Alcohol and the SBC: A Call for Peace
That division is occurring is irrefutable. Reading any of the articles written by those in the above categories indicates that there are few, if any, that are advocating for an end to the debate. Almost everyone who is writing about the topic uses rhetoric that suggests that this issue is anything but insignificant and some suggest that nothing short of fidelity to Sola Scriptura is at stake. Jerry Vines has gone as far at to declare that apostasy is lurking around the corner. And yesterday, in Baptist Press, Richard Land stated in a "First Person" editorial that the decision to drink alcohol is about choosing either "Wine or Witness." Even whole blogs have even been started to rebut arguments for abstinence by Danny Akin and Paige Paige Patterson. And given the recent response by James Merritt to Ben Cole's editorial in the Dallas Morning News (which was itself a response to Danny Akin's editorial in the same paper -- why again are we using secular media to post responses to one another?) , it seems things are just beginning to get out of control.
I must admit, some of this debate is healthy. Southern Baptists from time to time need to rethink their default positions in light of new academic research, Scriptual analysis, and the possibility of cultural conditioning. But, I believe this debate has taken a turn for the worse and is now being used as a test of fellowship (and possibly even faith). Personally, since the Greensboro convention, I have had my name was removed from consideration by a pastor for a ministry position because he said he was troubled by my take on Resolution #5 and called into question my ability to properly handle God's Word. So you could say that ending this "war of words" has particular implications for young ministers seeking ministry positions, as well as churches who are seeking to find the candidates to fill those positions.
So what I want to do with my few hundred words on this controversy is to issue a call to peace and a "ceasefire" (if you will) of this growing wildfire which Richard Land termed, "The Great Alcohol Debate." Just this past week I have seen attacks by "Baptist" bloggers and some other Christians on penal substitutionary atonement, Complimentarianism, and the traditional view of Hell. These are the issues that Southern Baptists need to debate with academic and spiritual vigor. The alcohol debate is almost 200 years old now, and there seems to be no end in sight. And both denominations who have taken an abstinence view and those who have taken a moderation view have grown and been successful in furthering the Kingdom of God. In the end, it is not this issue that Paul warns us to watch closely, but rather it is our doctrine that he continually calls us to guard with perseverance. We would all do well to remember the words of the apostle to his young apprentice in 1 Timothy 4:16: "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (NIV).
So Southern Baptists, I call you back to doctrine, back to the essential things of faith, back to those thngs that we have been charged with preserving, namely that Great and Glorious Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I leave you with this passage from Colossians:
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)-- in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against
3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. 12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (2:16-3:17, NASB).