Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's Almost Enough to Make Me Take Up Drinking

According to a survey conducted by Baptist Press 77 percent of senior pastors and 59 percent of laity believe "Christians should not use alcohol as a beverage." Forty-one percent of SBC pastors and 34 percent of Southern Baptist laity agreed with that statement "Scripture indicates that people should never drink" alcohol.

Outside of rare social circumstances, I don't partake frequently in the consumption of adult beverages, but I do believe that the Lord's Supper should include wine, and I find the sort of extra-biblical assumptions expressed in this survey to be troubling.

Surely given that our Lord was at least tangentially in the wine-making business (see John 2:1-11) and that the apostle Paul commends wine to Timothy (I Tim. 5:23) it's implausible to argue that Scripture forbids the consumption of alcohol.

It is this sort of legalism, sometimes evolving into Phariseeism, which separates us from other Christian brothers. Even worse, I have found on a number of occasions that it actually creates a stumbling block for those outside the faith.

For example, I recall traveling with a friend once who asked why SBCers were so opposed to alcohol consumption. He "grew up Catholic" and found his Baptist kin to be insufferable. Grandma and other aunts and uncles seemed more concerned about drinking than anything else--it was the unpardonable sin. Meanwhile, Grandpa had to hide a little flask from his wife if he wanted a drink.

My friend was exposed to dangerous combination of legalism and hypocrisy which had marred the actual message of the Gospel, that Christ came to earth for purpose of dying, to recreate the world to its original perfection and create a bridge whereby man could be reconciled to a perfect and holy God.

So what was I to do? Well, I ordered a brew and tried to make the central focus of the Scriptures clear. Perhaps I was sinning by not ordering a Diet Coke.


Anonymous Mark said...

Well, if NutraSweet is actually as bad as many say it is, it's sinful to put Diet Coke into your body...

2:45 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Good point, Mark. And, frankly, I don't want to come off as smarmy as though I'm making fun of those with different scruples on the issue. Scripture affirms that even in my eating and drinking I am required to seek the glory of God. Alcohol can certainly be abused, I think quite possibly we'd all be better off without it, but there is no prohibition in Scripture and I think adding to divine revelation undermines our belief in the infallibility and authority of the Bible.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Shamgar said...

I agree with your article though I would probably go further. I grew up believing it was wrong to drink (having been taught that).

As I grew older, and began to actually study the Scriptures and read the good writings that are available I realized just how wrong it was.

I do partake, on a somewhat rare occasion and in a very limited manner. First, I don't find any real desire to abuse it, and second my own feelings about stewardship prevent me from spending overmuch on such things.

However, these are good things which God has given us to enjoy. To call God's good gifts evil strikes me as a pretty bad sin on its own. When we compound that by trying to bind the consciences of men with our own rules and regulations then we are really in trouble. Worse yet is the attempt to put those words in God's mouth.

I'll note that this principle of "it might harm us so we just shouldn't have anything to do with it" is never applied consistently in other areas. I've never seen anyone refuse to eat anything for fear they'll be tempted to eat too much. (Especially in SBC churches) I've never seen anyone refuse to look at a woman at all for fear they'll be tempted to look lustfully. I've never met a man who has refused to look at his naked wife for fear of being trapped in pornography.

Similarly caffeine can be extremely addictive. I know Christians who will openly talk about not even being able to get out of bed in the morning without a cup of coffee. They've become utterly dependent on caffeine - but they are horrified by the idea someone might have a glass of wine with their meal.

Personally, I think we've allowed the baseless moralism of much of our culture to begin defining what is right and wrong over and above what the Scripture teaches. It is absurdly backwards for the church to take a strong stand on moral issues defined by society while simultaneously doing their level best to water down the moral standards of Scripture.

1:53 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

I think you raise a good point about dependence. It is Christ that liberates us so that we are not slaves to the things of this world. And Baptists are far more likely to have problems with caffeine and gluttony than most Episcopalians of my acquaintance.

5:13 PM  

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