I’d Like to Make a Toast…

I’m glad to see the controversy move from speculation to discussion. With the release of the “position papers,” IMB Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Hatley breaks the silence and attempts to explain the reasons behind the Board’s new policies on prayer languages and baptism. Another trustee who voted in favor of the policies, Jerry Corbaley, has really opened up to hearing from M’s and stateside folks alike over at his new blog.

The Trustees are getting hit from three sides: on the one hand, there are the ultra-conservatives who were likely behind the policy change to begin with. They point to house church ecclesiology, the role of women, and the treatment of spiritual gifts as evidence that the IMB is becoming a bastion of liberalism. On the other side are those that oppose the policies. They see signs of Landmarkism, lack of accountability, and power plays and are voicing their concerns through blogs. Finally, there are the (mostly anonymous) M’s on the field. They seem to be most concerned with policies, guidelines, and strategies dictated from Richmond with no regard to cultural context. Oh, and they’re worried they’ll get fired if they complain.

Since I fall into the third category, I’ve got to ask: what about alcohol?

It seems like the part of the discussion many find most troubling (besides how Wade Burleson was treated) is that the policies go beyond scripture, and beyond the BFM 2000 to disqualify many Southern Baptists from missionary service based on a narrow interpretation of baptism and tongues. Everyone is upset about extra-biblical requirements for IMB personnel, but the Board has always required M’s to abstain from drinking. People are refusing to accept “because the majority of Southern Baptists believe this way” in place of scriptural support for the new policies, but alcohol is forbidden for this reason. Never mind what the Bible says, never mind the M’s host culture; drinking is grounds for termination. Abiding by the rule has always been seen by our folks on the field as one of the concessions we have to make in order to receive support. Most of the people I know disagree with this policy.

For the sake of ministry, we have eaten some crazy things. We’ve hung out in smokey bars. We’ve stayed out all night with friends. Though we’ll always be foreigners, we do all that we can to minimize the differences between us and the people to whom we minister. In my own experience, there have been times when that ministry has been hurt and opportunities have been missed because I (by kindly abstaining) made an issue of something that ought to be a non-issue.

Even though caffeine is a drug, we wouldn’t make a new policy that prohibits M’s from drinking tea when they go into a Chinese home. Sexual temptation is a reality, but we don’t have a rule against greeting people of the opposite sex with a kiss, as they do in Spain. But because “most Southern Baptists don’t approve” of alcohol consumption, our M’s are required to abstain.

I’m not trying to rekindle the debate over drinking. For a great perspective on the subject, check out Steve McCoy’s post: “Alcohol, Abstention, and Redemption.” I just thought I’d point out what has been an IMB-imposed obstacle to ministry.

Here’s to good discussion.

50 thoughts on “I’d Like to Make a Toast…

  1. such bravery to bring up the taboo “a” question… i am proud of you! this issue has always been, in my humble opinion, the one that shows the most clearly our schizophrenic approach to biblical authority as southern baptists. we say we are “people of the book.” we hold our bibles high and claim that all we do and believe can be solidly based upon the words clearly written within. yet, we have crazy rules like “thou shalt not drink.” now most would agree that biblically this position can’t be categorically defended. as a matter of fact, it seems like wine was enjoyed by jesus himself and also by his merry followers. so how is it that a group of people that have never lived oversees, never met the people i work amongst, have the power to decided whether or not i should partake of a glass of wine at a church sponsored event or in the home of a french family? did someone make them pope and i wasn’t there to witness it? excuse the sarcasm but i get a bit worked up when people force extra-biblical requirements on me without having any idea who i am and what i am about. let’s be honest. much of what we proclaim to be biblical really is rooted in tradition or even worse in culture. we say in that we don’t hold tradition in equal regard as scripture as our catholic friends do, but i beg to differ. how else can we explain this rule?

  2. Amen, brothers. I agree with both of you. I think that the Mission of the church both abroad and in the U.S. needs to be reevaluated regarding the extra-biblical requirements that can get in the way of our witness. Far too many unbelievers mistake these requirements for the gospel we are trying to convey.

  3. Cafeaddict:

    Oops- sorry! I will amend that to a hearty “Amen sister and brother.” I am right with you on your comments. When I worked in Norway (as an engineer, not a missionary) I was able to graciously refuse alcohol. (Their DUI laws are so tight that there are always a few at every event who request “alcohol-free” champagne, etc.) However I can easily imagine that in some countries that would be viewed as rejection by your host.

    Preach it, sister!

  4. AL-KEY-HAUL IS OF THE DE-VIL!!! God said it, I believe it, that settles it!!!

    Uhhh. I just thought some one should say this to give balance to the discussion. (TIC)

  5. There’s an old rumor around Western Europe that the region used to have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for drinking. The story goes that all was well until a volunteer group and/or trustee (it depends on who’s telling the story) came to have dinner at an M’s house, and was shocked to be offered a mixed drink from the M’s fully-stocked liquor cabinet. That, according to the legend, was the beginning of the current policy.

  6. The other interesting idea, considering the current climate and policies, is “Are we allow to partner cooperate with other christians who partake…hmmmmmm

  7. It’s the rule that makes things awkward for us on the field. I could tell stories where this rule hurt my witness. Really, how do you explain truthfully to your friend (who is not a Christian and who has no idea what Southern Baptist means) that you don’t drink alcohol? What do you say?

    “Well you see (insert non-christian friend’s name here), I don’t drink alcohol because…ummmm…how do I put this…the Christian organization I work for doesn’t believe in drinking alcohol and I could get fired if I had a beer with you.”

    None of the M’s I know is that honest.

    Looking back on it now, I remember at at MLC older missionaries telling me the excuses that they found “worked” with their people group. Nobody talked about what the Biblical reasoning for the rule was but instead the focus was on figuring out good excuses. There was also this underlying feeling of, I better not ask too many questions about “The Drinking Rule” or I may get in trouble or worse, maybe they won’t let me go overseas. Most people I knew who had questions about the rule stayed very, very quiet at MLC and for the most part, they are still quiet because in my opinion, they are afraid.

  8. If these sort of comments weren’t so sad, they’d be funny. It is really nice to be out from under the rule of the pharisees. Interestingly enough, I’ve lived in places where the local Christian population doesn’t drink, based on what past missionaries have taught them. They know that the only christians who drink are the ones with white friends. :) So, at the risk of sounding liberal, or worse – postmodern – it’s all relative. :)

  9. It’s funny how no one said “let’s see what the Bible say’s” only the bishop/overseer/elder/pastor are not allowed to drink and that deacon’s are not given to much wine. (1st Timothy 3) I stood on the scripture (before entering the ministry as a pastor) “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9. In the states if I drank any as a Christian I was called a hypocrite and my witness was damaged. I believe the rule you are discussing is in some way considered to be the norm. I having asked M’s if were they are ministering (i.e. Germany, France and others) drinking is a issue most say it is not but we know the bible does say “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18. I believe this rule as well as the new policies came about by men and women who do not understand that other cultures are so very different than ours and that a church in India will not look like one in Oklahoma. Please understand as more issues such as the ones that are being discussed become more evident then changes can be made. Remember there is only one way to eat an elephant and that is one bite at a time.
    In Him<><
    Kevin

  10. Stepchild,

    While we are at it, let’s drop the requirements for the age of children, weight and health requirements.

