Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Acts 29, Alcohol, and the Southern Baptist Convention

Acts 29 keeps coming up in discussions of the SBC, alcohol, and Calvinism. As a general rule, it seems that those who favor social drinking and ending Southern Baptist’s long standing opposition to beverage alcohol are those who are connected with Calvinism, the Acts 29 organization, or both.

Let me also add that many Calvinists believe the Bible teaches abstinence from alcohol. I assume there are also those in Acts 29 who believe the same. I pray many more will come to this conviction. (For example, Charles H. Spurgeon was a Calvinist who was very opposed to alcohol. See Gulf Coast Pastor article on Charles H. Spurgeon on Alcohol).

In case you missed it, four years ago Baptist Press had a fascinating article about this issue. A controversy developed among Missouri Baptists over The Journey Church that was apparently promoting beverage alcohol consumption and had a part of the church meeting at a brewery.

Many a church has started in a bar, but with the alcohol bar closed during the service. This brewery, however, was serving beer to participants during the Bible Study. The Journey was a part of the SBC, Acts 29, and Missouri Baptists. A few quotes from the BP article are in bold print below.

"Last December, The Journey’s website included an invitation to 'grab a brew, share your view' when attending the Theology at the Bottleworks meeting. A picture of people raising glasses of beer in an apparent toast appeared adjacent to an essay by [Pastor Darrin] Patrick on the church’s website. Patrick attributed the content to a secular website design company hired by the church. He told Baptist Press he had the alcohol-related verbiage and picture removed as soon as they came to his attention because 'it does not reflect the values of our church.'

Still, the church’s unconventional means of reaching the lost might be shaping its internal culture as much as the church is shaping others. The bio of The Journey’s mission pastor, Jonathan MacIntosh, mentions that he enjoys drinks with his wife 'at the almost secret bar beneath Brennan's in the Central West End.'

Patrick, who is vice president of Acts 29, an association of emergent churches, conceded that as a group, Acts 29 holds a 'much more liberal view' of alcohol use than The Journey.

Some website material seems to support his conclusion.

The pastor of an Acts 29 church in San Diego (non-SBC), for example, claims on the Internet: 'Beer is one of our core values. We enjoy it and like to drink it.' Although the statement appears meant for humor, it seems to show a casualness of attitude about alcohol consumption.

Another Acts 29 church (also non-SBC) -- the Seattle-area Damascus Road Church -- sponsors a men’s poker night for which gamblers are encouraged to bring beer. The website also states: 'There is just something about having food on your plate and a drink in your hand that makes fellowship that much easier. Whether the food is healthy or fattening, or the drink is coffee or beer, we desire to follow Christ's example.'

The alcohol issue goes straight to the top at Acts 29, whose president, Mark Driscoll -- who is pastor of the Seattle-area Mars Hill Church -- wrote in his book, 'Radical Reformission,' that abstinence from alcohol is a sin. In a chapter titled 'The Sin of Light Beer,' Driscoll explains that he came to this conclusion while preparing a sermon on the Lord’s miracle at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. *

According to information published on the church’s website, Mars Hill sponsored a New Year’s Eve party that included a champagne bar. Mars Hill’s website also advertises 'beer-brewing lessons ... whenever a large group of (Mars Hill) men get together.'

Driscoll is controversial also for once having the reputation of the 'cussing pastor.' However, as he recounted on his blog, he finally listened to a friend who helped him realize he was becoming known for 'good theology, a bad temper, and a foul mouth,' and he repented, starting with a public apology."  -bpnews.net

Read the entire Baptist Press article at the following link:

Alcohol, Acts 29 and the SBC

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, June 7, AD 2011.

Related Articles:
2006 SBC Resolution on Alcohol Use in America
Dr. Robert Wring on Baptists and Elder Rule
Books on Calvinism, Predestination
Ancient Wine and the Bible - the Book; Update

The Problem With Drunk Preachers
See Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels) in lower right hand margin, on such topics as Alcohol; Alcohol Today; etc.

* For a clear answer on Jesus turning water to wine see the book, Alcohol Today by Peter Lumpkins, Hannibal Books.  Available at your local bookstore or amazon.com.
Also see Ancient Wine and the Bible by David R. Brumbelow. 


  1. For goodness sake, let it go! You're simply stirring the pot of disunity within the convention. Why? I am not an Acts29 pastor, but I am a SBC pastor with Reformed theological convictions. I do not drink alcohol, simply because of personal convictions that the Lord has given privately to me. Yet, this kind of vitriolic banter is getting pretty old....and is beginning to seem like a clear message to pastors like myself that there is not a place for us in the SBC.

    Than again, maybe that's the message you're trying to convey. I hope not.

