Thursday, August 10, 2006

Christian Freedom and Alcohol

This past June, the SBC passed a resolution on alcohol use in America. I don't know if you noticed it or not, but here was part of that resolution: "Resolved, that we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages."

Here's part of a recent article by Richard Land, president of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:

"Just hours before Southern Baptists opened their annual meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, and just a few miles from Durham, J.J. Redick, star basketball player for the Duke Blue Devils...was arrested on charges of drunken driving after he made an illegal U-turn to avoid a police check point.

The incident probably won't affect the player's future. He was drafted eleventh by the Orlando Magic in the NBA draft a few weeks later. But what about his witness?

On November 10, 2005, Redick gave an interview to the Charlotte Observer. The basketball standout, who has two tattoos, both Bible verses (Isa. 40:31 and Josh. 1:9), said the most important person in his life was Jesus Christ. 'When I die,' Redick said, 'I'd like people to look back on my life and say, "He was a man of God."'

J.J. Redick's moral lapse is well covered by the atoning work of his Lord and Savior, and his legal transgression will probably be well covered by a well-paid legal defense. But what does his decision to drink signal to a youngster who admires him?"

What do these two things do in your mind? Well, let's think about "both hands" for a moment. On one, you have a distinct command about avoiding drunkenness without a command for complete avoidance. Even the medicinal purposes of wine are pointed out and our Savior turned water into wine for consumption at a wedding. On the other, you have the witness to the world and the cultural perception that "Christians do not smoke or drink." If we had three hands, we would add that there is a certain amount of freedom of conscience given to Christians when it comes to eating and drinking and the celebration of days (Colossians 3, Romans 14). By the way, if you have three hands, get that checked out.

Anyway, I think the bigger question is not about Christian freedom and alcohol. It actually concerns the SBC dictating what freedoms their trustees and committee members will take in their personal walks with the Lord. I understand the "what about our witness?" argument. In fact, that's why I will not touch's because I genuinely believe that a glass of wine with dinner or the occasional cold beer is not worth putting a stumbling block in someone else's path...the non-Christian who believes wrongly that Christians are commanded not to drink, the teenager who faces temptation almost every weekend, the believer who is a recovering alcoholic who doesn't need a reason to drink again, and I'm sure the list could go on.

Though I hold this "T-total" position, I'm not sure about dictating the position to everyone in my congregation or community. I can encourage it, I can show the merits of the position, but I believe that in this arena, each man's conscience must be convicted of it. If not, it can easily become an external, legalistic standard that becomes an "add on" to the Gospel. This kind of requirement is reminiscent of the Judaizers, who claimed that you had to be circumcised in order to be a "real" Christian. These are dangerous waters we are treading, so let us avoid, at all cost, adding to the precious, complete Gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ alone.

So, for those who use your Christian freedom to have a drink occasionally, consider the "T-total" position. For those who are hard-nosed in holding the "T-total" position, don't be a jerk about it.