Two decades after declaring victory in the war over biblical inerrancy, Southern Baptists are battling about booze.
Seeking to remain relevant in today’s culture, many Baptists have abandoned former taboos against social activities like dancing and going to movies. Now some are questioning the denomination’s historic position of abstaining from alcohol, prompting others to draw a line. . . .
The ruckus — and the post-convention blogs that kept the argument alive — prompted Peter Lumpkins, a Southern Baptist pastor for more than 20 years before turning to a writing ministry, to pen his first book: Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence, in 2009.
“One would be hard-pressed to locate a belief — outside believers’ baptism by immersion itself — which reflects more unity among Southern Baptists than abstinence from intoxicating beverages for pleasurable purposes,” Lumpkins said in an e-mail interview.
Lumpkins, who blogs at SBC Tomorrow, said younger Southern Baptist leaders do not appreciate that history and instead view teetotalism as extra-biblical and nothing more than “Pharisaical legalism.”
Lumpkins is among Southern Baptists who view relaxed attitudes about social drinking as the biggest controversy facing the Southern Baptist Convention since the “conservative resurgence” debate over Scripture in the 1980s. . . .
Lumpkins describes “a cataclysmic moral shift away from biblical holiness expressed in biblical Lordship toward the relativistic, postmodern norms of American pop culture, including its hedonistic obsession with fulfilling desires.”
Unless the “Christian hedonism” trend is halted, Lumpkins fears “the largest Protestant voice for abstinence soon will succumb to the ominous lure of an age of indulgence. We will forfeit our biblical heritage to the whims of an obsessive pop morality that wildly sniffs the wind but for the faintest scent of pleasure fulfilled.”
Lumpkins, a binge drinker in his youth, says the church has “conceded its historic role as the moral conscience of our culture, particularly as it forfeited its once-strong position on abstinence from intoxicating beverages for pleasurable purposes.” . . .
He also lays out a biblical case for abstinence. While there are verses that seem to praise wine, he says, there are others that condemn wine, a point overlooked by those who argue the Bible only condemns drunkenness and not drinking.
His final hurdle is the story in the Gospel of John about the wedding feast in Cana where Jesus turns water into wine. Lumpkins says the Greek and Hebrew words translated “wine” don’t distinguish between fresh and fermented grape juice, and he doubts the Son of God would “manifest forth his glory” by sprucing up a party that had run out of alcohol.
Isn’t the argument that Jesus didn’t create alcohol because he wouldn’t rather circular? And since when do Jewish weddings serve grape juice? Making abstinence from alcohol a matter of Biblical teaching just cannot be done. I’m curious where Baptists are coming down on this debate. I’d like to hear from you Baptists out there.