Ellen White on Alcohol

White wineThe intention of this article is to cover in short Ellen White’s teaching concerning the consumption of any alcoholic drinks. Many have sought to justify the use of intoxicating beverages by quoting this or that portion of Scripture, with a rather underhand interpretation of it, while seemingly ignoring other texts. In any case, those who accept Ellen White as inspired by the same Holy Spirit that inspired the Bible, will find a clear answer to the question of whether or not we should drink alcohol, how much we should drink…etc.

Drinking Alcohol:

#1. Is not taught anywhere in the Bible:

The Bible nowhere teaches the use of intoxicating wine, either as a beverage or as a symbol of the blood of Christ. We appeal to the natural reason whether the blood of Christ is better represented by the pure juice of the grape in its natural state, or after it has been converted into a fermented and intoxicating wine. We maintain that the former is the only symbol properly representing the sacred blood of Christ, and a symbol established by himself; and we urge that the latter should never be placed upon the Lord’s table.”  {Signs of the Times, August 29, 1878 par. 10}

#2. Is most directly and forcibly warned against by Peter:

Peter’s admonition to abstain from fleshly lusts is a most direct and forcible warning against the use of all such stimulants and narcotics as tea, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, and morphine. These indulgences may well be classed among the lusts that exert a pernicious influence upon moral character. The earlier these hurtful habits are formed, the more firmly will they hold their victim in slavery to lust, and the more certainly will they lower the standard of spirituality.”  {Sanctified Life, 28.1}

#3. Is part of Satan’s own plan to poison the human race so that he can control them:

“Satan gathered the fallen angels together to devise some way of doing the most possible evil to the human family. One proposition after another was made, till finally Satan himself thought of a plan. He would take the fruit of the vine, also wheat, and other things given by God as food, and would convert them into poisons, which would ruin man’s physical, mental, and moral powers, and so overcome the senses that Satan should have full control. Under the influence of liquor, men would be led to commit crimes of all kinds. Through perverted appetite the world would be made corrupt. By leading men to drink alcohol, Satan would cause them to descend lower and lower in the scale.” {Review and Herald, April 16, 1901 par. 7}

#4. Is drinking a poison:

Alcohol and tobacco pollute the blood of men, and thousands of lives are yearly sacrificed to these poisons.” {Health Reformer, November 1, 1871 par. 22}

#5. Is a sinful indulgence / Is NOT to be taken moderately, but entirely discarded:

Tea, coffee, tobacco, and alcohol we must present as sinful indulgences. We cannot place on the same ground, meat, eggs, butter, cheese and such articles placed upon the table. These are not to be borne in front, as the burden of our work. The former–tea, coffee, tobacco, beer, wine, and all spirituous liquors–are not to be taken moderately, but discarded. The poisonous narcotics are not to be treated in the same way as the subject of eggs, butter, and cheese. In the beginning animal food was not designed to be the diet of man. We have every evidence that the flesh of dead animals is dangerous because of disease that is fast becoming universal, because of the curse resting more heavily in consequence of the habits and crimes of man. We are to present the truth. We are to be guarded how to use reason and select those articles of food that will make the very best blood and keep the blood in an unfevered condition.” {Manuscript Releases, Vol. 2, 107.2}

True temperance teaches us to dispense entirely with everything hurtful and to use judiciously that which is healthful.” {Patriarchs and Prophets, 562.1}

#6. Debases below brute level, stupefies the brain, paralyzes reason and intellect, excites the animal passions:

When the appetite  for spirituous liquor is indulged, the man voluntarily places to his lips the draught which debases below the level of the brute, him who was made in the image of God. Reason is paralyzed, the intellect is benumbed, the animal passions are excited, and then follow crimes of the most debasing character. How can the user of rum or tobacco give to God an undivided heart? It is impossible. Neither can he love his neighbor as himself. The darling indulgence engrosses all his affections. To gratify his craving for strong drink, he sells reason and self-control. He places to his lips that which stupefies the brain, paralyzes the intellect, and makes him a shame and curse to his family, and a terror to all around him. If men would become temperate in all things, if they would touch not, taste not, handle not, tea, coffee, tobacco, wines, opium, and alcoholic drinks, reason would take the reins of government in her own hands, and hold the appetites and passions under control.  {Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 36.3}

