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09/16/2005

SBTS: Alcohol and Ministry Audio

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has online audio from a forum on Alcohol and Ministry (right click and 'save as') or visit the resource section of the site (it's near the bottom).  SBTS president Al Mohler and theology school dean Russ Moore are in dialogue on the issue.  It's interesting to listen to, and it's more thoughtful than Jack Graham's article, but I think a very poor view of alcohol and ministry.  Listen for yourself.

I will quote at times and explain in my own words at other times.  I have taken care to be precise with quotes, but I can't claim inerrancy. :)

And let me start with this: if you want to discuss this in any detail or disagree with me, please listen to it start to finish.  Reading my quotes doesn't give a feel to the whole thing, but I can't do everything. 

Also, I like Al Mohler and Russ Moore.  They have a heart for the Church, the SBC, their families, seminary students, and even bozos like me.  So my responses are meant to be a response to the issues they raise and not directed at them personally. 

It's obvious the issue of drinking alcohol is coming under question by students at Southern.  At least 2-3 references are made to websites, weblogs, and bloggers.  I know some of those guys read my blog or have one of their interns do so (wish I could tell you a little email story).  I don't know if they mean me or not, but it doesn't matter.  The truth is, where there is open discussion you can often find growing error that should be corrected as well as the rediscovery of truth that should be embraced.  I think the discussion on alcohol on the web is freeing new generations to think biblically rather than traditionally or legalistically.  But it seems pretty clear that bloggers like me are being responded to in this forum.  So I think it's good to respond as well.

Okay, first, Mohler points out that the view that the Bible teaches total abstinence from alcohol is not biblically provable.  Good to hear that.  But then the rest of the talk is about showing how total abstinence from alcohol is best.

A bit into the forum, Mohler said...

We've all seen some of the websites and the weblogs and the kind of conversation that has been had about this, among people that we know, that have been, that are close friends.  Let me tell you that I find a great deal of immaturity reflected there.  It's all the sudden like we have a young generation trying to say, 'Hey we are so much smarter than our parents, uh, we are so much more mature and more liberated, we can enjoy these things, and now I'm going to recommend my favorite beer and my favorite wine to all of my friends.'  And frankly I think it's sad, immature, and it's showy.  It's the exact opposite of Paul's concern for unity in the church.  This kind of ostentatious display of liberty is an adolescent display.  And it's exactly what mature Christians should avoid.

Why is recommending a wine or beer showy and immature?  That smacks of arrogance and condescension.  I don't think he proved this point at all, and to call people immature without showing it is unhelpful ad hom.  Stick to the issues.

Moore and Mohler try to tackle the issue of whether or not their view is encouraging Pharisaism (about 3/4 through the audio).  Not very compelling.   Notice how they actually try to claim fundamentalism for those who don't abstain!  Mohler says...

And this is where sometimes fundamentalism, with its very restrictive list, forms a warped understanding of the gospel.  And I'll tell you, this is one of my main concerns, and I'll just speak from the heart, and it's one of my main concerns for this generation of students.  And so let me just speak paternally here for a moment.  My concern is that you have fundamentalism with a restrictive list of "don'ts" and what we are seeing is a new kind of fundamentalism, a fundamentalism disguised as liberty, which has a new list of "do's."  And it's nothing more than a reflexive, unthoughtful and I think unmotivated by love kind of response here, and I'm afraid it will wreck ministries in embryonic form.

I can assure you of this: if you are associated with the use of beverage alcohol, I think I dare exaggerate not to say that 99% of all doors of ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention will be closed to you.  And I do not believe that is an exaggeration.  And let me tell you why...you may think, 'That just shows high-bound and unthinking the Southern Baptist Convention is.'  Why should the Southern Baptist Convention or a local church take a risk?  Why should it be in the position of deciding whether this is a problem or not.  I mean, you have to understand, why would the church take that on?  So, I am very concerned about this generation, and that's one of the reasons why our integrity with the denomination, with our churches, requires that we not only have this policy, but that we talk about it, we teach it and we enforce it.

Where is someone demanding that people drink?  That would be fundamentalism of "do's," but I haven't read anyone with this position.  I think it just doesn't make sense, and is an attempt to get the harsh idea of fundamentalism off their back and put it on someone else.

Mohler is right about drinking and not getting jobs, but that doesn't mean the SBC position is right.  It just means they are very effective at getting local church and parachurch adherence to their extra-biblical legalisms. 

Russ Moore then continues in the same vein...

Dr. Mohler mentioned the weblogs that you often see (and so often I think this fundamentalism is exactly right) so often the message that is communicated is, 'Thank you Lord that I am not like my fundamentalist home church.'  And you can hear in this 'jabbing of the eye' the prayer of the Pharisee and it is very, very destructive.

True enough, that we all struggle to be the Pharisee.  Or maybe we should say, we all ARE the Pharisee.  Guilty as charged, and running to the Cross. 

But a wrong heart doesn't mean a wrongness on the issue of alcohol.  It just means they have taken it too far.  The Pharisees weren't always wrong in what they did, but in claiming their rightness in doing it.  This is just a non-issue on alcohol and distracting.  I can claim Mohler and Moore are Pharisees all day long (or liars, or whatever), but that doesn't mean they are right or wrong on alcohol consumption.

Closer to the end, Mohler told the story of going to lunch for a meeting with a group of evangelical leaders across denominational lines.  If anywhere, this is the place for a Christian to show generosity to those who aren't compelled as he is about the issue of alcohol.  But as a couple of leaders ordered beer with lunch, Mohler actually spoke up and asked a Lutheran pastor (friend of his) to not get a beer "so that sitting here in this Southern town where anyone can walk in and see this table, people do not then barrage me with phone calls associating me with drinking, which I'm not doing."  He finished the story, "I could not allow my own personal integrity to be questioned, I would of had to have left the lunch."

But Jesus didn't have this take on alcohol or His reputation, and accordingly had His personal integrity dragged repeatedly through the mud because of who he associated with.  Mohler seems to miss the point that alcohol isn't the point, people are.  His reputation and SBTS' reputation isn't the point, people are.  And when someone else's beer becomes an issue, there is something dramatically wrong.

Let me make this last point, because some (many?) will think this is such a secondary issue, and it isn't.  This isn't about alcohol, it's about legalism.  Alcohol is not an issue I will die on, but legalism of any kind is.  It's not freedom for alcohol I'm calling for, but freedom from legalism which is deadly.

Honestly, I don't claim to be free of extra-biblical legalisms.  I don't think I'm better than Mohler or Moore.  But I do think they are wrong on this issue.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference SBTS: Alcohol and Ministry Audio:

» Alcohol and Ministry from Missional Baptist Blog
If you haven't found it yet, the conversation at my blog over the SBTS forum on alcohol and ministry with Al Mohler and Russ Moore is hopping. Check it out. [Read More]

» Alcohol and Abstinence from Bartrand
Read the discussion at Steve McCoy's blog about Al Mohler's position on alcohol. It takes great wisdom and humility to enjoy our liberty in Christ while caring for weaker brothers. [Read More]

» SBC and Alcohol from Paradigms Lost
Recently there has been a wave of articles and discussions concerning the SBC's view on Alcohol consumption. The discussion started with an artilce published by the Baptist Press written by Jack Graham at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Next Al Mohler over... [Read More]

» SBC and Alcohol from Paradigms Lost
Recently there has been a wave of articles and discussions concerning the SBC's view on Alcohol consumption. The discussion started with an artilce published by the Baptist Press written by Jack Graham at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Next Al Mohler over... [Read More]

» SBC and Alcohol from Paradigms Lost
Recently there has been a wave of articles and discussions concerning the SBC's view on Alcohol consumption. The discussion started with an artilce published by the Baptist Press written by Jack Graham at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Next Al Mohler over... [Read More]

» Steve McCoy on Alcohol from Advancing
Steve McCoy was one of the main inspirations for me to take the leap into the blogosphere. An SBTS graduate, pastor, husband, and father of 4, Steve shares some great insights on the topic of beverage alcohol and how it [Read More]

» Steve McCoy on Alcohol from Advancing
Steve McCoy was one of the main inspirations for me to take the leap into the blogosphere. An SBTS graduate, pastor, husband, and father of 4, Steve shares some great insights on the topic of beverage alcohol and how it [Read More]

Comments

I can see how people recommending beer/wine could be showy, or done for shock. That certainly happens. But I think the correlation between alcohol and meat sacrificed to idols is false in many ways. We've had this discussion before though.

Man, these two paragraphs are right on:
"But Jesus didn't have this take on alcohol or His reputation, and accordingly had His personal integrity dragged repeatedly through the mud because of who he associated with. Mohler seems to miss the point that alcohol isn't the point, people are. His reputation and SBTS' reputation isn't the point, people are. And when someone else's beer becomes an issue, there is something dramatically wrong.

Let me make this last point, because some (many?) will think this is such a secondary issue, and it isn't. This isn't about alcohol, it's about legalism. Alcohol is not an issue I will die on, but legalism of any kind is. It's not freedom for alcohol I'm calling for, but freedom from legalism which is deadly."

I would like to see more dialogue on this.

Al Mohler has disappointed me again with his teaching.

On the one hand, he agrees that the Bible does not condemn drinking alcohol. But on the other he accuses those who differ from the church's formal stance as being like naughty children who are forcing people to drink.

This is not Sola scriptura in action. Al Mohler needs to be rebuked.

Steve, I do wonder how much anxiety or fear about what the "convention" will think influences or demands the convictions of many Southern Baptists (SBs), though I don't specifically have Mohler or Moore in mind here. I know more than a few SBs who refrain from drinking because of the views of the "convention" and their fears of the consequences. Fear, it seems to me, is not conviction. Likewise, a concern for what people might say is not conviction. Much like Joe has said on his site, I want to respect (and know you do as well) those who genuinely feel that abstinence is the best route for them personally, but if "threatening" future ministers is the primary way one explains his conviction, then I am afraid that Legalism Avenue is little more than a block away.

Perhaps the 1% of the doors open within the SBC (that Al mentions) are the places where the real potential for the convention lies.

Neither my wife nor I grew up in this or a similar tradition. We were near thirty when we joined a Baptist church. The attempts to explain or rationalize this stance have always seemed weird to us. And it's such a relatively recent tradition. It's odd how they become so quickly engrained.

But I've also seen this issue damage relationships within the church (not just in missional work) in a lot of ways, when it should not have. Just as a simple example, it can become an issue when a child gets married in a different christian tradition and champagne is served at the reception.

It certainly strikes me as not just biblically wrong, but harmful in a lot of ways.

I've read this article again and Al Mohler's comments really make me angry.

One of the ways to identify a Pharisee is to understand how Jesus saw them - the problem wasn't the fact that they were judgemental, but that their judgementalism concerned issues that they were clearly in the wrong over.

In other words, Pharisees often added to God's law - they created laws that were not found in scripture. Moreover, they enforced such unbiblical laws and pressured those they could influence to obey these laws.

If this is what is going on, then Al Mohler is a Pharisee.

He admits that there is NO biblical support for abstinance. Nevertheless, he argues that those who do not abide by these man-created laws are causing division and the church and they should therefore obey them without question.

I understand that there was a Conservative and Biblical resurgence in the SBC some years back. Imagine if some well-known SBC seminary principal came out and said that people who believe in inerrancy are splitting the church and should just shut their mouths.

By jumping on the abstinence bandwagon, Al Mohler is essentially promoting the idea that churches and pastors should adhere to unbiblical behaviour.

Is this the same guy who signed the Cambridge Declaration??

Al Mohler sits at a table with brothers in Christ who drink - and are therefore not sinning. Knowing that people are watching, he acts to "withdraw himself" from the drinkers - in the same way that Peter did in Galatians 2. Is there a Paul to take Mohler to task?

He also has a paternalistic attitude - one that presupposes a "do-not-ask-questions-I-am-Gods-Anointed-leader" sort of thinking. I thought Sola Scriptura held that the Bible ALONE was the church's authority.

And lastly, THIS:

"I can assure you of this: if you are associated with the use of beverage alcohol, I think I dare exaggerate not to say that 99% of all doors of ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention will be closed to you."

...sounds like a threat.

Unbelievable. I urge people to write to Al Mohler and complain. I urge you to take his name off your blogrolls and make a posting to explain why.

Does this seem like a fair inference from Mohler's comments:

About 99% of pastors in the SBC would say to a godly man who drinks alcohol in moderation, "Sir, I can show from our church doctrinal statement why you can't be in leadership of our church, but I can't show you from the Bible why that you can't be in leadership of our church"?

That's my inference and it sets of a siren in my spirit for some reason.

Sets off a BIG alarm for me too. I've pulled no punches in my blog on the subject:

http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/2005/09/al-mohler-pharisee.html

This culture warrior business is harming a really wonderful emphasis on the Gospel. Justice Sunday is one thing. Chasing the temperance/moralism bandwagon is another.

Read your Bibles Professors. Just read your Bibles. You are defending the indefensible.

Steve,

I was finishing up my glass of red wine as I was reading your post. I grew up in the SBC. My maternal grandfather was a SBC preacher. I went to a Baptist University (Furman - no longer affiliated). All I have to say is that I am SO glad I am now PCA. If I had been that man asked not to order beer by Mohler, I think my response would have been, umm, less than gracious. Love you blog, BTW.

Scott

Thanks Scott. Cabernet?

Great article, and good comments, but....

I really do feel there is always a tendency, when dealing with an error of the church, to run in the opposite direction.

Since I've turned 21, I've had a great number of social beers. I feel nothing is wrong with this. At the same time, I lived with a roommate who abstained from alcohol (at least partly because of price) while maintaining clearly that drinking alcohol was not wrong.

In such a situation, I found myself projecting the bitterness I held towards self-righteous church-members on my roommate, merely because he chose to follow the Bible Belt social convention of abstaining from all alcohol. Such an attitude can be judged by its fruits -- such as when I, without any alcohol (with which I feel I have never been drunk) yet with unrighteous anger (blind drunk) accused him of "legalism" merely in order to hurt him and with no aim of righteous rebuke.

I guess my conclusion is this: It is true that we ought to hold ourself only to the standard of God's law (which is impossible enough, as is) and not add on man's regulations. It is also true that there is nothing wrong with people thinking you a companion of drunkards and tax collectors (who your closest companions actually are is a different matter.) Nevertheless, we are to hold ourselves in submission to our brothers -- even (and especially) when bringing a complaint against the church.

