Question 74:

Is drunkenness a sin? If so, how can Christianity use something that induces intoxication (wine) in prayer, and even more so, in the name of God?


Answer: Wine is of great importance in the Bible. The extent to which wine was appreciated can be seen in that, according to biblical tradition, Noah, father of the renewed mankind, "planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20). Wine is praised (Judges 9:13; Psalms 104:15); but the Bible also warns against the excessive drinking of wine (Isaiah 5:11 f; Amos 6:6, Proverbs 20:1; 23:31ff), Ecclesiasticus (also called Sirach) 19:2; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Timothy 3:3-8; 1 Peter 4:3).

In the book Ecclesiasticus (also called the book of Sirach) 31:25-31 we read:

"Let not wine-drinking be the proof of your strength, for wine has been the ruin of many. As the furnace probes the work of the smith, so does wine the hearts of the insolent. Wine is the very life to man if taken in moderation. Does he really live who lacks the wine which was created for his joy? Joy of heart, good cheer and merriment are wine drunk freely at the proper time. Headache, bitterness and disgrace is wine drunk amid anger and strife. More and more wine is a snare for the fool; it lessens his strength and multiplies his wounds. Rebuke not your neighbor when wine is served, nor put him to shame while he is merry; Use no harsh words with him and distress him not in the presence of others."

Following the logic of the question it would be wrong to use a knife because a knife used wrongly can lead to much harm. With this kind of question, Christian ethics is only concerned with avoiding excesses.

More generally speaking, it can be said that: “For the moral evaluation of the use of medicines, alcohol and drugs, some substances are used to further conviviality and some drugs are used by doctors for the treatment of illnesses. However, to the extent to which certain substances are taken for their intoxicating properties and cause the user to be in a state where he or she is no longer fully in control of his or mental faculties, their use is reprehensible. The use of substances which cause physical or psychological addiction and which result in the weakening or destruction of the users moral character and his freedom, is not morally acceptable. One of the pre-conditions for the fulfilling of the purpose of life is that everyone attempts to set his own boundaries, to curb excess or to desist.” („Katholischer Erwachsenen Katechismus“, Bd. 2: Leben aus dem Glauben (Freiburg: Herder, 1995), pp. 278.)

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