Documents of Synod:
Study Papers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1965 to 1982)

155TH GS MINUTES, MAY 20, 1977, pp. 126-141

STUDY COMMITTEE ON BEVERAGE USE OF ALCOHOL REPORT

The report was presented by Dr. William S. Barker. The committee offered no formal response to communication 5 from Augusta Street Church in Greenville, S.C. The written report follows:

The 154th General Synod, in response to Overture E from the Southern Presbytery (see 1976 Synod Minutes, page 143), established this committee "to prepare a paper on this specific issue, considering the relevant biblical data along with other salient material, and recommending practical ways to deal with this issue in our churches."

The outline of the committee's report is as follows:

I.) The Biblical Warnings Against the Horrible Sinfulness of Drunkenness
II.) Teaching of the Bible Concerning the Practice of Total Abstinence
III.) New Testament Applications to Related or Analogous Matters
IV.) Ecclesiastical Statements Relating to the Use of Alcoholic Beverage
A. Confessional Statements
B. Reports and Resolutions
V.) Practical Ways to Deal with This Issue in Our Churches
Appendix: Fermentation in Biblical Times
Resolutions on the Beverage Use of Alcohol

I. THE BIBLICAL WARNINGS AGAINST THE HORRIBLE SINFULNESS OF DRUNKENNESS

A key passage of Scripture for the Christian church concerning the sinfulness of drunkenness is Ephesians 5:15-21, in which the Apostle Paul commands: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit" (NIV). This follows his admonitions to live "not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." A stark contrast thus is drawn between drunkenness, which involves debauchery, and being filled with the Spirit, which is associated with corporate and individual worship and thanks to the Lord (verses 19 and 20) and with proper submission to one another (verse 21). Drunkenness, therefore, is directly opposed to responsible Christian living, in relation to God and to neighbor, and particularly in the serious context of our time. One can understand the Lord's will and live wisely and responsibly if filled with the Spirit, but to be drunk with wine is contrary to this.

The Lord Jesus Christ warned against drunkenness in referring to the last day (Luke 21:34): "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap" (NIV). Paul in I Thessalonians 5:4-8 and Romans 13:11-14 similarly contrasts drunkenness, as of darkness or the night, with alert and sanctified Christian living, as of light or the day.

Drunkenness is included in Paul's list of the lusts of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit. Peter describes drunkenness as characteristic of the pagan living in which Christians no longer engage (I Peter 4:1-5), and Paul likewise excludes those who continue in drunkenness from inheriting the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:9-11). Paul also indicates that a professed brother who is a drunkard is subject to church discipline (I Corinthians 5:9-11).

Some Old Testament examples help to show why drunkenness is so contrary to godly living. It is notable that the first instance of drunkenness recorded in Scripture befalls the godly Noah after the judgment of the flood, when God has made covenant with man concerning the natural creation. In this context of new beginnings Noah's drunkenness becomes the occasion for sexual immorality on the part of Ham and of a curse upon Canaan (Genesis 9:20-24). Drunkenness is likewise associated with sexual immorality in the case of Lot's incest (Genesis 19:30-38) and in Romans 13:13 and several of the New Testament passages.

Repeatedly the Old Testament displays the effects of wine and other fermented beverage on the mind and the will, as well as on the body. Both Noah and Lot were rendered insensible to what was happening. The same is true of Nabal in
I Samuel 25:36-38.
In II Samuel 11:11-13 King David made Uriah drunk in the hope, in this instance unsuccessful, that he could thus break Uriah's resolve not to go to his house. Proverbs 20:1 sets the dangers of drink over against wisdom: "wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler." (NASV)* The mockery of wine is more fully described in Proverbs 23:29-35: "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" (verses 31-33, NASV). These verse in Proverbs counsel against the use of wine and condemn its abuse. Hosea 4:11-12 joins drunkenness with idolatry and harlotry: "Harlotry, wine, and new wine take away the understanding" (verse 11, NASV). Isaiah 28:7,8 provides a graphic picture of the results of drunkenness in terms of reeling, staggering, confusion, tottering, and vomit; Proverbs 23:29 lists woe, sorrow, contentions, complaining, feeling hurt without cause, and bloodshot eyes. In at least two instances wine rendered victims, Amnon and Elah, vulnerable to assassination (II Samuel 13:28, I Kings 16:8-10).
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[*It should be noted that the words strong drink and liquor are properly applied to modern drinks which have alcohol added to them. The Arabs invented the distillation process of alcohol in the Middle Ages. The drinks of Biblical days were only natural wines and beer. As a consequence of the addition of alcohol to the natural product the evils of drink today are greatly increased.]

