By Dr. Mark Creech
Last week, the well-known former pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina announced via a Facebook video that he was checking into a treatment center. Perry was fired from the mega-church with an attendance of 30,000 earlier this month for an alcohol addiction.
According to the Christian Post, NewSpring Church Executive Pastor Shane Duffey said that the executive pastors over a period of months confronted Noble about his increased reliance on alcohol. Because he didn’t take the necessary steps toward correcting his course, he was “no longer qualified as outlined in I Timothy 3 and the church bylaws to continue as pastor of the NewSpring Church.”
While serving as Pastor, Noble took the position that the Scriptures do not prohibit the use of alcohol, but only prohibits drunkenness – a common view among many Christians today.
It’s the same view touted in a video posted this week by the pastor of the Arizona-based Trinity Church, Mark Driscoll. Driscoll, also exceedingly well-known, said he didn’t think that the abstinence position “is a good one.”
Both Noble and Driscoll are Southern Baptists and would do well to embrace the admonition of the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution against alcohol approved in June of 2006.
The resolution reads, in part:
“WHEREAS, The use of alcohol as a recreational beverage has been shown to lead individuals down a path of addiction to alcohol and toward the use of other kinds of drugs, both legal and illegal; and
“WHEREAS, There are some religious leaders who are now advocating the consumption of alcoholic beverages based on a misinterpretation of the doctrine of ‘our freedom in Christ’ now, therefore, be it
“RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to be actively involved in educating students and adults concerning the destructive nature of alcoholic beverages; and be it finally
“RESOLVED, That we commend…and promote abstinence…”
In his video, Driscoll contends that Jesus made wine and shared in drinking wine. He said the total abstinence view is a difficult one to maintain scripturally because sometimes God’s people partake in alcohol consumption – even in worship to God.
Driscoll is right that Jesus made wine, but there is absolutely no biblical evidence that the wine he made was intoxicating. That assessment is purely a matter of personal speculation and interpretation.
Driscoll is also right that wine drinking is often mentioned in the Bible in positive and not just negative ways. However, what is frequently not understood is that our English translations make no distinctions between words denoting different kinds of wine. In some cases, the references are to sweet, unfermented wine – something positive. In other cases, the references are to alcoholic wine – something quite negative.
There are those who will say that this view of a “two wine theory” has been thoroughly disproven. Hardly! It may have been disapproved of by many, but never disproved. In fact, there is considerable ancient documentation, as well as biblical evidence to support the view. Nevertheless, even if this theological stance could be completely debunked, there would still be more than enough reasons drawn from common sense to support the position of abstinence.
In a recent edition of The American Issue, a newsletter of the American Council on Addiction and Alcohol Problems (ACAAP), Jamie Morgan, a former alcoholic, has penned an insightful article titled, “50 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink.”
An Assemblies of God minister, Morgan says that her article “is not a theological defense on the topic of Christians and alcohol (another article for another time),” but instead “a heartfelt plea.” She continues, “I humbly ask you to table any knee jerk, pro-alcohol, fight-for-my-right-to-drink arguments that you have ever heard, or made, and prayerfully consider this list.
Here are the 50 reasons she gives for abstaining from alcoholic beverages:
- I can’t be sober minded if I’m not sober.
- Alcohol has an assignment: destruction.
- Alcohol is a depressant. Anything that depresses should be avoided at all costs.
- I don’t want to make my brother or sister stumble in the name of exercising my ”Christian liberties.” My choice to drink could lead to someone’s demise.
- Alcohol skews my judgment.
- Alcohol leaves me worse, not better.
- What I do in moderation, my children may do in excess.
- Even the unsaved know that I shouldn’t drink. Bible in one hand, beer in the other – any lost person could point this out as a confusing contradiction.
- Alcohol doesn’t bring others closer to the Lord when they see me drinking, but further away.
- Alcohol doesn’t bring me closer to the Lord, but further away.
- I want to be fully awake and ready for the return of Christ, not drowsy, sluggish and fuzzy.
- Show me a family for whom alcohol has made a positive difference in their lives. You can’t.
- I have never heard anyone say, “Wow, that gin and tonic made me feel so Christlike.”
- I want to avoid all appearances of evil.
- Alcohol makes it much harder for me to practice the fruit of self-control.
- Alcohol causes me to lose my filter.
- Alcohol is a legal mind-altering drug.
- Alcohol is addictive.
- Alcohol is a numbing agent for pain and sorrow only Jesus can heal.
- Many regrets are associated with alcohol. (I can give you a whole bunch!)
- No one has ever said, “If only I had taken a drink, things wouldn’t have gotten out of control.”
- Alcohol causes me to act in ways I normally wouldn’t.
- Alcohol kills brain cells.
- Alcohol is a counterfeit and provides a false peace.
- The Bible says that no drunkards will enter the kingdom of God. Being drunk starts with one drink. I don’t want to see how far outside the lines I can color when eternity is at stake.
- Alcohol is a waster – money, gifts and talents, destines and so on.
- Alcohol leads to really bad behavior. It is a factor in 50% of violent crimes.
- Alcohol distracts and derails you from living the victorious life for which Christ died.
- Wisdom is the principle thing that I need to pursue at all costs; alcohol makes me stupid.
- Alcohol has ruined many, many marriages.
- The only influence I should be “under” is God’s.
- The Bible tells me to be alert; alcohol delays my reaction time.
- If I don’t start drinking, I’ll never have to stop.
- Alcohol severely tarnishes my testimony.
- Don’t want your teenagers to drink? Yep, same reasons apply to you.
- God is holy; alcohol is not.
- Alcohol and prayer don’t mix.
- Alcohol and Bible study don’t mix.
- Alcohol lowers my resolve to resist temptation.
- Alcohol = Brokenness (broken lives, health, dreams and so on).
- When the world sees us drinking, it sends the message that Jesus isn’t enough.
- Moderate drinking? How about moderate pornography or moderate heroin use or moderate lying or moderate adultery?
- Christians are called to live a life of total surrender and separation from the world.
- Alcohol makes me forget. It can make me forget that I’m married, that I am saved and so on.
- “I don’t get drunk. I have only one or two drinks.” If drinking alcohol didn’t affect you, you would drink soda.
- I should never look to the bottle or glass for joy, which can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Alcohol fills my mind with impure thoughts.
- If it could hinder my faith walk or love walk or dishonor the lordship of Christ, I need to forsake it.
- Alcohol doesn’t help me run the race that Jesus has marked before me to finish with more accuracy. It does the polar opposite.
- For any argument that tries to justify Christians drinking, there are at least 50 other reason not to drink. The writing is on the wall. It’s not God’s best for Christians to drink.
These assertions may be intellectually beneath the supposedly more educated, the more scholarly, but there is one fact that cannot be denied. Though Christian compassion requires that prayers be offered and support provided for the restoration of Pastor Perry Noble, this man of God has fallen, lost his esteemed position as the senior minister of a large and influential church, given reason for the ungodly to blaspheme, perhaps caused some, even many to stumble in their walk with Christ, and others to be lost to the Gospel message altogether. None of it would have ever happened if he hadn’t taken the first drink.
Pastor Mark Driscoll, and other Christians who advocate for social drinking, are at best calling for “détente” on a baneful recreational practice that destroys millions of lives every day.
The apostle Paul asks a pertinent and pointed question in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).