At their annual convention Southern Baptists passed a resolution that urges complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages. Some of the reasoning for such a stance includes confirmed research “that alcohol use leads to physical, mental, and emotional damage”, the destruction of families through alcohol use, the addictive nature of alcohol, and the current trend of religious leaders advocating moderate drinking based upon “a misinterpretation of the doctrine of ‘our freedom in Christ’”.
The SBC went all out and expressed “total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages” while also advocating “Southern Baptist to be actively involved in educating students and adults concerning the destructive nature of alcoholic beverages.” Finally, they resolved that “organizations and ministries to treat alcohol-related problems from a biblical perspective and promote abstinence and encourage local churches to begin and/or support such biblically-based ministry.”
Biblically based ministry?
In reading this you would almost think that someone could be converted if they would just stop drinking. Is this really the mission that the SBC wants to pursue: the opposing of the production, advertisement and distribution of alcohol? Is this the main thing? Better yet, is this even biblical?
Immediately my mind thinks of the Savior and the first public miracle that he conducted….He made wine!! And it is not like he made a bottle or two, but he made an excessive amount of wine!
John chapter two tells us that: “there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each” ok..so that is a conservative 120 gallons of wine. There are generally 25 fluid ounces in a bottle of wine. This means that if Jesus made bottled wine he would have made over 600 bottles of wine for this wedding!! This is a lot of wine for a wedding in any culture!
There are a couple of interesting points in the story, 1) the wedding party had already been drinking (cf. John 2.10), and so then Jesus was meeting the crowds desire for more wine. and 2) Jesus wanted to make sure there was a legitimate 120 gallons in those pots: John 2:7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim.
Jesus did not seem too ashamed of an association with wine; perhaps he would have acted differently if he had access to the piles of medical research currently at the fingertips of the SBC.
Some say that this was not real wine citing historical evidence that the wine was watered down. This would seem to have been a pretty good answer to the ultra-pietistic religious hypocrites that accused Jesus of being a drunk because he drank wine. In Luke 7 we read of Jesus interacting with these guys saying:
Luke 7:33-35 33 “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34 “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
Did you notice that one phrase in there: “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking”. Jesus drank. Jesus had a reputation for drinking.
Danny Akin (a man I respect greatly and truly appreciate), the president of Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, recently wrote that he would demand abstinence from alcohol for all church leadership.
Could Jesus be a leader in a Southern Baptist Church? Could he go to a Southern Baptist Seminary?
Does the Bible teach that Alcohol is bad?
It seems to me from a normal reading of the Bible that a distinction is made between alcohol and the abuse of alcohol. Drunkenness is a sin, it has always been a sin (Eph. 5.18; Rom. 13.13; Gal. 5.19, 21; 1 Cor. 6.10; Prov. 23.20).
But does sinful abuse impugn a good gift of God?
Alcohol, specifically wine, in the Bible is a gift of God to be enjoyed:
Psalm 104:14-15 14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the labor of man, So that he may bring forth food from the earth, 15 And wine which makes man’s heart glad, So that he may make his face glisten with oil, And food which sustains man’s heart.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 7 Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. 8 Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head. 9 Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.
Alcohol also seems to be associated with divine favor, even a special blessing:
Deuteronomy 7:13 13 “He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you.
Deuteronomy 11:13-14 13 “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, 14 that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil.
Proverbs 3:9-10 9 Honor the LORD from your wealth And from the first of all your produce; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.
(now I’ve heard this used in a Baptist church for a text on tithing, but never with the blessing of verse 10…8-D)
In reading the SBC statement and Dr. Akin’s article it seems that the frustration over the admittedly horrific and devastating effects of the sin of drunkenness is overshadowing the divine design in giving us a good gift to be enjoyed.
Akin anticipates objection and attempts to diffuse the arguments asserting that we should also elimate food and sex to prevent glutteny and lust. “There is however a significant difference. We must eat to live. We must engage in sex to procreate. Alcohol is not a necessity for life or good living.”
I don’t think there is a significant difference. Food comes from God and is not only to be consumed but also enjoyed and received with thankfulness, with recognition that it is a gracious God who has provided food for his creation, even good tasting food. Sex is not just for procreation. This would be a Catholic viewpoint; Dr. Akin could have quoted Pope Benedict for support on this one. Sex is for procreation, but it is also for enjoyment!! With a quick run through The Song of Solomon it appears that biblical sex is to be enjoyed. What has God made that is not to be enjoyed? Not abused, but enjoyed?
I get nervous anytime anyone starts advocating abstaining from foods or drinks considering the solemn warning of 1 Tim 4:
1 Timothy 4:1-5 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
In conclusion Danny Akin tips his hat to legalism saying that he is not being legalistic. But a passing reference and a personal denial is just not enough. They are advocating abstinence from something that God has not!! And the support for doing so does not come from the Bible but from tradition, research, tragedy and personal experience. Legalism is making yourself more narrow than what the Scripture says. While Danny Akin says that he would not prevent membership if someone drank only leadership it still smacks of the same problem that Jesus was dealing with when he answered the religious leaders of his day in Luke 7.
Akin writes, “I am in total agreement with my spiritual hero Adrian Rogers who said, “Moderation is not the cure for the liquor problem. Moderation is the cause of the liquor problem. Becoming an alcoholic does not begin with the last drink, it always begins with the first. Just leave it alone.”
No sir, moderation is not the problem…sin is the problem. And the answer is not moderation…but salvation. There are no Christian alcoholics, but there are Christians who used to be drunks!! We should stop preaching sanctification to the world and start preaching the gospel. Abstinence will not reform anyone. Instead, people need to be converted, learn self-control and enjoy the good gifts of God, whether it is sex, food, a Sam Adams or a glass of Shiraz all to the glory of God, even thanking Jesus who suffered, bled, cried, and guzzled and satisfied the wrath of God in the place of sinners like me.