For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Debate That Won't Die

Baptists and Beer. It won’t go away. Rodney Albert recently posted an article on his blog showing how far removed Missouri Baptists appear to be from our brethren in other states. While they require state Baptist leaders to abstain from alcohol, the recent MBC meeting saw a resolution against alcohol barely even pass.

The truly amazing thing is this. Rod’s previous two posts dealt with the upcoming presidential election: one focusing on Thompson’s lack of pro-life backbone, the other on the selling-out by many “evangelical leaders,” backing candidates with a serious lack of moral fiber and Christian character in favor of “electability.” (I pause to reiterate my support for Mike Huckabee).

Both of those posts rated a total of 7 combined comments. The alcohol post had reached 28 at the time I recorded these words (and I’m sure has well surpassed that by the time anyone reads this). The point: It seems we are more concerned about defending our right to drink than we are about the moral fiber of our next national leader. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

I had previously addressed the issue of alcohol with simple line: drinking makes you stupid. And while I was attempting to be cute, the truth is that wise Christians should see abstinence as the better option.

Those who argue for a Christian’s right to consume alcohol point to the fact that the Bible never specifically prohibits drinking. In fact, “oinos” (wine) is often referred to, consumed, etc. Apart from the fact that the Jewish consumption of wine is a far cry from our feel-good society’s worship of beer and whiskey, the truth remains: Scripture never says “drinking is sin.”

However, the wise Christian must look beyond strict prohibitions to consider the principles which Scripture does clearly teach. We do this in regards to issues like gambling, abortion, etc. No strict prohibitions exist, but the principles are clearly there. Why can we not apply this same approach to alcohol in our culture?

The debate seems to be over the issue of Christian Liberty. Some say, “I personally abstain, but I can’t tell others to.” Maybe not by specific command, but can we not say that wisdom encourages abstinence; that holiness certainly would encourage abstinence; that a basic care and concern for those around us encourages abstinence? Certainly we can say, biblically, that care for our brothers often outweighs our own liberty.

John MacArthur writes in his commentary on 1 Corinthians:
But Christian liberty is not unbridled license. It is never freedom to sin, and often it should exclude things that in themselves are not sin but that may become sinful or lead others to sin. Peter says, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond–slaves of God” (1 Pet. 2:16). . . Before we exercise our Christian liberty in a given area not forbidden by Scripture, we should consider how it will affect others, especially our fellow believers.
God never said: Don’t Drink Alcohol. But certainly the principles taught in His Word would lead thoughtful and caring Christians to consider the devastation to individuals and families that alcohol brings, to consider the struggle that many have with alcohol, to consider the harm alcohol consumption can bring to our testimony, and would lead us to a clear conviction that drinking is wrong.

I know the debate will rage on. I know I’m not the most articulate spokesman for the abstinence camp. I simply pray that we can move beyond the arrogance of our own “freedoms” and think of the impact on those around us. And with that, I will leave the debate to the rest of you scholars out there.

10 comments:

Dan Updegrave said...

Hello brother-in-law!

I think a few of the comments on Rod's blog have given a good explanation of why the vote was as close as it was. I appreciate Voddie Baucham's comments when this resolution was passed by the SBC. You've probably already read his at http://www.voddiebaucham.org/Blog/5EEAE87A-3D0D-47DE-BC1A-32B85A21E340.html
I agree with Baucham that a lot of this seems to be saber rattling. A resolution with poor wording, brought out of committee, with mishandled floor procedures, and a flurry of continued arguments after the convention ends all appear to my eyes as each side trying to paint those with a differing opinion in a extremely negative color. As a youth minister I have challenged our youth not to argue over issues like this that can seem to go back and forth forever, but instead ask the question "Is this the wise thing for me to do?" Of course that question has to have at its base biblical wisdom and not man's. The other way to phrase the question --"Is this the best for me in serving Christ? -- also gets us beyond these arguments. I believe had the resolution been worded with a little more wisdom we would have seen an overwhelming vote of abstinence from alcohol that is the wisest and best choice for us. And like you, I'm not the most articulate -- so I do appreciate Baucham's thoughts on the SBC resolution.

Scott Weldon said...

Dan,
My post was not so much about the vote. I understand the politics here. My concern is that we seem more ready to defend alcohol consumption than we do to support pro-life candidates, etc. It's not the resolution vote per say, but the argement that continues to rage regarding one's "freedom to drink." As you said, and as I said in this post, the wise Christian throws that freedom aside in favor of other issues, mainly the concern for our brothers. I don't think that you would tell your youth (at least I hope not) what these people want to say, which is: I personally don't drink, but I can't tell you not to. If you tell your youth that, I'm not sure you're sending them a very good message. Instead you would teach them, and I would agree: alcohol is not strictly prohibited, but other principles in Scripture clealy lead us to support a lifestyle of abstinence. As you said, in a quite articulate way, ask "Is this a wise thing?" I would argue, no it is clearly not.

Anonymous said...

There wouldn't be a debate for those who believe in moderation. The rage is from those who want to judge others for doing so.

