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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Alcohol and the Authority of the Word


I recently received an email from a very articulate young Baptist Pastor who has a BA from Boyce College, an MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is currently working on a Phd in OT at Southern. (I am withholding his name because this post is not about this young man; this post is about the honest questions he asked.)

Here is the email that I received:


Greg,

I want you to know that I greatly appreciate your interest and interaction with our ________ blog. However, there is something that concerns me and I wanted to point it out to you.

All of your replies to my recollection involve one common theme, alcohol. Even posts that seem to have nothing to do with alcohol elicit responses from you about alcohol. I am curious as to why you are so concerned about this one issue that it consumes all of your posts? This almost seems to be a first tier issue for you.

I want to be clear that I don't believe the Bible supports a position that says that every drink of alcohol in every setting at any time is a sin. We might disagree on the wisdom of alcohol consumption in some cultures or settings but certainly the Bible doesn't condemn every sip of alcohol that one might take. With that said I'm still curious why this so big for you? Why are you so concerned to change the convention's view of alcohol? Why are you more concerned with that
than cooperation around missions, church planting and ecclesiology, training of ministers, etc?

Please help me to understand.

In Christ,

Xxx Xxxx


Greg Alford Replies:

Xxx,

Thanks for the email... I have enjoyed reading your articles on xxxxxxxxx blog lately.

What motivates the words and actions of others is indeed sometimes very hard to understand, so I will try and answer your question with as much honestly and clarity as I can…

I do not bring up the issue of alcohol in many of my comments because I often partake of alcoholic drinks. Quite the opposite is true… On rare occasions I will have a glass of wine with an evening meal, at the Christmas gathering with my family, or at a wedding.

Brother Xxx, with humility of spirit and abiding love for all things Southern Baptist… I often bring up this issue in the Southern Baptist Convention and the Florida Baptist Convention because I am greatly burdened to speak out.

God alone is qualified to give unto man the standard by which he should live and be judged. He has done this by means of his Holy Word, which alone is Sufficient for such a great task as this.

“The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” – (Article I. BFM2000)

Now, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Florida Baptist Convention have set themselves up as the givers of the Law, and have condemned both God and Christ for their conduct…

Just a few points concerning wine:

• It was commanded of God to be given as an offering in the O.T.
• It is said in the O.T. to make glad both the heart of man and God.
• Jesus turned water into wine, (not Welch’s).
• Jesus and every single one of his disciples drank wine at the Last Supper.
• It is one of the two elements of communion (Is it proper to make substitutes for the Biblical pattern of any ordinance? Remember we Baptist will accept no substitutes for the Biblical patter of the ordinance of Baptism.)
• Jesus told his disciples that he would partake of wine with them in Heaven.

Xxx, I hope you can see my heart and great concern for my Southern Baptist Convention in this matter… If the Word of God is not “the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried” then what is or “who” is? This is not a matter of opinion; it is nothing less than a matter of setting ourselves up as the supreme standard by which all human (and God’s) conduct should be tried… And that my friend is a very grievous sin indeed.

Blessings,
Greg Alford



Next Reply from Pastor Xxx:


Greg,

I still am perplexed by your response. You spent most of your email defending a position that I already conceded was biblically defensible. My question is why is this such a huge issue for you. You think that someone who takes a teetotaler position is being anti-biblical or not trusting in the sufficiency of Scripture? Is this your concern? There are a lot of other issues that you could raise that bring into doubt our convention’s practical stance on the sufficiency of scripture, why this one and why so fervent? I never meant to imply with my email that you love alcohol or drink it a lot personally. It was just a question as to why you talk about it so often. I understand that the Bible doesn’t condemn all drinks of alcohol and has some good things to say about alcohol. Again, I stated that in the last email. I understand that your concern is that someone or something (i.e. SBC) is bypassing the Bible as the supreme standard with the various resolutions on alcohol. However, I do want to state that the issue might not be black and white. The Bible does have some clear warnings that it gives concerning alcohol and not just warnings about drunkenness (Proverbs for example). Are raising principles of being concerned for not seeing weaker brothers stumble from 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 completely inadmissible here in your opinion? Again, I don’t want to get into an argument over alcohol, b/c as I said I don’t think a teetotaler position is mandated by the Scripture. I guess my question is why are you so “burdened” by this particular issue when there are others that could be brought up? What do you think it is about this particular issue that so burdens you?

Again, I appreciate you responding to my email. I am simply curious.

