We Baptists Do Not Drink ( . . . in front of each other)

UPDATE: A few weeks after posting this, a controversy erupted over The Journey, a Baptist church that meets in a pub in Missouri. See World of Bruce.


AlcoholIs the battle of drinking alcohol among Baptists tippling over? Are they spiking up their reasons to drink? Or, as the Baptist Standard put it in today's article, have Baptists watered down their objections to alcohol?

I think yes. In the various Baptist emerging churches i have spent time with in USA, my observation is that the majority drink alcohol, but are cool with those who choose not to. Even in the traditional model churches, I find that young people generally enjoy a beer or wine but there are many older people that will not.

One quote from the article by abstinence teacher W.A. Criswell caught my attention:

"Criswell countered the argument that Jesus turned the water into wine at a wedding in Cana by insisting Christ made a divinely different drink. “It was the celestial drink that we shall share together when we sit down to the table of the Lord at the marriage supper of the Lamb, some glorious and final day,” Criswell said.

Now that makes me wonder – Why is everything literal in hell but figurative in heaven? Can someone tell me that?

Not looking for an argument here. But I do have some thoughts on drinking:

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– We enjoy a drink in our house. I also brew beer and am learning to make wine. I also believe drunkenness, apart from being a sin, is silly and destructive.

– For New Years Eve, last week in Scotland, a time when a lot of people drink to excess, we decided to have an alcohol free party which was quite counter-cultural but seemed to work well.

– There are many times when i don't drink, especially when i am with non-drinkers.

– I was told by my mentor Thom Wolf, who does NOT drink, that I should never make alcohol an issue. And so I havent. And am not making it an issue now . . .

Final quote from a Baptist Seminary professor who i once heard say, regarding a response to a waitress offering wine, "No thank you. We are Baptists. We don't drink in front of each other."


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Steve Jr says:

    I’m not Baptist (my heritage is Churches of Christ), but I can say that for many, drinking is still an issue. I have had my wrist slapped a couple times by “wiser,” “older” Christians (their words) who were concerned that a young man going into a domestic missions context would drink. Granted, their objections were born from a deep concern for my well-being, not some dogmatic legalism, but it was interesting nonetheless. I only blogged about drinking (mentioned it in passing) once, and that’s what caused this older brother to come down hard on me. I began to avoid the subject on my blog from then on, as not to cause divisions.
    I have quite enjoyed, however, living in a more “open society” when it comes to alcohol (Boston, MA) after spending many years in the “outwardly dry” South. [I say “outwardly dry” because drunkenness and alcoholism was more of a problem there than anywhere else I’ve lived, you just couldn’t talk about it in church :)]

  • chad says:

    Good idea.
    I grew up baptist and I knew that alot of people drank, but it was never discussed and only consumed in proper company. I never heard anything about a “official” ruling regarding alcholol until I got to college and actually looked at the Baptist Faith and Message. But I would say that 70% of those that are in a Southern Baptist Church have no idea of this document’s existence, or have chosen to never really read it.
    I now attend a school from the Holiness tradition and am around these view’s, and they try to explain it a little better.
    As to the literal/figurative teachings, that’s a whole ‘nother bag right there.

  • Hey Andrew
    Spot on! We can’t neglect all the fine wines and beers and whiskeys out there 🙂
    On another note I’m trying to think of a good way to address the drunkenness issue among the young people in the church.
    I don’t want to moralize, but I will on the other hand not keep quiet about my thougts on the issue.
    Any thoughts/experiences anybody?