    And why not encourage missionaries in the Andes to chew coca leaves with the Quichuas so that they can get a little more in touch with the culture? God made it after all, why not enjoy it.

    Cafeaddict,

    If you work for the IMB then the convention has a right to say something about how you minister.

    Bill,

    Do you really believe that folks are lost and going to hell because baptists won’t drink with them? If that is true then why aren’t luthern, Anglican, and Presbyterians reaching them either?

    Another IMB M,

    Surely you jest? You mean that you really have trouble explaining why you would not drink alcohol? Is the only reason really that Southern Baptists won’t let you? If so then would you please resign as soon as possible as being a under the IMB is clearly causing you to violate your conscience.

    It seems that you might take the opportunity to witness about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come(Acts 24:25) just as Paul did to Felix. If you really have trouble then ask them to dilute it 15 parts to one as in New Testament times. It is then no longer technically an alcoholic beverage.

    A friend of mine will soon be a presbyterian minister. We were talking about their view on “freedom.” He told me that each evening after their “presbytery” meetings they head for the bar where they drink and smoke cigarettes. Maybe some of you would be more comfortable in that setting.

    Tim

  11. Tim:

    That’s not what I said. They are already lost and going to hell, our task is to present the gospel to them. I didn’t say we needed to drink with them to witness.

    Here is what I said: “…extra-biblical requirements that can get in the way of our witness. Far too many unbelievers mistake these requirements for the gospel we are trying to convey.”

    As far as I know “Thou shalt not drink” is not part of the gospel.

  12. I guess I am trying to figure out what being asked by our agency not to drink has to do with witnessing to them. I don’t see a connnection. I can give you man good reasons for a policy of abstinance but no one is making a logical argument that such policy actually hinders their mission work.

    Tim

  13. Dear Tim,

    You have used a harsh tone and in-valid debate in discussion of this issue. You set up a straw man. That is, you are arguing against an imaginary missionary who wants to drop all rules, encourage taking cocaine, and hang out a bar smoking. These measures are not being advocated, nor do they logically follow the same line of reasoning as flexibility on the alcohol issue. You were also argumentative rather than understanding. You also seem to have spoken without really listening. Please reconsider this subject, or at least your method of discussing it with our missionaries.

    I am not a missionary, but a stateside country pastor. I’m also not real up on missiology, so I’m not speaking from a position of great understanding. Therefore I will not speak dogmatically on this subject.

    I will say, however, that a rule against Ms drinking any alcoholic beverage is based more on American cultural history that on biblical teaching. In America, conservative Christianity allied itself very strongly with the prohibition movement for several decades in the first half of the 20th century. Even after official prohibition ended, Southern Baptist churches kept insisting on abstinence for church members. Righteousness and abstinence became linked in the Southern Baptist conscience.

    Other countries, however, including those in Western Europe, have no such history. Righteousness and abstinence have never been linked. I understand that drinking alcohol is almost universal in social settings, even among the most devout Christians.

    Of course, if drinking alcohol in moderation were clearly a sin, then social context would matter not at all. Sexual immorality, for example, is rampant in Europe, but no one is suggesting that our Ms engage in that behavior. Moderate drinking, however, is not clearly a sin. The Bible does, of course, command us to be self-controlled and not to be drunk. But just because drinking socially and drinking to excess are sometimes linked to each other, this does not make social drinking apart from drunkenness a sin. Playing cards and gambling are sometimes linked, but that does not make playing cards socially apart from gambling a sin.

    We have all heard the explanation that wine in the New Testament culture was weak compared with modern wine. Okay, I’ll grant that, because I’ve read some excellent research to support it. But the guests at the Cana wedding were expected to have impaired judgment after having too much to drink. It evidently wasn’t so weak as to be non-intoxicating. And even modern wine and beer is not intoxicating to an adult who sips a glass with a meal.

    Sir, you are correct in stating that drinking alcohol is not necessary for sharing the Gospel. Paul taught, however, that he was willing to act very Gentilish or very Jewish in order to win some. He evidently understood that just sharing the Gospel with someone, someone with whom you have not even shared a meal, does not always have the desired effect. Often it takes a period of acquaintance, or even friendship, before the lost person will hear and understand the Gospel presentation.

    Please forgive me for rambling a bit. I have studied and spoken about the subject of Baptists and alcohol in the American culture, but this is my first time to write on the subject of alcohol in the foreign missions setting, and I’m still collecting my thoughts.

    Love in Christ,

  14. Tim,
    I’m not against requirements. I’m against requirements that create unnecessary barriers between me and the people to whom I minister.

    And I’m not saying that we should “encourage” our missionaries to drink. Our people on the field are in the best position to make that decision. My point, of course, was that drinking is a cultural issue. If someone doesn’t want to drink, who would have a problem with that?

    The IMB rule is the only reason I don’t drink alcohol. Working with the Board and abiding by the policy is a choice I made. It isn’t causing me to “violate my conscience.” I chose to abstain, even though I have no conviction to.

    What makes you assume that alcohol consumption has anything to do with “witnessing about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come (Acts 24:25)?” It would seem to me that a good way to witness about self-control would be to model it.

    Oh, and the whole “Wine in New Testament times was diluted to 15 parts to one” thing is, um, crap. I hear they’re teaching it at MLC. Nothing like making things up in order to make scripture support our story. If the wine in NT times wasn’t alcoholic, why whould there be any warning about drunkenness?

  15. Let’s ask a question. You are a Southern Baptist volunteer missionary on a short term mission in an European country working with the local IMB missionaries. You attend and participate in Sunday evening services at the only local Baptist church in a city of 1mil+. Your group is invited to partake of the Lord’s Supper with the congregation. Do you partake or refuse because you know they use wine instead of grape juice (or coolaide)?

  16. Stepchild,

    I challenge you to do a little research on the “wine” or “oinos” in greek and eastern culture around the first century. In fact, I challenge you to find one original source that can prove that “oinos” was not often nonalcoholic and was not customarily mixed. I can show you dozens of original sources that prove that it was.

    Here are a few for you to refute:

    Professor Robert Stein, in his “Wine-drinking in New Testament Times” quotes Mnesitheus of Athens as saying, “The gods have revealed wine to mortals, to be the greatest blessing for those who use it aright, but for those who use it without measure, the reverse. For it gives food to them that take it and strength in mind and body. In medicine it is most beneficial; it can be mixed with liquid and drugs and it brings aid to the wounded. In daily intercourse, to those who mix and drink it moderately, it gives good cheer; but if you overstep the bounds, it brings violence. Mix it half and half, and you get madness; unmixed, bodily collapse.”