Steve, thank you for writing this. But I don't get it. If we call ourselves "Christian", I don't understand why looking to Jesus' example doesn't settle the issue. A plain reading of Scripture makes it clear that Jesus drank alcohol (Matt. 11:19, Luke 7:34), and both made and served wine.

Mohler: "I can assure you of this: if you are associated with the use of beverage alcohol, I think I dare exaggerate not to say that 99% of all doors of ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention will be closed to you."

Jesus: "Hmm... guess I'm out then."

Jesus. Disqualified from ministry. Unbelievable.

Phil in CA,

I think you were aiming your comments at Chestertonian Rambler - this style of comments thread (and others) can sometimes confuse us.

Chesty Rambler,

I chose to be teetotal until I was 24 - like your friend just because I chose to, not because of any religious reason. I felt pressure from one Christian who thought I was being high and mighty and judgemental - but he wasn't exactly the best example of Christian living either.

And I like your section about Jesus associating with drunks and tax collectors. I guess if Al Mohler had been in Palestine at the time he would have refused to eat and drink with such people lest his reputation be harmed. It's the same attitude as the Pharisees - which is why I think Mohler is a Pharisee in this.

When John Piper took over as head pastor of his current church (some 18 years ago) he found in the church by-laws an article on NO ALCOHOL. He made them take it out b/c it was not biblical - although he, himself, does not drink.

Just think of our tradition and all the great guys in our history who did NOT abstain:

Jesus, Paul, Timothy, All the Disciples, Augustine, Luther, Whitfield, Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis (he smoked too - ah!), Tolkien and many more.

Some of Luther's best work was produced in round table discussions of theology over many PINTS!

This older generation of leaders we have are just not cool at all.

JW

I'm going to be arguing from a different stance here. If we're going to be culturally relevant, we must also take into consideration the current church culture, not only the culture of the world outside. I agree with everyone here that drinking alcohol is not wrong... but I will not put my ministry or reputation in jepoardy for a glass of wine. Yes, it is a social convention. But can someone tell me one GOOD POSITIVE role that drinking alcohol has in our society? The question "what's wrong with it?" should be turned around to "what's so great about it?" Is this a hill on which to die?

What in the world are all these leaders who are against alcohol (and all the weirdos who are vegetarians)going to do when we get to THE FEAST?

Isaiah 25 - one of the Bible's most glorious of chapters says in verse 6:

"On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine-
the best of meats and the finest of wines."

This interview with Dallas Willard and Richard Foster on Christianity Today's website was very good (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/010/9.42.html). Here is the quote relevant to this discussion:

Isn't character formation very much a part of many Christian schools and institutions?

Willard: What sometimes goes on in all sorts of Christian institutions is not formation of people in the character of Christ; it's teaching of outward conformity. You don't get in trouble for not having the character of Christ, but you do if you don't obey the laws.

It is so important to understand that character formation is not behavior modification. Lots of people misunderstand it and put it in the category of Alcoholics Anonymous. But in spiritual formation, we're not talking about behavior modification.

Foster: I think what Dallas is referring to is that many Christian institutions have a system by which you find out whether you're in or out. Sometimes it's rules; sometimes it's a certain belief system.

You just look sometimes at what they produce in terms of solid families and marriages. Do they really love their enemies? If that's the case, great. If it's about the number of verses you can memorize or the answers you give to a certain set of questions, while you're full of bitterness or pride—that's not spiritual formation.

Pride is one of the socially acceptable sins in some corners of the evangelical culture. It's just straight-out ego gratification—how important I am; whether my name gets on the building or on the tv program or in the magazine article.

The Biblical command is against "drunkenness" (Ephesians 5:18 Gr. methusko)and a prolifigate lifestyle, not a command for total abstinence. The other part of that command is to be filled (Gr. playroo)with the Holy Spirit.

Our Baptist tradition is replete with many examples of Phariseeism based on political considerations, (i.e. career security) That really seems to be the core issue here and in most instances of this kind of position taking.

I live in the south, though the SBC is hardly limited to the south, and I will bear testimony here that Mr. Mohler probably needs to be adressing more core problems with the SBC than setting up straw men to distract people's attention.

Case in point is how the SBC calculates the amount of retirement pay for its pastors based on Sunday School attendance, size of congregation and building programs which have been initiated and completed.

The whole of evangelical Christianity is easily distracted by the straw men issues, Pharisee issues, which accounts for the relative sterility of the same.

Steve, thanks for pointing us to this resource. I do not think that Mohler and Moore are right on most of this. There is one place where I think that they are getting pretty close to being right. Some of us who have discovered our liberty sometimes do show our liberty in a way that is arrogant. I am not saying that recommending a beer is arrogant. I am saying that I have seen attitudes about it that are arrogant and that look down on those who choose to abstain. It is just something that I think all of us could learn to watch.
With that being said, I think that most of the SBC's position on alcohol is a relflection of time when the church thought that its mission was to rid the society around it of all of its ills, and alcohol was enemy number one. It is also a reflection of a time when holiness was defined by the number of things that a person abstained from. Do any of you who were at the Convention remember the guy who argued against ending the boycott and did so by saying that he had boycotted alcohol for 80 years? So I think that we need to encourage people to reexamine their position in light of a good reading of Scripture, but in our call to reexamination we need to demonstrate humility.

Mohler says

>I can assure you of this: if you are associated with the use of beverage alcohol, I think I dare exaggerate not to say that 99% of all doors of ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention will be closed to you<

Mohler could have also said:

>I can assure you of this: if you are associated with Calvinism, I think I dare exaggerate not to say that 95% of all doors of ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention will be closed to you<

But Mohler still advocated Calvinism anyway. Why does he back down to political pressure on alcohol?

Wow. Fantastic and helpful comments all, even when I don't agree. Let me say a couple of things.

1. Trevin asked, "What's so good about it? Is this a hill on which to die?" I could say it's a gift of God, preparation for the feast, it makes the heart glad, and all that. But my preemptive strike from my post was, I won't die on the hill of alcohol, but I will on legalism. I think the legalistic alcohol doctrine of so much of conservative evangelicalism (esp SBC) is harmful simply b/c it is legalism. It MUST die. And probably the only way it will is if a new generation of Christians will tell our forefathers, sorry, things have to change.

2. But, if you are working for an institution/organization that requires you don't drink, I encourage you to follow the rules. A promise is important and reflects on you. That said, I've talked recently with folks who have talked about how working for an SBC org (like IMB, NAMB, etc) has caused them to offend people by not accepting an alcoholic beverage when offered (esp in certain cultures, or segements of culture). Those of us in orgs that restrict consumption for legalistic reasons may need to consider alternative routes of ministry, not because we HAVE to drink, but because we MUST NOT propogate a legalistic approach to life and ministry that is not about gospel redeeming culture.

3. Let me add, if you choose to abstain, great, abstain. But I would invite you to consider why you are doing so. Many who have a "personal" conviction have it because they really deep down think it's best for all, though they won't outwardly make it a law for all. That's still legalism, even if only in our heart. I heard a pastor I respect say, I've never had a drink in my life, but I fight to the death for the freedom of others to drink. He is saying that legalism is not acceptable, and is the hill on which to die.

4. The idea is given that we must be humble. I totally agree. Sure there are guys who almost brag on their drinking (though not on their drunkenness). I know immature drinkers and immature abstainers. Humility is the key, as Scott said.

I'm sure I said some things wrong (typing fast this morning), so be gentle. :)

Well, Steve beat me to a few comments this morning.

First, affirming what Slayton said. Humility is essential for abstainers and imbibers. While I think questioning the integrity and motives of this "young generation" also smacks of immaturity, the calls for respect, maturity, and a subsequent desire for the Church's unity should be heeded. But that goes for everyone involved, not simply the "young generation." Let's hope we all grow up a bit.

Second, respecting promises made. At the Baptist university I attended, students agreed not to drink while enrolled. Most of us didn't because we had agreed not to do so and we were under 21. A similar argument could be made for my time at SBTS, which is the audience Mohler and Moore are directly addressing. Perhaps they are holding a forum on the topic because they've seen (like I have sitting in my office away from home) the nearly countless current SBTS students who are not honoring their agreement with the institution (choosing instead to flaunt their liberty within spitting distance of "the beeches"). That, it seems to me at least, is an issue they should address--one that bears no hint of Phariseeism. Or at least not on Mohler's part.

Richard, very helpful on the maturity issue. Right on.

I would have thought, though, that if the problem is SBTS'rs who are drinking, they would and should have addressed the students directly (not just personally, but collectively). It seemed more ideological, not corrective to me.

I am not disagreeing with you, Steve. Just wondering what prompts such a forum. Why would the Theology Council select this topic? I can't remember all the flyers I saw for such talks while a student, but I am almost 100% positive I never saw one dealing with smoking and the ministry or any other "practical" topic like this one. Do you remember any? So, I am only trying to make sense of such a change in focus and wonder if correction is one aim. What's more, it seems ideologues, by definition, see ideologies as correctives.

Steve,
Thanks for your feedback.

Refraining from alcohol because it is a cultural taboo in many Christian churches is not caving into legalism. It is removing alcohol as a potential obstacle to the Gospel.

Corina and I faced this same sort of thing in Romania with the issue of head-coverings for women. Neither of us believe it is a sin for a woman to attend church without a scarf on her head, but the Romanian culture in Romania (especially in the villages) believe this is going against Paul's command in 1 Corinthians.

What to do? Whenever I'm preaching in Romania, Corina always willingly covers her head. Not because she thinks it's wrong to sit in church without a head covering, but because "to the covered, we become like the covered." By following the social convention of the culture, we remove the hindrance that it might cause to someone hearing my message and not being distracted because my wife is in church without her head covered.

I'd say the same thing about alcohol. It is a cultural issue, and should be seen as so. If you're in a culture where alcohol consumption in moderation is not viewed negatively, enjoy God's gift of wine freely! If you're in a church where many would stumble over your use of alcohol, by all means, "to the drinkless, become like the drinkless!" Do whatever it takes to let the Gospel be proclaimed without hindrance.

Trevin, I think you are mixing issues here.

First, you are mixing biblical issues and cultural issues. Head-coverings are at least mentioned in the Bible! Alcohol abstention is not. We can have honest biblical disagreement on the head-covering passage because it is in the Bible. It's hermeneutical disagreement with head coverings. It's legalism disagreement with alcohol.

Second, you are mixing Christian vs. non-Christian. If they are trying to obey Scripture, then I take it they are Christian. So it's not a gospel issue (to the Jew I become a Jew), but a teaching issue (preach the word). If you were pastoring and your church had a no alcohol position, I would expect you to 1. not drink and 2. teach them the Bible so they will remove legalism from their documents and free believers from tyranny, including yourself.

I find this debate to be so frustrating because it is so obvious that there is no biblical grounds for requiring Christians to abstain from drinking. Driscoll has a great sermon on alcohol that really deals with this issue well.

Driscoll's sermon, which is very good, is here.

Steve,

You overstate your case when you talk about abstinence as "tyranny." Come on. Is it really that tyrannical to want your leaders to abstain from alcohol? Is it tyrannical for an beat-up wife to hope that her husband never sees you with a beer so that he can justify his drunkenness? Is it tyrannical for a father to hope that his teenager won't see the pastor out having a drink so that his authority won't be undercut at home when he tells the boy to not run with the drinking crowd?

In the past, godly people who saw the vices of alcohol, the danger in succombing to drunkenness , the lives torn apart by alcohol - they prayerfully decided it best to draw the line far from the edge of the precipice. We're in a situation now where the line has been argued as biblical and binding on all, and that truly is a problem. But we should have pause when it comes to moving the line too close to the cliff.

A couple of thoughts... I have a friend who recently accepted a staff position at an independent Baptist church. They told him "if you're NOT willing to sit down and have a beer with a guy, don't even think of accepting this position." In other words, being okay with drinking was a pre-req for the job.

2nd thought:
I lived in a very pro-drinking culture in which I offended people often by not drinking. This was in part due to IMB regulations. Never once have I regretted this decision. By the end of my term, many people in the culture came out and told me how much they respected my abstinence, and other m-workers in country expressed the desire that they hadn't started drinking in the culture. Once you start drinking at one person's wedding, you can't refuse a drink at another person's.
I look with great skepticism at anyone who says "My culture demands that I drink, so I must."

Trevin,

Where did Jesus draw the line? Why isn't that good enough?

"Is it really that tyrannical to want your leaders to abstain from alcohol?" Yes, if you claim it is ungodly to do otherwise.

"Is it tyrannical for an beat-up wife to hope that her husband never sees you with a beer so that he can justify his drunkenness?" No, but it is a mistake. Alcohol is not the problem, abuse is. A man who is looking to justify his drunkeness can not find it in a drinking pastor any more than he can find it in Jesus. Nice emo pull though.

"Is it tyrannical for a father to hope that his teenager won't see the pastor out having a drink so that his authority won't be undercut at home when he tells the boy to not run with the drinking crowd?" No, but it still is wrong. Teen drinking is illegal, and while we live under another's roof we abide by their rules. The pastor would affirm all of that. Would you argue that a youth knowing I have sex with my wife might undercult his parent's desire for his to remain a virgin until marriage?

And now, back to the point.

I am not arguing that it is a sin to drink or that it is somehow ungodly. You're right about there not being a Scriptural command NOT to, but neither is there a Scriptural command that we should (unless you take Paul's medical advice to Timothy personally).

Do you not think that past SBC leaders and congregations put a lot of prayer and thought into this?

Is it legalistic for me to not go out to eat with a member of the opposite sex? Or for Billy Graham to never be alone with a woman other than his wife or daughters? Is it legalistic to say, "I don't want to have my reputation hurt, and I don't want to be tempted, so I'm going to draw a line in the sand, even if Scripture does not command me to do so?" Is this compromising the Gospel?

I don't think this is legalistic at all. I think it's wise and humble. It's wise because you realize that a reputation can be stained quickly, even when no sin has been committed. It's humble because you realize that you are frail, weak, and might fall if tempted.

Why should those who abstain from alcohol not get the same treatment? It's wise because some people will interpret your drinking the wrong way, whether or not you ever get drunk. (If you don't drink at all, no one can really gossip about you getting drunk at home, or drinking at a restaurant before driving...) It's humble because you realize your inherent frailty and in humility admit that if you drink, you could be tempted to drunkenness. So out of wisdom and humility, you say, "I'm foregoing my God-given right to drink."

I don't believe that this is tyrannical. Sure there are legalists who abuse this idea. But let's not be too quick to judge the whole idea based on a few legalists who make it an issue of fellowship.

