfounded hypothesis. Such a proposal presented as a dissertation in any university would receive a FAIL, believe me!

I have decided not to read the rest of this book, for a very good reason. As I said, what I read angered me since I found evidence of attempts to tamper with the original words of scripture, which for me is heinous for any believer to do, regardless of the motive. I hope you can grasp the depth of my feelings from one example: I have heard readers say “you know that word means ‘wineless’” and I wondered which word was referred to. I surmised it was to do with the exhortation Paul gives to ‘overseers’ in both 1Tim.3 and Titus1 – to be ‘not given to much wine’ but that it was maybe an idiom, used figuratively (like ‘spineless’ in English which has nothing to do with actual backbones – this was the sort of error I thought I would encounter in the book, not what I actually found). But then I heard the word was the Greek naypho, which I took to be a verb, not an adjective. Looking it up, I discovered that in all five passages where it occurs it has absolutely nothing to do with alcohol, but talks about being alert so it IS purely figurative BUT that it simply means sober, the opposite of intoxication, and has NOTHING within it that would mean ‘wineless’, even if this WAS referring to alcohol. This is incredulous, spurious, sweetie mice in the head!!

I knew that I had already come close to judging the author of this book in my wrath, and judging another’s motives or heart is something that scripture CLEARLY forbids, unequivocally, unambiguously (Matt. 7:1,2; Luke 6:37;  Rom. 2:1; 1Cor. 4:5; James 4:11; 5:9; and the aforementioned Romans 14!). His motives in addressing alcohol abuse may well be pure and right, but I feel that he has found sources he was too eager to quote without recourse to proper investigation, and I have no intention of reading more of these examples or even seeking out such sources. Not conducive to my own harmony! This is why I have labelled this ‘epic fail’ – the author has clearly made an epic effort to read all he could and analyse it meticulously, but unfortunately with too eager a desire to support his own view, since it was a matter close to his heart. Clearly, the biblical argument is null. I sincerely wish him richest blessings in his work for the kingdom.

I could list the verses here, but I’ve spent enough time, honestly. I exhort you yourself to get a Strong’s concordance and look up ‘wine’ – all those with word reference 3196 refer to yayin – look them up yourself and knowing that there is NO EVIDENCE to support a view other than that it refers to standard, old-fashioned, alcoholic wine, decide for yourself what the word of God tells you; don’t just take my word for it. We are all able and empowered to read God’s word for ourselves, and we should be grateful we can!

For me, the only clear instruction regarding this is in Romans 14, where the only ambiguity Paul presents is how it falls with other matters under ‘follow your conscience’ BUT ‘don’t judge the person who does not do the same as you’ – I am forbidden to judge the tea-totaller, and they are forbidden to judge me. If you are someone who cannot control your drinking, for the sake of your own soul and body, ABSTAIN! If you do not have such a problem, but YOUR conscience tells you to abstain, then do so, please, and… I was about to say ‘be proud to be an abstainer’ but as I said before, pride is so unbecoming of a Christian.

Grace be with you.

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65 thoughts on “Sober Saints: Epic Fail!

  1. I found your review of the book on Amazon. I have some thoughts on some of your comments.

    You state: “came across glaring errors that any biblical scholar would scream at. For instance, the author stated that the Greek LXX (Septuagint) was “the Bible used by Christ and the early church” – the LXX is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures for use by non-Jewish readers”

    It is my understanding that the NT writers including the Gospel writers use the LXX in the vast majority of instances. Why would this be if it were just a translation?

    Nest you say: “It is only a translation of the original scriptures into another language centuries later, just as any modern English version, and as such, can be just as flawed, depending on the knowledge and competence of the translators. It has value for proper linguistic (chiefly diachronic or ‘historical’) scholars who seek to compare words for semantic nuances of language of that time, but it has no bearing whatsoever on the meaning of the original language (that all evangelicals accept as inspired).”

    Could it not just as easily be said that the Hebrew we have is “just a copy of the original”. Again, the question must be asked. If it is merely an uninspired and even unimportant translation why do the all the NT writers quote it more than any other, even the Hebrew? Why is Jesus recorded as quoting from the LXX?

    I’ll leave it at that, as I don’t want it to get too long. I would also like to say that I agree with your conclusions on the main thesis of the book. i hold onto a moderate view of this issue, however (and you may correct me on this if you wish) Paul does inform Timothy that deacons are not to be given to much wine, but elders are not to be given to wine at all. I see a distinction there.

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  2. Thanks for your comments, Dave. They are welcome. I tend to get a lot more commenting on my Facebook link (when I actually DO – often people choose to remain silent!) than here on the blog.

    I hope you can sense my disappointment with the book – it was being related to me that it was so good, I had a sneaking hope that it would ‘convert’ me since I’m not happy feeling like a lone dissenting voice all the time, but alas, it was so full of holes I just gave up on it for my own spirituality.

