I responded to an article on the tension caused when International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries interact with people from other cultures who handle the issue of drinking alcohol differently. FYI, IMB missionaries are not only prohibited from any alcohol use, most of the trustees come from a culture that promotes the teaching that any alcohol use is sinful. The question from the blog post is how to handle cases like this:
- What do you think we should say to the president of the Czech Baptist convention who drinks a beer with his lunch?
- What needs to be said to the poor Romanian family that celebrated the entire family’s baptism by breaking out the champagne they saved for 10 years, waiting for an event worthy of the expense?
- What about the Argentine pastors who debate theology over a bottle of wine?
- The Christian Ecuadorian factory workers who are provided a daily lunch with a cup of beer while on the job?
Read the full article here. Too see a ten-comment string from my response start at about comment #108. Feel free to add your comments below.
Good discussion here. Two more points.
Point 1: I think that we can get better a perspective if we consider the use of alcohol similarly to other foods. For example, we all know that eating chocolate or French fries are fine in moderation, but too much causes obesity which is very harmful to one’s health. Drunkenness and obesity are both caused by addictions and both killers. The ambiguity of the use of alcohol in scripture makes it controversial and creates comments on blogs like this one. However, there is no ambiguity for the sin of gluttony. It is sinful in every case. “Don’t associate with those who drink too much wine or with those who gorge themselves on meat,”(Prov. 23:20). While searching for prohibition of any alcohol in the first part of the verse, let’s not ignore the second part of the verse.
To be consistent, our approach should make any requirement in SBC life regarding gluttony as strict as our requirements on alcohol. For example, those advocating that we prohibit anyone who uses alcohol from being a SBC agency representative should also prohibit anyone from participating who is overweight. In fact, some who advocate that the BF&M prohibition of any use of alcohol as requirement to be a Southern Baptist (see comments on this blog post) should equally advocate for gluttony to be mentioned in the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) as a disqualifying sin. I’m not advocating this prohibition, I’m asking where my logic fails. Since we are silent on the sin of gluttony, how can we be so vocal on the use of alcohol?
I submit that this inconsistency isn’t from biblical exegesis, but from cultural and historical practices. Just as it is a cultural practice of some regions of the USA to elevate the biblical prohibition of excess drinking to mean prohibition of any use of alcohol, there cultural practices of the world that regard any gluttony to be a serious sin. Denominational agencies that work cross-culturally like the IMB should be able to distinguish biblical norms from local customs.
Disclosure: I’m not hating on people who struggle with being overweight. I have my own issues too. Just want to point out the inconsistency of those who are outraged by even a sip of alcohol (not an exaggeration, this is a terminate-able offense in the IMB) but completely silent about chronic obesity. I wouldn’t doubt that this is a bigger killer among SB’s than alcohol. Where are the blog posts advocating specifically listing obesity in the BF&M? This is to show the alcohol issue is way out of balance.
Point 2: For everyone who makes the New Testament more strict in order to guard those who could possibly abuse their freedom, please heed the warning in James 4:11, “Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” From this we need to learn that if we want to evaluate a practice and can’t find clear instruction from scripture, we should be silent and give freedom, or we will find ourselves thinking we know more than the law and become a judge of it.
I think the IMB and other SB agencies should regard any drunkenness as a sin, even grounds for dismissal. However anything more than that is imposing a cultural, not biblical, practice on others. Scripture compels us to deal with real sins, not potential sins. We should ban alcohol like we should ban suger, chocolate, and French fries… not at all. We also should deal strictly and consistently with drunkenness and obesity by ministering to those who are trapped by these addictions.
What do you think?