Tongues, Drinking Wine and Footwashing
Bloggers beware. This one blisters. I have been contemplating for some time (roughly nine months) the goal, the mode of operation, of some of the future, would-be leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, i.e. Burleson, for example. I have been, in particular, thinking about the subjects that they use to illustrate their new-found liberty in Christ that has released them from the chains of the good-ole-boy SBC system to a new era of truly biblical ministry and missions. I speak namely of the two issues of drinking alcohol and speaking in tongues.
At the Greensboro convention (’06) Mr. Burleson gave an impassioned plea as to how he had been freed from the legalism of a myopic, narrowed-minded, biblically uninformed Southern Baptist perspective on the subject of drinking alcohol. He even posted on his blog how drinking wine had actually assisted him in leading a person to Christ.
In addition, the subject of speaking in tongues has become a hot-button issue as an indicator that a person has been released from the chains of traditionalism to the freedom of spiritual empowerment that may be expressed in practicing a private prayer language. These two subjects, more than any other, have been continuously raised as the marks of a mature believer, a person who has moved past the silly answers Southern Baptists have given in the past in relation to these two issues.
Needless to say, these two issues have raised quite a stink among Southern Baptists.
When I listened to Burleson at the convention and read his blog I thought a very profound and theological thought – YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME? These two important, but secondary issues are the high-water marks of spiritual maturity? These two issues are the badges of maturity of the new SBC leaders? As Burleson gave his eloquent soliloquy on this issue, and other issues, I thought to myself- YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME?
Alcohol and tongues mark spiritual maturity? Brothers and sisters, we’re in trouble if these are the marks of spiritual maturity.
Let me be clear. Some of the answers Southern Baptist leaders have given on these issues in the past have been silly and uninformed. Let’s also be clear – Scripture does not specifically forbid taking a drink; it does forbid drunkenness. And whether one is a cessasionist, semi-cessasionist, or one who believes in the continued operation of all the gifts, including tongues, these issues are never used in Scripture as the exclusive markers of spiritual maturity. In essence, these new would-be leaders have made what have been traditionally viewed as secondary issues central issues to the evaluation of the spiritual maturity of the believer and, in part, of an entire convention.
I do not drink because I have made it a non-issue in my life, not because I’m a prude or narrow-minded or believe that if I take a drink I’ll lose my salvation, etc. I have simply declared that volatile issue a non-issue in my life. I am free from the entire decision-making process as to whether or not to take a drink in a given situation. Should I imbibe? Who is watching? Is there an immature brother or sister present? What are the consequences if I drink? Etc. I never have to look over my shoulder when it comes to alcohol. I am free to move forward without having to worry about this issue. Besides, most Christians I know who desire to drink spend so much time arguing themselves and their associates into or out of drinking that it gets ridiculous. I am stunned at how much time some people spend on this issue. If you choose to drink, have at it. But remember what one mature layperson told me one time – the world will never fully understand a believer who has a Bible in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other. So, why make it an issue?
And concerning tongues? Never in Scripture is speaking in tongues required to demonstrate salvation or spiritual maturity. If a person desires to speak in tongues in a private prayer language that is his/her business. Yet, I do know from Scripture that this gift was divisive even back during the earliest times of the church. Just ask the First Baptist Church of Corinth. I can fully understand why a mission sending agency as large as the International Mission Board would regulate this issue. The IMB has not obliterated or banned a ‘spiritual gift,’ as some have argued; they have simply said that this gift is so controversial that we do not want it to become an impediment to the cause of Christ.
So, I say to our would-be future SBC leaders – YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME? Get over it and grow up. Now if you want to talk about some core issues let’s talk about the exclusivity of Jesus Christ (which is under attack), the authority of Scripture, the integrity of leadership marked by personal holiness and questions like ‘Is Allah the God and Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?’ or what about the issues of open theism and how such a concept destroys the biblical doctrine of God? What about the growing interface between the concept of biblical humanity and the field of genetics?
If I were to raise an issue that is controversial, yet that may demonstrate more spiritual maturity than either of the aforementioned issues it would be foot-washing (John 13:1-17). Can you imagine hundreds of Baptist churches conducting foot-washing services? In fact, some brands of Baptists consider foot-washing to be a third ordinance, in addition to baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Can you see me standing up at a convention meeting and asking the messengers to adopt a resolution on foot-washing? Yet, foot-washing is never a requirement for service and is not the only way to demonstrate spiritual maturity. This is why I don’t push the issue at all. But you get my point.
So, if we are going to make alcohol and speaking in tongues central issues rather than secondary issues we have deeper problems then we think. YOU GOTTE BE KIDDING ME!