Sunday, May 24, 2009

Is Drinking Alcohol Sinful?

Here is a question I got from someone who wrote from Nigeria named Daniel.

Greetings from Nigeria. Perhaps you can answer a question for me. Someone from one of the local Baptist churches told me it is always a sin to drink alcohol. What does the Catholic Church teach?
God bless you,
Daniel in Nigeria

Hi Daniel in Nigeria - Greetings from Arizona, USA:
Like many other things --playing games of chance, eating nice food, relaxing, etc -- drinking alcohol, in itself, is not sinful. However, it is when we abuse these things -- indulging in them to excess or letting it affect our judgement, health or other responsibilities -- is when it becomes harmful and possibly sinful.

The Bible does not teach that we are to refrain from all alcohol. Here is an answer given by apologists at "Catholic Answers" to this question:

Q: A Baptist told me that Jesus never drank wine and neither should any Christian. He said that Jesus actually drank unfermented grape juice, or new wine. What does the Bible say?

A: Jesus had no qualms about drinking wine, and even miraculously produced 150 gallons of it at the wedding feast of Cana. This was clearly alcoholic wine, since it was described by the major domo of the event as the "best wine," which he explained was normally brought out at the beginning of wedding feasts until the guests had lost their taste. Non-alcoholic wine does not cause one to lose one’s taste; thus the "best wine"—the kind that Jesus produced—was alcoholic (John 2:10).The Greek word for wine is oinos, and this is the wine shared at the Last Supper. During the Passover meal, Jesus and his apostles would have consumed several cups of wine, and any Jew today can verify that it is not grape juice that one consumes during a Passover meal.Though your Baptist friend may object that Jesus only drank new wine, Acts 2:13 indicates that new wine can cause drunkenness—whereas grape juice cannot.Scripture never condemns the moderate use of alcohol, though drunkenness and addiction is forbidden (1 Tim. 3:8; Tit. 2:3; 1 Pet. 4:3). In fact, Scripture even recommends that alcohol be consumed on occasion: "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (1 Tim. 5:23). In an age in which modern water purification methods and food storage techniques were unknown, the antiseptic effect of alcoholic wine could play a significant role in preventing gastroenteritis (non-alcoholic wine would not have this effect). Paul thus counseled Timothy to take advantage of its medicinal benefits.In the Old Testament, the evidence is even more explicit: "Give strong drink to him who is perishing and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more" (Prov. 31:6).

In discussing the disposition of tithes, the book of Deuteronomy tells us that if one lives too far from Jerusalem then one should convert the tithe to money and the "go to the place which the Lord your God chooses, and spend the money for whatever you desire, oxen or sheep, or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves; and you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice" (Deut. 14:25–26). Again, even if "wine" were somehow non-alcoholic, "strong drink" is unambiguously not.

Also, here is a longer article from the same source on the same subject:

So, although we are not to be drunkards or overindulge, it is not forbidden for Christians to occasionally and in moderation drink alcohol. Another factor to consider, however, is that of bad example or scandal. While it may be OK for you to have a drink because you personally do not tend to slip into excess, you should refrain from drinking around others who are not so strong, or struggle against alcohol abuse or excess in their own lives. This is a matter of charity.

Hope that helps, Daniel. :)

May God bless you and your family.

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