Monday, November 16, 2009

The Irony and Humor of Teaching What the Bible Actually Says About Alcohol

Dr. Randy Jaeggli is Professor of Old Testament at Bob Jones University. Last year Dr. Jaeggli published a paperback book entitled The Christian and Drinking where he examined all of the verses in the Bible dealing with alcohol. Dr. Jaeggli's personal conclusion, as one would expect, was that every Christian should totally abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages. However, his scholarly and academic conclusion was a tad different. He wrote that the Bible itself does not command abstinence. Indeed, Dr. Jaeggli points out several places in the sacred text which seem to imply that alcohol is associated with some positive Christian values or serve as a metaphor for foundational Christian truths. He personally advocates total abstinence but writes the Bible prohibits excessive drinking only. To the horror of some fundamentalists, Dr. Jaeggli writes convincingly that Jesus turned the water into actual alcoholic wine at Canaan. An excellent review of Dr. Jaeggli's book is given by Jonathan Taylor.

Yesterday, a blogger going by the name Ektachrome made me aware of an email sent by the President of Bob Jones University a couple of months ago. The email read:

The sensitivity and complexity of the topic of (Dr. Jaeggli's) book, combined with the brevity and inductive arrangement of it, have caused confusion for some readers. They have concluded from some select portions of the text that Dr. Jaeggli condones a Christian’s moderate use of alcohol, which is the opposite of what the book actually teaches.
I'm not sure about the confusion to which the President refers. Dr. Jaeggli was quite clear he personally advocated abstinence. Could it be that his impartial, scholarly, and conservative approach to the sacred text brought about the confusion? Could it be that some readers realized that the good professor's convictions went beyond the commandments of Scripture? In other words, did people read his book and become clear about what the Bible actually says about the subject, but confused about the grounds for total abstinence for every Christian?

It seems the President's email didn't slow the firestorm over the book. Now, Bob Jones University has pulled the book from its shelves, and has decided to no longer make it available to the public. Hmmmm.

Now, if you wish to purchase the little $10.95 paperback you will have to shell out $999.00 to Amazon for the privilege.


Wade Burleson


Ramesh said...

Since the book has only 72 pages and the publisher is Bob Jones University, maybe Dr. Jaeggli can get his book into public domain by donating his book via Google Books, for wide and free dissemination.

Fascinating! Now lot more people will know the truth about what the Bible actually says about drinking wine. The more they suppress, more the curiosity of the public to know what is actually going on.

Steven Stark said...

A fine scotch is great too. Perhaps if the "Wedding at Cana" had been the "Wedding at Glencoe" - then it would have been barrels of the "water of life".

DL said...

I hate it when our postsuppositions don't line up with the text! It's doggone inconvenient!

J. Travis Moger said...

There are many cultural difference between biblical times and today. The Bible doesn’t condemn slavery yet most Christians do today. What about Jesus' command to take no oaths? Paul's head coverings for women? Polygamy? I could go on.

We have to apply biblical principles to our own cultural context not simply ape the standards we find in the sacred text. Forgive me for agreeing with a Bob Jones fundamentalist, but given the rampant alcoholism in our time I think Dr. Jaeggli’s position makes sense.

Bill said...

Now even the Fundamentalists are censoring themselves --wow

This is a good one

Travis--I think you have confused many issues

Bible does allow for slavery, but not in the manner you think ie if a master "sturck/hit" a slave they were automatically free. Think of Biblical slavery much more like an endentured servanthood.

The teaching about oaths means--say what you mean and mean what you say--which would make oaths totally unnecessary among men

head coverings--I will let someone else handle that, but again, you miss the point. I know that it is a headship issue etc, but it was also a society issue as well

When/Where does the Bible "Command" polygamy?

As far as drinking goes-- If the consumption of alcohol is a sin then Jesus and the Apostles were sinners in this area. Also the Apostle Paul in his command to Timothy to drink a little wine for thy stomach's sake would be encouraging Timothy towards sinful behavior. BTW, I am the son of an alcoholic and sadly put my father to shame in this manner, but for me to preach total abstinence is to make mockery of the Word of God and to be guilty of Not Truly Dividing the Word of God Rightly.

