Friday, June 29, 2007

Theology and Beer




I would love to get some DTS input on this story. The most suprising part is calling mandating total abstinance from alcohol "biblical." Really?!?! Should have told me before I wrote this [part 3 and part 4]. Is Psalm 104:14-15 not in their Bible? Someone should have told Jesus it wasn't biblical when he encouraged drinking in John 2, or admitted drinking in Luke 7:34, Matt 11:19. Historically, Protestants have drank (the English reformers in White Badger Inn, Luther everywhere in Germany, Calvin had wine as part of his payment for ministry, even John Wesley drank wine, and C.S. Lewis and the Inklings). Why does American Evangelicalism defy the Bible to make their own laws? Is this changing with the "Emerging" church, like with the Acts 29 network? How funny will it be when abstentionists get to heaven and God hands them some wine? (Is 25:6)

Story:

Missouri Baptists frown on beer as evangelistic hook.

Church planters who receive money from the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) must now teach alcohol abstinence. The policy change was sparked by the Journey, a growing interdenominational church that borrowed $200,000 from the MBC to renovate a church two years ago. One of the Journey's outreach groups meets in a St. Louis microbrewery.

"Theology at the Bottleworks was started to reach people who are actively opposed to Christianity, by discussing contemporary cultural issues in a neutral environment," explained Darrin Patrick, founding pastor of the Journey, which attracts about 1,500 people weekly to three sites. Those who attend Theology at the Bottleworks grab a beer and discuss political or spiritual topics, such as the role of women in society, the legal system, or animal rights.

The outreach caught the MBC off guard, said interim executive director David Tolliver. "We need to engage the culture, but without compromising our biblical, traditional Baptist values," Tolliver said. "For me, that includes abstinence from alcohol."

Patrick said that the Journey adheres to the same theological confessions as the MBC, the state division of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Because the Journey received the money by loan, not by grant, the new policy does not affect the church. But future borrowers will be scrutinized more closely, Tolliver said. Previously, church planters were asked to sign a statement agreeing to abstain from alcohol. Now they must teach "the strong biblical warnings" against drinking beer and wine. Though the Bible does not expressly forbid alcohol consumption, the new policy states that alcohol consumption is not wise.

The policy addresses an ongoing SBC debate. Baptists have championed alcohol abstinence since the late 1800s, but a growing number want the SBC to reexamine the issue, said Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School.

"There is growing discontent, people saying that we shouldn't be mandating things that aren't spoken clearly about in Scripture," George said. "It's hard to argue that the Bible requires total abstinence."

After heated arguments at the annual SBC meeting in June 2006, messengers passed a resolution affirming abstinence.

Mark DeVine, professor at Midwest Baptist Theological Seminary, sees the new MBC policy as part of a struggle between traditional churches and the young "emerging" church. The Journey's Patrick serves as vice president of Acts 29, a church-planting network led by Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll. Driscoll describes Acts 29 as "theologically conservative and culturally liberal." About one-quarter of Acts 29 churches affiliate with the SBC.

The controversy may not stop with alcohol. MBC executive board member Michael Knight, who chairs the theological study committee, has proposed that the MBC sever all contact, financial and otherwise, with Acts 29.

23 comments:

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Jared, what do you think of this suggested change for the "Student Handbook" at DTS?

"Students are required to abstain from such practices as gambling, the use of beverages for intoxication, the misuse of prescription drugs, the use of illegal drugs, and tobacco."

Jared Nelson said...

Are you serious? can they add tattoos to that, at least you can pretend to have scriptural support for that. Need a little Colossians 2:20-23 there:

0 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

M. Jay Bennett said...

I vote for the change.

Jared Nelson said...

Ok, now I think you guys are just trying to mess with me.

GUNNY said...

Back in my day at DTS, we weren't even allowed to watch the beer commercials during the football games.

Sheesh!

The next thing you know they won't even have to wear a suit & tie to class every day!

Chris Freeland said...

Put me down in favor of the policy as it stands. And as one who enjoys a good beer.

If it bothers you, think of it as a beer fast for 4 or 5 years. It's not for biblical reasons any more than the dress code is there for biblical reasons.

I see it as a self-discipline thing first and foremost. If you don't have the self-discipline to abstain from alcohol during your time at DTS, you probably ought to choose a different career. It's the same with the dress code. If you don't have the character to submit to the dress code, it's time to find something else to do with your life.

My question is: why is beer such an important thing to a person that they can't go four years without having one?

Jared Nelson said...

I understand that sentiment Chris. I think if it is individually understood correctly that is true.