    Here is an ancient one:

    Homer also referred to mixing wine in the ninth book of The Odyssey as he writes of Ulysses, who took with him in his visit to the Cyclops a goatskin of sweet, black wine that needed to be diluted with twenty parts of water before being consumed as a beverage.

    Here are some secular statements:

    “Much has been made of the tendency of the Greeks to mix wine with water, including sea water, and to add other ingredients, such as honey and spices. While practices such as these would elicit horror today, they are indicative of a broadminded, creative and culturally integrated wine tradition as well as a highly-developed Epicurean consciousness that is probably beyond the realm of comprehension of the modern mind. Perhaps if one can accept and enjoy Sangria or vermouth over ice, the notion of even more complex and elemental dilutions of wine can be appreciated, especially in an era before distillation and the more recent development in Europe of cocktails and flavored aperitifs. In a way, the more things
    change, the more they remain the same.” (from Greekwinemaker’s.com)

    Here’s another quote from allaboutgreekwine.com:

    “The Ancient Greeks loved to organize intellectual gatherings called “symposia” where they would eat and talk about predetermined philosophical subjects while drinking wine. While moderation was strictly adhered to, the Greeks would utilize the beneficial effects of wine to help achieve greater intellectual clarity and spiritual awareness. Wine was always diluted with water before drinking in a vase called “kratiras,” derived from the Greek word krasis, meaning the mixture of wine and water. The word Krasi is now currently used in the Greek language as the term for wine.

    Another from civilization.ca:

    “Both the Greeks and the Romans mixed water with their wine. In addition, they added sea-water, resins, herbs, spices, honey and perfume.”

    You might argue that that is about Greek use and not eastern use. Okay, here’s another source for you to chew on:

    “The Mishnah itself indicates that the Jews were familiar with boiled (inspissated) wines (16).
    • During the last several centuries, foreign travelers and residents in the Middle East have reported that boiling down fresh grape juice to the consistency of molasses is a common practice among the native peoples (17). The syrupy juice so produced, called dibbs, lasts unfermented for a period of years. Dibbs is highly prized as a drink both in concentrated form and when mixed with water. The peoples of the Middle East also make fermented wine, but traditionally have used only a small portion of their grapes for this purpose. Henry Homes, American missionary to Constantinople, wrote in 1848 that of the sixteen different products of grape farming in Asia Minor, fermented wine is the least important (18). Before Western influences began to refashion the culture of the Middle East, the Palestinian Arabs and other Middle Eastern peoples clung tenaciously to the ways of their forefathers. Change was barely distinguishable even over a period of centuries. The culture in existence during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is therefore a window to the distant past. It is likely that just as boiled wines were common among Palestinians of the pre-modern era, so they were common among the Jews of antiquity. We need not maintain that such wines were predominant. It is enough to maintain that the ancient Jews knew how to make them.” (from moorings.org)

    “The Talmud, the codification of Jewish law, mentions repeatedly that the Jews were in the habit of using boiled wine” (e.g., ‘Erabin 29a).

    “W. G. Brown–Brown, who traveled extensively in Africa, Egypt, and Asia from 1792 to 1798 said that the wines of Syria are mostly prepared by boiling immediately after they are pressed from the grape until they are considerably reduced in quantity, when they are then put into bottles and preserved for use.” (MacArthur)

    When I researched this subject, the only sources that tried to say that they did not mix wines were the winedrinking Christians. I have not found a single secular source that has suggested that ancient cultures did not dilute “oinos” in its various forms with water. Since you have accused me of error I would ask that you would correct me with supporting evidence.

  17. Dear Stepchild,

    I tried to stand up for you, because I think you’re right, but now you are debating in a manner worse than your opponent was!

    You can’t just say, “Uh, that’s crap.” and think that convinces anyone. Dismissal out of hand is not valid refutation. Your partisans may say, “Amen,” but the unconvinced will remain unconvinced or may even be moved toward your opponent’s argument.

    You also can’t jump from the idea that SOME wine in the New Testament was intoxicating, which it obviously WAS to the conclusion that ALL or even MOST wine in the NT was intoxicating, which the research indicates it was NOT. Your remarks suggest that you have not studied this subject, and your opponent’s reply demonstrates that he has studied it extensively. I’ve read what he’s read, and I promise that it’s taken from many original sources and it’s very convincing.

    Dear Tim,

    I still don’t agree with your position, but you sure have improved your debate technique by 273 percent!

    Okay, so Tim has demonstrated that the majority of wine in the NT was non-intoxicating. The wedding in Cana story and the commands not to get drunk on wine demonstrate that at least some of the wine was intoxicating. Can we get back to the real question?

    Should Ms in wine-drinking societies be required to abstain, and why?

    Love in Christ,

    Jeff

  18. Wow. This really got going fast. I wanted to add a couple of things. First of all, I have no problem saying that not all wine was of equal strength. Of course, no one seemed to ask about wine today. For instance–there is wine called “foot water” here. (Notice that it isn’t even called wine!) It is the wine that is left over after the barrels have been rinsed. Sooo–it is REALLY watered down. There is also wine that is mixed with fruit and sugar. “Sangria”

    It seems that people have already picked thier sides in this one. It seems that it can be pointing out in the wedding or Acts 2 where Peter states the men are not drunk yet—that people did wine with a “kick” back in the day. Was it possible to find it watered down? Sure. Just like it is today.

    Fellas, I must say that this has nothing to do with what the talk is REALLY about. What is it REALLY about it taking an American culture concept and forcing it upon very very different cultures. Not only does it change the way that we must operate here–it can change the way that the local believers here view us.

    The president of the Baptist convention here went to the States for a state convention. At dinner the Pastor/Pres. was going to order a glass of wine. He was told that he can’t do that there—of course, he wanted to know if Americans also drink Coke with the Lord’s supper.

    As for me–I am know “throwing down” and saying that this is my Alamo. At the same time I think it is perfectly OK to say that this rule has a very negative impact on our witness with both believers and unbelievers alike. We are setting up stumbling blocks with unbelievers when we tell them we will not or can not drink a glass of wine from wine grown in their family vineyard. As you can imagine, this does not help with the disallusionment that exists with any type of “religion.” So, until the rule changes–we will continue to make up excuses (even if it is saying our organization does not permit it–which does show integrity on our part). Luke 10 “eat what is set before you” (including snails, pig ears, or greasy chunks of fat–)does not seem to include wine at this time :-)

  19. wow, this discussion has really taken off since i last logged on. i guess i will respond to tim first.

    tim, i am not disagreeing that the board has the right to make policies. what i am questioning is the criteria they use in making them. if they want to use evangelical tradition and american cultural standards, then fine, i just want them to admit that these are their criteria and not the bible alone. to not admit that we come to the bible with our own cultural prejudicies in mind is a dangerous approach. in my opinion, we all have to be more humble and stop using the bible as a shield against the discussion of contraversial issues. what i mean by that is the categorical denial of differing opinions by claiming that biblical authority rests on my side.

    i thank you for writing out the historical evidence you have found in your research of this topic. i have often heard people voice similar opinions but have never read what these were founded upon. it was enlightening. however, i have to agree with some others that some of the wine mentioned in scripture had to be fairly strong (or else they drank a ton of the diluted stuff) or there wouldn’t be prohibitions against getting drunk. i think too of the criticism many had of jesus where he was called “a drunkard and a glutton” now we know he wasn’t because he never sinned. but obviously people saw him drinking something that had the potential to render him drunk and they used those occassions to speak untruth about him. anyway….

    so back to my original comment and question…what criteria should be used to make policies for m’s today?