Xxx Xxxx


Greg Alford Replies:

Xxx,

Let me try again,

I do not think that someone who makes the personal decision to be a teetotaler is being anti-biblical or not trusting in the sufficiency of Scriptures at all. That is a personal choice and can be made for many valid reasons.

However, let me clearly say that I do think that it greatly questions the authority of Scriptures for anyone to insists (as John Sullivan has done in the Florida Baptist Convention) that all those who do not hold to the teetotaler position are unfit for service. To me the actions of John Sullivan and the Florida Baptist Convention are just as great an attack upon the Scriptures as any liberal has dared make in my lifetime.

One’s position on alcohol has become in some state conventions an extra-biblical litmus test used to exclude otherwise solid conservative Baptist from cooperation and service. And there is an ongoing effort to make this a policy throughout the SBC so that no one who does not hold a teetotaler position on alcohol can serve in any position in the convention at all………… That is why this is such a huge issue for me.

It really comes down to one simple question…

“Is the Bible our final authority or not?”

Grace Always,


Next Reply from Pastor Xxx:


Greg,


I will think thru your response and I do sense this is a big issue for you because you think convention leaders are adding to the Bible.


However, Greg it is a gross overstatement to equate John Sullivan's policy or any state/national convention's policy on alcohol with liberals who have denied the resurrection, condoned homosexuality, etc. That is going way too far!


Xxx


Greg Alford Replies:


Xxx,

Are you sure you are qualified to make the decision of just what is an acceptable denial of Biblical teaching and what is not?

For that matter, who among us "mortal men" is qualified to say one departure form what the Bible teaches is far worse than another? Who decides Xxx? Me? You? Who then?

No... there are no small departures from what the Bible teaches...

Blessings,


Next Reply from Pastor Xxx:



Greg,

Yet you are making the decision to view all 'departures' the same. Who gave you that office? Honestly, I find it unfathomable that you would equate a position of not being in leadership because you think it is ok to drink alcohol with a denial of the resurrection. One of those departures is FAR worse. Denial of resurrection means a person is not a believer at all!

I appreciate you taking time to respond to each of my questions but at this point I will not continue the conversation further.

Xxx


Greg Alford Replies:


Xxx,

Communicating by way of email is sometimes very difficult... It was not my intent to offend you in any way during this discussion... My questions in the last email were designed to stir you to think seriously about the issue of the authority of God's Word in the Southern Baptist Convention. If I have indeed offended you I do apologize and hope that we end our discussion as Brothers.


Blessings,


Next Reply from Pastor Xxx:


Greg,

You did not offend me and certainly we will always conclude discussions ad brothers. All I meant by my final email was that we are absolutely called to make decisions about which departures of scripture are most heinous because some rise to the level of heresy and others only misinterpretation, misapplication, etc. Theological triage is important for all kinds of reasons having to do with levels of cooperation and so forth. I think Paul's words in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 imply that there might be issues of application we disagree on like alcohol and others that shouldn't matter as much, and yet 1 Corinthians 15 there are other issues like the resurrection that are life and death. I was not offended. I simply and vehemently disagree with you on comparing a stance on alcohol with a stance on the resurrection.

Also, we have had some kind exchanges but the truth is we are not getting anywhere with them. You believe one thing and I believe the other. I simply started the email exchange because I wanted to try and understand why this was hill to die on for you. I think I understand why and we will simply have to disagree that one's stance on alcohol reveals their confidence in scripture's sufficiency.

In terms of how to deal with the alcohol issue itself my dad is releasing a blog that I would encourage you to read. His view will be close to mine. At this point I just don't want to talk about alcohol anymore.

I do pray God's blessing on you, your family and your ministry. Thank you for taking the time to interact with me. I'm sure you're busy.

In Christ,

Xxx Xxxx


Greg Alford Replies:


Xxx,

I would agree that some departures from Scripture are more heinous than others, however I would add that no departure from Scripture is acceptable...

You have made the comment several times now that I have made a big deal out of the alcohol issue... indeed I have commented on it several times, and will likely continue to do so, but I must strongly disagree with this statement. It is not I but John Sullivan and the Florida Baptist Convention that has made a big deal out of alcohol by making it of first tier importance... and it is they who have decided to dis-fellwoship anyone who does not agree with them concerning alcohol. Actually I can cooperate with those who believe it is always wrong to drink alcohol and those who do not see it as a sin.

You said you started this conversation in order to try and understand my opinion in this matter... now I would like to understand yours. Do you agree with the actions of John Sullivan and the Florida Baptist Convention in making alcohol a first tier issue?

