Archive for the ‘Alcohol’ Category

What Should be Spent on Wine and Gambling?

January 8, 2012

Others have noted that there is inconsistency in the Koran regarding alcohol.  One of these passages comes from Surah 2.  The particular ayah is 219

219. They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: “In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.” They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: “What is beyond your needs.” Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider-

The usual point is that here there is no command toward total abstinence, and there is an indication that there is some profit in them.  That is, they are not simply sin.  There is another point that can be made, though.  Suppose we ask how much should be spent on wine and gambling?  This ayah seems to indicate that the answer that should be given by Muslims is “Your disposable income” (that is, what you have beyond what you need).

In analyzing this point, of course, one has to assume that the context interprets the text — an assumption that is not necessarily valid.  We know, for example, that order of the ayat in the Koran is not the order in which the ayat were allegedly revealed to Mohammed.

Nevertheless, in order to avoid making the sentence (They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: “What is beyond your needs.”) a floating maxim, we need to try to interpret it contextually.  After all, the object of this spending is not identified in the sentence itself and so need to be supplied from the context.  There are basically two options for context.  Context precedent and context subsequent.  Context precedent suggests that the Koran is talking about spending on wine and gambling.  This approach makes sense, particularly because the very next sentence alleges perspicuity.  (“Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider-(Their bearings) on this life and the Hereafter.”)

Some may point out that “They ask thee…” may introduce a subject change.  After all, in the next Ayah, we see this:

220. (Their bearings) on this life and the Hereafter. They ask thee concerning orphans. Say: “The best thing to do is what is for their good; if ye mix their affairs with yours, they are your brethren; but Allah knows the man who means mischief from the man who means good. And if Allah had wished, He could have put you into difficulties: He is indeed Exalted in Power, Wise.”  

Notice that “They ask thee concerning orphans …” seems to introduce a new topic.  Yet this is not a rigid rule in the Koran, even in this Surah.  For example, only a few ayat earlier, the Koran states:

215. They ask thee what they should spend (In charity). Say: Whatever ye spend that is good, is for parents and kindred and orphans and those in want and for wayfarers. And whatever ye do that is good, -(Allah) knoweth it well.

216. Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not. 

217. They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: “Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members.” Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you Turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein.

Notice that here there is a shift from discussing spending on charity to fighting.  Note in particular that “They ask thee concerning fighting …” does not introduce a new topic.  It provides a specific detail about the immediately preceding topic.  Moreover, notice that the new topic of fighting was introduced without the use of “They ask … .”

Others may point out that in this Surah, spending often refers to charitable or devotional spending.  For example:

3. Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them;

177. It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah.fearing.

195. And spend of your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction; but do good; for Allah loveth those who do good.

215 (already presented above)

261-265 The parable of those who spend their substance in the way of Allah …

270. And whatever ye spend in charity or devotion, be sure Allah knows it all. But the wrong-doers have no helpers.

274. Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

This larger context certainly might seem to lend credibility to the idea that spending is not spending on wine and gambling, but on charity.   On the other hand, 215 already answered the question about what should be spent on charity.  So, interpreting 219 as referring to spending on charity seems to make it redundant with 215.

Moreover, there is another pattern that emerges from a study of this Surah.

The expression “Thus doth Allah make clear His Signs to men” is introduced to wrap up one topic and move on to a different topic in 187.  Then a similar expression is used in a similar way in 221 and then again in 242 and 266.

A similar approach is also used in 3:103, Surah 4 ends in that way, and 5:89 uses the expression to separate a discussion on how to cure the moral damage from breaking an oath from a discussion on gambling and drinking.


90. O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan’s handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.

91. Satan’s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain? 

What was previously some profit and great sin is now an “abomination” from Mohamed’s followers must abstain.

Of course, the above understanding isn’t the understanding of the Sunni.  They don’t interpret 2:219 as suggesting that people should spend only their disposable income on wine and gambling.  They likewise are reluctant to see “abomination of Satan’s handwork” (5:90) as being in conflict with “some profit” (2:219).  That isn’t their view of the Koran, and their scholars do not (to my knowledge) agree with my analysis above.

But the Koran calls itself the “Qur’an that makes things clear” (15:1) and claims “We sent down the Book to thee for the express purpose, that thou shouldst make clear to them those things in which they differ, and that it should be a guide and a mercy to those who believe.” (15:64)


Wine and God’s Law

September 8, 2011

The law (namely the Torah – the five books of Moses) discusses wine many times.  There are some negative references, for example:

Noah – Negative
Gen 9:21  And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

Lot’s Daughters – Negative
Gen 19:32  Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.