Blessings,
Trevin

If it were just a few scattered legalists, I don't get the sense that Steve or Joe would have a lot to say on the topic. However, they are both right, at least to these eyes that are more the resident alien in the SBC culture than a native to it. It's not a few legalists. It's a strong and pervasive strain of damaging and sinful legalism that, on this topic at least, has grown deeply entrenched in the last 150 or so years since it emerged in force. It is also my perception that this legalism spills over, as it generally will once rooted, into many other areas of relationship both within and without the church. The SBC is, today, often seen as a bunch of uptight, moralistic, finger-pointing, joyless, (fill in the blank) group because that is the public perception we often create and feed, regardless of the truth in the perception. This particular strain of legalism contributes to that.

We are affirming daily Mohandas Gandhi's famous quote:

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

That's what I see Steve and Joe battling.

Trevin, please answer this directly. I'd like to know your thoughts. I will not base my life on your logic (nor mine!), but on Christ. So...

Where did Jesus draw the line? Why isn't that good enough?

I'm happy to discuss your issues, and some are worth discussing. But I think answering the above is crucial.

"Do you not think that past SBC leaders and congregations put a lot of prayer and thought into this?"

I have not done extensive research on this, but from what I remember, Baptists in 1800 would not have been troubled that much about alcohol. I have even read stories of Baptist ministers during that period of time who owned wine cellars. During the 1800s, however, the temperance movement swept the nation, and Southern Baptists completely jumped on the bandwagon. I think that the American frontier experience explains the temperance movement a lot. Men moved to the frontier first, and without the civilizing influence of women, they were able to be as rough and rowdy as they wanted to be. Later women moved to the frontier and tried to bring the men under control. Temperance was a movement largely driven by women, and it was a primary source of the modern feminist movement.

Temperance is really a 19th century American phenomenon. Confessional churches comprised largely of European immigrants (like the Dutch Reformed church) find the American evangelical obsession with temperance to be very bizarre. So do virtually all Roman Catholic immigrants over the last 150 years. The "total abstinence" position is not a result of careful reflection on Scripture. It is an example of how Southern Baptists have been influenced too much by American culture (of 100 or 150 years ago) instead of Scripture.

Legalism on the issue of alcohol feeds pride (total abstainers think they are spiritually superior to moderate drinkers) and leads to a focus on externals instead of the condition of the heart. I know this because I have been there, done that. Jesus said that it is not what goes into a man's mouth that makes him unclean, but what comes out of the heart (Matthew 15:17-20).

It is true that Baptists in the past drank, had wine cellars (Boyce), etc. But early on in SBC life many did argue for abstinence, even in the 19th century. Read Dagg's autobiography for a sample of one such guy. Or check out the resolutions on abstinence in the SBC records. Here's an example:

RESOLVED, That we, as members of the Southern Baptist Convention, do most solemnly protest against its manufacture and sale, and pledge our influence in the exercise of our rights as citizens of this free country, socially, morally, religiously and in all other proper ways, to work for its speedy overthrow, and to this end we invoke the aid and blessing of Almighty God.
- 1886

So, we see the real motivation behind Joe's love of many of the SBC's founders (Boyce). There is great correspondence between Boyce and Broadus regarding the purchase of whiskey, if memory serves me correctly. Some Kentucky bourbon, no doubt.

Rumor has it that the tunnels under Southern Seminary contain the aged whiskey of our Baptist Fathers to this day. I spent many a night pulling an Indiana Jones looking for such treasure.

Ok, all of that is a lie, but I would love to find that correspondance Richard. Let me know if you can point me in the right direction.

Back in 1970, Randall Lolley, the President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, prayed a prayer of dedication for a new Schlitz BREWERY. That really had the SBC fundies in an uproar.

It should have caused outrage. Schlitz?!! That is some awful beer.

HAHAHA

I believe it's in the Broadus Papers, Joe. I can look into that some time for you. But it'll cost you more than a Schlitz.

Psalm 104 states that wine is a gift from God to gladden the heart of man. It also states in a multitude of places that getting drunk is stupid and sinful.

My parents drank, but they never got drunk. Here in Australia we have more liberal alcohol laws, so when a person turns 18 they are able to purchase alcohol in a bar.

I went to a non-Christian school. In some of the parties I went to I saw some of my friends getting absolutely hammered. I saw them doing stupid things, I saw them vomiting and so on. Out of my own free choice I decided that I would not drink alcohol. I knew, even as a teenager and a Christian, that abstinence was not Biblical, so I knew that by choosing to not drink, I was simply making a decision for myself.

I began drinking, though, when I was 24. I had just got married and during our Honeymoon my wife convinced me to drink some cocktails. I enjoyed them - and to this day we still drink Port and Wine and other Spirits.

I don't drink beer though - I tried it once and didn't like it.

The advantage of being abstinent until 24, for me personally, is that I was able to use some more of my own maturity to ensure that I never drank too much. I don't know about anyone else, but once I have imbibed a certain amount of alcohol, I refuse to drink any more because the "feeling" starts to become slightly unpleasant. As a result of this I can say that I have never been drunk once in my life - a record I intend to keep for the time that God has measured out for me here.

The other advantage for starting drinking at 24 is that drinking alcohol is something "special" rather than something "usual". This means that whenever I do have a drink, I enjoy it immensely. But it also means that often there is a long time between drinks. Sometimes I sit there and realise "I haven't had imbibed alcohol for 2 months now" - and this despite the fact that we have numerous bottles of wine and other spirits in our cupboard. So the upshot is, I enjoy alcohol when I drink it, but never miss it when I don't.

So, in my case, this is what has happened when you enjoy God's gifts in the way God intends.

"Trevin, please answer this directly. I'd like to know your thoughts. I will not base my life on your logic (nor mine!), but on Christ. So...
Where did Jesus draw the line? Why isn't that good enough?"

Because I also base my life on Christ and not logic, I'm going to answer you the way Jesus answered people... by turning the question back on you! :)

Let's use your question... on a different subject. "Where did Jesus draw the line" when it comes to witnessing to prostitutes? Would you recommend a pastor visiting a well-known brothel (alone) to witness? Why or why not?

Those who would say no would say that although we should be witnessing to all kinds of people, a pastor should take care to guard himself, to make sure he does not put himself willingly in a particular place of temptation and also to protect his reputation so that his actions would not be misconstrued. Again, as I said before, it is humble and wise to think this way.

When it comes to wine, Jesus drew the line at drunkenness. Paul tells us that deacons and pastors should not drink too much of the stuff. No one is saying that that is not good enough or that a total abstainer is holier than someone who drinks in moderation. All I am saying is that there are certain issues in which a heavy measure of caution is actually WISE, and not legalistic. Drinking wine is one of those issues.

I don't plan on posting on this subject any more, as I feel a little out-numbered, which is unusual since I am usually 100% agreed with you guys on everything else we discuss.

I tried to read most of the comments, but I may be saying the same thing as others here. I have had to think long and hard about this over the past year and I have been on both sides of the issue at different times. For the record, I have never had one drop of alcohol, nor do I ever intend to. It's not a spiritual thing for me, just a choice I don't really care to make. Honestly, it may be the cost factor more than anything or the fact that now my wife would be very opposed to it (since most of her pagan memories revolve around alcohol usage and she would rather not be reminded of them).

But here are my thoughts anyway:
1) Regardless of whether you drink or don't, you best be sure of what God is calling YOU to do. Two texts seem to be in play here -- 1 Cor 10:31 and Romans 14, both of which seem to be very important in this issue.
2) Mohler and Moore were wrong in how they argued their case. I wouldn't beat Mohler up too much for his story about the Lutheran, however. He is right about the phone calls, you know. We live in a different culture than Jesus did -- one where people can harass you by phone, email, and on the street. Jesus just had the street.
3) I think one point Mohler or Moore made was correct, there are many who drink alcohol in a rather glib fashion, looking down on their teetoling brothers as being legalists. Many also do it for show -- exclaiming how cool they are because they drink. And there are others like Graham and Vines who bring up their abstinence as if it were a badge of honor. Both attitudes are sinful.
4) We must recognize that both behaviors have consequences. Those who choose not to drink can offend those to whom they wish to minister. They can become puffed up and haughty with pride. And they set false requirements for membership into churches and false tests for true spirituality. Those who do drink may come under fire for it and lose their witness with some (even some church members who are not really Christians). They may also cause others to stumble. Remember alcoholism is a disease and it only takes one drink to get started. I can hear some say, "If it's ok for the preacher to drink, it's ok for me to as well!" This does happen. Either way, it's a bigger decision than we should be making without prayer.

Finally, let me add that as ministers we are held to a higher standard and must endure to a certain extent some legality in order to maintain. We cannot shurk off all forms of self-imposed abstinence, but we certainly cannot accept all forms either. In whatever we do, let us do all to the glory of God.

DR Randle,

"I wouldn't beat Mohler up too much for his story about the Lutheran, however. He is right about the phone calls, you know. We live in a different culture than Jesus did -- one where people can harass you by phone, email, and on the street. Jesus just had the street."

Jesus went to the houses of "sinners" and ate with them - these were people like Tax Collectors, the equivalent of corrupt politicians or organised crime bosses.

Jesus' reputation WAS tarnished by his visits - the Pharisees made sure of that.

The difference is that when Jesus sat down with sinners, he did not condone the sin. When I sit down and drink alcohol, I am not engaged in any form of sinful activity - and nor are those around me. The only time it moves into sin is when someone becomes drunk.

"there are many who drink alcohol in a rather glib fashion, looking down on their teetoling brothers as being legalists. Many also do it for show -- exclaiming how cool they are because they drink. And there are others like Graham and Vines who bring up their abstinence as if it were a badge of honor. Both attitudes are sinful."

In many ways the Christian who comes to understand that drinking alcohol is no longer sinful has been freed from a man-imposed law. In this they are correct in criticising teetotalists who argue that drinking alcohol is sinful.

I'm not sure whether there are many Christians out there who fit your description and "do it for show" and "think they are cool". This is merely a stereotype of frat boys and I honestly doubt whether such an attitude is prevalent amongst ex-teetotal evangelical Christians.

I know of one blogsite where some Christians talk about beer and spirits. That to me is about as bad as a bunch of Christians getting together to talk about Baseball.

As for your final paragraph - I'll just say that many from an abstinence position seem to think that if the current ban on alcohol is lifted, then the church will become filled up with drunk and disorderly pastors and church members - that somehow by relaxing the restrictions, chaos will ensue.

Nothing can be further from the truth. There are plenty of evangelical churches out there that do not proscribe alcohol, and they are not full of drunks and misfits.

You have to understand that the opposite of alcohol proscription is not alcohol prescription - as though somehow churches that formerly banned alcohol should come out and state that everyone should drink now and encourage it from the pulpit every 3rd or 4th Sunday.

My church does not have any proscriptive stance on alcohol at all. Elders and church members are not looked down upon for drinking. But there is no culture at all of promoting drinking either - it just doesn't come up. If someone finds out that a church member has chosen not to drink, there is no judgement upon them at all - it's about as important as discovering that someone does Pilates twice a week or is an Amway distributor. In other words, it is certainly a unique characteristic, but it it never one that people judge others about.

I go to a Bible study every Thursday night. There are three of us. Often two of us have a glass of wine or port during Bible study. The other guy gets violently ill if he drinks any alcohol at all, and so doesn't drink. He doesn't feel left out, we understand his reasons. Everybody wins.

How interesting it is to see this here... I'm a current Southern student, though not enrolled this semester. I'm in St. Louis right now visiting a friend who goes to Covenant Seminary. We're both former independent Baptists who are familiar with legalism which is probably well beyond what most of you could imagine. We've discussed the alcohol issue several times.

I don't agree with Mohler and I think he did make some unnecessary ad hominems. But among recovering legalists there is, in fact, a tendency to flaunt alcohol use. However, that doesn't change the fact that the Bible doesn't condemn alcohol use and in a few places actually speaks highly of it. I'd agree with Steve that legalism in any form is a problem.

But while I like my beer, it's a small price to pay. It's just not really an issue I'd fight over at this point. Nobody is perfect, and we all have our legalisms and biases. There are just so many more things to expend energy worrying about. I don't like it, but I'll suck it up for a few years.

Ryan, thanks for a good comment. I wouldn't say "we all have our legalisms" as if since we all have them it's okay for an entire denomination to push for denomination wide abstinence from alcohol. That's a little different (read 'worse') than me pushing too hard in my local church for a daily quiet time, which is also a legalism. I'm sure you see there's a big difference.

But I have no problem with you abstaining while at SBTS, and of course encourage you to keep your promise to them. It's a good school with good profs.

I'm not being a 'show-off' if I enjoy a good ale in public. I respect Mohler but aren't the 'weak ones' in scripture the ones who stay away from alcohol?

Since it is not forbidden anywhere in scripture but in fact enjoyed in scripture, why forbid it for all?

We had this discussion on preference tonight - not an easy discussion, because you have to keep preferring to everyone else!

lol

I think the "safe" thing to do in cultures that are pro-head covering (e.g., Romania) is to wear the head-covering.

Would Jesus do that? I don't know, but it seems he often went against the culture, if the cultural practice hindered the gospel and the work of the Kingdom.

Safe may not always be right. Safe may be though, something to discern through the Spirit.

In the case of alcohol, it definately is not a cultural issue, but a gospel/kingdom issue. I agree with McCoy and Driscoll (and Thorne on his blog).

Hold on, I fotgot my LaBatt's down stairs, brb...

Baptist Seminary President Dedicates Brewery....
In 1970, Dr. Randall Lolley, the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, had the dedicatory prayer at the opening of the Joseph P. Schlitz Brewing Company plant, THE LARGEST BREWERY IN THE WORLD. The following are remarks made by the Chamber of Commerce President, Norwood Robinson, at the dedication of the Brewery:
"I would like to say to you, Sir, in the same vein, that I think you have accomplished a great feat here today.
It is my understanding that the beer consumption in the state of North Carolina is the lowest of any state in the Union per capita. It is further my understanding that we here today have the largest beer manufacturing plant in the world. Now, Sir, you were wise in selecting my Baptist friend, Dr. Randall Lolley, to come up here and pronounce the invocation. (Applause). I suggest to you that most of those people back there whom you couldn't get to sit down were Baptist. (Applause). And we are going to correct this consumption situation. Pete Hearn and I are working on it just as hard as we can."
The following is the prayer at the dedication of the brewery:
"Dear Lord, we thank thee today that Thou hast made us so that we can enjoy new beginnings and that we can participate in dedications and make commitments and enjoy new, fresh relationships. Our hearts tell us that industry is people, so we thank Thee, living God, for the persons who have been plunged into the life and fabric, the process of living and deciding and being in our community. We thank thee for them and their families. We, thank, thee, O God, for influences that shall be engendered and the relationships that shall be enjoyed because of new friends from this plant and this industry moving into our community. God grant to them all the resources, wisdom and skill that shall be demanded of that industry and give them, O God, Thy presence and Thy peace and give us all the fruits of this day of dedication and the relationships and commitments that shall ensue to us all from it. In the strong name of the Lord we pray. Amen."

