Alcohol and Ministry – SBTS Panel Discussion


Wine makes the heart glad, but talking about it makes Christians mad.

Few subjects are more controversial in American Evangelicalism than the question of alcoholic consumption.  Convictions run deep.  Really deep.  And in many ways it’s totally understandable.  Far too many family trees have sap and strong liquor running through their branches.  And the withering effects are more than evident. 

In this panel discussion, Al Mohler and Russell Moore discuss the issue of alcohol and Christian ministry, fielding a range of questions and articulating the rationale behind their total abstinence stance.  If you would like to hear an explanation of why they have chosen this policy/stance, I cannot imagine a better venue, for it comes straight from the president of the seminary himself. 

I hesitate to express disagreement with the policy.  For while I don’t agree with their Scriptural application in this area, I appreciate the fact that neither of these men wield their convictions like a club.  Their consciences are bound (and that’s perfectly fine), but they don’t roll grenades towards those who don’t share their view. 

For myself, I think a fair and balanced reading of Scripture lead to the following (general) points:

  • Drunkenness is condemned
  • The consumption of alcohol is not prohibited (except in specific cases, like Nazirite vows)
  • The dangers of excessive drinking is pictured and warned against
  • The blessings and goodness of drinking is pictured and extolled
  • Wine is an alcoholic beverage of varying strength (there are other types of alcoholic drinks of varying strength as well).
  • Legalism is a dangerous sin
  • Consciences vary when it comes to this issue, and causing a weaker brother to stumble is a very serious offense. 

Most people formulate their views by organizing these points in different ways, and usually by minimizing or neglecting one or more of them.  For example, ignoring or greatly minimizing points two, four and six will likely lead to an unbalanced view.  The same is true when it comes to points three and seven.

At the end of the day, I think elders and deacons should not be drunkards, or “addicted to much wine.”  I think that’s the best approach.  Stick to the biblical qualifications.  There’s no need to go beyond that.  But at the same time, I think we should meditate deeply on Romans 14-15:7.  Our hearts should be firmly in tune with the affections and concerns outlined there.  Listen carefully again:

“None of use lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself… 
Or you, why do you despise your brother?…
For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love…
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding… 
It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble…
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  For Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’”

Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate

Must Listen Factor: Culturally speaking, it’s an important topic.  Every Christian should think through this issue.  That being said, I would say this particular audio discussion has a moderate must listen factor.

Further Resources: Ken Gentry and Stephen Reynolds debate a Biblical understanding of beverage alcohol use. 

For a pro moderation position alone, see the following: Protestant Transubstantiation, by Keith Mathison.  There are four articles.

Down Audio, Alcohol and Ministry.  See Picture.


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