How Dr. Cosaert’s Rejection of Alcohol has Shaped His Spiritual Walk
By Naomi Boonstra
“My conversion moment took place while I was returning from a party with a six pack of Coors Light in my passenger seat,” says Dr. Carl Cosaert, the dean of theology at Walla Walla University. He felt that his lifestyle wasn’t right, and that God was calling him back: “For me, at that moment, the alcohol was the clear obstacle. It symbolized a manner of living that did not align with God’s will.” 
“I broke state law, threw out those beer cans, and gave my life to God,” he says. Cosaert hasn’t touched alcohol since 1986. He felt in that moment not a clear quotation of scripture, but an unhealthiness in his choices: “Society is quite clear that drunkenness is not a healthy lifestyle, so in my situation, it’s not like there was a Bible verse that arose from the deep, it was just the recognition that alcohol was a part of a lifestyle that I was involved in that was not a healthy lifestyle.” 
Cosaert is adamant that the Bible calls us to a life of sobriety: “It’s hard in our culture. We live in a culture of abundance and indulgence.” From sex, to food, to drugs and alcohol, he’s right. We like to feel good in any way we can. There’s constant consumption around us. Though we’re able to recognize that a life of total drunkenness isn’t healthy or attractive, we find ourselves, as a culture, indulging. “A message of sobriety, to turn away from alcohol, is not always a positive message in our society, but I think one that’s really needed,” he says. 
The answer isn’t in nit-picking, either: “I think there’s a legalistic perspective that you could get into that I don’t think is the message of scripture—it’s a bigger, broader message.” Living a life of sobriety doesn’t mean monitoring how much Nyquil your friends take, it’s about committing to knowing God through a clear lens—one where the Spirit can work without interruption. 
There is no categorical rejection of alcohol in the Bible, but there are warnings against drunkenness. Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” Being led astray by alcohol is unwise, but is it possible to drink without being led astray? Cosaert says, “It’s hard to separate drunkenness from alcohol . . . I’m not so confident in humans’ ability for moderation.” 
“I’ve learned that I can have a great time without depending upon a chemical substance to give me my joy ride—I can find it in other ways,” Cosaert says. There are ultimately two paths, one where we find joy in God, and one where we search for it in the world: “That message plays out not just with alcohol, it plays out with premarital sex, and all that stuff.” 
The verse that Cosaert would like to share with anyone struggling to choose between following their convictions and remaining in a worldly mentality is James 1:17, which says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” What’s truly good and will truly bring us happiness, will always be what comes from God.
While spirituality isn’t a black and white set of rules (and it can be harmful to think of it as such), some lifestyles just aren’t good for our mental state. No matter how we’re living, the right thing to do is always to seek God and follow our personal convictions. For Cosaert, that was to stop drinking. For you, that may be something as small as using Instagram less. Anything that’s harmful to your mental health is harmful to your spirituality too.
The Bible has been interpreted in many different ways over the years, but the reason that Adventists have rejected alcohol can be found easily throughout the Bible in verses like Proverbs 23:20, Deuteronomy 32:33, Isaiah 19:14, etc. There is no clear verse that just says, “Do not consume alcohol,” but there are plenty about the problems that it can bring.
The most important thing to remember when discussing what we should or shouldn’t do is that God wants to take us in no matter what is currently happening in our lives. Cosaert came to God on his way home from a party, and we can too. Habits don’t have to be purged instantly in order to be awarded God’s grace—and what may be a stumbling block for others may not be a stumbling block for you. Following personal convictions after thoughtful study should always be the default mode of the Christian.