#7. Must not be recommended in the treatment of the sick:

“He who created men and women has an interest in those who suffer. He has directed in the establishment of our sanitariums and in the building up of schools close to our sanitariums, that they may become efficient mediums in training men and women for the work of ministering to suffering humanity. In the treatment of the sick poisonous drugs need not be used. Alcohol or tobacco in any form must not be recommended, lest some soul be led to imbibe a taste for those evil things. There will be no excuse for the liquor-dealers in that day when every man shall receive according to his works. Those who have destroyed life, will by their own life have to pay the penalty. God’s law is holy and just and good.” {The Medical Evangelist, January 1, 1910 par. 15}

#8. Objection, “Surely the little wine that I use cannot hurt me”?

“Cider drinking leads to the use of stronger drinks. The stomach loses its natural vigor, and something stronger is needed to arouse it to action. On one occasion, when my husband and myself were traveling, we were obliged to spend several hours waiting for the train. While we were in the depot, a red-faced, bloated farmer came into the restaurant connected with it, and in a loud, rough voice asked: ‘Have you first-class brandy?’ He was answered in the affirmative, and ordered half a tumbler. ‘Have you pepper sauce?’ ‘Yes,’ was the answer. ‘Well, put in two large spoonfuls.’ He next ordered two spoonfuls of alcohol added, and concluded by calling for ‘a good dose of black pepper.’ The man who was preparing it asked: ‘What will you do with such a mixture?’ He replied: ‘I guess that will take hold,’ and, placing the full glass to his lips, drank the whole of this fiery compound. That man had used stimulants until he had deadened the tender coats of the stomach.

Many, as they read this, will laugh at the warning of danger. They will say: ‘Surely the little wine or cider that I use cannot hurt me.’ Satan has marked such as his prey; he leads them on step by step, and they perceive it not until the chains of habit and appetite are too strong to be broken. We see the power that appetite for strong drink has over men; we see how many of all professions and of heavy responsibilities, men of exalted station, of eminent talents, of great attainments, of fine feeling, of strong nerves, and of good reasoning powers, sacrifice everything for the indulgence of appetite, until they are reduced to the level of the brutes; and in very many cases their downward course commenced with the use of wine or cider.”  {Testimonies for the Church, 357.3-358.1}

#9. Is a violation of God’s law that we are not to leave off by degrees:

“Shall those who have had more opportunities and much precious light, who enjoy the advantages of education, make the plea that they cannot cut away from unhealthful practises? Why do not those who have excellent reasoning powers reason from cause to effect? Why do they not advocate reform by planting their feet firmly on principle, determined not to take alcoholic drink or use tobacco? They are poisons, and their use is a violation of God’s law.  {Gospel Health, March 1, 1898 par. 5}

Some say, when an effort is made to enlighten them on these things, ‘I will leave off by degrees.’ Satan laughs at all such decisions. He says, ‘They are secure in my power; I have no fear of them on that ground.But he knows he has no power over the man who, when sinners entice him, has the moral courage to say No, squarely and positively. Such a one has dismissed the companionship of the devil, and accepted that of Jesus Christ; and as long as he holds to Jesus, he is safe. He stands where heavenly angels can connect with him, giving him moral power to overcome. He can truly advocate temperance; for he will not urge a liquor drinker to abstain from alcohol with a tobacco pipe in his own mouth.”  {Gospel Health, March 1, 1898 par. 6}


  1. Pingback: Welcome! | Answers for Adventists
    • remnanttreasures

      There is only one Bible text that addresses whether or not alcoholic beverages are tolerated or forbidden that we have found. There are historical notes in Scripture of when it was used, but these texts don’t say whether it was moral or immoral, they just say what happened (that Noah drank it for instance). The below is the only real verse that directly refers to whether or not it should be used, and when.