By His Grace,


Romans 5:1 said...

J. Travis Moger,

Forgiveness is not needed! I have taught repeatedly and consistently that the conviction of abstinence is to be respected, honored and commended in all who hold to it.


Unknown said...

AH... the banning/burning of books that diverge from our traditions on a given topic and actually dare to teach what the Bible clearly says. Now where in Church History have I heard of this before?

Sad, but predictable behavior from the “Batholics”…

Grace Always,

Bob Cleveland said...

It's just the age-old story of people thinking they know better than somebody else, how that somebody ought to act.

Beware of inerrantists who say the Bible means what it says, but just doesn't say enough.

GEaston said...

G&T2U: There are a lot of things at play here...

First of all, BJU's long-standing feud with the ultra-conservative paper, Sword of the Lord. It was the SOTL current editor that called attention to this "evil book."

Second, before they are allowed to graduate, BJU students are required to sign a pledge to "shut the school down" if the University wavers from ol' Dr. Bob, Sr.'s standards & convictions. So, theres's a constant fear of alumni retribution and a drying up of alumni contributions.

Third, BJU has been under fire for not being KJV Only. BJU's textbook division, BJPress has a one big competitor: A Beka Book Publications located on the campus of Pensacola Christian College. ABB & PCC have harshly criticized BJU for being the "leaven of fundamentalism" and watering down the KJV Bible. BJU's declining enrollment and loss of Christian textbook market share are evidence that fundamentalists may be going to school & home school) elsewhere.

So the last thing BJU needed was another "problem" -- so they pulled the book.

Too bad, really...

Christiane said...


You wrote this: " Now lot more people will know the truth about what the Bible actually says about drinking wine. The more they suppress, more the curiosity of the public to know what is actually going on."

Wow. Is this because the OT is not read as much, by some denominations?
How could people possibly understand terms like the 'Vine of David' in the Didache without references to the OT?
Or 'the blood of the grape' in the OT without references to the NT?

I hope the book is published and read, if it increases respect for the integral structure of the Holy Scriptures.
Much of the isolated 'drive-by scripture tossing' crrently practiced is not respectful of the Bible's reliability, when taken as a whole. Taken in its totality, the the Scriptures beautifully unfold God's revelation to us as the story of Salvation in a way that increases our understanding.
In that way, no 'agenda' can isolate verses to teach a 'new and different' doctrine that denies Christ made wine, and that He instituted the 'cup of blessing'.

Pax Christi,

DL said...

"Beware of inerrantists who say the Bible means what it says, but just doesn't say enough."

I'm a firm believer in verbal plenary inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility, which is why I think it's just as sinful to add to the text as take away from it.

Paul Burleson said...

Bob Cleveland,

I thought what you said deserves repeating..."Beware of inerrantists who say the Bible means what it says, but just doesn't say enough."

Paul Burleson said...

Darby beat me to it. Sorry.

DL said...

It should probably be repeated another couple more times anyway Paul.

believer333 said...

"Bible does allow for slavery, but not in the manner you think ie if a master "sturck/hit" a slave they were automatically free. Think of Biblical slavery much more like an endentured servanthood."

Do you have a quote for this info.

Tom Parker said...


What is it about people who try so hard to say the Bible says something when it does not? I'll be very honest with you people like that scare me because what else will they do to make the Bible fit what they they already believe.

Seems to have a lot to do with controlling people.

Ramesh said...

Tom Parker: Please watch this sunday's sermon of Pastor Wade. I also left a comment here. It speaks about your comment.

Anonymous said...

We can't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bible teaches alcoholic abstinence anymore than we can say for certain that the Bible teaches monergism. Which is why dogmatic teaching about alcohol, soteriology, or tertiary issues is arrogant. The Bible gloriously reveals enough for us to be peacefully certain about eternity, but leaves enough mystery for us to wonder at the glory and majesty of God. As long as each individual has a biblically-based (orthodox)conviction about any matter, more power to them!

