Ethics: Baptist Professor Drinking Beer in Public

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What would you do Wednesday!

Today’s scenario involves a Southern Baptist seminary professor who is seen by a student drinking beer at a local restaurant. As always, anyone is free to comment.

You, dear reader, are a seminary student out to dinner with some friends who are visiting for the weekend. While being seated at the restaurant you notice one of your professors. You also notice what looks to be a glass of beer in front of the professor. However, you remember the ethical conduct statement you signed as a student which is similar to the statement signed by seminary staff.

Below are two examples of such ethical conduct statements. One of them states that…

…through its administrative committees, may take disciplinary action, including dismissal, should the standard of personal and ethical conduct becoming to a Southern Baptist minister be violated. Violations of this standard shall include, but is not limited to:

C. Use or possession of beverage alcohol or illegal drugs;1

Another states…

Alcohol & Drugs
In accordance with the irreproachable standards of moral conduct as well as denominational expectations for all members of the seminary community, the use of alcoholic beverages and illicit/illegal drugs are prohibited. Compliance with abstention from alcoholic beverages and drug abuse does not apply to worship communion, appropriate medications, etc.2

So you doubt that the professor is drinking beer until, that is, the waiter pours the rest of the beer from the bottle into his glass. Catching the professors eyes as you walk to your table, you give a passing wave to each other.

While on campus on the following Monday, you get a chance for some brief small talk with the professor. He tells you about the interesting dinner he had with his atheist neighbor. His neighbor has always thought Baptists were too uptight so he would never give the professor any time for a spiritual conversation.

Finally, the atheist neighbor made him a deal. The neighbor said that he would buy the professor dinner and listen to him explain Christianity if the professor would have just one beer with him.

What would you do?

  • Pray for the conversation that took place and say nothing more.
  • Pray and ask the professor about the ethics code.
  • Mention the ethics code and explain that he will have to be reported.
  • Ask if you can go next time to enjoy a beer while sharing the gospel.
  • Or…

______________________

  1. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Part of the “Ethical Conduct Statement” on the student application.
  2. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Student Conduct. www.sbts.edu
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tagged as , in Church Issues,Culture

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rhology March 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

I choose:
Ask if you can go next time to enjoy a beer while sharing the gospel.

Stupid rule.

2 Rhology March 14, 2012 at 11:55 am

Oh, and when invited out, drink Dr Pepper. The two beers I’ve had in my life tasted horrible.

3 Squirrel March 14, 2012 at 11:59 am

Violating the ethics code is violating the ethics code. The professor signed the code as a condition of his employment. I would ask the professor how he felt about breaking his word to the seminary, and ask him why I should ever believe anything he has ever said or will say to me. Then I would urge him to repent and report himself to the seminary president.

Squirrel

4 Squirrel March 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Rhology said, “Stupid rule.”

Perhaps, but that’s not at all the issue. The issue isn’t the policy, the issue is the professor’s willful violation of a policy which he promised to abide by.

Squirrel

5 Rhology March 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I feel you, Squirrel. Not my business, though. Bigger fish to fry.

6 Les March 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Mark,

Could you clarify if the student conduct cited above is also applied to professors? I would assume so, but the references are for student conduct.

7 Larry F. March 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I agree that the rule is inappropriate but the professor agreed to it under his terms of employment. As others have pointed out, that’s the real issue here, not the alcohol consumption. I might respond to the professor that I have an unbelieving friend who promised to listen to the gospel if I smoked a joint with him and then ask the professor what I should do. πŸ™‚

8 Dan Smith March 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm

It is sad that he broke the seminary policy. I can understand Squirrel’s feelings on the matter. After all, our inability as humans to uphold a set of policies is what made Jesus’ sacrifice a necessity.

Since I don’t personally care about a prof having an alcoholic drink, although I may have signed a similar policy at one time too for Liberty University, I’m not even going to threaten to report him. In fact, I’d be inclined to ask him his favorite brand and see if I could get him to help me advocate for the removal of that policy.

9 Tom Shelton March 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I agree with Squirrel. The professor signed the conduct code and is thus bound by it. It does not matter why he broke it. He should now report himself and accept the discipline from his superiors.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is why the professor felt the need to compromise his ethical requirements in order to witness. There is no doubt that the atheist could be saved by God during this witnessing encounter but I can’t help but wonder if the atheist was just trying to bring down a Christian by getting him to compromise his moral obligations. At the point the professor did this does he not destroy his credibility?