The Old Testament strictures on drink are particularly concerned with its effect on responsible leadership. The disgusting picture in Isaiah 28:7-8 is of the priest and the prophet. Ecclesiastes 10:16-17 decries banqueting rulers and pronounces blessing on the land whose rulers eat "for strength and not for drunkenness" (NASV). Proverbs 31:4-5 says that "it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink; lest they drink and forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted" (NASV). Two of the six woes that Isaiah 5 pronounces upon the wicked of Judah are related to drinking activities: "Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and champions at mixing drinks; who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent" (Isaiah 5:22-23, NIV) and "Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks; who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine!" The fault of these latter is that "they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of His hands" (verses 11-12, NIV).

Summary: The Bible plainly portrays drunkenness as antithetical to godly living. The emphasis of Scripture seems not to be on the effects on one's physical condition, although these are included, but rather on the effects on one's mental and moral condition, on one's understanding of the Lord's will and one's ability to obey that will. It is inconceivable that a Christian should knowingly and willfully subject himself to a state of mental stupor and moral irresponsibility rather than be sensitive to the Spirit of God and subject to His Word.

II. TEACHING OF THE BIBLE CONCERNING THE PRACTICE OF TOTAL ABSTINENCE

The Old Testament required abstinence from wine or beer for certain occasions and callings. In Leviticus 10:8-11 the Lord said to Aaron: "Do not drink wine or strong drink*, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you may not die -- it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations -- and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them through Moses." (NASV). This command follows directly upon the Lord's judgment upon Nadab and Abihu for offering "strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them," perhaps an indication that Nadab and Abihu had been drunk while serving in their priestly capacities. In Ezekiel 44:15-27 the Levitical priests who are to serve in the restored temple are similarly required not to "drink wine when they enter the inner court" (verse 21, NASV). This is one of several rules -- including rules about the cloth of their garments, the hair of their heads, their marriages, and their contacts with the dead -- designed to signify holiness.
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[*That is, here and elsewhere, "beer." See previous footnote.]

The Mosaic code also called for total abstinence on the part of a man or woman of Israel making a special vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite (Numbers 6:1-8). Such a person "shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh or dried grapes. All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin" (verses 3-4, NASV). This was to be a temporary condition, during the time of the conditions of the vow, (verse 13) and "afterward the Nazirite may drink wine" (verse 20). In the case of Samson, who was to be "a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death," his mother was not to eat "anything that comes from the vine, nor drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing." (Judges 13:3-7, 13-14).

In Jeremiah 35:5-14 the Rechabites are commended for their faithfulness to the commandment of their ancestor Jonadab not to drink wine all their days, nor to build houses to dwell in, nor to have vineyard or field or seed.

Proverbs 31, as mentioned above in section I, directs kings and rulers not to drink wine or beer because of the danger of its effect on their important responsibility (verses 4-5). On the other hand, it goes on to say: "Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his trouble no more" (verses 6-7, NASV). Some hold this to be understood as a relative permission only, versus the obligation for the king. Others understand it as a permission for the dying and desperate.

The selectively specific cases of abstinence are an indication that the Mosaic code did not make total abstinence a universally absolute rule in Israel. In fact, in the discussion of tithes in Deuteronomy 14:22ff., it is indicated to the Israelite bringing money in place of his produce to eat before the Lord that "you may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household" (verse 26, NASV).* In similar praise to God for His provision Psalm 104:10-15, after praising God for the waters that quench the beasts' thirst, rejoices in "wine which makes man's heart glad." Likewise, in Isaiah 55:1-3 wine is included with milk, waters, and bread to symbolize together salvation which is free, good and satisfying.
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[*It must be remembered that wine and beer were used in the tabernacle for libations, in which case they were totally poured out (cf. Numbers 28:7, 14; Exodus 29:38-42). The liquid portion of the tithe in Deuteronomy 14 may have been used for such libations; it may have been consumed by the worshipper. The text does not specify, but cf. Deuteronomy 12:17-18 and Numbers 18:26-32, where, however, the product of the vine being tithed is new wine.]

Into this Jewish culture our Lord Jesus Christ came. It is of interest to our subject that the first of his miraculous signs was the turning of waters into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). The Greek word for wine can refer to either fermented or unfermented juice; one can only speculate as to the alcoholic properties of the beverage Jesus produced. It is referred to by the master of the banquet, upon his tasting it, as "the choice wine," "the best" of the banquet. Jesus made it in abundance, 120 to 180 gallons, after the original supply had been depleted.