  20. It seems as though I might have “dampened some spirits” with my post. It is important for us to understand that the word “oinos” referred to one of several processes including but not limited to: that juice from grapes might go through. That would include the jam derived from boiled down grapes that would be mixed with water to make “oinos” (referred to in multiple ancient sources that I will quote if you need me to do so), the juice of grapes preserved through processes that produced a “non intoxicating” “oinos”, and the production of an intoxicating beverage similar to what we know of as “wine” which was customarily mixed with water before ingestion.

    Observations:
    1. That Jesus turned the water into “oinos” does not require that we assume what He made was intoxicating. I loathe the thought that someone would suggest that the sinless Son of God would add to the drunkenness of those who according to some interpreters were already drunken.

    2. The word “oinos” appears to have been deliberately not used to describe drink at the Lord’s Table. Instead it called the “fruit of the vine.” I believe that is to avoid any confusion. The command of the passover specifically prohibits “leaven” which is present in alcoholic “oinos” and its presence would make our Lord guilty of violating the Law of the passover. Therefore, to avoid any confusion of the issue the writers chose another term to describe the drink at the Lord’s table. Where did this drink come from? Jesus could have made it Himself at His own word.

    3. Clearly, individuals in NT times could become intoxicated consuming some kinds of “oinos.” To do so they would have to violate the social custom of diluting. The deacon would have to “sit long over his wine” (lit transl of “paroinos” I Tim 3:3).” HE would have to drink a lot. Why? Only a couple of glasses of today’s wine would intoxicate someone. If one drank “oinos” even if mixed long enough one might become intoxicated.

    Why I do not drink and encourage others to do the same:

    1. Weaker brethren. On Steve McCoy’s blog I was surprised at the cavalier attitude toward this issue. My freedom might become another’s slavery. European Christians brought thieir “liberty” to make and drink beer and liquor to America but their freedom has destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of native Americans from north Alaska to the tip of Argentina who apparently have a disposition that leads to incredibly high rates of alcoholism.
    May it never be that my “freedom” would introduce another to a practice that they cannot cannot control.

    Paul says, “all things are lawful but not all things are profitable.”

    2. Personal righteousness.
    Someone asked, “what does righteousness have to do with it?” Why would I give my flesh an opportunity? Why would I want to put myself in a position where I might inadvertently get a little “tipsy” much less drunk and dishonor the name of Jesus?

    In the Old Testament the priest was not to drink during the time of his temple service lest his become drunken and violate the command of God. How much more should a believer who is always serves as a priest unto God do his utmost to maintain sobriety that he might be ready to serve the Lord faithfully and honorably.

    My last memory of both of my grandfather’s is of them in a drunken condition. I have two uncles who drink way too much. Thank God my parents never once allowed alcohol in the house. And by God’s grace it will never be in my house or my children’s house. Alcohol is a gift only in the sense that it is a good antiseptic. Its mood altering ability is a curse to mankind. Or as a recovering alcholic told me this morning, “it is a curse from the devil.”

    3. The example of Timothy clearly shows us that abstinance was a viable position for a church leader. Some of the folks McCoy’s blog on this subject would call that legalism. Paul sure didn’t.

    By the way, Legalism is adding man made rules to the gospel, not avoiding questionable practices in order to avoid sin as it has apparently come to mean in some circles.

    Final thoughts:

    1. You have to draw a line at some point. Let’s say that we have a church social and like the Lutherns we bring beer. Whose going to be the guy who tells someone after watching them consume 3 or 4 that they need to stop. So we set up a “legalistic” limit. Only one beer at the social? Only one glass of wine at the wedding? A limit has to be set somewhere. Someone will call that limit “legalistic.” Some other believer will fall into sin.

    2. The work of the missionary is not to get indigenous churches to adopt a policy of “abstinance”. Culture might determine some of how the issue is addressed. I would hope that they might model abstinance and if asked or given opportunity could articulate support for such a position beyond the idea that the IBM reqires it. I would also hope that in social settings where alcohol is present they might find ways to use their “abstinance” as perhaps an opportunity to communicate that the love of Christ for others sometimes calls on us to give up freedoms or rights in order to help those who are weak. Or perhaps that one’s personal desire for holiness has led one to stay away from something that could lead them to dishonor Christ with their body.

  21. Thanks, everyone, for the good discussion on this. My intent in the original post was to point out that, as RedeVida and Cafeaddict mentioned, alcohol consumption is a cultural issue.

    Jeff, thanks for trying to defend me. The reason I “dismissed” Tim’s comment as “crap” was that it is off topic and doesn’t add to the discussion. I’m sorry that I didn’t debate well enough for you.

    Tim, I’m not exactly sure what you would want from me. That I post a list of links and sources in support of my opinion just so you can label and dismiss them as inferior to yours? (By the way, I like this guy’s thoughts and this other guy who says that believers are commanded to drink!) You “challenged” me to “refute” the sources you cite. I’ll admit that I’m not really good at debate, or using debate terms like “straw man” and “false dichotomy,” where the winner is the guy who throws in the most Latin. Neither am I interested in arguing over the meaning of the original Greek.

    So you win. You’ve obviously done a lot of research, and I’m sure you have irrefutable evidence. In all seriousness, you’re no doubt smarter than I am. Well done.

    I know there are lots of folks who say “opinions don’t matter,” but I am interested in people’s opinions. That’s why I love when people comment on my blog. (Though I’d prefer that we stick to a language we both speak!)

    I value your opinions and input. But I am faced with a real struggle on a regular basis; one that I imagine few people are aware of. What advice would you have for me? What would you do if you were in my position? How would you respond to a family that has graciously opened their home to you and offered the best they have in your honor? Surely you wouldn’t bring up the alcohol content in NT wines or cite ancient sources. Would you?

    Thanks again for your insight.

  22. Tim,

    Several of your points seem to be derived from your logic, not Scripture. What we know from Scripture is no less than this…

    1. Alcohol isn’t prohibited, drunkenness is.
    2. Alcohol that can make people drunk is made by Jesus, and your unwillingness to accept it because it doesn’t sound very good is no good argument. A plain reading of Scripture is needed.
    3. Alcohol isn’t prohibited, drunkenness is.