    There needs to be an understanding of basic scriptural and religious history on approaching the Bible that far too many Christians lack (including some pastors and ministers). The OT is written in Hebrew (except for most of Daniel, which is in Aramaic). Aramaic was the language that superseded Hebrew in Palestine when Hebrew as a spoken language died out, much as Irish died out under the cover of the more widely-spoken English (the death of Hebrew may well be a result of the diaspora, or ‘dispersion’, of the Jews into captivity since they held less sway politically after that, but all language change is complex). It is very similar to Hebrew, but by well before the time of Jesus, it was already the universal language of the region. Hebrew became just a written language in the scrolls found in the synagogues, but Jewish boys learnt to read it for the purposes of religious learning. Masorete scribes had added diacritics above and below the original text to denote the vowels, since Hebrew script is only consonants, thus aiding the learning for Aramaic speakers. We still have them in current texts (though I believe the ‘proper’ scrolls that are venerated in synagogues have no such diacritics).

    The NT is written in Greek, since it had become the lingua franca of the Eastern Roman Empire (while Latin prevailed in the West). Most educated people, like the apostle Paul, could speak and write Greek to a good standard, so all the gospels and epistles were written in that language. Jesus may well have learnt to speak some Greek, since he had a conversation with Pilate. Pilate MAY have learnt Aramaic for his role as governor, but more likely he dealt with most people using Greek. Where there is confusion is that while the gospel writers record Jesus referring to verses from the LXX (or Septuagint), this does not mean that Jesus was quoting from that version. He spoke in Aramaic (as is recorded verbatim in ‘Eloi Eloi, lama sabachthani!’ and ‘Talitha koum!’) but the writers of the gospels had then to convey all that he said in Greek, so they quoted from the LXX, for their Greek-speaking readers, much as I may quote from any English version I choose: the words of Jesus as I read them in my English gospels are just translations of his original ARAMAIC words, and the LXX references are just quotes from that Greek OT translation. Jesus would never have referred to the LXX, since his audience were all Aramaic-speakers and any scripture he quoted would have been from the Hebrew, probably translated into Aramaic for his followers.

    When I discuss the ‘inspired’ word of God, I refer to the original, which is the Hebrew (and Aramaic Daniel) OT and the Greek NT. We have very good verified manuscripts going back very far (right back to the 1st century for the NT manuscripts!) that stand up to any scrutiny. I get very annoyed when amateur theologians try to state that ‘the Bible has been changed so much by the church over the centuries’ – WRONG!

    Hope that answers your question. Do feel free to ask anything else, or offer anything you have found too, you’re welcome to agree or disagree with anything I’ve said. I always hold to the principle that you should understand for yourself and form your own opinion on scripture.

    Interested to know where you reference that idea that elders are not to be given to wine ‘at all’ – please let me know. You sound like my own pastor lol!

    Grace be with you.

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    • Thank you for your comment, Andreas. All comments are welcome here. Thank you for possibly providing clarification on which word may have led to the “that means ‘wineless'” statements, since I’ve never found anything remotely resembling such a word. More likely to be the ‘distinction’ Dave was referring to above since it is used for ‘overseers’ and not deacons.

      Unfortunately, this is a spurious translation, but it is understandable. The word only appears twice, in 1Tim. 3:3 and Titus 1:7, yet Paul also uses an alternative oinos polus in 1Tim. 3:8 and Titus 2:3. ALL translators render them in the same way, since they are just idiomatic ways of saying the same thing. I realise now that I did not explain ‘idiom’ in my blog: I cannot translate “you’re pulling my leg” into, say, French – “vous tirez ma jambe”, since a French person would not understand the reference. The French way of expressing the same sentiment is “vous prenez mon oeil” – “you’re taking my eye”

      Looking at this, I can see the misunderstanding would arise from a misapprehension that it is a contraction of ‘para oinos’, para being a preposition that can mean different things, but chiefly to denote ‘alongside’ in a motion of moving towards something. For this usage it must be used with a separate noun in the accusative case. Oinos is nominative; the accusative would be oinon. Paroinos is listed as an adjective (2nd declension masculine if my memory serves me well). It is obviously used idiomatically, yet the only scholarship I can find any allusion to which seeks to treat it as something different to oinos polus is among those who contest Pauline authorship of these epistles and see it as an anti-Gnostic stance. Those of us who accept Pauline authorship find no problem or quarrel over the word. It is only from those who are desperately trying to MAKE it a point of contention, since it plays into their ‘confirmation bias’ which every one of us commits, believe me.

