PART 6 CHURCH TEACHINGS
PART 6 CHURCH TEACHINGS
To Learn about Those Teachings That Are Considered Disputable
Over the years, I have attended many different faiths. Many are very similar. Follow the teachings of leadership and you will find favor with God and go to a better place at death. However, what separates most of them is the protocol for what a member has to do in order to believe that God approves of them.
Not knowing any better, I did what I was told. If you are reminded enough times that whatever you are asked to do will cause the supreme being of the universe to think better of you, you do it, no questions asked. On one occasion, a pastor didn’t like the length of my hair. He said that Jesus would never have his hair long. So, I got a haircut.
On another occasion, I was told by leadership that God forbad the drinking of alcohol of any amount. So, I stopped drinking altogether. I was eventually thought of highly enough by those in leadership to be placed in charge of overseeing a Bible study. After conducting this study for about three months, the owner of the house where the Bible study was being held asked me why the church placed a prohibition on drinking alcohol.
At this time, I was working at a Christian day school that was being operated by a different church other than the one I was attending. The pastor of the church that ran the Christian school held a different perspective as to whether a Christian was allowed to drink alcohol. So, what I decided to do was teach this subject from opposing views while making sure to let those know in attendance that I still followed the teachings of the church I was a member of. When I arrived at the Bible study to my amazement the pastor of the church I was attending showed up. He must have gotten word from someone as to what I was teaching on and how the teaching on it was going to be presented. After the message was delivered, everyone went home and all seemed to have gone well.
The next morning, I received a call from the pastor asking me to visit him at his office. When I arrived, he told me that he didn’t like the approach I took on teaching this subject from opposing views. I was surprised to hear this but I thought that if this was the way he felt, there was nothing else I could say that might appease him. I thought the meeting was over, but then the hammer fell.
He told me I was relieved of the Bible study. Apparently, he didn’t like the way the teaching was presented. I have to say that I was stunned. As I was having difficulty processing this decision, another pronouncement came forth.
He said that my family needed to move out from the housing accommodation that the church provided. This doesn’t insinuate that I was given free rent at this time, which I wasn’t. It simply meant that we were told to move out of the church housing and find a place to live outside of it. I took both decisions as saying, leave and go to a different church, I don’t want you here anymore.
Here I was, having begun to attend this ministry in the late 70’s, went on staff a short time later, attended Bible college having received a two-year degree in Christian Leadership, being asked to move to a different state and co-labor with the leadership there, which is where I was living at the moment, to being removed from a position of authority and being asked to leave the church all because I taught on a Biblical topic from opposing views.
The point I am trying to make is this. In some of the churches I attended, I will admit to experiencing God’s presence. At some of the other churches, God’s presence was no where to be found. However, what most of them had in common were these various commands of doing this or not doing that which were emphasized. Depending on which church you attend will determine how these commands are labeled. Some might call them legalistic, others controlling, and still others Biblical.
There are a few reasons as to why there is such divergence as to what commands leadership says to follow. One of them is that it depends on what verses they use to support their perspective. If a leader chooses to use a verse or verses from the Old Testament to support a New Testament doctrine, then more likely than not, he/she would be called a non-dispensationalist. If a leader chooses to use a verse or verses from the dispensation (a period of time where God incorporates His will, plan, and purposes for those who are living during a particular age) at hand to formulate a doctrine, then he/she would be called a dispensationalist.
A second reason is that this was the way this church decided to believe, when it first began. Another reason has to do with hermeneutics (exegesis). This has to do with Scriptural interpretation based on an analysis of grammatical features of the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and the Koine Greek along with the historical background (context). And finally, because there could be many meanings for the translation of a word or words in any of the three original languages, different meanings used could bring about different perspectives.
I understand that variances in doctrinal beliefs, which I call disputable, will occur. We can be attending a church where the Foundational, Intellectual, and Spiritual Growth teachings are sound and the presence of God is saturating but then, all of a sudden, a teaching comes forth and your mental response is huh? Did I just hear what I thought I heard? So, what do we do when a teaching sounds out of place?