Temple Service – Negative
Leviticus 10:9  Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:

Nazarite – Negative
Numbers 6:3 & 20 He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. … And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine.

These negative references do show us that wine can be abused, and they provide us some negative examples by which we can be warned to avoid abuse of wine.

However, there are numerous passages that positively refer to wine:

Melchizedek – Positive
Gen 14:18  And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

Isaac’s Blessing – Positive

Gen 27:25 & 28 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank. … Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:

Jacob’s Blessing – Positive
Genesis 49:10-12
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: his eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.

Drink Offering – Positive
Exodus 29:40  And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering.

Leviticus 23:13  And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.

Numbers 15:5, 7, and 10 And the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering shalt thou prepare with the burnt offering or sacrifice, for one lamb. … And for a drink offering thou shalt offer the third part of an hin of wine, for a sweet savour unto the LORD. … And thou shalt bring for a drink offering half an hin of wine, for an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.

Numbers 18:12  All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.

Numbers 28:7 & 14  And the drink offering thereof shall be the fourth part of an hin for the one lamb: in the holy place shalt thou cause the strong wine to be poured unto the LORD for a drink offering. … And their drink offerings shall be half an hin of wine unto a bullock, and the third part of an hin unto a ram, and a fourth part of an hin unto a lamb: this is the burnt offering of every month throughout the months of the year.

Deuteronomy 12:17  Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand:

Deuteronomy 14:23 & 26  And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. … And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,

Blessing for Obedience – Positive
Deuteronomy 7:13  And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.

Deuteronomy 11:14  That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.

Slave Release – Positive

Deuteronomy 15:12-14
And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.

Feast of Tabernacles – Positive
Deuteronomy 16:13  Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine:

Priest Wages – Positive
Deuteronomy 18:4  The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.

Curse for Disobedience – Positive
Deuteronomy 28:39  & 51 Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them … And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which also shall not leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee.

Blessing on the Twelve Tribes – PositiveDeuteronomy 33:28  Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew.

These positive passages make it practically impossible to demand that somehow consuming wine is sinful or imprudent.  Wine is a blessing from God, and can be received as such.

For the sake of completeness, there are a couple additional references that I have categorized as “hard to say.”  I think that some folks might see them as negative, but it is hard to really see them as meaningfully negative with respect to wine itself.

Journey in Wilderness – Hard to Say
Deuteronomy 29:6  Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.

Prophesied Destruction of Israel – Hard to Say
Deuteronomy 32:32-33 & 38

For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. … Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.

– TurretinFan

Dining at Dover

January 24, 2008

Years ago, before the Chunnel, Dover England was known for its white, chalk cliffs. These rocks are very in calcium: in fact they are mostly calcium carbonate. Calcium is an important mineral for human life. Bones have a large calcium composition, and most doctors these days recommend calcium supplements to women, especially as the approach and pass menopause.

It would be absurd to seize on the fact of Calcium’s importance, to move to Dover and start dining on its cliff faces. Living off the land: literally! It wouldn’t just be absurd, it would be deadly. A person would die if he attempted to do such a thing.

We see a similar mistake in a recent post by “Orthodox,” who states: “White is effectively telling us that tradition ought to influence our interpretation of the text,” and then continues, “Great! But by how much, one might ask? Once given permission to employ this principle, he can hardly complain if we really employ it, can he?” (emphasis original) (source)

And of course, the answer is that we can complain if people abuse any good thing. Paul gave Timothy permission to drink alcohol:

1 Timothy 5:23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.

But that was not permission for Timothy to get really “medicated” whenever he wanted. Frankly, it would be absurd to suggest such a thing, and it would take a die-hard alcoholic to seek to justify his abuse by reference to that verse.

Even so, tradition has a place. Tradition is useful, and it is arrogant to ignore tradition. The Reformers have been noting this from the beginning of the Reformation. Orthodox mentions one part of the Dividing Line message (link to DL) that interested him, but he forgets to mention that Calvin (for example) frequently made reference to and relied on the teachings of the early church fathers.

“Orthodox” mockingly claims that if “ignoring the historical position of the church equals arrogance, then being a Reformed Baptist has got to be pretty high on the arrogance scale,” but his comment simply betrays his own ignorance of Reformed Baptists. It’s hardly the case that “Reformed Baptists” ignore church history. They may get some of it wrong, and they may have difficulty justifying their baptismal practices historically, but they don’t “ignore” history – at least none that I have met do.