The style of life of Jesus and His disciples was noticeably different from that of John the Baptist and his disciples, who like the Pharisees practiced fasting, while it was said of Jesus' disciples, "yours go on eating and drinking." (Luke 5:33-39). In Luke 7:33-35 Jesus indicates that He was called a "glutton and a drunkard" because, whereas "John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine," -- that is, not participating in social festivities -- "the Son of Man came eating and drinking" -- that is, participating in such activities. (NIV)

In instituting the Lord's Supper, Jesus distributed the Passover cup, saying the He would not drink again of the fruit of the vine until He would drink it anew with the disciples in His Father's kingdom. (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-20; cf. I Corinthians 11:23-26). According to the Talmud the Passover cup contained a mixture of three parts water to one part wine (Pesahim 108b); this was to decrease its power of intoxication.**
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[**See Appendix on the process of fermentation in Biblical times.]

At the beginning of His crucifixion Jesus was offered wine mixed with gall, or with myrrh, which He refused after tasting it. Evidently this was offered as a sort of anesthetic, perhaps in accord with Proverbs 31:6-7. Just before He died on the cross, Jesus was offered by the Roman soldiers a sponge soaked in wine vinegar to quench His thirst. This was a dilute non-alcoholic vinegar (Greek oxos) used by Roman soldiers as a cheap thirst-quencher. (Matthew 27:34, 48; Mark 15:23, 36; Luke 23:36; John 19:28-30; cf. Psalm 69:21).

The Apostle Paul, in Colossians 2:16-23, teaches freedom with regard to what the Christian eats and drinks as a religious practice. He warns against a Judaistic type of approach toward sabbaths, clean meats, and things offered to idols. The Judaizers held that the observance of their regulations in these areas would save or would make one more holy. Paul quotes them as saying "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!" He counters: "Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence" (verse 23, NIV). Similarly Paul warns against "hypocritical liars" of the last times who "forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer." (I Timothy 4:1-5, NIV). Paul is clearly referring to the proper use of things as intended by the Creator and not giving a blanket approval of any use of things under all circumstances.

In the pastoral epistles Paul several times disqualifies from church offices anyone "given to much wine"; this includes elders (I Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7) and deacons (I Timothy 3:8). It is clear that church officers were not to be characterized by abuse of wine. He also refers to this in connection with the example of the older women (Titus 2:3-5). At the same time he writes to Timothy himself, "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." (I Timothy 5:23, NIV). This use of fermented wine is in the context of medicinal purpose.

Summary: Total abstinence from alcoholic beverage was commanded in Scripture in certain contexts, as in the Nazirite vow as a mark of special separation unto the Lord for a time, or as in the case of John the Baptist. It was also required of certain leaders, as of kings in the functions of their responsibilities and of priests in their performance of service before the Lord. Such abstinence was a mark of holiness. On the other hand, total abstinence was not explicitly commanded universally and absolutely of God's Old Testament people. In some contexts natural wine or beer may have been allowed in conjunction with praise to God. Evidently our Lord partook of some kind of wine in the Passover observance. It is to be noted, however, that much of the evidence concerning wine-drinking in the ancient world shows that wine was ordinarily diluted with from two to four parts of water to one part of wine (cf. Robert H. Stein, "Wine-Drinking in New Testament Times," Christianity Today, XIX, 19 [June 20, 1975], pages 9-11). This wine of which Jesus evidently partook would have been relatively non-intoxicating and would not have had the intoxicating potential of modern distilled alcoholic beverages.

From the example and teaching of Jesus and the teaching of Paul, it cannot be certainly concluded that total abstinence was a requirement in the New Testament church. Officers were at the very least to be characterized by moderation. Paul denies that true spirituality consists only in a life of abstinence. On the contrary, righteous conduct is a consequence of justification and one's union with Christ through the Holy Spirit.

III. NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS TO RELATED OR ANALOGOUS MATTERS

The Council at Jerusalem was assembled to deal with the question of whether circumcision was necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1-6). The testimonies of Peter and of Paul and Barnabas made it clear that salvation was by grace and that the Gentiles were being received by God without circumcision. With this conclusion James was in agreement, in accordance with Old Testament scripture from Amos 9. (Acts 15:7-18). After this agreement the ultimate decisions of the Council had to do with matters of expediency: "that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God" (Acts 15:19, NIV) and that Jews not be unnecessarily offended, for "Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." (Acts 15:20-21). These decisions concerning matters of expediency, involving abstinence from food offered to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality, were nevertheless presented as from the Holy Spirit and the apostles and elders assembled. (Acts 15:22-29). Paul, Silas, and Timothy subsequently delivered these decisions to the churches for the people to obey. (Acts 15:40-16:4). Thus the decisions of a church council (involving apostles, to be sure) concerning matters of expediency were delivered to the churches to be obeyed.

