An Observation for My Southern Baptist Friends

I don’t read Southern Baptist blogs very much. Usually, it is the same 10-12 folks on the same blogs discussing SBC politics and things of that sort. However, my friend Nathan Finn has been working on an excellent series by answering questions young Southern Baptists are asking called “Unplugged“. Nathan has continually written the best articles on the internet regarding SBC life (see especially his series on “What Ails Us”), and this series is shaping up to be the most substantive material this year to date.

One of the questions Nathan addressed was the issue of alcohol and the SBC. Many of you are aware of the recent controversy on this issue, and I appreciate Nathan’s biblical and historical analysis. Nevertheless, SBC bloggers have reacted on Nathan’s treatment of the issue, resulting in an observation I wanted to make to you.

Below are three blogposts from SBC bloggers (and no, I do not agree with their articles). Next to the post are the number of comments each post has generated this week.

1. Alcohol: Abstinence = Freedom (SBCToday) – 285 321
2. Wine, the Bible, and the Believer (SBCTomorrow) – 83
3. If Moderationists Really Cared About Drunkenness (Praisegod Barebones) – 45 52

413 456 total comments on three articles talking about what? Alcohol. You would think that alcohol is the defining issue of Southern Baptists these days, at least by the sheer number of comments and interest it seems to garner. Perhaps the words of Elmer Towns on the “Fundamentalist” Resurgence rings true when he recently wrote (emphasis mine):

In the last twenty-five years Southern Baptists have fought the battle of perceived liberalism within its ranks and bureaucracy, and most would agree that the fundamentalists have won that battle. Beginning with the election of Adrian Rogers in 1979, one self-identified fundamentalist after another has become president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and in turn they have controlled the nomination and election process of the various boards and seminaries. In due time, boards mandated that liberal-leaning individuals were not nominated to positions, and fundamentalists turned the various boards and committees toward fundamentalism.

Anyone remember this article? So anyway, I am left wondering, “Will the day ever come that we are as excited and worked up over the gospel as we are alcohol?”

And people tell me that we don’t need to recover the gospel . . .

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15 Comments on “An Observation for My Southern Baptist Friends”

  1. The truth be told; if alcohol was the only issue in SBC life, we would be doing great. But anyone who has seen the latest survey will see that there are bigger fish to fry and hush puppies to chase after. We have allowed ourselves but be distracted from the main issues of grace, evangelism and salvation of lost souls. For those who have embroiled themselves in this arena of discussion, get over yourselves and get back to a true concern for the lost. Alcohol is not an issue that should divide us and create an agenda regarding whether or not to fellowship.

    As for myself, I am an abstainer and so is the local church that I pastor. Yet, I still respect the ministry of many pastors who are on the opposite side of the bar. This issue is truly one of culture. Anyone who has spent anytime working with churches in Europe do not find alcohol as an issue at all. Stop placing cultural ideas and lifestyles above the biblical teachings and get back to the distinctives of what is means to be Baptist.

  2. Mark Says:

    Ah,yes. Another opportunity to show how WE’RE right and YOU’RE wrong, and spend all our passions on peripheral issues.

    We’re Southern Baptists! It’s what we do best!

  3. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Towns mentioned fundamentalist/fundamentalism four times in one paragraph! Hmmm… do you think that he is being unduly influenced by a particular Carner?

    The answer to your quetion, NOPE. We will only start taking the gospel seriously when the leadership of the majoritarian party repents of dumbing it down. Don’t hold your breath. Iit is really difficult to say that you were wrong when there are fat pensions and large estates on the line. Could you imagine if they did repent and then were convicted about the wealth they have accumulated under false pretense or were asked to give it back? It would devastate their families and their legacies and endanger the possibility that someone would dedicate a statue to them…

  4. Every time I read about this stuff it gives me a headache. Especially the stuff coming from certain geographic corners of the SBC.

    As a corollary, it’s no wonder that sometimes I’m ashamed to be a 4-pointer. The rest of my non-Calvinist brethren keep promoting stuff that makes me want to say uncharitable things. :p

  5. Bart Barber Says:


    Actually, I think your post here does a pretty good job of identifying why it is that we’re all talking about alcohol—Nathan decided to open a conversation about alcohol. I know that I personally had no interest in bringing it up until Nathan launched the conversation. Were you trying to suggest that the people lacking focus on the gospel and obsessed with alcohol are the same as the people who keep raising the subject for discussion?

  6. Bart Barber Says:

    By the way, I thought that this statement: “Usually, it is the same 10-12 folks on the same blogs discussing SBC politics and things of that sort.” was a perfect description not only of Southern Baptist blogs, but also of every other blog I’ve ever read. Sometimes I wonder why I do this.

