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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Almost a Sure Sign of Not Paying Attention

Wade Burleson wrote a post the other day about "Baptist Identity" folks' position on alcohol. In case you didn't know, they're against it.

Wade went to some trouble to point out that his issue--well, let him explain it:
I am not writing about the pros or cons of total abstinence. The point of this post is that all of us must resist the easy temptation of equating our personal beliefs regarding tertiary matters on par with obedience to Christ, and demanding others comply with our views.
In other words, for him the bigger issue is not so much alchohol as it is whether or not we are going to allow some Baptists to so define their personal convictions, some of which are difficult to prove from Scripture, as one and the same as core Christian (or at least Baptist) beliefs.

That's a valid concern, and I appreciate Wade's ongoing efforts to point out this sort of thing when he sees it.

For me, though, when I see the subject of alcohol come up in a Baptist context, I almost can't help but just roll my eyes. It is really an effort of will not to do it in front of some people at church. I have this reaction because while I have often heard from some Baptists that Christians should not drink, I have yet to hear any argument made for the position that didn't make my head spin.

(Let me note, for those who have already made up their minds that I am a chronic drunk, that I hardly ever drink. Got better things to do with my money, now and for the foreseeable future.)

I can't tell you the number of times that I have run across people who are utterly convinced that every time "wine" is spoken of negatively in Scripture, it really does mean "wine," but every time it's not--like in the second chapter of John, where Jesus turns vats of water into top-quality wine--it's "grape juice." That's bad enough, but it's not what gets my goat most of all.

What really gets my goat on the subject, and convinces me that people, often including ministers of the Gospel, have their minds made up in advance of the facts, is the continual misquoting of these two verses:

Romans 14:21
It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
1 Corinthians 8:13
Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Unbelievable as it may sound, I hardly ever hear these verses quoted correctly. What I almost always hear is:

Romans 14:21
It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that (might) cause your brother to stumble.
1 Corinthians 8:13
Therefore, if food (might) make my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
This verbal legerdemain is resorted to when someone (Only God knows who... :) ) points out that there isn't actually any command anywhere in Scripture for the Christian to abstain from alchohol, only to avoid drunkenness. The idea is pressed to mean that because someone, somewhere in the Body of Christ might see or hear of you having a drink, and might be pushed beyond the limits of their self-control and stumble into violating their own conscience or into outright drunkenness, it is therefore incumbent on Christians everywhere to totally abstain.

But that's not, as any who care to read it can see for themselves, what the verses actually say. There is no "might" in there. We're not talking about a potentiality; we're talking about someone we know, someone who has apparently demonstrated a problem in a given area. And frankly, I have never, ever run across someone quoting these verses who would or could point out someone like that. Their concern is always, without exception, for some hypothetical Christian somewhere...else.

And it's a certainty you'll never hear anyone use these verses to argue that Baptists shouldn't eat meat, or that Baptist women shouldn't wear jeans, etc., etc., etc., even though the argumentation would be pretty much identical. It's the worst kind of selective hearing.

Pheh. Every time I hear this stuff, I see it as almost a sure sign that someone's not paying attention. And I frankly don't want people who aren't paying all that much attention deciding for me what being a Baptist is.

Carry on, Brother Wade...

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