MO Southern Baptists: Towards an Unbiblical Position

The annual Missouri Baptist Convention just wrapped up.  Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that there was talk and debate about the topic of, what else, alcohol.  Now I don’t know if alcohol was taking over the Missouri Baptists, but apparently, Rodney Albert of Hallsville Baptist Church has a great quote that made the article.

“2007 was the year Missouri Baptists became soft on alcohol abstention,” he thundered to loud applause. “We must fight the alcohol fight and keep it out of the convention.”

Boy, that’ll preach!  It sounds good and probably got the emotions flowing, but is that a biblical position for which to fight?

Interim executive director David Tolliver commented on the issue.

“I understand that the Bible does not say, never says, ‘Thou shalt not drink,'” said Tolliver.  “It is also true to say that the Bible does not specifically refer to drinking as a sin”

Now I can say Amen to that as it is an admission to what the Bible says.  That’s not the end of the quote though.

However, … the only Christian position in this 21st century Show-Me state environment that we live in is total abstinence!”

Do I read this statement correctly?  We have a biblical position vs. a Christian position?  I’m not really sure how that works.  Maybe there is more to his words missing from the quote to clarify.   Do we know better than the Bible?

Let’s take a look at the Preamble to the Baptist Faith and Message.

(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.

So Scripture and not a confession is admitted to have no authority over the conscience.  Mr. Tolliver admits what Scripture says about alcohol and that, according to the Preamble, is what binds the conscience.  How can he then vie for total abstinence which is, admittedly, against Scripture?

The Baptist Faith and Message also says under Religious Liberty.

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it.

Again we have this part of the confession vs. the total abstinence position which is not the Biblical position as admitted by Tolliver and other SBC leaders.  Is this a subtle admission that some people have more wisdom than the Bible?

What I found very interesting is a debate challenge that I’d like to hear.

…the Rev. Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey, approached Moran and challenged him to a public debate about the emerging church, moderated by Tolliver, that could be broadcast on the Internet. Moran did not immediately agree to the debate but later said that he and Patrick will meet privately to iron out the details.

This would certainly be an interesting debate and I hope it happens.  There are other issues the SBC need to be concerned about including missing members and a topic I have blogged about at least a couple of times.  Yes, it’s a global issue too.

If the SBC wants to continue to bind the consciences’ of men then they need to do it biblically.  Many don’t seem to care about that, rather, they want to do what seems right in their own eyes.  There is obviously a problem with alcohol abuse today as there was in biblical times.  This, like all sins, stem from the depravity of man not from the substance itself that is abused.  Many times in this debate it’s as if people blame the alcohol for problems that stem from its abuse.

Why isn’t this done with the many other sins many find themselves in?  If someone has a tendency to abuse food why not blame the accessibility of certain foods and ban them too?  Look at the opposite sex lustfully then like some Muslim sects should we ban being able to look directly at the opposite sex?  You get the point, I hope.

A  good article I always think of on this subject which is worth a read if you haven’t is The Bible Doctrine of the Separated Life by Johannes G. Vos.

Cheers,

Mark

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dan Paden November 4, 2007 at 7:04 am

Amen! I have to agree.

Have you heard the old saw that if you take a Baptist fishing, he’ll drink all your beer, but if you take two Baptists fishing, neither one of them’ll touch a drop?

One of the wildest things–and one I have thought about writing about for some time, but just can’t get the time–is the way so many pastors and teachers know perfectly well that there is no Biblical prohibition on alcohol, but they do an “end run” around that fact by saying that the Bible says we should abstain out of love for the sake of a weaker brother who might stumble (which I readily grant) and then, more or less, say that since some brother somewhere might be weak, the very thought that some hypothetical Southern Baptist somewhere drank a beer would just absolutely do him in. In this way, they manage a de facto Southern Baptist position for total abstinence for everyone even though they admit that there is no prohibition on alcohol in scripture!

I wonder why no one ever talks about strengthening the weaker brother–that is, if he doesn’t have faith in this area, why doesn’t anyone ever educate him as to what the Bible actually says about alcohol, instead of everyone tiptoeing around his weakness all his life? The Bible does refer to it as a weakness, after all. Why doesn’t anyone ever do anything about it?

My contention is that there are a lot of people, even in the SBC, who want to be able to boast in your obedience to their man-made rules.

Sorry. Didn’t mean to take off on a rant.

