I Rise This Day
Interview with Liz Babbs, author of "Celtic Treasure"

A "Purer" Communion?

IStock_000001084729XSmallSome time ago, while listening to a pastor lead a group of believers in Holy Communion, something the man said just didn't sit well with me. Despite scripture's clear description that "wine" was used in that first Eucharistic meal, this pastor confidently explained to those present that at his church they do not use wine (though he acknowledged that some Christian groups do), but that they partake of a "purer" communion by using the "pure" juice of grapes without any fermentation or alcohol involved.

Ah, come on!  For goodness sake.  I respect those who prefer grape juice over wine in their celebration of the Lord's Supper (we still use grape juice in my own denomination), but to claim that doing so constitutes a "purer" observance of communion seems so... well... elitist and holier-than-thou.

Weigh in on this one.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Image credit: © iStockPhoto


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This was actually an extremely common 19th-century argument for the use of grape juice, since its advocates argued a) that alcohol was poisonous, and thus only fit to represent human blood and b) there was a general concern going for purity of food, drink, water, and air.

I actually have a book coming out on this topic next year and can say more if you like. :-) Personally I don't care for the use of grape juice (though I don't refuse it if it's what I'm offered) but I argue in the book that temperance and other associated lifestyle issues grew out of the 19th-century commitment to common-sense realism. CSR claimed that you get physical data from the outside world in order to draw moral conclusions, so anything that messes up your perceptual organs is a problem.

JLWT, thank you for your post - very helpful. I hadn't considered how enlightenment thinking may have influenced how wine/grape juice had been viewed. Did CSR thinkers appeal to certain scriptural passages to trump the biblical witness to wine's role in the Eucharistic meal?


I prefer "real" wine, the fermented kind for Communion. My tradition uses grape juice which I do not agree with.
I could never figure out people who say that Jesus made unfermented wine. I think it goes back to the temperance movement of the 19th century, and their attempts to justify their position against any form of alcohol.
"Purer unfermented juice" sound like something I would have heard from my days in the Church of the Nazarene. I would call it at least elitist mentality.

I don't agree with either camp and am really not offended if offered communion either way. I believe that the transubstantiation makes it stand as the blood of Christ.

Culturally I can see where the first commenter has made the point that when alchol was a social sin that taking the wine away was a "reasonable and timebound" decision. But if that is the arguement today it is on thin ice.

Wine is what was used, Jesus turned water into wine, Jesus does not expressly forbid drinking wine and in fact drank it from time to time. We need to keep our hats on straight and dillineate "societal" sins from sin as the bible defines it.

I can't think of anything more elitist and holier than thou, than claiming you are doing something "more pure" than what Christ himself did. Astounding!

Bro. Theophilus -- That seems like a irrefutable deduction, but alas, history seems to reveal something different.

Carl Holmes -- I am offended neither by wine being used, nor by the use of grape juice. The sacramental nature of the cup probably transcends the distinction. And in response to your comments regarding the need to delineate between "societal" sins and biblically defined sin -- I immediately think of brothers and sisters in Christ, recovering from alcoholism, who consider it sin to set Eucharist wine in front of them, since doing so may encourage them to fall. (would love to hear your response on that one)

Blessings to you both -- thanks for posting!


Well, I actually offer the option of grape juice just for those sensitive situations. It is written in our Order of Worship that "grape juice is available in the plastic cups." But I would never proclaim grape juice more pure.

i would suggest that a grape's juice without fermentation is FAR less "pure" than wine that has under gone the natural refinement process with the alcohol consuming the sugars. . .figuratively, as a dried meat doesn't spoil because of the salts...in intrinsically (on a molecular level no less!)so it is with wine . . . nice try but the logic doesn't follow . . . sorry!


My congregations serve grape juice. I must confess thought that I think wine is more integral. The question for me is always "how much fermentation gets me to integrity?" What level of proof do I need to be concerned with? That might then lead me to ask what kind of grape was grown by the vineyard that supplied the table wine Jesus drank? Then I might wonder what sort of wood it was aged in. I think one could quickly get to bad places being too obsessed over getting it "exactly right." It is a Holy Mystery after all.

Worship in and around communion is about the state of the heart, but boy do we miss the mark with the grape juice thing. My church is a grape juice type church, but I feel a lot of it is cultural. As an Aussie, most Christians I know have no issue whatsoever with sensible alcohol consumption, yet for the few with a problem in this area we modify the service. I enjoy communion either way, but am a little partial to the real stuff!

Hi Darin,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Many folks believe that "walking in love" by deferring our preference for alcohol and using grape juice for Eucharist instead is the "higher road." There are certainly multiple ways to view all of this. Thanks again for adding your perspective.

the whole thing is getting "hyper legalistic" . Agree with Desert Pastor...

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