Well, I would go to God in prayer and ask for guidance. I would study the topic further. And I would determine whether this is the exception to the rule. What I mean is, is this an isolated out from left field teaching or are there more on the way?
The disputable teachings that we will look at are those I have been acquainted with. When I heard them being taught from the pulpit of the church I was attending, I accepted them even though at the time I hadn’t really studied them in any kind of a concerted way. I was so thankful for what God had done and was doing in my life that I obeying the teaching with no reservation believing that those in leadership had solid Scriptural basis for backing them up.
As the years have gone by, I have had an opportunity to study these teachings and present them to you over the next few chapters. As I sometimes do, I will present them from opposing views i.e., from a dispensational approach and from a non-dispensational approach. No matter where your belief system stands, you will at least be made aware as to what is the Scripture basis that supports your view and what is the Scriptural basis that supports the opposing view. Are you ready to begin this undertaking?
There is one more thing to keep in mind as you read about these disputable doctrines. As I mentioned earlier, some churches will consider a perspective on a Biblical topic from another church as either being legalistic, manipulative, or Biblically based. This is just the way it is and will probably not change until Jesus comes back. My main concern is when a church takes most if not all of these disputable doctrines and incorporates them at the same time, the question is, at what point do they become spiritually and physically abusive? Hopefully, at a later point in this study, I will present the characteristics of such a church and you can decide for yourself as to whether this is going on in the assembly you are attending.
Are you ready to begin this undertaking of reading about opposing disputable doctrines?
What I would like to do now is present a disputable teaching that might come from either the Intellectual or Spiritual Growth Doctrines. In the second church I attended, which had a worldwide ministry, this was a teaching that was commanded for all of the assembly to follow to which I did for my nine-year duration there.
A. The Doctrine of drinking alcohol
- Dispensational Approach (Verses can be used from both the Old and New Testament)
A believer is not allowed to drink any amount of alcohol.
Let’s begin by going to the book of Luke.
I will not drink of the fruit of the vine
…I will not drink the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. (Luke 22:18b)
Jesus is with His disciples partaking of the last supper. He told them that He will not drink wine until the kingdom of God shall come. Some believe that this is a command to the church to not drink wine until Christ comes back again (at the second coming).
The next book of the Bible that is used to support this perspective is the book of John.
The miracle at Cana - The turning of water into wine
Suggested Reading: John 2:1-11
Jesus is attending a marriage in the village of Cana, being accompanied by His mother. Apparently, during the wedding celebration all of the wine had been drunk. Why was there no more wine to drink? Was it because everyone drank too much? Was it because they miscalculated the amount needed in regard to the number of people that showed up? Was it because of some other reason?
7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
Typically, a Jewish wedding would last for a week. Someone, in this case, known as the governor, would be in charge of the food and drink provisions. This could simply have been a case of a lack of oversight. His mother aware of the need for more wine urged Him to address this matter. Seeing that there were six empty water pots nearby, each possibly holding between 20-30 gallons of liquid, Jesus instructed the servants to fill all of them with water and bring them to the governor of the feast.
9…the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
When the governor tasted of this wine, he commended the bridegroom saying that usually at weddings the good wine is given out first followed by wine of lesser quality, but in this case, he had saved the best wine for last.
Some would teach that what took place here was that when water was added, the mixture produced was that of grape juice. They allege that the miracle that actually took place was that when this mixture was tasted, it tasted like actual wine. They would say that it would be inconceivable to think that Jesus would supply additional alcohol to be consumed at this wedding.
In the book of Proverbs, we are told that excessive drinking could cause serious problems.
Anyone who is deceived by drinking wine or alcohol is not wise
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
An excessive use of wine can cause a person to be inclined to speak in an argumentative way. An excessive use of fermented liquor can cause a person to act out aggressively toward others. Whoever it is that goes astray because of it is not wise (the mind is dulled; no longer have master of one-self). This verse illustrates what happens to a person when they over indulge in wine or fermented liquor. Therefore, the recommendation might be that in order to avoid overindulgence don’t drink at all.
- Dispensational Approach (Verses used are from the book of Acts, the Epistles, and the book of Revelation)
- Believers are allowed to drink, albeit in moderation.