If I left the table whenever alcohol was present, I'd have to walk away from family dinners. I think walking out on my family would wreck my testimony far worse than being seen next to a drunk person.

I actually did not know until just now that I was supposed to abstain to maintain my student status at SBTS. Maybe if I had went to orientation...

Nick,

My wife and I found out the same way. We got there in mid-summer, got jobs, went out a few times as a newly married couple. When I got the "rules and regulations" - or whatever they are called - I was surpised to see I was not behaving appropriately. We complied without complaint. Southern was a good time. Great profs. At least I could smoke my cigars.

For me the issue remains a missiological as well as a Christoligical one. Does my drinking open up conversations I would not normally have? Does non-driniking close doors? I suspect, no more than that, I know that it my context (Australia) drinking is an important part of mateship. To exclude ourselves here is exclude ourselves from a vital conversation. But then the Christoligical issue comes to the fore. And for me this is quite simple. If it wasn't a problem for Jesus then it should not be a problem for His people. And guess what folks? It wasn't a problem for Jesus.

WWJD?

Alan, this is very much a part of the issue in my mind. Well said.

good thread everyone...
but... uh.. our church meets in a pub.
Are we in trouble? :)

Does anyone know what the world's #1 drink was during the incipient stages of our colonies? RUM! Does anyone know what the colonist actually started drinking more than anything else after they were settled in? WHISKEY! Rum costs too much to import the sugar cane needed and Wine was almost non-existent here in America. Wine had to shipped from overseas - far too costly. Jefferson said that wine was for gentelemen and only it should be drunk. His view never caught on. WHISKEY prevailed for quit some time.

Can we have a toast already?

BTW, during the 17th century the Royal British Navy allowed their sailors 1 Pint a day of RUM! Can you imagine?

They even tried to water the RUM down - which of course was a stupid idea because no matter how much water you add to a Pint of RUM you still have the same alcohol content.

What most ppl don't even realize is that the Boston Tea Party was not so much about TEA as it was about RUM. Not being able to import RUM was the big rub with the colonist. The whole TEA thing is what became popularized over the years.

So we really did start to unify and fight as one against England over alcohol.

No Jack Graham, no Al Mohler, no by-laws against alcohol, no stupid seminary rules against imbibbing.

Hoorah to a good drink!

This is Mohler and Moore writing specific language tailored to satisfy the anti-Calvinistic Grahams and Welches of the convention. A bone, if you will, extended to them, and perhaps a deliberate tactic. Notice Mohler did not come out publicly in rebuttal against the white sepulchre Graham's recent tirade against Calvinism. By not doing so he relegated Graham (and Welch, by inference) to the roles of populist preachers they are. Unfortunately, they've also held the convention's presidency, and this may be Mohler's way of playing politics and compromise.

Anyone having read Mohler the last decade knows he is the main SBC voice of reason within the vulture at large. I have to believe Mohler knew ahead of penning this the heat that would come within segments of the blogosphere, like here. Likely there will be several inside laughs shared next time he, Mahaney, Piper, Dever, and Sproul sit down together.

Good insight DRS. I think that is exactly what is going on. Mohler used to be a man and would've stood up to Graham, Lemke and Welch. I wish one of Mohler's students would walk up to him and tell him to take off the panties and step up to the plate!

I think that Mohler's desire to fit in with the fundy leaders like Welch and Graham (who are suspicious of him because of his Calvinism) may partially explain his tirade against alcohol consumption, but it's not the whole story. It may be uncharitable to attribute such motives to him when we can't read his mind.

Certainly, Mohler is well aware that teetotalism is by far the overwhelming view among Southern Baptists (although the total abstinence position is very under- represented in the blogosphere - because the sort of guys who blog and comment on blogs tend to be much younger and less legalistic than the average SBCer).

Nevertheless, we must remember that Mohler has kind of changed over the last 10 years. I haven't been around Mohler or SBTS close-up (I was a graduate of SWBTS in 1998), but I have listened to a lot of Mohler's public addresses and read almost everything that he has written on the past 10 years. 10 years ago, Mohler seemed most passionate about theology and only rarely talked about politics. Now, he talks about theology far less frequently. He has become a "culture warrior" who is always scolding the culture all the time. Almost all of his blog posts have the same theme - the culture is going to hell in a handbasket. I agree with his assessment, but I do not think that constantly scolding the culture is what we need to be doing. What is need is theological reformation and missional engagement with the culture. Mohler has been good on theological reformation (mainly by putting together such an excellent faculty at SBTS), but I don't think his constant scolding is a very good form of missional engagement. Mohler was once one of my biggest heroes, but I have become kind of disillusioned with him - even though I am still amazed at the amount of research, reading, and writing he does for his blogs and radio show, and I am impressed by his calm, gracious, but firm demeanor when he appears on Larry King Live and other shows.

Anyway, I think that Mohler's stance towards alcohol can largely be explained by his culture warrior mentality. I think this is a larger influence than any desire he might have to placate the Arminian-Dispensational-Keswick Fundy leaders of the SBC.

I don't know Mohler's motives, and I don't want to speculate. I know what he teaches at this forum, and it's the party line in the SBC that I think it's detrimental to a healthy denomination. I see the shift of his focus in the last decade too.

Here's a general question, not about Mohler necessarily, but SBC politics. Does it really get you anywhere to climb the SBC ladder? You may gain a position, fame, and a certain influence, but it seems like you have to leave too much good behind to get ahead, so that it's a net loss.

Example, Mark Dever is not known for his SBC politics, but he is increasingly well know for his swelling influence on ecclesiological, pastoral, and homiletical issues. If he tries to get into SBC politics, he will not add to his influence, it will just shift to less important things IMHO. What do you SBC'rs think?

"Does it really get you anywhere to climb the SBC ladder?"

The megachurch pastors who become SBC Presidents do get a lot of attention on the local TV stations and newspapers. There were a lot of articles about Jack Graham in the Dallas Morning News when he was SBC President. But I kind of doubt that any new people came to Prestonwood because they read some article about Graham. And if you are SBC President, you do end up being associated with the controversial stands of the SBC (Disney Boycott, for example).

Probably the greatest gain of rising in SBC politics is that a pastor would actually be able to do something about what frustrates him. If he doesn't like what is being taught in the seminaries or thinks that the mission boards need to try new strategies, he is actually in a position to cause change.

The downside of involvement in SBC politics would be being gone from the church so much. I really think that only megachurch pastors could actually function as SBC Presidents, because only they have a large enough staff to take up the slack when they are gone all the time.

"Example, Mark Dever is not known for his SBC politics, but he is increasingly well known for his swelling influence on ecclesiological, pastoral, and homiletical issues. If he tries to get into SBC politics, he will not add to his influence, it will just shift to less important things IMHO."

Yeah, Dever is probably the best preacher in American right now - I like him more than even Piper. I really can't imagine Dever standing up in front of crowd and barking out the typical SBC boilerplate: "Let's baptize 1,000,000 people this year, teach total abstinence from alcohol, boycott every company that is too pro-gay, and elect the right people to office." That is not Dever at all. I really like how Dever has totally avoided partisan politics in his teaching and ministry. He has kept the gospel central in a place where everybody is obsessed with politics.

We are living in a post-denominational age, and all the SBC entities are far less influential than they used to be. The influence of Rick Warren, for example, on SBC pastors may be greater than that of all the seminaries and Lifeway combined. Likewise, even though Dever is in contact with far fewer pastors and churches than Lifeway, his influence is much deeper and more profound, while Lifeway's influence is broad, but shallow. I think that this means that those who concentrate on denominational politics so they can control Lifeway and the seminaries and thus influence churches are really wasting their time. The greatest influences in the near future will be high-quality churches that attract followers with similiar theological convictions and philosophies of ministry.

Interesting discussion. What bothers me is the attitude I encountered on Joe's blog (not by Joe, but by one of his readers). When I said I've never had a drink of alcohol but don't see alcohol consumption as sinful, one guy says he doesn't trust people like me -- that I really do have a problem with alcohol consumption, think it's sinful and am being dishonest in saying I don't.

That, to me, is abhorrent. He's assigning all kinds of evil motives to me based on the fact that I choose not to drink. Is that a common characteristic of my Christian brothers who choose to partake of alcohol toward those who don't?

Great thread - good discussion at Joe's too.

Funny how this is considered an unimportant issue, do all your posts get 67 comments?

The biggest sin to me? Drinking mass marketed domestic beer - Bud, Coors, Miller ;)

Tim, I'm sure you are a great guy sorry I got you so worked up. You don't have to talk about me behind my back:)

I am going to be honest here. I don't see this as any type of discussion. It seems like a bunch of guys who have made their minds up, not willing to bend concerning anyone else's opinion. No one has yet to interact with the passages I mentioned -- 1 Cor. 10:31 and the entirety of Romans 14. It seems to me the attitude we should take here is to truly examine what the Bible says and then look at our culture and see how it fits with our current situation. It bothers me that I feel a bit condemned for my teetoling, yet I have not tried to condemn anyone for drinking -- I have merely pointed out that there are problems with both sides.

To salient: I appreciate you taking the time to interact with my post, but you didn't say anything about the Biblical passages at all. And you suggested that my point that there are SOME Christians who drink with an attitude of superiority as hogwash. I know these people, dude. Maybe you don't, but I acutally know people like this. And it is just as sinful of an attitude as those on the opposite side. I never suggested everyone who drank was like that. And BTW I know one guy who came to this revelation that drinking was alright Biblically and became an alcoholic soon afterwards, so don't tell me it doesn't happen. It does. Drinking alcohol has terrible consequences for some people, and I think you should honest enough to admit that. Our experience isn't enough as ministers and Christians. We don't live for ourselves. We live for Christ and so that others may live. Sometimes that means making choices of abstaining. Some abstain from certain movies, some from different places, and some from alcohol. You know Augustine used to abstain from food for long periods of time because he felt it would become a vice for him. I think that should be our attitude as well. We should consider our choices carefully, expecially when the Bible exhorts us to do so (Romans 14) and when the stakes are high. We have to consider our cultural situation and that of others. My whole point in the last post was to say, let us think deeply. And I get the idea that some here believe that no thinking is needed. Again, just my thoughts. I respect all you guys. I just ask you to do the same.

Randle, what does 1 Corinthians 10:31 have to do with abstinance? Is every food and drink you consume for the glory of God? I would like to see how that plays out in real life.

Steve,

Thanks for the link. I will listen with interest. Then, perhaps I will return to add a comment.

A. B. Caneday

When will be having a forum on gossip?

Fultie, haven't heard anything through the grapevine.

Hutch et al...

I would love to write about the change in Mohler, but I don't want to endure the wrath. (You should read the mail I got today when I posted a pic at BHT of my daughter in Germany at Oktoberfest with...beer! One guy asked if I would support her if she were a prostitute!)

Mohler is also a hero to me, but his "connecting the dots" of everything with the culture war is going off the map. This entire "Christian worldview" concept is getting microscopic. When to marry. When to have children...It's just far beyond scripture.

Somewhere in here is not just an inherent suspicion of modernism...but a fear of reason rightly used. GOD LETS PEOPLE MAKE LOTS OF CHOICES ON THEIR OWN. Shocking....I know.

I respect Piper and Sproul for staying out of this culture war cul de sac. (Piper made a long statement on why drinking is allowed in the Bible but the best choice is teetotalism. He never connected talking about beer with "maturity."

Someday, I will write about this.

"GOD LETS PEOPLE MAKE LOTS OF CHOICES ON THEIR OWN. Shocking....I know."

You are one dangerous guy. :)

JVPastor,

Maybe you should read John Piper's article, "How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God." Here's the link:

http://www.desiringgod.org/library/topics/sin/orange_juice.html

I imagine Piper would say that the same principles should apply to beer and whiskey, even as to everything we do.

Piper actually made quite the case for teetotalism:

http://www.desiringgod.org/library/sermons/81/100481p.html

Randle, like I said 1 Cor 10:31 discusses consumption not abstinance (whatever you DO not what you don't do). I still don't see how they are related unless you are trying to say that a person cannot drink a beer for the glory of God, which I hope you are not saying, because that really is silly much like this argument. Coffee is a stimulate? Do you abstain from coffee? Can I drink coffee for the glory of God? I have never really prayed about my coffee consumption...

And you guys wonder why I'm suspicious of teetotalers?????

DR Randle

If I read Romans 14 in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 8, it appears to be clear that Paul is speaking to the church specifically about food offered to idols.

Paul's view is that these gods that the idols are dedicated to do not exist (1 Cor 8.4). So for Paul, eating this food is no problem at all. However, he does go on to talk about those who have been saved from paganism, for whom eating this meat was a form of worship. Therefore, since food offered to idols would lead these people back to their former religion, Paul speaks about not eating the food for their sake.

Is there a parallel today? Yes there is - alcoholics who become part of the church. If an alcoholic becomes a Christian then we should not let our freedom to drink alcohol be the cause of him relapsing back into drunkenness and alcoholism.

There is, however, no parallel beyond that. Teetotal Christians who are members of SBC churches are *NOT* the ones talked about here. Romans 14.14-15 is the key here - Paul says that he is "persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destory the one for whom Christ died."

Now this mean appear to back up your side of things. There is one major problem though - Alcohol prohibition is the norm in SBC churches and is held by most of its leaders. It's not a matter of alcohol-drinking radicals offending the poor confused and weak members of the SBC. It's actually the powerful leaders of SBC who are holding to an unbiblical belief - they are causing unnecessary pain and hardship to those Christians who have understood from God's word that alcohol is a gift from God.

So if I was to summarise my position it would be this - those who abstain and who do so because they believe that God does not want us to drink alcohol are guilty of sin. Moreover, they are the ones who are persecuting a minority who believe in the Bible.

