“Is It Okay for a Christian to…?” Identifying Personal Space Issues (Brick Walls and Picket Fences 15)

by Dave Miller on September 26, 2011 · 62 comments

In previous installments in this series, I have discussed Brick Wall issues, in which Christians should take an uncompromising stand for the essentials of the faith.  I have discussed Picket Fence doctrines on which Christians should hold to their convictions on secondary matters while maintaining friendly relationships with their Christian brethren who have different convictions.  I have discussed Dinner Table doctrine – matters on which we disagree but do not divide at all.  And finally, I have been talking about Personal Space issues – lifestyle issues on which each Christian is supposed to follow his own convictions without condemning or disdaining those who disagree.

Identifying Personal Space Issues

What are the “personal space” issues?  Note that I do not call these doctrines.  A doctrine is a teaching of scripture.  Personal Space issues are those lifestyle issues which the Bible does not directly address, or on which its teaching is unclear.  Because it is not addressed directly, we can and do come to different interpretations of these issues and should follow our own convictions without judging those who come to other interpretations.  There are three general categories of such issues that Paul addresses.

1) Meat to Idols Issues

At the risk of oversimplifying, the issue of “meat sacrificed to idols” is a template for many of our lifestyle debates today.  The question is this.  “How much of life in this sinful world can a Christian enjoy?”  Can we go to movies, watch TV, read books and magazines?   Can a Christian play a game of poker?  We recognize that this world is in bondage to sin and to Satan’s lies, so we must be careful, wary and discerning as we approach its entertainments.  But can we enjoy the things of the world without violating John’s command not to “love the world or the things that are in the world?”  Must Christians lead lives of complete separation from this world and the fun things it offers?  Many of the issues we argue over fall into this category.

There has been a huge pendulum swing during my lifetime related to these issues.  There was a time when Christians condemned just about every form of entertainment or enjoyment this world offered.  My Baptist Preacher grandfather would not have thought of going to a movie, shooting pool, drinking a glass of wine, or playing a game of card.  He was not some sort of rigid oddball.  That is just the way it was in the 50’s.  Now, the pendulum has swung almost completely in the other direction.  Christians today, by and large, watch what the world watches, go where everyone else goes, and play the games the rest of the world plays.  In fact, my experience working with young people has shown me a disturbing lack of discernment about what might please God and what does not.  They assume that if it is fun, entertaining or exciting, there can’t be anything wrong with it.  The idea that there might be things in this world from which Christians should stay away is a foreign concept.

When my son was college-aged, we had an interesting discussion.  He told me told me about a spiritual crisis in his own life and one that had also occurred among some of his friends.  Growing up in conservative Baptist churches and Christian schools, he had heard all his life in Sunday School classes and elsewhere that this was wrong and that was a sin.  He accepted that these restrictions must be in the Bible since everyone told him they were.

Then, he started reading the Bible for himself.  Lo and behold, he could not find a lot of the rules that had been assumed all his life.  He could not find in the Bible what he had heard in the church.  He faced something of a crisis of confidence in the church.  If what they had told him about these rules was wrong, could he trust the doctrines he had been taught?

This bothered me, of course.  I tried to avoid this kind of strict rules-based faith and yet still these messages had gotten through.  But he also agreed that among his friends there was a dearth of behavioral standards.  His friends tended just to gow with the flow and live lives that are pretty much just like those of their lost friends.  Both of these extremes are dangerous to the church’s future.

Paul’s teaching is the solution.  Each of us, under the Lordship of Christ, should make a biblical and spiritual decision to honor Christ.  Then, we should allow our friends and fellow-believers to make their decisions.  And we should leave one another alone!  We must not disdain those who are stricter than we are nor should we condemn and judge those who exercise more freedom than we do.  Let Jesus be Lord and let the Spirit be the Spirit in the lives of others.

A Modern Example

The Christian world has been confronted in recent years by a classic “meat sacrificed to idols” issue – J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” book series.  A man in my previous church came to me with a heavy heart.  “What are we going to do about these Harry Potter books, Pastor?”  He viewed the books as demonic writings that would seduce Christian children into the occult, into the clutches of our enemy the devil.  I had another Christian friend, in the same church, a man of deep biblical understanding and discernment, who read the books and wondered what the fuss was all about.  He saw them as simple books written in the tradition of “The Chronicles of Narnia” or the “Lord of the Rings.”  Two Christian men – both of whom love Jesus and love the Word of God, both committed to the glory of God.  Yet their view of the Harry Potter books could not be more different.

So, should a Christian read the Harry Potter books?  I cannot tell you. You do not answer to me.  You should study the scriptures and look at every relevant text.  You should be sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit as you study the Word.  You must remember that whatever you choose, you will give account to Jesus Christ one day for your decision.  Remembering these things, make a choice as your conscience leads you.  If your conscience bothers you, if you feel the books are offensive to God, do not read them and do not allow your children to read them.  If, after careful study and prayer, you do not feel there is any real problem with the books, read them.  Live under the Lordship of Christ and allow others to do the same.