Per this opposing perspective, we’ll start by going to the book of 1 Timothy.
Not given to much wine
1 Timothy 3:8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
The qualifications for someone being considered for the office of deacon are being mentioned. One of them is that they must not be given to much wine. What this actually means according to the Koine Greek is they are allowed to indulge as long as it is in small quantities. This is a clear pronouncement to the leadership that drinking in moderation is acceptable, and as such this admonition would also apply to the members of the congregation.
Now, let’s turn in your Bible if you have one handy to the book of 1 Corinthians.
One is hungry, and another is drunken
Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:18-34
The Corinthians observed what was called the Agape or “Love Feasts”, which involved the meetings of church members for a social meal on the first day of the week. Some commentators say that initially these feasts were held daily, and as time went on, they were changed to once a week. These feasts were associated with plans of mutual relief or charity to the poor.
21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
Apparently, in this instance, the richer members of the church came and ate with their own crowd. Some of them were so hungry that they decided to eat and drink of what they brought for themselves, instead of waiting for everyone else to arrive. As a result, they wound up overeating and overdrinking, eventually becoming drunk. When the poor arrived, there was nothing left for them to eat or drink.
While there is a lot more to say about this, the main idea to take from this story as to this study is that what was drunk was wine. They consumed too much and subsequently became drunk. When this was found out by the apostle Paul, he gave instructions so that this wouldn’t happen again.
33 Wherefore, my brethren when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
First, if anyone was starving and they had ample food and drink at home, then were to partake of their meal there, and if they still wanted to attend this feast then they could bring some food and drink for the benefit of others. Secondly, after they showed up, they were to wait until all had arrived and received their food and drink before any consumption was to take place. And by the way, there was no additional admonition to no longer bring real wine to the feast.
Where we will go next is the book of Titus.
Bishop…not given to wine
Titus 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
Paul is addressing Titus, who is abiding in Crete, to do that which he had appointed him, which was to ordain elders in every city. Some of the qualifications of an elder were that they are to be:
~ Blameless (conduct and actions should be seen as having no ground for accusation).
~ Not be self-willed (will take his people's suggestions and criticisms, and makes sure he does not always get his own way48).
~ Not be soon angry (one who is not inflamed on every opposition).
~ Not be given to wine.
~ Not be a striker (not given to fighting).
~ Not be given to filthy lucre (not greedy of shameful gain; not making the gospel a means of gain).
The words not given to wine mean not addicted to wine. This doesn’t mean to not be addicted to grape juice. It means that a bishop can drink alcohol, albeit in moderation.
What we will look at next are some quotes from an internet article that supports drinking in moderation. I think will find this very interesting.
The Bible and the Bottle
Far more convincing is the Rev William Patton’s 1871 work Bible Wines, which has become the bible of non-alcoholic Christianity. I think this is the origin of my mother-in-law’s point about the Wedding at Cana. According to Patton, the Greek word Oinos, used in the Gospel of John, meant ‘new wine’, which could also mean grape juice. Except that it doesn’t.
I spoke to Canon Dr Anthony Phillips, an expert on Biblical Greek, who told me that it always means wine and that ‘There is a Greek word for grape juice which is trux but as far as I know it does not appear in the New Testament.’ He went on to say that ‘to argue this [grape juice] is what Jesus ordered is specious. Is it seriously suggested that at the Last Supper, Jesus produced grape juice?’49
I think we both agree that this teaching is disputable. Some churches proclaim that drinking alcohol is off limits, while others proclaim that it is fine to drink it, albeit in moderation. At least now you have a better idea as to the Scriptural basis for abstinence or moderation.
Before we go on to the next disputable topic, I want to leave you with another article on the subject of drinking alcohol that one particular church had to decide upon as to whether to prohibit or allow it. Enjoy!
The Church that Drinks Together
In our town, refusing to drink alcohol may be a bigger stumbling block than serving it.
Troutdale, Oregon, sits between the winery town of Hood River and the unofficial beer capital of the country, Portland, Oregon. It is here[,] we are building a new church.