  • Here are more scriptural reflections on Christians and Booze: http://jeremydelrio.com/blog/2005/12/05/christians-and-booze/

  • Truth Seeker says:

    I am currently a member of a Baptist church and have been all over the spectrum as far as denominations go, and the topic of alcohol is an interesting topic. Its funny that many people think that Baptists spend all their time talking about alcohol and how we cant drink it. Well, having been around Baptist for several years now, I have not really heard them talking about it. Sure they will give their opinion when asked, but for the most part many don’t get all worked up about it.
    In fact, our pastors rarely speak on it. I think it was mentioned one time last year in the pulpit and it was in passing. Most of the time when I hear the issue of drinking and so forth is when non-baptists are accusing Baptists of slamming others. At least that has been my experience.
    But personally, I think drinking alcoholic beverages is not a good thing, and for a couple reasons. I use to drink but always felt convicted, and not because of my up-bringing (my parents drink), but from the Holy Spirit, so I chose to put the bottle down. My opinion is that allowing sin (drunkeness and others) to have a foothold in my life is wrong. Alcohol for me is a foothold. Not that I have ever gotten drunk, but I don’t want to, just as looking at certain shows is a foothold to pornography. I know others that have that opinion as well. We choose not to drink because we dont want to allow it to even be an issue of how much in our lives. We want to live holy lives and to flee from sin, so we choose to abstain from it, so that we dont even get tempted.
    That has been my experience on the alcohol issue, hope everyone understands and doesnt label me as a uncaring fundementalist for it. I just don’t see the need for allowing alcohol to ruin my life or others. But I won’t bash other over the head what they believe.

  • James says:

    I grew up in West Texas, aka Southern Baptist Country. I didn’t know Baptists were against drinking until I was in my 20s. Why? Every drinker I knew was a Baptist. That’s not to be negative about them, just an observation. I also come from a pretty conservative bunch myself (Churches of Christ) that is mostly made up of non-drinkers.
    My thoughts on responsible drinking are that is a conscience issue per Romans 14. Be wise, stay pure, respect the beliefs of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • thanks James.
    Romans 14 rocks on this and i see it reflected in TruthSeekers comment also.
    for the record, i did not drink as a new Christian for the first 5 years. After that I put myself on a one glass minimum [ooops, i meant MAXIMUM] for a number of years and then no l[imit] or laws but just wisdom and grace and constraint.
    how do we teach it?
    by modeling moderation as well as recommending it.
    how do we teach avoidance of gluttony????

  • Wine is a rich and tastey theological symbol of the Kingdom of God throughout our history as His people. I share your sentiments and balance towards the subject…
    Coming from a background (before conversion) of excess in this area (and many others), for a time after, I abstained from drink. Since taking an Old Testament course, I have enjoyed a new, theological perspective on wine…I am not much of a beer drinker outside of the odd sleemans from time to time.

  • I’m a “lifelong Baptist.” I grew up in the independent camp, and am now a minister in the SBC.
    I have always been a teetotaler. For a long time, I just thought all alcohol was evil, but that was because of the way I was raised. When i began to think for myself, I saw that the Bible was clear on drunkenness as a sin, but not so much with drinking itself.
    I’ve finally come to the “all things in moderation” belief, but have still never drunk alcohol myself.
    Lately, I have been experiencing high blood pressure in addition to the high cholesterol that I’ve struggled with the last few years. I read more and more about the benefits of red wine for these conditions. My father also had Alzheimer’s, and dementia runs on my father’s side of the family late in life.
    I visit the doctor next week, and fully intend to ask him what he thinks about using wine as a medicine for treatment and prevention. If he (as good Christian man himself) will give me a “prescription” to drink, I believe I will be open to it.
    Unfortunately, I will likely have to do it “under the table,” letting my pastor know about it, but keeping it secret from the congregation. They would likely not understand or tolerate one of their staff ministers drinking alcohol, even for purely health reasons.

  • Mike says:

    I think culture is also in play here – whether that be church culture, our ethnic background, or the nation we come from. As an American in Glasgow, I’ve never had a UK Christian ‘question’ me on drinking. However, I have had American friends (I’m American) in Glasgow give me the odd glance or subtle comment. The culture was also an element in Jesus’ day; the church/religious culture mainly.
    Andrew, Lammert Vrieling always said we should meet up. Next time you are in Glasgow, get in touch and we’ll visit the Three Judges pub for some of their unique ales. Peace, Mike

  • Richard says:

    I’ve been instructed that when taking a baptist fishing to always invite two. Otherwise the one will drink all of your beer.