I think the rub for me is when it is spiritualized, universalized and called biblical [as in this story]. Also, it seems to be sold as being "a cut above." But if Jesus drank, are we trying to be a cut above Jesus? We could be asked to fast from a lot of things, chocolate, tv, meat, sex, - and fasting has a great role in the spiritual life. But if it is sold as purely "more holy behavior," then it ceases to help and gives room to boast in the flesh, to look down on future flock members who do not abstain from our particular "thing"? Would not fasting from wine be a great way to see Christ as our great true wine, not to taint our view of wine, which it has done for many evangelicals.

As in much of our Christian walk, motivations play a big part.

Jared Nelson said...

Chris-

In other words, I am not advocating disobedience of the policy. Your approach of a fast I like. The same thing can be done by two people and for one it is virtuous and another fleshly. I think if it was presented that way in Orientation I wouldn't have as much of a problem with it. My original post was not even on the policy...

Chris Freeland said...

Yeah, my comment wasn't directed at your original post - more the comments that ensued after it (I've begun to ignore all official pronouncements by the Missouri Baptist Convention... I grew up in a Missouri Baptist church that seemed to always be reeling from one convention-caused controversy after another).

I agree with your last two posts...

Svigel said...

I . . . must . . . abstain from . . . getting . . . sucked into . . . this . . . conversation . . .

GUNNY said...

Mike, give in to the darkside, you hoser!

I hear what you're saying, Jared, particularly the implication that we can be more ethical than Jesus by that which we abstain from, as though what goes into the body really does make one unclean.

P.S. What about some Deuteronmy 14 where the assests can be liquidated and used to buy whatever the heart desires, including strong drink?

24And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, 25then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses 26and spend the money for whatever you desire--oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.
-Deut 14:24-26, ESV

Svigel said...

I don't know what people are told during orientation. But I'm comfortable with the DTS handbook statement.

"The use of tobacco and the use of alcoholic beverages, except for liturgical, ceremonial, medicinal, or other exceptional instances, are not considered suitable for the Seminary faculty, staff, and students, all of whom are expected to abide by this standard."

Technically, this statement doesn't order anybody to do anything because it's written entirely in the passive voice: "are not considered suitable" = [the policy-makers] do not consider it suitable; and "are expected" = [the policymakers] expect. The prohibition against alocohol at my Bible College was quite direct and unequivocal: students must abstain from the use of alcohol while enrolled, etc. But, of course, we all know the intent is that if the policymakers consider alcohol unsuitable and if we are expected to abide by these standards, then we better have good reasons for disappointing the policymakers and not abiding by the standards. The instances in which the policymakers consider it suitable are spelled out clearly:

1. liturgical
2. ceremonial
3. medicinal
4. other exceptional instances.

1. Liturgical obviously refers to the eucharistic worship in which real alcohol is used.
2. Ceremonial probably refers to events such as weddings or other celebratory events in which it is customary and culturally appropriate to partake of alcohol. This is a very fuzzy area.
3. Medicinal may include moderate use of wine as recommended by a physician. I don't know.
4. Other exceptional instances. Again, I'm not sure what this means. It definitely means don't keep a fridge full of beer and drink one or two a night. I'm sure it also means don't go to the bar with the coworkers every Friday evening. But really, I'm not sure how to interpret this exactly.

I am perfectly happy with this statement (though not very keen on the use of the passive voice).

GUNNY said...

Mike, good point about the passive nature of the verbiage. I wonder why it wouldn't come out and say, "Students, thou shalt not ..." instead.

The bit that Jonathan led off with is interesting as well: "Students are required to abstain from ... the use of beverages for intoxication..."

Could that not been seen as allowing for moderation? In other words, one should not use (alcoholic) beverages for (the intention of) intoxication.

In other words, one should abstain from drinking to get drunk, which is clearly verboten.

As a student, I didn't like the policy, but I abided by it. Abstaining from my pipe for 3 years was actually the hard part.

Still, I can see some practical ramifications of removing such restriction on alcoholic beverage consumption. I remember my first semester running into students who were actually bragging about having got drunk the weekend before.

When I reminded them about (a) the DTS policy of "no drinky" and (b) the biblical prohibition against drunkeness, what do you think I heard in return?

I was accused of being a legalist! That's no lie. These were the same guys who intentionally would not abide by the dress code for fear of not walking in grace and being legalists.

I'm not sure where they got such ideas, but I doubt a policeman would sympathize to the tune of not writing a ticket.

Don't forget some of these students are some young (condescendingly sounding as it may be, but also immature) 22 year old kids.

