Ethics: Adding Alcohol Abstinence to the Church Covenant

What would you do Wednesday!

Your pastor recently read John Piper’s article Alcohol and Church Membership that explains why Piper pushed to have the phrase on abstaining from the use of beverage alcohol removed from his church covenant. Upon further consideration your pastor decided to do the opposite of what Piper did. He proposed to add a phrase to the church covenant calling for all members to abstain from all beverage alcohol.

The abstention from alcohol would extend to all church staff, members, and those seeking membership. At the congregational meeting your pastor presents the following phrase to be voted on to add to the church covenant.

We engage to abstain from the use and the sale of intoxicating liquors as a beverage.

If this measure passes the implications are that those who partake of beverage alcohol would be subject to church discipline.

What would you do?

  • Vote for the change and accept the outcome?
  • Vote against the change and accept the outcome?
  • Oppose voting at this time and try to have the voting tabled for a later date?
  • Or…

tagged as , in Culture,morality

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Will Adair August 3, 2011 at 11:03 am

or… I would say thank God I’m a Presbyterian and we don’t have that issue, we have enough bigger (and biblical) issues to deal with. I would in all seriousness congratulate John Piper on not breaking the commandment to “add to or take away from this book.”

I may not really be qualified to answer the question because I would not likely be a member or regular attender of a church that had such silliness.

2 Will Adair August 3, 2011 at 11:06 am

P.S. I come from a family with a deep history of Alcoholism, hardly ever drink, have encouraged brothers to become tea-totters, and don’t have a drop in my house currently. I do not tolerate drunkenness at all and remind those who practice it that they very well may not be regenerated.

3 Mandi August 3, 2011 at 11:11 am

I’d vote against it, but accept it. Of course, I attend a church in a denomination that has abstinence from alcohol in the church discipline, and I accept it. I think that Piper’s ideas are more correct, though.

4 Jeremy Bowlby August 3, 2011 at 11:22 am

Easy, I don’t know that I would be a member of a church where such silliness (good phrase for this) existed. If this happened at my church, due to a change in Pastor or some other evolution in philosophy, I would vote against it and leave if it passed. Not because of alcohol per se, I am actually a student at a seminary where I am not allowed to drink, but because of the unbiblical nature of the command.

5 David R. Brumbelow August 3, 2011 at 11:55 am

It all depends on how far the church wants to go in discipline. Most churches I’m familiar with would not want pastors, staff, or leaders to drink at all. They do not believe any Christians should drink, they will teach against it, but will not make it a matter of official discipline. They’re not going to police everyone, but they will point them in the right direction.

To commenters saying this is silliness – It is not silliness to warn against the recreational use of dangerous drugs. The Bible directly speaks against use of alcohol in Proverbs 23. In 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8; 1 Timothy 3:2 and elsewhere it commands us to be sober. Sober (nepho) literally means “wineless” or “without wine.” You can’t get much plainer than that.
David R. Brumbelow

6 Jacob Allee August 3, 2011 at 12:25 pm


By your thinking then Jesus and his followers were often not sober. Now that’s “silly”.

7 Joshua Collier August 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm

God gave wine to make our hearts glad (Psalm 104:15). Proverbs 23 speaks to excess use of wine resulting in drunkenness, not against any use of it at all.

If a church were to discipline for this I would be very concerned as it begs the question in what other areas will ‘rules’ be added to the Scripture resulting in legalism.

8 Mark August 3, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Thanks for the replies, folks. I tend to agree with David B. about calling this approach silliness, but for different reasons.

If a pastor seeks to bind the conscience of other Christians where the Bible doesn’t I would not call it silliness.

9 Joshua Collier August 3, 2011 at 2:31 pm


is Scripture not sufficient for all life and godliness?

10 Steve Martin August 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I wouldn’t be in such a legalistic place to begin with.

In Christ all things are lawful. Although all things are not profitable.

How many gallons of wine did Jesus make for His first recorded miracle?

10? 50? It was more in the neighborhood of a 150 gallons.

Should we get drunk? NO. But if we do, don’t we have an Advocate?

11 Mark August 3, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Joshua, of course Scripture is sufficient. I don’t understand the reason for the question.

12 brig August 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Taking it to a vote would be irresponsible at best, and for leadership to “bind the consciences” of its members is indeed a sin in its own right … consequently and ironically, worthy of disciplinary measures.

Sometimes one is at a loss for words, and I’ve heard of people wanting to bring down church discipline on others for all sorts of reasons that they personally believe is a sin, the most recent of which is “sending a child to public schools.” Some of these I cannot distinguish from “silliness,” and I think Martin Luther’s famous quip about wine and women demonstrates that he also believed abstinence to be an absurd notion.

It’s difficult for me to understand, apart from etymological fallacies, that replacing moderation with abstinence (confusion between use and abuse is not a sober rationale!) is somehow more holy — it is more akin to certain Roman Catholic notions of holiness. The Bible teaches moderation clearly (and not unequivocal abstinence), and even the great Methodist himself, John Wesley — his stipend was partly paid in alcohol.

Should I tolerate membership in such a church, I’d happily endure the first disciplinary measure. If anyone wants to be a second witness in my prosecution, you’ll catch me at the local pub with the best beer every Saturday. Order water if you like, but stay away from the pretzels. The dip has beer in it.

13 Jeremy Bowlby August 3, 2011 at 5:16 pm

The only thing I think is “silly” is that the elders of the church would assert that there is a Biblical argument for their dangerous ammendment to the membership covenant. I agree that legalism enforced by the church leadership out of an ignorance of the Bible is dangerous and sad. I try to maintain some levity since this isn’t an impossible scenario and I get fired up just thinking about the fact that this is/has probably happening/ed in some churches…

14 Joshua Collier August 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I wouldn’t call “Binding the conscience of others to something that is not taught in Scripture” as silly either. I would call it wrong, abusive and sin. 1 Peter 5:3.

If Scripture is sufficient for all life and godliness, then why would a Pastor want to “Bind the conscience of others” to something not taught in Scripture? That seems to imply to me that Scripture is not sufficient for all life and godliness in the mind of that Pastor.

15 Knight August 4, 2011 at 7:17 am

I would simply ask the question, where does the Bible teach this? If the Bible does in fact ban alcohol (which it does not) then what is there to vote on? We are not given the liberty to decide which commands to obey. If the Bible does not forbid the use of alcohol but instead teaches moderation then, again, what is there to vote on?

The concept of taking a vote on something like this is silly. Either the Bible is our final authority or it is not.

16 Peter L August 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I would vote against it and say that though the Bible speaks clearly against drunkenness, there is nothing against consuming alcohol. I would say if one does not want to get drunk, then it is best to abstain, but it should not be a church “law”.

Glad I attend a church that has neither a constitution or bylaws other than the Word of God.

17 Carl Holland September 17, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Paul told Timothy to have some wine to settle his stomach. Timothy was trying to put himself under law by abstaining. Some people say Jesus made non-alcoholic grapejuice at the wedding feast, but I disagree strongly. Yes, it is silliness to impose law on a congregation when we are under grace. As mentioned earlier, everything is permissible, but not everything is helpful. If you are convicted that partaking alcohol is a sin, or it leads you to sinful behavior, then by all means abstain! Of course, the world thinks there is some “rule” against partaking alcohol, so many will not embrace Christ because they’ll have to “give up their fun,” and if they see a Christian drinking they will point the finger and cry “hypocrite!” If this is a concern for you and you believe it will damage your testimony, then abstain, but don’t add law to grace.

18 Tony March 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm

The very fact that a church, council, elder board or pastor would be entertaining such legalistic, unbiblical teaching would be my signal that it’s time to get OUT of such a church! I wouldn’t even stick around for the vote.

American Evangelicals are so hung up on this idea that teetotaling=holiness, I find it truly disturbing and sick. Thankfully, Prohibition in the U.S. ended with the complete and utter failure it deserved. Go to Europe, Latin America…even Canada! Most Christians in the rest of the world look at U.S. Protestants as more than a little uptight about this subject…and boy are they RIGHT!

19 Dawn DeLay Lamprecht May 8, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I’ll drink to that! I mean, er, nevermind…..sip sip……

20 AndrewWray May 9, 2013 at 7:41 am

are we Pharisees that we put a law in place to guard ourselves from sinning through drunkenness, NO not at all


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