If you choose not to read the books, do not condemn those who think it is okay.  They answer to God, not you, for their decision.  Those who read the books, don’t disdain or ridicule those whose conscience dictates that they should not read the books.  They are obeying God as their conscience dictates.

Both groups should be sensitive to the other.  Don’t take the books to church or discuss them there.  Why cause a point of contention?  Be sensitive to those whose convictions run counter to yours.  If we will apply these simple principles, we can each follow our conscience without dividing the church because of our decisions.

2) Issues of the Jewish Law (Sabbath)

The second issue Paul discussed in the two passages we have looked at here (Romans 14-15, 1 Corinthians 8-10) was the issue of the Sabbath and other days held holy by the Jewish people.  Many Christian Jews thought that all Christians should observe the Sabbath and other Jewish holy days.  The Gentiles had no tradition of observing these days and did not think the distinction was necessary.  The issue is still alive today.  There are still many believers who think that Christians should not work on Sunday, but should devote the day to the worship of God.  Some Christians still maintain that Saturday is the Sabbath and that it should be observed.  Others see that in the New Testament era, we regard every day as holy and do not have to set aside any particular day.

Paul could not be clearer on this issue.  In Romans 14:5, Paul says, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike.  Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”  If you wish to observe a Sabbath, whether on Saturday or Sunday – or Thursday if you like, do it.  If you do not feel convicted to observe the Sabbath, do not.  If you observe the Sabbath, do not condemn those who don’t.  If you do not observe the Sabbath, do not disdain or ridicule those who do.  And be sensitive to those with other views.

3) Issues of Food and Drink 

I have a good friend who is into health food, herbs, and such things.  That’s fine.  The problem is that she always wants me to eat the stuff she eats.  She has given me herbal solutions to every illness I have ever had.  I cannot tell you how many times someone has told me what I should eat or shouldn’t eat.

I would not try to justify my obesity – that is a spiritual issue that I am trying to deal with.  But it is a violation of Personal Space when someone tries to impose their rules of health, of diet, of exercise or of drink on me.  Each of us is responsible to God for what we eat and drink.  But we sometimes get so focused on issues of food or drink that we forget the words of Jesus in Matthew 15:11, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”  InColossians 2:16, Paul is dealing with what are sometimes call Judaizers and says, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” Romans 14:17, at the conclusion of the discussion of these debatable issues, makes this summary statement.  “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” 

It seems clear to me, though obviously other Christians disagree.  Matters of food and drink are not essential to the Kingdom and what we eat or drink is not inherently sinful.

The Forbidden Topic:  Should a Christian Drink?

Obviously, this is a hot topic in some circles today, especially my beloved Southern Baptist Convention.  Is it okay for a Christian to consume alcoholic beverages.  Some maintain that such is always a sin for Christians.  Others claim that the Bible only condemns drunkenness and allows for moderate consumption.  There are other arguments that strike a balance between these two, variants of the “wisdom” argument, which states that while drinking may not be a sin, it is unwise and Christians should avoid it.

I come from a line of teetotalers.  I think my dad would rather me rob a bank than take drop of alcohol. I could never drink alcohol with a clear conscience. So Ido not drink.  Never have.  But Paul’s teaching on this subject seems pretty clear.  The issue is not so much whether someone has a glass of wine now and again, but how we treat one another.  One Christian can make the argument based on a verse in Proverbs and a couple other references that alcohol is wrong.  He should not drink if that is his conviction.  Another Christian can read the same Bible and come to the conviction that while drunkenness is a sin, an alcoholic beverage in and of itself is not sinful.  He can have a glass of wine now and again without his conscience bothering him and honor the Lord in doing so.  Another can be convinced of the wisdom position and abstain from alcohol even though he may not see it as a sin.

Here’s the kicker.  Each of these people is living in obedience to the Lordship of Christ as they understand the Bible.  Each should live on the basis of his own convictions and do what he believes the Bible teaches.

What he should not do is try to impose his conscience on that of other believers.  In fact, it would not be hard to make the biblical argument that trying to impose my convictions about alcohol on other believers is a more egregious violation of scripture than whether I drink or not.  Why can Christians not be satisfied with simply living under the Lordship of Christ?  Why do we also have to try to lord it over others who do not share our convictions?  If you believe alcohol is wrong, don’t drink.  Obviously, children should live in obedience to their parent’s convictions on this issue.  But I believe if violates Paul’s teaching here is you condemn those who have a glass of wine with dinner.  If you believe it is okay to have an alcoholic beverage and can do so without being convicted by the Spirit, then do so.  But it is wrong for you to try to convince your abstentionist brother to change his convictions to suit you.

So, I follow my conscience.  I choose not to drink because of the way I was raised and the horrible things that I have seen that result from drunkenness.  I hope my children will choose not to drink – not because their daddy instills the fear of hell in them, but because they decide it is a wiser choice to say no.  But I know that many faithful Christians see this issue differently.  I will not condemn your glass of wine and I hope you will not ridicule me for abstaining.

