More Thoughts on Convictions, Complexities, and Drinking

First

I appreciate all of the spirit, and much of the substance, of Ed’s work on this topic yesterday. It’s just reality that even in historically total-abstaining circles, ministry leaders are going to be working with Christians who believe Scripture allows them to consume alcohol. That being the case, we should do more to help these believers exercise wisdom and restraint—or to recover, if they’ve stumbled into problems with drunkenness.

For those of us (including me) who are persuaded that total abstinence is the right course, there’s some temptation to think “Well, just don’t drink—and if you do, the consequences are your problem.” But where’s the ministry heart in that? I’m reminded of Matthew 12:20. Our Lord was not in the habit of breaking bruised reeds or quenching smoldering wicks. The spiritual thing to do is “restore … in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1), “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thes. 5:14).

Second

An abundance of interesting but non-evidential data seems to exist in the alcohol debate, and this clutter often obscures more important questions. For example, I was going to post some research on whether there really is a “Greek word for unfermented wine” that is never used in the NT. Perhaps our understanding of the NT should be informed by what we find in the OT, where the same term is used for normal fermented wine and wine that is still fresh in the press. See Jeremiah 48:33 and Isaiah 16:10 for a couple of examples of “wine” still in the press (therefore nonalcoholic, for those who haven’t had their coffee yet).

The thing is, though there is often confusion on the facts in this debate, where we really get into the most trouble is with our “therefores.” What does the absence of a word for nonfermented wine in the NT actually prove? I think, not much, because—well, see item 3, below.

(I also want to note that the potential stumbling associated with wine in Romans 14:21 is not about alcohol. It’s about ceremonial cleanness vs. uncleanness. Evidence:  ”drinking” and “wine” in the passage are always linked with “meat” and “eating.” See Romans 14:14-15 and 14:23. Use of food and drink that had been previously involved in idol worship is most likely in view. But again, either way, what does this prove about the ethics of alcohol consumption today? Not much.)

Third

I’ve been convinced for some time that the strongest case against use of wine (etc.) today is a wisdom case. Even if the argument can be made that believers in OT and NT times were using unfermented wine as a beverage on a regular basis (which I really doubt), few who aren’t already total abstainers are going be convinced of that idea. It’s just too easy to counter that angle. But if we suppose that everybody drank wine with some alcohol in it in those days, again, what does it prove about our choices today? Say it with me, class—not much.

The situation today, in a  nutshell, is this:

  • no biblical obligation to consume wine (This post might be helpful on that point.)
  • easy total avoidance of alcohol (not the case in OT or NT times)
  • much to gain by avoidance
  • very little to lose by avoidance (granting, for sake of argument, that there are pleasures of taste and smell, as well some social benefits)

Also important in this regard—the wisdom case is not simply a matter of take-it-or-leave-it logic and practicality. That is, in Christian living, we don’t have “questions of right and wrong” on one hand and “questions of practical wisdom” on the other (nor do we have “questions of truth” on one hand and “questions of logic” on the other). When the wisdom is “from above” (James 3:17-18) it is always intertwined ultimately in a very personal way with our Savior Himself (Col. 2:2-3).

To put it simply, it is wrong to do what is unwise.

Fourth

For the sake of edification, Christians really do need to get past “emotional reaction mode” on this topic, and get it onto the list of things that believers can study, ponder, and disagree over while maintaining mutual respect. Sometimes I think us “fightin’ fundies” should all have the principle tattooed on our foreheads so we see it in the mirror every morning:

It is possible to take a firm stand without insisting that everyone else has to take it, too.

We’re so prone to look at touchy topics as though there were only two options: either (1) I cave in and do what everyone else is doing, or (2) I insist that every Christian worthy of the name must join me in renouncing (fill in the blank).

But there is, as the old-time clear thinkers used to say, a tertium quid—a third thing. In this case, the third option is to stand, and grant love and respect to your brother who sees the matter differently. (Maybe love and respect him enough to challenge his thinking on the subject, but always hold him in manifest high regard throughout that process. I’ve written on that topic previously elsewhere… though not well, maybe. One for future revision.)

