Could Jesus be Jesus and a Southern Baptist?

12 07 2006

grape21.jpgAt 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.

akin.jpgDanny 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.

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15 responses

12 07 2006
Michael

Preach it brother!!!
I love it…salvation is the answer to all this!! If we say, “Look what I have done…I have abstained from that which is evil…I am holy and godly and good.” We add our contribution to what God has wholely done!!

One question, brother. Is it a requirement, then, to use wine for communion? I have used the nonalcoholic version and people have noticed and wonder why. I use the NA because I did not feel it necessary to use the wine. I actually prefer grape juice that we used to use due to it tasting better. I am actually not offended by the use of wine for communion because I understand that this sacrament is a heart issue between an individual and The Lord God who made the heavens and the earth!!
I even had someone say that, “It is required to use wine for communion.” Then why do we offer NA? For the weaker brother…but is it necessary to use wine?

Please reply and correct any wrong thinking.
Love you brother!

13 07 2006
Eric (who spells his name correctly)

“In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.” –Paul’s enouragement to Timothy on this issue (1 Tim 4:6). Thanks for following his example!

It has always bugged me that people try to portray Jesus’ miracle at Cana in an unmiraculous way. Wine is the product of fermentation and fermentation takes time. Holding the position that Jesus made grape Kool-aid makes Him to be nothing more than an entertainer performing party tricks. Perhaps, they too believe that Jesus walked on ice on the Sea of Galilee.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31.

13 07 2006
erik

Mike,

“Is it a requirement, then, to use wine for communion?”

The Scripture tells us to proclaim the Lord’s death through the Lord’s Supper. This is to be done with a cup and bread. The question is what goes in the cup? And how do we decide what goes in the cup? Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples, so he therefore had red wine in his cup and used unleavened bread. So that is why we use wine and bread.

Now, do you have to use wine? Does the Scripture command Christians to use wine? No. So why do people use grape juice? This is an interesting question. Why did believers ever stop using wine? Until Dr Welch came along wine was the standard. Welch’s Methodist methods became the standard though in promoting his prohibitionist view thimble by thimble. This is probably the most disappointing thing, because Christians today act like Jesus sat at the last supper with a thimble of grape juice…he did not. Welch started this whole thing and we are swimming against the recent historical current that is prevailing in churchianity.

(this is becoming a post in itself 8-D….)

So what of the issue of taste? Could we just have a Diet Coke and an Asiago Baegel from Panera? Well it is obviously not about the taste but the sacrament of proclaimation. We just want to be as biblical as we can. So Jesus drank wine so we offer the wine.

Why the non-alcoholic wine in the purple cups? Just trying to be accommodating while still offering “wine”. Frequently children take the NA or some who are allergic to alcohol.

I will probably post something on the weaker brother. But I do not believe that the weaker brother has anything to do with communion.

If someone says as you reference: “It (wine) is required to use wine for communion.” I would ask them where it says that in the Bible. Communion is commanded not wine, but we use wine because Jesus did and we want to be like him.

Hope this helps. I think I’ll write some more on this in the near future (not next week, preaching 2x). In the meantime, let me know if you have anything further or this was in anyway unclear.

Cheers,

erik

13 07 2006
Barry

Erik,

Great post dude. I had not heard of Shiraz until a conversation with Chris I. Delicious!! We still get treated as “tainted” Christians by some of our brothers and sisters who are still affiliated with the SBC. Some had actually been in attendance for the Wine or Welchs message. We gave them the Romans 14 message and the second portion of the W or W message but to my knowledge they have not listened to it. What a shame.
I continue to visit your blog and I am amazed at your insight. God gifted. (Ref: Ephesians 1:8) You have inspired me to begin posting to my blog again. I have been absent from it since April.

Blessings

13 07 2006
cavman

Perhaps you heard this one………
Why don’t Baptists make love standing up? They don’t want people to think they are dancing.

Great post Erik…

The problem with lies (alcohol is evil) is that you need to tell other lies to float it (the numerous exegetical goofiness to avoid the clear teaching of Scripture).

Sox rallying in the 11th!

13 07 2006
cavman

Oh……..
yeah, it is pretty sad if your rules mean that Jesus couldn’t pastor your church.

ooops. Sox fell short.

13 07 2006
cavman

Just saw the communion issue. We offer both in our services. 1. Jesus used it. 2. Our confession (WCF) says it. When guys come for ordination, I ask if they take any exceptions, but no one mentions this. Sometimes I playfully ask if they advocate the use of wine, and they just don’t get it. Happens to me alot 🙂

