August 5, 2020

The SBC Resolution on Alcohol: A Matter of Shame

guinness.jpgPhil. 1:20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

2Tim. 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

I remember the first time I ever heard Al Martin, the great Reformed Baptist preacher, use the phrase “binding the conscience.” I immediately knew what he was talking about. He was talking about those occasions when those who handle the scriptures look at the people of God and say something like this:

“On the day of judgement, God is going to hold you responsible for doing what is commanded in this text. Make no mistake: you cannot excuse yourself from this command. You are bound to obey it to the best of your ability, and with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is what God says, without doubt or further comment.”

“Binding the conscience” is serious business. It’s not something that should be done lightly. We should never stand in the place of God and purport to speak for God on any matter- large or small- if we cannot “bind the conscience” with the truth of God. If what we say is less than the Word of God, then we should say so. We should say it makes sense, or is a good idea, or is valued tradition, etc.

I mention this because the recent SBC Convention Resolution on Alcohol reminds me of how religious leaders often compromise on this principle. They attempt to “bind the conscience” where the conscience cannot be bound. They can sometimes talk as if the teaching of the Bible is something other than what it plainly is. They talk as if texts do not exist that anyone, even young people and new Christians, can read for themselves and understand.

What are these leaders doing? They are attempting to create the effect of the Word of God where the Word of God does not exist. They have pragmatic ends and are resorting to dishonest means. They are violating a clear Biblical admonition:

2Cor. 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

They are seeking, in short, to create shame among those who use wine in communion, or rightly, moderately consume alcohol as a gift from God.

Psalm. 104:14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
15 and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

They are seeking to create shame toward and in anyone in a leadership position who has ever partaken in the use of alcohol in communion or at a family table, matters that are not wrong, and are not matters of shame. They are creating shame among ordinary Christians for what the Bible does not forbid, but approves with right and moderate use.

Paul spoke often of his desire to live his Christian witness without shame. Unfortunately, the SBC has many leaders who do not agree with the apostle. They believe that shame- falsely generated, falsely maintained shame- is a good thing if it has good results. They seek to produce spiritual fruit through a means that is decidedly unspiritual.

The teetotaling culture of the Bible Belt American south is not a dependable guide to what scripture teaches. It is a culture that has taught millions to be ashamed of a glass of wine, a dance at the prom or a Sunday night baseball game. These are matters over which there should be no shame, and about which there should be no “binding of the conscience.”

Let me speak plainly: Southern Baptists began a resurgence on the principle of the sufficiency and truthfulness of scripture. They have taken this resurgence to every level of convention and church life. Young people have grown up in this resurgence and reaffirmation of the Bible. Pastors and church planters value and promote the primacy of the Bible in the church.

Now, in rapid succession, leaders of some of our convention and mission entities have endorsed positions on spiritual gifts, baptism and the moderate use of alcohol that are not Biblical and cannot be supported in scripture. With rhetoric, intensity and pragmatic argumentation, they have sought to promote and defend these positions as if they were the teaching of the Bible when they are not. They make arguments that are many things, but not Biblical. Sadly, these leaders have been willing to accuse, shame and humiliate good men who differ by standing more squarely upon the Bible’s teaching than they do.

The resurgence in the SBC came from the perception that a great denomination must be willing to reorder itself on the truth of the Bible about the great doctrines that matter. The topics of recent controversy may not seem to be great matters, but the abuse of “binding the conscience” without Biblically sufficient reason is a great matter, and a matter on which many Southern Baptists are simply wrong.

Daniel Whitfield’s Survey of the Biblical Material on Alcohol is must reading for anyone interested in this subject.

Michael has written a response to the Mohler/Moore Forum on Alcohol Policy at SBTS, and he has also written on his own experience with Southern Baptists and Alcohol.


  1. Wow. Thank you for putting into words what my heart has felt for years.

    I grew up in a very difficult Christian household. Without going into great detail, the tension increased as the years passed. Mom (a Baptists minister’s daughter) started out with some pretty tough guidelines and then relaxed as she began to see what truly was a sin and what was not. My father, on the other hand, grew to revel in his legalism, creating rules (upon rules) so stringent that I sometimes wonder if the Pharisees would have had a tough time adhering to them all. To this day, my husband & I have to tiptoe through conversation with my father, trying to steer clear of anything that he would consider “sinful”.