Fifth

What kind of guidance can we offer those who have diligently and submissively thought the issue through and concluded that moderate consumption is pleasing to the Lord? Well, the abundant biblical warnings about the potential hazards of intoxicating beverages would be a great place to start. If these texts don’t quite add up to “never consume alcohol,” they certainly at least add up to “this is more dangerous than you probably realize.” The famous texts in Proverbs (Prov. 23:29-35 and 20:1, for example) really need very little expansion.

A great deal of benefit can be gained also from the simple principle the apostle repeats in 1 Corinthians 15:33. If you find it difficult to avoid drinking too much, don’t hang out with people who tend to drink too much.

To take Ed’s perspective on this point a bit further: if we only attend to the wine-warning texts when we’re making a case for total abstinence, we really are missing the good sense these passages also offer to those who do drink on occaison.

Support for total abstinence from alcohol is certainly on the wane today. Better teaching might help some, and the general swinging of the pendulum might eventually reverse that trend as well, but the present reality is that believers are going to continue to differ on the matter. So both wisdom and compassion call Christians, especially ministry leaders, to do what we can to be helpful to those who use.

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M. Osborne's picture

Jim wrote:

  • We had the typical church covenant ... abstain from ... et cetera
  • What did we do? We did nothing. We decided that in the whole scope of things this was a minor deal. We told single man B that it did not rise to the level of any kind of church action. I told single man A to not drink in front of single man B 
  • Reasoning: single man A was not a drunk. He did not appear to have a drinking problem

I generally avoid the alcohol discussions if I can help it.

But church life is important to me.

In the context where there's a church covenant...isn't it no longer an issue of what you believe, but what you promised to do?

A former church of mine had the opportunity to remove abstention from the covenant. Most people didn't care to drink themselves, but were uncomfortable imposing extrabiblical requirements on potential new members. We had had some potential new members not join (just stayed regular attenders) because they could not in good conscience sign the covenant (and they occasionally drank). During the discussion, one of the leading people who wanted to keep abstention in the covenant asked, "Why can't you all go just go drink on your own without changing the covenant? No one will know. Why rock the boat?" Most of us were shocked, because we understood the covenant to actually mean something, even when we didn't like it.

I don't want to wade into the alcohol discussion as such. But on the ecclesiological point: having attended BJU and then a teetotalling church, I was used to cheerfully abstaining and accepting the rules placed on me. As I thought about the implications of congregational polity, I realized that I was no longer simply accepting rules imposed on me (my choice), but also participating in imposing those rules on others (present and future members). In light of those implications, going forward, I am very reluctant to join a church with abstention in the covenant.

 

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

David R. Brumbelow's picture

And in this mountain
The Lord of hosts will make for all people
A feast of choice pieces,
A feast of wines on the lees,
Of fat things full of marrow,
Of well-refined wines on the lees.

-Isaiah 25:6 NKJV

Wine on the lees could mean fermented or unfermented wine. Lees are dregs, sediments. Wine is usually racked or strained off the lees. Some premium grape juice, however, has cloudiness and sediments.

Look closer at Isaiah 25:6, though, and you find the word for wine is not even used in the original Hebrew. It is a word (shemarim) that could be translated “wine,” or, “something preserved.” In ancient times they could preserve fermented wine, and they could preserve nonalcoholic wine; and, of course, other food and drink. 

“And made hath Jehovah of Hosts, for all the peoples in this mount, a banquet of fat things, a banquet of preserved things, fat things full of marrow, preserved things refined.” -Isaiah 25:6; Young’s Literal Translation

Shemarim - “What is preserved, sediment.” -Dr. Robert Young, Young’s Analytical Concordance.

“In Isaiah 25:6, mention is made of ‘wines on the lees.’ The original signifies ‘preserves’ or ‘jellies,’ and is supposed to refer to the wine cakes which are esteemed a great delicacy in the East.”
-John Kitto, The Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature; 1852.

Contrary to some moderate drinking advocates, this verse really gives no evidence either way about drinking.

Isaiah 25:6 should also be understood in the light of Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18; verses that strongly imply when Jesus returns the wine will be new, pure, un-intoxicating fruit of the vine.