  • Truth Seeker says:

    Per your question of teaching avoidance of gluttony. That is a tough one!! I don’t think that there is a solid, one-way answer. But one thing that a wise old man told me once was this: there are clear-cut “thou shalt not” things in the Bible that we must refrain from (Colossian 3, etc..) and then there are the grey areas (drinking, eating certain foods or too much, etc..) that we can participate in or opt out.
    He told me that in those black and white areas we must obey, no questions asked. But in the grey areas, he said “We must decide if partaking in or doing this too much will hinder me from experiencing God.” If we get to a point where one of those grey areas causes us to either sin, or loose sight of God, it has become a stumbling block and we must rid ourselves of that area.
    How can we tell when we have gone too far? 1) Through constant devotion to scriptural reading to know where the line is. 2) Through participation in the fellowship of fellow believers. Sometimes our fellow brethren are our best indicators. 3) Constantly being attuned to the “elbowing” of the Holy Spirit. When we feel the Holy Spirit speaking and it is not good, we must question if we have gone too far. 4) Try not to find the edge of how far we can go, but rather see how little we can do. Example: television is a grey area. But instead of seeing how much I can watch to know what is gluttony, why not reduce the amount and see how that affects you?
    This is not a clear-cut issue, and I dont propose to have a clear answer, but rather some thoughts that I offer for others to take, ponder, and critique. Maybe someone else have some suggestions, something I haven’t thought of. Andrew?
    Thank you for your time!

  • Chad Smith says:

    Over the years my stance has changed. I started by calling all alcohol a sin. Then I saw it as “freedom in Christ” and wore my drinking alcohol as a badge of honor. Now I still do drink, but I always keep the people I’m around in mind. Not that I would be ashamed to drink in front of anyone, but I know that some people may struggle with beer flowing freely down my throat (hmmm, I’m ready to go have one right now).
    When I worked in a traditional style church me drinking would have been a huge taboo. Now that I’m in a house church, no one would blink twice. When people talk about drinking being a bad witness, are they speaking of to Christians or non-Christians? I know that the people I am primarily around (many non-Christians) don’t view alcohol negatively.

  • I am an SBC pastor & I drink a beer/drink every now & then– Romans 14 style. The congregation knows this & is OK — they drink, I know & it’s OK. I grew up in a “non-drinking” church where one of the deacon’s nickname (openly known) was “6-pack Dink”. The old saying is true, wherever you find four baptists, you’ll usually find a “fifth!”

  • Tom Götze says:

    Thanks Andrew. And by the way:
    What about the point, that Jesus was counted among the “wine drinkers”? Does that only mean, that in the eyes of His critics He spend to much time with them or did He really drink with them?
    I didn’t drink for years, not even a drop. Now I drink a glas of wine here and there and very seldom a beer during a party. I never got drunk on alcohol, cause I never wanted to loose the holy spirits friendly “control” in my life.

  • Rick says:

    I go to a predominantly fundamental baptist college, and alcohol is a very big issue. One infraction = expulsion. The common argument from their camp is that all references to wine are a watered down wine, and that only barbarians would drink what is sold today.
    I call for more of a voluntary abstention due to the immaturity of most young adults (21-25). Either they drink to rebel, or drink to get drunk. Rarely, unless brought up to be otherwise or are taught from their church, do I find typical young adults who drink to the glory of God.
    Not to mention our state has one of the strictest DUI/DWI limitations (.08 BAC), which doesn’t take much to exceed.

  • Chris's Blog says:

    Fancy a drink?

    Sometimes I realise just how little I know about some denominations. I didnt realise until I read this that there was even any discussion about drinking alcohol in the Baptist church. It got me thinking about my own stance on alcohol.
    Basically …

  • Bob Roberts says:

    All I care is what would Jesus do – Merlot? Pinot Noir?

