Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Abstinence or moderation?

Seventh Day Baptists, like most other Baptists and many other Protestants, have been advocates of abstaining from the consumption of alcoholic beverages since the mid-19th century. My grandfather, a Seventh Day Baptist pastor, was active in the temperance movement and spoke for the Anti-Saloon League. My parents — and I think most of their generation in my denomination — were total abstainers. My sense is that things have changed, but that impression is not based on any change in policy. The subject is little discussed.

Southern Baptists are engaged in a vigorous open discussion about the permissibility of alcohol consumption. Those arguing for the acceptability of moderate use seem to be in the minority - but they have been speaking out. The Criswell Theological Review recently devoted an entire issue to the question of "Christians and Alcohol." Two of the articles are available online as pdfs: "The Christian and Alcohol" by Richard Land and Barrett Duke, which advocates the wisdom of total abstinence, and "The Bible and the Question of Alcoholic Beverages," by Kenneth L. Gentry, which makes the scriptural case that moderate consumption is permitted. Gentry is the author of God Gave Wine: What the Bible Says About Alcohol, a fuller explanation of his position.

Early in his essay, Gentry writes:
Few would deny the widespread abuse of alcohol in our culture today. From occasional binge drinking to full-scale alcohol dependence, from under age drinking to drunken driving, alcohol abuse is a serious problem. And none can credibly deny that the Bible strongly condemns all forms of alcohol abuse through several means, including binding precept, notorious example, negative image, and harmful effect [Gentry provides citations for each]. Yet, the debate continues raging among evangelicals.

For the evangelical the question of beverage alcohol consumption ultimately must be arbitrated in terms of the Scriptures, rather than traditional customs, contemporary social practices, cultural mores, or emotional revulsion. ....
In this article I will be presenting the biblical evidence for allowing a moderate, circumspect use of alcoholic beverages. Due to space limitations my approach to the issue involves three fundamental, unargued presuppositions regarding the Scriptures:
  1. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God.
  2. The Bible is the ultimate standard for ethical inquiry.
  3. The Bible condemns all forms of alcohol abuse.
Building on these presuppositions I will show that just as the Bible allows appropriate use of sex (despite its widespread perversion and abuse) and wealth (despite the love of money being the root of all kinds of evil), it also allows a balanced use of alcohol. In considering the issue before us, we must always recognize the distinction between use and abuse. .... [more]
Thanks to Alex Chediak and Denny Burk for the reference.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.