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by Joel McDurmon
Bring up the issue of alcohol in your local church and you're bound to hear many different views and opinions on how the Christian should respond. In reality though, the only view that matters is the biblical one. Whether Christians want to imbibe or abstain, the first question that must be answered is "What Would Jesus Drink?"
With a compelling combination of biblical theology, scriptural exegesis, and Jewish cultural history, author Joel McDurmon takes on the question with a clarity and honesty that is as refreshing as it is rare. Taking a neutral corner in any debate is not McDurmon's style, and it is certainly not the strategy of this book. He does not stop with simply answering the title question, instead he goes on to show that food and drink, and the act of eating or drinking itself, have for far too long been taken for granted by modern Christians. What Would Jesus Drink? A Spirit-Filled Study is not just another dull book about Christian doctrine and practice; it is a rich and full study of the goodness and grace of God. It is an intensely practical book about the joy of celebration and the blessings of covenant community.
The following is from the Foreword, by Douglas Wilson:
The Bible is a discomfiting book, for lots of people. It often says and teaches things we would rather not hear about, and represents God in ways that are disconcerting to those who would like to be known for their piety. But because man is devious, and has sought out many devices (Ecc. 7:29), we have developed various ways to work around this problem that the Bible creates. In theological circles, the ways of getting around what the Scriptures actually teach can be reduced to two broad categories—the liberal and the conservative approach.
The liberal approach rejects the practical authority of Scripture, but is oftentimes more to be trusted with what the text of Scripture actually says than the conservative approach is. This is true even though the conservatives are the ones who stoutly profess that the “Bible is the inerrant Word of God, without error in all that it affirms.” The reason is because the liberal approach is not actually stuck with having to live with the results of the exegesis. Liberalism is the way of rejection, reserving the right to say that while the Bible may teach thus and such, “we have all grown past that now.” This is why the liberal can acknowledge that the Bible teaches a particular doctrine, or sets before us a particular example, and then go on to say, “Wasn’t that quaint? ho, ho, ho.”
The conservative, on the other hand, has to live with what he claims the Bible says. If he doesn’t want to live with it, if it conflicts with his traditions or most deeply cherished beliefs, then he has to make sure that his interpretation comes out in an acceptable fashion. Unlike the liberal, he does not have the option of acknowledging that Jesus drank wine, “but that He would have come to a more suitable position had His life not ended so tragically and so soon.”
Ironically, many conservatives sheepishly acknowledge that the Bible does not prohibit the drinking of alcohol (quite the opposite), but go on to say that for the sake of a “good testimony” we should still swear off the stuff. Apart from the problems created by trying to have a better testimony than the Bible has, there is also the difficulty caused by the fact that tee-totalism provides its very own kind of bad testimony. The Bible is not a blank screen onto which we may project our pious desires. The Bible is God’s revealed Word to us, and as baptized Christians it is our responsibility to submit to it.
Joel McDurmon is my kind of conservative believer. He is willing to go where the Bible says we may go, even if that is the wine aisle of the supermarket. He is willing to sit down with the apostles to share a meal, even if the establishment serving lunch has beer on tap. He is willing to drink what the Bible says we may drink. And in this book, he does a fine job of setting before us the scriptural reasons for all of this. He begins where all our lessons in eating and drinking ought to begin, which is with the Lord’s Supper, and he moves on to discuss the words the Holy Spirit chose to reveal His will on this subject. He then turns to address some common objections, which you have probably heard before. This is a small book, but there is a lot here.
I once read an odd throw-away line—I think it was the tag line on somebody’s email—that has stuck with me in the years since first reading it. The statement goes right to the center of this issue, and illustrates why books like this small volume are so important. The line said, “If your pastor says that the wine in the Bible was grape juice, then how can you trust anything he says?”
This is a fine book, and I commend it to you.
Hardback; 145 pages
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