2 johnMark November 4, 2007 at 6:25 pm

Dan,

Rant away. I agree with you and have had the same thoughts. Paul is not writing about a hypothetical “just in case” and if we apply that across the board…well, there is much we wouldn’t do anymore.

Strengthening the weaker brother would mean discipleship. Not to mention just talking him through Romans 14 and teaching him that even though he is weaker he is not to condemn the actions of the stronger.

It’s funny. In the fight against Acts29, for example, and the cultural challenge and influences these “conservatives” are letting culture influence them to a point of making an unbiblical doctrine binding. I.e. alcohol is so “evil” and causes so many problems in today’s culture that we’re going to outlaw it so to speak. (Not to mention the problem assigning human-like characteristics to alcohol)

Hey, maybe they were emergent when emergent wasn’t cool!

Mark

3 sosipater November 4, 2007 at 11:00 pm

Mark,

Nice post. I agree. My biggest question is, when in the world do you find time to do all that research???

4 johnMark November 5, 2007 at 7:40 am

Russ,

Uh…can I get back to you on that?

Mark

5 Dennis November 5, 2007 at 8:01 am

I’m not a Baptist and I don’t drink because it’s not good for me. I don’t think it is necessarily a sin to drink. I have always thought the way some Christians consider drinking to be a sin was very odd because our Lord Jesus turned perfectly good water into wine at a wedding party. Since it was a party, I would even go so far as to assume that the people involved may well have been at least slightly intoxicated.

6 johnMark November 5, 2007 at 8:42 pm

Dennis,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Mark

7 Thomas Twitchell November 8, 2007 at 3:23 am

Yes, the wine was an intoxicating liquid and goes with the Scripture that says God gave us wine to make the heart merry. Rarely can new wine mean unfermented grape juice. Further, the wine that was served at the passover meal was almost without any doubt alcoholic. Grapes were havested in the summer and fall. The wind would have been in skins for no less than six months, more than enough time to ferment it. There is in the wedding feast the idea of old wine. This would be an even stronger drink, not as sweet, perhaps bitter/dry, but it would be served last because the taste buds would have already have been deadened by the new wine to some extent, and being intoxicated, the old wine would pass inspection. For the passover, wine may have even been strong drink, for the simple reason that it was given to a man about to perish. It is speculation, but nonetheless a possibility.

To the Vos article- why would I, a Southern Baptist ,trust a Presby?

Just kidding. That is a long and difficult article but one that needs careful reading. I read only parts. Strong stuff. Like many things, and this is a problem SBC wide, Scripture, which we like to claim we are up on, we do not like to swallow when it comes to our traditions being trashed.

Tarried too long. One thing more. johnMark made an interesting observation that is not often caught. When Paul wrote Romans he wasn’t excluding the weaker brother from reading it, and it would instruct him first about his weakness, and then not to condemn others. Paul did not pull punches and what he had to say to the stronger, he said to the weaker, and vice versa. We are to point these things out to the brethren and in doing so save ourselves from condemnation.

God bless all, pray for the SBC, that it comes out from the cloud of legalisms and lives in the true freedom of the light they claim they have in the Word of God.

8 Rod Albert November 9, 2007 at 6:35 pm

John Mark:

The emotions were flowing long before I made the statement quoted by the Post Dispatch. And it goes without saying that the STL-PD didn’t give the full and complete story.

Several of us in Missouri do believe Scripture prohibits drinking alcohol; we admit there is no explicit prohibition, but maintain there are implicit prohibitions based upon several principles clearly taught in the Bible.

An example I used in the sermon. Suppose one of your local pastors in your association decided to preach every Sunday in a pink tutu. The church was ok with it. What would your response be?

Keep in mind, there are no explicit commands in the Bible prohibiting preaching in pink tutus; and of course, you well know there is no article in the Baptist Faith & Message, 2000 addressing the topic of pink tutus.

But surely you would conclude that said pastor is violating a PRINCIPLE of Scripture (reverence for the holy matters of God, for one); so much so that you’d try to influence his conformity or separate yourself from him.

So, brother, what do you say about pink tutus? Are they a matter of liberty of conscience?

Thanks for the Vos article. I look forward to reading it. And you are very right that there are “other issues the SBC needs to be concerned about…” absentee members being at the top.

9 johnMark November 10, 2007 at 1:10 am

Rod,

Thanks for stopping by. I guess it’s okay if you have a fire truck as a baptismal and the tutu isn’t too tight or revealing. Okay, I’m going to assume this is a serious attempt at a comparison and response.