The church at Corinth, established by Paul on his second missionary journey and in which he ministered for a year and a half or more (Acts 18:11, 18), had problems with immorality and also laid stress on the freedom of the Christian. The statement "Everything is permissible for me"* is dealt with by Paul first in I Corinthians 6:12-20, where the context is that of abuses of the body and specifically sexual immorality. Condemning sexual immorality in no uncertain terms, Paul's preliminary answer to the argument of liberty with regard to the body is that the question is what is beneficial or profitable, the question is whether I will be mastered by anything. He then makes three main points about our bodies: our bodies are members of Christ himself (verse 15), one's body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (verse 19), and God is to be honored with the body (verse 20).
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[*This statement should be understood as the Corinthians' attitude expressed in their letter to him, as indicated in the NIV.]

The liberty issue arises again in the three chapters of I Corinthians 8:1-11:1 in the context of meat offered to idols, which is more directly germane to our subject. Here again Paul's answer to the Corinthians' claim "Everything is permissible" is that the question is what is beneficial or constructive: "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" (10:23-34). Love is to prevail over knowledge (8:1-3). Paul's concern is for the brother who, accustomed to idolatrous associations, will regard himself as involved in idol worship if he engages in the eating of meat that has been offered to idols (8:7). The danger is that the example of the Christian who knows the idol is nothing will lead the brother with a weak conscience to eat what has been sacrificed to idols also and thus in his mind to engage once again in idol worship (8:10-11). Paul denounces such careless exercise of freedom in no uncertain terms, as causing one's brother to fall into sin and as sinning against Christ (8:12-13). Paul goes on to argue that he could claim certain rights as an apostle and as a Christian (9:4-5, 19). These rights, however, he has subordinated to the work of the gospel (9::22-23). The real issue in the matter of eating meat offered to idols in Corinth is to avoid causing someone who participates in Christ to participate also in idolatry (10:14-22). There is a most serious issue involved here which could affect one's exclusive commitment to the Lord. Paul concludes, then, that questions of conscience are not to be raised unnecessarily, the Christian being free to eat anything sold in the meat market (10:25-27). If such questions should come up, however, the Christian is to abstain for the sake of the scrupulous person's conscience. The other person's conscience, nevertheless, is not to be made a standard of judgment of the Christian's freedom (10:28-30). Finally, Paul bases his appeal on what is for the glory of God, what shows loving concern for others and their salvation, and what emulates the example of Christ (10:31-11:1).

Christian love is also the basis of Paul's appeal in Romans 13:8-15:13, where the context is not explicitly that of eating meat offered to idols, but rather abstaining from or eating of meat in general and of observing of special days, and Paul at one point includes abstaining from wine as well as meant (14:21). Paul's primary concern in this passage is that Christians "make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (14:19, NIV). The threat to peace and mutual edification evidently was coming from two directions: from the one who ate everything and would look down on the one who abstained, and from the one who abstained and would pass judgment on the one who ate (14:3). Paul first declares that partaking of, or abstinence from, the subjects in view is a personal matter, to be done in conscience to the Lord, who is the only master and judge of us all (14:4-12). His first answer to the threat to peace and mutual edification is: "Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another" (14:13a, NIV). He next proceeds immediately to say: "Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way" (14:13b, NIV). He repeats the gospel assertion that "no food is unclean in itself" (cf. Mark 7:14-19); however, "if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean" (14:14, NIV). Paul's concern once again, as in the case of the Corinthian brother who would regard himself as involved in idol worship if he should eat meat offered to idols, is for the brother who would be led by example to go contrary to his conscience in eating what he regarded as unclean: "Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin" (14:22b-23, NIV). In this particular circumstance, of the prospect of causing a brother to act against his conscience, the solution is for the other Christian to abstain: "Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall (14:20-21, NIV).*
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[*On another view, the passage in Romans 14 -- being so similar in phraseology and background to I Corinthians 8 and 10 -- may refer to the contemporary problem of meat offered to idols. In that case, as in I Corinthians, the food and wine would be inadmissible if it were regarded as presented to an idol. The material itself was not tainted; the question was one of the attitude of the partaker.]

