Two Christians fellas walk into a bar. Not only is it the best place to watch the game, but it is also a good place to meet those who need Christ most. Following in Christ’s steps (hangin’ with tax-gatherers and drunkards), these two guys pull up a stool at the bar. The bartender says, “What il ya have?” Having been down this road before, the two guys order a beer. They do this for two reasons. First and foremost, they like beer. They call it “Nectar from above” (they are from Oklahoma so cut them some slack). Second, it helps them should a witnessing opportunity arise. Not only does it make them feel a bit more relaxed, but, most importantly, it makes others at the bar feel more relaxed. The first time they went there, they just ordered water. After sitting there with their water, tracts, and Bibles decorating the table, smiling at all the passers-by, they soon realized that they were one step away from a honky-tonk plague. No one would talk to them. They found that having a beer in their hand was like a soothing balm for their personality. Besides, they love beer.

However, there is always the awkward situation when the bottle runs low and the bar-tender asks “Do you want another?” They don’t know how much is too much.

Christians fall all over the board on this issue.

Alcoholic Christians (drunk all the time): Some Christians are alcoholics who can’t get the problem under control. They drink nearly every day. They know its wrong, but they have accepted this as “their sin.” Others have anger issues. Some don’t share their faith. Many are gluttons for worldly possessions. These are alcoholics who drown out their sorrow and depression with a bottle.

Social-drinking Christians (drunk sometimes): Many Christians drink alcohol on “special” occasions. Whether it is a ball game, the staff Christmas party, an after work glass of wine (or two), or just a weekend, they are game. Every once in a while, they drink “too much,” but they would not consider this a sin since they believe the Bible’s primary prohibition is against being progressively controlled by alcohol. After all, Ps 104:15 says that God made wine for the purpose of making the “heart glad.” Yes, the Bible is against being a “drunkard,” but they don’t consider themselves “drunkards” since it is only occasionally that they get drunk and a “drunkard” is one who is always controlled by alcohol. Even in Eph. 5:18 where we are told not to get drunk, the verb is in the present progressive tense which may be understood as the continual act of getting drunk. As well, in 1 Tim. 3:3, the qualification for an elder is one who is not addicted to alcohol. So, to them, getting drunk from time to time is not sinful.

Gospel-driven drinking Christians (tipsy sometimes): Some Christians drink alcohol intentionally in order to open doors for the Gospel. They may or may not like alcohol themselves. Either way, they go to bars and social events where alcohol is involved in order to engage the unbeliever. They might even sponsor events where they provide the alcohol. “After all,” they think to themselves, “Wasn’t Christ a bartender at the wedding of Cana?” (John 2). In many places, they actually start churches in bars. While they are careful more about how much they drink, they don’t mind “feeling the effects.” They are drunk rarely but as they drink, they may have one, two, or three past the border of sobriety becoming “tipsy.” For them, while getting drunk is a sin, being “tipsy” is not.

Soft teetotalism (never drink themselves): Many Christians are teetotalists, meaning that they abstain from alcohol all-together. A “soft” teetotalist is one who personally does not ever drink, but does not think it is necessarily wrong for others. The reasons for the abstinence here vary. Many are recovering from their own addictions. Others have family members who have been deeply affected by alcohol. Some just don’t like the taste of alcohol or the feeling that accompanies drinking.

Hard teetotalism (no Christian should ever drink): There are quite a few Christians who not only abstain from alcohol themselves, but think that all Christians should abstain. “Wine is a mocker and strong drink a brawler and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1). Wisdom humbly stays away from alcohol. These believe that the effects of alcohol on individuals and societies are tremendously harmful to the Gospel. Christians should set the example by ensuring that they are always sober minded. Social drinking, even if just one drink, can cause others to stumble. Its best just to stay away all-together. For these, the type of alcohol offered today is much stronger than what was available in Biblical times, so any comparison is misleading.

Where do you fall?

If you are a drinking Christian, how much is too much? When has the line been crossed?

(I have also put a poll up about this).

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    117 replies to "How Much is Too Much? Alcohol and the Christian"

    • JT

      I remember driving a non-Christian home from school, and he was a drug user… so he ask me if using drugs was wrong like marijuana. Being a new Christian, i didn’t know how to answer him so i told him i would get back to him. So i browse the internet, suprisingly there was a lot of sites that said God made weed and therefore it is good in some kind of context like that. So i ask my pastor and this was how he answer me. God made sex, and sex is good. But we live in a sinful world and sex can be used in a bad way. I think that applies to drinking too as far as answering the question how much is too much.

    • EricW

      This video should answer the question of whether or not Christians should drink:

      Of course, watching this may drive you to drink!

      (FYI, he discusses their doctrines beginning about 6:40 through 9:48.)

    • Jim Chandler

      I fall into the soft teetotalism myself. I used to drink occasionally, now with children I don’t want them to think it is okay.

    • Moara

      I think I’m the inverse of a “Gospel-driven drinking Christian,” in that I only drink if I know that noone present has a problem with alcohol.

