By Bob Allen
Moderate drinking and the ministry don’t mix, a Southern Baptist seminary president said in a chapel message April 2.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said it’s just the second time in 50-plus years of ministry he’s preached on the topic of drinking.
“I don’t like to talk about this kind of thing,” Patterson, said, adding that he would rather preach about the gospel, but “in this day in which we live, it has been incumbent on us to address this issue.”
“I do not address the issue of what is usually called substance abuse today from the viewpoint of entertaining another age of legal forbidding of the drinking of alcoholic beverages,” he said. “I’m not asking for that.”
“I am addressing specifically a group of people,” he said. “I am addressing those who are to be ministers of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Patterson said “there has been no little information of a misleading nature coming from those who are also proclaiming themselves to be preachers of the gospel” when it comes to the subject of alcohol.
He cited Bible passages including “wine is a mocker” from Proverbs and the story in in Genesis 9 about Noah, awakening from a drunken stupor, cursing his grandson Canaan to become “the lowest of slaves.”
“Now let’s get this straight,” Patterson said. “He was not turned into a black man. That is pure Ku Klux Klan propaganda. It’s absolutely not true. Not a single thing that has anything to do with the text has to do with that.”
What the text is about, Patterson said, is “that here was a supposedly righteous man, a preacher of righteousness, who imbibes and as a result he visits upon his own family, upon his own grandson, the judgment of God.”
“Make no mistake about it,” Patterson said. “When you begin to drink, when you begin to imbibe, what you are risking every single time is the judgment of God on those who follow in your wake to whom you are the most closely related and who you love with all your heart. Don’t do it to them.”
Patterson cited high social costs of alcohol abuse.
“If those who are opposed to guns in this culture could produce anything like the number of gun-related deaths and accidents that are a part of the alcoholic work of our country, we would rise up and throw all the guns in the ocean,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that very few people die from gun-related deaths, a small fraction of those that die as result of alcohol-related deaths. Where is the hue and cry against alcohol?”
Patterson described drinking as “the social order that nobody wants to face, because, ‘Hey, I like my booze, and so leave me alone with it.’”
“Alcoholism is a weakness of sin in the human body,” Patterson said. “There is no alcoholic gene that makes you automatically an alcoholic, but there is certainly overwhelming abundant evidence that some people with just one drink are immediately alcoholics.”
“Don’t let anything – don’t let marijuana, don’t let any other drug, don’t let alcohol – become the ruler of your life,” Patterson counseled. “They are rulers that do not care about their subjects. They are rulers that take their subjects and lead them to bankruptcy. They are rulers that take their subjects and they take them down a merry line until such time that their home is destroyed and their life is gone and their ministry is over.”
Patterson said the number of ministries cut short by alcohol is “legion,” including one just weeks earlier on the seminary campus.
Patterson admitted that there is no command in the Bible that says “thou shalt not drink” but “there is also no line in the Bible that says thou shalt not mainline heroin.”
His response to people who say that drunkenness is sinful but there’s nothing wrong with drinking in moderation? “That’s my exact perspective and viewpoint on murder,” he quipped. “I do it only in moderation.”
“When all the statistics say what they say, when the number one industry in America responsible for all the sorrow and hurt and heartache that come about is the liquor industry, how on earth can you, as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, take alcohol to your breast?” he challenged seminarians.
“Our world’s going to continue to drink,” Patterson said. “Prohibition didn’t stop it. Nothing’s going to stop it. The world’s going to continue to drink.” But for those called to the work of the ministry, he said: “There is a wise way. There is a better way.”