You’ve gone from comparing the liberty a Christian may have in his daily life to bringing it into worship service. It’s probably no more or no less appropriate to preach in a pink tutu than it is to eat a big turkey leg or drink a beer while in the pulpit preaching.

If you hold to the regulative principle then there’d be a problem. If not, then a pink tutu is probably not too much different than preaching from a bed that is front and center in the sanctuary. Or not much different from all the plays and goofing off that goes on to entertain folks.

So how about the idea of drinking wine in remembrance of Christ as often as we come together? Is that a crazy idea?

How about teaching from Romans 14 that neither the weaker nor the stronger brother shouldn’t hold the other in contention? Or moving people from milk to meat as they mature in discipleship of our Lord? Are those good ideas?

See, I come from a background of the RLDS (see My Testimony page) which had a lock down on morality being the way to Heaven. Everything was about what you do or don’t do. There was no grace. It was a theology of glory with no cross. This is another reason this issue is tough for me.

Mark

10 Frank Turk November 13, 2007 at 10:32 am

Rod:

I offer you the opportunity to work out your doctrine against Pink tutus with me at my DebateBlog.

I would be willing to defend the following thesis to help you along:

Scripture does not forbid, either by explicit detail or implicit precept, the preaching of God’s word in public by men in pink tutus.

Here’s my thought on that: I’ll bet Scripture does explicitly forbid men from wearing women’s clothing, so you should be able to score a win pretty quickly in opposing my thesis. But the problem will then be (for you) that your example is irrelevant and inapplicable. Since Scripture is explicit, we have to follow what it says.

That, unfortunately, decimates the prohibitionist case.

Here’s my counter-example which you have to deal with. Christ explicitly makes more, better wine at the Wedding at Cana — for the purpose of letting people drink it. Given that Christ could not have been sinning, it seems to me that Christ believed, as the Psalmist did, that God gave us wine to make the hearts of men merry.

How do you see the Wedding at Cana?

11 Rod Albert November 15, 2007 at 2:04 pm

Mark:

Within a Baptist context, yes I think drinking wine at communion is a crazy idea. But I totally understand the danger of an over-focus on external holiness and prescriptive rules.

My concern, though, isn’t wine at communion, but highballs, salty dogs and vodka tonics at Bible studies.

And just for the record, the MO Baptist issue entails more than Bro. Darrin and the Journey. Many in our denomination are advancing liberty to drink–beyond ‘wine’ and communion.

12 Rod Albert November 15, 2007 at 2:17 pm

Frank:

I’d better sleep a few winks before taking on the Centurian, so I’ll take a rain check on your DebateBlog, though I admit I’m very tempted.

For now, I’ll say you concede my supposed ‘win’ too quickly. Wouldn’t you prevail upon me to show you from scriptures an explicit reference defining tutus as “women’s clothing”. Some of my fellow MO Baptists would.

Be that as it may, I don’t see how the prohibitionist case is decimated. Would you apply this decimation to “wine” only, or would it extend to scotch, vodka and whiskey too?

Thats sounds much more sarcastic than I intend. I do legitimately wonder whether you would apply your liberty towards wine to all alcoholic drinks–the Missouri situation is not about “wine”.

13 Jim Harrison November 20, 2007 at 3:23 pm

Rod:

I know this is a few days old, but if you, or anyone else is still reading this, I would like to respond to your question to Frank…

“Would you apply this decimation to wine only, or would it extend to scotch, vodka and whiskey too?”

I don’t want to speak for Frank, and frankly, my opinion shouldn’t carry much weight either. So what if we just go to that authority that we supposedly agree on…the Scripture.

God said to His people Israel, that if the place to which they were to gather was too far to travel with the tithe of their yearly produce, that they were to sell that tithe, take the money from the sale, and travel to the place which God has appointed. There, the text says, “You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or STRONG DRINK, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.” Deuteronomy 14:24-26

According to the explicit instruction of God Himself, He doesn’t have any problem with strong drink. As has been stated over and over in these arguments, God’s problem, according to Scripture, is with drunkenness.

I would be interested in hearing how you deal with this clear statement of Scripture.

14 johnMark November 20, 2007 at 9:51 pm

Jim,

Very good response. I had forgotten about those passages.

Thanks,

Mark

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