Thursday, June 15, 2006

SBC Passes Resolution to Add to Christ's Yoke

At the recent Convention, Southern Baptists passed a resolution to ban all use of alcohol. You can read the article at http://www.timellsworth.com/?p=1041. When trying to find more information about this resolution, I found this article at http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=23481. I will now give you the opportunity to read both pages.

Okay. I'll start off with some positive things to say. The resolution is not binding on individual churches. So if any individual SBC-affiliated church decides to allow its members to drink in moderation, there will be no punishment visited upon that church or its drinking members. Secondly, the Baptist Press article mentions my man Tom Ascol of the Founders Ministries speaking against the resolution, and that is just grand. I refer to him as "my man" because I have decided that Dr. Ascol is one of my favorite people. His blog is probably my favorite to read, and his theology is always spot on. And whereas he may not go as deep as often as people like Dr. James White, he has such a gracious personality that I can't help but regard him as my favorite Reformed Baptist theologian. But I digress.

Now what can I say negatively about this resolution? Probably a lot.

To begin with, the powers that be in the SBC make the common mistake of not differentiating between using alcohol and abusing alcohol.

WHEREAS, Years of research confirm biblical warnings that alcohol use leads to physical, mental, and emotional damage (e.g., Proverbs 23:29-35)


Provers 23:30 says that "They that tarry long at the wine" are the ones who suffer. Admittedly, how long "long" is is somewhat subjective, but anybody (at least when talking about any other topic) would agree that there is a difference between "tarrying long" at something and using it in moderation. As some of the commentators at Tim Ellsworth's blog pointed out, the same Proverb speaks against gluttony and adultery, but that doesn't mean that we should completely abstain from food and women.

The simple truth is that every time the Bible speaks against alcohol is when it is speaking against drunkenness. "Oh, well," says the ignorant objector, "nobody knows how much alcohol it takes to make a person drunk, so it is bes to avoid it all together." "Oh, well," I could just as easily retort, "nobody knows how much food it takes to make them a glutton, so we should just starve to death." "Now Stephen," you may say, "you're just being difficult. There is a huge different between the two!" Oh really? How so? How are the Biblical injuctions against drunkenness any different than the injunctions against gluttony? They are almost always in the same context and usually in the same verses! "Well," you say, "it is different because the Bible obviously expects us to eat." It also expects us to enjoy wine now and then. I could give all the examples in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, that give examples of wine being called a blessing from God (if you deny that then you're no longer an inerrantist, Mr. Fundy), or of Jesus drinking wine, or of Paul recommending wine to Timothy. And here is where the real ignorance comes in. "But," you say, "that wasn't wine like we know it. It was so watered down so as to be only 1% alcoholic." How do you know that? 'Cause your pastor told you so? Because you read it in a pamphlet and just accepted the author's word for it? Or because you've done a word study of the Hebrew and Greek words used for wine? It's obviously not the latter or else you would have discovered that there IS NO DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER between the wine mentioned postively in the Bible and the wine mentioned negatively. Even the wine that silly people say was barely alcoholic still made people drunk! If the wine in Jesus' time was just grape juice, then how did so many people get drunk off of it? If it was just grape juice then all of the Biblical commands against drunkenness would be silly! No, that wine that Jesus drank was probably around 13% alcoholic and made people drunk when they drank too much. You see, back in those days they didn't have pasteurization or refrigeration or other of the modern preservative techniques that we have to give us nice grape juice. Unless they drank all of the juice as soon as it was squeezed out (unlikely because then they'd have nothing to drink during the non-growing months), the juice either quickly fermented or turned into vinegar. And the fermentation process could not be stopped except by the natural way of when the alcohol content reaches a certain point that it begins killing the yeast that causes fermentation, and that point is about 12-17%.

Now then, what about this statement in the resolution that "some religious leaders...are now advocating the consumption of alcoholic beverages based on a misinterpretation of the doctrine of 'our freedom in Christ'"? How is this a misinterpretation? I'd like some exposition on this. Unfortunately, I'm looking in the wrong place. Does now our freedom in Christ allow us to exercise our own judgment on matters not prohibited by the Bible? Would that not be an accurate interpretation? And is that not an accurate assessment of the alcohol issue? The moderate use of alcohol is not prohibited by the Bible, therefore Christians are free to drink or abstain as they wish?

Finally, we are told that "Also added to this resolution was an amendment urging the SBC to disallow anyone who drinks alcohol from serving as an entity/agency trustee or an SBC committee member." I do not consider myself a drinker because having a glass of wine every 3 months or so just doesn't seem to cut it. Nevertheless, since that is not complete abstinence, I'm sure that the bigwigs in the SBC would consider me as a person who drinks alcohol. I'm sure that they would consider a person such as Dr. Kenneth Gentry, who does not drink at all but nevertheless writes in favor of moderate drinking, a drinker. Because the facts don't really matter, it's just whose side you're on. Anyway, I guess it is a good thing that I would never be able to serve as an entity/agency trustee or an SBC committee member anyway because I'm not one of the "good ol' boys." After all, I would need Paige Patterson's endoresment to get a job anywhere high up in the SBC, and since I'm a Calvinist, that would never happen.

