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    Saturday, July 22, 2006

    Did you see James Merritt's comments about Ben Cole?

    Is it us, or does Merritt sound really bitter here as he tries to muddy the waters? This came in response to Ben's Dallas Morning News Oped on alcohol:

    Just a few notes of observation in chronological order:

    1. To label anyone who advocates abstinence as "older, narrow fundamentalists" is a gross and misleading caricature. First which of the 5 fundamentals does Ben Cole deny? Second, there were more than a few of the "younger" crowd that voted for the resolution. Third does "diverse" mean liberal? There are "diverse" people who call themselves Christians and even evangelicals that support gay marriage and monogamous homosexuality--is Ben Cole one of them?

    2. Is alcohol abuse and drunkenness possible without alcohol? Can the "nth" drink which finally causes the line to be crossed to drunkenness and alcoholism be taken if the first drink never is? With the answer obvious, these tragedies then can indeed be traced back to alcohol!

    3. No one is condemning all use of alcohol--this is a straw man. Alcohol has its medicinal purposes (just as Paul said to Timothy) and no one is putting taking one drink or moderate drinking in the same category as drunkenness as indeed Akin make plain.

    4. Cole exhibits a gross ignorance of the difference between the wine/strong drink of Bible days and that of today. His entire argument in one sense is irrelevant because it is comparing apples and oranges. It would be as if one would advocate that a car should not travel more than 25 mph because a horse at that speed traveling through the streets of Jerusalem would be dangerous in bible days so the speed limit of today applies accordingly. The alcohol content of wine today would be the equivalent of much strong drink in bible days!

    5. Again marriages cannot fail because of alcohol if neither party drinks, no one gets killed by drunk drivers if no one drinks, and children do not have food robbed from their tables if no one drinks. So, alcohol is indeed a destroyer of marriages, menace to families, and a highway murderer. The gun/bullet analogy is laughable. A person with a bullet in a gun knows exactly when he is a menace to others--when he points his gun at an innocent person and fires. No one knows when their line of moderation in drinking is crossed into the danger zone--which is exactly why some people can "hold their liquor" better than others. There is no one "line fits all" standard for moderation which is why the bullet analogy fails. Furthermore there is no harm to a Christian's witness by having a bullet or a gun in their home--the same cannot be said if Budweiser cans fill the refrigerators and litter the house.

    6. No one is trying to deny anyone their 21st Amendment rights--again another straw man. On the other hand just because something is legal doesn't make it right. The Supreme Court has ruled abortion on demand for all intents and purposes legal--is Ben Cole pro-life? Would Ben Cole have fought the abolitionists 150 years ago because slavery was then legal? When it comes to Christian convictions and biblical morality the Constitution is to put it bluntly irrelevant--at least to an older narrow fundamentalist!

    7. Again the statement that "it is not true that the temperate consumption of alcoholic beverages leads to debauchery" simply is not universally true. The chain smoker comes from the one who smoked his first cigarette. The drug addict comes from the one who first tried drugs. It is true that not all temperate consumers of alcohol become alcoholics but this is a totally different statement than Cole makes and no one is saying any thing differently. Furthermore, no one is saying categorically that abstinence is the only acceptable position for Christian believers (as opposed to say a pro-life position which Southern Baptists do believe is the only "acceptable" position for Christian believers). What Akin and others are saying is that the abstinence position is the wisest and most responsible position for a Christian believer where Cole would say a moderation position would be--the question is which case has the strongest biblical backing.

    8. Concerning alcohol and church leadership, God himself holds Christian leaders to higher standards as evidenced by who was eligible for the priesthood in the Old Testament and the requirements given for pastors and deacons in the New Testament (see also James 3:1). It is neither out of line from a biblical standpoint nor from a practical standpoint for the church to require a higher standard from their leadership in terms of alcohol use or tobacco use for that matter.

    9. Cole himself stretches the "flexibility" and "nuances" of the bible to the breaking point. It is glaringly evident that nowhere does he mention the key text in this matter (and other matters of potential gray areas) which is I. Cor. 8. That text is the sine qua non for any discussion on alcohol. Paul's entire point (which is so plain it cannot be denied or diluted) is the trump card over Christian liberty is Christian love. In other words liberty which is not limited by love becomes license. Paul knew there was nothing inherently wrong with eating meat sacrificed to idols just as Akin and others know that there is nothing inherently wrong with taking a drink of wine with a meal. But then Paul dropped the love bomb on the liberty platform--if steak becomes a stumbling block I will not eat it (v.9)--and according to verse 13 he never did again. Now the key question--is there anyway that having a Budweiser at a ballgame or wine-- or a Bloody Mary, rum and coke, gin and tonic for that matter--in a restaurant can be an enhancement to one's Christian witness? Put another way is there anyway those scenarios can be stepping stones to a weaker brother's walk with God? Conversely is it more likely those scenarios would harm one's Christian witness and be stumbling blocks to a weaker brother's walk with God? To most if not all (except to some young, "diverse" evangelicals) the answer is patently obvious. So, although I have the right to drink, because of Christian love and my desire to avoid any potential stumbling block to other Christians not to mention anything that could damage my witness to unbelievers I will pass-- as I have all of my life to no regrets.