  2. Anonymous,
    So folks can radically push to change long-standing convictions of the SBC, like our being against the recreational use of the drug alcohol - but if we defend the majority Southern Baptist view on this subject, we are the ones “stirring the pot of disunity within the convention”?

    You and others seem to feel that anything other than dropping our long-standing conviction on this issue means we are the ones being divisive.

    Sorry, I disagree. Frankly, that view is divisive. I have simply presented the views of a group who seem to have a growing influence. Their view is radically different from what we have believed for well over 100 years. People need to know this information.

    If you do not support drinking, I don’t understand why you feel threatened on this issue. As I pointed out, not all Calvinists are for drinking, but most of those who are for drinking and dropping SBC opposition to beverage alcohol seem to be Calvinists. I’m not sure why, but it is a fact.
    David R. Brumbelow

  3. Who is trying to "radically push to change long-standing convictions of the SBC"? Not me. Those who are need to likewise check their motives.

    Nothing the SBC says or does is going to necessarily change ANYTHING we do as a church. We are a convention that has held firmly to the autonomy of the local church (much more vehemently and successfully than we've held to "long-standing convictions about alcohol"). Do we believe in the autonomous church, or do we not. I frankly don't care what the "SBC's position on alcohol use" is.....I have my conviction, and our elder board has their conviction for how we should handle this as a local church.

    My concern with your post is primarily that it seems to be drawing a line in the sand....we don't want Calvinists here....and we don't want pastors who don't staunchly oppose alcohol use of any kind. Both of those statements are true of me, and I can speak for many other like-minded pastors in the SBC that would echo these sentiments that they are questioning whether the SBC still has a place for us.

    Must we disassociate in order to protect unity, or is there room in the SBC for Calvinist pastors (both flavors...those who drink and those who do not)? And if we do not disassociate, will we continue to be labeled "the opposition"?

    Brother, I appreciate your heart and your desire for the church to reflect kingdom priorities, not worldly pleasures. I hope you know I'm more of an advocate and supporter of your style of ministry than you realize. I'm just hoping we can tone down the rhetoric, and keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ central in our convention, instead of being side-tracked by these sorts of things.

  4. Anonymous,
    There are a number who are radically pushing to change the SBC’s position on alcohol. One can read their posts and comments at numerous blogs. This has been going on since at least 2006 (some have since been taken down). They have called me personally, and the SBC in general, legalists, Pharisees, brood of vipers, and other loving terms. They’ve accused us of having no Scriptural basis for our view and not believing in the inerrancy or sufficiency of the Bible. They have viciously attacked SBC leaders. I could name some of them, but I choose not to. Not all do this, but a significant number have.

    A local church is autonomous, but as a general rule Southern Baptists have said we are against beverage alcohol and we do not want leaders and trustees who believe it is optional. See the “2006 SBC Resolution on Alcohol Use in America,” linked above. Those pastors who drink are out of step with the majority of the SBC. That is true regardless of whether they are Calvinist or not. The line in the sand has been drawn in the SBC since the 1800s, not today and not by me.

    We all hold minority views in the SBC in one way or another. I hold a few myself. I doubt that anyone is going to be kicked out of the convention over this, but don’t expect the majority to change their views because a few feel uncomfortable.

    I agree we should always keep the Gospel central, but this is a Baptist distinctive that should be continued. Church autonomy, believer’s baptism by immersion, eternal security, opposition to pornography, opposition to human trafficking, etc., may not be central to the Gospel, but they are significant issues that need to be dealt with from time to time. I appreciate your spirit as well; believe me it is better than some I’ve dealt with on this issue. I just think we are going to disagree on a few points.
    David R. Brumbelow

  5. One other thing. Suppose a group of believers say drinking alcohol is permissible. Step back and think of it. What they are saying is that it is perfectly permissible to take drugs, in moderate amounts of course, not for medical purposes but for purely pleasurable purposes.

    What kind of message does that send to youth? Any other drugs you want to put on the optional list? Where does it end? If you say other drugs are illegal - they are not illegal in some countries. And some youth are always coming up with new drug concoctions not yet on the illegal list. Do we really want to go down that road? I pray we never do.
    David R. Brumbelow

  6. We will disagree on this, and it's not worth the keystrokes to argue our points. The question is how will folks like you and I reach a place of unity in the convention? I'm not one of the "radicals" pushing for change; however, there are those in the SBC who love to vilify folks like me simply because I don't staunchly stand against alcohol consumption of any and every kind....and/or because I adhere to the reformed tradition...and/or because I don't publicly denigrate the Acts29 network.

    Sorry, but when I continue to see those things heralded, I find it very difficult to see the supposed Gospel-centrality.