      (Even were I to accede to this usage of a contracted ‘para’, it actually never fits into a semantic category of ‘nearness’ but more a category of ‘movement towards’ so it would be describing ‘being drawn towards…’ more than ‘being in the vicinity of…’)

      Laying aside this academic debate, there is a much easier way to check out such a claim for the ‘lay reader’ and this is easier now we have online bibles. Look up the verse in question in ‘all english versions’ (biblegateway.com does this for you) and read down them. Seeing how all the different translation experts translated it will show you whether this claim of ‘not near wine’ (literally and not idiomatically) is valid. If so, it is claiming that all translators of our bible have got it wrong, for centuries! That would be worrisome!

      Grace be with you.

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    • I may also add that I have recently left the church described here (amicably), and now being able to enjoy an occasional glass of wine or a beer is VERY liberating. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2Cor. 3:17)? 🙂

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    • I was pleased to see you had replied, Andreas, but realised it would be difficult to reply again, if a small amount of superior knowledge comes across as prideful. Knowing the difficulties that ensue with written communication over verbal, I’ll not take offence.

      I took the time to think it over, and then to write a reply two days ago, which ended up much longer than I expected. I waited before posting it, as I always try to do on this blog, to ensure as much thought and humility goes into what I write as is possible. Yesterday my Safari crashed and I lost the whole comment, so I took that as a sign.

      My wife told me that turning 50 would change me; she became much more confident about airing her opinion, when she had not been so for most of her life. The past year, since turning that age myself, has seen a change in me, and it has been a LOT more humility, actually. My pride was in my perceived ability to question what I heard and to challenge it, BUT… a fair few things that I held dear have been exposed to me as errors of modern pulpits and not scriptural. Modern evangelicalism actually IS very modern in much of its beliefs; the boast that we as evangelicals have sought to return to 2000-year old truths is vain. I had even been drawn into beliefs I should never have considered with my knowledge of scripture!

      Total abstinence would not have been one that was hard for me to reject, I admit. It was something I never subscribed to, but if you have been taught it by those you look up to, or belong to a community that widely believes it, it IS much harder. I know this because I am wrestling with many things that fit that description for me; some I have already dismissed. It wasn’t easy.

      Hand on heart I can say that this was NOT something I need to be ‘humble’ over or change my thinking. There may be some old blogs I will edit or remove now, but this is staying up! My critique of the book here was genuine, analytical and based on what knowledge I had. Those who would try to argue that I am wrong over total abstinence are entitled to believe I am in error, but what they are not entitled to do is change the meanings of the original words of scripture. Those who seek to offer a ‘new interpretation’ of Bible verses, or a rethink of the lessons in the context of modern life, are criticised harshly for attempting it, even though that is NOT as bad as what I read in this book. It angered me simply because I believe in the value of the original texts; they are sacred, in as far as anything material can be venerated (not the paper and ink!).

      I shall stop there. Grace be with you.

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    • No, again, as I said, I take the warnings that Jesus gave us very seriously, and being angry with a brother or sister is dangerous (Matt. 5:22). I will not pass judgment on the author as I do not know him, so must presume his heart and motivations are right. It’s the methods used that I have condemned, and that is enough to stop me delving further into the book. I could easily make an assumption about what those ‘important issues’ are and launch into a rant, but that would be presumptive and unfair. I have much better books to read, thank you. And yes, I do mean ‘better’ since the research for this book was very skewed.

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    • My testimony? Or my sanity? I DO welcome a good challenge, especially if it’s an intellectual one. But this is anything BUT intellectual, since…

      First, the whole premise of the book hinges on the initial argument that alcohol is condemned throughout scripture. It is not, and I have dismantled that, therefore being one who strives to live a ‘biblical’ life, what more argument could persuade me, if it is trying, as it should as the work of a Christian author, to present ‘Biblical truth’ to us?

      Second, I have a pile of books to read and dissect, others on my kindle reader, and even more on my Amazon wish list I have yet to purchase. When I did my Masters, the reading list was so vast, I learnt to filter out the parts of articles, and even chapters of books that were irrelevant, or far less relevant, to my needs. Likewise I filter my reading to NOT read books that will just take up my time. Referring back to the first point; unfortunately the book is worthless to me.

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    • AAAAAAAHHHHH! [that was a scream, not a sigh of relief] I KNEW I should not have tried that! I carried on with the book. You persuaded me, I’ll give you that, but you should have left it alone, to be honest. I got as far as chapter 7, and all I found was selective reading of verses, verses out of context, skewed interpretations, questions that nobody I know would answer differently, like ‘is drunkenness condemned in scripture?’… I then glanced on towards particular passages that interested me, but I HAD to stop. Simply… because… I was getting angrier and angrier.