There appear to be three main applications in Paul's teaching to the Romans. (I) Those who are stronger in faith -- that is, those whose faith allows liberty (14:1-2) -- Paul teaches to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please themselves (15:1). One does not live to himself alone, but to the Lord (14:6-8); but also to "please his neighbor for his good, to build him up" (15:2, NIV). Rather than a looking down on the weaker brother (14:3, 10), Christ's love in accepting all of us should characterize the stronger (14:15; 15:3, 7). (II) Secondly, the weaker brother -- that is, the one with scruples -- is not to pass judgment on those who do not abstain (14:3, 10), but is to follow his conscience as unto the Lord (14:6, 22-23). (III) In the third place, Paul's over-riding concern is that all the Christians accept one another in a unity that is characterized by peace and joy and hope (15:7-13). Controversy over such matters as abstaining from foods and observing of special days is to be avoided (14:1, 3-13). Each one should have a clear conscience before God, and service of Christ with righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit is pleasing to God and approved by men (14:17-18). What serves to produce peace and mutual edification is to prevail (14:19).

Summary: The force of the Jerusalem Council's decisions shows that the church does have authority to declare its judgment in matters of expediency. While Paul delivered these decisions to churches to be obeyed, he apparently did not apply them in Corinth in a legislative fashion. In his letters to the Romans he makes it clear that in questions of conscience it is important that each person be subject to the Lord. Controversy over questions of conscience is to be avoided. For a brother to violate his own conscience, however, is a matter of great concern to Paul, and one's abstinence is called for if there is the prospect of a brother going contrary to his conscience because of one' s example.

IV. ECCLESIASTICAL STATEMENTS RELATING TO THE USE OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

A. Confessional Statements

The Westminster Confession teaches that God alone is Lord of the conscience, which is free from man-made rules that are beside the Word in matters of faith or worship (XX.2). In the same chapter it declares that the purpose of Christian liberty is that we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life; hence to practice any sin or cherish any lust upon pretense of Christian liberty is destructive of its true purpose (XX.3). It is important that both aspects of this Confessional teaching be maintained with equal emphasis.

The Confession also teaches that it belongs to synods and councils ministerially to determine controversies of faith and cases of conscience, and their decrees and determinations are to be received with reverence and submission if consonant to the Word of God (XXXI.3). The same chapter also declares that synods may err, and many have erred, and therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith and practice, but to be used as a help in both (XXXI.4).

The larger Catechism refers explicitly to drink and drunkenness in only three places. Answer No. 135, in describing the duties required in the 6th Commandment, includes "a sober use of meat, drink, physick, sleep, labour, and recreations." Answer No. 136, in describing the sins forbidden in the 6th Commandment includes "immoderate use of meat, drink, labour, and recreations." Answer No. 139, in describing the sins forbidden in the 7th Commandment, includes "idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company."

In the question of whether or not the beverage use of alcohol should be considered to be in the area of liberty, it is helpful to consider the rules for interpreting the Ten Commandments as given in the Westminster Larger Catechism, No. 99, Rule Number 6 holds that under one sin or duty all of the same kind are included "together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto." This principle is in line with Proverbs 23:32, which holds that the final result of alcoholism must be kept in view. Drunkenness is clearly denounced in Scripture. The beverage use of alcohol certainly is a very frequent occasion of drunkenness. Actually the Larger Catechism interpretation of the Sixth Commandment (No. 136) forbids "the immoderate use of meat [or] drink . . . and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any." Rule Number 7 argues that one's testimony is vital. What is wrong for ourselves we are to endeavor to keep others from doing "according to the duty of their places." This would mean that we may require our children, warn in the church, and testify to our neighbors about such items. Rule Number 8 holds that in such matters we should be helpful to others and "to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them." It would seem from these principles of interpreting the Ten Commandments that the beverage use of alcohol is never a light thing and in our cultural context we should seriously consider its moral implications in relation to the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." And it may be observed that today with liquors of high alcoholic content readily available, and with even incipient drunkenness a great danger on the road and in the shop, the evils of drink can be seen to be greater than ever.