      Proverbs 31: 4-7: “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: [5] Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. [6] Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. [7] Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”

      What we gather from these texts is that alcoholic beverages pervert the individual’s judgement (even making them forget the law). However, there is a place for its use, which is when someone is ready to perish (that is, to die; the idea being we believe, to make them comfortable in their death) and when someone is of heavy heart. However, while Scripture says that it can be used when someone is of heavy heart (such as maybe being stricken with grief), we don’t think that Scripture is posing drinking alcohol as a permanent solution, because the Bible points to Jesus as our permanent solution. We should find comfort and strength in God, and not in alcohol.

      One popular text that is referenced is the following, which isn’t direct enough to say very much:

      Proverbs 20:1: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

      One must be careful in Scripture when the word wine is used, because sometimes this word is used in reference to alcohol (strong drink) and other times its used in reference to juice that has not necessarily fermented yet. The word translated as “wine” can refer to something alcoholic, but also to none alcoholic drinks. A check in the Greek or Hebrew can at times help to clarify this.

      We want to show one location in Scripture that has been used to say its okay to drink wine:

      1 Timothy 3:2-8: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine… Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre.”

      The logic used for this text is that a bishop cannot be given to wine period, but a deacon just cannot be given to “much” wine. The problem is that if we replace the word “wine” with adultery, we can see clearly that it doesn’t necessarily mean wine in small portions is acceptable. Being given to much wine is bad, but being given to wine period might also be bad, as with adultery, idolatry, or any other evil practice. The text doesn’t clarify this, and so we don’t think this or many other of the verses presented in use on the topic are even relevant.

      That Jesus turned water into wine is also a popular example given. Was it alcoholic, or no? We can’t verify from the example itself whether it was alcoholic or not. We personally lean away from the idea that it was alcoholic, because one of Jesus’ missions was to expound on the law, showing its far reaching principles (whoever looks on a woman to lust after her…etc.) and supplying a drink that would pervert people’s judgment and even cause them to forget the law, doesn’t seem in harmony with what Jesus was so often trying to accomplish.

      Proverbs 31:4-7 we find most accurately states the matter. There is a place for its use, but the side effects can be very grave indeed, and we really don’t need a Bible verse to tell us that. We think its safe to drive, when its the most dangerous thing we could do. In the end, God wants us to be intelligent beings. He wants us to know the facts and make intelligent and wise decisions.

      Ellen White condemns the practice as a violation of God’s law that destroys God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:17 “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”), and not without cause. However, if someone was about to die, and the temple of God is already destroyed (literally to the point of death) would what she said then even apply? Personally, on my death bed, I would want a clear mind to keep God in perfect view, and would therefore not want alcohol. Now what if, being stricken with grief that was laying waste the health of the body, the use of alcohol, calming this grief, was actually less devastating to the health than the grief? In such as case as this one, alcohol appears to be the better route. Again, in the end, God wants us to know the facts, and be wise. Circumstances alter conditions and change the relation of things. Great care and foresight should always be exercised. If grieved to the point of justifying its use for example, you might want to make sure that sober and wise friends are continually present to make sure they are there to prevent you from trying to drive. You would want to give them a heads up on why you want them to visit for the weekend, so they know to make sure you don’t do anything you will regret once the affects of the alcohol wear off.

      Hopefully this helps supply what you are after. If you have texts that you are tussling with, feel free to send them our way and we can examine them and do our best to give them an honest and unbiased reckoning.

  2. Scott

    Greetings, found this site to be very revealing. May I ask what happened to James Prest seeing he has come up with nothing new for years and looking at his facebook page doesn’t look like he has been around for some time? Thanks in advance, hope this does not bring up bad feelings.

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