    No matter how you argue it, what your historical resources are, etc, the issue is drunkenness in Scripture. I find that utterly irrefutable.

    Your references to my blog are unfair. There is no cavalier attitude toward the weaker brother. Just a better interpretation of what it means to be weak and strong. You have made weakness a recommended (required?) lifestyle, and that’s clearly unbiblical.

    Our goal should be to get the weaker to strength and not cause them to stumble in the mean time. We are never told to decide to be weaker for our whole lives since that would mean they will never grow stronger!

    I’m not really going to get into this more here. I’ve said plenty on my blog. I just find this whole line of argument extrabiblical and derived from the logic of people who want teetotalling to be the norm.

    I understand the struggles people have with alcohol. I have three alcoholics and recovering alcoholics at a small group in my home every week. Two are church members and one is joining soon. So don’t think I don’t think about the “weaker brother” and alcohol every week.

    Again, the clear teaching of Scripture (regardless of alcohol content in Scripture!) is drinking without drunkenness. I’m happy to let Scripture draw boundaries.

  23. Steve,

    I agree that I cannot argue that abstinence is a biblically required position. I can argue that abstinance is:

    A biblically sustainable position. As noted in the warnings of the Proverbs and the example of Timothy(I Timothy 5:23); the desire to avoid the possibility of sin.

    It is a biblically preferable position because of the weakness of the flesh (I Cor 6:12) and the concern for brethren with a propensity toward alcoholism (I Cor 8:4, 7-9, 11, Romans 14:15). Don’t give me the food/gluttony argument because gluttony is never listed in the list of mortal sins as drunkenness is.

    Can I demand that you or anyone else abstain on the basis of the above concerns? No. Can I challenge you to consider your own thinking with regard to alcohol in light of these Scriptures? Yes.

    Is it wrong for my church to covenant together to abstain from alcohol? Given the above considerations it is both permissible because of the covenant nature of a local congregation and it prudent for the church to do so. (One caveat is that new members need to understand the biblical motivations for such a stipulation)

    Is it wrong for Southern Baptists in general among whom most agree with the above considerations ask that the missionaries they support do so as well? Absolutely not.

    I will add that you cannot prove linguistically that the “oinos” that Jesus made contained alcohol. It is a twisted view of our Savior to suggest as some do that He brought more alcohol to the party after folks were already drunk.
    Someone refered to Jesus coming “eating and drinking” to imply that Jesus drank an intoxicating beverage. That is certainly not a necessary conclusion. The phrase “eating and drinking” that Jesus used to describe himself simply refers to the fact that He attended celebrations. He went to dinner to folks when they invited him. The fact that his opponents accused him of being a “drunkard and a glutton” tells us that they had no idea what He ate or drank unless you assume their accusations were true. Certainly at any given celebration there were a variety of drinks offered just as there are today and not one of us here know what His choice was. I cannot insist that he did not drink a drink with alcohol but you cannot use this scripture to insist that He did.

    Stepchild,

    I apologize for writing with a bit of hyperbole. You write from the mission field perspective. I am writing from a Bible belt pastor’s perspective. I am reading folks who claim to be IMB missionaries on these blogs who are suggesting that the IMB Missionaries be sent out with no restrictions on church polity, charismatic issues and now on alcohol. Imagine my problem if in November the headlines on the local Baptist paper read; “Missionaries want board to drop restrictions on alcohol”. I want to keep you on the field. Somehow I am supposed convince my church to keep sending money without regard to the fact that what is being suggested (not necessarily by you) does not reflect the values of not only my church but a multitude of other churches who may not look very modern, may look very legalistic to some, but who give generously, sacrificially and from the heart to promote mission endeavor that reaches folks for Christ and organizes them in “baptistic” sort of churches around the world. We don’t even expect you to teach them not to drink. Teach them the gospel. Teach them the great principles that Baptists understand from Scripture. Teach them to love Christ, hate evil and love good and the rest will take care of itself.

    Look at it this way. If you were in independent missionary and a church offered to pay 100% of your support with only one stipulation…that you not drink alcohol on the field. Would you take it without complaining? That is all the convention is doing.

    If I were to join you on a mission trip and we wound up in a home where I were offered an alcoholic beverage I would probably beg their pardon and request water as my preference. If they were to ask why I would share with them my own background and concern that I begin a practice that could lead me to sinful excess that would dishonor God.

    This is my last post on this issue.

  24. Dear Stepchild,

    Indeed you do not debate well enough “for me,” nor, evidently, are you open to someone helping you debate well enough to have an intelligent discussion with a Baptist pastor who is opposed to your position.

    I am in sympathy with your position, but not with your attitude. You’re on your own, man!

    Love in Christ,

    Jeff

  25. I would challenge anyone to offer a non-alcoholic drink made from the same fruit or grain to anyone who is already drunk on the fermented stuff and check their reaction. The first sip would be spit out. Instead the wine Jesus made was judged to be the best wine of the party. The meanings of “oninos” may have changed through the years, but man’s taste buds have not. On that subject, the wine used in the Lord’s Supper I mentioned in my previous post was the worst tasting wine I ever tasted, if that makes any difference. :-)

  26. Tim said, “I agree that I cannot argue that abstinence is a biblically required position. I can argue that abstinance is:…A biblically sustainable position. As noted in the warnings of the Proverbs and the example of Timothy(I Timothy 5:23); the desire to avoid the possibility of sin.”

    That’s a ridiculous statment, with all due respect. If the writers of Scripture and our Lord wanted to encourage your position, Tim, they could have. They didn’t. That isn’t enough for you, and that’s a huge problem with your view.

    “Avoiding the possibility of sin” is one of the worst arguments ever invented by teetotalers, and it used to be my main argument when I was one. Food, sex, marriage, any relationship, money, and most anything in the world brings the possibility of sin. But we aren’t told to avoid any of those, only the abuse of those.

    Food/gluttony? Try Proverbs 23:20-21. What was Jesus accused of? Gluttony and drunkenness (Mt. 11:19). Seems to be some parallel. Why do you think Jesus was accused of this? Because he imbibed some severely watered down wine or juice? He drank “near beer?”

    Your rejection of this is merely your own logic which is founded on your strong desire to not have Jesus drinking. The plain reading of Scripture is against you.

    Tim said, “Can I demand that you or anyone else abstain on the basis of the above concerns? No. Can I challenge you to consider your own thinking with regard to alcohol in light of these Scriptures? Yes.”

    Okay, so shame on Jesus, Paul and the other drinking disciples. They should have had their thinking challenged by Scripture.

    Tim said, “It is a twisted view of our Savior to suggest as some do that He brought more alcohol to the party after folks were already drunk.”

    Twisted because you say so? I’ll take what the Bible says at face value. You can reject the facts according to your systematic view of Jesus if you like.

    Tim, I would strongly encourage you to reread your comments and see how little of your view is based on Scripture and how much is based on your desire to make Scripture fit your teetotaler views. I also didn’t notice that you dealt with Scriptures that speak of the blessings of wine.

    Tim said to stepchild, “We don’t even expect you to teach them not to drink. Teach them the gospel.”

    I have a good friend who is a church planter with NAMB. He was told he not only must abstain, but he must teach and encourage the same. That is absolutely absurd biblically.

    I recommend the audio of Mark Driscoll on alcohol, as well as Douglas Wilson.

  27. I’ve got a question- do any imb m’s drink? I know they aren’t supposed to, but what i’m reading here makes me think that maybe some of the people out there are partaking. I’m not asking for names or anything. Just wondering.

    Also, are they allowed to drink wine for the Lord’s Supper? What about eating food thats cooked with wine? Even orange juice has alcohol in it. And I think vanilla does too. Are these things out of bounds?

  28. Tim,
    I really am incredibly thankful for churches like yours that give sacrificially to support us. We take that support very seriously. That’s why I contimue to blog, even about these controversial things; the people who support us need to know about what we are doing and the trials we face. I see that unity in our mission endeavors and accountability.

  29. Anonymous, the policy is about beverage alcohol. You can cook with it, though I’m sure purchasing it would be considered a problem.

    Do IMB’rs drink anyway? I’m sure some break the rules. IMHO, if you sign a policy you should keep to it. It’s a bad policy, but we should not lie or deceive.

  30. Steve,

    You are the one guilty of the very things you accuse me of. You interpret Scripture based on modern day cultural understanding into your biblical interpretation. I have posted at length with regard to the historical context of “oinos” because I believe in historical/grammitical interpretation of Scripture. I was taught that historical context is necessary to correct biblical interpretation and still believe that to be true. You outrightly reject the grammatical fact that “oinos” in the New Testament does not equal “wine” as used in modern vernacular (as I substantiated earlier). Your distain for historical context proves you have no desire for accurate interpretation on this issue and actually makes any further discussion meaningless. I will let others judge who used Scripture and who used logic and conjecture to substantiate their position.

    I will go on to point out that the bible says absolutely nothing about a host of issues such as pornography, gambling, drugs, slavery, abortion, and so forth. Does that mean its principles do not speak authoritatively to those issues? The fact the Bible says absolutely nothing about social injustice on the part of Rome and reprehensible social activities such as the “arena” in which believers might have the opportunity to participate does not mean that the Bible does not “encourage” a position on those issues either. Is the absence of a clear statment a tacit endorsement as you would assume?

    Jesus said, Matt 18:8-9

    ” If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. ” If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.

    Your position that abstinance in order to avoid sin is not a viable reason is a dangerous position. I hope you do not teach that to your church.

  31. I’m not going to debate alcohol anymore but here’s a quote from travelnet.com’s Israel site for you to chew on.

    “After the Children of Israel had left Egypt and approached Canaan, Moses sent twelve spies across the river to explore the Promised Land. When they returned to their encampment to advise Moses, only Joshua and Caleb were in favour of entering the new land. The other spies, however, had not been particularly impressed by what they found, and because they advised against entering the new land, the Israelites began their forty-year trek through Sinai. Fortunately, however, two of the spies had returned with a cluster of grapes and, according to folklore, those grapes yielded enough wine to last the people for their forty years in the wilderness. Nobody today is sure just how that wine tasted. There is a good chance, however, that it was terrible.

    Wine has been made in Israel since pre-Biblical times, but, if the truth be known, until recently, there was no reason to be proud of those wines. The wines shipped to ancient Egypt were so bad that they had to be seasoned with honey, pepper and juniper berries to make them palatable, and those sent to Rome and England during the height of ancient Roman civilization were so thick and sweet that no modern connoisseur could possibly approve of them. So bad were most of these wines that it was probably a good thing that the Moslem conquest in AD 636 imposed a 1,200 year halt to the local wine industry.” Maybe that explains the “good oinos.”

  32. Yes, we can drink wine with the Lord’s supper (as far as I know) Yes, we can cook with it—(I buy it in a box to keep from upsetting vol. teams—it is a VERY AMERICAN issue) and no, I make up excuses to keep from drinking :-) I do not agree AT ALL with Tim’s interpretation of scripture–mean natured tone–or pushing extra Biblical views…that’s all I have to say about that. Tim, I would really love to have you come over and join us for two weeks. Seriously, just to walk and pray over this city–the people–the missionaries…we would love to have you.

  33. Steve,

    I will be glad to read the links you offered. I would encourage you go google this title: WINE IN THE BIBLE: A BIBLICAL STUDY ON THE USE OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. It is an article that I found this afternoon that seems to shed far more light than either of us are bringing to the subject.

  34. “You outrightly reject the grammatical fact that…as I substantiated earlier.”

    Someone on another post asked me about the difference between modern and postmodern. This discussion has been a great illustration.

    It’s hard for the modern to persuade the postmodern because he relies on rhetorical technique to logically prove his point and demolish the arguement of his opponent.

    It’s hard for the postmodern to engage the modern because he’s happy with discussing opinions and the thoughts that influence them without the authority of outside proof.

    That’s not to say the conversation is pointless; just tedious.

  35. I had wondered when this subject would come up. I guess I missed it on Steve McCoy’s blog. This comment string sure makes one think …

  36. Hi Stepchild,

    I’ve never been to Europe before. This is quite an experience.

    Let me say that this comments dialog displays some examples about everything that is right about blogging.

    Thanks for the link to my blog. I hope I don’t disappoint you.

    I also hope the IMB and every other SBC entity, adapt quickly to the reality and opportunity of blogging. Unfortunately, “quickly” is difficult for deliberative bodies.

  37. i hesitate saying this because i don’t want it to sound mean or hateful. my intent is to use humor to prove a point…so no one take offense…

    if i were to take 15 cups of water and one cup of urine (or 5 to 1 as i have heard other pastors preach), would you partake of a cup of this “water” with me? as we know, speaking now of contraversial issues, just a little black makes the whole cup grey.

    and by the way, as far as using recipes from 2000 years ago…i rue the day that someone 2000 years from now tries to use my mom’s meatloaf recipe!

    wwcd (what would luther do?”

  38. Anonymous,

    I don’t know any IMB missionaries who drink alcohol as a beverage but the majority of the M’s I know don’t like the rule. From what I have observed, most of us IMB M’s feel such a strong calling from God to serve where we are in the world that we are willing to “put up” with the rule even if we don’t agree with it.

  39. I really recommend that any of you interested in the alcohol discussion read Steve McCoy’s posts and comments on the issue. (Scroll to the bottom to find “Total Abstinence,” “Wine and Gospel,” and others.) The best exchanges were on “SBTS: Alcohol and Ministry”, “Alcohol, Abstention and Redemption”, and “Alcoholics & Abstinence”

    Dorcas, what are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear your perspective.

    Dr. Corbaley, I’m honored to have you visit. I have been so impressed by your gracious responses on your blog. I’m afraid a lot of us took out our frustrations on you. Any thoughts on the alcohol issue for folks on the field?