  7. Anonymous,
    You ask how we will reach a place of unity in the convention. My argument is that we are unified. The SBC has been unified against beverage alcohol since at least the 1880s. If there is any disunity on this issue it is from those with views in favor of drinking. The national SBC has passed 59 resolutions on drinking. Every one of them has been against alcohol as a recreational drug.

    I’m not out to get Acts 29 and really don’t know a lot about them. But I sure disagree with them on having beer brewing classes as a part of church meetings. Would you defend them on this?

    As to your comment about the Gospel being central - it is in the SBC. I preach the Gospel every week in my church. At most, I preach a sermon once a year on drugs, maybe on the SBC Drug Prevention Sunday. I may mention it in passing once or twice a year at other times. But preachers and churches sometimes need to speak strongly on social issues; like alcohol, drugs, abortion, marriage, etc. I speak about alcohol fairly often on this blog because this is an issue under attack and people need to know the answers to those attacks.
    David R. Brumbelow

  8. "we are unified".....Who is "we"? I'm guessing that doesn't include me.


    May God annoint you as you preach the Gospel, brother.


  9. And may He bless you as well.
    David R. Brumbelow

  10. The problem is that it is fine if you wish to abstain but you have no biblical basis for demanding it of others. There are 200 references and it comes down to godly use and ungodly abuse.

  11. Anonymous,
    So you think the Bible endorses using a hard drug for purely pleasurable purposes? A drug that lowers your inhibitions and makes you do things you would never do in your right mind. Sorry, I don’t buy that argument. When it comes to beverage alcohol, its use is abuse; as with other dangerous unnecessary drugs.

    The Bible condemns alcohol, and biblical principles condemn alcohol. See other articles at this site (under “Alcohol” in lower right hand margin) for more details.

    Don’t know if you are the same anonymous. But I would encourage you to be willing to put your name behind what you write and argue.
    David R. Brumbelow

  12. Anon,
    Sorry, if you want to get mean and argumentative here you will have to reveal your name and who you are. Then I may give you a hearing.
    David R. Brumbelow

  13. David, you said, "* For a clear answer on Jesus turning water to wine see the book, Alcohol Today by Peter Lumpkins, Hannibal Books."

    What page is that on?

  14. The clear answer to Jesus turning water to wine is found in Alcohol Today by Peter Lumpkins in chapter 12, emtitled "Cana's Wedding, Cana's Wine: Liberating Jesus as the Moderationists Model." Page 141 and following.

    It is a good, scholarly discussion. One that answers many questions. I would encourage everyone with questions about this subject to get the book as soon as possible.

    My upcoming book, Ancient Wine and the Bible, will also discuss this subject and many others.
    David R. Brumbelow

  15. In the OT only the Leviticus Priesthood were specifically commanded to not drink alcohol, while all others were allowed. In Deuteronomy chapter 14 (read 14:22-27, God declares it good to drink wine as a sacrifice to Him) God commands that one should enjoy themselves thoroughly as an offering to Him in food and fermented drink (can you dance around this and make it into kool-aid?); but this is all OT and is nullified by Christ work on the cross, so does Christ, who is the same God of the OT, declare anything contrary to this edict in the OT in regards to alcohol?
    He drinks what is referred to in the NT as "fermented drink" and is known by the public religious nut-cases as being a drunkard (indeed even the lay-people thought this!), Jesus didn't turn water into grape juice. Grape juice isn't fermented though it can be, and if it is fermented than it's alcohol.
    Let us not make more strict constraints than God because we sin through our pride, but let us not be more lax than God either, for we malign His Word if we do so.
    I am a committed Southern Baptist and gladly rejoice in the freedom of Christ that we have, and I think we should go back to the OT and turn alcohol into a means of giving God glory. Let us teach our children to drink alcohol only during feasts of gladness towards God or alongside believers as a joyous occasion to thank God, not to get drunk. It is possible, I do it, God made that formula back in the day, and it still can stand in the same fashion today.

  16. Brandyn,
    I have an article here on Deuteronomy 14:26. In short, it is not telling the people to drink up before the Lord, and does not negate clear commands not to drink. Shekar, sometimes mistranslated as strong drink, was a fruit drink from fruit other than grapes and could either be fermented or unfermented. In the same way, wine could be preserved in either a fermented or unfermented state.

    “Ancient Wine and the Bible” deals extensively with this and your other challenges.

    Contrary to your statement, Scripture never says Jesus made or drank alcohol. It says He made wine; whether that wine was fermented or not, is your interpretation. In Matthew 9:17 Jesus calls both unfermented and fermented wine by the name wine (oinos).

    If you want to know more of why Southern Baptists have rightly opposed beverage alcohol for well over 100 years, I’d suggest you read more of the articles on this site on the subject. They can be found in the lower right margin.
    David R. Brumbelow


What do you think?