Remember, in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul told us that the Christian always lives for others, not himself.  My conscience may give me the freedom to do things that your conscience will not.  Yours might allow other things that mine will not.  Both of us must accept the work of God’s Spirit in the other.  And we must remember that just because we have the freedom to do something does not mean that we have to do it.  It is a noble Christian act to limit my freedom for the sake of another.

I do not know why, but this is one of the hardest concepts for a lot of Christians.  In areas of fundamental doctrine, we must stand without compromise.  On other issues, we may erect a picket fence to maintain our denominational and biblical distinctives.  But there are other issues, Personal Space issues, in which I must live by my convictions and allow others to do the same.  I can live by my convictions without forcing others to do as I do.  Let us each live under the Lordship of Christ and allow others to do the same.

 

 

Brick Walls and Picket Fences: Links to Previous Posts

  • In the first post, I introduced  the topic. I have had deep experiences in two very different Christian camps – the theological and the experiential – which often seem to be in direct conflict.  One desires theological correctness and the other prizes unity over doctrine which divides.  I have seen much good in both and desire to find a way to bring them together.
  • In the second post, I identified the four levels of biblical truth  and the appropriate unity response at each level.  Level 1 is the “Brick Wall” – doctrine which is essential to the Christian faith and over which we cannot compromise.  We must build a brick wall of separation around these fundamental doctrinal truths.  Level 2 is “Picket Fence” doctrine.  Some disagreements do not require division but separation.  By separating into churches and denominations we can practice our beliefs without arguing.  We recognize, at this point, that those who disagree with us are genuine Christians even though we disagree with them.  Level 3 is “Dinner Table Doctrine” – truths which we can disagree on even within the same church or denomination.  Level 4 is “Personal Space” truth – in which each of us can have our own convictions and not disdain or condemn those who disagree. The key is to learn to properly categorize doctrine.
  • In the third post, I introduced “Brick Wall Doctrine” – truths that are essential to the gospel and cannot be compromised in the church.
  • In the fourth post, I started listing what I believe are Brick Wall truths, beginning with the perfection of the Word of God.
  • In the fifth post, I identified two more Brick Wall doctrines – the nature of God and the sinful nature of mankind.
  • In the sixth post, I finished up my discussion of Brick Wall doctrines – examining the nature of Jesus, the gospel and the Second Coming of Christ.
  • In a supplemental post, I addressed a few sticky questions about specific groups (open theism, Catholics, etc) and asked whether they are inside or outside of the Brick Wall.
  • In the seventh post, I introduced the concept of the Picket Fence, a friendly boundary that provides private space for local churches by allows them to be good neighbors with other churches.
  • In the eighth post, I ask the question “Is it a sin to disagree?” and then define four categories of Picket Fence doctrine.
  • In the ninth post, I discussed three key steps to maintaining a friendly picket fence.
  • In the tenth post, I discuss “Picket Fence Ecclesiology” – a view of the threefold nature of the church that helps with the picket fence process.
  • In the eleventh post, I turn the discussion toward “Dinner Table Issues” – truths which may be important but are not worth dividing over in any way.
  • In the twelfth post, I begin to examine “Personal Space Issues” – issues of conscience on which Christians may disagree and on which we should not attempt to force our convictions on one another.
  • In the thirteenth post, I examine Romans 14 and demonstrate that each believer answers only to the Lord who died for us, and that it is wrong to attempt to exercise Lordship over on another.
  • In the fourteenth post, I explore the question of why we disagree and the opposing concepts of legalism and antinomianism.

 

1 Dave Miller September 26, 2011 at 5:18 pm

I am aware of the volatility of the topic of alcohol consumption by Christians. I just hope if you want to discuss the topic you will exhibit self-control and grace.

2 Keith Walters September 27, 2011 at 9:57 pm

It is funny that a post about discerning personal space issues immediately turns into an alcohol debate. Maybe we would be better fit to debate alcohol if we actually took some time to read your post again and had a lengthy discussion concerning the criteria for determining personal space issues. Then we might be ready to address a specific personal space issue like alcohol without resulting to endless proof texting and author quoting.

3 David R. Brumbelow September 26, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Dave,
We agree on many issues. This is one where we part ways. We agree in the sense that neither of us drink. We disagree in that you believe it is wrong to preach and teach that others should not drink. I believe you are wrong on this for the following reasons.

1. If so, your dad is wrong in expecting you not to drink.

2. If one believes the Bible, either directly or indirectly (biblical principles), teaches us not to drink, then his view should be that Christians should not drink. You may believe biblical teaching on this issue is unclear; many disagree. Should they all simply be cavalierly dismissed?

3. Your view in a sense endorses drinking. It is like saying, “I personally believe slavery is wrong, but if you want to own a slave that is your business. Or saying, “I personally believe abortion is wrong, but we should not have laws hindering those who believe it is permissible.” And by the way, neither of those are explicitly, word for word, condemned in the Bible, although I believe biblical principles teach they are wrong. Liquor distributors are pleased with positions such as yours.

4. You are saying it is permissible for a Christian to take drugs purely for recreational purposes, if he personally thinks it is OK. What kind of message does that send, especially to teenagers and young adults? They have enough struggles without drugs being added.

5. The conscience is not always the proper indicator of biblical truth. Many believers have done wrong things thinking they were right and that the Bible or their conscience endorsed their behavior.

6. Even if the Bible said nothing about alcohol (but it does), I believe common sense, medical science and criminal science would tell us the wise position is to abstain and to teach others to abstain.

Do I consign to Hell those who disagree with me on drinking? Of course not. But I believe they are seriously wrong.

I agree there are “personal space” issues; I do not believe this is one of them.
David R. Brumbelow

4 Dave Miller September 26, 2011 at 6:51 pm

1) I think my dad’s passion against drinking was based more on life experiences and upbringing than on exegesis. If pinned down, I think he would admit that the scriptures on the subject are ambivalent.

2) If one believes that the Bible teaches against alcohol, he should not drink. But he should recognize that the biblical evidence on this issue is not clear enough to warrant a “thus saith the Lord” and he should not attempt to impose his convictions on others.

3) I do not endorse drinking. What I endorse is allowing the Holy Spirit to direct believers where the Bible does not speak clearly and I refuse to try to be another man’s lord. If you come to another place on this issue, you will stand before God and give account.

4) I would appreciate, David, if you would deal with what I said, not with your fantasies or misreadings of what I said. I am discussing “issues of food and drink” and to my knowledge, drugs are not involved in that.

5) Your statement here seems to be in contradiction to the teachings of Romans 14, where Paul tells us that Jesus died to be Lord and we should not try to be Lord of one another. I’m content to let you follow your convictions under the direction of the Holy Spirit. One can make a strong exegetical case that the use of alcohol is permitted, so why not let believers be under the Lordship of Christ?

We have to trust the Lordship of Christ and the power of the Spirit and not try to enforce our human rules.

6) That is pretty much what I have taught when I’ve taught this publicly. I assert that there are a lot of good reasons to avoid alcohol in the absence of a biblical prohibiition.

However, I am not going to invent a human rule where the Bible does not.

5 sal September 26, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Thank you for promoting a generous, charitable, and Scripture-inspired stance. As it embraces us all, so I would like to see us all embrace it in turn.

6 formeratheist September 27, 2011 at 9:12 am

David,

Your response to Dave drifts off into the ad hominem area of logical fallacy. Because Dave does not believe that Scripture is totally clear on alcohol does not in any way infer he believes abortion is a matter of personal conviction or that illegal drugs are a matter of personal conviction. I believe the Bible is clear on these matters from being subject to the law of the land in respect to illegal drugs (Romans 13:1 for starters) and taking innocent life (Exodus 20:13 for starters). On subjects such as drinking things are not always as clear cut.

As for me, I don’t touch alcohol. It’s too much a part of my old life and who I was before Christ changed me. Therefore it is a matter of strong personal conviction. I have sat in a restaurant with fellow Christians at dinner as they had an alcoholic beverage and I’m okay with that (as long as they don’t go overboard into drunkeness). If somebody ever asks me why I don’t, I tell them why it is a personal issue for me.

Would I preach about drinking? I do preach about addiction and idolatry and how alcohol (or any substance or even activity, such as pornography) can become such. Would I infer to the congregation it is ok to drink? I would present the Scriptures and share my personal conviction and experience and tell them to prayerfully seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in such a matter.

Randy

7 David R. Brumbelow September 27, 2011 at 9:32 am

Dave,
You said, “I would appreciate, David, if you would deal with what I said, not with your fantasies or misreadings of what I said. I am discussing ‘issues of food and drink’ and to my knowledge, drugs are not involved in that.”

So you believe drinking alcohol has nothing to do with drugs?

Doing drugs is not a personal space issue. And drinking alcohol is doing drugs.

formeratheist,
You said, “Because Dave does not believe that Scripture is totally clear on alcohol does not in any way infer he believes abortion is a matter of personal conviction or that illegal drugs are a matter of personal conviction.”

I did not infer Dave believes in abortion. My point was that if you believe drinking is a personal issue, you are telling folks it’s alright, as long as you think it’s OK and you do it in moderation. In effect you are for drinking – just as you in effect would be for abortion if you said you are personally not for it, but each person should follow his own conscience.
David R. Brumbelow

8 formeratheist September 27, 2011 at 9:53 am

David,

Again, let me preface with this: I have strong personal convictions against drinking. I had two uncles who were alcoholics and ruined their lives with the stuff. I warn people of the dangers of alcohol. However, sir, can you back up your claim of no alcoholic consumption with Scripture. Can you point out one exact verse that says effectually: “Do not consume alcohol ever.”