Just because there are no comments in the pro-life section doesn't mean that it is not important...It is. We are on the same page there.

No one is trying to impose a moderation view on someone that believes in abstaining. It is that those who abstain want the others to do the same. Check out Romans 14 again. Check out the Murray article posted on Albert's blog.

Scott Weldon said...

Anon.
I did read Romans 14. It says:

Rom 14:20 Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.

Rom 14:21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.

This is exactly the point. Because alcohol is such a struggle for so many, it is wiser for the Christian to abstain, to keep from harming another.

I am not "judging" another for what he does. I am simply saying that I encourage those around me to honor the spirit of this principle by abstaining to keep from causing a brother to stumble. I repeat the example from my earliest post on this. A brother who had struggled with alcohol for years was in a fellowship which allowed drinking. Going to a SS party and having alcohol served became a stumbling block to him. Technically, the SS class didn't do wrong by drinking. But they did do wrong by exercising a liberty that was a stumbling block to their brother. Since this is often the case, it is wiser to abstain. Not a damnation judgment; simply a matter of wise living.

Anonymous said...

Scott, you have on your Blog of Note, Erik Raymond's blog "Irish Calvinist"...

Have you read his post on this topic?
This one was #4 on the Top Post for 2006: Could Jesus be Jesus and a Southern Baptist?
http://www.irishcalvinist.com/?p=253

Or check out this one: A “Paige” out of the Pharisee’s book…more SBC Jedi Mind Tricks
http://www.irishcalvinist.com/?p=260

or this one: Biblical Perspective on Alcohol (resource)
http://www.irishcalvinist.com/?p=267

Just some thoughts...

Scott Weldon said...

Anonymous,
Thanks for pointing that out. I am well aware that many of my Reformed brethren have different views on this than I do. I am aware of the arguments; but I still stand by my view that the harm to my brother outweighs my liberty to imbibe.
I also know that while I agree with much of Raymond and others, many of my reformed brothers also believe in infant baptism. Again, I know the arguments, I respect the view, but I disagree. I think we'll need to leave it at that: we disagree as to the nature of what God has said about these things. I won't change your mind, and I know you won't change mine since I see what I see so clearly in Holy Scripture.
But again, thanks for the reminder. I like Erik anyway!

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with your view of abstaining. It sounds like you think that others should do the same and if they don't they are wrong or not living as "holy" as those who don't. Am I misunderstanding your view?

Scott Weldon said...

I don't know that I would say those who drink are not as "holy", but I would say that I honestly feel that are not acting in wisdom. This is why I have repeatedly said here and on Rodney Albert's blog that the "wise Christian" will see abstaining as the better course.

Of course, that would depend on the circumstances. If we're talking about a brother who has wine for dinner or a beer in the fridge for those hot summer days after being in the yard, that's one thing. If we're talking about someone who hangs out in bars, drinks heavily, etc., that's another issue. In that case, I would be much harsher in my rebuke.

Again, it's a matter of wisdom in dealing with those around us, and I would "strongly encourage" my imbibing brothers to consider the impact of their witness.

Anonymous said...

Scott, would you agree that the issue is abuse and not use? Since drinking in and of itself is not sinful but drunkenness is, should we not then agree that drunkenness, adultery, stealing, etc... are sins? If we know they are sins, why isn't that enough? Why do we need a resolution on alcohol if it is not a sin—in and of itself? Why do you hear preachers say that it is wrong?

And I'm not sure if there has been a debate, has there been? Where both sides give their Scriptural view and then allow for cross-examination done in brotherly love?

Scott Weldon said...

Brother (or Sister, I guess),
In my mind, use of alcoholis abuse of freedom/liberty. It is exercising your freedom with a "who cares" attitude about anyone but yourself. The Jack Daniels and Beer crowd of today is not the same as Timothy's "wine for stomache's sake."

I honestly see this as simply one more step in the "liberalizing" of our faith. The current church culture continues to lower the standards, to put more emphasis on the individual and freedom than on the good of the body and restraint. I can only repeat the same thing I have said many times:

Scritpure clearly tells me to consider the good of my brother. Having seen the destruction of families, etc. from alcohol, any freedom I might have to imbibe is secondary. In love, Christians should refrain. In love, we should consider those who struggle with this instead of flaunting it in their faces.

If abortion is sin, then why do we need a resolution against it. Or gambling, or homosexuality, etc. It's a silly argument. Resolutions are the conventions way of stating, or even re-stating our position on these matters.

This whole discussion wearies me. I know we will neither one change our minds. Let's agree to disagree and move on. Ultimately, we will only have to answer to ONE regarding our behavior and the influence it has on those around us. I prefer to be "safe" in that regard.

Let me just say this (at the risk of getting in all kinds of trouble). I like alcohol. I like wine. On a really hot day of work, a beer hits the spot (all knowledge from many years ago). But my enjoyment, and my comfort and my personal taste mean nothing if I cause a brother to stumble. It's just not worth it. And given the culture we live in, my partaking will harm my testimony, will be seen by others to condone drunkenness, etc. It is simply wise for the caring Christian to abstain.