By Rodney Kennedy
Dr. Paige Patterson has taken a time machine back to the 1950s to suggest that there is something immoral about having a glass of wine. By his own admission this is only the second time he has ever spoken about the subject. Would to God that he had refrained from this second attempt. His biblical support is weak. The quote from Proverbs is offset by a larger narrative in Proverbs 9: “Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls from the highest places in the town, ‘You that are simple, turn in here!’ To those without sense she says, ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.’ Wisdom invites us to her table of bread and wine.”
The mythical story of a drunken Noah hardly makes the case against drinking in moderation. Noah got drunk. The text doesn’t say he had one glass of wine.
Jesus turned water into wine. Someone puts it, “The water saw its master and blushed red.” Jesus not only made wine, he made fine wine. Jesus and his disciples drank wine. The Lord’s Supper was served with bread and wine. In Matthew 26, Jesus says, “I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” The fruit of the vine is wine and Jesus says that wine will be served at the banquet table in the Father’s kingdom. The author of I Timothy says that the deacon should not indulge in much wine. Titus says the bishop should not be addicted to wine.
Patterson’s assertion that the number of ministries cut short by alcohol is “legion,” is simply that – an unsubstantiated assertion. The single case that he references at Southwestern Seminary may only beg the question that the theology of inerrancy being taught there, along with the notion of “biblical womanhood,” is enough to drive a preacher to strong drink. His equating gun-related deaths with alcohol-related deaths makes no logical sense. His generalization that there are not many gun-related deaths is simply absurd. Gun violence is a major killer in this culture. America is the most violent country in the civilized world. His quip about drinking in moderation as analogous to murder is simply silly. A murder is a murder. A single glass of wine is not the same as drunkenness. His suggestion that one glass of wine might make a person an alcoholic is right out of the 1950s.
Patterson is right to bemoan drunkenness, drunk driving and excessive drinking. He is right about the devastating impact of alcoholism on our society, families and individuals. I gladly join him in this line of attack. Yet if he is arguing for teetotalism for preachers, he fails to make his case. Even Paul suggested that a little wine is good for the stomach.
Having reading Dr. Patterson’s remarks I poured me a Sam Adams. This beer is for you, Mr. Seminary President.