Thursday, October 9, 2008

WINE AND TRADITION

Allow me to begin this post by stating what it is not about. It is not about whether Christians should abstain from moderate drinking or not. One will not see any "carrying on" about how Jesus turned water into wine and how the psalmist praises God for wine "which makes glad the heart of man." (psalm 104); nor read discussion about how first century wine had less alcohol and about not "causing your brother to stumble" (Rom 14)

This post is about communion and the tradition that has evolved in the last 100 years or so where-by the Church has changed wine into grape juice. Over the last five or six years I have been examining many of the traditions in the American Church. I have found most erroneous, some good, and some neutral. I am simply writing some of my thoughts on this tradition to assist me sorting this issue out.

I have been to many, many, communions at different churches and all except one has used grape juice for the Lord's Supper. This I find interesting....why??...because the specific instructions regarding this sacrament involve bread and wine. Where I am in my Christian walk, I must say, whenever there is a depart from the plain meaning of the text....I need to see good reasons, if any.

Why use grape juice? Well first of all communion is simply a symbol. So why does it really matter what one uses as long as while we partake of it, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus? Another reason: I asked one at my church whom I respect, who has considerable knowledge of the Bible and he stated that there are alcoholics and it may cause them to be tempted. He also stated grape-juice is juice of "the vine" so it is a suitable substitute. Giving more reasons, this godly man stated wine was not as strong back then so it is okay.

Some objections to reasons for grape-juice: Jesus used wine and not grape juice. There were alcoholics in Biblical times (in fact the proverbs have strong rebukes against it), yet Paul in Corinthians after rebuking drunkenness at the Lord's table did not state use grape juice instead. As for wine being less strong? Well... people evidently were still getting drunk. Regarding juice from the vine...well I think that is a reasonable answer at this point.

Why use wine? It is what was used by Jesus and is what we are instructed to use in the Bible. The Holy Spirit would have stated to use grape juice since people where getting drunk at the Lord's supper if He did not intend wine. Perhaps Jesus had a deeper significance in the use of wine....something along the lines of wine being used as a drink offering in the Old Testament, or wine causing a sense of relaxed peace when drinking, or again, perhaps something to do with the chemistry of wine and how yeast is "dead" but comes to life again or how the pH of wine does not allow harmful bacteria to grow in it.

Some objections to reasons for wine: No answer to the fact it is what was used. As for what the Holy Spirit did not say...I must state...I think it is a bad practice to build doctrine on "what was not said". Regarding deeper meanings...indeed...that too is very dangerous to build doctrine upon. Many heresies are out there based on "deeper meanings."

I think I will keep praying and thinking about this one. This tradition will remain "neutral" for now.

3 comments:

Alan Richardson said...

A young man accepted for the African missionary field reported at New York for “passage,” but found on further examination that his wife could not stand the climate. He was heartbroken, but he prayerfully returned to his home and determined to make all the money he could to be used in spreading the Kingdom of God over the world. His father, a dentist, had started to make, on the side, an unfermented wine for the communion service. The young man took the business over and developed it until it assumed vast proportions—his name was “Welch,” whose family still manufactures “grape juice.” He has given literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to the work of missions.
—The Presbyterian Advance

Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations

Alan Richardson said...

Another thought: an early group to ditch wine for communion were the Marcionites. This was a result of the ascetic emphasis of their heretical teaching.

Beyond Zaphon said...

As for your first response...I was thinking about making wine less potent than today's wine and marketing it to mainstream Christians...saying this is the wine Jesus would make today.....well I am not really thinking about that sort of nonsense...but a good marketing scheme may turn a profit ;).

Regarding your second comment...I am not so much into extreme asceticism as I am in learning to be into extreme gratitude.

cheers brother
dave