QUESTION OF PROHIBITION
by C. H. Little, D. D., S. T. D.
This is a question that pertains properly to the State, which has within its province the regulation of the outward lives of men and the making and execution of laws for the welfare of society and for the benefit of its citizens. It is not a question that properly pertains to the Church, the sphere of which is quite different. But inasmuch as many Churches have taken action on this question and have attempted to bind their members to a certain course of action in regard to it, this question comes into consideration here.
In fact, in many Churches this question is regarded as one of the major moral questions of the age, and anyone who dares to oppose prohibition is scarcely regarded as a Christian at all. Even Lutheran Churches with their clear-cut view of the separation of Church and State, have in many instances left their safe moorings on this issue. Many synods have their Temperance Committees, which are little else than Prohibition Committees, whose chief function is to draw up resolutions asking the State to enact or maintain prohibition laws. And this they do, not as citizens, but as a Church and in the name of the Church. The ground for such action is that the issue is a moral one, and as such comes within the Church's sphere.
No one will claim that the State has no right to enact and enforce prohibition laws if it conceives such laws to be for the benefit of its citizens. No one also will deny that many evils result from the abuse of alcoholic liquors, or that cases may arise that call for energetic action on the part of the governing body. But the Church in taking action upon this question is departing from its rightful sphere and entering upon that of the State. It is still more culpable when it goes to radical extremes and denounces all use of intoxicants as wicked and wrong, or even pronounces these things as evils in themselves; or when it perverts the Scriptures to prove its point, as is so often done.
The Church must bear unwavering testimony against drunkenness as a heinous sin. It must point out that drunkenness is classed with other sins of the flesh, such as fornication and adultery, which excludes its addicts from any inheritance in the kingdom of God. But when the Church quotes such passages as "Touch not, taste not, handle not," as referring to intoxicating liquors, or on the basis of such passages as Daniel 1: 8, or Jeremiah 35: 6, publishes "Drink no wine" as a Biblical or Divine command, it is wilfully deceptive. And when passages like Proverbs 20:1 and 23: 31 are quoted as proving that wine is in itself an evil thing which must be avoided at all hazards, the Scriptures are again perverted, as the context shows clearly that these passages are directed against the abuse of wine.
Many other passages might be cited which show that wine is a good gift of God, as, e.g., Ps. 104:14-15, and belongs to those things of which it is said, "Every gift of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer." The rule to govern us Christians is that laid down in the apostolic exhortation, "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess."
The Church cannot go further on this question. It can warn against the dangers lurking in intoxicants; but it has no right to call upon the State to legislate these things out of existence, or to denounce all opposition to such a course as immoral. Members of the Church have a right as citizens to form and exercise their own judgment upon this matter without interference or dictation from the Church. The Church's only weapon of offense is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit. Let her apply that, and her duty is done.
[source: Jay Webber's site http://www.confessionallutherans.org/papers/little27.html