David R. Brumbelow

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Those who believe in abstaining from alcohol, marijuana, etc., are often presented as legalistic, hateful, self-righteous bigots. Surely there are such on both sides of this issue. But if these drugs are wrong and dangerous, perhaps abstinence is in reality the most loving position to take and to advocate to others. Many would be surprised at the compassion and time abstainers have given to those struggling with alcohol and other drugs.

There is the old story of a preacher who so hated cigarettes when he saw someone smoking he would slap the cigarette out of their mouth, stomp it in the ground and give them a lecture on the evils of smoking. The preacher finally died - cancer of the foot.

That is not the way I, or most abstaining preachers, deal with alcohol. A pastor’s job is to preach the truth and point people in the right direction, all the while knowing that they, and he, will never be perfect. I deal with the issue maybe one to three times a year in preaching. If I see someone drinking, I don’t condemn them on the spot. And most abstaining churches would make a difference between church leadership and regular members and attenders. Some view a church covenant as a very strict and enforced rule, other view it as a way of pointing folks in the right direction.

As to the sugar in unfermented wine / grape juice and diabetes - The proper attitude would be:

When it comes to fermented, alcoholic wine - total abstinence.

When it comes to unfermented wine / grape juice - drink it in moderation.

David R. Brumbelow

DavidO's picture

As the recently self-appointed Corrector-of-Categories-in-Cheif, I'd just like to define the following two terms:

Abstentionist-one who, due to any of several possible convictions or concerns, refrains from engaging in an activity or practice and, perhaps, encourages others to consider the wisdom of the same.

Prohibitionist-one who has concluded that a particular practice or activity is sinful or otherwise seriously inappropriate and seeks to convince others of the same. 

Rolland McCune's picture

Aaron's section on "Soul Liberty and Christian Liberty" was a necessary reminder for the subject at hand, especially the note that "the [local church] body should be free to unify to some extent on shared positions of conscience." This is what I sometimes call the "corporate conscience" of a local church, an association of churches, or other ecclesiastical bodies. This corporate expression of soul liberty might take the form of covenants, articles of faith, confessions, standing resolutions, by laws and the like. They are shared convictions meant to identify, clarify, regulate or position the body in its formation and ongoing ministry. They can be replaced, amended or rescinded by the pleasure of the body; but until then,they are promises to be kept with Christian integrity. The Covenant was a marker of one being in good standing in the church. Churches used to have a "Covenant Meeting," or some such, on the Wednesday night before Communion Sunday. This was a reminder of the covenant promises made when he/she became a member.

Until rather recently most if not all fundamental Baptist churches adhered to the old Church Covenant that included the promise "to abstain from the sale and use of alcoholic drinks as a beverage." Many churches still retain this Covenant or one like it.  I recall a new church applicant that was denied fellowship in an association of churches for deliberately excising the alcoholic drinks clause from their Covenant. This brought  a mini firestorm from the church and its sympathizers, but such ignored the fact that not only was their position a violation of an established corporate conscience but also the autonomy of an association of like-minded churches.

I conclude that the infraction of a shared conviction of conscience, especially the subject of this thread, is not a "minor deal" that merits a pass because the offender was "not drunk and did not appear to have a drinking problem." Integrity in this case should have seen this as a disavowal of the Covenant, instead of seeming to acknowledge that the Covenant only applied to a drunk or drunkards. This and similar treatments of the Church Covenant appear to reduce the shared biblical convictions to meaninglessness and might be taken as contempt for the Covenant itself.

Rolland McCune

Bert Perry's picture

It's worth noting that the root word also refers to "yeast", so arguing for preservation of sweet things apart from drying them or turning them into alcohol is..rather dubious.   

And really, David, I know you mean well, but given the fact that most adults eventually have their taste buds grow up so they appreciate things that aren't quite so sweet--pop drinkers migrate to coffee and tea, people go from chowing on the frosting to giving it to their kids--I really don't think that it's right to assume that when they had fermentation ready, they were making raisin juice, wasting good wood to boil it into grape syrup, and the like with most of their crop.  Sometimes it seems like you've got an hermenteutic that says that all good references to wine are nonalcoholic, all bad ones are drunkenness.  Convenient for your position, but a rather inconsistent use of the Hebrew and Greek words, to put it mildly.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

The oldest Baptist church covenant I have is from 1878 and has no mention of abstinence from alcoholic beverages.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Larry's picture

Moderator

The oldest Baptist church covenant I have is from 1878 and has no mention of abstinence from alcoholic beverages.

Was that when you joined, Mr. Bean?

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Rolland McCune wrote:

I conclude that the infraction of a shared conviction of conscience, especially the subject of this thread, is not a "minor deal" that merits a pass because the offender was "not drunk and did not appear to have a drinking problem." Integrity in this case should have seen this as a disavowal of the Covenant, instead of seeming to acknowledge that the Covenant only applied to a drunk or drunkards. This and similar treatments of the Church Covenant appear to reduce the shared biblical convictions to meaninglessness and might be taken as contempt for the Covenant itself.

Covenants serve a serious purpose.  They specify standards of conduct, behavior, mutual objectives, individual & collective responsibilites...which I know is not the textbook definition, but just my simple take.  When violated, what should be the church's response?  Are all infractions equal, or not subject to interpretation?  When discipline is merited, what form does that take?

What I fear is that too often, church discipline (when it is even practiced) is wielded in a manner in which the goal is to save face & maintain appearances, instead of it being a means to restore an erring brother or sister.  Too often we immediately give up on such folks.  They are deemed expendable in fundamental circles.  Our inclination is to shoot our wounded.  (I won't mention any specific cases, but I think most on SI can fill in some of the blanks.)

When it comes to Grace, we are terrific at providing a clinical, abstract definition.  We (ostensibly) are grateful for its extension to us.  When given an opportunity to demonstrate it though, or practice it amongst ourselves, well, then things can get murky.

Far too often we are the ungrateful servant (Matthew 18), claiming we are grateful for the second chance we have been given, but unwilling to give others a break---a second chance.  Sure, in the account above in this thread, a church member violated a clause in a church covenant.  (From the account, I submit it was a first offense, and relatively minor.)  What to do?  Expel him from membership?  Or talk to him, give him a relative slap on the wrist, and trust that he learned a lesson?

 

Larry Nelson's picture

 

David R. Brumbelow wrote:

And in this mountain
The Lord of hosts will make for all people
A feast of choice pieces,
A feast of wines on the lees,
Of fat things full of marrow,
Of well-refined wines on the lees.

-Isaiah 25:6 NKJV

 

So if in every instance (from what I gather), the translators got it wrong (which they seem to have done quite often in your view), or words are stripped of their actual meanings (e.g. "lees"), or other passages are ignored, what is left?

It all comes back to the argument that when Scripture speaks favorably of wine, it's grape juice.  Unfavorably, it's wine (fermented).  Under such a pretense, discussions take on a circular nature.

I'm still left to wonder, though, why in Titus church leadership is warned to avoid too much grape juice.

 

M. Osborne's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

Sure, in the account above in this thread, a church member violated a clause in a church covenant.  (From the account, I submit it was a first offense, and relatively minor.)  What to do?  Expel him from membership?  Or talk to him, give him a relative slap on the wrist, and trust that he learned a lesson?

The way I read Matthew 18, you start as gently as possible to restore a brother. Charity would assume that the brother may simply have "spaced out" on the requirement. (Although you'd hope that the membership interview would have made sure the candidate was aware of the statement of faith, covenant, etc.) So step 0 or step 1/2 of Matthew 18 is, "Oh. Actually...did you know that the church covenant says we need to abstain from this?"

In my experience, a person's reaction to early stages of Matthew 18 (humility versus defensiveness) says far more about his spiritual condition than the original behavior itself.

Jim gave only a bullet-point summary of events, so there may be more to it than summarized. But if Person B went straight to the deacon brother-in-law without dealing with the brother directly, than Matthew 18 was violated.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

M. Osborne's picture

Rolland McCune wrote:

Aaron's section on "Soul Liberty and Christian Liberty" was a necessary reminder for the subject at hand, especially the note that "the [local church] body should be free to unify to some extent on shared positions of conscience." This is what I sometimes call the "corporate conscience" of a local church, an association of churches, or other ecclesiastical bodies. This corporate expression of soul liberty might take the form of covenants, articles of faith, confessions, standing resolutions, by laws and the like. They are shared convictions meant to identify, clarify, regulate or position the body in its formation and ongoing ministry. They can be replaced, amended or rescinded by the pleasure of the body; but until then,they are promises to be kept with Christian integrity. The Covenant was a marker of one being in good standing in the church.