      The author continually accuses ‘the social drinker’ of taking verses out of context to justify their stance without actually researching it, which is insulting to the ones who HAVE researched it, BUT the hypocrisy is that he himself has unwittingly taken so many verses out of context due to a preconceived worldview that only allows his blinkered eyes to see what he wants to see; it’s sad! When he gets to the gospels and Christ, and states that he has already shown us that the wine Christ made at Cana (and drank throughout his ministry, though I didn’t get to that bit) was unfermented, then I have to reply ‘NO! You have not shown that since your exegesis of the original scripts is badly flawed’. Thus my dismantling of the argument in the first chapters renders the rest of the book obsolete, but he continues on, and on, and on, in the same vain vein, trying to prove his point, which seems to have come from somewhere outside scripture, to be honest. He then ends up twisting and butchering just about every verse he encounters, and relies on non-biblical folklore like ‘Timothy only ever drank water’ with no source to back that up!

      I don’t know if you’ve read many of my other blogs, Andreas, but my main thrust has always been to drag evangelicals away from their pet subjects to a much wider view of scripture and of the Christian Way. Sins such as greed and gluttony are practically forgotten in favour of the usual suspects of ‘drinking, smoking, and going to the pub’.

      Then there is interpretation of scripture and how so much of what we hear from pulpits is just bad exegesis (as above); Some quarters will not allow a woman in a congregation without a hat on, even thought the ‘head covering’ Paul talks about is the full Middle Eastern veil as worn by Muslims. (I haven’t actually blogged on that specific topic but one of my earliest was ‘Why I don’t wear ties!’ which I would argue comes from the same mentality).

      For me, this is a major problem for the evangelical church; overemphasis of certain things leads to a ghettoisation of believers, particularly if preachers place emphasis on all the sins which ‘we used to partake of’ but ignore the ones we commit every day of our lives – gluttony (guilty), internal lust (guilty), worry (guilty but my wife is far worse!), calling others idiots (well, I’m working HARD on that one – VERY hard right now!), etc. I blogged about ‘why I hate testimonies’ but I’ll paraphrase it for you: when testifiers spend a half hour talking about all the terrible sins they did (which almost always includes copious drinking since we live in a binge-drink culture), then end with “then one day I walked into church, raised my hand, said The Sinner’s Prayer, stopped drinking and going to the pub… and I’ve never looked back!” THEN we portray a myth to the world, which is that ‘sin’ is something that is done out in the world by non-believers, and once you come across the church portal, you no longer sin. While very few actually believe this exactly, it still is the picture that is drawn. This leads to many who think that they have to give up their old life just as it was and start again, but like a New Year’s resolution, once they make one slip i.e. pine for just a bit of that ‘old life’, then they give up. I have met many in Belfast on door-to-door work who said “I went to church once, I tried being a Christian, but I couldn’t keep it up!” TRIED!!!!!? There’s about a dozen things wrong with that one word!

      What is truly needed is a debate and discussion of issues and ethics and just what sin is, and how we deal with it in ourselves since it is always there, though in varying forms for different people – what tempts me to act in disobedience to God may not tempt you or another brother. Each of us should be counselled on our strengths and weaknesses, not fed a diet of a ‘catch-all-cure’ that may be VERY relevant to some (my previous pastor told us a thousand times about his alcoholic father) but have zero bearing on others. I imagine Keith Malcolmson has had similar personal experiences within his family or friends in order to make him so jaded about alcohol, but to continue on in this notion that by ‘allowing drink into the church’ we are reducing the gospel only serves to strengthen this pathetic ideology that sin is found in a bottle or on a bar-stool. It is not! It is in our hearts! Heart change is the key, so we should be pursuing purity of heart in EVERYTHING we do, not just the things we ‘used to do’. At the risk of REALLY taking a verse out of context; “To the pure, all things are pure.”

      I still refuse to judge Mr. Malcomson or his heart; only one in this universe knows the purity of that!! As I said before, I DO condemn the methods used in the production of a very skewed book, which is bad for so many reasons, and reading further has just compounded my view: it is error piled on error. At least now I cannot be accused of not trying to read it, but getting to the end would have ended me!

      There are far more subtle things Satan can use to undermine the church, like dogmatic routine, complacency, self-righteousness and superciliousness, all of which are too apparent in the total abstinence argument.

      Grace be with you.

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    • Over my lifetime I’ve heard so many ‘reports’ about what is bad for our health that I’ve switched off tbh. Much of it comes from either doctoral theses research or worse, research funded by lobby groups with an agenda. Sorting through these to what is genuinely good medical advice is usually beyond the layman. A lot of stuff I’ve heard is ‘folk wisdom’, like hearing so many tell me that pork is bad for you since ‘it’s in the food laws for a reason’ yet I have never come across proper medical advice on this.

      Good to hear your church discussing covetousness AND lust. Plenty more sins to get through lol. My experience is that there is a tiny little set of sins that is preached against 99% of the time, yet if sin is purely ‘disobedience to God’ then why ignore (or worse, jump through hoops to excuse) ones like ‘turn the other cheek’, ‘love your enemy’, ‘do not worry’, ‘pay your taxes’, etc.? When looking at cleanness and purity, what about this one?: “But now as for what is inside you – be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”

      I’ll leave it there. Thanks for your comments, Andreas. Always welcome.