I wonder if there were ever any incidents back in the day that prompted the seminary to "mother" the students a bit more.

Lance said...

Gunny:

You had to abstain from the pipe for three years, but there's nothing that says that one has to abstain from "The Pipe." Amen Gunny?

Svigel said...

Gunny:

I share your feelings on this. I remember some students bragging several years ago that they were brewing beer in their apartment. This is why DTS does need some sort of statement. Even secular colleges have alcohol policy statements (all more open than DTS, but they at least say something). The reality is, there are many people who come to DTS and act like they're in 17th grade. And some came from a very strict Bible College that didn't help them learn to make wise, Spirit-led decisions. So here they are, expected to act like adults, but mommy, daddy, and the college dean never taught them how to think and live like adults. Our evangelical culture is just as much to blame as they are. You can't go through life being told alcohol is a sin and that Jesus drank spoiled grape juice, then be told that alcohol is not a sin and we're free to use it, expecting to be able to suddenly figure out what moderation is all about. This must be taught from an early age.

Darren said...

"Other exceptional instances."

I applied that one for a mission trip to France. It was very clear to me that while visiting the home of Christians and non-Christians, to not drink the wine offered would be like a slap in the face. I chose to conservatively sip the wine and I did enjoy it. I never drank to excess. Did I follow the guidelines?

Michael J. Svigel said...

Darren, I have the exact same problem arise when I travel to Germany. My wife is a citizen of Germany, her home country, and we travel there for several weeks at a time. When there, I get offered beer, wine, etc. contstantly. It's quite normal. I've never been able to get them to understand the American Christian view of alcohol, and if I try to explain the nuances of cultural sensitivity, it places before them an even greater obstacle to Christ than there already is. Let me give you a perfect example. I was married in Germany. As part of their region's series of traditions, my new wife and I were each given a glass of champagne as we approached the hotel where our party was. Outside the hotel all of our guests were gathered and we were to each drink the champagne, then--get this--throw the glass over our shoulders onto the street. (Germans!) Now, imagine if I didn't apply the "exceptional instances" clause at this point, or if it wasn't available to me. What an outrageous offense I would have caused for absolutely no reason. Christians are not governed by the law of liberty. We are governed by the law of love. There are times when partaking of alcohol is unloving toward God and others. There are also times when abstaining is unloving toward God and others.

GUNNY said...

Amen, Lance! One should never have to abstain from "The Pipe!"

Amen to Mike as well. Your comments on the transition many are expected to make (but far too often ill-equipped to do so) are very well said.

Incidentally, I'd love to hear of your Germany experiences some time. That's where I love to go for mission trips (last 2 in the Magdeburg area (eastside, yo) with jaunts into Wittenburg and Eisleben).

Let's grab a non-alcoholic beverage sometime so I can vicariously enjoy your experiences of the Fatherland.

Auf wiedersehen,
Gunny

Michael J. Svigel said...

Gunny:

I have no idea where Murphy is, so I don't know how feasible it is to meet for [Coffee]. But I'd love to. I'm actually sitting in Starbucks now sipping coffee, studying the Shepherd of Hermas, and listening to Bach's Coffee Cantata. It doesn't get much better than this. Email me and maybe we can work something out. My address is my first initial, my last name, at dts.edu.

GUNNY said...

Copy that.

The Murphopolis is actually a suburb of (east) Plano.

I give you a jingle and see what's shaking this week or the next, Deo volente.

Jared Nelson said...

So when you talked to the DTS students bragging about getting drunk, did you throw the antinomian label back at them?

On Jonathan's suggestion: I just don't want gambling added to rules. At least let me play a little poker with my friends even if I have to pass on the cigars and grab the Mountain Dew or O'Douls.

Michael J. Svigel said...

Good point, Jared. Besides, if they ban gambling, I won't be able to use the vending machines or copiers on campus with a clear conscience. . . .

GUNNY said...

Indeed, Mike. There would have been times I might have had to leave a question blank on an exam rather than gamble with a guess.

I didn't actually use the term anti-nomian ... at that time, but I did try to edjumacate them about the difference between legalism and obedience.

There were having none of it. They had some whacked out theological slooge of which I had just scratched the surface.

I would later call them "free lovers," but they didn't really appreciate the term. It seemed to fit, however. "If it feels good, baby, do it." Jesus wasn't laying any rules or obedience trip on them, man. His love was free of such attached strings.

It was pretty surreal, wanting justification without sanctification and viewing efforts toward sanctification as a lack of realization of forgiveness, as though one was trying to be "works" justified.