SBTS, Mohler & Moore: Alcohol &

First, I want to thank my good friend Russ for pointing me to this issue over at Steve McCoy’s blog. And thank you, Steve and all the others for the good and brotherly insight and engagment on this issue.

Dr. Russ Moore opens with a wonderful prayer and thanks all for being there and being part of the forum. He talks about the importance of the issue with which I agree. He starts off positioning the issue from the cultural perspective and questioning how we should best handle alcohol. He touches on the effects alcohol has on today’s culture and families. The final point of which seems to be the main point is “You need to ask what is means to be a ministry who believes that the churches are more important than my own preferences.” One observation I have is that Dr. Moore seems to place the blame on the alcohol rather than the person. There are so many items or activities we could place blame on inside the church rather than calling the person to be responsible, but I won’t belabor the point.

Dr. Mohler then proceeds to explain SBTS’s position on the issue. He makes a very good point in that this issue requires careful Christian thinking. Explaining how they got to where they are today takes us on a walk 200 in the past into the time of prohibition. He states there was a thought process back then that said the Gospel should bring one to have distaste for such a substance due to its potential harmful effects. Mohler starts building his case stating, “There is something deeply sinful and tragic and grotesque about the desire of sinners for alcohol for abuse and, uh, that ought to warn us about the exceeding sinfulness of sin.” Further mentioning the lengths people will go to in order to obtain alcohol. We see a slight move from the alcohol being at fault to the sinner taking the blame. My thoughts are that it is because they are sinners do they abuse alcohol not because alcohol is evil.

During the 1900’s we are informed that there was a Christian consensus that alcohol was to be abstained from for a better Christian witness and testimony. So there was no real debate on whether to drink alcohol or not since all were against it. SBTS policy requires that all students and faculty members absolutely abstain from alcohol. He tells us that the issue has come up due to a generation of folks that want to work through this issue. Even though Mohler will go through this with them he says that this policy is not up for revision. He says the policy is established in trust with the SBC churches. I wonder if the BFM2000 is also a policy established in trust with the SBC churches? One reason I ask is as I mentioned in a recent blog entry, a local SBC church just appointed an admitted five-point Arminian who doesn’t hold fully to the BFM2000. I also wonder if the SBC would be so strident so as to monitor whether or not churches hold to or even know the BFM2000 compared to this issue of alcohol? I think the folks at my old SBC church knew their constitution better than they knew the BFM2000.

The SBTS policy is however up for review and Mohler goes into talking about the bad arguments. The first bad argument is basically that one can create a biblical case for abstinence for all times that is morally binding upon all Christians. I agree with Mohler when he says this is not a good nor exegetical argument and that we need to be responsible with Scripture. Bad argument number two is that Christian liberty is to be used on an individual basis without consideration of the church. This is a bad argument because the Apostle Paul was willing to go without just about anything for the sake of the Gospel. Since we are speaking in the realm of witnessing and Mohler doesn’t name a specific text, I can only assume he is speaking of Paul not eating meat. I don’t know is Mohler was speaking to this or not, but Paul was talking about not making a brother stumble. Paul wasn’t talking about witnessing to unbelievers. Paul even tells Timothy to drink wine and that wine is okay to drink, just not too much wine. The teetotaler is not to hold those who are free to drink in contempt and vice versa. I also understand that the stronger brother, the one who drinks, should be willing to forego the alcohol in the weaker one’s presence so as to not cause them to sin. I believe Paul is speaking in real time here not, as Mark Driscoll said, about a hypothetical person. I don’t recall Paul ever binding the consciences of the whole church nor changing the Lord’s Supper to something like grape juice.

The third argument is the acceptable one. It’s the one where churches can sort out this issue and come to believe that a Christian can drink and their consciences are unbound. He says they can remain in good fellowship without judging them. He goes on to say that abstinence, however, in a Southern Baptist principle that is not based upon a cultural reflex. He says that abstinence is an expectation that is grounded in the SBC understanding of their accountability before God stemming from the dangers of alcohol and the expectations we should have of each other. He says this one thing should not cause harm to a believer so we should remove this temptation. Mohler believes that this argument to be a very sound one. It is THE argument that developed SBTS’s policy. I would change “temptation” to “potential temptation” and many things are potential temptations. Men have problem lusting after women, yet we don’t separate the two in church. Divorce is just as big a problem in the church as it is outside of it. Why doesn’t the SBC totally ban divorce? God says he hates divorce yet never says He hates alcohol. Jesus even drank. Then there is heart disease which is the number one killer in the USA. Why don’t we try to legislate this by forbidding fast-food and junk-food and by prescribing exercise? This would probably even help with the alcohol problem.

Mohler is honest in admitting that he’s taken heat for saying that total abstinence is not a biblical concept. His gripe, however, is with those who hold to a Christian liberty that allows them to drink. He seems to think this liberty is antagonistic towards our community as believers. Reiterated is the point that if you are a student at SBTS you agreed to the abstaining from alcohol to be binding on your conscience. As an institution, the SBTS leadership has the right to do this, though I think they are wrong to do it.