B. Reports and Resolutions

Both of the church traditions behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod had testimonies favoring the practice of total abstinence from alcoholic beverages.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod adopted several statement in support of total abstinence. In 1867: "The General Synod forbade church members to be engaged in the manufacture, sale, or use of alcoholic beverages except for mechanical, medicinal, or sacramental purposes." (George P. Hutchinson, The History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, page 92). In 1893 the General Synod declared: "The liquor traffic cannot be licensed without sin, and . . . the Bible remedy, God's remedy, and the only remedy for this evil is total abstinence for the individual and absolute prohibition for the State." (Ibid.) By 1948 the church's position was more moderate, mentioning the argument of Charles Hodge that the Bible does not teach total abstinence and acknowledging that total abstinence is not expressed in Reformed and Presbyterian confessions; nevertheless, the Synod's Committee on Temperance felt that Reformed and Presbyterian churches had expressed sympathy in their synodical declarations with the ideal of total abstinence and therefore, because of contemporary cultural and social conditions, declared: "We believe total abstinence to be the most eminently wise and practical way of dealing with the liquor problem." (Ibid., pages 100-101).

The Bible Presbyterian Church, in its 1st General Synod in 1938, adopted the following resolution: "We, the members of the Synod, in the interest of making clear our position on this particular matter, namely the question of a Christian's relation to the use of intoxicating beverages, and with no slightest intention of setting ourselves up in judgment on the conscience of any man where the Word of God has not bound him, do desire to declare that we deem it wise to pursue the course of total abstinence; and furthermore, we lament the widespread tendency of the American people toward intemperance, and we are unalterably opposed to the modern saloon and the liquor traffic in general, which, as now carried on, is associated with and leads to sinful abuses, and is subversive of the general welfare of society." In the Harvey Cedars Resolutions of 1945 much the same language was used in incorporating total abstinence within a broader statement that began, "In conformity to the Word of God, and without adding thereto any rules binding the conscience, we do hereby urge our membership to lead a holy life separated from sin," and concluded, "We urge all ministers and Christian leaders among us to discourage these and other worldly practices among the Lord's people, and to give their testimony uncompromisingly against all forms of sin." The 1961 Tacoma Resolutions of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church included the statement: "We deem it wise and expedient for Christian people in our day. . . completely to abstain from the use of alcoholic beverage or any encouragement of others in the use thereof."

At the time of union of the two churches in 1965 among the Resolutions on the Christian Life and Testimony were the following:

Be it resolved that we warn against the harmful effect on the body caused by the use of tobacco, and the influence its use may have on the young, and that we oppose the liquor traffic and the traffic in harmful drugs.
Be it further resolved that with regard to moral questions we remind our people that in the Ten Commandments under one sin all of the same kind are forbidden, "together with all the causes, means, occasions and appearances thereof and provocations thereunto." (Larger Catechism, Q. 99, ans. 6)
We acknowledge that we are speaking in the area of the application of Scriptural principles to Christian living. In such application we recognize that sincere Christians differ. These resolutions therefore are passed with the knowledge that they do not constitute an attempt to legislate.

In 1971 Synod approved a ten-page report on "worldly practices," including recommendations to the churches subsumed under the headings "Separation unto God," "The Law of God," "Separation from the 'World'," "The Conscience Before God," and "Love for One Another," and sent this report, "as setting forth suggested guidelines for Christian conduct," along with earlier statements on the Christian life to the presbyteries and sessions for study.

Summary: These ecclesiastical statements are consistent in their stand against drunkenness and what would produce such sin. Except for the early Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod statements they are careful to avoid binding the conscience by anything other than the Word of God. Discomfort tends to arise, periodically producing the kind of controversy that Romans 14 forbids, over how to resolve tension between the fact that the church has a testimony favoring total abstinence and the fact that some in church office practice liberty in this respect by partaking of alcoholic beverage in moderation. In light of all of the above, the Committee offers the following practical ways to deal with this issue in our churches.

V. PRACTICAL WAYS TO DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE IN OUR CHURCHES

(1) To be faithful to the Scriptural mandate to teach the whole counsel of God our churches must teach what the Bible says about the sinfulness of drunkenness. This should be done, as deemed appropriate in the local circumstances, in the preaching ministry, in the Sunday school or other Bible classes, in the homes, in the training of church officers, and especially to the young people. Cases of drunkenness must be disciplined. Those in our congregations who are afflicted with alcoholism must be treated with loving care.

(2) In light of the increasingly serious abuse of alcohol in contemporary American culture, the Synod reaffirms its advocacy of total abstinence from the beverage use of alcohol. Dispassionate discussions of this and other Synodical statements and studies might be held in Sessions to assist the ruling body of the local fellowship of believers in achieving consensus of policy in accordance with Scripture. The results of such discussions might be shared at Presbytery level for the sake of conference and possible uniformity.

