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Book Review: Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence by Peter Lumpkins

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The use of alcohol among Christians, at least among Protestant Christians, has not really been an issue until fairly recently. Protestant Christianity has been behind the major temperance movements in America, and the preachers you normally think of when you think of anti-alcohol preaching (Billy Sunday especially) have come from the Protestant tradition. Until just a few years ago, Peter Lumpkins's Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence would not have been written; it would not have been needed.

But there is a growing trend among conservative evangelicals toward moderate drinking. The "moderationists" believe that a more Biblical position on drinking is "drink, but don't get drunk." They point out that Scriptural prohibition only mentions being drunk with wine, and that in some passages (Deuteronomy 14:23-26 in particular) drinking alcohol is actually encouraged. There is thus now a group of "drinking preachers" in American churches, and that has made some folks a little nervous.

Enter Peter Lumpkins. He has written Alcohol Today to attempt to show believers that the moderation folks are wrong, and that temperance is the only true Biblical position. Lumpkins interacts with modern culture and Scriptures in his argument, and interacts quite well with Scripture that seems problematic to the temperance-only position. He looks in some detail at the Greek and Hebrew words most commonly translated as "wine" and makes the case that the ancient conception of wine is different from our modern idea of alcohol. Lumpkins also makes an argument from history, which seems slightly less compelling than an argument from Scripture, but serves well to give a background to the historic position of the church.

I was a little disappointed in several areas of the book, however. Some key passages — like Deuteronomy 14 that I mentioned above — are dealt with in a very abbreviated form, almost as an afterthought. I got this book looking forward to more interaction with that passage in particular, as it has long been my own sticking point in the temperance only/moderation debate. The arguments that Lumpkins makes throughout the book seem to be more geared toward people who are already sympathetic to his position rather than toward people who are moderationists or hedonists. There seemed to be a lot of preaching to the choir — and that is needed, but I had hoped Alcohol Today would interact more with modern criticisms of the temperance-only position. I think the book will convince those who are already convinced, but I really don't see it changing anyone's mind.

I don't drink. I believe that while it is lawful, it is not profitable for me (1 Corinthians 6:12), and I tend to be a tad obsessive-compulsive. But I still remain convinced that moderation is the key to enjoying all of God's creation, including wine and "strong drink." Each believer must examine him or herself to see whether what is allowed is also profitable for that individual.

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About Warren Kelly

  • peter lumpkins


    I appreciate your review. Your judgment was balanced. And, the weaknesses your cite I receive as constructive.

    Our Lord bless.

    With that, I am…

  • Christine

    Warren: I really enjoyed this review and your final thoughts!

  • Warren

    Peter: I enjoyed the book very much, and appreciated especially your personal testimony (something I neglected to point out in the review). And I did intent my criticisms to be constructive — I think the discussion and debate on this subject, when done in the proper spirit, can only strengthen the Church.