10 Stan McCullars March 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I would find a seminary that didn’t have such a legalistic code of conduct.

11 Les March 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm

First, I think the policy is an incorrect one.

Second, though, the policy is what it is. I researched a bit and found the following in the SBTS Student Handbook:

“In accordance with the irreproachable standards
of moral conduct as well as denominational
expectations for all members of the seminary
community, the use of alcoholic beverages and
illicit/illegal drugs are prohibited. Compliance with
abstention from alcoholic beverages and drug abuse
does not apply to worship communion, appropriate
medications, etc.”

That seems to apply the policy to everyone on the campus. But I also suspect there is something faculty and all EEs must sign too.

So, assuming that is true, the handbook also says,

“As a Christian community accountable to one
another, all students, faculty and staff are expected
to report detrimental actions to the appropriate
administrator or faculty. The witness should
address the accused (Matthew 18:15-17), and if not,
should explain to that staff/faculty member why
such confrontation is not feasible. If convinced
that the process should continue, the alleged
infraction is reported to the Dean of Students,
who will investigate to determine the appropriate
institutional response.”

Looks like the student is obligated to go to the prof first and then report it.

12 Robert March 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I think the legalism of the seminary is at fault. However, ethically, once you have given your word (signed in agreement to the seminary policy) then you should follow it. If the neighbor won’t talk to him unless he consumes a beer, then he probably doesn’t have “ears to hear” what the professor has to say to begin with due to his ulterior motive.

13 Les March 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm

And I agree with Stan.

14 Michael Buratovich March 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Here’s what I would not do; go behind his back and tell his superiors without going to him or her first. The Bible consistently tells us to do such things face to face. To go behind someone’s back is the behavior of a coward. The kingdom of God does not need another coward.

The faculty member has committed a breach of the standards of behavior and if he or she comes clean and repents, then perhaps this can be done privately without involving a lot of people. If he or she blows it off, then it is time to widen the circle of accountability. The next time, another faculty member should be brought in and if that doesn’t work, then it’s time to bring in the administration.

i teach at a Christian school and I cannot tell you how many times students, colleagues and staff have gone behind my back to my superiors and it sickens me. Every time an administrator does not send the student back to the faculty member to speak to them first, the school coddles and countenances cowardice, which is shameful.

15 Joshua Collins March 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I think the proper response is to write a blog on the internet either a) calling for the immediate removal of the professor and a call for defunding the seminary who would hire such a man or b)calling for the complete overthrow of the seminary policy, with the professor serving as a martyr being persecuted by legalists who obviously don’t care about evangelism. God gave us 10 fingers and only 2 ears for a reason- blogging!

No, in seriousness, another good question. I don’t personally drink but I don’t believe the Bible requires total abstinence, despite many of our SBC entity requirements. But like I’ve told friends in seminary, your word either means something or it doesn’t. Honesty counts when signing student agreements or it doesn’t count for your wedding vows.

Of course, I’ve never had a lost friend blackmail me into drinking beer. If one has given their word already on such a matter, I think the non-Christian person would understand and they could still have dinner.
I would ask the professor to go and talk to his supervisor about the situation. The administration may be understanding about the situation but if they hear about it secondhand, they would be less so. If they are not understanding, it’s bad for him either way.

16 Squirrel March 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Joshua said, “No, in seriousness, another good question. I don’t personally drink but I don’t believe the Bible requires total abstinence, despite many of our SBC entity requirements. But like I’ve told friends in seminary, your word either means something or it doesn’t. Honesty counts when signing student agreements or it doesn’t count for your wedding vows.”

Yep. Couldn’t agree more.

17 Todd Burus March 14, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I pray over his relationship with the atheist neighbor and move along as if nothing happened. I personally have no problem with drinking and agree that it is a stupid rule. That doesn’t mean he should break it, but it also doesn’t mean that I personally have any responsibility to report him over it. If the institutions feel comfortable imposing their own ethics on top of the Bible then I leave it up to them to enforce it as well.

I know people who properly understand the Bible’s position on alcohol might still say, “Well this is a Romans 13 issue,” but my question to that is, if you see people worshiping in an underground church in China, do you feel obligated to tell the government about what they’re doing since it is technically in violation of the law they are under?