  • Zach says:

    Canaan vineyards.
    28 AD was a great year, possibly best vintage ever.

  • brodie says:

    Andrew – Mike’s observation as an American living in Glasgow, Scotland highlights I think that there are quite different attitudes to Christians drinking in the States and Christians drinking here in the UK.
    It’s not always been that way. It’s really only been in the last 10 – 15 years that drinking in public has become mostly acceptable in Christian circles here in Scotland. English Christians seems to have been far more relaxed about this for much longer – but I think this may have something to do with the fact that they used to have a different drinking culture.
    The drinking culture in Scotland has “always” been one of drinking to excess, yet this has only recently become the case in England. It used to also be the case that many Scottish Christians would not drink because their church had some involvement alchoholics, thus drink was not around so as not to cause offence or temptation.

  • Rodney Olsen says:

    As they say ….
    The Jews don’t recognise Jesus as Messiah.
    Protestants don’t recognise the Pope as the head of the church.
    And Baptists don’t recognise each other at the bottle shop.

  • Robin says:

    Totally disagree. If you can drink and booze is not the center of your joy,fine.But it’s not possible. Any addictions counselor will tell you there is no such thing as a social drinker. Ask yourself this question… if Jesus asked me to give it up can you and would you? Have you asked him? I am also too pentecostal for this post. Don’t think you can confront any demon or demonic activity in a gathering of christians or unbelievers and expect discernment and power if your a boozer.

  • E says:

    “God Gave Wine” by Kenneth Gentry is a great read on the subject. http://www.amazon.com/God-Gave-Wine-Bible-Alcohol/dp/0970032668

  • Keith says:

    I too agree with Romans 14. Moderation is the key.
    Having grown up in the Assemblies of God (pentacostal), the evils of drinking has been pounded into my brain and soul. The reasoning ranges from the evils of drunkardness, causing others to stumble (using the same Romans 14), and treating our bodies as temples. While drinking is not one of the stated 16 fundamental beliefs, there are many position papers that are available against drinking (including a single sip). My buddy won’t have a single drink because if he is caught he will lose his license. He is a great pastor, love God immensely, and could lose his career over a glass of wine. How retarded! Fundamentalist, judgmental views like this are why I became so frustrated with the denomination.
    When I go to the store and buy my wine or beer, I feel like a felon and constantly watch out for members of the congregation. As I sit drinking my glass of Cabernet Sauvignon tonight I am thankful for the local wine shop that recently opened.
    Personally I think it is another example of churches picking out the sins they wish to go after and ignoring others. Yes drunkardness is sinful, but a glass of wine is both healthy and enjoyable! There is nothing like a good beer, although I must admit I am jealous that I am not able to enjoy the fine pubs with great ales and stouts that I hear Europe has. One day…

  • Thanks all. Jeff’s situation is a tough one.
    Jeff said:
    “Unfortunately, I will likely have to do it “under the table,” letting my pastor know about it, but keeping it secret from the congregation.”
    I have been fortunate in the last ten years in that i was open with my position on drinking when i started as pastor, and also when i started work at the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
    But in the early 90’s, I started as an Associate Pastor at a strict Baptist church where the Senior Pastor did not drink and the church was in two minds over the issue. Since i had not told them of my views on this when i started, I did not feel the freedom to be vocal or visible about drinking lest I brought division to the church or lack of respect to the Senior Pastor. I was there 3 years and never made it an issue.
    Although once i was going to a local pub to prepare a sermon on the prodigal son, and i heard “Hey, look, its Pastor Andrew”. I look up and there is the entire ladies bible study having a beer and studying the Bible in the pub. We looked at each other strangely and then I joined their study.

  • And Keith, there are some good honest ales over here in UK, for sure. But many of the best beers I have ever had are from micro breweries in Oregon, Washington and Colorado.
    USA may have been slow to produce decent beers, but it is obvious that they, as Jesus would do, have been saving the best till last.

