Everyone knows Martin Luther loved his beer. But did you know John Wesley was a bit of a home brewer himself?
Luther’s dear wife, Katie, kept him in a good supply of home-brewed beer. While he spoke out against drunkenness, nevertheless, Luther very openly loved a good beer–in plenty. John Wesley, also was very adamantly opposed to drunkenness. Wesley spoke out against liquor because home-made Gin had taken over the poor of England in his day. Wesley was also suspicious of hops-brewed beer, as well as regular old tea. But beer was commonly understood to be safer to drink than water (science had not yet discovered how to make clean drinking water). Wesley offered tips on how to brew a good beer, and his health guide, Primitive Physick, recommended drinking a good ale.
In American Christianity, alcohol can be a touchy subject. I once worked for a church that was so opposed to alcohol, the pastor argued that Jesus did NOT turn water into wine, but into unfermented grape juice. This (Baptist) pastor even suggested that anyone who belonged to a denomination that used wine for communion was going to hell.
My own Methodist denomination had led the Temperance Movement to prohibit the sale of liquor. It was the Methodist movement in America that led to the development of pasteurized grape juice (Welch’s) for communion. The Social Principles in the Book of Discipline are pretty strongly worded against the use of alcohol in any form. This is not based out of holier-than-thou prudishness, but a deep concern for those affected by alcoholism and the physical and emotional abuse that can come from an alcoholic. Still, I find it interesting that the Book of Discipline makes no real distinction between types of alcohol when John Wesley really only opposed liquor, because of its higher alcohol content. Is the only solution to completely abstain from any alcohol use? What do you think?
Luther, the Reformer who completely shifted Western Civilization with his 95 Theses, said of his legacy:
“I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip [Melanchthon] and my Amsdorf [Nicholaus von], the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.”
In other words, Luther didn’t believe that HE was the cause of any major movement, but that God’s grace did it all from first to last. Luther’s understanding of justification and grace were key for John Wesley’s faith.
FUN FACT! Martin Luther’s stein in this comic is fashioned after one I inherited from my grandfather, who served in Germany during the Nuremberg trials of WWII.