A Theology of Beer

In the past, I have briefly written my theology of coffee. I truly do love coffee. I don’t feel addicted to it, but just really enjoy it, especially a couple of warm cups early in the morning in my office with my Bible open. And Europe has some good coffee.

But I have also wanted to write a theology of beer as well. I must admit, and I am not ashamed to say so, I really enjoy beer. Yes, it is a special activity here in Belgium. And God was gracious in calling me to a land that has such wonderful beer.

Though, my main goal is not to really lay out why it is ok to partake of alcoholic beverages, I briefly give three Biblical reasons why:

1) In a passage probably not as well known, Deuteronomy 14:22-27, the Lord lays out what is to take place in celebrating the tithe. The people were to come with their tithe – of grain, wine, oil and firstborn of the flock and herd – to eat it and celebrate before the Lord. They were to do this in the place God would choose, which would later become Jerusalem.

But, if this place chosen was too far away, God was reasonable and told His people to sell these things mentioned above and still make their way to Jerusalem, but now with the lighter load. Once they arrived, God said this: spend the money for whatever you desire – oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves (vs26).

Now, I am aware of the arguments that wine was non-fermented (which I disagree with, but will come onto in just a moment). But no one can refute the phrase, ‘strong drink’. It’s pretty obvious this is in reference to something with alcohol, something fermented.

And, of course, such would be expected, since God was calling them to celebrate. Hey, that’s something to consider about our giving – are we celebrating as we give! But that’s another article on another day.

So, first off, God is ok with us celebrating with strong drink. Matter of fact, He commanded it in days of old!

2) When we read Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians, specifically the one in reference to their celebration of the Lord’s Supper (or the ‘agape feasts’ they celebrated), we read something interesting in that passage. Specifically, in vs21, he says they were getting drunk!

Now, the only way one can get drunk on wine is if it actually is fermented. You can’t get drunk on non-fermented wine (simple grape juice). It’s quite the difficult thing.

Of course, they were wrong in getting drunk. But the mere fact that they were able to get drunk shows they were celebrating the Lord’s Supper with fermented wine during their gatherings.

3) Let’s all be honest. To suppose that when the word wine is used in Scripture, it refers to non-fermented wine, this is not a strong argument. Why do I say? Well, I could walk down the path that a colleague once did by stating something to this affect: ‘When Jesus preached to the masses, it didn’t have to detail that He had clothes on. It would have been an obvious reality. Thus, when it speaks of wine in Scripture, it did not need to detail it as fermented wine. It would have been an obvious reality.’

But, even more, let’s just simply think about this. Back in those days they did not have refrigerators. Those were invented just a few centuries later. Why do I mention this? Because, to keep pure grape juice from fermenting, they would have to refrigerate it. But with no access to such technology, we can easily conclude that such drink would rather quickly ferment. It’s just a simple and practical reality about it the subject.

So, these are three reasons for alcoholic or fermented beverages being acceptable to drink. God created it and pronounced it good.

Of course, drunkenness is not healthy (Ephesians 5:18; Proverbs 23:29-35), but this texts speak of strong intoxication. Therefore, let’s also not try and be the Holy Spirit, telling how much a person can have – one drink, two drinks, etc. Let’s let Him be who He says He is.

But going back to beer, I am happy to be planted here in the land of Belgium. Yes, it is known for it’s chocolate and waffles. But it really has fine beer as well. Matter of fact, it seems that Belgium can boast 1,498 total beers, and that in such a small country. Of course, knowing the vastness of a place like America and all its micro-breweries, I am sure the number is well over 10,000. But, such a number for Belgium is quite amazing.

One of the unique things they do here is producing a different glass for each different brand of beer. No, there isn’t 1,498 different beer glasses. But, there is a differing one for each brand. So, one brewing company or monastery might produce multiple beers, but they will only have one glass per label brand. Still, walking into cafes, bars and restaurants, you will find so many varying beer glasses of all shapes and sizes.

My favourite beer in Belgium is Leffe Bruin (Brown), though they also have a Blonde (Blond) one. It is not your ‘working man’s beer’ (so not comparable with a Budweiser in the USA). But it is a regular beer offered everywhere you go. But it is mighty fine and tasty. I also enjoy Chimay Blauw (Blue), which is really a trappist. It is another darker beer with a little higher alcohol content. [My mouth is beginning to water even now as I type.]