It’s almost as if Dr. Mohler is saying that though there is not clear biblical teaching that exegetically allows one’s conscience to be bound to teetotaling we are going to do this anyways at SBTS. It’s almost as if in applying these principles to Jesus Himself that Jesus would not be allowed at SBTS.

Nothing sums it up better than this post:

TO: Christ, Jesus
Nazareth, Israel
RE: Ministry Applicaiton Rejection

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for your application to the NAMB. As you are aware, the Bible, and therefore the SBC, sets high standards of living and Christian witness for ministry in the SBC. We are rejecting your application because of your open consumption of alcohol, involvement in manufacture and distribution of alcohol, and your fellowship with so-called godly men who consume alcohol. We strongly urge you to reconsider the Scriptures in this matter. We are confident that, upon examining the Scriptures, you will see that alcohol consumption is not a part of Godly living and certainly not for one who serves the Lord in ministry. Until then, Jesus, we cannot consider your application as your witness does not meet the high standards of Godly living and witness required by the SBC.

Let's connect!

tagged as , , in Church Issues,Culture,Gospel,relativism,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rusty September 21, 2005 at 5:47 pm

great post red =). I agree with you – the issue of alcohol should be left up to one’s own conscience, and drunk in moderation.

2 johnMark September 21, 2005 at 6:42 pm

Man, you better get some glasses! And I will tell red to thank you next time he sees you.

3 Calvinist_Gadfly September 25, 2005 at 2:12 am

“It’s almost as if in applying these principles to Jesus Himself that Jesus would not be allowed at SBTS.”

DeoVolente places a lock on his humidor 😉

4 anoninva September 27, 2005 at 3:37 am

that’s o.k. if a Christian believes that he/she has the freedom to drink. The problem I see is how people handle that freedom, whether with alcohol or any other gray area (smoking, whatever). some Christians are very PROUD and boastful about their “freedoms.” they try and make sure that others hear about or see just how “free” they are. this leads me to what is always (seemingly) left out of these discussions:

Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do no let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:15-17

It would be instructive for all to read Romans 14 again because it also points out that we are not to judge our brothers if they decide to decline our freedoms.

5 Micah September 28, 2005 at 6:52 pm

some Christians are very PROUD and boastful about their “freedoms.” they try and make sure that others hear about or see just how “free” they are.

Certainly. I’m quite proud that my Savior has freed me from the laws of false piety created by men to enslave other men and I will most certainly try and make sure that others hear that they too can be freed from their enslavement to legalism… be it through sharing a drink, a pipe or a Pepsi.

As to Rom 14, some use this passage as if Paul was placing imbibing believers under a no-drink policy. Thus the tryanny of the weak becomes becomes the defacto law of the church. Suddenly it is wrong for the pastor or elders or even lay persons to drink alcohol, watch movies or enjoy a cigar because “someone might see them and stumble!”

Paul is specifically talking about eating meat, and elsewhere mentions meat sacrificed to idols. Now surely this principle can carry over to other liberties, but Paul was quite careful to apply the same standard in the opposite direction. Those who didn’t eat were not to judge those who did.

Rarely does the Christian person who feels at liberty to drink alcohol try to force or persuade others to do likewise, in fact it is almost always the one who abstains who seeks to enforce his or her will upon the others.

In the end, Luther’s little book on Christian liberty nails it:

“Or else we may meet with simple-minded and ignorant persons, weak in the faith, as the Apostle calls them, who are as yet unable to apprehend that liberty of faith, even if willing to do so. These we must spare, lest they should be offended. We must bear with their infirmity, till they shall be more fully instructed.… Thus, though we ought boldly to resist those teachers of tradition, and though the laws of the pontiffs, by which they make aggressions on the people of God, deserve sharp reproof, yet we must spare the timid crowd, who are held captive by the laws of those impious tyrants, till they are set free. Fight vigorously against the wolves, but on behalf of the sheep, not against the sheep. And this you may do by inveighing against the laws and lawgivers, and yet at the same time observing these laws with the weak, lest they be offended, until they shall themselves recognize the tyranny, and understand their own liberty”

6 DUI Lawyer LA December 9, 2010 at 8:33 pm

People are going to drink if they want to, it’s a personal choice on how much, don’t you think? This seems to be one of those things where Church and State are blurred lines.

7 Dan August 20, 2011 at 9:20 am

Dr. Mohler should not be slighted for taking a stand – he should be applauded. There are more than sufficient reasons connected with the consumption of alchohol that do in fact hinder witnessing and the spread of the Gospel. As Paul said, ‘all things are not always expedient, although they might not be unlawful’.

Personally, I consider lost souls a higher priority than any activity, and could never condone the public ‘celebrating’ beer by little boys pretending to be real men, and Reformed at that..

8 Mark August 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm


I would summarize Dr. Mohler’s position, without giving reasons, as follows: A case for total abstinence cannot be made from the Bible as God’s standard, but it is still better for a person to totally abstain.

I don’t know anyone who argues that lost souls are not a higher priority than anything including drinking alcohol. Do you have an example to the contrary?

It is interesting for you to comment here about hindering the gospel and then proceeding to impugn others priorities by assertion as well as referring to them as “little boys”. I would say that your comment is more in line with how little boys would respond and is more of a hindrance to the gospel than drinking a beer.


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