13 07 2006
jimbaxa

Overall I agree with you Erik. SBC and others do border on legalism with this one (and some cross over into legalism). (As an aside, we need to hate this tendency to legalism in our own lives and also our tendencies to anti-nomianism (which is the opposite of legalism)).
A thought…alcohol itself is never referred to as a blessing, but the wine is. So, what is the blessing, the juice or the alcohol, or something else in the wine? I think scripture is silent on what makes the wine a blessing. In the absence of scripture on this one, I would look to medicine, which would point to the juice as the blessing. This is not saying that alcohol is bad, just that it is not necessarily the blessing referred to by scripture. While some may think this to be an unimportant point, it is important because we certainly ought not refuse the blessings of God. If alcohol were a blessing that God offered, I would be in sin to refuse His blessings. Instead I believe that it fits best with scripture (since John the baptist didn’t drink alcohol) to say that the wine is a blessing due to the juice, not the alcohol.
That being said, I generally advocate abstinence from alcohol, not because it is sinful in and of itself but because it could truly be said of all of us that we are “weak brothers” and therefore must be very careful with such things. Jesus was able to drink without sinning because He was not weak in faith! We however are weak in faith so if we do choose not to completely abstain, we must be very cautious. I have personally witnessed some believers who point at the legalism of some on this issue but then stumble themselves into drunkeness. I prefer to openly acknowledge my weakness, admit that I am still prone to sin, and abstain completely rather than take a risk with allowing my weakness to encounter more temptation than I am able to endure. This, of course, done with the utmost care to avoid the sinful temptation to engage in legalism instead of drunkeness, and is followed up with a scriptural drive towards sanctification. We must guard against our liberty to drink alcohol becoming an excuse to drink too much as I have seen happen to believers at times.
Oh, the lengths to which a Christian must go to strive against sin…to the point of bloodshed as Hebrews 12:4 puts it. The whole thought process just reminds me how weak I still am, and how great God is!

p.s. why do Christians warn so much about legalism but so little about anti-nomianism? We need to be killing both as both are sinful!

14 07 2006
erik

Jim,

It would be difficult to separate the alcoholic content of wine from the wine or the grapes. Besides I would understand the gladness that comes from the wine to be directly attributed to the alcoholic content of it, wouldn’t you?

“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,” (Ps. 104.14-15)

If you advocate abstinence from alcohol based upon the weak brother argument, perhaps you would fall into this category, but according to Romans 14-15 this is not all Christians. And in fact, the intimation here is that we should all be growing stronger, the weak in faith to the strong.

If you advocate, promote, or require abstinence from others for the purposes of spiritual growth (such as the SBC) then you are crossing the line from personal preference to legalism. The Bible does not say that Christians must or should abstain from alcohol. So in legalism advocates for abstinence take their own personal convictions (which are fine to have in light of Rom.14-15) and then evaluate others and their convictions based their own personal preferences. This is the danger and why I am so up in arms about the SBC.

Christians should be able to drink without sinning because they should be able to drink without getting drunk. You bring up the weaker brother which will be a subject of a later post, but a very pertinent issue here. But the SBC is not even making everyone the weaker brother they are totally impuging wine or alcohol because people abuse it, and this is a Jedi Mind Trick.

As far as the antinomianism point, that was not the focus of this post, but I did reference that under no circumstances is a Christian to be drunk…it has been and always will be sinful.

I strive for the biblical balance here regarding your p.s._preaching the Lordship of Jesus Christ as well as the liberty in Jesus Christ. One does not contradict the other and the blurring of one or the other undermines the very cross of the Savior.

Thanks Jim.

17 07 2006
Reformed

In general I was very appreciative of your entry, but you should clarify that salvation does not mean an immediate cessation for alcoholism or any other kind of addiction. Addictions do take time to overcome, and I think we set people up to be disappointed or feel like failures if they are not immediately “healed.”

17 07 2006
erik

Reformed said: you should clarify that salvation does not mean an immediate cessation for alcoholism or any other kind of addiction.

Are you saying there is such a think as a Christian alcoholic?

It is an interesting consideration. As I read the Bible I see things as sins rather than addictions. Christians who were previously drunks as unbelievers are to quit being drunks as Christians because they now have power to defeat sin and not be a slave to it (Rom. 6.19).

Perhaps I am missing what you are saying. At any rate it is an important consideration. Thank you for your encouragement.

18 07 2006
Reformed

Erik–

Let me start by saying about a year ago I would have asked the same thing. I don’t suppose that I am better or smarter than you…it just is a tipic I have been investigatinf. I happen to be married to an MDiv/Counseling student so my thoughts on the topic have changed in the last year as I took classes and read from classic reformers and respectable authors on the topic.

I don’t know you, but I think that you are a pastor…from what I am reading. How many times have Christians struggling with one sin or another come into your office? I am saying that there are Christian alcoholics, just as there are Christians struggling with other sins (pornography, jealousy, gluttony, lying, even sexual immorality). In general I agree with you that through Christ we are freed from sin, but we still live in a fallen world, and as those not on the other side of heaven there is a struggle against sin (Romans 7). I think it is the struggle that is evidence of their salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the person. Obviously I don’t believe that being a Christian gives one the freedom to sin, or to keep on sinning, our goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ and to glorify God, but for all of us it is a process that takes time. We are always dependent upon the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we no longer struggled with sin after being “saved” then we would have no need for the atoning work of Christ afterwards, but both of our lives attest to the fact that this is not the case.