18 Stan McCullars March 14, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I should note that my wife teaches at an SBC-affiliated school. She has to sign a contract agreeing to a code of conduct. Each year she writes an exception to the contract that she will not refrain from consuming alcohol. If that were not acceptable with the school she would not teach there.

You could call it a family policy. We refuse to be bound by the preferences of others.

19 Todd Burus March 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Les,
I was typing my post when yours came through about the requirement to tattle, and I would outright question that regulation. Clearly the commandment in Matthew 18 is to the church, which the seminary is not, and therefore that is blatant proof-texting. I wonder why we as Southern Baptists cared so much to “Battle for the Bible” when often it seems we could give a rip about actually standing under its authority the way it was intended to be used.

20 Cathy M. March 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm

My response is probably heavily influenced by my gender and the fact that I have never signed such a covenant; however, assuming the school does not hold the same “honor” standards as the U.S. Military Academy, I would pray and mind my own business. The fact that beverage alcohol and illicit/illegal drugs are in the same category baffles me. Talk about “tyranny of the weaker brother!”

21 Les March 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Todd,

I understand where you’re coning from. But any institution has the right to impose its requirements on its members (faculty and students in this case). I don’t like the requirement to abstain either.

But, the student knew (or should have known) the requirement when he signed on to attend there. He should have tried to state his exception to it (as Stan’s wife did) or not attend there if he could not live with the requirements.

Again, I do not refrain from alcohol and I think it is an extra biblical requirement to force it on others. But they all know it up front. I’m just trying to answer Mark in this situation as given.

22 Clark Dunlap March 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm

There are some scary posts here, specifically by Stan and Todd. He Violated His Word! End of story. In the situation posted, I would ask the prof. if in fact he signed a code of ethics (Which by the way is very common and no legality is questioned). If he did and it included abstinence I would tell him that I will be visiting or writing a letter to the provost or president in 24 hours.
If you don’t want to teach in a place that requires this, that’s fine. I’m not anti-beer or anti-wine, but if you have a calling to prepare believers for ministry in Baptist churches and your signature is required then sign it and keep your word. If you want to lobby to have it removed, by all means, go ahead.
I do question the legality of those who would write their own codicil or amendment to the agreement. That’s practically worthless.
As is the statement: “We refuse to be bound by the preferences of others.”

23 Todd Burus March 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Les,
I am a big proponent of free enterprise, but what bothers me is the false guise of biblical truth this stuff gets masked under. It is not like any seminary leaders (with the possible exception of Southwestern) are upholding these rules because they feel the Bible prohibits alcohol consumption; they’re doing it because of culture. But the problem is, culture is not monolithic. Having global requirements like this shows a complete lack of awareness of the world and can be–and likely is–a hindrance to gospel advancements in some areas.

Plus, this demonstrates a morbid lack of hope in the seminarians and professors ability to discern wisely when to drink and when not to. Aren’t we supposed to be training men to discern all truth, and yet we want to tell them, “Sorry, don’t discern this one.” But this is the only place we do that. I do not recall anywhere in the SBTS Student Code that prohibits seminarians or professors from being in dating and/or marriage relationships with non-believers, yet a prohibition of that sort would be much more biblical.

24 Les March 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Todd, I agree with you. I’m just trying to deal with he situation as it currently is. Do I think it should be changed? Yes, for the reasons you stated. I think we agree, except that I think under the current code of conduct, they should abide by what they signed up for. And then work to change it.

Blessings,

Les

25 Todd Burus March 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Clark,
Is it scarier that I would be in favor of not costing a man his job for doing something that neither the Bible nor 99% of the world finds offensive, or scarier that an institution designed to uphold and train in God’s Word is willing to twist and add to God’s word to say who is fit to teach there? And contrary to popular belief, I doubt his atheist neighbor is very impressed by his integrity to uphold his word. If anything, an explanation that his Christian employer says drinking is bad is more likely to turn off and confuse said neighbor. What is most important to us: evangelism or blind adherence to flawed policies? Oh, I see–that’s why this is an ethics question πŸ™‚

26 Todd Burus March 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Les,
I agree, the professor should be willing to stand up and account for what he did. My hope would be that the panel he stands before would be wise as serpents on this matter and not just follow rules for rules sake.

By the way, why doesn’t anyone ever seek to change this policy? I mean, for Pete’s sake, we are congregationalist. Is no one else outraged that we even have to have this type of discussion?

27 Stan McCullars March 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Scary and worthless?

Wow!

