I want to thank everyone who has participated in the comments in yesterday's blog post-even those who (strongly!) disagreed with me. Pretty amazing thread of comments. Please understand that when I push back, it's not personal... I feel strongly about this as an issue (legalism being written into the core resolutions and practices of one of the largest denominations in America), so..
Just for the record:
I'm not against rules. (I'm a parent, after all!) I'm against making anything a condition for leadership in any church structure that I can't see clearly laid out in Scripture. And the absolute, undeniable fact is that the Scriptures not only do not mandate abstaining from alcohol for the one following Christ, but Jesus and other New Testament writers both by word and deed commended the practice. It's not a "cross" to give up alcohol so I can be a (funded) pastor in the SBC or in denominational leadership- it's a ridiculous man-made rule with no basis in Scripture.
So this issue for me is less about alcohol and more about how a HUGE denomination is misusing power.
In Colossians 2, Paul says "So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths." It's not an issue of salvation- he's talking exactly about issues of liberty and custom and he says DON'T LET. He continues :"For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial..."
Should I just stop there?
I'll repeat that last phrase: Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial. I recognize that the Christian life is a call to a life style of denying our short-term wants in favor of the long term glory of God and ultimate joy of our souls (sorry, been listening to Piper!) and bearing our crosses... But I have to say, when some equate abstention for the sake of denominational rule keeping with self-denial and cross-bearing, I think it's about half right... but I think it's only the kind of "self-denial" that Paul talks about and condemns in Colossians.
He goes on: "You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires."
The point is, Paul specifically tells us to RESIST those who come adding legalistic rules to the Christian life. And he lays waste to the idea that these rules actually HELP anyone.
Some keep speaking as though my argument is about my right to drink. It ABSOLUTELY is not. This is not about specific liberties, but rather about an increasingly conservative group in leadership of a huge group of Christians world-wide (they are applying these rules to the mission field) who is consolidating power within a denomination and using wedge issues to divide the loyal from those not willing to play along. And, as silly as it may seem, I feel compelled to speak up.
When a denomination as large and as influential as the Southern Baptists begins to lay on rules which have NO scriptural basis and are, in fact negated by Scripture, I think it's time to say something.
When church planters are denied funding based on what they THINK about an issue like this, it's time to speak up.
Some choice quotes:
(You can see why this disturbs me, yeah?)
Based largely on the issue of alcohol, "the most powerful Baptist in Missouri" says
“No Southern Baptist entity or personality should be loaning our denominational credibility to such churches or organizations as The Journey and Acts 29. We simply cannot do that for movements that are dripping with error and expect good to come out of it.”
See- now it's NOT just a "liberty"/"Can't I give up my rights?" issue. One church does a Theology discussion in a pub (something the one who ate and drank with sinners enough to be labeled a drunkard and glutton by the Pharisees would absolutely have approved of) and it's called "dripping with error."
Sounds like some SBs see it as more than just a smart idea for leadership to abstain (a fallacious argument, by the way).
In fact, I KNOW those behind this push see this as more:
"The Journey doesn't consider itself Baptist and calls itself "inter-denominational," but in 2005 it borrowed $200,000 from the Missouri Baptist Convention to help buy and renovate a former Catholic church in south St. Louis. The church holds one of its outreach ministries at the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood, where theological conversations take place at the bar, sometimes over beers.
Most Southern Baptists oppose the consumption of alcohol, and Moran has seized on the issue of beer in the emerging church as proof that a younger generation will compromise established doctrine to attract souls."
See how living by BIBLICAL standards is actually being labeled "COMPROMISE"???
This is exactly the kind of stuff that Jesus railed against when he condemned the pharisees for laying burdens of rules on the peoples' backs and then judging them by their adherence to those rules.
I'm not advocating people quitting churches or even the SBC. I'm asking how people, in good conscience, continue to belong to a denomination (and that's what it is people...) that has begun to layer rule upon rule to the point where Jesus Himself and the Apostle Paul would no longer be qualified to serve in leadership. I don't want people to leave the SBC, but struggle and speak out to change it- to call it back to biblical faithfulness on this issue.
In The Heart of a Baptist, Malcolm Yarnell says this:
"The sufficiency of Scripture states that our “doctrines”–that is, our teachings– need to be drawn from the Bible, and that we may never go beyond the Bible for our authority. Scripture, in other words, is sufficient for the message and practice of Baptist churches and their people. Requiring anything more than that which the Bible requires is, by basic Baptist definition, a legalistic heresy. Requiring anything less than that which the Bible requires is, by basic Baptist definition, a liberal heresy. We find our authority in the Bible alone, no more and no less. On the one hand, Baptists teach all things contained in God’s Word. On the other hand, all that Baptists teach is contained in God’s Word. To be a Baptist is to teach the Bible entirely and the Bible alone. "
I find it AMAZINGLY ironic that Roger Moran, one of the Baptists leading this charge in the mid-west would say :'“Revival comes to a nation when God’s people get right -- when they return to holiness, purity, obedience, faithfulness, and to the intent of Scripture and the purposes of God.”
Amen!- REAL holiness, REAL purity, REAL obedience, REAL faithfulness, and the REAL intent of Scripture and the purposes of God. And if you think any of that adds up to forced abstinence, you must be reading a different Bible.
Jesus warned us to be on guard against the leaven of the Pharisees... I think we should probably take that pretty seriously... You can't be holier than God, you can't be more ethical than Jesus. And your leadership rules and standards shouldn't pretend otherwise.