  • Pastorastor says:

    …a one glass minimum? Minimum? 🙂
    I agree with your post and much of the comments. Moderation is the key. I feel equally bad among drunk christians and among christians for whom holiness doesn´t mean being close to Jesus, but has to do with dress, haircut, menu, vocabulary and size of Bible. At least among the former there is some understanding that what they are doing is wrong. OK, I admit. I would feel better among drunk christians than among sober pharisees.

  • ahhhhhh shooot! i meant maximum. sorry. now to edit it through lest i cause someone to stumble.

  • douglas says:

    “Rather drink a beer with a pure heart then drink of the Spirit with an impure heart.”

  • Keith says:

    Too funny…but yes the US is starting to produce some good brew! I might have to start shopping for a cheap flight to the western states now…

  • Spot on with that Literal/Figurative thing.

  • Bill says:

    When I was at Biblical Seminary (which sprang out of the old Faith Seminary), an prof there who lived through the split from Princeton said the difference between the Westminster founders and the Faith founders is the Westminster profs didn’t want to give up their Scotch. So . . . it’s not just baptists.

  • Steve Jr. says:

    I don’t buy the argument above that those who are 21-25 should “abstain because they are immature.” I also don’t buy the argument above that “there is no such thing as a social drinker.” I rarely have alcohol in my home, but I do have a glass or a bottle whenever I get the chance. Never to excess. Never. And I’m 24. So to say “social drinking” is impossible and that “21-25 are immature” … just not true.
    The issue here is, of course, the same issue we bump into in any would-be vice. With Christians, the issue is rarely about the vice. Beer doesn’t get Christians drunk. Christians whose hearts are not fully captured by the mission and way of Jesus Christ get Christians drunk.

  • Bryan Riley says:

    If it’s on your list of what Good Christians do or don’t do and you use it as a basis for judgment, then I think Jesus is more concerned with your attitude than with the Christian who drinks moderately and consistently with biblical principles. I think this is especially true when the thing condemned or approved upon isn’t based on God’s word; instead it comes from the traditions of man or someone else’s personal application of God’s word.
    I used to be in the camp of teetotaling and believed that those who drank were sinners, all of them. I used it as a measuring stick of spirituality. And, as a result, I was putting a temporary thing, abstinence from alcohol, above something that is eternal (relationships with humans and their eternal souls created in God’s image). Today, I not only don’t want to do that, but I also enjoy a drink now and then. I also don’t want to let anything separate me from being able to love others like Jesus did.

  • James says:

    To the idea of that no one can have a single drink and not be an addict…
    What about wine in the Lord’s Supper?
    What about Deuteronomy 14:22-26?
    What about John 2?
    As to the alcoholic content of 1st century grape-derived beverages (and the idea that modern wines are so much stronger), I find this link informative:
    I was once a teetotaller who flatly, staunchly condemned others for consuming anything beyond Nyquil in its prescribed amounts. Deuteronomy kind of kills that view on my part, especially following a word study on verse 26.

  • Rob says:

    wow, what a mass of comentswow, what a mass of comments. so i want to ad my ideas about alc:
    by the way, this true for almost all the things – if you do it with out borders you get sick!
    what about cheese? if you eat 4 pounds of cheese, you gonna be sick! find out your borders and drink alcohol as much as its healthy for you (my thoughts)!

  • It might be a little tough, but I know I’ll have support in my pastor and a few others.
    In fact, if I do decide to start drinking wine after this Friday’s doctor visit, I’ll be talking to our head deacon about what to buy. I’ve never bought or drunk wine and don’t know where to start, but the deacon and his wife are known as wine aficionados, though no one in the church talks about it.
    Too funny.