Bill said...

Exodus Chapter 21 and Deuteronomy 15 are the main chapter which deal with slavery in the OT.

Ex 21:20 Says that if you hit a slave with a rod and they die, then the owner is to be "punished"

Ex 21:26-27 says that if an owner strikes a slave and causes bodily injury (ie the tooth or eye reference), the slave is "free"

Both Exodus 21 and Dt 15 state that slaves are to be released after 6 yrs of service but can become indentured servant/slaves for life. This is done publicly with the owner piercing the ear of the slave with an awl in the public square. It is done at the request of the slave (NEVER the perspective owner). This identifies the slave's permenant devotion to the owner and he is never to be freed.

Sorry for the confusion

Christiane said...


Related info on slavery:

Slavery in the early Christian movement:

"Many of the early Christians were slaves. They were treated as equals within the church. Perhaps because of their close contacts with slaves, the early Christian movement appears to have opposed slavery as an immoral institution:

30 to 330 CE: Many of the early Church fathers promoted the abolition of slavery: The Christians in Asia Minor "decried the lawfulness of it, denounced slaveholding as a sin, a violation of the law of nature and religion. They gave fugitive slaves asylum, and openly offered them protection."
According to a 19th century author Edward C. Rodgers, Maximum preached and wrote against it.
Those who entered upon a religious life gave freedom to their slaves.
Theodorus Studita gave particular directions, "not to employ those beings, created in the image of God, as slaves."
Polycarp [69 - 155 CE] and Ignatius of Antioch [circa 50 - circa 10 CE] manumitted their slaves on realizing the equality of the Christian law.
Emperor Constantine [306 - 337 CE] gave authority to the bishops to manumit slaves, and, as Emperor, granted Roman citizenship to many of those set free."

Christiane said...

Bill, here is an eloquent argument against slavery by St. Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th Century Anno Domini:

"What payment do you exchange for your nature which God has fashioned? God has said, 'Let us make man according to our image and likeness' [Gen 1.26]. Since we are made according to God's likeness and are appointed to rule over the entire earth, tell me, who is the person who sells and buys? Only God can do this; however, it does not pertain to him at all 'for the gifts of God are irrevocable' [Romans 11.29]. Because God called human nature to freedom which had become addicted to sin, he would not subject it to servitude again. If God did not subject freedom to slavery, who can deny his lordship? How does the ruler of the entire earth obtain dominion ... since every possession requires payment? How can we properly estimate the earth in its entirety as well as its contents? If these things are inestimable, tell me, how much greater is man's value who is over them? If you mention the entire world you discover nothing equivalent to man's honor. He who knows human nature says that the world is not an adequate exchange for man's soul."

Anonymous said...

Removing a book from the private Christian school's library that says that the author suggests total abstinence but that drinking a little is not a sin is similar to removing one that says that having sex outside marriage is a sin but if you do have casual sex use a condom.

In either case a person could choose to misinterpret this as saying, "Oh, it's okay to do it then." and begin to flirt with a dangerous activity.

The school obviously does not want to be seen as even coming close to representing this position and apparently have the rights to the book so what’s the beef?

Chris Ryan said...


Absolutely NO comparison. To say that *biblically* one is permitted to drink (although the wisdom of such in a modern context is more questionable) is nothing like saying that *biblically* one is supposed to abstain from sexual activity (but if you want to flagrantly oppose what the Bible teaches, then be "safe" about it). I don't know what logic class you took in college, but ask for your tuition back.

The school is free to promote whatever position it feels is best. The irony is that the school doesn't want to be seen as promoting the *biblical* position on alchol, instead promoting worldly wisdom. For a school that has generally taken such literal approaches to "holiness," I find the issue very, very , ironic.