How do we dovetail this with the Westminster Confession of Faith I.6 (and corresponding treatment in Baptist statements): "The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men"

I would suggest that if a church believes something to be good and necessary consequences of Scripture, then they are within their rights to include it in a statement of faith or covenant. So if you believe that the Bible mandates total abstention (er, prohibition), then you're OK to put this in your covenant. You are not OK, however, to put a "good idea" into the covenant. The church has ministerial authority, and so can only administer the rules God laid down in the first place. To deny somebody membership based on your good idea, or even a whole lot of people's good idea, is still to usurp God's authority. (After all, "traditions" are a whole lot of people's good ideas.)

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Did they really boil down unfermented wine to preserve it?

Did they really use all that wood to do so?

Some quotes; many more could be given.

“Concentrating grape juice down by heating is still used to make the popular shireh of modern Iran and was known to the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia as well as the Greeks and Romans. It enables fruit to be preserved, and, diluted with water, it produces a refreshing, nonalcoholic beverage.” -Patrick E. McGovern, Ancient Wine: The Search For The Origins Of Viniculture, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2003.

Aristotle said the wine of Arcadia was “so dried up in its skins by the smoke that you scrape it to drink.” -Aristotle, Meteorology; c. 350 BC.

“The more the must is boiled down, - provided it be not burnt - the better and the thicker it becomes.” -Columella, Book XII, Loeb Classical Library; c. AD 60. Must is new, sweet wine or grape juice.

“The cauldron-room, in which boiled wine is made, should be neither narrow nor dark, so that the attendant who is boiling down the must may move around without inconvenience.” -Columella, Book I, Loeb Classical Library; c. AD 60.

“As to the part devoted to the storage of produce, it is divided into rooms for oil, for presses, for wine, for the boiling down of must, lofts for hay and chaff, storerooms, and granaries,” -Columella, De Re Rustica, vol. I; p. 71.

David R. Brumbelow

Dan Miller's picture

Rolland McCune wrote:
... I recall a new church applicant that was denied fellowship in an association of churches for deliberately excising the alcoholic drinks clause ... their position [violated] the autonomy of an association of like-minded churches.
I find this section interesting and a little surprising.
Quote:
from the GARBC

Autonomy of the Local Church

The local church is an independent body accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. All human authority for governing the local church resides within the local church itself. Thus the church is autonomous, or self-governing. No religious hierarchy outside the local church may dictate a church’s beliefs or practices. Autonomy does not mean isolation. A Baptist church may fellowship with other churches around mutual interests and in an associational tie, but a Baptist church cannot be a “member” of any other body.
Colossians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 8:1–5, 19, 23

I would agree with this and deny that there is an "autonomy of an association of like-minded churches."

Certainly, churches can voluntarily fellowship around such a thing as an alcohol line in the covenant. But to go so far as to say that the association has autonomy is surprising.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

For I have become like a wineskin in smoke, Yet I do not forget Your statutes. -Psalm 119:83

David R. Brumbelow

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

A few comments on some topics since my last post...

What to do w/those who do not abstain. Jim has identified an important question, but I don't see it as the most important one. The reason is that an organization that defines some boundaries on matters of conscience is also free to determine how to handle violations. And individuals are free to not be a part of the organization if they don't share its views are aren't willing to comply with the boundaries. So that's really a process problem.

Leaders in these organizations would do well to ponder how they want to handle different kinds of infractions and try to arrive at some consistency, maybe by documenting a good process--at least for internal use if nothing else.

The case is the same for any number of boundaries the organization might choose to establish. I don't think there's anything special about alcohol as far as that goes.

An example of what might work as a process model...  

  1. Determine whether the individual is aware of the covenant/policy/etc.
  2. Counsel the individual regarding conduct in light of #1.
  3. Identify steps and a time table for correction, and appropriate consequences. Communicate these to those who are/should be involved.
  4. Followup and escalate as needed.

Another question is what is our attitude and response as individuals toward those who differ, one way or the other?