Piper has a great chapter arguing against requiring abstinance in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. It is chapter 21, "Brothers, Don't Fight Flesh Tanks with Peashooter Regulations." He says that "legalism is a more dangerous disease than alcoholism because it doesn't look like one. Alcoholism makes men fail; legalism helps them succeed in the world....Alcoholics don't feel welcome in the church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in church." Interestingly, he writes somewhere (I'll try to find the location) that if his wife drank whiskey it would have been an issue in his considering marriage to her.

I wonder how that story of going out to lunch would sound if the circumstances were different. For example, I live in a poor, rivercity community with a low standard of living. Imagine that I went out to lunch with some local Christian pastors and said to one who was at the table, "Could you please drive your Volvo home, change out of your 3-piece suit with cufflinks and return in a used car wearing a budget suit so that sitting here in this poor town where anyone can walk in and see this table, people do not then barrage me with phone calls associating me--rightly or wrongly--with materialism, which I'm not doing. If you will not, I will have to leave the lunch. I cannot allow my own personal integrity to be questioned."

As much as I love Mohler, I don't like that example. Strange enough, I seem to remember Mohler commenting once (though I could be wrong) that he would like to study with Calvin and eat with Luther. Sounds like lunch with Luther is out the window!

Lunch with Luther?

If Table Talk is any guide to what might have happened, Luther and his students would have tied Mohler up and poured lager all over him - then lectured him about the finer points of justification by faith alone, followed by a frank discussion of what sort of body the ideal wife should have.

Studying with Calvin would've been less of a problem - in fact Calvin may have been tempted to enforce abstinence in Geneva as a result.

So I was at my 6 year class reunion (HS) the other night and I'm the only ministerial student in the bunch. Most are out to be lawyers or whatever. We had it at Cannon's BrewPub in downtown Mobile, and everybody had a beer or a glass of wine. It's funny, I've never really had this big desire to drink. It's not that I held much of a religious opposition to it, I just never really wanted to. I saw a lot of friends get drunk and do stupid things, and I'm waaaaaaaaaay too chicken to go down that road. Plus my uncle was an alcoholic til the day he died of cirrohsis of the liver. And I just know, with my thirst for Dr Pepper, and my addictive personality, it's not a wise decision. I mean, what if I actually liked the hard stuff? (Beer is nasty, to me, and I'm down with that.)

Wow, back to the point, which is just a fun little story from the other night:

So my old friends were talking about their first drinks and first drunk nights and such, and nobody really cared that I didn't drink. And even better? I didn't really care that they did.

But it was dang funny to have girls on their fourth cups of beer or glasses of wine ask me what I did and where I was, and give them the "I was a ministerial student at a Baptist seminary in New Orleans." Hahaha. I got a lot of "oh"s. Guys, this isn't nearly as big a deal as we want to make it. If you think you'll take it too far, don't drink. If you don't want to drink, don't. If you want to, go for it. Personally, I think the stuff is nasty.

Oh, but those of you who do drink? Guys... is it really so important that you prove your point by talking about it all the time? Gosh. I don't tell you how wonderful my mom's German Pancakes were this morning.

This goes to the guy whose "avatar" on The Ooze is a beer mug.

I have read numerous posts about Christians and drinking, and I have never heard anyone give a definition of moderation. I watched a believer one time drink 7 or 8 beers one time, is that moderation?

Daniel did not drink, I wonder why, since drinking is such godly behavior? He seemed to be pretty tuned in to Yahweh, he saw some value in the practice of abstaining.

I usually only take a drink so that I don't offend my christian friends that do, I actually don't enjoy it all, but heaven forbid they think of me as some uptight fundy.(actually it makes them at ease 'cause they know i cant tell our teatotaling friends)Maybe if i drank some of those fruity drinks with umbrellas....but then people would think i was gay! See my dilemna? I so want to be cool, but i always make a bitter beer face, even when i am drinking wine that is supposed to be smooooooth.

The question about defining moderation is a serious one though, since you are promoting a behavior one should know the boundaries.

Salient, I want to respond to a few of your points.

"If I read Romans 14 in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 8"

What besides the parallel language would lead you to do this. Paul doesn't mention idols at all in the Romans passage. In fact, the context of the two passages are completely different. Paul in 1 Cor. is dealing with an issue of meat sacrificed to idols, in Romans he is exhorting the brethren to live in accordance with love by always thinking of others rather than yourself in how you behave. He brings this discussion to eating and drinking because while they are small issues, they may have large impacts. That is exactly the point I am making here. You can't make the contexts the same on these passages. To do so would be an exegetical fallacy.


"Paul's view is that these gods that the idols are dedicated to do not exist (1 Cor 8.4). . . Therefore, since food offered to idols would lead these people back to their former religion, Paul speaks about not eating the food for their sake."

This paragraph makes no argument of Romans 14 because of the falsely inserted context. You must exegete the passage on the basis of its own context.

"Is there a parallel today? Yes there is - alcoholics who become part of the church . . . There is, however, no parallel beyond that. "

In either case, this parallel must be expanded. Verse 1 of Chap 14 mentions the "one who is weak in faith." This could be any believer, not just a former alcoholic. This could be one prone to following the crowd and going too far. This could be the potential alcoholic. So the limited parallel doesn't fit the context. Paul is arguing for a broad application. That is why he uses the examples of eating, drinking, and observing days.

"Teetotal Christians who are members of SBC churches are *NOT* the ones talked about here. Romans 14.14-15 is the key here - Paul says . . . do not destory the one for whom Christ died."
"Now this mean appear to back up your side of things. There is one major problem though . . . "

This paragraph made little sense to me. The issue is not the SBC period and I have already stated that those leaders made poor arguments for their case. My point is that the decision to drink or not drink is a bigger one than some have taken it. And by "some" I mean people ON BOTH SIDES. That is exactly the point Paul is making. What you eat, drink, and do IS important. It DOES have consequences. And they MUST be considered. He is calling us to think and pray though these decisions because of the potential impact. Being glib about them is an unBiblical position.

"It's actually the powerful leaders of SBC who are holding to an unbiblical belief - they are causing unnecessary pain and hardship to those Christians who have understood from God's word that alcohol is a gift from God."

That is a bit of an overstatement, along with your assertion of persecution. Don't use the P-word unless you have a real case. Christians in China, North Korea, and Vietnam are persecuted. You are inconvienenced. There is a HUGE difference. Let's not be melodramatic here.

"So if I was to summarise my position it would be this - those who abstain and who do so because they believe that God does not want us to drink alcohol are guilty of sin."

I disagree with almost all of this statement expect your use of "us." I agree that imposing the standard upon others (of legal age) would be sin. But simply abstaining for purposes that Paul makes clear in Romans 14 or for which Augustine did not eat, would be not only not sinful, but according to Paul would be love.

Again, you missed my point. I don't care what you do. I am not trying to suggest you are less holy or that I am more so because of my position. I am saying that no matter what you do, it should be done for the glory of God and under His counsel.

JV, you too missed my point. Let me try again.

"Randle, like I said 1 Cor 10:31 discusses consumption not abstinance (whatever you DO not what you don't do). I still don't see how they are related unless you are trying to say that a person cannot drink a beer for the glory of God"

The point extends beyond consumption. And really, is there a differece? The absence of consumption is ABSTINANCE! Both are proactive. Hence, the con of this sentence would be true. Now, let me help you see what I am saying: MY POINT WAS THAT THE STANDARD FOR ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AND FOOD CONSUMPTION AND THE LACK THERE OF IS WHETHER OR NOT YOU DO IT TO THE GLORY OF GOD. IF YOU DO, GREAT! DO IT. IF YOU DONT, THEN MAKE SURE YOU DONT BECAUSE YOU ARE TRYING TO GLORIFY GOD!

So, JV, the point is not can you do this or that to the glory of God, but are you? Am I not doing it because it glorifies God? My goal is for people to think through their actions. I think some on here have done that. I think others haven't (including Graham).

"And you guys wonder why I'm suspicious of teetotalers?????"

That just plain doesn't make sense. Man, I guess you would have had a hard time with Augustine for the reasons above and Spurgeon when he gave up cigars because he didn't want to be a walking advertisement for them. And I guess Piper's out of the question because he hasn't owned a TV for 40 years! Those sinners! They just can't be trusted!

DR,

You were correct in one thing:

Doing some research I found this...

"Paul is not saying that the Corinthian situation was a problem in Rome also (nothing in this passage indicates this, and the idea that the Roman problem was identical to the Corinthian problem must be rejected).

Leon Morris, Romans (IVP, 1988, pg 479)

This posting is neither here nor there in giving an opinion. I just downloaded the SBTS handbook from http://www.sbts.edu/studentservices/pdf/Handbook.pdf and found the following on page 5:

"Abstinence from alcoholic beverages and illegal substances is always required for the maintenance of student status. Regardless of personal conviction or ecclesiastic tradition, and regardless of location or context, students must not participate in the consumption or use of such products"

Another piece of primary evidence:

http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/amResolution.asp?ID=96

Resolution On Alcohol
June 1988

WHEREAS, Previous Southern Baptist Conventions have passed resolutions on many occasions about the destructive effects of beverage alcohol consumption; and

WHEREAS, Beverage alcohol consumption is responsible for untold thousands of accidents, deaths, illness, and dysfunctional families; and

WHEREAS, We acknowledge that alcohol use is a problem that affects some members of Southern Baptist churches.

Be it therefore, RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 14-16, 1988, in San Antonio, Texas, express our total opposition to the advertising, manufacturing, distribution, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we support stringent laws which will both deter drinking and driving, and also ensure swift prosecution of those who are accused of such; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to work toward making these views known through secular and spiritual organizations, including local, state, and national governments; and

Be it finally RESOLVED, That we commend organizations which treat alcohol related problems as well as those organizations which promote prevention, using scripturally based principles.

I think Mohler's taking aim with this "reverse fundamentalism" vis-a-vis drinking thing at the emerging church crew, most of which seem to think beer and cigars are a requirement to be "authentically Christian and not bound by legalism".

Frankly, I can't stand either. Didn't like 'em before I became a Christian, I'll not be coerced into developing a taste for 'em just to prove some spiritual point.

I think Mohler was, however, being a goof for telling the Lutheran not to drink beer around him because MOHLER would be tainted by association...

Remember the difference between license and legalism?

Legalism INSISTS that Christians do not consume alcoholic beverages.

License ALLOWS Christians to drink and get drunk if they want to.

You must remember that I and many others are in the middle. Alcohol is not forbidden, but drunkenness is. Therefore the only Biblical response to have is to allow people to drink alcohol if they so desire, so long as they abide by the laws of the state, and so long as they do not become drunk.

In Essentials, Unity
In Non-Essentials, Liberty
In All Things, Charity

That is the main slogan for the Evangelical Prebyterian Church denomination. I did a 2 year stint with the EPC and found them to be very loving, kind, grace-oriented and alcohol consumers. The pastor did not have alcohol in his home but did not hesitate to order a glass of wine with a meal at a local restaurant. IMO, they really lived out the EPC slogan nicely.

If you need a solid and comprehensive article on Alcohol and the Bible, former BHTer Daniel Whitfield has it. Excellent all the way around. Very mature and calm. Bill should like it. Read it. Underline it. File it away. Send it to someone you love.

http://wooga.drbacchus.com/bible/alcohol.html

I was telling an SBTS professor about how my PCA friends celebrate the end of 1st semester Greek with a fine bottle of wine, my Lutheran friends celebrate the same occassion with some good ale... when they asked me how Baptists celebrate I laughed and said that I guess we drink Diet Coke (i.e. Mohler boys) or watered down Kool-Aid (i.e. Vacation Bible School). The professor one-upped me by saying, "No, no, no... As a good Baptist, I always celebrate an occasion by going home and making sweet love to my wife." Wouldn't it be great if Baptist pastors were known for having extremely happy wives!!

D.R. - thank you for helping me "think through my actions" and for "helping me see what you were saying". Augustine and Spurgeon do not fall into the category of teetotalers. And I am still suspicious of you, but not so much because of the alcohol stuff, but because you are FREAKING OUT WITH THE CAPS LOCK BUTTON!

I think you miss a big point, so let me help you see what I'm saying, 1 COR. 10:31 IS NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU DO OR DON'T DO IT IS ABOUT YOUR HEART! (man this cap locks things is fun!) I THINK JESUS SAID SOMETHING OF THE SAME AFFECT TO THE PHARISEES!


It really has very little to do with what or what not is being consumned. There is no way to make a case for not consumning alcohol from the Bible without back dooring your way through a passage about food sacrificed to idols, so why not drop it.

I truly can consumn whatever I want if my heart is right. And the person who wants to legislate what I consumn can kiss my butt.

Mandatory abstinence from anything lawful is unbiblical. Typically, it is a worldly approach to solving problems, and the Bible generally dismisses this approach as ungodly - acts of unbelief.

Col. 2:20-23
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations - “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)- according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

1 Tim 4:3-5
...who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

I give thanks to good wine, a good woman, and good song. Amen.

There is no way to keep up with everything that has been posted. But I do want to add a few of my own thoughts.

1. I'm not sure that Mohler and Moore were as much out of line as many here seem to think. Although I was not in agreemtent with everything said, I admire them for speaking out clearly about the meaning of the Biblical text, while at the same time recognizing the factors of denominational context involved. Believe it or not, it takes a good deal of courage for an SBC seminary president to say even as much as Mohler said. I have no problem with anyone who wants to drink alcohol. At the same time, I believe these guys gave us the "other side" of the argument, and provided a helpful balance to the "liberty" argument. I also think they are correct that many are very arrogant about this issue, on BOTH sides. I can tell you from experience in the field here, that is certainly the case.