  7. Were you trying to suggest that the people lacking focus on the gospel and obsessed with alcohol are the same as the people who keep raising the subject for discussion?

    Thank you, Mr. Barber, for making my case for me. Trying to bait Timmy is just lame and stupid, especially with such a childish, high school play on words as this one. We “younger pastors” expect better of those who are supposed to be mentoring us.

    I say again, sometimes it just shames me to be a non-Calvinist. Further, sometimes it just shames me that I’m a Baptist.

    Lord, forgive us who bear Your image.

  8. Bart Barber Says:


    I’m not trying to bait Timmy. I’m simply making a cogent point—I’ll be glad never to have another blog conversation about alcohol for the remainder of my life. Timmy’s post implies something quite different. Your presumption about Timmy’s post here seems to be precisely Timmy’s presumption about Nathan’s post: It must be accepted at face-value, for to seek to correct it where it errs is somehow shameful to the cause of Christ (although, somehow, to make the initial disputed assertation apparently is not???).

  9. Bart,

    In the article that I reference above, you begin by saying:

    The ongoing discussion over alcohol at SBC Today really has legs. The comment count is at 117 and rising. I’ve contributed a few to that number. One of the comments that I made resonates strongly enough with me that I’ve decided to make it a post all unto itself, slightly modified and expanded. I’ve entitled it, “If Moderationists Really Cared about Drunkenness.”

    That doesn’t exactly sound like someone who is tired of having the discussion on alcohol.

    What I am saying is that most SBC blogs center on political or hot-button issues, not the least of which is alcohol. We have been down the road time and again, and the more I read the arguments, the more incoherent and extrabiblical they become. Not only are we forgetting the gospel, we are showing how poor of an argument we make, which, I must presume, leads to more argumentation. But I digress.

    Continuing to fight over the issue of alcohol will not serve the cause of Christ or the SBC. To the contrary, it will do more to frustrate and discourage a generation of Southern Baptists raised on the inerrancy of Scripture who desire to stand on the sufficiency of the Scripture.

    As one who abstains myself, I simply hope that we will see greater enthusiasm and interest over the gospel as we do over nonessential and peripheral issues (at best) such as alcohol.

  10. Mary Lyons Says:

    Wow you sbc bloggers are so entertaining! I started swimming around a little in the blogs to see what the buzz is on Willis and his nomination and have been mesmerized. . .
    Anyway, when I saw your posting here I just had to agree, I laughed out loud at your observations about all the craziness over the alcohol issue in those three blogs, I had just noticed the very same thing and was glad someone else had as well.
    Also you are right, these blogger people are mostly the very same 10-12 people, like that bart guy up there, when does he eat?

    As a (pretty much) life long southern baptist I can certainly tell you it is wholly distasteful and saddening to see the kind of prideful posturing, anger and lack of Godly integrity in relationship that is going down in these blogs. . . did I get the distinct feeling most of these men are pastors and church leaders?
    No wonder our churches are in decline. Clearly we have forgotten our first Love. May we be so consumed with Him and His infinite holiness that we fall on our faces in repentance for our denomination.

    Since everyone seems to weigh in, I love a glass of wine now and then. And I thank Jesus when I do for His sweet gift of it to the world.

  11. Mr. Barber,

    Trying to twist Timmy’s words around on him isn’t what a “cogent point” is. It’s more like obfuscation. Much like your assumption about the way I looked at the posts in question — all you’re doing is trying to confuse the issue. This is easily seen through and it’s quite disgusting from a man of godly respect such as yourself.

    And isn’t that the root of the problem? On both “sides,” these are men we respect, or whom we would like to respect simply because of our status in Christ. Yet it’s becoming increasingly hard to do so with the language and attitudes many of them display. Timmy is right — this does not serve the cause of Christ and distracts us from the gospel.

  12. Mary Lyons Says:

    Ah, you’re all at it again. . .

  13. Bart Barber Says:


    Writing a post on alcohol simply was nowhere on my radar until Nathan brought up the subject. Now I’ll be glad to enter the topic where it is raised, but I think that Nathan gets a free pass from you for starting the whole thing, not because I or the other blogs mentioned above are any more interested in alcohol as compared to other issues that face us nor that we blog any more frequently on the subject than Nathan does, but for other reasons.

  14. Jim Pemberton Says:

    Fitting example, alcohol. Given the context of the primacy of our Lord in our lives, the principle behind Eph. 5:18 is idolatry. Pretentious debate can be likewise idolatrous and arguably lead to a more insidious debauchery than mere drunkenness.

  15. G F McDowell Says:

    Freedom = Slavery
    War = Peace
    Ignorance = Strength
    Abstinence = Freedom

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