I can find warnings about consuming alcohol. I can find warnings against drunkeness and over indulgence. Trust me, I think alcohol is a dangerous substance, but I also think we should be careful about adding to Scripture what it does not say.

And again, your extrapolation about abortion is irrelevant to the discussion, it is simply adding an inflammatory flavor to it. I think we all agree here about the wrongness of abortion. Let’s stick to the particular topic you brought up: alcohol.

Randy

9 David R. Brumbelow September 27, 2011 at 10:33 am

formeratheist,
Yes, I believe the Bible both directly and indirectly condemns drinking and taking drugs. The problem is those on the other side just ignore it, then proclaim abstainers have no biblical grounds for their view and are adding to Scripture. No we’re not, those who believe moderate drinking is fine, just reject and ignore what we say.

It is kind of like a Calvinist saying non-Calvinists have no Scriptures; or like a non-Calvinist saying Calvinists have no Scriptures. Both do, they just disagree with each other.

For example:
1 Thessalonians 5:6-8
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
1 Peter 5:8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (NKJV)

We are told in these verses three times to be sober. Sober (Greek, Nepho) literally means “wineless.”

So yes, the Bible does teach us to be sober. See more at:

http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2009/07/alcohol-condemned-in-bible.html

David R. Brumbelow

10 Bill Mac September 27, 2011 at 10:46 am

I just did a search online and in Strong’s Greek Lexicon. I could not find that nepho means wineless. It may be that some sources have it, but it doesn’t appear to be a slam dunk.

David: Do you deny that some things are not in and of themselves sinful, but could become so if done from improper motive or attitude? That is what Dave is saying. You might disagree, but that concept is taught clearly in scripture.

I don’t see how the scriptures which forbid judging someone in regard to food and drink are taken to mean just the opposite. It turns the scripture on its head.

11 Dave Miller September 27, 2011 at 11:58 am

David, my point is simple. Do what you believe is right and in the absence of a clear “thus saith the Lord” from scripture on this issue, let Jesus be Lord in other’s lives as well.

12 volfan007 September 27, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Dave, David B. is saying that he believe it is a “Thus saith the Lord” issue. So, how could he not declare it as such? not see it as such? etc.

David

13 Dave Miller September 27, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I think you have to ignore a lot of scripture to come to that position, David (and David). But, you are welcome to your position. God bless you in it.

I do not believe that I have to adopt the same position to be right with God.

14 Scotty September 26, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Great post Dave!

15 sal September 26, 2011 at 7:06 pm

This is an important discussion. Much of the differences in the early chruch centered on the Jew/Gentile debate. Some of it didn’t. Alcohol never seems to have surfaced as an issue. I think that’s becasue Jews and Gentiles drank occasionally and the Jewish law never forbade it. As such, alcohol would not have arisen in the early chruch context. This raises the question of why it’s arisen in our day (the last two centuries). But I won’t address that.

I think of a recent discussion I had with someone over tattoos. I don’t have any and I prefer not to. But I don’t see tattoos as sinful. The person I spoke with did. They referenced ‘defacing of the temple.’ I think the reference cited relates to the body of Christ if I’m not mistaken, and I don’t believe the individual is in question there, much less tattoos. But I was unable to discuss this. I hit what you would call a brick wall. They did too, one could say. It reminded me of another discussion I had with someone over alcohol. (Afterwards, I’m always sorry I had these discussions). Anyway, I mentioned that while drunkeness is sinful, drinking alcohol in itself does not constitute sin. The person with whom I was speaking grabbed a gigantic KJV and directed me to a verse that said “do not be given to strong drink.” Well, this had to do with bishops, apparently, and another translation would suggest that it means moderation rather than abstinence. But I hit a brick wall and they did too. Each time, the situation went nowhere fast. I couldn’t go forward. Neither could they. The matter had ended. Which is why I truly prefer not to discuss such matters in the first place.

16 Christiane September 26, 2011 at 7:19 pm

If you examine statistics even today, a higher percentage of Jews drink alcohol than the percentage of Catholics and Protestants; but Jews have very few alcoholics.

Jews do use wine in their religious observations. Perhaps they associate drinking wine more strongly with a time of prayer, rather than as an occasion of self-indulgence.

Jews, do however have issues with over-eating. And, yes, food is a big part of their culture, so the only thing I can think of is that Jewish mothers ‘push’ their kids to eat well from a very young age . . . so perhaps food is seen more as a source of comfort and of solace in times of stress. (?)

17 Bob Cleveland September 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm

I like this post, very much. You did good.

Much of the church seems to want to pick out all the verses which might possibly support their personal views on which behaviors are OK and which are not, but then completely ignore Romans 14:4. I find that sad.

18 Christiane September 26, 2011 at 9:33 pm

from Book of St. James, chapter 4:

“11 Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?”

19 sal September 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Yes, frequently we take cherished ideas to the Bible and search for verses to support it. We play connect-the-dots and imagine we’ve found proof for our belief. Horrendous.