2. To counter my friend Joe Thorn, I agree that "mandatory abstinence from anything lawful is unBiblical." At the same time, nothing we are discussing here is strictly "mandatory." For example, I am employed by NAMB, and as such, am required to abstain totaly from the use of beverage alcohol. No one is forcing me to work for NAMB, and I have no problem submitting to this policy. We have a similar policy in place for funded church planters in our association. This policy comes from the fact that the overwhelming majority of our churches feel strongly about this. The policy isn't based on a truncated understanding of Proverbs 20:1, but rather on a comprehensive understanding of Romans 14. Those who support our church planting ministries here request that we abstain from alcohol, and I believe that abstinence in this case is a way of honoring them, and avoiding fleshly controversy and strife over a secondary issue.
3. As a "denominational guy," I feel complelled to state that if these sorts of policies are to change, that change must ultimately come from the churches. I say this to pastors often. "IF you don't think the abstinence policy is neccesary, then grow your church to a place of self-sufficiency, and use it to exert influence on our denominational bodies along with others who share your convictions in order to affect change." In short, the "99%" of closed doors Dr. Mohler speaks of are closed because of feelings toward alcohol at the "grassroots" level. If you want that to change, it will take patience, humility, determination, and respect. But ultimately, (in SBC life at least) any change of this historical magnitude will come from the churches themselves.
For the present, I am abstaining, not because it would be a sin for me to drink, but because it would be a sin for me to lie and dishonor a covenant I have made with the churches that support me via their CP dollars.
In short, the arguments presented here against what was heard are good arguments. Most are Biblical arguments. But along with those arguments, we in the SBC have to take into account where we are presently. Of course, one may decide to leave the SBC and just not worry with it. But are alcohol abstinence policies in our institutions really grounds for such action? I understand Steve's point about legalism and the content of the Gospel, but really don't believe the average Southern Baptist feels that those who drink are lost.

I just think there are strong convictions on this issue that to a large extent have been ill-informed, on BOTH sides. And these "really bad arguments" (to quote Mohler) will take time to address.

One last note though: Joe, if you and I are ever out to eat, I promise I won't ever ask you to refrain from ordering a beer! :)

Joel,

NAMB's policies are not what I have in mind by "mandatory abstinence." (though I think at some level are still destructive). I am thinking more of the position of Graham, and the church culture within our Convention at large. Momo (Mohler and Moore) effectively creates the same culture. "Wine is fine, but saying no is the way to go." It allows for Christians outside of our Convention to drink, though we still look at them curiously, and in the end they wound up saying drinking is a no-no.

I hope we can grab lunch sometime.

D.R. Randle's arguments are ones that I heard for the 20+ years I spent in Independent Baptist churches. I don't feel like arguing against those arguments right now.

But I will point out that they're not very convincing even for rabid Fundamentalists. A recent survey of students and young grads of certain Fundy schools revealed that about 40-45% of them do not think drinking alcohol is a sin. And these are people who think using taped music in church is sinful; if THEY don't buy the teetotaller arguments then I'd say waaaaay over half of current Southern Baptist seminary students aren't teetotallers either. Today, it may be true that most of the doors in the denomination are shut to people who drink but I just can't see it being true in twenty years.

Joe,
I think I get where you are coming from, but please correct me here if I have misunderstood.

You speak of the church culture "within our convention at large." Yet each of our 40,000 plus churches is autonomous, and ideally, is most heavily influenced by its Senior Pastor or Preaching Pastor. Basically, I believe that if solid expositional preaching undergirded by sound exegesis were the norm in the majority of our pulpits, Graham and Vines' views would probably be little-known, much less considered in light of what God's people were hearing from their pastor.
And as far as who is allowed to drink and who is not, I again say that this is the decision of the local churches. The church I planted in SC did not, and still does not, have an "abstinence" mandate in its membership covenant. Therefore, none of the members there are subject to such a rule. Similarly, if the church you serve as pastor has no problem with their pastor drinking socially, no one in the Association, State Convention, or national convention can touch you. And that is as it should be.
My earlier point was that as churches like yours increase in numbers, the likelihood of this position being reversed denomination-wide becomes greater. Again, if the overwhelming consensus of SBC churches is that social drinking is OK, then an SBC president can shout all he wants, and its a mute point.
Man, this is why I love being Baptist! :)

On lunch, count me in the next time we are within ear-shot of each other! It would be great to see you.

Joel,

Yes we agree on this issue. Change will only come through healthy local churches. I believe that. At the same time we need some of our leadership to speak *honestly* about the issue and take some risks. I know from talking to some of them they do not speak about certain issues because it will cost them too much. That is another issue in itself.

So yeah, reform and renewal will come from the local churches. It will take time and patience. I am currently writing on the issue of reform, change, etc in our convention so I'll save my words here. I'll drag us off topic if I keep blabbing.

JoJo (Joe and Joel),

I think you guys have hit on a issue that is important, Baptist ecclesiology. Is it odd to anyone else that the SBC is supposed to be controlled from the bottom up? The people least qualified to make decisions of this nature are the ones that get to make these decisions, by least qualified I mean trained.

Joe, by the way Mohler has serious ethical issues if he is unwillingly to represent Scripture faithfully for fear of losing his job. Even at my church where drinking is frowned on we stood up for the fact that Scripture does not forbid it and that drinking is in no way possible as sin.

An elder Christian that I know told me once that he had been at a pastor's conference in Germany.

While there, he had the opportunity to have lunch with a dozen or so German pastors. The Germans ordered beer along with their lunch without a second thought (much like many Canadian Christians would).

My older friend ordered a Coca-Cola, all the while feeling somewhat more spiritual than his German brothers who were "ruining their witness" with alcohol.

Just before the food arrived, one of the German pastors confronted my friend:

"Brother, we are all believers, and there is freedom in Christ, but why are you polluting your body with Coke? Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?" The other German pastors nodded in agreement.

Needless to say, my friend came back somewhat sheepish, and with a little more tolerance for other Christians who have the freedom to consume (but not abuse) alcohol.

P.S. I did an internship at a Baptist mega-church in Canada during my Bible college years, and at one point some of the youth were asking about the Biblical teaching on alcohol. So, naively, I presented what the Bible teaches.

One angry parent (one of the elders) called me to rant over the phone, and ended with this tidbit:

"I don't care what the Bible says! You tell the youth that drinking is SIN!!"

I'm sure he would regret having said something so foolish, once he'd cooled off, but it reveals something of the underlying Baptist subculture that possibly needs a little re-thinking. :)

Joel, you said...

"I'm not sure that Mohler and Moore were as much out of line as many here seem to think. Although I was not in agreemtent with everything said, I admire them for speaking out clearly about the meaning of the Biblical text, while at the same time recognizing the factors of denominational context involved. Believe it or not, it takes a good deal of courage for an SBC seminary president to say even as much as Mohler said. ...At the same time, I believe these guys gave us the "other side" of the argument, and provided a helpful balance to the "liberty" argument."

What I don't get from what you said is, the Bible doesn't give a balance the "liberty" argument. It's liberty, and then it's still liberty on issues like this. Any type of "balance" is actually imbalance unless it's a position of liberty.

Also, the last thing the SBC in general can be accused of is too many arrogant young folk flauting their alcohol use. Honestly, I'm a little irritated at comments about the problem of this tiny minority of people with spinning beer glass gifs on their homepages. Sure there are some, but let's be honest about where the real fault is right now: with the super-majority of legalists on the issue of alcohol.

And let's at least allow the possibility that maybe the few young guns who do flaunt their Guinness are doing so because they have no good models of how to talk about alcohol in a healthy way and are excited about what the Bible teaches (and doesn't teach). Stop pointing to their immaturity and start leading by being a godly example.

10 months ago I came to a new church, and was amazed by the main concern of the younger generation (20-35) of our church. The question that burned within their hearts: "What do you think about drinking?" (The older generation, just as sadly, just wanted to build a sanctuary...even one wasn't needed) This seemed to be more important than outreach and discipleship. I'll be honest to say that this ridiculous concern about drinking, over other pressing matters, nearly broke my heart.

I don't think Scripture fully condemns alcohol, but does offer warnings and even contains a charge for abstinence among leaders (Proverbvs 31:4-7).

It's a bit disconcerting attempting to reach out to alcholics whose lives are in utter ruin while at the same time Christians sound like frat boys extolling the great virtues of the latest lager.

The verses I let drive my life in this area (and others areas as well) come from 1 Corinthians 9. Paul affirms the right to freedoms in Christ, but than wisely acknowledges that the pursuit of some rights will actually serve as a hinderance to the Gospel.

I love the fact that today's church desires to engage the culture, but I believe that without wisdom, the culture will devour many who have sincere hearts, but foolish minds.

Sled Dog, you said, "I'll be honest to say that this ridiculous concern about drinking, over other pressing matters, nearly broke my heart."

In my experience, young people can sniff out inconsistencies and legalisms better than older folks and those more "churched." They are asking because someone else has decided to put shackles on people where Jesus doesn't, and they want to know why. It's a great question for them to ask, because it probably has less to do with alcohol and more to do with Jesus.

Don't let their questions break your heart, let the legalisms of too many of us break your heart.

Sled Dog said, "The question that burned within their hearts: "What do you think about drinking?"

I'll agree with you that there are too many people with misplaced priorities and too many young people who flaunt their liberty. I do think these two problems are quite common.

But let me say that one's position on alcohol can be (but isn't always) an indicator of one's approach to Scripture and commitment to truth.

Steve,

You have a very valid point in saying that the bigger problem is a "super-majority." But I beg to differ on the liberty issue. Yes, there is liberty, but there is also concern for a fellow believer.

Basically, I'm looking at it this way. On one extreme there is the position of "Beverage alcohol consumption is a sin, always a sin, and a horrible sin at that." The other extreme says "I have liberty in Christ to drink, and, dog-gone-it, I'm going to drink and you can't make me stop and I don't care what you think about it." We have SBC leaders that I'm sure are probably "lock-in-step" with the former position, meaning that they not only abstain, but expect others to as well as a matter of perceived Biblical principle. (i.e. they really believe the Bible teaches this) And we have a few, VERY few as you mentioned, young guys flaunting their practice of social drinking. I would say you and Mohler and both in the middle, but he is closer to the former position, and you are closer to the latter.

I am certainly open for correction, but I am essentially treating this argument the same as if I went into a "KJV only" congregation in our association. Now, you and I and every other reader on this site knows of the antiquated language and comparatively inaccurate translation in the KJV. Nevertheless, I would not say to that church "I am here to preach, and I have liberty to read from the ESV, and dog-gone-it, I'm gonna do it and there is nothing you can do to stop me!" I would preach from the KJV (albeit stopping every so often to correct the mistakes, thereby resulting in a much longer than neccesary sermon) to keep my brothers from stumbling. Does this mean that I never address the issue? Of course not. But these things are addressed slowly and carefully.
What I'm saying is that we not only have to look to what the Scriptures say, we also have to be realistic about where we are as a denomination, as well as how long and far we have to come on some issues to be where God wants us to be. Just as you don't assume a pulpit of a church that has never practiced church discipline and start kicking people out the next day, neither do you move quickly on an issue like this that is so deeply ingrained in our denominational conscience.
You and I agree that sometimes we could use more help than we get from SBC leaders. But again I stress that real change happens at the local church level. And it begins with more than simply declaring "liberty."

Joel,

I think you are somewhat pretending that the "don't drink" side of this argument doesn't dominate and prevent discussion. I would hardly call steve bringing it up forcing the issue. The flant it guys are few and far between those who will fire you on the spot for even discussing the issue.

I think we would all like change to happen slowly, but sometimes a guys gotta get his stuff together and post it on the door of the church to get change rolling.

i have been lurking on this post. steve would expect me to jump in on "gospel at the center" and so i did not want to disappoint by being interested in a variety of topics. (smiley face)

joel, we battled this issue at our church where a group pushed for abstinence when considering Scriptureal qualificaions for deacons and pastors. they thought they were in the large majority. once it was noted the majority might not be so large and that Scripture did not support the position, we were able to move beyond the polarization of such an issue and arrive at a place, albeit unspoken, wherein those who looked at the issue through legalistic lenses could not superimpose a new pharisaism. at the same time those who understood a glass of wine or a beer to be in bounds did not flaunt their liberty and undermine unity.

you raise an interesting point - you suggest we grow our churches so that we might have a more influential voice. so is the rule, grow so you can throw your weight around? this is preciesly what appears to give Graham, at Prestonwood, and Mohler, SBTS, the privilege to have a "pulpit." i am not sure i find the suggestion tenable or desirable.

sorry joel, should have been untenable and undesirable.

Love the dialogue...

I agree with your observation about those who are sniffing out legalisms. I love that in young people! And I'm always game to point them to the One who is true.

Sadly, this isn't the case in my present church. The young folks have truly been gripped by a spirit of immature liberty in a myriad of ways (mainly due to the influence of a local parachurch organization). And in 10 months many of them have fallen hard, due to foolishness and lack of strong mentoring. They have built on a false foundation, and they are paying dearly for it.

I hope I did make the point that I don't believe Scripture condemns alcohol. But the Word offers much guidance and wisdom about alchohol, with good reason. That's where I'm coming from...there has to be some maturity, or we're in trouble.

At my last church, one of my elders (and one of my closest friends) occassionally liked to smoke a cigar. His life and ministry were of such quality, I didn't think twice about his affection for a Cuban every once in a while. His house was in order, he served God with passion and abandon. (Funny, he was a PK, and his mom still chases him with a broom when he lights up!)

"Does it really get you anywhere to climb the SBC ladder?"

Steve, have you not noticed that it gets you a shiny bus painted with the American flag, it gets you free shofar lessons and I'll bet you can name what you want on the buffet as well.

Paul, that totally slipped my mind. I retract my statement. ;)

Can one of you guys that cares more about where the sbc is headed send an article to the BP refuting Graham?

I, and other young leaders, have submitted several articles to BP. No response. :)

Todd,

Your middle paragraph describes EXACTLY the scenario I am talking about! When the people en masse begin to view things differently, that is when wholesale change occurs. And again, this is as it should be.

And no, I'm not at all advocating "grow your church so you can throw your weight around." You miss the point entirely. I'm saying grow your church so you can disiple people and bring them to be followers of Jesus to the glory of God and view all things in a thoroughly Biblical manner. Yes, the end result of this would probably be the changing of some "rules," but even that end is not for the purpose of "winning a fight," but rather, bringing cooperating churches to views and practices that allign with the text.

Jvpastor,

I'm not faulting Steve for bringing up the issue. I applaud him for doing so. The subject of this thread is not the value of Steve's post, but rather what one thinks of the alcohol and ministry forum. My dissagreement with Steve has nothing to do with him "forcing an issue." It has to do with our differences over how we perceive the forum in question. Hope this better explains where I am coming from.

FYI for all.

This post has triggered the most hits in a day I've recorded in a very long time, and it has been that way for a couple of days now. We also have at least 122 comments with this one.

It's been picked up on the "Fightin' Fundamentalist Forum" (seven pages worth of posts so far).

It's been picked up by The Puritan Board which has had a bunch of discussion as well.

Many other blogs to list are also talking about it. Think this issue is a big one right now? I hope this is an indicator that the SBC will see legalism under attack and a more missional tomorrow.