By the way, good ol' boy Paige mentioned this issue during his "discussion" about Calvinist with Dr. Al Mohler, Patterson said something to the effect that Calvinism concerns him because in some Calvinistic circles there is a tendency towards antinomianism-even saying that Christians are allowed to drink alcohol!

Now look here, Paige Patterson, the proper definition of an antinomian is a person who does not believe that God's law is binding on a believer. God's law, not your law, Mr. Patterson. It is true that many Calvinists do believe that Christians may drink in moderation freely, but I have yet to meet an antinomian Calvinist. As Patterson said earlier in his speech, when saying some positive traits of Calvinists, they are often lead lives of extreme holiness and piety. Which is it, Paige? Do Calvinists advocate holiness or antinomianism? You can't have it both ways. If you want to root out antinomianism in the SBC, then go after your Dispensational friends. That is where that brand of error thrives the most today. I would say that the majority of Southern Baptists are practical antinomians, and where you find the minority that are not is in the Calvinistic churches.

But of course, I am speaking as if being holy meant being faithful to God's law and obeying His precepts. Paige Patterson and the other fundamentalists are more concernted with obeying man's law. Too bad that such issues as the inerrancy of Scripture and the literal blood atonement of Christ are no longer "fundamentals" of the faith. I think persons such as myself should be called fundamentalists and the others should be called peripheralists. And just in case any of you should think that I'm a liberal because of my denunciation of fundamentalism, let me tell you what I think of liberals--I think they should be called "none-of-the-above-ists." That is, they don't believe in the fundamentals or the peripherals. They don't believe in anything that is Christianity. I agree with J. Gresham Machen that the struggle with liberalism isn't a struggle within the church, it is a struggle against the church. It isn't "Conservatism vs. Liberalism", it is "Christianity vs. Liberalism."

And so I have ended on another digression (I do that a lot).

3 comments:

sbc pastor said...

It appears that you were upset when you wrote this article. Do you really have that much contempt for Dr. Patterson - a great man of God that has faithfully served the Lord for many years? If you would like to read a differing opinion (than yours) on the alcohol issue, please feel free to read mine. God bless!!!

In Christ,
JLG

Stephen Thomas said...

I wouldn't say that I have so much contempt for Paige Patterson as I do frustration.

First of all...Because of all the conflicting stories, I cannot decide one way or another if there was slanderous on Patterson's part during the fundamentalist "resurgance". Despite the fact that I agree in principle with the conservative resurgance (adherance to the infallible Scripture, etc), I still believe that there were a lot of people who lost their jobs because of it that didn't deserve to. But like I said, I don't know what is truth and what is fable in that saga, so I have left it at mild distrust.

But secondly, and much more verifiably, is Patterson's attacks on Reformed Southern Baptists. Despite all of the kind words at the recent Convention with Al Mohler, there are too many things that he has said that seem to me to be intentional misleading of his listeners. This frustrates me greatly.

And finally, as far as this post was concerned, is his misreading of Scripture and history regarding the moderate use of alcohol to be antinomianism.

John M. Harris said...

#1 - If you're going to say stuff about Dr. Patterson, I'd suggest you make an appointment and talk with him face to face. I mean, don't you live here in teh DFW area? It may take a couple months or so, but wouldn’t that be a good thing to do?

#2 - I don't deny that the resolution was a little strange in the wording, and the reasons behind it might not be the best (they are not). HOWEVER, (now I could be wrong) but the resolution does not say Christians shouldn't drink, simply that those that do will not be able to serve as leaders of the SBC. The SBC messengers voted on it, so your real issue is with Southern Baptists as a group, and not "the powers that be." Right? You kind of mislead people with your description of the events. I call foul (not flagrant, yet a foul none the less).

I understand, you're the typical Gen-Xer (or actually, whatever you guys are after us) and you want to fight for YOUR RIGHTS. It can be a good thing. And no, it's not good when people with a visible presence speak ill of your group (even though they do so unknowingly), but this is your opportunity to be the more spiritual Believer.

Every time I hear someone describe postmillennialism I almost have a conniption fit, but it’s my job to be the “bigger man” and not fight back. It’s our job to speak the truth in love when someone is incorrect. I didn’t really get that from your description of the SBC resolution.

Anyway, you can check out my take on the whole alcohol deal at www.1Lord.org if you want. Blessings…