Our new building has been in construction for more than 5 years. With only a couple dozen people investing time and money over the years, it’s been a slow slog. But this year we hope (at last!) to move out of our small rental space and open the doors to our new building. We’ve always been about community outreach. It is the reason we built the new 48,000 square foot building. Through all the financial hardships, frustrations, building permits—and constant organizing of volunteer work teams to pour concrete, install roofs, hang doors, and paint walls—the motivation has remained the same: to use this building to reach our unchurched town nestled in the most unchurched state.
One of the most anticipated rooms in the new building is the “café.” This room was designed to be an intimate space where groups can meet on any given weeknight to sip some coffee, discuss apologetics, listen to performances, sing worship songs, and hold Bible studies. I know it’s silly but I dream about the café becoming something akin to Lewis’ and Tolkien’s famous Rabbit Room—the room located in the back of The Eagle and Child pub, where Lewis and friends drank ales, smoked pipes, and worked out theologies. Pipe smoking indoors is no longer an option in public buildings, but the question about whether to drink alcohol is one our church must now address.
People here don’t have a favorite beer; they have favorite breweries, or even favorite sections of the city for drinking beer. Portland is constantly being named and renamed America’s Number One Beer City. In Portland, breweries seem to outnumber gas stations. In 2014[,] Oregon produced 585,000 barrels of beer. Our state leads the U.S. in the percentage of dollars spent on craft beer.
Micro-brewing and large-scale brewing are ubiquitous. It’s in the culture, part of our shared identity. From the super hoppy IPAs [India Pale Ale] to the unfiltered wheat beers and the popular chocolate stouts, beer is to Portland what wings are to Buffalo, or BBQ is to everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line.
It always amazes me how drastically the weather changes when you travel just east of Portland. The infamous rains dry up once you cross the Cascade Mountains. Just 30 miles east of Portland the land becomes dry and sunny, a perfect climate for grapes. Hood River and Southeast Washington are full of vineyards. To our southwest lies a large region famous for wines, the Willamette Valley. Oregon wine grapes are now our most valuable fruit crop, valued at $128 million. Our state bottles about 3 million cases of wine annually, shipping 64 percent of it out of state.
In this context, perhaps it’s no surprise that, in our small congregation, we have people with wine memberships and people who work at wineries. Some members brew their own beer. We also have members who do not drink and consider abstaining a good way for Christians to set ourselves apart from the culture; to live differently for the sake of Christ. After all, they reason, Jesus called us to be counter-cultural. As the new building gets ready to open, our church leadership has stated that we will allow alcohol to be served in the fellowship hall. Without this concession, no one would book the facility for weddings—and we need weddings to help pay the bills. But those of us in leadership have not yet tackled the larger question: will we allow alcohol in other parts of the church?
Whenever Christians mention alcohol, there seems to be a race to cite 1 Corinthians 8:9. We all know Paul’s warning: “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”
Although this verse was written in the context of eating food sacrificed to idols, it is often applied to the alcohol debate. Perhaps this application is fair. Whether it’s idol food, circumcision, smoking, or alcohol, no church leader wants to do anything that would hurt the body. However, I would argue that when it comes to alcohol, things have changed.
Drinking was once an affront in evangelical circles. The sight of a drinking Christian could have even unbelievers crying, “Hypocrite!” Those days are behind us. Now, it is often those who refuse to imbibe who are in danger of being a stumbling block.
The church that is stridently dry can now actually hurt the Christian image, at least in our part of the country. I was raised Roman Catholic. I grew up with wine in my home and in my church. I never saw a conflict between alcohol and faith until I started attending a Mennonite youth group. I converted from Catholicism in my late teens and then attended a Mennonite University. Although I knew a few Mennonites who drank, they were clearly in the minority.
Since I had no interest in alcohol, and since I was living in the South, the issue was never an important one for me (though I do remember making the point in a college class that arguments that Jesus never drank wine relied on some odd exegesis). I grew up indifferent to alcohol. Debates about alcohol use in the church always seemed silly to me. These were hills that I was not willing to fight on, let alone die on. But then I moved to the Portland area. Now I see it as something we have to address. Context is huge. And in our context, alcohol is important.