20 Ryan Abernathy September 26, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Solid post Dave.

I am really enjoying this series. You have done a good job of balancing Scripture with your opinion and identifying which is which in the posts. Thanks for dealing with such controversial issues with such grace.

I hope your tribe increases so we can stop dividing over stupid stuff and focus on what we have in common- the Gospel.

21 John September 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm

A very god post. If more Christians felt and acted this way, we would fellowship a whole lot better and concentrate on following God rather than policing others. But the if we did that, what would we Baptists have left to do? Maybe spend more effort on spreading the good news and making disciples.

22 Dave Miller September 26, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Thank you for the compliment, which I assume omitted one letter in the third word.

Whatever else, I am not divine.

23 Keith Walters September 26, 2011 at 10:47 pm

You said, “Each of these people is living in obedience to the Lordship of Christ as they understand the Bible. Each should live on the basis of his own convictions and do what he believes the Bible teaches.”

I know this is from the alcohol section but never mind that I am not addressing that issue. I think you include two important things in our decision making but missed a critical third. The two you mention are Scripture and conscience. I think the third, and arguably the second, is context. Our consciences are conditioned by our context and if we do not understand this then the simply living by our convictions would leave us sorely misguided. You hinted at context earlier on when you said, “That is just the way it was in the 50’s.” The 50’s are a specific cultural context and context served to inform you grandfather’s conscience.

In the same way when Paul writes about meat sacrificed to idols he is writing to people is a very specific context struggling with issues unique to that context. So we have to take that context into account. A simple thing like modesty will be profoundly shaped by context. I think we would all agree that modesty is good but how much or how little clothing one wears will differ greatly from one society to the next. So we cannot speak of Scripture and conscience by themselves we must also speak of context.

24 Christiane September 26, 2011 at 11:05 pm

In making important decisions, I was trained to follow my conscience, but was asked to first consider the teachings of the Church AND to consider the REALITY of my situation.

Could that phrase ‘the reality of my situation’ be somewhat connected in meaning to what you meant by “Our consciences are conditioned by our context “?

25 Keith Walters September 27, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I would agree the reality of your situation is your context. I think we need to consider not only Scripture, our conscience, the reality of our situation, but also how the reality of our situation shapes our conscience.

I think a prime example with early Jewish believers would be the example of common/unclean annimals. Their context, or situation, had conditioned their conscience so that they were adverse to eating unclean/common annimals. However studying Scripture, see Acts 10, and God’s redemptive purposes should lead them to partake of unclean/common food. So while God gives us consciences our consciences can be shaped by and seared by our context.

26 Bill Mac September 27, 2011 at 8:35 am

I would also throw tithing under the Jewish Law section.

27 Dave Miller September 27, 2011 at 11:59 am

Perhaps that would be fair, but that’s another can of worms I don’t really want to open now. I just popped the top on one big one already.

28 Michael September 27, 2011 at 9:38 am

Dave,

I agree with the premise and majority of what you wrote. I do have one question. You said:
If you do not feel convicted to observe the Sabbath, do not.

Isn’t it biblical and even necessary to observe “a” Sabbath if not “the” Sabbath? I agree that we don’t need to get the goats and doves out and observe the literal Jewish Sabbath, but don’t you agree God commands us to take “a” Sabbath every week, as in a day off? Saturday is our Sabbath, not because we observe it in a Jewish sense, but it’s the only day we can take off since Sunday is really a work day for us. Thoughts?

29 Dave Miller September 27, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I actually try to be pretty “religious” about taking my day off on Monday and doing as little as possible. After my Sunday schedule and my general physical condition, it is a necessity.

30 Mike Leake September 27, 2011 at 9:49 am

Dave,

Really great article and great points.

I have a theory that what we are often dealing with in these alcohol discussions is actually differing views of sanctification. It seems to me, and I could be totally wrong, but those that preach strongly against alcohol seem to believe that the way that people are sanctified is by the Spirit using “yes” and “no” injunctions to encourage obedience. “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch”, etc. These seem to believe that the Law is key to sanctification.

Those who advocate a position similar to yours seem to believe that sanctification happens through the Spirit changing desires, causing us to look to Christ, follow His Lordship, etc. These seem to believe that the Gospel is the key to sanctification.

I doubt I have expressed this well…but I thought I would at least throw it out there.

31 Dave Miller September 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Interesting thought. I find the doctrine of sanctification a little more nebulous and difficult to grasp firmly than salvation. But I think essentially that Christian growth is a matter of yielding to the Lordship of Christ and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit transforms me from the inside out.

Yes, I think there may be something to that theory that some rely on a list of dos and don’ts, what is sometimes called legalism.

Makes sense to me.

Of course, the other aspect to this in my mind is the desire some have to control the behavior of others – a basic mistrust of the power of the Holy Spirit to influence and transform. Because I don’t really trust the convicting power of the Spirit I feel I have to apply the conviction myself.

32 David R. Brumbelow September 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

Bill Mac,
The Manuel Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, Abbott-Smith, says of “Nepho,”
“Of drink, not mixed with wine, sober, temperate, abstain from wine.”

