In the spring of 1521, Martin Luther stood trial before the Holy Roman emperor and the Diet of Worms (not to be confused with the act of feasting on a diet of worms).
He was charged with heresy and not aligning with the “truth” taught under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
Luther was, however, not under the belief that he was accountable to the church and the church alone. He was accountable first to the truth recorded in scripture and secondly to the authority placed before him within the church. This belief cost him dearly in life but ultimately changed the world.
I can imagine this presented and enormous crisis of conscience for Luther for, as he stood trial, he was bound by his conscience and the teachings of the Word of God—teachings which didn’t align with that of the church.
It’s not an easy thought process through which one must work when one’s reading of the scriptures contradicts the way one has been brought up.
I grew up believing alcohol was a sin. I remember speaking with a friend with whom I went to high school and being in utter disbelief that this friend’s pastor would openly talk about having a beer after coming in from mowing the lawn. I could not believe that a supposed “man of God” would commit such a despicable act…and do it regularly at that.
To picture such a loathsome substance touching the lips of a man on a Saturday who, with those same lips, would proclaim the Gospel of Christ on Sunday, I found to be an irreconcilable contradiction of ideas.
I remember being in youth group and when asked, justifying the abstinence of alcohol by stating that Jesus stated that He wouldn’t drink of the fruit of the vine until the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, so neither should we (Matt 26:29).
I then remember several months later watching my sister boldly take an opposing stance in the same type of forum and receiving a good verbal lashing from the leadership in the youth group in front of 250 or so onlookers (she soon began attending a different church).
I recall hearing that any time in scripture where wine or beer was mentioned in a positive context it was either non-alcoholic or contained so little alcohol that it was permissible. I remember hearing a youth pastor placing his stamp of ex-cathedra upon this statement by supporting his argument with his dad’s personal research on the subject.
I distinctly remember specific instances where I would judge people when I would see alcohol in their hand…of course my level of judgment was directly proportional to the perceived alcoholic content contained within the beverage. Wine and beer obviously weren’t quite as devilish as bad as tequila…the worst obviously being whisky and vodka.
But something happened to me in college. I began to take a less subjective look at the Bible. Questions began to form in my mind:
If alcohol was evil, why did Jesus make it at the wedding in Cana?
If wine in the Bible wasn’t alcoholic, why did Paul tell Timothy to take some for medicinal purposes?
At which point in the fermentation process does demonic influence occur? Where in the Bible does it say fermented grapes are less demonic than hops or barley?
The questions were irreconcilable. Jesus, in fact, did make wine in Cana. Even more, it was his pilot miracle—the very thing which launched his ministry. Not only did he make wine, but according to scripture, he made good wine. The description of the wine being good generally lends to the quality of the fermentation process (as one doesn’t generally hear onlookers at a wedding making snide remarks about the quality of a grape juice).
Couple that with the fact that Paul did tell Timothy to take wine for his stomach, not grape juice and the fact that scripture is entirely silent on the point at which a fermented drink becomes demonic, and I could not help but wonder what scripture really was saying.
So, disregarding upbringings, the sincerely held beliefs of those with whom we grew up, the stance of the denomination of which we may be apart…
…standing solely upon the evidence provided in scripture alone (which should be the ultimate authority in guiding our beliefs in life)…
…what is it we should believe? What does God have to say about the bubbly?
Not only this, but if Jesus had been born to the people of the north (Nordics, Russians, etc.) would he have turned water into the allegedly filthy substance of vodka? Had he been born in the wild wild west, would he have conjured up some whisky? Had he been Irish, would he have turned water into an enormous vat of Guinness.
Luther has forever been immortalized throughout the pages of history as a pastor who stood against the mainstream and widely-held view of his church in exchange for upholding the integrity and authority of scripture alone. He addressed issues within the church which was in contradiction to the teachings of the scriptures. And though, I am certainly not even close to holding a candle to Martin Luther (as I am not nearly as scholarly and speak very little German), I desire for the Are you there, Vodka? It’s me, Jesus series to be a “95 Theses” of sorts. Though, certainly not nearly as well written, I’m sure, it will serve to be a revolutionary compilation on the theology of alcohol packaged down into nice little chicken nuggets of literary goodness. Hopefully forever giving some clarity on the subject.
Are you there, Vodka? It’s me, Jesus will be a series of articles on TheoMag in the upcoming weeks addressing the biblical errancy of a view upholding the total abstinence from alcohol. I would encourage you, dear TheoMag reader, if something is said that ticks you off, don’t shut the computer and walk away cussing under your breath. Think, open the scriptures with me, research the sources I give and judge for yourself based off of nothing else except scripture if what will be in this series of articles is truth. And if you have a thought, share it! Invite your friends to share as well. This will prove to be a theological tour de force.