The individual response depends on some things...

  • Is there a congregation/institution/etc we both have commitments to? What do those commitments require?
  • If there are no institutional commitments involved, what sort of relationship do I have w/the individual who differs? Am I responsible for oversight or care of this person, such as a son or daughter still in the home? Are we close friends? Are we casual acquaintances?  (These are huge factors in how we interact on matters of conscience)
  • Has the individual followed a biblical process for arriving at their position? (If a fellow believer hasn't really studied the question thoroughly and submissively, that would be the direction to nudge them, either by raising questions, or any number of other ways.)

So how to relate to those who differ is a pretty big topic... I'm sure whole books could be written.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Off topic a bit but...

to go so far as to say that the association has autonomy is surprising.

Where does it say that? I am missing something?

Dan Miller's picture

Rolland McCune wrote:
... I recall a new church applicant that was denied fellowship in an association of churches for deliberately excising the alcoholic drinks clause ... their position [violated] the autonomy of an association of like-minded churches.

Bert Perry's picture

I think the example Jim gave--as well as another--illustrates strongly the need to make sure that the church covenant actually deals with significant doctrine and behaviors that are clearly sin.  Otherwise you mess up the Matthew 18 process with nonissues and drive brothers in Christ away--again, this is a great part of what soul liberty ought to provide for the church.  

And regarding the wineskin in smoke, clearly being destroyed in fire......pardon me, but we're going to seal wine in a skin and put it over flames.....there are many things that are going to happen with this, but boiling down the juice is not one of them.  Having made my own maple syrup, I know very well that you don't boil things in skins, but rather in pots where the steam can escape.  It is also worth noting that one of the primary benefits of grapes out of season and of ordinary, non-pasteurized wine is Vitamin C, which is destroyed at about 190F.  Boiling point of water is of course 212F, and with sugar/acid in it will doubtless be higher.  

So that Psalm describes many things, but making grape syrup is not one of them.    Nor can we expect that a culture that sorely needed vitamins when fruit was not in season to have spent a lot of time, wood, and effort putting most of their grape crop into this sort of thing.  It would have been suicidal for them.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

M. Osborne's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

The reason is that an organization that defines some boundaries on matters of conscience is also free to determine how to handle violations. And individuals are free to not be a part of the organization if they don't share its views are aren't willing to comply with the boundaries. So that's really a process problem.

I'm working on the premise that church membership is not optional. God commands believers to unite with other believers and submit to biblical leadership. I think a kind of formal membership is a good and necessary consequence of those commands. If I must submit, I necessarily have to identify the party to whom I'm submitting.

To your point, Aaron, the church isn't just any organization. Parachurch organizations like colleges, seminaries, camps, relief and aid organizations, etc., can put matters of conscience into their bylaws. But the church of Christ cannot. To exclude someone from membership based on my conscience (or our collective conscience) is to usurp Christ's authority spelled out in His Word.

Again...if the Bible mandates abstention/prohibition, then it's OK to put this into the covenant. But if not, then you can't. Also...I'm not demanding a "silver-bullet" chapter-and-verse prohibition. Good and necessary consequences are allowed, too. For instance, a church is within its rights to discipline a member for patronizing a strip club, even though the Bible doesn't mention strip clubs per se.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Ed Vasicek's picture

There are enough serious sins -- like the ones mentioned in I Corinthians 5:9-11-- that require discipline.  We do not want to play spiritual trivial pursuit, do we?  Are we not tithing mint and cummin?

Rules that are not CLEARLY Scriptural are suspect to begin with.   When these rules contradict the translation of every single version of the Bible and all the top linguistic scholars, they cannot qualify to be CLEAR.

And, when it comes to never drinking a drop of alcohol on any occasion (as a beverage), the net result is forcing people to go underground or lie, a traditional fundamentalist handicap.  And, further, the people who do drink end up with no direction. They may as well get drunk, because both are considered serious sins.

Can't we rid ourselves of the pressures we put on people to pretend?  

"The Midrash Detective"

Jim's picture

I had 1 hearsay (3rd party .. he did not come to the deacons) witness. 

