Baptists in North America have a strong tradition of teetotaling piety. For Southern Baptists, however, the issue is a live one again as dissenters are making the case for Christian freedom to partake in moderation. In 2006, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution promoting total abstinence, but the measure only passed after a debate with a vocal minority. The fact that there was even a debate is significant for a denomination that has been fairly consistent on this issue. The SBC has passed over forty such resolutions since 1886.
That is why the latest issue of the Criswell Theological Review is devoted entirely to the ethical question of “Christians and Alcohol.” The journal includes articles that represent both sides of the issue. Dr. Richard Land and Dr. Barrett Duke argue for the total abstinence position, and Dr. Kenneth Gentry argues for the “balanced use of alcohol” (p. 40).
Land and Duke’s article is available for download from the journal’s website. I think that you will find that what they present is not your father’s total abstinence argument. They do not claim, for instance, that the Greek word for wine really means grape juice. To give you an example of what I’m talking about, take a look at the following sentences which are taken right out of the article:
“Alcohol as a substance is not inherently evil” (p. 22).
“It is clear that the Bible does not condemn all uses of alcohol” (p. 27).
“In Paul’s day, it would have been very difficult for someone not to drink wine. The alcohol content made it one of the safest liquids to drink” (p. 29).
“It certainly appears that Jesus was not a Nazirite. In fact it seems that there were times when he drank beverages that contained alcohol” (p. 31).
“It is obvious that one can find instances in the Bible when people drank alcoholic beverages. While most of these are negative, some clearly are not” (p. 33).
“Scholars are in general agreement that the phrase referred to wine, and we are not claiming that wine was not used in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper” (p. 33).
If you want to find out how Land and Duke get from these statements to a total abstinence position, you’ll have to read the rest of the article. I hope you’ll order a copy of the entire journal and read the rest of them as well.
UPDATE! â€“ The editor of CTR has also made available Dr. Gentry’s article which argues that the Bible allows drinking alcohol in moderation.
John Piper has an old sermon defending the total abstinence position. He writes this:
For myself and my family the way I have decided to go is total abstinence. I also believe, in general, that this is the best way for all believers in America today to go. There are four basic reasons. As I describe them, I will try to make their biblical basis clear.
1. First, I choose not to drink because of my conscience. . .
2. The second reason is that alcohol is a mind-altering drug. . .
3. The third reason why I choose total abstinence is that alcohol is addictive. . .
4. The fourth reason I choose total abstinence is to make a social statement. . .
For these four reasons, then, I am a very happy teetotaler, and I think you should be too.
Read the rest here: