I urge all people in the Christian blogosphere to examine the reasons why I am making this claim, to write posts explaining your own thoughts, to write emails and letters to Al Mohler, and to remove his link from your blogroll.
Reformisionary, a Calvinist within the Southern Baptist Convention, has written a very disturbing article about abstinence from alcohol in the church. Due to the SBC's return to Biblical Christianity over the past 20 years, quite a number of pastors and churches have enjoyed being exposed to the Word of God, and the power of the Spirit working through the Word as it is preached and examined.
Ironically, one of the results of this move has been the discovery that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is not wrong. In fact, God is seen to be the creator of wine for the express purpose of "gladdening the heart of man" as it states in Psalm 104. I won't go into all the arguments for and against the issue - others have done a better job and I don't want to reinvent the wheel.
The fact is that the SBC has held to the firm belief that drinking alcohol is sinful, and that Christians should be teetotal. Yet the Bible says otherwise.
So where does Al Mohler fit in?
Mohler is the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. A seminary that is to American Baptists as Princeton was to 19th century Presbyterians. Moreover, Mohler is actually a Calvinist - quite rare for Southern Baptists. He was also a signatory to the Cambridge Declaration. In recent times, Mohler has been involved in the Justice Sunday meetings, my opinion of which can be found elsewhere on my blog. I have also recently criticised Mohler for a recent article he wrote on his blog.
Despite being one of those behind the Cambridge Declaration, Mohler seems to have abandoned Sola Scriptura - the idea that the Bible is the supreme, sole and sufficient authority that determines how to act and what to believe. How do we know this? Because Mohler supports abstinence.
Of course, such an issue may seem minor - after all, there are plenty of Christians out there that hold on to all sorts of things that aren't important. The problem isn't that Mohler supports abstinence, he has now overtly accused those who disagree with it as being disobedient to God and to the leaders in the church that God has appointed.
Mohler admits that there is no biblical backup for abstinence. But then goes on to argue that churches should enforce abstinence on its members and, most especially, those who seek to pastor such churches.
This is NOT a case of Romans 14.13-23. Mohler is not arguing that we should suspend our rights for the well-being of weaker brothers. In his mind, those who drink are the weaker brothers.
Perhaps one of the most disgraceful things to occur was this:
Closer to the end, Mohler told the story of going to lunch for a meeting with a group of evangelical leaders across denominational lines. If anywhere, this is the place for a Christian to show generosity to those who aren't compelled as he is about the issue of alcohol. But as a couple of leaders ordered beer with lunch, Mohler actually spoke up and asked a Lutheran pastor (friend of his) to not get a beer "so that sitting here in this Southern town where anyone can walk in and see this table, people do not then barrage me with phone calls associating me with drinking, which I'm not doing." He finished the story, "I could not allow my own personal integrity to be questioned, I would of had to have left the lunch." (quoted from Reformissionary's web site)
As I point out in the comments thread of this posting, Mohler is acting like the Apostle Peter in Galatians 2 - he separates himself from his bretheren. Where is the Paul to come along and rebuke him?
It does get worse however. Mohler says this:
"I can assure you of this: if you (the audience are seminarians and future Baptist pastors) are associated with the use of beverage alcohol, I think I dare exaggerate not to say that 99% of all doors of ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention will be closed to you."
A statement of fact or a veiled threat? If he discovers that one of his students drinks alcohol, will he "turn the screws" to force the student out, or will he ensure that he never gets work in the SBC again? And why? The student didn't sin.
As Reformissionary points out, the issue is not alcohol or whether someone believes in the right thing or not - it's about legalism. It's about enforcing rules that Jesus never enforced for his church. It's about adding to the Word of God, and forcing people to obey the decrees of men. It's about supressing dissent from those whose minds have been informed by God's word.
And, sadly, Mohler appears to show that it's about politics too. I wonder if Mohler actually believes the same as those he criticises, but sides with the abstinence crowd to ensure that he retains his power and position within the SBC.
Please read Reformissionary's post before commenting here.
From the Theosalient Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.