Another interesting thing to note about beer in Belgium is that many of them are of a higher alcoholic percentage – 8, 10 and 12%. So they can get pretty high, almost like the alcohol percentage of a glass of wine.

The only negative about Belgian beers is that, as they get higher in alcohol content, it seems the sweeter they become. So, they can get kind of sweet, which can wear on your taste buds after a little while.

Beer is just part of European culture. You can even get one of those Jupiler’s at McDonald’s. There is no secondary thought of whether it’s wrong. It just is part of life, no questions asked.

And so, being one who very much enjoys beer, I am glad to be in Belgium. I’m collecting differing bottles, glasses, and tasting the various kinds of beer available in this little land. Therefore, just as I am thankful God created Asians for their amazing food, I am grateful God created Belgians and their lovely beers.


9 thoughts on “A Theology of Beer

  1. If you ever get a chance to try Affligem, its a very nice Belgian beer. I too like Leffe (esp. the Brown). Another little known beer that I found at a Trader Joe’s in the Chicago area is Black Toad. I don’t know that its very widely distributed. It’s closer to a Guinness, but for some reason I liked it better.

    Anyhow, keep honoring the lord in all you eat and drink.

    “Blessed art thou yhwh our God, king of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine.”

  2. Thanks for the comment. Never heard of Black Toad, though I like Guinness. And Guinness is best in Dublin!! There must be tens of thousands of unknown beers around the world. I like Mosi from Zambia as well. Thanks again.

  3. @ Scott:

    Enjoyed the post. Not a beer man like yourself – although i enjoy having a drink every once and a while.

    I do agree with your usage of Ephesians 5.18 does not prohibit drinking. However, I would like to emphasize that in the passage we find a prohibition against drunkenness. So, being drunk is more than unhealty. It’s a sin (also see Proverbs 20.1; 1 Corinthians 5.11; and Romans 13.3)

  4. How sad, all of this to try and make yourself feel better about doing something you know you shouldn’t do. The goal of a Christian is to become more Christ-like and less world-like. Using this “theology”, a person could replace beer with anything else and who could say it was wrong? Anyone could twist the scriptures like you have to justify themselves. Why should a Christian partake in an industry that has killed millions and broken apart untold numbers of families, and untold millions of more personal tragidies. Why should a Christian partake in this industry? Every time you buy alcohol, you invest in this evil industry, period. Same with cigaretts. So be a fool and keep on investing in satans economy. You will regret it one day. If you have a problem quitting, its better to be honest about it, but dont be a fool and try to justify it. I dont like the thought of a holy God sitting down drinking a budwiser. But according to you, thats what He would do. Beer in heaven? what a joke. Stop it. And stop it now.

  5. Charles –

    I, unfortunately, think you have misunderstood my post. First, I would encourage you to interact with the Scriptures, which I have quoted. I don’t believe I am twisting anything, but looking at them in their original context.

    Of course, alcohol can be used for evil, but I will never use it for evil. Anything can be used for evil – internet, movies, alcohol, clothing, food, etc. We can use whatever we want for evil. But my desire is to use it for God’s glory and understanding what it says. I love Scripture, for it is from God.

    The Christian should not just toss everything out that could be used for evil, but to use those things properly and to God’s glory. I want to use the internet to His glory, I want to dress to His glory, I want to eat to His glory, I want to enjoy a walk in the park to His glory, I want to enjoy a beer to His glory. As Paul said, whatever you do, whether eating or drinking, do it to the glory of God. I don’t want to get drunk, but God’s people can enjoy a beer to His glory.

    Thanks for the interaction.

  6. Scott,

    Let me see if I can ask you a direct question and see if I can get a simple straight answer from you:

    Do you think you would honor God more by drinking alcohol, or by not drinking alcohol?

    Also, I do not believe you have not gotten drunk. The fact is if you were to be honest is that you have been drunk. It’s crystal clear to me that alcohol is some thing that is causing conflict in your life, but this is not the way to deal with it. Listen to the foolishness of your own words-internet, movies, alcohol, clothing, food. How many families has “food” torn apart? How many people have had their life cut short from “movies? How many people have lost their virginity or some other thing that they would later regret because they were under the influence of “clothes”? It is so sad to me that we have so many foolish people like you in positions of authority in the Church today. I have no doubt that you love the Lord, my problem is that your understanding of the Scriptures are skewed with the things of the world. Surely you are intelligent enough to know that this is a very controversial subject in the church to say the least so why even go there? Dont we have much more important business to be about? Think of what you are partaking in every time you drink alcohol. What does alcohol represent in this world? The sleazy commercials, death and destruction, misery and broken lives, etc all brought to you courtesy of satan himself and just think, you are entering into that every time you drink alcohol, just like every time you partake with communion, you enter into the suffering of Christ. The bottom line is The Christian should have no part in this. Period.

  7. Charles –

    I must admit that I find your comments very harsh and un-Christ-like. I don’t even know if we can have a conversation together because I believe conversation takes two people listening to one another. You are writing me off, calling me foolish, defaming my character and saying that I get drunk. I don’t know what to say to such language that has no hint of Christ. I’m not sensing any desire of grace or of decent conversation between brothers in Christ. Please reconsider how to interact with me on this topic.

    This is the question you asked: Do you think you would honor God more by drinking alcohol, or by not drinking alcohol?

    I think one can honour God when drinking a glass of wine or beer. If there is no plan to get drunk, if you enjoy the taste and you are responsible, then you can glorify God. Or, let me ask this: How is it dishonouring to God for having one or two drinks, being responsible with your actions, and not getting drunk?

    You then ask: How many families has “food” torn apart? How many people have had their life cut short from “movies? How many people have lost their virginity or some other thing that they would later regret because they were under the influence of “clothes”?

    Let me ask this: How many families have been torn apart because of the internet? Many, due to pornography. But I am not going to turn off the internet because of this. Rather I look to be righteous in my interaction on the internet, not using it for evil. Abuse and misuse should not lead us to never utilise something. Rather this should lead us to be godly in all that we do and say. That is our response in Christ.

    Anything can be used for evil: food can be used for gluttony, clothing can be used for seductive acts, internet can be used for pornography, etc, etc. People can become addicted to coffee, but I am not addicted to it. I enjoy a couple of cups in the morning or possibly one in the afternoon. I can drink a beer, be responsible and God gets the glory because I have made a decision to be responsible and honouring in my actions by not getting drunk. It’s really a great opportunity to show godly and responsible living whereas many do not live this way.

    And, unfortunately, you have not interacted with any of the Scriptures I have referred to in my article. You simply keep defaming my character and you don’t even know me. Again, I’d love to have a conversation with you, but conversation is impossible when you speak so bad about me without knowing me. I cannot sense Christ in this at all. So, if you’d like to continue the interaction, please consider the Scriptures I quote in the article and my words in these comments. If you want to defame my character and blast me because I am not doing exactly what you say, then please don’t post anything here.

    Thanks for understanding.

  8. 20 Wisdom calls out in the street.
    She raises her voice in public places.
    21 At the noisy street corners she cries out.
    Here is what she says near the gates of the city.
    22 “How long will you childish people love your childish ways?
    How long will you rude people enjoy making fun of God and others?
    How long will you foolish people hate knowledge?
    23 Suppose you had paid attention to my warning.
    Then I would have poured out my heart to you.
    I would have told you what I was thinking.
    24 But you turned away from me when I called out to you.
    None of you paid attention when I reached out my hand.
    25 You turned away from all my advice.
    You wouldn’t accept my warning.
    26 So I will laugh at you when you are in danger.
    I will make fun of you when hard times come.
    27 I will laugh when hard times hit you like a storm.
    I will laugh when danger comes your way like a windstorm.
    I will make fun of you when suffering and trouble come.
    28 “Then you will call to me. But I won’t answer.
    You will look for me. But you won’t find me.
    29 You hated knowledge.
    You didn’t choose to have respect for the Lord.
    30 You wouldn’t accept my advice.
    You turned your backs on my warnings.
    31 So you will eat the fruit of the way you have lived.
    You will choke on the fruit of what you have planned.
    32 “Childish people go down the wrong path. They will die.
    Foolish people are satisfied with the way they live. They will be destroyed.
    33 But those who listen to me will live in safety.
    They will not worry. They won’t be afraid of getting hurt.”

  9. Charles –

    Unfortunately you have continued to not interact with the actual Scriptures I have posted in the article nor my comments. I am sorry we weren’t able to dialogue here. I would ask you to trust the One who is Lord. Maybe we will just have to agree to disagree.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s