Book Review | by Rev. David Busker
Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence
Peter Lumpkins divides his book into three parts. The first part is the reason why he wrote the book, the second part talks about the various opinions about the use of alcohol and the third part is an exposition of the Bible passages that deal with drinking and alcohol.
Lumpkins wrote this book for a very basic reason, “a simple but profound concern for our next generation.” He feels marketing uses gimmicks that are geared to youthful drinkers. He says, “We want and want more and then want some more. Even though we get and got, we live for more get. Our appetites appear never fulfilled, our thirsts never quenched. We seek, we want, we desire. ..pleasure is a human right.” He feels alcohol destroys and he wants people, especially the young, to realize that fact.
He says the churches are no longer united against alcohol. Alcohol is an accepted drug as long we are moderate in its use. He says, “The church has, in major proportions, conceded its historic role as the moral conscience of our culture, particularly as it forfeited its once-strong position on abstinence from intoxicating beverages for pleasurable purposes.”
Peter Lumpkins shares his own story of how alcohol affected his life growing up in middle Tennessee. His father drank a lot and died when Peter was 16. Alcohol was a way of life to Peter and was destructive to his life.
Lumpkins shares two chapters on the changing church attitudes toward drinking and the value of prohibition. He said that before prohibition the average person consumed 2.7 gallons of alcohol. The year after prohibition was repealed (1934) the average was less than a gallon. Arrests for drunk and disorderly went down 50% and welfare agencies reported significant declines in cases due to alcohol related family problems.
In part II Peter Lumpkins shares five opinions on the use of alcohol. The first opinion is freedom to do whatever we want. We have the right to do whatever we want. Obviously, he feels that opinion will lead to many alcohol problems.
The second opinion is to think before you drink. It sounds good but it is like we should drink before we attend a rock concert or a ballgame or anything else that would give the participant pleasure. It doesn’t work.
The third opinion is that is ok to drink but not to get drunk. His response is that is like putting a fox in the henhouse and saying he can touch the chickens but cannot taste the chicken. It doesn’t work for young people especially. It is concerned with the outcome and not the rightness of the act.
The fourth opinion is to be wise about when to drink and when not to drink. It allows drinking but urges abstinence. It is wise not to drink because of the problems but it is not prohibited. Lumpkins has problems with it because it does not go far enough and people can justify their drinking.
The fifth opinion is to not drink and Lumpkins goes into detail on why we should abstain from drinking. To him the consumption of addictive intoxicants for pleasure, as long as we don’t overdo it, is morally absurd.
The third section goes into detail about Peter Lumpkins view of what the Bible says about the effects of drinking alcohol. He says most Christians are united on the abuse of alcohol. He goes into great detail about what was “wine” and the people’s attitude toward it. He says distilling as we know it was not done until the 15th century. Lumpkins goes into detail about fermentation, use of grape juice, and the significance of words. His point is that most of what the Bible talks when it says “wine” means the juice of grapes. To be thankful for alcoholic wine is the exact equivalent of being thankful for moldy bread.
His conclusion about Jesus turning the water into wine is that the word for wine is generic and may mean just grape juice or intoxicating wine. Lumpkins feels that Jesus would give fresh wine which would be grape juice not fermented wine. He gives all kinds of references and explanation.
Overall, this book is good if you are in favor of abstinence. It makes a good argument for what the Bible says about alcohol and drinking intoxicating beverages.