Saturday, May 20, 2006

When Southern Baptists Deny the Inerrant Word

Daniel B. Wallace has taught Greek and New Testament courses on a graduate school level since 1979. He has a Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is currently the professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.

One of the best articles available via the internet on The Bible and Alcohol is written by Dr. Wallace. I would encourage every Southern Baptist to carefully read this excellent essay and then ask this question, "Can a Southern Baptist demand total abstinence of alchohol from other Southern Baptists and actually be a believer in the inerrant Word of God?"

Dr. Wallace says, "One question we must wrestle with is this: If there is a subcultural Christian prohibition that goes beyond scripture, are we obligated to follow it? Should we even endorse it? Ignore it? Fight against it? As we all know, there are numerous Christian taboos that go beyond scripture, depending on when and where one lives. Perhaps this one can be seen as paradigmatic for how to treat the others.

At all points, we must seek to be biblical. This requires resisting the temptation to go beyond what the Bible restricts. As I began to look into this topic (alchohol), I was actually quite amazed at the biblical writers’ attitude toward alcohol. I had expected it to be far more negative than it really was. One lesson I have learned from this is that although I think that I am being biblical, often my tradition and Christian subculture shape my thinking more than I realize.

Dr. Wallace also gives an interesting anecdote that sums up a problem I believe we face in the SBC when he writes, "Church historian M. James Sawyer recently spoke at the western regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on Sola Scriptura in the Protestant tradition. In his lecture he noted the irony of the modern milieu:

'Among contemporary denominations we find statements such as that of the [denomination’s name withheld], who in their licensing and ordination questionnaire asks candidates if they agree that the Bible is the ‘only and infallible rule of faith and practice’ for the believer. (The questionnaire on the very next line asks the candidate if he agrees to abstain from the use of alcohol in all forms.)

The point we are trying to make here is twofold: (1) Christians tend to compile rules and regulations that go beyond what is written; and (2) when such grey zones are considered evil, those who do not abide by such rules are often viewed as ‘the weaker brother.’ In reality, the weaker brother in scripture is the one who has too many scruples, not too few (cf. Romans 14)! It is a tragic irony that as one matures in the faith, all too often his life collects more and more oppressive chains of legalism. As much as there may well be good reasons for one to personally hold to certain convictions, we must be very careful about extending such beyond ourselves'."

Dr. Wallace's exposition and exegesis of hundreds of Biblical texts clearly shows the Biblical ethic is moderation (as exemplified in Jesus), though there are examples of total abstinence (as exemplified in John the Baptist). Dr. Wallace concludes his article with a profound statement reminding us of true, Biblical Christianity . . .

"The general contours of biblical teaching are that wine is a blessing from the Lord, something to be enjoyed. But like any good gift from God, it can be abused: in this case, abuse involves addiction and drunkenness. But whenever we condemn others who are able to enjoy God’s good gifts in moderation as though they were abusers, we misrepresent biblical Christianity. At bottom, it seems that biblical Christianity has a much different face than what much of modern Christianity wears. In many respects, we resemble more the ancient Pharisees than the Lord’s disciples."

Your thoughts?


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