Inerrancy and Alcohol
May 7, 2009, 11:01 am
Filed under: culture, denomination, theology

I’ve had some conversations lately – some of which have sparked anger in me (not toward my conversation partners, but toward institutions and power brokers in them).  I assure you, dear reader, that I am not angry as I write this – just musing here.  These conversations been around the topic of alcohol and denominations.  The thoughts these conversations have produced go a little something like this:

I work for a denomination that is conservative – very conservative.  The past couple decades have witnessed a “conservative resurgence” within the denomination, which has reacted to a perceived “liberal” shift by a small handful of denominational leaders, seminary professors, and others.  The conservatives “won,” and most of the “liberals” have been driven away.  What we have now is an almost universal insistence on conservative readings of the Bible, including a stand for inerrancy.  “We” say we believe the Bible word for word, and insist on staying pure in our reading of it.

Meanwhile, my denomination has a hard-core stance against the use of alcohol as a beverage.  Our major missions agency for North America bans anyone  who has had even one drink of alcohol in the previous 12 months from applying for missionary funding.  In fact, I have known at least one case in which a person’s denominational position was threatened because he merely condoned the use of alcohol.  Now, I know that mine isn’t the only denomination that has a no-alcohol policy for its employees, or preaches a no-alcohol message from its pulpits.

But I got to thinking – it seems that the denominations and churches most likely to ban alcohol are also the denominations and churches most likely to preach biblical inerrancy.  My question is, if we’re so insistent on the word for word truth of scripture, how are we supposed to deal with verses like Provers 31:6-7:

6 Give beer to those who are perishing,
wine to those who are in anguish;

7 let them drink and forget their poverty

and remember their misery no more.

Or, how are we supposed to understand Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:18-20:

18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”

How exactly does Jesus earn the reputation of being a “glutton and a drunkard” if alcohol is a banned substance?

Look, I understand that in many, many cases, it’s a good idea for pastors and denominational leaders and even everyday Christians to abstain from alcohol.  I work with college students, and I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to go out drinking with them.  But at what point does an absolute stand against it violate an absolute stand for inerrancy?  For this, and other reasons, Jesus himself, along with Paul, Timothy, and a number of other prominent figures in the “inerrant scripture” would be disqualified for service in several denominations.  Do we really even know what we mean when we say we’re into inerrancy?  Really?

Should we really be alarmed that Christian denominations are tanking right now? What we say we believe about scripture isn’t what we live out in our policies.  What we take the most pride in is often the stuff we are the most hypocritical about.

I’ll close with what I would hope to be a couple pretty obvious disclaimers:  First, as I mentioned, I’m not just taking my own denomination to task here – there are several others with similar stands.  Second, this blog and these words are 100% my own – I write only for myself, and don’t claim them for anyone but me, especially the denomination or the churches that are a part of it.

I would LOVE to hear some points of view on what an inerrantist position on these scipture passages would be.  Because I’ve got some depressed friends, and I’m thinking that faithfulness to scripture might require me to buy them a six pack or a bottle of Merlot.  Also, how much alcohol would you recommend I give someone in order that they would “remember their misery no more?”  That sounds like it might require a 12-pack.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’m going to take the line that all those who espouse scriptural innerancy are, albeit perhaps unintentionally, hypocrites. Denominational positions on alcohol are just the most obvious example, but in this regard they are like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. What else are we twisting in order to meet our own objectives?

There are few unequivocal things that one can say about scripture other than everyone’s interpretation is subjective, ESPECIALLY those who claim that theirs is not. So what’s the problem with this? It distracts people from the IMPORTANT truths of scripture, articulated by Jesus’ gospel message.

Comment by Christian Beyer

This is something I personally struggle with…the judgement of others who drink. I know that it isn’t really an issue, but I grew up in the world of any alcohol is a sin. And I have seen this stanse turn away many of my friends who may have sought Christ. So I have learned that I must let go of my judgment for it is not biblical, nor is it advantagous.

As for those losing their jobs over this issue, I have to say that I admire their honesty. They know the consequences and choose to tell the truth. I believe God will deeply judge the denominational leaders as these decisions have and will continue to hinder people from finding Jesus. I say that because I see these decisions every day give those who are far from Jesus, yet another excuse to NOT get to know him. We have focused on the mole hill instead of participating in reaping the harvest.

Comment by Kim

Steve what is really scary is that our denomination states the following in regards to this issue and others in its policy manual: (an I am paraphrasing) Yeah, Jesus he was a good man. But we don’t think he was GOOD enough so we are going to be extra-biblical and take a higher road than Jesus and not promote the use of “strong drink” at all PERIOD. We base this on or tradition as well. We also want to go beyond the scripture about women in ministry, etc.” When I read this, it frightens me! It frightens me b/c our leaders aren’t alarmed we are extra-biblical and have such a POOR view of Jesus!

Comment by Wes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: