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.