I believe it is Kittel’s that says, “wineless.” In his book on 1 Timothy, John MacArthur also points out Nepho means “wineless”

W. E. Vines’ quote on nepho is given at:
http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2009/07/alcohol-condemned-in-bible.html

You drink and you are not sober. As Jerry Vines says, “Moderate drinking is moderate intoxication.”

As I said in my first comment, yes, I believe there are “personal space” issues. I do not believe drinking alcohol is one of them.
David R. Brumbelow

33 volfan007 September 27, 2011 at 11:32 am

David B.,

When you said, “The problem is those on the other side just ignore it, then proclaim abstainers have no biblical grounds for their view and are adding to Scripture. No we’re not, those who believe moderate drinking is fine, just reject and ignore what we say;” you said the truth very well. It’s just like with the passages in Proverbs. We bring those passages up, and we get shot down with ignoring and rejecting what we say. We say here are the Scriptures…they just say, “No, its not.”

Good point.

David

34 Bill Mac September 27, 2011 at 12:17 pm

“You drink and you are not sober. As Jerry Vines says, “Moderate drinking is moderate intoxication.”

So any amount of alcohol in our system means we are drunk? Can you back that up with scripture? Any amount?

Do you know that benzodiazepine drugs such as Valium are essentially alcohol in pill form? They have the same intoxicating effect. Or is moderate drunkenness OK as long as you have a note from your doctor and you get drunk with pills rather than alcohol?

Very nearly all abstentionists allow for prescribed drug use, even alcohol if they could be convinced it had a legitimate medical value. So what absentionists object to is not drugs, but pleasure. But don’t you realize that doctors prescribe drugs for depression, and anxiety? The drugs are meant to produce pleasurable results in the patient, even if the effects are slight. If a person takes valium, they are not, by your definition, sober. If a person takes vicodin for pain, they are not, by your definition, sober. Have you seen people coming out of a medical procedure and they act goofily happy? They are intoxicated. They are not sober.

Suppose a single glass of wine in the evening had the same calming effect on an anxious person as a valium pill. (I’m not a doctor, this is just a hypothetical, you anxious people don’t go rushing out to the wine store). Would you approve of the former? I doubt it.

35 David R. Brumbelow September 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Bill Mac,
How much alcohol? The Bible commands us to be “wineless.” That is pretty plain and simple.

I know, however, that the human body naturally has a small amount of alcohol in it. Also, fresh orange juice has a small amount of alcohol in it. But so small no one is going to be affected by it. Even the government recognizes this and says for a product to be labeled “non-alcoholic wine,” it has to have less than one half of one percent alcohol. Ariel brags their “nonalcoholic wine” has less alcohol than orange juice. If you want to argue about minute, trace amounts of alcohol, go ahead; I don’t.

But it is obvious the reason people drink is for the drug effect; many, many a drinker has freely admitted this. Otherwise, you can make all kinds of fancy nonalcoholic drinks.

Yes, I and most who believe in abstaining accept the possibility of using alcohol for strictly medicinal purposes (1 Timothy 5:23). That is why over and over Southern Baptists have condemned “beverage alcohol,” not just “alcohol.”
David R. Brumbelow

36 Bill Mac September 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm

David: But as you have pointed out numerous times, the word wine can have several meanings, so wineless becomes a bit more complicated.

So essentially it is ok to be intoxicated as long as you don’t enjoy it. That seems to be where it boils down. It isn’t about being under the influence, or out of control, or buzzed. Lots of prescription drugs do that. It is drinking alcohol because you like it.

37 Christiane September 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm

“The Bible commands us to be “wineless.” ”

?

38 David R. Brumbelow September 27, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Christiane,
See (as of now) my comments #8 and #30, the Scriptures quoted, and definition of “sober.”
David R. Brumbelow

39 Christiane September 27, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Hi DAVID BRUMBELOW . . .

thanks for responding to my cryptic (?), and yes, I did read the comments you recommended.

SINCE you are working with a Greek word, I think it would help you if you spoke to someone about its meaning as it would be used in a Christian context of the Eastern Orthodox Church . . .

I don’t know if there are any Greek Orthodox clergy in your area, but it would be interesting for you to discuss this with one of their clergy as to the use of wine in the Greek liturgies.

Hoping that you are not offended by this suggestion, as am trying to help.

40 David R. Brumbelow September 27, 2011 at 11:49 am

David W.,
Thanks. Sometimes it gets lonely out here; even though we are on the majority side in the SBC.

http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2011/04/2006-sbc-resolution-on-alcohol-use-in.html
David R. Brumbelow

41 Dave Miller September 27, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Enjoy that position David, I doubt it will last long. But we both know that the majority can be wrong on either side.