We passed on the whole thing

I would rather minister to struggling sinners (the church is a hospital for sinners model) than to a small roomful of perfect saints (the country club for saints model)

----------- interestingly ------------------- 

when a deacon (a Bible college grad by the way)  left the church ... withdrew his membership because of "concerns with the ministry". And then six months later ran off with the married church secretary:

  • the leadership team researched thoroughly (two pastors and a handful of very good deacons)
  • We tried ot appeal to the woman but she had disappeared 
  • The church nearly split over the issue 
  • AND ... I'm supposed to pursue hearsay about a guy with a beer?!!!! 

 

Rolland McCune's picture

RESPONSE TO JIM:

I really don't follow some of your reasoning, e.g., (1) the relevance of a 3rd party hearsay witness who didn't come to the deacons. Didn't drinkers A and B qualify? Or did they end up denying everything? It appears that things were going in the right direction: drinker  B went to his deacon bro-in-law, who went to the deacon board, who then (apparently because all was judged to be hearsay) reversed the field and decided to do nothing because it was thought to be too low a priority kind of deal. But, surely the deacons could at least do something in good faith to address the issue instead of leaving the Covenant in shambles on that point for not rising to a high enough level of concern. (2) I don't understand the hierarchy of adultery-to-beer, or struggling sinners in the moral hospital to perfect saints in the country club, in your ministerial/pastoral  taxonomy. I get the sarcasm but wonder if the hierarchy isn't a little convoluted and strong-armed.

RESPONSE TO ED V:

No one wants to drive believers "underground" or lie because of mint/cummin-like ecclesiastical trivial pursuit over a drop of alcohol, which allegedly is a "traditional fundamentalist handicap." I can assure you of that. But I would say that your remedial proposals are a little simplistic and unworkable. Who decides what is or is not CLEARLY scriptural? I am not impressed with your rubric of "the translation of every single version of the Bible and all the top linguistic scholars." Granted you claim this as a limiting concept (must not be "contradicted"), but its application to a local church's polity, articles of faith, covenant, et al. seems to be impossible, unless the organization welcomes anyone who can prove the fidelity of his work to whoever or whatever is the final arbiter of what is CLEARLY biblical. I see endless haggle and argument here, or a highly diluted biblical foundation.

RESPONSE TO DAN M:

I am a little surprised that you not hold to the autonomy of church associations.  I thought the idea was an established item of Baptist polity. For the  composition and polity of an association, I would still recommend The New Directory for Baptist Churches by Edward T. Hiscox, for an old but standard source. There are others. Maybe we need to start another thread if need be.

 

 

Rolland McCune

M. Osborne's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

 

David R. Brumbelow wrote:

 

One of the oldest and most used Church Covenants, dating back to about the 1850s:

http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2010/02/church-covenant.html

David R. Brumbelow

 

 

And I think I can guess what one of the "slight revisions" was.

Interestingly, this Google Books edition of The Church Covenant Idea quotes it as the New Hampshire Covenant (earlier than 1853), and does include a line about sale and use of intoxicating beverages. I might be able to dig up an image of J. Newton Brown's book itself through a Westminster library subscription, but I'm too lazy to log in right now. Smile

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Ed Vasicek's picture

Thanks to a number of you for answering questions about overseas and Spurgeon.

Baptists are descended from the Anabaptists.  Another stream of Anabaptist beliefs are seen in the Amish, who, in some ways, more closely resemble the Anabaptist position on things (esp. pacifism).This is partly true because they have been less influenced by American social trends.

Many Amish people drink alcohol, ferment their own wines, and drink beer.  Here is an interesting link:

 

http://www.amish365.com/alcohol-and-the-amish/

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

First, a joke a Catholic friend told me; "Protestants don't recognize the Pope, Catholics don't recognize the Augsburg or Westminster Confessions, and Baptists don't recognize each other in the liquor store."  (kinda speaks well to Ed's point)

More seriously, I think the discussion on church covenants can easily be misdirected.  What the presence, or absence, of a clause related to liquor in a church covenant means is that the church did, or did not, feel that the issue was big enough to include in their church covenant at the time.  If we believe Sola Scriptura and the first Fundamental, we can say no more---and we can agree or disagree with that judgment.  The only thing that prevalance indicates is that if we disagree, we'd better come up with a very good reason for our disagreement.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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