And there may be (and is) danger to both drinking and promiscious sex. But it is just as dangerous, if not more so, to intentionally teach as Bible what is not biblical. It is just as dangerous to try and contort scripture to justify what it cannot justify. It is just as dangerous to teach and promote false doctrine. It is just as dangerous to restrict the freedom of conscience of another believer. It is just as dangerous to ban books and restrict access to information. Should I go on? There may be a danger of students reading what they want to read and not what is written, but the school is flirting with very dangerous territory as well.

Rev. said...

I blogged recently on the history of alcohol use within the Church and upon using wine (not grape juice) in communion. It was interesting to see the response.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Chris Ryan, on your belittling response to RRR and asking him to get back his tuition for fallacious logic. Your Christian witness is exactly why lost people are lining up to get inside our crowded churches on Sundays and Wednesdays.

DL said...

Congratulations Marvin for belittling Chris for belittling RRR for his response. You seem so concerned for the reputation of Christ. But Chris's response is probably no worse than you coming to my blog, insulting me, and calling me an ***hole in the comment stream when I have no idea who you are and have never interacted with you in my life. Of course, I deleted your profane insult before anyone had to bear too much of your upstanding Christian witness.

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christiane said...

Getting back to what the Bible 'says' about alcohol:
I think I understand that some Southern Baptists use
grape juice in place of wine which would have symbolized Christ's sacrifice, if they had used wine.

So the juice is a symbol
of a symbol (wine)
of a holy remembrance.

Now. Is there the custom of adding a tiny bit of water to the grape juice ?

And is there a spoken blessing before observing the remembrance of the Lord's Supper? If so, does the blessing correspond with Christ's Words in the Scriptures?
In short, what is the liturgical form of prayers said when handling the grape juice?

Love, L's

Anonymous said...

Dear Chris, Marvin and Darby,

Congratulations on belittling and belittling and let me take this chance to belittle too!

Ha! Just kidding, guys. I do appreciate Marvin giving me the benefit of a doubt concerning the intended point of my comment and Chris did hurt my feelings by questioning my education, i.e., intelligence.

I "could" say that Chris' comment about me suggests that Chris is prideful and thinks he's better than me but that would be belittling so I will just guess he's joking. What a funny guy you are, Chris!

Anyway, Chris, just to express this to you in my simple, uneducated way: my intended comparison between saying that "drinking is not "sin" but don't do it", and saying that "sex outside of marriage is a "sin" but if you choose to "sin" at least use a condom" was meant to suggest that some people will take either position as a way to justify ill-advised behavior.

Also, the school's motive could have been to just avoid risking a distorted interpretation of the book's intent with some using it to justify drinking which seriously jeopardizes Christian witness in our culture. That's all.

I know that, to some, this may not seem too bold on the school's part, but they have the right to decide that and not knowing otherwise, I would choose to give them the benefit of doubt.

Now, let's all do a man-hug and have fun!

Ramesh said...

Off Topic:

Women In Ministry [Cheryl Schatz] > Church led by woman pastor is forced out of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

ABP News > Georgia Baptists cut ties with church led by woman pastor.

Ramesh said...

Off Topic:

Suzanne McCarthy posted a comment, for the post When Inerrantists Espouse the Bible Has Error: A Question for Southern Baptists About Junia in Romans 16:7.

Very interesting comment.

Anonymous said...


I only insult Calvinists. That's why I'm a true Christian. ;-)

Steve said...

Leaders of our country from John Adams to today's Democrats have tried to change various rules to keep opposition voices from being heard. Even then, they generally agreed on what the founding documents of liberty actually said.

How sad to see that today's Phari- um, Fundamentalists are actually willing to revise the Scriptures to protect current-day sentimental habits and customs.

Does their version of Revelations still have that prohibition about changing the Book? (Wow. It suddnely makes more sense to be a Mormon now!)

Anonymous said...

Steve, the SBC version of the last book of the Bible is singular. ;-)

Lockheed said...

"...the conviction of abstinence is to be respected, honored and commended in all who hold to it..."

So the "weaker brother" position is to be commended?

Jape said...

Wow, are we actually seeing Nazism form with the banning of literature in the United States?