Aim: To explore how we make decisions about drinking alcohol, smoking, etc.
There are a number of aspects of everyday Christian living where different believers and traditions hold divergent views with equal conviction. In such cases, how do we decide what to believe and what to do? And how do we stay on speaking terms with others who hold the opposite view?!
We should bear in mind what we said earlier about the different “voices” which affect what we think is right and wrong: what the Bible says; what our church traditions say; what our upbringing says; what “the world” around says. We should also be aware of the many unrecognised influences around us, especially the powerful “Hidden Persuaders” of advertising and the Media.
“Is total abstinence from alcoholic drinks obligatory for all Christians?”_
What does the Bible say? Some examples:-
1 Timothy 5:23,
1 Corinthians 11:25-26 BUT c.f. v.21
1 Corinthians 5:11, 6:10,
1 Peter 4:3
1 Timothy 3:3,8,
1 Corinthians 6:19-20,
The Over-Sensitive Conscience and the Weaker Brother
1 Corinthians 10:23-33 BUT ALSO 8:1-13.
Romans 14:1 – 15:7
The Baptist Heritage – Freedom of Conscience
Baptists and other Dissenters through history have taken the lead in arguing that each individual (whether a believer or not) should always have the liberty to act as his or her own conscience dictates. This is based on the firm conviction that since each person can fairly be judged by a righteous God, each one must be competent to make their own moral and religious decisions for themselves. This belief is at the heart of the pattern of Baptist Churches being independent, each one governed by its own Church Members Meeting.
Tolerance (and even welcoming) of legitimate diversity on matters of conscience should be a strength of all Baptist Churches. But how should this be expressed in the matter of abstinence?
Are there other Biblical or moral considerations which might apply here too?
To think about
How do these principles apply to other areas of “conscience”, e.g. smoking?
What about other drugs, from illicit drugs like cocaine, to caffeine in coffee and tea?
What reasons do we have for condemning the use of some drugs, while praising God for others which save and improve lives? (Remember that opium has had both kinds of use!)
What about issues like pacifism, and even our use of Sundays?
Can we extend these principles to other areas of our lives which some Christians see as matters of taste but other people regard as questions of conscience?
Some examples might be styles of worship, fashions in clothing or music, and lifestyle.