    Dr. Merritt, doesn't want to get in a spitting contest with Cole.

    posted by Arkansas Razorbaptist at 7/22/2006 10:48:00 PM


    Blogger BSC said...


    I have known Dr. Merritt for many years. He's been a friend. In fact, after the convention in Greensboro, he put his arm around me in the Sheraton lobby and asked, jokingly, "are we still friends?"

    Merritt writes/thinks/talks like I do sometimes. He is a passionate advocate for the causes he believes are important. He's willing to throw everything he has into an argument, and I respect him for it.

    When I read his response, I laughed a few times, and I got angry. That is the nature of rhetoric in debate. It ignites our pathos.

    I wish Dr. Merritt hadn't questioned my commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, or the virgin birth, or the bodily resurrection of Christ, or the truth of penal substitution, or the promise of Christ's return to earth.

    I wish Dr. Merritt hadn't raised suspicion about my unqualified and unmoved position on the sanctity of human life, or the sanctity of holy matrimony.

    Nevertheless, I'm sure that Merritt knows better than to think that I have compromised on these "fundamental" tenets of our faith and witness. He was merely arguing. I don't think he was accusing.

    I thought about posting a reply to Merritt on my blog -- a spitting contest, you might say -- but I have decided against it. This issue is tiring to me, and not nearly as important as it seems.

    Sunday, July 23, 2006 1:44:00 AM  
    Blogger Kevin Bussey said...

    After hearing Ben's heart, I believe he is passionate about the inerrancy of Scripture.

    I do agree with Dr. Merritt on # 8. That has been my point all along. Is a sin to drink--NO! But is it the wise thing for Ministers--In my opinion no.

    Sunday, July 23, 2006 7:15:00 AM  
    Blogger Bryan Riley said...

    A great response, Ben. This issue is Christ and God's glory and not ourselves, our rightness, or a fine argument. I appreciate your integrity. It is too bad we can't stop fighting and start doing more of what God called us to, sharing the good news of the freedom (not the fighting) that is found in Christ.

    Sunday, July 23, 2006 2:55:00 PM  
    Blogger Paul Fries said...

    I have yet to understand why the single most written about event from our recent SBC meeting is a resolution on alchohol. I do not know of a single SBC where this is a problem, do you?

    We do have some very real problems in our churches including pornagrophy among leadership, kids going to public schools who when they leave home leave the church, broken homes, accuracy of church membership issues, just to name a few. Yet we will not/do not seem to want to address these issues.

    Monday, July 24, 2006 6:14:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    A question that has been raised on other blogs but needs to be raised again: Why in the midst of death and carnage in the Middle East (along with a multitude of other important issues) do SBCers choose to fixate on alcohol and what Frank Page did or did not advocate over 25+ years ago? No wonder we are not taken seriously anymore.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006 2:38:00 PM  
    Anonymous Ricky Le'Mons said...

    I am new to the world of blogging and am slightly confused. I have read many articles dealing with the issue of resoulation 5 of the annual convention meeting. I have read those that agree and disagree with the resolution. Several post have referenced that the writer of their post would not want to get in a spitting match with Ben Cole...Now to my confusion...

    1. I would think that entering into a spitting contest with anyone would be considered unchristian behavior. Is there a particular reason that people can't dialoge back and forth over an issue and not resort to attacking a brother or sister?

    2. I would like to know what part of resolution 5 that people disagree with. Is it all of the resoulation, a paragraph or a specific sentence?

    3. Now to the area that I am most confused about...who is Ben Cole and why wouldn't someone want to get into a spitting contest with him?

    These comments are not meant as a slam against anyone. I'm just a confused sojourner trying to make a spiritual difference in my small part of the world.

    Thank you.


    Thursday, July 27, 2006 7:29:00 AM  
    Blogger sbc pastor said...

    I am not sure that I have ever witnessed a spitting contest. Is it part of the X games on ESPN? Is Ben Cole the world record holder in that particular sport? :0)

    Thanks and God bless!!!

    In Christ,

    Friday, July 28, 2006 9:30:00 PM  
    Blogger Dorcas said...

    Ricky -

    Do you have your own blog? I need someone from Montana to put on my list of links.

    Saturday, July 29, 2006 9:16:00 AM  

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