“Alcohol is a very effective dissolving agent. It dissolves families, marriages, friendships, jobs, bank accounts, and neurons, but never problem.” Yet, the practice of social drinking has become such a widespread habit in society that the total abstainer almost finds himself in the position of a heretic!
With the lack of explicit scriptural restriction from alcohol, theologians have controversial positions toward this practice. The Seventh – day Adventist understanding of the Word of God emphasizes on pure abstinence from all toxic substances including alcohol for our “body are the temple of the Holy Spirit”(1Cor 3:16-17).
Promoting health ministry principles that will prevent alcoholism is of a great importance to the church. In the present paper, attention will be paid to necessary measures to discourage alcohol intake, and to recover alcoholic addicted ones. To arrive at this goal, lines will be allotted to highlighting alcohol in Scriptures, and its effects on individuals and society.
Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a broad term for any drinking of alcohol that results in problems. It was previously divided into two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence (Jill, 2014). In a medical context, alcoholism is said to exist when two or more of the following conditions is present: a person drinks large amounts over a long time period, has difficulty cutting down, acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time, alcohol is strongly desired, usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities, usage results in social problems, usage results in health problems, usage results in risky situations, withdrawal occurs when stopping, and alcohol tolerance has occurred with use. Risky situations include drinking and driving or having unsafe sex among others. Alcohol use can affect all parts of the body but particularly affects the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system. This can result in mental illness, Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, an irregular heart-beat, liver failure, and an increase in the risk of cancer, among other diseases.
Alcohol use disorder (which includes a level that’s sometimes called alcoholism) is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.
The word alcohol is probably derived from the Arabic “al kohl” meaning a fine powder, probably antimony sulfide, used then in making cosmetics. In time it came to mean the essence of something. Still, much later, in the 16th century AD, an early chemist, Paracelsus, defined it as the most subtle part of anything” and in this sense spoke of it as “alcool-vini”. Gradually the “vini” was dropped but it was not until the 19th century that the term “alcohol” came to be used generally for wine-spirits”.
Now, in chemistry, the word alcohol denotes a branch of the hydro-carbon family. It is a group of liquids containing the elements carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. There are 59 varieties of alcohol, the most important for our consideration being ethyl alcohol, fruit or grain spirit. Alcoholic beverages contain ethyl alcohol only, of which the chemical formula is C2H5OH.
Pure alcohol is a colorless fluid: it boils at 173 F and freezes solid at 200 F below zero. Absolute alcohol, 99% ethyl alcohol, is used in scientific and laboratory procedures. methylated spirit is ethyl alcohol to which 5% of methyl alcohol has been added to make it unpalatable. Both ethyl and methyl alcohol are highly toxic. Ethyl alcohol taken in excess can cause acute alcoholic poisoning which may be fatal.
Alcoholic beverages fall into three main categories according to the manner of their manufacture and the percentage of alcohol in them.
1. The brewed beverages are made from grain such as barley, oats, and maize. They include ale, beer, porter and stout. They are made by the conversion of starch in the cereals into sugar by the action of enzymes and the subsequent fermentation of the sugar. The conversion of the starch is effected by malt, which is usually sprouted barley. The enzyme formed during the sprouting converts the starch into sugar and then yeast is added which converts some of the sugar into alcohol.
2. Wines are made from fruits, usually grapes, by the direct fermentation of the sugar in the fruit Juice.
3. Distilled spirits include whisky, gin, rum, brandy, vodka. They are produced by fractional distillation of wines or brewed beverages to concentrate the alcohol in the distillate.
The active agent in fermentation is yeast which is a microscopically small plant usually present in the air or in dust. It produces an enzyme which is capable of breaking down sugars and finally converting the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
PLACE OF ALCOHOLISM IN SCRIPTURES
The issue of alcohol is an old one. It can be traced from Old Testament time through New Testament. Some people use Bible to argue that alcohol intake has nothing wrong. Throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, references to wine and strong drink occur frequently, sometimes in terms of appreciation, sometimes of strong condemnation. Thus in Isaiah we read, “As the new wine is found in the cluster … destroy it not for a blessing is in it.” (Isaiah 65:8). But in an earlier chapter we find a solemn warning against it, “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that tarry late into the night, till wine inflame them” (5:11). This leads to the question on Biblical support to temperance and abstinence from alcoholic beverages.
Alcohol in the Old Testament
The first mention in the Old Testament of alcoholic beverages occurs in Genesis 9:21where Noah planted a vineyard and drank of the wine and was drunk. The writer had offered his explanation, in an earlier chapter (Genesis 4:21, 22), of the origin of institutions and inventions. Here he returns to his theories of beginnings, and sees in the forsaking, by the Hebrews, of their former nomadic way of life for that of settlement and cultivation of the soil, the curse laid on Canaan, the son of Ham.
Other OT texts relating to alcohol include Numbers6:3; Judges 13:7; Jeremiah 32:1-10; Amos 2:11.
Alcohol in the New Testament
In the New Testament references to what are clearly intoxicating beverages occur for the most part in connection with those groups of people who had been brought into the Christian faith in Asia-Minor, Greece and Rome, at a time when morals were low and indulgence in alcoholic drinks excessive.
In the Gospels there are only two definite allusions to intoxicating beverage. The first is surely significant. It occurs in the opening chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke in the announcement made to Zacharias of the coming birth of the forerunner of the Messiah. “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:15).
The second reference is in the parable of the faithless servant, who begins to eat and to drink and be drunken” (Luke 7:33).
References in the Epistles to inebriety are numerous and explicit. St. Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles and he was frequently confronted with excessive drinking even within the young Christian congregations where the converts were either Jews living in non-Jewish environments or Gentiles brought in from paganism with its bacchanalian feasts (e.g., 1 Corinthians 11:21).
True, there is no absolute prohibition given of the use of wine, but St. Paul had on a number of occasions to rebuke his listeners in no uncertain terms: “Let us walk becomingly . . . not in reveling and drunkenness” (Romans 13:13). Among the offenses which will exclude men from the Kingdom of God, he warns them, is drunkenness: “Make no mistake … no drunkards . . . will possess the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:10). Again he points out the right course to the Ephesians, “Do not give way to drunkenness and the dissipation that goes with it, but let the Holy Spirit fill you” (Ephesians 5:18). The Galatians, too, need the warning that those who indulge in “drinking bouts, orgies and the like”, will never inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:20, 21).