In the book Jesus, Bread and Chocolate, John Thompson writes about our innate desire to return to the homemade, the home-brewed, the craftsman approach to food and art. He argues that our Christian beliefs should drive us to create quality food and drink, to seek better ingredients, to disdain the impersonal, large factory product and seek the small, local, authentic, and community-crafted products.
This impulse is alive and well in the Northwest. It’s what fuels locals’ love of craft beer and specialty wines. In Troutdale[,] I’ve seen alcohol bring people together. My wife and I recently won a full winery and vineyard tour at a charity auction. We invited Christian and non-Christian friends to the tour. When I introduced my church friends to my non-Christian friends, the latter commented, “I didn’t think church people visited wineries.” Walls were broken down because of wine. My non-Christian friend is now more likely to visit our church because they know there are people there that enjoy wine, people who don’t demonize it.
We’re not the only ones making this shift. A friend recently sent me a picture of a flier for a “Beer and Hymns” event (Luther would approve) at a downtown church. Of course[,] most evangelical churches in our area still prohibit alcohol in their churches. But I wonder what opportunities we’re missing out on by taking this extra-biblical stance. In the Northwest[,] we see beer and wine as a thing to craft, to critique, to meet over, to enjoy. It is a gift. As Thompson writes, “There is no good thing aside from Jesus that sin can’t twist into a pair of handcuffs. But for me to avoid all blessings because of my need to practice discretion feels disrespectful of the giver.”
Offensive to whom?
Alcohol itself is not evil; it is drunkenness that Scripture condemns. And yes, serving alcohol in a church is sure to raise eyebrows and annoy more conservative church members. And precautions should be taken to keep alcohol away from young people and those struggling with alcoholism. But from what I’ve seen, alcohol bans in church circles are usually about appeasing traditional or even legalistic members. Yet what should be more important: the effect it has on a few traditional church members, or the potential it has to reach many outside the church? Which is more serious: causing a church member to stumble or causing a seeker to stumble?
In our town, a dry church is a stumbling block for the outsiders. They see a dry church as fitting a Christian caricature: that Christians are backward, intolerant, legalistic, and starchy. We need to think about whom is actually being served when we make policies stating that alcohol is off-limits at church. I suspect these policies exist to appease older, conservative members of the congregation rather than because they help the church flourish. I’ve also seen that no-alcohol policies force church leaders to be duplicitous. They feel they can admit to one group of church friends that they drink while being careful not to mention it to other less approving church friends.
Could a church like ours have wine-tasting events, home-brew competitions, or small group discussions over pizza and beer without having drunkenness? I believe so. In fact, I think a church event is the perfect place to practice discipline and moderation in this area. What better venue for responsible consumption of alcohol than a church event?
And it multiplies the chances for effective outreach. I can guarantee that a public “Beer and Theology” discussion will draw more people than a “Theology Discussion.” Getting people from the community into our church, talking to our members, asking hard questions, and allowing us the chance to love them is what we need to do. If removing old alcohol policies can aid that, then what are waiting for?
It remains to be seen whether the café room in our new building will resemble the quaint English pub where Tolkien and Lewis met. If we are willing to rethink the traditional view of alcohol in church, I have no doubt we will be seen as a welcoming church, where people will want to come and engage in authentic community. Having beer and wine in church isn’t about trying to “out-cool” culture. It’s about acknowledging that beer and wine are gifts, good things that have their place in the kingdom. It’s about showing we have discipline, and it’s about being open and honest with each other. But ultimately, it’s about making people welcome and getting them to engage with the church and the God who loves them. Which is why we are building a church in Troutdale in the first place.50
New Covenant Ministries - Ministerios NuevoPacto - Harbor Church, Block Island
Sunday & Thursday Worship - Domingo & Jueves 7:00PM
48The Bible Exposition.
49Henry Jeffries, “The Bible and the bottle.” 20 March 2020 The Oldie
50Kevin F. Foley, “The Church that Drinks Together,” 04 April 2020 ˂https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2015/september-web-exclusive/church-that-drinks-together.html>