First, if this comment is inserted in weird placeI apologize After reading about half the comments I realized I would not have time to read them all. I want just get a few words in. I want to also say I am a Southern student and was at the Alcohal and Ministry forum.
One of things that I think that got totally obsecured in the whole discussion was that Mohler and Moore made the point that policy on not drinking was made so alchohal would not be a snare and to protect testimonies. NOT because alcohal is inherently sinful!People need to realize protecting your testimony is important because is shows love and concern for the church and the world. The sad truth is the world and the church has expectations of ministers that may or may not be biblical. I know people who are unsaved and were offended by the fact that campus crusade staff were drinking in Ohio. These people were unsaved people who did not think drinking was sin let alone believe in sin and for whatever cultural or other reason where offended by ministry staff drinking. Would it not have been better not to drink so unecessary reprouch against a minister of the Gospel whether its wrong or not. There absulotely nothing Pharisical about that. That is why I personally don't drink I do not need that potential hinderence so I am willing giving up some Christian liberty. That is not Pharisical! (BTW Ithink the throughing out of that word has been ad hominem and not helpful for any real discussions that weighs the issues in Biblical and rational ways in the posts Ive read regarding Mohler) Why put a snare or an potential obstacle when you can just as easliy not have it? I think that was at the heart of what Mohler and Moore where getting at. It saddens me but I did not see anyone mention that but just go on the attack? It is a mark of immaturity and I would plead with my brothers in Christ who disagree to disagree in a well thought ways. And not to misinterupt what whas said either. I think certain quotes have pulled and used by others who were not there to try to make Mohler and Moore look prohibtion Nazi when thats not what they were doing at all. I think what comes down is will you put others overself for the sake the letting the Gospel be above reprouch. You are free to drink but will you put aside that freedom to serve others who may have ligitamate or not reasons to be offended by alcohal.

Joe,
Regarding BP... instead try sending it to your state paper... you will have better luck. This is the "Think Globally/Write Locally" approach.
Lamb

SLamb, sup? Wondered where you were on this, yet you remain silent on the issue. :) Cool. And good advice on writing, though the audience is severely limited.

I'll try it Scott. Thanks.

JohnBarbi,

Luke 5:29-32 And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?" And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."

It seems as if the "weaker brother" position has taken over as the rule of law in the church. So now when one states the biblical position they are seen as divisive. And many times the abstinence folks go against Romans 14 and hold those who drink in contempt.

If the folks in Ohio were only offended by Christians drinking did they even hear the Gospel? They and we have more serious things to worry about than having a drink. The world doesn't understand and sees us as legalists and don't understand grace. In actuality, this was the perfect opportunity for one drinking a beer to witness to the offended. It was a time to explain that our religion isn't based on drinking alcohol and that is more akin to Mormonism. We are not made righteous by our actions, but Christ is our righteousness. Then go on to explain the Gospel of grace.

Mark

Jumpingin I wanted to make a quick comment.. One of the things I am seeing over and over again in this beverage alcohol argument is that younger Christians who do partake tend to flaunt it and try to to brag on their liberty. I think this is FAR from the case. There are a few who may do that, but most are like me; Scared witless that they will be seen as nasty sinners because they from time to time have an alcholic beverage. We look over our shoulders in restaurants and check our trash cans for any sign of drinking before someone from church comes to visit.

For that reason, I am glad to see that this discussion is going on out there, even if at a high level. The real difference will be made in healthy local churches teaching truth and avoiding Phariseeism. And that is the real issue here, legalism. Living in the south in the US I have experienced my fair share of legalism and it has been a cancer in the church here for decades.

Rich, very helpful comment. I see it as you do.

Rich,

That is one issue that I have thought about as far as having a beer and being seen as someone awful. Hardly ever do we hear that exegetically teetotaling cannot be found to be binding on the church. We don't hear from Scripture who the stronger brother is, etc. I think a full biblical approach to this issue in the SBC would tame some of these folks.

Mark

Ps. I commented on my blog about this as I started going through the audio of the forum.

interesting comments, especially the one about 25 back where the guy says:

"I truly can consumn(sic) whatever I want if my heart is right. And the person who wants to legislate what I consumn(sic) can kiss my butt."
there was a time such language would be considered offensive, remember it is not what goes in but what comes out.

Is that now the Christian response? What happened to dying to self, loving your neighbor, turn the other cheek (maybe its your exegesis of that passage) and all that other jazz? I guess those are secondary issues compared to what you consume. Does that make you a consumer christian?

And what about the doctrine of putting others first? Seems that butt kissing remark would never be appropriate in light of Christ teaching, regardless of the slight towards us.

Paul would show deference to weaker brothers, but not legalists. I believe Paul and Jesus both effectively said "kiss my butt" to legalists.

I am a newbie here in Reformissionary land, but I find the discussion interesting. I'll have to stop by more often, if that doesn't offend you, Steve.

Maybe I'm wrong, but so what if it upsets a brother or a sister if I drink a beer? As I understand Rom 14, the issue is not if he becomes angered that I drink, but if my drinking makes him drink when he cannot do so in faith. Then I've led him into sin (for him). And that is why I must not drink around a "weaker" brother or sister. So I do not care that Mohler is offended by my drinking, but I do care if he drinks because I am drinking if he cannot do so in faith.

Also, our testimony should remain untarnished that the world might receive Jesus as Lord - for the world's benefit. Does the world care that I drink a beer? Is the gospel endangered when I drink a glass of wine? The only people in my world who frown when I drink are other believers. And I stand or fall before my master, not my brothers.

So if you want to abstain, abstain. I should not judge you for that choice. Likewise, you should not judge your brothers and sisters when they choose to drink.

MoMo's mojo is problematic because it is (1) judgmental and (2) it is more concerned with reputation than it is with freedom.

There is a time to abstain. But if my Lutheran friend orders a beer for lunch, then, for me, it's time to drink.

I've just written an article about what could happen to Mohler and the SBC if Al changed his mind and came out against prohibition. It may ruin his career, but it may also change the SBC for the better at the same time.

Please understand, though, that I am an Australian Presbyterian who has never darkened the door of an SBC church in my life - so feel free to correct me if need be:

http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/2005/09/how-al-mohler-could-force-sbc-to.html

One thing I have noticed over many years of ministry is that most Christians are desperately afraid of GRACE. They would much rather have a 10-point list of dos and don'ts. God gives us so much freedom it is ridiculous. The Bible is not full of rules but principles. And we should rejoice in that reality.

One example, how to do church. God says to have a large gathering and a small gathering. Throw in worship, fellowship and discipleship. You will need some deacons and elders. Do missions and evangelism. That's it.

God's blueprint is vague and intentionally so. He gives us great freedom in life. These leaders simply will not humble themselves and teach this for one reason - fear.

Much has been said about Rom 14 and 15. Here is a quick list on HOW TO CARE FOR WEAKER BROTHERS - taken from Friesen's work, "Decision Making and the Will of God."

DO NOT
1. Put a stumbling block in the way (13)
2. Destroy with food (15)
3. Let your good thing become evil (16)
4. Give offense (20)
5. Tear down (20)
6. Just please yourself (15:1)

DO
1. Walk according to love (15)
2. Serve Christ (18)
3. Pursue peace (19)
4. Build up one another (19)
5. Bear the weaknesses of the weak (15:1)
6. Please your neighbor for his good (15:2)
7. Edify him (15:2)

This week I was in Dallas and decided to do something I can't do in my home town because it would create a stir. I decided to have a couple of beers with my lunch, and one just for the sake of it while I watched TV at the hotel. Now that I am back in the city I pastor, the strongest drink will be an expresso.

Can't Say

Interesting discussion - and sad confessions. Here in Europe (esp. in Germany) alcohol is not the subject. Drunkenness is sin - enjoying a beer is a gift of god. All gifts of God can be misused.

It's totally clear to me. Were not talking about biblical mandates - go to Mark Driscolls "Radical Reformission" and his section about alcohol. It's about culture. Totally.

You know how we Europeans view Americans? (I'm speaking as an American living in Germany) You guys are totally fat. Where is the SBTS resolution about obesity? Where is it? No alcohol - but "drunkenness" at Wendys, Burger King, McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

Here is a new situation for Al Mohler: He's sitting in a restaurant with that Lutheran pastor - instead of ordering a glass of beer, he orders prime rib, potatoes dripping with fat, a piece of pie and a jug of coke.

Does Al Mohler leave?

Of course he doesn't.

Think about it.

Strong and helpful words Danny.

September 22, 2005


An Open Letter to Southern Baptist Pastors and Southern Seminary Faculty

I am deeply grateful for the ministry of Dr. Al Mohler and Southern Seminary. I enjoy Dr. Mohler’s web log on a consistent basis and find him to be theologically erudite, compassionate, and warmly evangelical --- a rare mix in Southern Baptist circles.

However, after listening to the forum discussion at Southern Seminary regarding the Christian’s use of alcohol, I found myself surprised at President Mohler’s illogical, not to mention unbiblical, conclusions regarding alcohol.

Dr. Mohler advocated total abstinence among Southern Baptists, not so much on biblical grounds (where mandatory abstinence cannot be supported), but on covenantal grounds. Most church covenants, and definitely Southern Seminary’s covenant, calls for total abstinence and ties discipline to the violation of the covenant.

Mohler makes statements like, “I dare exaggerate not, 99% of all doors of SBC ministry will be closed to you” if you, as a pastor, do not advocate total abstinence.

He further calls those who refuse to preach abstinence “high bound and unthinking,” and a person “whom a SBC church would not take a risk to call as pastor.”

I am fearful Dr. Mohler has spent too many years in the ivory tower of SBC denominationalism and has sacrificed his earlier commitment to biblical exegesis and church reform.

The question that should be asked is this, “Should total abstinence be a part of a church covenant?" This debate is not be about underage drinking. The laws of the land should, and must, be obeyed by believers. However, is it right for a Southern Baptist church to make a person of age vow to abstain from drinking an alcoholic beverage and then promise discipline if they refuse to abide by the covenant?

I pastor a church that averages over fifteen hundred in regular attendance. I preach the Scriptures in an expositional manner, hold to a high view of the Word of God, and our church practices biblical discipline, always disciplining with grace and an eye toward restoration of the offending member.

When I came as pastor of this church fourteen years ago one of the first things I did was lead the church to change the church covenant. I led the church to take out the sentence “I vow to abstain from the use of alcoholic beverages” on the grounds that I, as Senior Pastor, refused to lead our church to discipline anyone whose personal conscience allowed him to drink alcoholic beverages. We did, however, add the sentence to our covenant, “I vow to abstain from drunkenness” after explaining that this was the biblical ethic.

Sure, there were those in our church who disagreed. But the vast majority (98%) in our church appreciated the thoroughly biblical approach to covenantal fellowship, and even more understood that to discipline a person for drinking alcohol could not be supported by Scripture and would even be harmful to the body of Jesus Christ. How harmful?

Allow me to carry Dr. Mohler’s logic to an area that Southern Baptist are unusually silent about --- food. There would be some who say that food and alcohol cannot be compared because food does not alter a person physiologically. Really?

What about the astronomically high number of cases of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other physical problems associated with the consumption of high calorie desserts at our church fellowships? Why don’t we discipline people for the sin of eating the “wrong” foods?

Have you looked at the average weight of Southern Baptists compared to overseas evangelicals? Go on any mission trip and sit in the airport and watch people walk the terminal. You will be able to spot the Americans, and more than likely, distinguish the Southern Baptists from the rest of the Americans.

Allow me to tread even a tad further onto this dangerous ice. Most Southern Baptists who advocate total abstinence of alcohol do so while holding a pen in their fleshy fingers, or preaching this doctrine behind pulpits where they stand portly and rotund as they shake a fat finger at those who sin by drinking alcohol.

Again, why don’t we discipline people who overeat? Other than the fact most pulpits would then be vacated by disciplined pastors, I would propose we don’t discipline for overeating because this “sin” is not in our church covenants, and rightly so!

Am I being harsh?

No, I am seeking to prove a point.

The problem in our Baptist churches is that we have ceased preaching exegetically on the subject of alcohol and have succumbed to the temptation of identifying all alcohol as “sin.” The Bible never calls “alcohol” a sin, the Bible calls “drunkenness” a sin. Anybody who drinks alcohol in moderation is easily within the sacred ethic of Scripture regarding Christian living.

Mohler says, “But why would you invite a person into a snare (alchohol)?”

Answer? The same reason you would invite a person to eat your Oreo cookie delight dessert. The sin is not the drink or the food, the sin is overindulgence in the life of the person who consumes too much of either.

To carry Dr. Mohler’s argument against alcohol over to food, you would have to teach something that sounds as ridiculous as the following:

“There are some kinds of food that are sin for Christians. Anything over 500 calories per serving (cheesecake, French fries, etc . . . ) leads to the destruction of your body, which is God’s temple. Therefore, it is best for Christians to totally abstain from those fatty, high caloric foods that others in our culture might find acceptable. Further, we covenant together as God’s people to not eat these foods when we gather together, and if someone does eat those particular foods, we will discipline them for the good of the body as a whole (pardon the pun).”

Surely Dr. Mohler is aware that the first missionary offering for Carey’s mission in India was gathered as a spittoon was passed around the pastor’s meeting? Surely Dr. Mohler is aware that the records of our first Baptist associations in England recorded the sales of “gin and ale” and the proceeds were used for the support of our Baptist mission work?

Baptists made a mistake during the Prohibition Era of the United States by placing a personal vow of “total abstinence” of alcohol in church covenants. It is very appropriate for a Christian to personally abstain from alcohol, but I believe it is illogical, unbiblical, and eventually harmful to call upon others to vow to abstain from alcohol as well. Let it be a matter of conscience, not covenant.

The Biblical mandate is moderation.

The historical Baptist position is moderation.

The logical position regarding alcohol is moderation.

To all those Seminary students who are looking toward ministry in a world that is in need of a Savior, I would encourage you to not let silly peripheral issues cause you to lose sight of the glorious, saving gospel of Jesus Christ that we are called to proclaim.

I would urge each pastor to lead his church to covenant on the basis of Biblical principles and not cultural standards that change with the whims of man.


In His Grace,


Wade Burleson
Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Oklahoma
President, The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (2002-2004)
Chairman, The Southern Baptist Denominational Calendar Committee (1996)
Trustee, The International Mission Board, SBC (2005 – Present)

My Oklahoma pride is swelling.

