NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A majority of Southern Baptist senior pastors and laity believe Christians should not drink alcohol and that using it could cause other believers to stumble, according to a new poll by LifeWay Research.
The survey asked Southern Baptist and non-Southern Baptist pastors and laity a series of seven questions about alcohol, ranging from their views on whether getting drunk is against Scripture to whether drinking alcohol is an example of Christian liberty.
Among Southern Baptists, 77 percent of senior pastors and 59 percent of laity believe “Christians should not use alcohol as a beverage.” Those percentages fall, though, when Southern Baptists are asked whether “Scripture indicates that people should never drink” alcohol. Forty-one percent of SBC pastors agreed with that statement, while 34 percent of Southern Baptist laity did.
Those percentages are higher than they are among non-Southern Baptist Protestants. For example, 45 percent of non-Southern Baptist pastors and 45 percent of non-Southern Baptist laity believe Christians should not use alcohol as a beverage.
Southern Baptists also are likely to believe that when “a Christian partakes of alcohol in a social setting, it is a liberty that could cause other believers to stumble or be confused.” Ninety-eight percent of Southern Baptist pastors and 71 percent of Southern Baptist laity agreed with that statement, compared to 89 percent of non-Southern Baptist pastors and 61 percent of non-SBC laity.
Additionally, Southern Baptists believe that avoiding alcohol can attract unbelievers. Seventy-five percent of Southern Baptist pastors and 58 percent of SBC laity agreed that “when a Christian does not drink alcohol, this makes non-believers who see this more interested in Jesus Christ.”
Among the poll’s other findings:
— 3 percent of Southern Baptist pastors drink alcohol while 29 percent of Southern Baptist laity do so. By comparison, 25 percent of non-Southern Baptist pastors drink, as do 42 percent of non-Southern Baptist laity. The poll simply asked, “Do you personally drink alcohol?”
— 100 percent of Southern Baptist pastors and 85 percent of laity believe “Scripture indicates that people should never get drunk.”
— 52 percent of Southern Baptist pastors (20 percent strongly agreeing and 32 percent somewhat agreeing) believe “Scripture indicates that all beverages, including alcohol, can be consumed without sin.” Among SBC laity, 58 percent agree (35 percent strongly and 23 percent somewhat agreeing).
— 47 percent of Southern Baptist pastors and 53 percent of SBC laity agree that “when a Christian partakes of alcohol in reasonable amounts, they are simply exercising a biblical liberty.” Among those same pastors, 15 percent strongly agreed and 32 percent somewhat agreed. Among SBC laity, 28 percent strongly agreed and 25 percent somewhat agreed.
Released in late September, the study polled 1,005 Protestant senior pastors and 1,004 Protestant laity by phone in April and May. To be included among the laity, a person had to attend church at least five times a year and have a religious preference of “Protestant.” Included in those samples were 405 Southern Baptist senior pastors and 205 Southern Baptist laity.
In a separate study, recent master’s-level graduates of Southern Baptist seminaries and the Canadian Baptist Seminary were asked whether they believed that “Christians should not use alcohol as a beverage.” Among all graduates who participated, 69 percent agreed (41 percent agreeing strongly and 28 percent agreeing somewhat). Among graduates employed within the SBC, 75 percent agreed (46 percent agreeing strongly and 29 percent agreeing somewhat). As mentioned before, 77 percent of SBC senior pastors agreed (60 percent agreeing strongly and 17 percent somewhat).
The study of seminary graduates invited all 1998-2004 master’s-level graduates from Golden Gate, New Orleans, Midwestern, Southeastern and Southwestern Baptist Theological seminaries, as well as the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. A “limited subset” of Southern Seminary graduates were available for the study, according to data on the LifeWay Research website.
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press.