(3) In maintaining a testimony recommending total abstinence, our denomination must continue to make clear that this is a matter of prudence, based on the exercise of Christian love, in our contemporary American culture, in which highly alcoholic beverages are readily available and in which the abuse of alcohol is both prevalent and dangerous. It should be acknowledged that Scripture neither makes total abstinence a mark of holiness nor a universal requirement.

(4) Our churches and presbyteries must not make total abstinence a requirement for membership or office as a matter of principle; this would be to go beyond Scripture. As a matter of prudence, however, under certain conditions, a local congregation may deem it wise to decide that only abstainers be elected to church office. In like manner the partaking of alcoholic beverage in moderation must not in itself be made a matter for church discipline. Church officers should give serious consideration to the advisability of practicing total abstinence in view of their position and the influence of their example.

(5) It is appropriate for our denominational agencies, according to the judgment of those responsible for governing and administering them, to establish a rule of total abstinence as a matter of operational or institutional expediency for a given time or place. In such cases it must be made clear to those who submit themselves to such a rule that it is a matter of prudence, based on Christian love, and not as a Scriptural command.

(6) We recommend that our churches use grape juice in the Lord's Supper, not to open the possibility of an offense to those who cannot safely take any alcohol. Fermented wine should not be used unless it is diluted with water.

(7) Our churches should be sure to teach in a balanced way the Bible's teaching on questions of conscience. Those who partake in moderation must be counseled to exercise loving concern for those who abstain out of conscience. Those who abstain must be counseled not to judge those who partake in moderation. Above all, both have a responsibility to maintain the peace and unity of the church in joyful hope in the Lord. A Reformation and Puritan motto expresses this well: "In things necessary, unity; in things not necessary, liberty; in all things, charity." Knowingly to cause a weaker brother to sin is to sin against Christ. To raise scruples pharisaically is to condemn him whom Christ has received. Both of these sins should be dealt with in the church with careful, loving discipline. Ministers and ruling elders especially, as well as other church officers and leaders, have a responsibility to be sensitive to the testimony of the Synod which commends total abstinence to our people as appropriate for our cultural context and at the same time does not teach that it is an absolute requirement of Scripture.

APPENDIX: FERMENTATION IN BIBLICAL TIMES

The process of fermentation is a splitting up of sugar molecules by the action of yeast. The yeast cells are common in nature, and fermentation takes place automatically if conditions are right. Starch does not ferment. Therefore, grain must have its starch converted to sugar first. This can be done by letting the grain sprout and then the enzymes formed covert the starch. This is the malting process.

The 12-carbon atom sugar (sucrose) of cane sugar or the sugar of honey does not ferment unless first converted to 6-carbon sugar by dilute acids or certain enzymes, but the 6-carbon atom sugar called dextrose found in grape and fruit juices readily ferments at warm temperatures (the rate slows in the upper 90's and in the lower 60's). A 6-carbon atom sugar breaks down into about equal weights of ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH) and carbon dioxide. This really means that half of the nutritive value of the sugar or starch goes off as carbon dioxide; the other half become ethyl alcohol (grain alcohol) which is a source of calories but devoid of other essential ingredients and is of little nutritive value. In light of its low nutritive value, it may be observed that the use of grain and other food supplies in the production of beverage alcohol certainly is a waste of food resources.

The strength of alcohol solution resulting from fermentation is limited by two things. First, the fermentation is due to the growth of yeast. When the alcohol concentration builds up sufficiently, it kills the yeast and fermentation stops. Estimates of this percentage vary somewhat from about 5% to 15%.

The second limiting factor is the proportion of sugar in the juice. A juice of 10% sugar would only give 5% wine (by weight). The juice would have to be 20% sugar to give a 10% wine. There seems to be no evidence that sugar was added to juices in antiquity. Of course they did not have refined sugar to add. More likely they chose the sweetest juices to get the more potent wines. Some of the wine of antiquity would have been light wine, probably 5% to 9%. The beer was more dilute. The dry table wines today that are considered desirable range between 10% and 12%.

We often fail to realize that the situation in the use of alcohol now is greatly different from what it was in antiquity before the invention of distillation. Now we have many drinks with a high percentage of alcohol -- whiskey, brandy, gin, vodka, etc. These are all made by distillation. That is, pure alcohol obtained by distillation is added to these drinks, or the natural beverage is distilled, to bring the alcoholic content up to as much as 50% (100 proof). No strong drink like this was known in antiquity.

