By Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides
I recently read that Christian institutes and universities/seminaries that have advocated abstinence in the past are lifting alcohol bans for employees and campuses. Will the Seventh-day Adventist Church also relax its stance on alcohol?
Definitely not, and for two compelling reasons: first, alcohol is a dangerous poison. Second, and even more important, the body temple of the Holy Spirit must be kept pure and unsullied. Let’s look at the facts.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), February 2011:
- Approximately 2.5 million people die from alcohol-related causes each year.
- Four percent of all deaths are related to alcohol through injuries, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and liver cirrhosis.
- Some 320,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes. This represents 9 percent of all deaths in this age group.1
A 2010 ranking of drugs by the United Kingdom’s Independent Scientific Committee based on criteria of harm to self and others concluded that alcohol was the world’s most dangerous drug.2 Worldwide, alcohol is the most widely used recreational drug, surpassing tobacco, marijuana, and other chemicals.
Alcohol is the world’s third-largest risk factor for disease.
Alcohol consumption has a significant negative effect on families. It frequently places a strain on the family budget and has a strong association with domestic violence, child abuse, and fetal-alcohol syndrome.
Alcohol use negatively affects society through associated crime and violence of all types, and large numbers of innocent victims in accidents. The purported health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption do not apply across age, ethnic, and gender variations, especially as far as heart health is concerned. There is no benefit of alcohol use for young people (below age 35).
Even moderate drinking is associated with many negative effects such as aggressive behavior and poor moral choices. Alcohol is a known cause of cancer (breast and colon, among others), even when consumed at very low levels.
The Bible unequivocally teaches that the body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. In addition, the Holy Spirit communicates with us through our conscious, rational mind. No level of alcohol intake leaves unaffected cognitive function, judgment, and reasoning. For optimal physical health and also to keep the channels of communication between our minds and heaven clear and open, alcohol should be avoided.
Additionally, in keeping with God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18), and given the widespread effects alcohol may have on the user as well as family, friends, and community regarding trauma, domestic violence, accidents, highway fatalities, sexual immorality, and spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the moral imperative for abstaining becomes even more pressing.
Jesus redeemed us with His own blood. Therefore, Paul concluded, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20, NIV).3 This is the most compelling argument in favor of abstinence.
Considering the significant risks related to alcohol use, it does not make sense to promote its use, especially when there are proven ways to prevent and treat heart disease, including exercise, a healthful diet, and nonaddictive, tested medications where needed.
Lifestyle choices offer protection against the problems alcohol inevitably brings in its wake. These informed choices include exercise, rest, healthful eating, fresh air, sunshine, pure water (internally and externally), a trusting relationship with God, social support, a good dose of optimism, and, of course, temperance. Temperance encourages us to use wisely those things that are healthful and good, and to dispense entirely with all things harmful through the enabling power of our gracious Lord Jesus Christ.
1World Health Organization, “Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health.” Last modified 2013. http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/global_alcohol_report/en. Accessed April 2, 2013.
2David J. Nutt, Leslie A. King, and Lawrence D. Phillips, “Drug Harms in the UK: A Multicriteria Decision Analysis,” The Lancet 376:9752 (2010):1558-1565.
3Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.
Allan R. Handysides, a board-certified gynecologist, is a former director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.