      Grace be with you.

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    • And so is Vitamin A! Eat a polar bear’s liver, and you’d die from the overdose! So is a substance in tomatoes that is akin to nicotine – enough of those would really make you ill (though that might be about a ton in one go!). There are poisons everywhere. Tapioca was discovered by a man out in the jungle who boiled up the roots he knew were poisonous in order to die quickly, but only then realised that boiling the roots rendered the poison ineffective!

      Considering that Jesus DID consume alcohol, it’s safe to view it with measured discretion, and thus just why the total abstinence lobby just HAD to ‘prove’ that he didn’t drink the stuff. Which they failed (see above 🙂 )

      And I tend to just ignore anything the Daily Mail says! I’ve seen the same findings of a study reported completely differently by two different newspapers – it’s all how they put their ‘spin’ on it. Yeah, I’m really jaded by now, I’ll admit that.

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  3. I never said you were jaded, I’m just saying you don’t have to be a heavy drinker in order for alcohol to have a negative impact on your health. Regularly moderate drinking is just bad as bingeing which is exactly what they have in countries like France, Spain and Portugal, if people in the UK made it part of their everyday life, like they do in those countries, it would cost the NHS. http://www.newagora.ca/surprising-effects-of-moderate-alcohol-consumption-by-anna-hunt/ which is BBC documentary which follows a study they conducted on twins one which binged the other stuck to the government limit of three units a day and results that came back at the end of the month. Please make an effort to watch it then back to me and tell me what you think.

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  4. ‘If any of the clergy be found eating in a tavern, let him be excommunicated, unless he has been constrained by necessity, on a journey, to lodge in an inn.’ 4th century A.D

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  5. ‘If any of the clergy be found eating in a tavern, let him be excommunicated, unless he has been constrained by necessity, on a journey, to lodge in an inn.’ 4th century A.D

    …. well, that’s Jesus out the door of the church already! (Matt. 9:11) 😦

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  6. You present interesting points, Andreas, and I could labour over them more, but then I was wondering just why we’re having this ongoing disagreement about one issue, and it hit me. Well, it’s something I’ve always known but never really formulated succinctly. It’s in one sense simple, but would need another blog to explain it. Right now I’m working on a YouTube video but I’ll post the blog soon.

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  7. Well done! You’ve contextualised it. Yes. BUT note the spirit and attitude that the Pharisees had in asking why he did not, like them, deign to go and actually eat and drink with sinners. They believed he should avoid such company and only associate with their purer more religious company. In that 4th century diktat I see exactly the same ‘yeast’ (Matt. 16:5-12) that had already worked its way through all the dough (1Cor. 5:6). This is inevitable but Jesus warned sternly against it… blog to follow.

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  8. You really enjoy using the word ‘Pharisee’ against anything that doesn’t go your way don’t you. There was no yeast working in the it’s way in the 4th century. The Pharisees criticised Him because he hanged out with sinners but did not participate in sins, it’s called knowing your limits!. There are plenty of non-Christians who don’t go to these places and there’s no reason why we have to. Again he went to their houses, he did not head down to taverns with them and participate in their sins.

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    • “You really enjoy using the word ‘Pharisee’ against anything that doesn’t go your way don’t you.”

      No, I use the word ‘Pharisee’ when I encounter the very same thing that Jesus encountered and wish to highlight exactly what it is. This is especially important since Jesus laid out how insidious such attitudes are, and gave serious warnings against it. There REALLY is far too much defence of Pharisaism going around these days! I had someone on a different blog try to convince me that the Pharisees were a great bunch of guys and it was the Sadducees that were the villains! Jesus actually condemned both (the yeast belongs to both in the quotations), though we have come to use the former word (Pharisees were referred to far more often, and it’s linguistically simpler) for the religiously bigoted attitude Jesus was against.

      “There was no yeast working in the it’s way in the 4th century.”

      It’s right there for me to see!

      “The Pharisees criticised Him because he hanged out with sinners but did not participate in sins, it’s called knowing your limits!”

      They weren’t looking at his sinlessness, they were accusing him of being a sinner by association, and yes, every believer MUST know their limits; there are lines we should not cross. I just believe that religious people are drawing lines that Jesus never drew, and would probably cross himself since there is nothing ‘sinful’ in crossing some man-made lines.

      “There are plenty of non-Christians who don’t go to these places and there’s no reason why we have to.”