  40. So I give Tim two direct links to two great resources, and I get a long title that I have to google? Thanks bro. Thoughtful of you.

    I perused the site, and I find it odd that it seems to rely almost completely on extrabiblical accounts, that have curious explanations at best, for your view of oinos. And at best it seems to say that oinos need not always mean fermented juice. Whatever.

    All you have to do is read the Bible, note when oinos is used, and see the context. Is this an intoxicating drink? Most often the answer is yes. Like in 1 Tim 3 oinos is clearly something that can intoxicate, and it isn’t prohibited for elders or deacons, but we are told not to be addicted.

    As to “sweet new wine (gleukos)”, note Acts 2:13-15, “But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” But Peter…declared to them: “…these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day.”

    Tim, your silliness in this abounds. Think for a minute. Please. Whether it’s 1% alcohol or 100% alcohol, there is no biblical prohibition against alcohol regardless of cultural circumstance. Your only argument considering the mass of biblical evidence against you is to try to explain away every passage on intoxicating wine, and that is impossible.

    My logic is thoroughly biblical. Note each point is not biblically debatable. All can be backed easily by Scripture.

    1. Wine can make drunk.
    2. Drunkenness is sinful.
    3. Therefore we shouldn’t drink too much wine. (tons of biblical texts to support)

    Now, your logic. You get the first two right, but then you throw it away on point three.

    1. Wine can make drunk.
    2. Drunkennes is sinful.
    3. Therefore we shouldn’t drink at all. (no biblical text to support)

    As to “weaker brothers” and “stumbling” and biblical principles, you have to explain them in terms of people in the Bible drinking. They can’t mean total abstention, but (for example) only temporary denial out of love and concern for a brother at a weak time.

    As to Jesus in Matthew 18, I agree with Jesus. As sin is causing you to head toward hell, stop sinning. So since the sin is drunkenness (NOT alcohol), you should stop getting drunk. If you can’t restrain yourself, stoping drinking altogether is a possibility. Sounds good and biblical to me. That’s what I teach my church.

    Sorry you won’t be commenting again.

    Steve

  41. A little background – I was born onto a Baptist cradle roll, saved at age 7, mom had grown up going to temperance league meetings, and now I arrive at age 33 never having drunk a drop of alcohol. Lest one counts Nyquil … which as potent as it is, probably should count. ;)

    My mother passed away last November. She was a devout Christian who to her last days was still daily reading her Bible and praying in a way more than I have ever been able to commit to daily devotionals … it is still a struggle for me to remember in my busy, busy life. I never even considered the issue of wine communion until the last six months or so. My mom had raised me not to drink, “Baptists” didn’t drink. It was not an issue. To be honest, if my mom was still alive, I would still not be considering it because I know for her to have known me to drink alcohol in any form would have broken her heart … and I honored her enough to respect her wish for my life at the time.

    Yet now she is in heaven, in God’s presence and I am sure not in the least troubled by our grape juice versus wine debate. And in the past few months some trusted friends of mine have challenged me to really study this issue. Not in a manner of “let’s get Dorcas to drink”, but more trying to help me see the areas of self-righteousness that keep me from living a life of total freedom in Christ.

    Indeed this claim to fame “alcohol free at age 33″ was a little area of pride for me. “Look at how good I’ve done”. “Won’t God be proud of me.” And yet, all this man-made concept of purity that is clearly contradicted in scripture as Steve McCoy has already elucidated and others I have talked with have explained, has it helped my Christian witness?

    It grieves my heart to realize how few people in my life that I can point to and say, their lives were changed because of me. Does my whitewashed veneer really keep a brother from stumbling? Or does it not rather turn a sister away from asking my counsel out of fear of approaching me? I have no doubt that most people who meet me would soon assume I was a Christian, I am too much of a goody-goody, rules follower for people not to get that. But that is the problem. Following the rules is what people have begun to equate to Christianity. This is why people say “of course I’m going to heaven, I’m a good person.” And why people who know they couldn’t possibly follow all those rules, are turned away.

    So if I was a missionary, and a non-Christian invited me to their home, and seemed genuinely open to the scripture, if they had no concept of our Baptist cultural view on the evil of drink, then would it not be a great hindrance to witness to have to go into a great explanation on why the offer of refreshment was so summarily refused? I think the key here is to focus on the verse “abstain from all appearance of evil.” If a missionary is in a culture where alcohol is not considered evil, then how can the partaking of wine hurt their witness?

    As to wine communion, I have never yet had the opportunity to be in a situation where there was wine instead of grape juice. And to be honest, the concern of opening up a flood gate of temptation was one of the concerns I voiced to my friends as we were discussing this matter. How do I know that I am not a lush … and one drink of wine will set me on the path straight to hell? :) But then I remember the volume of a communion cup in America, and that drink of Nyquil … and I would venture to guess that Nyquil has more alcohol in this instance.

    But even more importantly, if wine is set before us in the context of communion, that moment of “this do in remembrance of me”, is it not a great affront to God to refuse to partake of the ordinance of the body of Christ over a man made cultural rule? Surely even my own fears should not receive precedence over honoring and worshipping God.

    So I do not expect that I will become a social wine drinker anytime soon. But I have come to a point in my own life where I have considered the Bible’s teachings on wine. One example: Yes, Jesus turned foot-washing water into the best drinkable wine at the party. Jesus, who did not sin, provided wine to others. Therefore, my conclusion is that wine is neutral in the Bible, and it is drunkenness that is the sin.

  42. Dorcas,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and personal comment. That’s the kind of response I’m looking for when I share my struggles here.

    Steve,
    I bet you never thought you’d be considered an expert on this topic, but thank you for your insight. I know things often get personal, but I think those are the sorts of exchanges that further the discussion.

    Tim,
    I’m glad the debate is over, but I’ll miss the discussion. There is a lot to learn from our different points of view.

    I’d like to hear some stories from M’s in the field about times when not drinking alcohol was a problem in ministry. Yes, I’m talking to all you lurkers! You can post anonymously…

  43. Dear Stepchild,

    This post has been very interesting to read, because it had never occurred to me that the IMB prohibited drinking for Ms. Not that it suprises me, I just had never thought about it. Thank you for making me aware of the problem.

    I’m getting back on my “good debating” soap box, and I urge you, for the good of our shared cause, to take me seriously.

    I know you noticed how badly your exchange with Tim went. You attribute it to the difference between modern and post-modern thinking. I’ll grant that the difference exists. But to be frank, you are using it as a cop-out.

    You have made a very bold statement that indeed needs to be made. Good! But do you expect that traditional-minded Baptists will just accept it because you have stated it? No, of course not. They require convincing.

    How will you convince them? If you think in a post-modern way, and they think in a modern way, how will you communicate with them effectively?

    You are a missionary among people who speak a different language. Do you just speak the Gospel in your own language and blame them if they do not accept the truth of it? No, you have to speak their language. You even have to understand their culture and speak in their language according to their culture.