Wade,

Good work! Hope you mailed a copy to Al

Wade, great article - is that going to be published somewhere please say that it is going to be published somewhere! Please send it to the Baptist Messenger here in OK! Please send it to Mohler!

The SBC is in desperate need of more Pastor's like you with BALLS to say what needs to be said!

Wade, excellent open letter. We wrestled with this issue in OK when considering deacon qualifications. one interesting note. there is a particular kjv translation that most OK kjv only pastors and members refer to in which the passage in timothy allows for moderation for the deacon but not for the elder. proper exegesis proves this to be a gross misrepresentation. however, when we were dealing with the issue, this particular translation was pointed to for support. so not only in our covenants, but in some of our translations we do a great disservice to the these issues.

i am with jvpastor - this should be submitted to the Baptist Messenger as Baptist Press will not touch it. after further thought, the Baptist Messenger would not touch it either ... still worth a try.

Wade,

Though I am a student at Southern, willingly bound by the covenant there, I greatly appreciate your post and how it has challenged this legalism using the same arguments put forth throughout the resurgence (the Biblical mandate/the historical Baptist position). May we continue to be a "people of the book."

I must first admit I haven't read any of the comments, just the posting. But I have to comment on the lunch situation. Why would it be bad to be seen with people who are drinking? I think we spend too much time worrying about what people think about us and not enough time investing in other people (like the lost who might, heaven forbid drink.. gasp! Not that all people who drink are lost, but some are). I think asking someone to not drink because you are concerned about your integrity is crazy! Ok, I'll stop now before I start to sound like I'm bashing. I'm not, like you I agree with Mohler on a lot of issues, but I'm commenting on the situation.

Tonight I read this from Grudem's Systematic Theology, for my class at SBTS:
"To walk in the law of the Lord is to be 'blameless' (Ps. 119:1). Therefore we are not to add prohibitions to those already in Scripture. From time to time there may be situations in which it would be wrong, for example, for an individual Christian to drink coffee or Coca-Cola, or to attend movie theaters, or to eat meat offered to idols (see 1 Cor. 8-10), but unless some specific teaching or some general principle of Scripture can be shown to prohibit these (or any other activities) for all believers for all time, we must insist that these activities are not in themselves sinful and they are not in all situations prohibited by God for his people."
(Grudem, 132)

One more Anti-Mohlerite posting can be found at my own blog. Not for the fainthearted...

http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/2005/09/al-mohlers-celebrity-blog.html

Steve I think you and some of the commentors missed the boat. I don't really understand where you guys are coming from. I am against Christians drinking not to be a legalist, but to be more like Christ. I explain my entire arguement over at http://youthguyblog.blogspot.com/

I do appreciate the discussion, it is helpful for brothers and sisters in Christ to wrestle with these issues, provided we don't get to off track.

One thing I haven't seen here in these comments is the hermeneutics of scripture regarding alcohol consumption. I see a lot of opinions not based on scripture, but preference. I think it would be neat to know the ages of everyone who has posted in this thread.

I have posted on my blog one of the best biblical essays written by a guy named Santo Calarco. I will leave it for a few days, so you can copy it and leave opion here of it. The link is http://jeffcalloway.blogs.com/jeff_calloway/2005/09/wine.html

Please read!

Bad typing in my previous post. Should have said, one of the best biblical essays I have read on this subject.

This thread is pretty much dead. But I'll hop in one last time.

Bryan, you said, "I am against Christians drinking not to be a legalist, but to be more like Christ." To be more like Christ would require you to drink wine, not call for abstinence. lol

Jeff, Scripture has already been laid out here on this blog in the past demontstrating that wine and strong drink are gifts of God meant to be enjoyed, not abused. But If you need a list, go here.

The article you post on your blog is unsound in both its "research" and conclusions. It's just plain terrible. I don't have the time or interest to run through it point by point. But a good place to start would be the book, "God Gave Wine" by Ken Gentry. Check that out and respond to it on your blog. That could prove profitable.

Joe,

Good point about the article. The guy is not a scholar, not everyone can communicate in a scholarly manner.

I am going to begin a personal study to see if I can find evidence that Jesus participated in behavior that the Bible condemns others for. I am 100% sure that I will not find such evidence. Is someone who drinks considered a drunkard? No, but drinking can lead to drunkenness. All it takes to become a drunk is to become drunk, pure and simple. My question would be did Jesus participate in a behavior of drinking strong drink, which could lead others around him to indulge in drinking strong drink, which in turn could lead to drunkeneness.

These discussion are good stuff!

I agree with Joe--this post (though long-lived) is close to dead. But like Joe, I too will hop in again (mainly because I am waiting for my morning coffee so I can start writing).

Jeff said above, "I am going to begin a personal study to see if I can find evidence that Jesus participated in behavior that the Bible condemns others for. I am 100% sure that I will not find such evidence. Is someone who drinks considered a drunkard? No, but drinking can lead to drunkenness. All it takes to become a drunk is to become drunk, pure and simple. My question would be did Jesus participate in a behavior of drinking strong drink, which could lead others around him to indulge in drinking strong drink, which in turn could lead to drunkeneness."

Ok. Sounds good. Sounds pious. But logically I am not certain such an argument works. Why? Well, we know that Jesus also spent time with prostitutes. Granted, he did not take advantage of their services, but could his spending time with prostitutes have led others, i.e. the sinners all around him, to partake of time with these prostitutes in ways that did not glorify God? Sure, it's possible. But Jesus humbly and faithfully ministered to those around him for the glory of God. So, as many others have ably said earlier in this thread, we do best if we allow the texts to mean what they mean and say what they say; not what we think they ought to mean or say given our specific contexts. If you abstain, then humbly abstain for the glory of God. If you imbibe, then humbly imbibe for the glory of God. For, as we all know, it's not really about us anyway.

"My question would be did Jesus participate in a behavior of drinking strong drink, which could lead others around him to indulge in drinking strong drink, which in turn could lead to drunkeneness."

I wonder what the value of such a study might be? Obviously Jesus ate around people and we also know that there is the possibility that someone saw him eating and could have overindulged at the buffet because they saw Jesus eating.

Jesus' eating has nothing to do with someone else's overindulgence. Likewise, his drinking has nothing to do with someone else's overindulgence.

Any good thing can be distorted, harmful and sinful when done in excess (sleeping, working, talking, sex, recreation, etc.). Even prayer and Bible reading can become harmful if you are so wrapped up in those things that you neglect your family and other responsibilities like your commitment to your employer.

And then proving that others around Jesus didn't fall into excess still doesn't mean that Jesus didn't drink around them.

I read somewhere that American tea-totalism started in reaction to immigration from Catholic parts of Europe. Basically "we can handle it, but we need to keep those Irish and Italians off the booze" - just anti-Catholic bigotry by the Protestant majority.

OK guys. After some serious prayer and soul searching, I can see where you guys are coming from. I am not afraid to say I was wrong. Hey, I was wrong. I will still abstain. I pastor in the Cleveland, OH area, which is highly Catholic area which of course has been a "drinking religion". About 50% of my congregation are former catholics and many people in our church enjoy a drink. What I have to do now is to teach them to use alcohol in moderation and how to bring glory to God. What can I say, I was brought up SBC in Knoxville. Being 43 and making this kind of change is a Reformation in me!

Jeff, very cool. Good to have you around bro.

People who demand abstinence, even though they recognize that it isn't Biblical create situations like the following...

There is a lovely older couple...late 70's...who have been members of a SBC for years. The husband has been on the deacon board many times over the years. This particular church won't allow women deacons, but that is another post. If they had, then the wife would surely have been a deacon. She is well-respected as well. Both have been on a number of mission trips and are active in a number of church ministries.

Their daughter-in-law is from the UK. She isn't a Christian, and has a very negative view of Christianity because of her in-laws and their church. She was definitely turned off by what she saw as legalistic attitudes.

You see, all of these years her in-laws have been making wine in their garage for personal consumption! She said they were in the process of cleaning empty wine bottles one day when she happened to walk through the garage to get to the kitchen door. They had been expecting the preacher, and were quite shocked he would come in through the garage. They panicked and hid! She said she found them hiding with their bottles in a garage cabinet. They only came out when they heard her knocking on the door and calling their names.

I think it is sad that committed Christians have to resort to hiding in garage cabinets because they like to drink wine on occasion. Neither in-law has a problem with alcohol.

I asked the woman who told me the story why her in-laws didn't change churches. She said they loved their church, had grown up in it, so they didn't want to go elsewhere. But they just didn't think drinking in moderation was wrong.

My only question for all the people who are members of SBC and drink anyway is how do they feel about signing the membership agreement? Most say there is no drinking allowed. I would be uncomfortable signing such a document knowing I was going to drink anyway, which is why I am a member of a church that doesn't have a no-drinking clause.

Our church doesn't allow drinking at church events (small groups included) because of insurance reasons and because they don't want it to become an issue among members. We have people on different sides of the fence on the drinking issue.

Elle

I'm a SBC member, have been since second-birth. I don't get what the fuss is. I wonder how much time & energy has been wasted on this meaningless conversation, with absolutely no absolute conclusion to the matter, this side of heaven. I'm almost embarassed to even be taking the time to write this response. Wouldn't we be better off serving Christ, loving others as Christ did? Our nation is immersed in commercialism, relativism, postmodernism, and, well, defiance of God - just to name a few issues - and here we sit arguing about "to drink or not to drink" - to what purpose? I just think it's a waste of valuable time.

And thanks for wasting my space and my time in the process.

Your comment makes clear that you didn't read my post closely at all.

Steve-

You wrote: "The truth is, where there is open discussion you can often find growing error that should be corrected as well as the rediscovery of truth that should be embraced. I think the discussion on alcohol on the web is freeing new generations to think biblically rather than traditionally or legalistically".

I couldn't agree more with you. So, to try and clarify my prior post, if once we become followers of Christ, we would learn to truly follow Christ; turn to scripture first and consistently for our definition of truth, then I think we wouldn't be "arguing" on this topic. We'd probably spend less time discussing what our principles should be, and more time following Christ's example.

Of interest:

http://www.SBTSBlogs.net

The bible is very clear. Drunkenness is a sin, but drinking isn't. Back in the day of Jesus, wine was what you had with dinner if you could afford it. It was actually safer than the water because of the alchohol. Furthermore, there wern't refridgeration devices to keep juice fresh. Also, of course, Jesus turned water into wine. A fact that many people want to change with interpretation nuance. I understand that people don't want to endorse drinking because of the dangers of alchoholism, and that's fair, but don't try to push it like it's the word of god, cause it ain't. The bible has many gray areas, but this isn't one of them.

I really appreciate this article, as I am doing more research on the alcohol debate. (About to graduate from a baptist seminary) I agree especially with the last comment that The bible has some gray areas, but this isn't one of them. The bible is clear that drinking in moderation is normal and O.K. Where conventions, traditions of man depart from the scriptures I depart from them (Luther paraphase)


I also agree with the comments on obesity, as I am from Nova Scotia (Canada)and a great many pastor, and layman is overweight roaming from BBQ to potluck luncheon and people just chuckle with 40lbs of flab dangling from their waist.

What is important is defending the truth of the gospel yet false doctrines, bad theology is tolerated but many post-prohibitionists are still saying alcohol is bad. I say Beer and wine tastes good just don't over do it. Any half-decent exegete can tell you that moderate alcohol consumption is perfectly O.K.

I also agree with the comment: "Perhaps the 1% of the doors open within the SBC (that Al mentions) are the places where the real potential for the convention lies."

Finally, I leave you with God's word:
Col 2:20 "If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations,"Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch"?All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings."

Amen and God bless

Karl

Wow am I a late comer on this one. Wonder if anyone will read it?


I attend a PCA congregation for 5 years now A christian for 30 years mostly fundamentalist churches. I see a HUGE social class disparity between the church I am in now and where I came from. I wonder if that is part of the reason why some feel it is legalistic to teach abstinence.If you are upper class,educated and drink and a presbyterian/lutheran or any more orthodox christian it is ok. If you are poor uneducated and a fundamentalist it is not OK. I have worked in law enforcement,forensic psych and emergency medical services and have training as a CAC. WITHOUT A DOUBT the majority of presbyterians and others of orthodox faiths are alcoholics or on their way to being one.
It is so obvious for those of us who come from fundamentalist churches. Many have drug,alcohol,sex addictions or come from families or communities where it is rampant. Basically it takes one to know one. All addicts know that. They know it and repent.
It is such a age old argument. 'Sipping saints' are a huge problem.

Anyone who is truly born-again,re-born,regenerate whatever term you use WILL NOT walk in power or holiness over the long haul if you drink alcohol. It is impossible. Truly I think the bottom line is people like to drink so the legalist arsonal is fired.
Your fruit and life will justify if your decision is the right one.

David, you gave no biblical argument and your other arguments are mostly circumstantial. I've had different experiences that lead me believe that I've seen far greater problems with legalism than alcoholism.

Both are true. Is there a problem with some believers who abuse alcohol? Absolutely. Is there a problem with some believers who make extra-biblical rules? You bet. I'll try to stay biblical on both counts by making no other rules and teaching moderation. I encourage you to do the same.

Hmmm...I've commented here before. I think the alcohol issue is one that both sides sensationalize. I'm not sure why so many who are free in Christ want to rationalize drinking booze. Mohler is correct that you will not find a biblical edict on not drinking...You will not because alcohol was necessary in the day of the Bible. It was needed for purification, medicinal, and anti-bacterial properties. Today, we have much more efficient products that have replaced the uses of alcohol from biblical times. There is no need to consume alcohol other than for purely recreational purposes to "get a buzz" or, eventually, get drunk.

To me it's not legalistic to have the expectation that you shouldn't drink if you're a Christian. What's legalistic to me is those who would seek to drink looking to proof-text the bible to push their side of the debate. If that's the case, then they are bound by the law. I could make some funny comments here that I have in other debates but it's just plain silly to push the alcohol envelope when we have a plethora of beverages to enjoy, all without alcohol.

I wonder why so many want to rationalize extra-biblical models of morality.

My advice: Scott, read the comments - people have interacted with your ideas already.

Steve - can't you set your posts to close comments after so many days/weeks? Mine shut down after 30 or 60 days allowing an old conversation to come to an end. :)

Joe's right. I need to find a way to close the comments (dunno if Typepad can do this or not).

Scott, since Mohler admits there is no clear biblical argument for abstaining (quite the opposite), isn't your side the one doing the rationalizing? The position of moderation (abuse is the sin, not consumption) is a clear, biblical position.

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