Now while I love much of what Peter writes, I must respectfully disagree with his stance on alcohol. In fact, I believe it is the traditional (circa 1920s) Southern Baptist stance on alcohol that does great damage to the convention in both the eyes of the public but, more importantly, their effectiveness in witnessing to others.
To illustrate this point let me tell you a story.
A friend of mine who had recently (within the past week) graduated seminary and we met up for dinner to celebrate. Afterwards we went to a “package shop”1 so my friend could buy his first beer on completing seminary2. While we were in the store we overheard a man ask the store owner for advice on beer. While giving his reply to the man, the store owner mentioned he needed to decide fairly quickly because the store was set to close in a couple of hours and that after that, the man would ahve to wait until Monday t buy beer. This revelation puzzled the man looking to buy beer and he asked why that was. The shop owner’s reply was “It’s because of those damned Southern Baptists!”
Now, after that revelation, how receptive do you think the store owner would be to any message presented to him from someone connected to the Southern Baptist Convention? Not very.
Here is my stance on alcohol:
Eating food is not a sin. Alcoholic beverages are food. Erego it is not a sin to drink alcoholic beverages. However, excess in either case is considered a sin not due primarialy to the amount taken in, but because of the reason. If a person eats to comfort themselves then they are sinning by placing their trust in something other than Christ. Likewise, if a person drinks to be socially accepted (by being inebriated) they are sinning because they are, again, failing to trust in Christ.
Consumption for pleasure, however, is not a valid reason for calling an action sinful. I love the taste of cheese, sushi, and beer. Their tastes are pleasurable and there is nothing in Scripture that tells us that pleasurable tastes are, in themselves, sinful.
So while I respect the decision by my friends like Peter to abstain from all forms of alcohol, I would maintain that imposing such a Biblically unfounded position on others is a clear and plain example of legalism. And if the SBC wishes to survive, it needs to purge itself of all such forms of legalism and moralizing.
- For those who are unaware of what blue laws are. It is illegal, or a holdover from prohibition days, in some states like Georgia where Peter and I live to operate a store with “liquor” in it’s name. So they go by obscure names like “package shop”. There are also strict rules against selling alcohol on Sundays, well except in restaurants, which usually gives rise to the famous Saturday night beer run [↩]
- He graduated from Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forrest which, like all Southern Baptist seminaries, requires its students to sign a covenant wherein they pledge to abstain from any and all alcohol consumption during the course of their studies. For the record, my friend honored the covenant he signed. [↩]