    My parents have purchased a home in SC (currently live in NJ) that they will be moving to when my father retires in a couple of years. I am completely bothered by the reality that they will be moving right into the heart of SBC “territory”, adding fuel to the blazing bonfire.

    Rules, rules, rules. In that light, Christianity is more about what you can’t do than what you can. Instead of living victoriously in the freedom that God’s grace brings, we are weighed down by the Law. Didn’t Paul have a few things to say about that? 😉

    Legalism ultimately serves only one purpose: to give someone a checklist for comparison. “If they do/allow/say/think it and I don’t, then I am better than them.” (Therefore, a “better” Christian).

    I can’t imagine that God is impressed with that line of thinking.

  2. Very well said. It’s been interesting how quickly the blogosphere has exploded with this story. I wonder if that was intentional on the part of the SBC or if this has taken them by suprise.


  4. ed lebert says

    Don’t teach me about moderation and liberty – I perfer a shot of grape juice. -Derek Webb, A New Law

  5. centuri0n says

    I makes me sad that I agree with iMonk about this. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

  6. Hear, hear! I grew up in a very legalistic church. I never understood God’s unconditional love until I was away from that church. I was constantly being taught that God wouldn’t love me if I did this, or did that. Some of it is outright ridiculous (like women wearing pants or listening to certain kinds of music).

    Thank you for this insightful post.

  7. Follower of Christ says

    Alcoholism accounts for less than 7% of the American public, Gluttony (obesity) accounts for 60% of the American public. IF we are going to draft a resolution, lets address one that effects 60% of all believers and non believers,that is directly scripture addressed as a “NO” in the bible.

    Gluttony seems to be something that Christians like to ignore. We are often quick to label smoking and drinking as sins…but for some reason gluttony is accepted or tolerated. Many of the arguments used against smoking and drinking, such as health and addiction, apply equally to overeating. Many believers would not even consider having a glass of wine or smoking a cigarette, but have no qualms about gorging themselves at the dinner table to the point that they feel like they are going to explode. This should not be! Especially when obesity now affects nearly two thirds of our population, and is a much bigger problem for believers and non believers than alcohol itself.

    Proverbs 23:20-21 warns us, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 28:7 declares, “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.” Proverbs 23:2 proclaims, “put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.”

    Physical appetites are an analogy of our ability to control ourselves. If we are unable to control our eating habits, we are probably also unable to control other habits such as those of the mind (lust, covetousness, anger), and unable to keep our mouth from gossip or negativ natures . We are not to let our appetites control us, but rather we are to have control over our appetites. See Deuteronomy 21:20, Proverbs 23:2, 2 Peter 1:5-7, 2 Timothy 3:1-9, and 2 Corinthians 10:5. God has blessed us by filling the earth with foods that are delicious, nutritious, and even pleasurable. We should honor God’s creation by enjoying these foods, and by eating them in appropriate quantities.

    Perhaps this resolution needs the following amendments? ………

    WHEREAS, Years of research confirm biblical warnings that obesity/gluttony leads to physical, mental, and emotional damage and death (e.g., Proverbs 23:; and

    WHEREAS, Obesity and gluttony use has led to countless injuries and deaths on our nation’s highways, and at home, in the work place and at at church and on the mission field; and

    WHEREAS, The breakup of families and homes can be directly and indirectly attributed to Obesity by one or more members of a family that died as a direct result of obesity ; and

    WHEREAS, The use of junk food and non healthy nutrious products that causes obesity as a recreational substance has been shown to lead individuals down a path of diebetes, heart dieses, and other great health risks; and

    WHEREAS, There are some religious leaders who are now advocating the consumption of junk food and non nutrional food based on a misinterpretation of
    “well gluttony cant be as bad as smoking and drinking”

    RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, express our total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of junk food and harmful food products

    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 obese (40 pounds or more overweight)

    RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to take an active role in supporting legislation that is intended to curb diets that cause so much harm to our bretheren; and be it further

    RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to be actively involved in educating students and adults concerning the destructive nature of obesity and be it finally

    RESOLVED, That we commend organizations and ministries that treat obesity problems from a biblical perspective and promote abstinence of poor nutrition habits and encourage local churches to begin and/or address this biblically-based issue that is directly addressed in scriptures as a sin.

  8. “Follower of Christ” nailed a good point. Why do so many of the pastors who rail againt alcohol have guts the size of a watermelon?