I just fear that we miss the opportunity to continue to preach the Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s work and our need of it, to the people in the pews because we are afraid of the sticky reality of sin still there. But if we ignore that reality, then Satan has a foothold, and we forget the enormity of Christ gift to us. Paul recognized that the people in the churches that he wrote to still struggled. Among them he knew there were unbelievers, but for the most part the people he addressed, who were struggling with sin, were people he believed made up the invisible church. I really did like what you said, that was just one point I thought maybe should be clarified. I am interested in your thoughts on this subject though, and do not want you to think that I am trying to pick on you. Thanks for letting me respond.

18 07 2006
Reformed

Let me clarify, a Christian can be a struggling alcoholic or recovering alcoholic, but not a practicing alcoholic. If he ever stops struggling, then he probably is not a Christian…sorry for taking up so much space (and the typos).

18 07 2006
erik

Reformed- If you read what has been posted on this site you’ll find that much of it deals with dependence upon Christ and his crosswork, through the power of the Holy Spirit to live holy lives to the glory of the Father. I urge readers (as well as myself!!) to daily struggle and war with the flesh to put it to death, pursuing holiness. Of course I believe there is sin in the lives of believers, however, the difference between believers and unbelievers is that believers repent of sin because his seed dwells within us (1 Jn. 3.9).

My main issue with your comment was the word ‘addiction’. I find this to be a secular psychological term that comes from counseling at a completely opposite direction than Biblical counseling. I do not believe there are alcoholics…but there are drunks. Terms like ‘addiction’ tend to mitigate human responsibility and relagate the problem to something medical rather than spiritual.

So if someone comes into my office and says they are an alcoholic, I would not say, “Christian’s are not alcoholics…get out of my office!!” But instead, I would explain to them the sin of drunkeness, and that the Bible forbids it. And like any other sin, it comes down to self-worship, through an undervaluing of Christ, his will and glory. The supremacy of Christ must be seen and loved, then the Christian will stop getting drunk, because he loves Christ.

So to restate, my issue is not so much with your logic, but your terms (i.e. addictions & alcoholism).

19 07 2006
Reformed

I appreciate your assessment. I think that we would disagree because of our counseling approaches. I don’t think that the word addiction goes in the “completely opposite direction of Biblical counseling” per se, but “Biblical counseling” as in the neuthetic approach. I have been studying the Incarnational model of counseling that tries not to reduce the Bible to a simple book of formulas to apply to our lives, and which also tries to recognize the deeper issues that cause us to sin. If we simply approach sin as a behavior, then we skim the surface of that sin. The word “addiction” is not being applied as an excuse for the person sinning, but used to recognize the depth of the struggle. If someone is a Christian they should desire to be more like Christ, and by the power of the Spirit’s work in their life they should become more like Him, but it is a process. God doesn’t want us to just “fix” each other, but to be dependent upon Him, and to develop deep, transparent relationships with eachother. On this side of heaven people may not have all of their problems solved, and so we can’t just approach them like animals that need rewards and conditions to change, but like image-bearers. God has a higher view of His people. God was patient with Israel in offering them repentance before sending His Son, and that Son already paid for those sins on the cross. Obviously that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t repent and struggle, but it doesn’t always mean that repentance, trying, and struggling will be enough. We need to depend upon God. Telling sometone who comes to your office and says that they are an “alcoholic,” “look I get that you are upset and trying because you wouldn’t be here otherwise, but just try harder” will not be enough. I totally agree with you that we need to keep pointing to Christ and showing them Who He is, but we also need to be willing to be gracious, humble, and prayerful. Paul did not have the thorn removed from His side. I do see that you stress dependence upon Christ and the Holy Spirit, it was only included so that you knew that I did too. I really have appreciated your entries, if you didn’t believe that you would not have written this entry in the first place. Still (using a term you may not agree with) I do believe there will be recovering/struggling alcoholics who are Christians. The struggling is a fruit of their faith, and the work of the Spirit. We must be patient and gracious in their struggles, and humble because we also have on-going sin in our own lives. I trully agree with you that we need to continually share the Gospel with that person and all those we minister to because that is our hope.

My concern was the idea that salvation will mean that the “sin” problem (or really any problem) would be solved by looking at Christ. But “there is a false assumption in counseling that if someone comes to you, you solve their problems. God’s goal is not to solve you problems, but to use your problems to bring you to Him. You don’t get to use Him to solve your problems. The sin problem has ultimately been solved by Christ, but putting off the sin nature will be an on-going struggle. Your eyes may open more and more to the depths of your depravity and sin. Our idea of a “solution” may be different. Remember the paralyzed man who they bring to Jesus, and Jesus says, “your sins are forgiven.” The friends probably did not bring him there to have his sins forgiven, but to be healed physically. He was healed physically too, but often God doesn’t heal what we think is the big problem. Cancer doesn’t always go away. People will come to your office for relief, but you will have to switch their understanding so we are dependent upon Him, and offer that different goal.”

All of this to say, thank you for your blog and the opportunity to discuss such topics.

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