      There’s no reason why we have to do anything if you want to be pedantic, and that’s a major problem; many churches would have believers come through their door, raise their hand, say the sinner’s prayer, and then never have to do anything ever again until they go to heaven (except ‘go to all the church services’ of course) 😦

      Just as Jesus wanted to meet all sorts of people and engage with them (including such pariahs as tax-collectors, lepers, women, Samaritans, Syro-Phoenicians, Roman soldiers…. and sinners like me), so do I. How can I be salt and light just in my own house or my own church?

      “Again he went to their houses, he did not head down to taverns with them and participate in their sins.”

      What sins? Having food or drink in a tavern and talking to others is a sin?

      For the Pharisees, Jesus’ behaviour was worthy of condemnation i.e. just the eating and drinking with sinners. It was nothing to do with actual sin, or where he was, it was a behaviour that THEY did not participate in, therefore they were able to list it AS sin. My arbiter is what Jesus said, did and commanded, not THEIR ‘holy standard-keeping’.

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    • Jesus was sinless, so his befriending of sinners was never a sin, and that included eating and drinking with them. That ‘higher standard’ is the one that I try to keep; it is that which is above the standards of all others, however religious or pious they may be.

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  9. You’re letting off an awful lot of steam there my friend, you clearly have issues. No you just like use the bible to justify anything that you enjoy doing, for the simple that you don’t want to give it up.

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  10. I believe there’s pride behind your defensiveness, you don’t like it when someone comes in between you and thing you like the most, you’re in this because of what’s in it for you.

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    • What is it that I ‘don’t want to give up’? If you mean drinking alcohol, which is what this was all about in the first place, you couldn’t be more wrong. I drank none for six years out of deference to my previous pastor who was dead against it – does that seem ‘prideful’? I haven’t had an alcoholic drink for months! It’s not a part of my social life that I wish to ‘hold onto’ – it never was. I just know that I am free from man-made rules to live by my conscience. It’s CERTAINLY not the ‘thing I like most’! Right now if I’m honest, the biggest addiction in my life is my smartphone and social media, which I’m aiming to cut down on. Getting defensive with my wife when she keeps telling me about it proves it. Addictions and bad habits can be formed over anything – there’s nothing evil in any of them; that only exists in us, when we allow things to rule us instead of letting God rule in their place.

      IF I was being defensive, I would be telling you to take your judgmental attitude elsewhere; you don’t know me at all yet you automatically think that I have some problem with alcohol and an inability to repent of sin. THAT is indicative of the Pharisaism I am talking about. Yes, I AM angry, but that is just because Jesus was angry about it too. We fall into it so easily and then blind ourselves to its presence in our hearts. However, I too don’t know your heart or motivations so were I to cast judgement on you, I would be falling into that trap too. See how easy it is?

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    • Many people go into bars with friends for socialising and food, and never drink any alcohol. So who are the ones who need to go there for an excuse?

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    • Again, you’re jumping to conclusions based on assumptions and stereotypes. If someone goes to a bar with the intention to evangelise, who are you or I to question the motivation? If they actually DON’T partake of an alcoholic drink, then you’d have to say that your assumption is misguided, yes? I’d go so far as to say it’s judgmental in any case.

      For many, alcohol IS a crutch. For many it isn’t.

      Why is it that we are disagreeing on this? For me, it’s because we both belong to a particular Christian subculture but I’m the one who is fighting back against it as non-Biblical; you have yet to see that. I actually believe I have left it now.

      Not sure what I mean? This was a very good explanation I read a while ago:
      http://archives.relevantmagazine.com/god/being-christian-doesnt-always-look-you-think-it-should

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    • If you mean the link ‘proving’ that alcohol is bad for you, yes. There are many reports saying conflicting things about all types of food. Once you know how university research works, you realise that it’s very difficult (even for doctors) to get to a true understanding of how foods affect us. For decades, saturated fats were the taboo for your body, branded as poison. Now they’re being seen as reasonably good, while it’s sugar that is the real villain. I could find many ‘studies’ saying that a little alcohol is good but I couldn’t be bothered. It’s only a paper exercise. If you want to refer to scripture, Paul did advise Timothy a little was good for the stomach!!

      Oh sorry, I forgot… that was non-alcoholic. Doh!

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  11. ‘assumptions and stereotypes’? no, I know quite few Christians who use it to take the edge off and one of them happens to be a deacon in my church. No I don’t believe what I believe because I go to some church who preaches against it, on the contrary it doesn’t preach against it all, I used to believe there was nothing wrong with it. I stopped believing it was ok, way before I came across this book and no not because of what some pastor said.

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    • Good! You weren’t brainwashed into it then? ‘Most’ people I know just repeat it as they’ve heard from sitting in the pew (but am I just applying ‘most’ like you applied it to people who head to bars?). Once you’ve decided for yourself (which I genuinely applaud with no hint of sarcasm), why do you need to make others agree with you? Romans 14 is totally applicable here. When I go off on a pet subject that I like to go off on, I need to remind myself that if others choose not to see it the way I do, that’s not my problem or my concern – I lay out my argument, I offer scripture, I debate, but at some point I stop.

