Just Say "NO"
I'm trusting that my attitude is not one of arrogance, self-righteousness or judging, but I'm just really dissappointed. If it were not for the Lord's promise that "the gates of Hell will not prevail against her", one might have cause for concern about the sad state of the church today. I say that while still thinking we should be concerned for the Lord's church and her purity. As I check for logs in my own eye, I am seeking the Lord to be sure that I am living a life of purity and integrity and above reproach and I trust that you will as well.
So, what am I saddened over? My friend James Thomas makes the simple comparison, on his blog, on two resolutions proposed at the recent SBC Convention. One resolution involved the use of alcohol, the other resolution involved the desire for churches to be more faithful in implementing the restorative practice of church discipline (There were other resolutions considered, but these two are the ones I want to briefly consider). The former was voted on and passed, the latter wasn't even allowed consideration.
Now, lest I receive rebuke from my fellow brothers & sisters, let it be said right now that I do not condone drinking, I never have drank (by God's grace - even before my conversion), and I never plan on drinking. I am, to put it in the Southern vernacular, a "teetotaler". However, I cannot, with full conviction, say that the Bible commands total abstinence; nor can I condemn as sin a believer drinking a glass of wine or a beer. I don't do it, I don't think it's best, but I can't call it sin.
When speaking of drinking, the Bible commands us not to be "addicted to" or "given to much wine", etc. Even in the qualifications of an elder in 1 Tim 3, & Titus the character quality is to be "not a drunkard" NOT "not a drinker". For a great series on the subject of drinking, see MacArthur's sermons on Ephesians 5:18 - Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 (note especially his comments on the "barbaric" nature of drinking even in the Bible times).
All this being said, it struck me as odd that part of the SBC "Resolution No. 5 ON ALCOHOL USE IN AMERICA", is this statement: "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" (emphasis mine). Now, is this wise? Sure. Is this a way of being above reproach? Absolutely. Is this a good resolution to pass? I'll leave that open for debate. :o)
Wherever you stand on this resolution though, isn't as important, IMHO, as it's relation to another resolution that was submitted to the committee for consideration, but was voted down. Then, when it was presented to the entire convention for consideration (according to Bylaw 20), it was voted not to be re-considered by at least 75%. This resolution -seeking the reviving of church discipline - was submitted by Tom Ascol, and he shares his dissappointments here (be sure to read the comments section of his post!).
What does all this mean? It means that the SBC has taken an admonition from Scripture (elders are not to be drunkards) and unbiblically and Pharisaically elevated it to a total abstinence position. They have also taken a clear command of procedure for restoring a sinning brother or sister, and passed it off as being not important enough to even consider. I don't think I'm reading more into than is there.
My wife suggested that if the practice of church discipline was re-instated in most churches, the problem of alcohol consumption (in excess or at all, perhaps) would take care of itself. It's as if they've got these two out of order. When the church is called to be holy and the proper, biblical means of protecting her purity is practiced (i.e., restorative church discipline), then there should be no need to isolate individual sin issues like drinking alcohol (or as one blogger has questioned, "What about gluttony?")
I'm reminded of Voddie Baucham's sermon comparing this same issue of drinking with the command for and elder to "manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive" (1 Tim 3:4). Voddie suggested that the reason the drinking qualification is elevated is because most pastors aren't tempted or sinning in this area. However, in the area of church discpline or raising a godly family, they are failing. Why would anyone want to pass a resolution that would be self-indicting?
Lord, protect my own heart from sin, from pride, from Pharisaical self-righteousness. Protect your church from sin. Thank you for my church, my pastors, and their desire for the church to be pure. Thank you for Tom Ascol and many in the SBC who also desire your church to be pure. Please bring revival to your church, and let it begin with me.