Biblical Liberty & Terrified Baptists

I find it both frustrating and hysterical that after a landslide victory onthe alcohol resolution we have a couple of unthinkable things happening.  To use the words of a very recent SBC President, it's one of the most unthinkable things imaginable.

1. Those who champion the alcohol resolution are quick to admit the resolution and biblical teaching on alcohol don't match. I'm sure they wouldn't like the way I've worded that.  Whatever.  It's true and they seem to feel a great motivation to admit it.

Jim Smith (Florida Baptist Witness): "As noted in the debate on the resolution, it’s clear from Scripture that wine was consumed during biblical times — and that it is even encouraged in moderation in select passages of the Bible."

Danny Akin (SEBTS): "Does the Bible by direct command condemn the use of alcohol in every instance? The honest answer is no it does not. Jesus clearly turned water into wine (John 2)."

No matter what else these guys say, it's clear that they are supporting what they consider to be an extra-biblical resolution.  How hilarious is that?  And the bigger problem is that these ideas are not just extra-biblical, they are anti-biblical. 

For example, Danny Akin also says, "I have observed for some time a growing emphasis on our 'liberty in Christ' that I fear neglect of our 'responsibility in Christ.'"  Sure, we get his point on responsibility.  Let's not try to trump responsibility with our liberty.  There are certainly times to abstain for the sake of others, and any faithful Christian of any stripe will strive to live that way. 

But both responsibility AND liberty are Jesus things.  We cannot act like responsibility nullifies our liberty, or why have liberty? They both have their place, and anyone who interprets our responsibility as totally abstaining from a liberty has misinterpreted responsibility. That's why when these guys say that all should abstain all the time we have moved into the realm of absurdity. 

Of course there is one, clear biblical warrant for this kind of thinking: the Pharisees.  Yes, those "strong conservatives" knew how to take seriously all the "contextual and principle considerations" behind their extra-biblical rules.  I'm sure their intentions were often good, desiring Scriptural fidelity and a "holy life."  But they were condemned because they missed the grace that sets us free, opting rather for their own interpretations and additions to the Law.

Now, let me be clear. (Unfortunately, I have to spend time on this because so many of our leaders not only have a poor understanding of liberty and responsibility, but they also have a poor understanding of biblical conservatism and liberalism.) I’m an inerrantist & Calvinist. I’m an expository preacher who regularly has people leaving our services telling me that they are feeling terribly convicted over some sin. And I submit that our so-called “strong conservatives” are actually less conservative than me on this issue. The most conservative conservatives (biblically speaking) are sola scriptura-ists, and anyone who pushes extra-biblical rules that disqualify Jesus for SBC service is less conservative because they are NOT sola-scriptura-ists.

Let me move on.

2. Those who champion the alcohol resolution seem to be speaking as if they lost the vote, yet they had like 85-90% of the vote!  This is remarkably queer.  Their massive "win" on this resolution is strangely only a small comfort.

Do you believe it?  They propose a resolution that has no biblical backing and are surprised that some want to debate it.  Then they win by a landslide and feel the need to keep pushing the issue as if they lost.   Why is this happening? I think for at least two reasons, though probably more.  First, they need something to celebrate after getting pummeled at the poles on nominations. Some will now put me in the ranks of some who pushed hard for other nominations, but if you read my blogs you know I’m in disagreement with them on this issue. 

Second, they are disturbed that there was even a conversation to be had on alcohol!  From Jim Smith's article...

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson…nicely summarized the alcohol resolution debate when he told me, “Sadly, I would never have believed that I would see a 45 minute debate at the Southern Baptist Convention on a resolution on abstinence from beverage alcohol. When one considers that the alcohol industry devastates more lives and homes today than any industry other than the pornography industry, such a question is doubly unthinkable. Positively, the resolution was adopted by 90 percent of the messengers, a critically important resolution in light of some pastors who now openly boast of imbibing alcohol.”

This much is clear: the Southern Baptist establishment is terrified of more than just abused liberty. They are terrified of even responsibly exercising biblical liberty.  Why else would they push for extra-biblical rules?  Liberty allows churches to be autonomous, and Christians to be responsible to God for their use of liberties, and even *gulp* allows some people to blog.  So some have been making new rules and resolutions on baptism and tongues and blogging trustees and alcohol and who is able to serve as a convention leader and who is not. Fear causes people to do very strange things, like make rules that would disqualify Jesus and the Apostles and Old Testament saints from SBC service.

The sad thing is, fear is what led the Pharisees to seek the death of our Savior.  Fear of a political takeover.  Fear of losing power and authority and privilege.  It seems the SBC "strong conservative" leaders have, like the Pharisees, turned a blind eye to the Scriptures they say they love so dearly. In that stance they continue to vilify and isolate brothers who enjoy the things Jesus enjoyed, even in a responsible and thoughtful way.

I strongly disagree with Dr. Akin, Jim Smith, and their lot. I think their position is hurting our convention, our witness, our mission work, the outworkings of the conservative resurgence, and more. I think they are pushing away from our convention our best and brightest young pastors because of extra-biblical resolutions like this. I think they are showing the world that the SBC and Jesus aren’t as close as we hoped.

And at the same time I would NEVER, EVER say these men are unregenerate. I love them both and spoke briefly with Smith and Akin at the convention. I have great respect for the work they do and the many wise things they say. But in this case they are both working against the Savior they love.