      What IS my concern is how certain things (for my subculture that happens to be smoking, drinking and heading to bars) are emphasised INCESSANTLY, and others (e.g. gluttony and greed) are totally ignored. There’s not even a HINT of discussion about them!

      Maybe it’s time to stop on THIS point! 😦

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  12. Pharisees were the ‘good guys’? you must be joking they were a bunch hypocrites, they didn’t even practice what they preached.

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    • Believe me, that was the argument I was presented with! It was from a legalist POV that tried to argue that the Pharisees were great keepers of the law but just needed to be more loving, while it was the Sadducees who were the ones who really wanted to have Jesus killed since they were applying ‘liberal’ interpretations to scripture and hated Jesus’ ‘precise teaching on the law’. I know, crazy, but there it was!

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  13. I’m going to be honest with you, the heart health benefits of moderate drinking are marginal are not big, they’re short lived and regular intake is not going to prolong these benefits, in fact it would do more harm than good. The health benefits do not come from the resveratrol, they’ve conducted expensive tests on this in Italy and they’ve found that the benefits do not come from the resveratrol, which shouldn’t come as a surprise seeing as alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to process nutrients.

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    • Again, see above. If we take on board ALL the health advice, we’d probably eat nothing but leafy vegetables… as long as they’re organic… and washed in mild soap and vinegar… and never cooked. 🙂

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  14. You don’t listen do you? and you’re not very open minded, you just like to troll all the time, which comes across as very rude and arrogant of you, you’re not very humble are you.

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  15. Please make the effort to watch the entire documentary then I’d be willing to take you seriously, at the moment you’re coming across a clown, what have you got to lose?

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    • So I’m a clown and a troll now? And I’m not open-minded? My goodness!! I read some theological stuff that has all my evangelical friends telling me I’m TOO open-minded! I think you misunderstand what a troll is, since by definition YOU are closer to one since you are on MY blog, but you’re not anonymous. If I’m a clown, I’m glad I give you a laugh. Laughter is also very good for your health, and that’s PROVEN 🙂

      Since I am cutting down my presence on social media, trying to be a good steward of my time, I’m choosing not to watch that documentary for 60 minutes of my life. I think I got about 5 minutes in first go. It may well be very good (BBC’s Horizon is usually excellent), but I’ll say again that it’s only one study amid so many contradictory ones. I’m not obesely overweight nor a hard drinker, so the points you make are fairly moot to me. I make the choices I make on many issues just as you do with consideration and prayer, and it is well with my soul where I am on alcohol. It is not well on other issues so I’m working on those. Going back to this is a distraction from MY process. You REALLY need to take on board what Paul commands in Romans 14 before this eats you up. I know; I have my own burden that is consuming me right now that MUST be made into a video for the church before I explode or have a breakdown. It’s FAR more important. At least to me it is.

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  16. A pint of beer in moderation makes you crave after empty calorific foods, they did a test where they got two groups, one group drank alcoholic beer the other non-alcoholic beer. They found the group that drank alcoholic beer ate more empty calorific foods than the group that drank non-alcoholic beer. The reason why winebibbers and gluttons appear together is because alcohol stimulates your appetite, kinda like marijuana gives you the ‘munchies’.

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  17. And as for your comment above, steamed vegetables do not *lose* any nutrients, it’s only if you boil them that they do. I have been without sugar and processed foods and pasteurised milk as it irritates my stomach, for months. Giving up sugar was hardest thing for me to do but well worth it, I always find whenever go back to it on occasions my stomach doesn’t agree with it, so I can’t have it.

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  18. You need watch it all the way through, in order to get the bigger picture, seeing 5 minutes is not going to give you anything. There’s a lot more to this documentary than you think, if you’re serious about finding out information. I don’t want you replying back saying it’s load of rubbish, without watching the whole thing, because that’s not good enough, honestly.

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    • And you’re just not listening to what I’m saying but think I simply MUST follow your reasoning. That’s not good enough, honestly.

      “Our calling is to love one another and to find ways of good disagreement in a world that is completely incapable of good disagreement.” – Archbishop Justin Welby.

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  19. Let me clarify what this documentary is about, it’s about an experiment conducted on twin brothers. One was to binge drink 21 units on a weekend, the other stuck to the government’s daily recommended limit of drinking 3 units of wine which he drank regularly during the four weeks. The results were the same as the twin who binge drank 21 units on a weekend, it caused inflammation, hence the NHS are slashing the safe limits.

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    • My goodness, you ARE like a dog with a bone, Andreas! I wrote this blog three and a half years ago, and you’ve been arguing with me for over 18 months!