      I base this on the general idea presented in the bible that being drunk (and turning to alcohol rather than God for your happiness) is a sin. And also on Romans 14, with the idea that, although I may be free to drink, if doing so causes pain to a brother, or makes it harder for them not to sin, then I shouldn’t do it.

      That’s why I truly appreciate Vladimir’s position. I think it’s important for us to hear his situation, and his experience of the darker side of alcohol and how it relates to the bible. I think as Christians, it’s important for us to not just form our own opinions, but to learn from one another.

      I have so many friends who are the children of alcoholics, and have had so much pain inflicted on them because of alcohol, or who are caught up in the party atmosphere of university, and if they’re not on their way to becoming alcoholics, are at least depending on alcohol to evade dealing with their own lives (and in some cases, this means avoiding dealing with the gospel), that I can’t in good consience drink around them.

      I’ve had several situations (office parties and the like) where there hasn’t actually been anything non-alcoholic to drink, until I asked for it, and they scrounged something up. I’m secure enough in what I beleive that I don’t mind doing that, but I think it would be much harded to do for a recovering alcoholic, and so I think that’s what God wants me to do in that kind of situation.

      However, when I’m at a dinner party with a group of friends, and I know that none of them have issues with alcohol, I will try a glass of wine, or an appertif.

      Anyway, I figure this discussion is well over, but I just thought I’d add my 2 cents.

    • Eric

      I guess I’d be considered a Social-Drinking Christian (drunk sometimes), honestly that is also because I’m still young, and I’m just getting the thrill of getting drunk here and there. But I’ve improved so much over the last year with how much I drink. IF I drink now, its very seldom, and its with someone I’m close with, and no real big ‘partying’ I don’t look at it as a sin considering I’ve got it under control, and its only on certain occasions. Now before I became a Christian, I looked at it as a major sin in my life because I did it very frequently, I just wanted to get drunk, now I do it just occasionally to relax with some old friends or family. and I’m never ‘hammered’.

    • Tom

      The definition of “drunk” is flexible, like it or not. To those with no taste for alcohol, it is easy to define, and therefore condemn their brothers.

    • […] viewpoint can be found on the following sites: one blogger asks how much is too much? (here), Mark Driscol gives his thoughts on the use of alcohol (here), pastor-scholar Doug Wilson offers […]

    • […] How much is too much? – Alcohol and the Christian by Michael Patton […]

    • […] How much is too much? – Alcohol and the Christian by Michael Patton […]

    • Tom

      I come from the Prohibitionist side of the argument historically. My Grandfather was an alcoholic and even he would warn his grandchildren not to ever take that first drink. I did not even try alcohol until I was in my 50s. I now enjoy a glass of beer or wine at a meal. That is the only time I partake of alcohol. I purposefully do not have more than one glass of either as I am not sure if more might kick in a propensity for it inherited from him. I did purposely get drunk on a bottle of wine one time just to experience it…never again. I believe in moderation over the other positions but will definitely switch to the abstaining position in honor of a fellow believer if their position is different than mine. I do not hide the fact that I enjoy wine and/or beer with a meal.

    • Aaron

      I dont drink and think drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Ive seen too many people get delivered from alcohol and other sins and lose the desire for them altogether to think casual drinking is ok. If it was ok, why would Hod take the desire from my wife who did just about everything before she got saved, instantly when she got saved.
      I do believe if a Christian let’s themself be tempted too much for too long by something, they will find a scripture or its Greek or Hebrew meaning or whatever to convince themselves it’s ok. Or they can be just like society now with homosexuality. They believe God and the Bible is too old fashioned and has to change to what they want and accept. So Christians who want to drink van simply tell God “Everybody drinks, it’s advertised everywhere, so I will drink. But I still love God so all is fine. Nothing shall separate me from tje love of God, just like Romans 8 says.”
      Yes, that scripture is true. Not even sin can separate you from the love of Hod because God loves everyone. Saints and sinners. But God every soul God will send to Hell, he will love. So sin separates you from God himself. And for ne, even casual drinking would be a sin because the Holy Spirit lead and guided me in all truth and one part of that truth is alcohol being an unclean thing. :Come out from among them, separate yourselves and touch mmmot the unclean thing and I will receive you. Meaning if you do touch the unclean thingI wont recieve you.

    • Robert Mullins

      “How much is too much?”

      Interesting question…

      I’d say you’ve had too much to drink when you’re passed out naked in your tent, and when you wake up you go on an epic rant and curse the son who went to get help for you. And all his descendants.

      Um, yeah. Then its time to seek help. Remember kids, don’t get high on your own supply.

    • Abram Cantu

      I guess we shouldn’t eat either, food can be addictive. It is not what you drink or eat is it how much you drink or eat.
      Biblical persons drank in access then this means they will go to hell.If you cannot control how much you eat then you should not eat. Does this make sense?

    • Jeremy

      I only drink in social situations. Helps take the edge off and like the Bible says it makes me “glad”. I drink until I get a good strong buzz. It really does make the social interaction that much more enjoyable! I never used to drink…I was missing out big time.

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