Grace Always


Next Reply from Pastor Xxx:


Greg,

This will probably sound like a cop out but honestly I don't know the situation well enough to have an opinion either way. Sorry.

I have supported resolutions on alcohol passed on the convention floor but I cannot speak to this specific issue.

Xxx


The conversation ended with the last reply from this young pastor who has a BA from Boyce College, an MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is currently working on a Phd in OT at Southern.

I really would like to know how others view this topic (Alcohol and the Authority of the Word). Anyone have any thoughts on this exchange?

Grace Always,
Greg

20 comments:

barrywallace said...

I'm probably somewhere between the two of you. I think mandating total abstinence is wrong.

I do, however, think Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 would suggest a softening of our opposition to those who feel otherwise.

These are not thoughts from a Southern Baptist, but I found them helpful.

The Son of Man Came Drinking: Was Jesus a Social Drinker? Part I

The Son of Man Came Drinking: Was Jesus a Social Drinker? Part II

Anonymous said...

Brothers,

Maybe I am missing the whole point, but it seems to me alcohol is not really the issue. It is about authority and control. Alcohol may be the topic, but the issue of certain leaders claiming absolute authority on a topic over scripture is the problem.

I think this really is what has gotten under your skin. Is it not Greg? Who is John Sullivan, the FBC, or the SBC to evoke authority on a issue that is not prohibited in scripture? Who appointed them to be the police of the conventions???

Alcohol is not forbidden in scripture, but glutony is. Maybe we could have all leaders in the convention pass a BMI check. In case you did not know the IMB requires all applicants to be below a certain BMI in order to serve as a missionary in the SBC!!! Now if that is not a double standard, I do not know what is!!!

But... I digress..

johnMark said...

Bro. Greg,

I agree with your position. It comes down to the authority of Scripture.

How does someone vote for a resolution that they don't believe is the biblical or even most biblical position on said subject?

Maybe biblical authority is in worse shape than I thought.

Mark

G. Alford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G. Alford said...

Barry,

These two articles are the best treatment of the subject I have read to date.


Anonymous,

You hit the nail on the head… “alcohol is not really the issue. It is about authority and control. Alcohol may be the topic, but the issue of certain leaders claiming absolute authority on a topic over scripture is the problem.”

And yes… that is what has gotten under my “Baptist” skin.


Johnmark,

“Maybe biblical authority is in worse shape than I thought.”

Yes… and every time one of the SBC leaders says “I know the Bible does not say xyz is a sin but… anything that follows that “but” undermines the authority of the Bible in the SBC.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is actually much much deeper than most realize. Leaders in the SBC love to pound their chest concerning the reclaiming of the doctrine of inerrancy of scripture. That is great. They also will give lip service in claiming that scripture is also sufficient. In reality they do not believe this to be true. If they did they would not be so quick to add to what it says. They would not be so quick to come up with all these man centered programs and gimmicks in order to be relevant in the culture.
If they believe scripture is sufficient they should stop adding to it. Our charge is to preach the gospel, not to come up with clever schemes to try to make it fit the culture.
Praise the Lord there are at least a few SB leaders who still feel this way.. Check them out here:

http://vaughnshire.com/2008/09/09/voddie-on-cnn-on-palin/

Paul W. Foltz DD said...

According to Timothy an Elder is not to be given to wine, while Deacons are not to be given to much wine.
On the other hand as for medicidinal piurposes, Paul told Timothy to take it for his stomach's sake.
Paul W. Foltz DD

G. Alford said...

Dr. Foltz...

Exactly… It is what the Scriptures say that should guide our opinions and not what man says.

Grace Always,

Paul W. Foltz DD said...

Amen to that. check out my blog on free grace preacher, on Dr' Hgqunt's address re; evangelism.

johnMark said...

Dr. Foltz,

I'm a bit unclear in what you mean so please bear with me.

Are you saying the Scripture says an elder should not drink wine at all?

Thanks,

Mark

Paul W. Foltz DD said...

Scripture says what it means, and means what it says.

When reading the Bible, what makes sense is the sense of Scripture.

Unless it says contrariwise the literal sense is the sense to follow. So I say YES, An Elder is not to drink, and he has to be of a good report from those wiithin and without.

johnMark said...

Dr. Foltz,

It seems as though both Greg and the pastor he was responding to believe there to be no biblical prohibition against alcohol consumption. I'm not sure where the agreement is with your comments and the original post.