      The original point of the blog was to show categorically that the claim that Jesus did not consume alcohol was utterly spurious, and indeed even undermined scripture by suggesting that what our eyes were reading was not actually the truth, once you analyse it.

      The argument that alcohol is a ‘toxic poison’ that we should not go near fits into the Christian belief that perfect Jesus would not have ingested anything harmful. I have friends who observe the ‘food laws’ of the OT because they think they were prescribed for health reasons, so it would follow for them that Jesus, being a Jew, would also have kept those laws and would then have ‘obviously’ abstained from alcohol. Once you realise that scripturally there is no ground for that, and he DID consume alcohol, you then have a problem IF you believe that it IS bad for you.

      I am not dismissing the Horizon documentary as rubbish, but I DO grasp that scientific research is done in a way that different tests can produce different results, dependent usually on what the experimenters are investigating. Sometimes they are even looking FOR something. I make choices for my health and my diet according to a balance of what I read, hear and experience, as do you, and we each reach our own conclusion.

      Where I get tired of this argument is simply when it comes across to me that someone is implying that a Christian should just ‘know’ that x,y or z is sinful, unhealthy, or just ‘bad for you’ and then this inevitably insinuates that the one who does not ‘see that’ is somehow less holy than those who do. This is the inevitability of Pharisaism, which will be my next blog once I get the time.

      Jesus drank alcohol. If you think it is wrong to drink alcohol, take it up with our Lord himself. If you don’t think it is wrong, why are we still arguing?

      Grace be with you.

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  20. I strongly disagree with your views, I think their quite carnal, so there’s no need to write another blog. I don’t think you’re sincere in finding out any actual answers. You seem focus more on having fun as a Christian, I on the other hand am dead serious about finding out actual facts, because this will help the church, it’s not a laughing matter, nor is this a light topic.

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  21. Factual my foot, did you know that the Romans would give their children grape juice and never alcohol, in no culture around that time, did people ever give their children alcohol to drink, so you’re dead wrong about that capisce.

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  22. WHERE did I say anything about Romans giving their children alcohol?

    Even if what you say is true, how can you extrapolate that to all other cultures ‘around that time’?

    I can only assume you’re referring to Lamentations, since that’s the only reference made to children drinking wine… well, calling for wine!

    First, those were written in the 6th century BC after the capture of Jerusalem, when Rome was still a city-state republic with no aspirations to become an empire and with practically zero influence on the Holy Lands. So it actually wasn’t anywhere near ‘that time’ you allude to!

    Second, they are the songs of despair of the people left in Jerusalem to fend for themselves with no organised government and a lack of continuous food and clean water, where it may well be possible that at times wine was available to be drunk instead of dirty water or no water at all. If I was in that situation, I’d give my children wine before I’d let them die of dehydration!

    Third, these are poetic ‘songs’ – I DID point that out but maybe I should have made the point that they are not necessarily literal events, but ways of expressing despair in literature. You cannot apply a literal interpretation to it that children actually did call for wine (yayin), so the context might mean that no children were ever given wine! We cannot be certain about that either way. It was cited in the book as ‘proof’ that yayin wasn’t always alcoholic, but for all the reasons I just listed, that’s a pathetic argument, and it was one of the major ones it relied upon to make the otherwise unsubstantiated claim that yayin was not always alcoholic.

    So you’re really grasping at straws to hold onto an untenable position, I’m afraid.

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  23. Not at but all, but I think you are, ‘If I was in that situation, I’d give my children wine before I’d let them die of dehydration!’ ‘so the context might mean that no children were ever given wine!’. If you know anything about alcohol, you know that it dehydrates you! which will dehydrate them even, more like give them bread and sweet wine(unfermented) to quench their thirst, so whenever you’re dehydrated you’re gonna go for alcohol, don’t be silly!

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    • Ah! Received wisdom! Ain’t it great?

      I think it’s safe to say that wine and beer in ancient times was a lot weaker in alcohol content than what we drink today, but even laying that aside, it would appear that the thing that ‘everyone knows’, which is that alcohol causes dehydration, is actually a myth! This was known to me since I was wondering how a culture that has to drink alcoholic beverages to avoid dirty water could actually NOT become overly dehydrated.

      The really funny thing is that this was discovered in the very same Horizon documentary that you wanted me to watch!! Were you paying attention? Or just picking up on what you WANTED to?

      https://chronicleflask.com/2015/08/29/does-drinking-alcohol-actually-cause-dehydration/

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  24. Not at all, you mean the experiment they did on whether or not dehydration causes a hangover and turns out Chris who drank 3 unit shots of vodka turned out to be more dehydrated, when they collected their urine samples.

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  25. I don’t think alcoholic beverages were certainly not weaker back then, it was enough to get Noah and Lot drunk. Clean water was in plenty supply from Gihon springs, even the Egyptians knew of the old method of boiling dirty water, they weren’t stupid.

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