42 Mark September 27, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Dave, good post. Appreciate ya!

43 volfan007 September 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Dave,

I take a slightly different approach to this issue than David B. I believe that the book of Proverbs teaches that drinking alcohol for recreational purposes is foolish. Drinking alcohol for any reason should be weighed heavily in your decision making. I can see it being used as medicine….like any other drug. In other words, I dont believe it would be sinful for me to drink Baptist Booze, or Nyquil; if I have a severe, sinus infection, or the flu.

I do think it’s very, very foolish….according to the Bible…the book of Proverbs….to drink fermented, undiluted wine….and it is definitely sinful to get high on it…to be drunk…according to Ephesians.

While we are on this issue…..of gray areas of the Bible….I find it amusing that some of the same ones who see no problem in someone drinking in moderation, are some of the very ones who call tobacco use a sin. lol. And, some of the same ones also think that being “green” is Biblical, and if you dont recycle, then you’re sinning. lol

No where does the Bible condemn the use of tobacco. No where in the Bible does it teach us to recycle, and to make sure that our lights are turned off.

I dont think its a sin to smoke and chew. I dont smoke nor chew, nor kiss girls that do. But, its not a sin to smoke a cig. I think its unhealthy, and its wasting the money God has given you. But, a sin? No.

The same with being green. I save my coke cans…to sell to give money for the TN Bapt. Childrens Homes. And, I honestly do try to not be wasteful. I also dont throw my trash out the window of my car. But, I do not believe it is a sin to not be “green.” If I never recycled a day in my life, it would not be sinful.

David

44 Dave Miller September 27, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Tobacco may not be a sin, but its GROSS. Man, I cannot stand the smell of cigarette smoke.

45 Clark September 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Wow. Very well said.

I’ve written before on topics like answering hard questions. There are sometimes I simply say to students “The Bible doesn’t speak to that.” And of course Christians often disagree as to many particulars of what the Bible does or doesn’t speak to. One issue teenagers deal with is tattoos. I’ve heard Leviticus quoted as a implicit rule that tattoos are not allowed. For the sake of brevity, that verse is NOT talking about what we would call a tattoo. A person would just have to read all applicable verses (being a witness, body is a temple, etc) and come to an individual conclusion.

Also, if we are bound to one verse in Leviticus we must then accept the entire law. I can’t shave any part of my beard nor eat catfish if that is our law. Bottom line: Some issues are complicated, it takes a lot of reading, prayer and discernment. You have handled this topic very well, and I will recommend this series to others.

46 Keith Walters September 27, 2011 at 10:00 pm

“I can’t shave any part of my beard nor eat catfish if that is our law.” I am pretty sure catfish is ok so don’t stress about that one!

47 Clark September 28, 2011 at 9:24 am

I was trying to be a little funny, but seriously: catfish are bottom dwellers and eat garbage. They are not “kosher” by Jewish food laws becasue they do not have scales.

Since we live under grace and not the law, I enjoy not only fried catfish but also SPAM, bacon, BBQ pork, etc. If you really want to get Baptist preachers started let’s talk about gluttony…

48 bill September 27, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Hooray,

Another discussion about alcohol in which people have already stopped talking to each other and are now talking at each other.

And I’m sure just as many hearts and minds will be changed with this discussion as with the last several discussions.

49 Mark September 27, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Ok then – Origin of the “Two Wine Theory”.

Now we can get back to the topic at hand. :)

50 bill September 27, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Ugh…

This is clearly agenda driven and since it doesn’t support the majority position, it’s clearly a fabrication of lies.

You, sir, are hereby sentenced to fifty hours of Henry Blackaby.

And you know what you can do with the plumbline too….

51 Mark September 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Experiencing Henry Blackaby?! No thanks.

52 volfan007 September 27, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Breaking News: The Cardinals won tonight….the Braves lost…so, now the Cards are very, very much in the playoff hunt!!! Woot wooot! Go Cards!

53 Dave Miller September 27, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Yes, and the Yankees lost! I’m so excited. If the Braves and Red Sox both fold and miss the playoffs, it would be a year to remember.

54 Dave Miller September 27, 2011 at 11:30 pm

But you are going to make some of our Braves fans want to start drinking, Vol.

55 volfan007 September 27, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I’m sure that many of them already do… :)

David

56 Dave Miller September 27, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Would anyone truly sober cheer for either the Braves or the Red Sox?

57 bill September 27, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Is masochism unbiblical? We might want to start with that question…

58 Doug Hibbard September 28, 2011 at 7:49 am

Now, look, I’m trying to be a good boy and not an attack blogger.

But you’re pushing the limits, Dave. Pushing the limits.

59 Doug Hibbard September 28, 2011 at 7:48 am

As once was said, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

So, since the good men haven’t won in a month of Sundays, evil is triumphing.

It’s enough to make me consider drinking the grape juice left over from the last time we did the Lord’s Supper. I doubt it’s fermented, but the fridge has been a little blinky, so maybe it is. At the very least, the taste of soured grapes seems appropriate for me.

60 Bill Mac September 28, 2011 at 9:38 am

2004, 2007

61 Dave Miller September 28, 2011 at 10:03 am

2009

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