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This Week at JMPC 1.26.2020

Church conflicts have been around since … well … church. Many of them revolve around arguments about appropriate Christian behavior. “We can do this because it is not prohibited in the Bible!” “No, we can’t because the Bible clearly forbids it!” That is often how the arguments go. One of my personal favorites is on the issue of alcoholic beverages. What does the Presbyterian Church say about alcohol? It depends on the date. Here is what I mean. This from an article from the Gospel Coalition.
“In 1826, two Presbyterian ministers founded the American Temperance Society (ATS).Within five years there were 2,220 local chapters of ATS throughout the country with a combined membership of 170,000. And within 10 years there were more than 8,000 local groups with a total membership of more than 1.5 million. The ATS originally focused on voluntary abstinence from distilled spirits, but came to support the legal prohibition against all alcohol. In 1851, they convinced the Maine legislature to pass a statewide prohibition on selling alcohol.”
Yep. Our ancestors in the Presbyterian Church opposed the consumption of alcohol and defended that position with something like 75 scripture verses. Many in the Presbyterian Church supported the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution that prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages.
Not surprisingly, many other Presbyterians took the opposite view. They argued that scripture certainly supported moderation but did not prohibit the consumption of alcohol. They held that both the Bible and Christian tradition taught that alcohol was a gift from God that makes life more joyous, but that over-indulgence leading to drunkenness was sinful.
Two views, diametrically opposed, both supported by arguments based on scripture.
The PCUSA affirmed the latter view when it adopted the following statement in 1986 (we were still arguing about it):
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) does not advocate the prohibition of alcohol, a policy which would appear to attribute the entire problem to alcohol itself. Responsible and non-problematic uses of alcohol have been part of human experience and the Judeo-Christian heritage since the beginning of recorded history. The considerable risks and immense suffering that follow from excessive and unwise uses of alcohol do, however, impose upon all Christians individually and corporately the responsibility to make and encourage judicious and well-informed choices regarding personal and social uses of alcohol.
While all this might seem amusing to some, we still argue with great emotion about what we believe the Bible says about what we can and cannot do as Christians. Many choose to leave their church because of such things. Churches split. Denominations split. How do we keep from arguing ourselves into oblivion? Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians. Come and hear about it Sunday, January 26 when Pastor Jeff Preaches “Who Do You Love?” based on 1 Corinthians 1: 10-18. We are open for business at 8:30 and 11. Come and worship with us.

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