28 Stan McCullars March 14, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Clark,
“I do question the legality of those who would write their own codicil or amendment to the agreement.”

It sounds like you’re not familiar with contract law.

As the amendment is accepted by the school it is a legally binding contract. What’s the problem with that? Two parties are voluntarily entering into a written contract.

Am I misunderstanding you?

29 Joshua Collins March 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm

In reference to changing the policy at an SBC seminary or mission board, good luck. The Convention in general (at least those who show up and do the voting) has pretty consistently upheld total abstention from alcohol as being the Biblically faithful option in their resolutions. It would take a major shift or alternate resolution being passed by the voting SBC before any entity would even consider changing their rules, most likely.

30 Steve Lemke March 15, 2012 at 12:17 am

Contact the seminary’s Provost. He’ll do the right thing . . .

31 Nate March 15, 2012 at 3:36 am

Be glad that I am not Baptist. πŸ™‚

“While on campus on the following Monday, you get a chance for some brief small talk with the professor. He tells you about the interesting dinner he had with his atheist neighbor. His neighbor has always thought Baptists were too uptight so he would never give the professor any time for a spiritual conversation.

Finally, the atheist neighbor made him a deal. The neighbor said that he would buy the professor dinner and listen to him explain Christianity if the professor would have just one beer with him.”

As a professor who made a commitment to stand with and agree to abide by the University’s policy on alcohol. The atheist friend should be told that they need to work out a different deal. By agreeing to the deal it actually cheapens the faith of the professor and would tell the atheist that Christians (Baptist or not) do not honor their commitments. If they don’t honor this why should they be trusted about Christianity?

32 Eugene Daniels March 15, 2012 at 11:57 am

Nate, I like your response.

Q:What is the sin?
Is it; breaking the school’s policy, or having a beer? For some religious people, it’s the latter.

I know there are many supposed Christian schools and church organizations that have a NO drinking policy and staff are required to sign such a policy.
But then I have to ask, is that the gospel, or is it a bunch or rules to live by?

It appears that the professor could be on a slippery slope, but before everyone runs off with a preconceived idea of what they think they saw or what hey heard, stop and consider this; the professor could be enjoying a glass of apple juice, apple cider, or he could be enjoying some Ginger ale, or even a cream soda. It is funny that people will get their proverbial tail in a knot over what they think they see another person doing but NOT gather all the facts.
It could be that the professor was meeting a old friend from out of town and the friend ordered an adult beverage (drink with alcohol) then stepped away to use the restroom and that is when you walked past the professor. What if you saw the professor sitting there with a beautiful woman and the adult beverage, knot knowing the woman is the wife of the old friend that just ran off to use the restroom. This is why gossip is very, very bad.

This raises another question; did Jesus and the disciples have a NO drinking policy?
Why do some church groups and collages consider Beer and Wine a sin?
Why is it so easy for us to get off on a rabbit trail and NOT come back to the Gospel? If the Gospel is being preached and lived out in the life of the professor he should no problem sitting in a restaurant. I don’t understand why institutions like a collage or church would burden their people with rules, when they should be simply proclaiming the gospel.
I really have to question the integrity of the supposed Christian collage, are they being legalistic like the Pharisees, or do they believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

33 Peter L March 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Sad that so many otherwise Bible believing Christians think it is a sin to have one or two drinks.

I would choose the first or second approaches. Prayer is always the best answer to any dilemma. To report the prof would be tattling. If I had to say something to someone, I would talk to the prof after praying.

And if he invited me to go along the next time, I would ask if wine were okay, as beer is disgusting.

34 jamin March 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Just think, if SBTS was a first century institution, Jesus and his disciples would be unqualified to teach there. Something is wrong, and my guess is it aint Jesus.

35 Matt Summers March 20, 2012 at 9:15 pm

It’s too bad that “Christian” organizations create unBiblical rules that, in fact, hinder the advancement of the Gospel. In this case, the Professor should not have signed the “ethics” code, and the school should not have published such an “ethics” code. Perhaps, he could have spoken to the College President about his particular predicament–or perhaps he did?

36 Adam March 20, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I’m pretty sure the prof was taking communion with his neighbor, was he not?

37 Mark E March 20, 2012 at 10:44 pm

The only question I have as a Baptist Pastor is someone giving out beer to Baptist Pastors? Cause if so, where is mine?

Seriously…what a stupid topic for discussion.
“Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy” (Benjamin Franklin)

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