    So, then, if you are going to convince a large group of traditional-minded and traditionally-educated Baptists of the truth that abstinence from alcohol is not required by the Bible and in fact harms the work of IMB Ms, then you must learn to debate with them intelligently in their language.

    I’m not talking about advanced methods or about taking a master’s degree in law or speech. I’m talking about simple, sound reasoning in the academic tradition.

    -Give your position on the issue.
    -Give quotes from the Bible that address the issue.
    -Give well-reasoned applications of the text to support your position.
    -Give quotes from well-known Christians to support your position.

    Then your critic/opponent/skeptic answers with his position and his support. (This is NOT the person you are trying to convice. He cannot be convinced. You are trying to convince the undecided people who are reading/listening.)

    -Criticize his supporting arguments, in whatever ways you think they are flawed, in order to demonstrate how he has mis-applied the Bible text to the issue.
    -Demonstrate any unbliblical preconceived ideas that appear to cloud his interpretation or application of the biblical text.

    He answers your criticism, or criticizes you some more.

    You then graciously thank him for his input, restate your position, and end the discussion.

    In doing this, you will convince many of the truth of your position. Those you do not convince, you will at least impress with your intelligent, Christian conversation.

    I love you, and I support what you are doing. When you have improved HOW you are doing it, I think you will be very effective in bringing a remedy to this and other problems with IMB policies.

    Love in Christ,

    Jeff

  44. Hi I am a lurker that has decided to post a comment…I am an M that lives in Western Europe and have been reading this blog off and on throughout the various discussions and especially with this topic. I find this conversation interesting and personal for me.

    I’ve only been living in WE for just over a year, but already I can see how my not being permitted to drink alcohol has possibly affected some relationships here on the field. My local friends don’t understand my inability to drink a beer with them at a pub/bar or wine with them over a meal….not because they want to see me get drunk (that is actually not looked well upon by my friends here), but because it is as normal as drinking coke here and so much a part of the culture…I guess I won’t write much more because everyone has already said so much on the topic that is interesting. I just wanted to join the discussion…

    - borne

  45. Jeff,
    Thank you for the debate tips. I appreciate that you continue to read my blog.

    To be honest, I never really saw my writing here as an attempt to convince anyone of anything. I just needed to express myself and ask questions about things that I don’t have a whole lot of opportunities to talk about outside of the blog. I value the comments that folks leave because they give me some feedback and advice that I wouldn’t otherwise get.

    I’ll try to be a better communicator in future posts.

  46. We just had a conversation about this with some team members. Then I read all of this….
    In the culture we work in you are immediately given a drink (hot tea usually) upon entering their home. You are not asked if you’d like something. To ask is considered rude and means that you really don’t want to give your visitor anything. Likewise, if you are at a meal in a home with those who don’t know that you “don’t drink”, you will be offered alcohol. To refuse to take it is extremely offensive. To not take what is freely offered, is like a slap in the face; you are rejecting that person.
    What do we do? We take the cup and put it to our lips, and then set it down. If the cup is one that is “going around the room”, we put it to our lips and then pass it on, repeatedly.
    As people get to know us, they accept that we don’t drink and don’t offer it anymore because our cup stays full.
    Do we cook with alcohol…yes.
    Do we think the rule to not drink is culturally based, yes. But we agreed to abide by it, and we do.
    So do those on our team.

  47. We agreed not to drink while on the field with the Board, so we do not drink. Never the less, here’s why the IMB’s policy has continually put me in an awkward position:
    1) Among our population segment of our host culture, a glass of wine is symbolic of fellowship, family, celebration, and communion with God. Here, abstinence is not associated with holiness, and neither is drinking in moderation associated with sin.
    2) To refuse a glass of wine (or a beer), is to refuse to participate in the above.
    3) I do not have a conviction against drinking. No one in my family has struggled with alcohol abuse or addiction. The Bible does not prohibit it. I, therefore, do not have a personal problem with it.
    4) We do not identify ourselves as missionaries here. I therefore can’t say “the agency that sends me prohibits it.” Besides, from their perspective, what business does your employer have telling you what you can and cannot do?
    5)I am then left with no good answer to the question: “Why won’t you participate?”
    6)Refusing to partake creates one more difference between me and the people to whom I am ministering. Those differences make relating the good news more difficult.
    6) After having been here for a while, we’ve gained the reputation of being non-drinkers (most people assume it has something to do with our “American religion.”) We don’t get invited to social events such as parties and celebrations anymore.

  48. Anonymous, thanks for sharing that. Your situation alone should be enough for a denomination to realize the problem of extra-biblical policies. Unfortunatly it won’t be. Stay faithful.

    Steve

  49. Hey Stepchild,

    I realize I am coming in at the end of this discussion, but I wanted to throw in my two cents. I am an M (not IMB) who lives in Spain. Our organization does not have a drinking policy. On our team we ask people to follow their personal convictions, but not to force their convictions on others and to not be drunk. I just wanted to share some of my observations from Spain after having lived here 5 years. This may useful for someone who has never visited or lived in Europe.

    -MacDonalds serves beer.

    -I spent a weekend eating in the homes of Spanish Babtist leaders of a church that we partner with. I have never had so much alcohol in such a short amount of time in all of my life. Since we were the guests, they served us beer before the meal, wine during the meal, and to honor us champagne after the meal. At one of the houses the Spanish church leader recounted a story of American Baptists who came and refused to drink alcohol. He laughed and basically said he couldn´t understand them or why they would not partake in a piece of his generosity and the meal.

    -If you sit down to any authentic spanish meal there are two basic elements that make the meal complete. Bread and wine. What a beautiful and powerful cultural symbol that is already established in Spain to talk about communion. In fact, a meal often feels much closer to communion the the grape juice and wafers that I was accustommed to in my American church growing up. Imagine how hard it would be to sit down and have a meal (lasting from two to four hours) with someone whom you have not forgiven or are holding a grudge against. I am not sure that all Spaniards eat their meal and think about communion (in fact I would wager the majority don´t), but I personally can´t help but think about coming before the altar of God in communion when someone picks up their spanish loaf and tears it in half and then passes a bottle of very red spanish wine that gives a burning and cleansing feeling down into your throat and heart as you drink it. It always causes me to worship Jesus and pray for those with whom I eat.

    -I had a conversation with a man from Wales over whether it would be wrong for a Christian waiter to serve alcohol to someone who was potentially an alcoholic. He answered me with this question “Would you deny a doughnut to a fat person?”

    -Some friends of mine run a cafe that serves beer and wine, but no hard liquors. Amercans visiting the cafe say, “Oh, you serve alcohol.” Spaniards after ordering a liquor a being told that only beer and wine are available say, “Oh, you don´t serve alcohol.”

    -Acts 10 is a great reminder for those of us who work cross-culturally or those who send others to work cross-culturally to be careful what we call “unclean”.

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