I believe you are referring to 1 Timothy 3:3 concerning elders and wine. Looking at a few different translations it seems the passage isn't commanding abstinence.

KJV 3Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

NASB 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.

ESV 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

Even the lexicon for paroinos as used in the KJV gives the definition as "given to wine, drunken."

Is it your position that this passage commands abstinence for elders? If so, given what I have above, how can this be so?

Thanks,

Mark

Paul W. Foltz DD said...

''Not given to wine'' is more than a mere prohibition against drunkenness [see Ephesians 5;18 which refers to the drinking orgies of the heathen].

An Elder must not have the reputation, as a drinker; his judgment must never be clouded by alcohol [cf Proverbs 31;4-5; I Corinthians 6;12], his lifestyle must be radically different from the world and lead others to holiness, not sin [Romans 14;21].

He must not lower the high standard of behavior for leaders
[cf. Numbers 6;1-4; Proverbs 31;4-5].

johnMark said...

I don't understand why you didn't back up your initial claim using 1 Timothy 3:3. I gave you the translations and the greek.

Anyways, not getting drunk IS radically different from the world.

Greg has all ready given the appropriate positions from Scripture in his original post.

• It was commanded of God to be given as an offering in the O.T.
• It is said in the O.T. to make glad both the heart of man and God.
• Jesus turned water into wine, (not Welch’s).
• Jesus and every single one of his disciples drank wine at the Last Supper.
• It is one of the two elements of communion (Is it proper to make substitutes for the Biblical pattern of any ordinance? Remember we Baptist will accept no substitutes for the Biblical patter of the ordinance of Baptism.)
• Jesus told his disciples that he would partake of wine with them in Heaven.


Besides, one can do all of those things you listed while having a glass of wine or beer.

Mark

Paul W. Foltz DD said...

Why do you go to the Greek, not of the Received Text and those perversions from corrupt GREEK TEXT/

Why is IT THAT YOU ARE JUDGING THE BIBLE, INSTEAD OF LETTING IT JUDGE YOU.

YOU ARE PROVING GREG'S POINT. YOU WANT TO BE THE AUTHORITY, IN THE PLACE OF GOD'S HOLY, INERRANT, PRESERVED WORD TO THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING PEOPLE-THE AV 1611.

I WILL NOT WASTE ANY MORE TIME, NOR SPACE HERE ON BROTHER GREG'S BLOG, TALKING TO AN ARGUMENTIVE, BIASED, SELF-DECEIVED FOOL.

johnMark said...

Hey Foltzi,

If this isn't comedy hour then I feel sorry for you.

Was the AV 1611 translated without a greek manuscript? Or do you prefer not to use it? You could have at least dismissed my quotations from other translations and used the AV 1611 greek.

Never once did I judge the Bible. I simply produced it for you to read. Words have meanings and contexts. This is how we understand and communicate with each other.

Apparently, you don't want to communicate any longer. That's fine and it would be a waste of space to proceed in such a manner as your last comment. Based on your previous comment about how an elder is to handle himself I sure hope this isn't an example of that position.

I certainly don't want to try and dialogue with someone who thinks I'm being argumentative. Especially, with a Ruckmanite who goes all Fred Phelps on me.

Peace,

Mark

Paul W. Foltz DD said...

WHAT IS A RUCKMANITE/ I never heard of the critter. Who is fred phelps/ never heard of him.

after majoring in Greek and HEBREW, I ARRIVED AT MY POSISTION. I AM ONLY 4 HOURS SHORT ON MY PHD IN BIBLICAL LANGUAGES.

But i need not run to the Greek or the Hebrew, when the AV1611 English which is generic language, contains all the shades of the greek and hebrew in it. God has made His Word available, that a sixth Grader can understand it when he reads it.

Anonymous said...

When I was a child, the Baptists in my area made such a big deal out of "drinking and smoking" that I never heard about Jesus. Later in life. after the Lord regenerated me, my parents' Baptist neighbor made the statement about certain people. She said, "They don't drink and they don't smoke: they are good
Christians." The people were Mormons.

Anonymous said...

There will be many Baptists in Hell, because they never Regenerated. All of God's chosen ones shall be regenerated and converted.

I'm A Baptist by persusion, because it is the closest thing to the New Testament Church, if something came up that was closer, I would be that.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz

Anonymous said...

There will be many Baptists in Hell, because they never Regenerated. All of God's chosen ones shall be regenerated and converted.

I'm A Baptist by persusion, because it is the closest thing to the New Testament Church, if something came up that was closer, I would be that.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz