Jim West – A Sober Assessment of Reformational Drinking

Jim West is the famed author of the book Drinking with Calvin and Luther. I haven’t read it yet, but he has a good article at the Enjoying Beer website that I thought I would share. Church history attests to recreational alcoholic consumption by Christians. In fact, as West points out, it was a dualist/Manichaean tendency to reject alcohol as “satanic.” West provides a number of quotes from from both Luther and Calvin that make the point that drinking is not a moral issue, so long as the alcohol is not abused (i.e. drunkenness). I was surprised to see the Calvin wrote that drinking alcohol makes the Christian “feel a livelier gratitude to God.”
I have been thinking about this issue recently and hope to blog more about it as time allows. This is an important question in many ways. Should Christians abstain even if the Bible permits drinking? How do we view Christ who turned water into wine that was obviously meant for recreation? What about the psalms that speak of God giving wine to make the heart glad?
Any thoughts, or links to resources would be helpful. I am writing as one already convinced that it is good for Christians to drink, but I am more than willing to rethink the issue (as I am any issue). So, comment away!


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3 responses to “Jim West – A Sober Assessment of Reformational Drinking

  1. Mark

    I think you’ll enjoy the beer reviews at the end.

    “Tecate – It would make good rubbing alcohol if Paul’s command ‘to use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake” meant sponging one’s belly.”

    “Great Wall Beer (China) – Thinner than thin and blander than bland. The Protestant Reformation has not come yet to China. A good brew for penance”

  2. Mark

    I think Calvin addresses it best indirectly.

    (a modern english translation…)

    “The first principle we should consider is that the use of the gifts of God cannot be wrong, if they are directed to the same purpose for which the Creator himself has created and destined for them. For he has made the earthly blessings for our benefit, and not for our harm. No one, therefore will observe a more proper rule than he who will faithfully observe this purpose. If we study for instance, why he has created the various kinds of food, we shall find that it was his intention not only to provide for our needs, but likewise for our pleasure and for our delight. In clothing he did not only keep in mind our needs, but also propriety and decency. In herbs, trees, and fruit, besides being useful in various ways, he planned to please us by their gracious lines and pleasant odors. For if this were not true, the psalmist would not enumerate among the divine blessings “the wine that makes glad the heart of man, and the oil that makes his face to shine.” (Ps. 104:15) And the Scriptures would not declare everywhere that he has given all these things to mankind that they might praise his goodness Even the natural properties of things sufficiently point out to what purpose and to what extent we are allowed to use them. Should the Lord have attracted our eyes to the beauty of the flowers and our sense of smell to pleasant odors, and should it then be sin to drink them in? Has he not even made the colors so that the one is more wonderful than the other? Has he not granted to gold and silver, to ivory and marble a beauty which makes them more precious than other metals or stones? In one word, has he not made many things worthy of our attention that go far beyond our needs (Ps. 104:15)?”

  3. Reformed Renegade

    West's book is very entertaining and informative. I highly recommend it. I've blogged about this issue several times as one who advocates drinking for
    Christians. Its one of God's many blessings & we should never devalue any blessing that He bestows upon us.

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