  • Negrito says:

    Why do you take two Baptists out fishing?
    Because if you take only one he will drink all your beer, but if you take two you can have it all to yourself
    A NZ baptist who enjoys Guinness

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  • jon says:

    What has been fascinating for me – having been brought up in fundamentalist circles and then being liberated by the holy spirit is that when others in my congregations found out that I enjoyed the fruit of the vine – they would come out of the closet! Who knew that there was such a market among Christian circles – perhaps soon we’ll see marketing aimed directly at deacon’s meetings!
    Perhaps there would be a bunch of men sitting around and the atmosphere gets a little stuffy – then someone opens a bottle of… whatever.. and the budget gets passed…
    Honestly, I have to say that I just don’t care anymore. I’m not out to offend anyone, but at the same time, I don’t really let other people’s hang-ups rule my freedom.
    Interesting discussion.

  • Tina Schö. says:

    Hey! I thought it’s a cultural thing. We do drink alcohol in front of each other. Last sunday my pastor and me were drunk, we even couldn’t walk anymore (JUST KIDDING!!!!).
    Here are “German Rules”:
    South German christians and alcohol = ok
    North German christians and alcohol= boooooooooh, sinful!
    Smoking Southgerman christians right after leading worship = hell, hell!
    Smoking Northgerman christians right after worship= go for it (except in front the conservative Baptist churchbuildings, hoho)
    – oh, how my ears are already bleeding from “you can pray to be free”. Well, it easier to quit the worshipleader position than to quit smoking ! 🙂
    Ah, what about the F-Word?
    And the S-Word?
    Are you allowed to say SHIT in front of the congregation? In my Baptist church we are! WTF? -YES, mon!!!

  • My doctor told me that red wine is a good method for Alzheimer’s prevention.
    I think he is right.

  • Randy says:

    Seriously, I get the concept of why this prohibition towards alcohol. I understand that people want to protect from the dangers of certain sin. The problem comes when we choose to protect beyond what the Bible states would be necessary. I come from a conservative baptist background and am so enjoying the freedom I have now that I have stepped into another church culture. The questions I have now are not “do I” or “don’t I” … it is now more of at what point do I not need to care about a weaker brother or do I just go balls out and drink it up!

  • Paul MacKinnon says:

    Two lines of thought occur to me as I read these comments:
    1) Pointing out the fact that some Baptists are hypocrites (IE: Condemning alcohol whilst secretly imbibing) is no intelligent argument either way. It merely acknowledges the fact that historically, most Baptists were separated believers who considered alcohol to be a bad testimony. Sadly, today you can look under the name Baptist and find all kinds of living things, but so what?
    2) When a Christian libertine’s practices are questioned, he will unfailingly respond legalistically. “Show me what LAW I have broken!” Anyone who actually reads their Bible knows that Christian liberty is not about claiming my rights, but about freely giving up my rights for the glory of God and for love of our fellows. The fact that someone did something in the OT, or even in Jesus’ day is absolutely no reason to say that it is fine to do it today. Rather, I look around at the number one drug problem in my culture and say, “Do I as a Christian magnify Christ by identifying with this substance before the world?” Dr Peter Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London has written an excellent little book, “Should Christians Drink?” in which he deals very thoroughly with this subject in terms of the right use of our liberty in Christ. I recommend it.

  • Jason says:

    I hear it said by someone whenever he went fishing with his baptist friends he made sure to always take two along with him, because if he took only one he would drink all of his beer.

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  • lgnash says:

    gluttony? Drunks can sober up and pass as non-drinking people. Gluttons are FAT! Hagee and Falwell come to mind… greedy…for Power and and that extra hambuger

  • mark mcgoveran says:

    Recently I told a church lady I like to sing “throw out the life line” when I drink with my gangster friends because it is my favorite hymn. She said that the drinking was a sin!! I said remember proverbs chpt 31 versus 7….11 “let him drink to forget his poverty and rememeber his misery no more.” I am neither king nor prince and I do have plenty of poverty to forget so it is ok. She looked at me with a mean look on her lovely face and I said”you would love to slap the devil right out of me about now wouldn’t you?” She said “yes I would, you just know every little verse don’t You!” I said “they told me to read the entire book carefully, so I did.”

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