Some credit the Arabs with the invention of the distillation process; others believe the Arabs may have learned distillation from the Egyptians. In any case the use of distilled alcoholic beverages is relatively recent. Probably very little distilled alcohol was used for beverage before about the 12th century A.D. Before this invention there were no fortified wines or high percentage liquors as there are today. There is almost as much alcohol in a 6-oz. glass of 100 proof whisky as in half a gallon of 5% beer. While a person today can get drunk on one glass of liquor, in antiquity a person had to drink a great deal to get drunk. Since it is hard to drink more than two quarts of liquid in a day, the drunken stupor so pitiful in ordinary alcoholism was probably rare.

ACTION:

Dr. Barker moved the adoption of the Resolution containing seven recommendations to be considered seriatim.

[Note: The afternoon session was extended by motion to 5:00 p.m. and was closed with prayer by the Rev. Mr. Glen Parkinson. Synod also voted to continue the meeting in the evening. Synod reconvened at 8:30. Dr. Robert Reymond led in prayer. The discussion on the Beverage Use of Alcohol continued until 11:00 p.m. at which time Synod voted to take up the matters of substance.].

[Additional Note: On Thursday morning, the committee's recommendations were acted upon by Synod but reported here for the sake of continuity.].

The Resolution as a whole was adopted by Synod by a show of hands: 146, yes, 34, no. Negative votes were recorded by Rev. Messrs. Richard Tyson and Rev. George Smith. The final action on the resolution is as follows:

RESOLUTIONS ON BEVERAGE USE OF ALCOHOL

(1) To be faithful to the Scriptural mandate to teach the whole counsel of God our churches must teach what the Bible says about the sinfulness of drunkenness. This should be done, as deemed appropriate in the local circumstances, in the preaching ministry, in the Sunday school or other Bible classes, in the homes, in the training of church officers, and especially to the young people. Cases of drunkenness must be disciplined. Those in our congregations who are afflicted with alcoholism must be treated with loving care.

(2) In light of the increasingly serious abuse of alcohol in contemporary American culture, the Synod reaffirms its advocacy of total abstinence from the beverage use of alcohol. Dispassionate discussions of this and other Synodical statements and studies might be held in Sessions to assist the ruling body of the local fellowship of believers in achieving consensus of policy in accordance with Scripture. The results of such discussions might be shared at Presbytery level for the sake of conference and possible uniformity.

(3) In maintaining a testimony recommending total abstinence, our denomination must continue to make clear that this is a matter of prudence, based on the exercise of Christian love, in our contemporary American culture, in which highly alcoholic beverages are readily available and in which the abuse of alcohol is both prevalent and dangerous. It should be acknowledged that Scripture neither makes total abstinence a mark of holiness nor a universal requirement.

(4) Our churches and presbyteries must not make total abstinence a requirement for membership or office as a matter of principle; this would be to go beyond Scripture. As a matter of prudence, however, under certain conditions, a local congregation may deem it wise to decide that only abstainers be elected to church office. In like manner the partaking of alcoholic beverage in moderation must not in itself be made a matter for church discipline. Church officers should give serious consideration to the advisability of practicing total abstinence in view of their position and the influence of their example.

(5) It is appropriate for our denominational agencies, according to the judgment of those responsible for governing and administering them, to establish a rule of total abstinence as a matter of operational or institutional expediency for a given time or place. In such cases it must be made clear to those who submit themselves to such a rule that it is a matter of prudence, based on Christian love, and not as a Scriptural command.

(6) We recommend that our churches use grape juice in the Lord's Supper, not to open the possibility of an offense to those who cannot safely take any alcohol. Fermented wine should not be used unless it is diluted with water.

(7) Our churches should be sure to teach in a balanced way the Bible's teaching on questions of conscience. Those who partake in moderation must be counseled to exercise loving concern for those who abstain out of conscience. Those who abstain must be counseled not to judge those who partake in moderation. Above all, both have a responsibility to maintain the peace and unity of the church in joyful hope in the Lord. A Reformation and Puritan motto expresses this well: "In things necessary, unity; in things not necessary, liberty; in all things, charity." Knowingly to cause a weaker brother to sin is to sin against Christ. To raise scruples pharisaically is to condemn him whom Christ has received. Both of these sins should be dealt with in the church with careful, loving discipline. Ministers and ruling elders especially, as well as other church officers and leaders, have a responsibility to be sensitive to the testimony of the Synod which commends total abstinence to our people as appropriate for our cultural context and at the same time does not teach that it is an absolute requirement of Scripture.

[Documents of Synod, pages 19 - 34.]

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