“Orthodox” also asks: “why are they holding positions unknown in the history of the first 15 centuries of church?” (of which, “Orthodox” supposes that limited atonement is an example) Poor “Orthodox” – I really think he believes his own propaganda, and yet it is cruelly ironic, because he is demonstrating his ignorance of church history.

Limited atonement can be viewed, and I’ll not get into the full argument here (nor in the combox), as simply a more developed explanation of atonement as that provided by Anselm of Cantebury (1033-1109) and expanded upon by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). “Orthodox” may even be surprised to realize that the controversy over “limited atonement” actually post-dates Calvin (not because Calvin was a universalist as the Amyraldians would like to content), but simply because it was not a matter of debate. It became an issue when the universalist position became advocated by the Remonstrants.

Indeed, while limited atonement per se may not have been discussed previously, it was largely because of a lack of controversy. It is not as though Calvin or Luther cast of the shackles of universalism to rediscover the truth of limited atonement: instead, the Reformation more fully developed soteriological doctrines that were already known.

But that historical trivia is mostly an ironic aside. The bottom line is that whether or not the doctrine were merely a revival of a Scriptural doctrine, or a better explanation of an existing doctrine within Western Christianity, tradition is not the end of the matter. In the former case, if the Bible says it, we must believe it, and we must buck the contrary tradition, though not without caution. In the latter case, we must be sure to confirm that the doctrine is not just traditional but also Biblical.

In short, we must have a balanced diet. We must use our minds: we must search Scripture. On the other hand, we must do so with caution, aware of our own fallibility, and appreciative of the effort of theological giants that have gone before us. We must resist the urge to cast off the traditions of the elders in favor of anarchy and antinomianism. Tradition is good and useful, as part of healthy church life. But we’d be Dover diners to try to live by tradition rather than by the Word of God.

As Luther pointed out, relying on tradition alone ends most controversies: but does so by doctrinal stagnation. Deep mud doesn’t create a stir – in fact it, in a sense, stabilizes; but those mired therein are not better for the stability it provides. Don’t fall prey to Satan’s devices: do not cease to search Scripture.

May God give us wisdom as we do so,


The Real Turretin – on Christian Liberty

January 14, 2008

Andrew Compton has provided a transcription (with commentary) of what the Real Francis Turretin had to say about Christian Liberty (first part) (second part). These thoughts are especially timely in a day when the Baptists are drawing new battle lines over the issue of forbidding folks from drinking.

Thanks, Andrew, for publishing his remarks!


Fictional Dialog with Arthur Legalist

December 19, 2007

is Gnu Believer interviews Arthur Legalist in this recent dialog:

G. Believer: Welcome, Arthur. Why have you agreed to come on the show?
A. Legalist: Well, I want to talk to you about a real problem I’ve noticed.
GB: What’s that?
AL: It’s really the worst sin of our time. It has destroyed many lives.
GB: What’s that? Non-Christianity, Murder, Idolatry, Adultery, Profanity/Blasphemy, Covetousness, Theft, Disobedience to Parents, Sabbath-breaking, or Lying?
AL: No, not exactly.
GB: Failure to Love God or our neighbor?
AL: No.
GB: What then?
AL: It’s the scourge of [omitted].
GB: Interesting. The folks who led me to Christ taught me that our rule of faith and life is Scripture – but I don’t know Scripture that well.
AL: (nodding)
GB: So, pardon my ignorance, but where does the Bible condemn [omitted].
AL: Well, it doesn’t explicitly do so, at least not in so many words. The Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt not [omitted].” But the only biblical position that Christians today can have is one of total avoidance of [omitted].
GB: Didn’t Paul sort of encourage [omitted]?
AL: Yes. That’s true, but it’s been abused.
GB: I’m not that sage, but does the Bible say that if something is abused it must be prohibited?
AL: Not in so many words.
GB: So, whose rule is this?
AL: Well, it’s mine – but its the only sensible and proper thing. We Christians are called to be wise, and this is the wise thing to do.
GB: Again, I’m not such a seasoned Christian as you are, but perhaps a better solution would be to curb the abuse of [omitted].
AL: NO! WE MUST STOP [omitted] NOW! And if you don’t agree, I’m going to see to it that trouble comes your way.

Now, consider for yourself what was omitted from that dialog.


It’s a very dangerous thing to start accreting rules of life that are not Scriptural.

May God be thanked for all that He gives,


Keywords: Cosmetics, Jewelry, Meat, Caffeine, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Carbs, Fat, Sugar, Sugar-Substitutes, Motorcycling, Slavery, Tatoos, Rational Thought, Time at Work, Time with your Family

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