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Accommodating the Teetotaling Legalist


by Jason Smathers on July 3, 2009

I have been reading WORSHIP: The Regulative Principle And The Biblical Practice of Accommodation by Ernest Reisinger and Matthew Allen. The last three chapters of this book deal with Christian liberty and accomodation. Accommodation is a Biblical Doctrine, but sadly it is not well understood. Founders Ministry is the only place I have seen anything about this doctrine. @graceb4me was kind enough to help me track down a brochure called The Principal of Biblical Accommodation as Applied to the Invitation System by Ernest C Reisinger and Lawrence T. Spargimino along with a CD on the topic by @tomascol. This out of print brochure was tucked away at the Grace Baptist Church vault and Barb Reisinger was kind enought to dig it up and make me a copy.

Although materials on this doctrine are scant, the doctrine is Biblical and has implications in all areas of Christian living. The examples of applying the doctrine of accommodation used by Reisinger and Allen are concerning the inviation system, however, the first area I thought of was alcohol. The prevailing position in Southern Baptist life is abstance. A couple weeks ago @hereiblog blogged Alcholism Vs Legalism which stirred up a bit of controversy. Dealing With Legalism on @SBCVoices quickly turned into a discussion on alcohol as well.

Let’s look at applying the Biblal doctrine of accomidation to alcohol. Just as Paul had the right to collect a wage from the church in Corinth, we have the right to consume alcohol. Also like Paul, the correct choice at times is to willingly restrain from exercising our Christian liberty to accomodate our weaker brothers. In the case of alcohol, the weaker brother is the legalist and Paul instructs us how to accomodate them in Romans 14. Paul is discussing the consumption of meat, but the application is the same for alcohol. We are to teach our weaker brothers the freedom we have in Christ so they can grow in understanding of the word. In the meantime, we are to abstain in the presence of legalism. Becoming all things to win souls in this case can mean becoming a teetotaler. If you are a leader in a church legalistic on the issue of alcohol and refuse to accomodate your weaker brothers in this way, they will disregard everything you say because they will not get past this one issue. With time, you can instruct your weaker brother on the liberties they have in Christ and they God will break them of the bondage to legalism.

We do need to be careful that we do not compromise. Accomidation is not compromise, @tomascol is quoted by Reisinger and Allen on the issue of compromise. He puts it much better than I can, so I will allow him to explain:

Accommodation and compromise are two altogether different entities. They are not merely different degrees on the same scale, i.e. with accommodation being 1 to 5 and compromise being 6 to 10. They are different in kind and not merely in degree. At times they may look alike, and they may even appear indistingusihable at points, but they in essence are vitally different. Accomodation and compromise may live on the same street. They may even be next-door neighbors, but they are not of the same family. There is no blood relationship. And while it is sometimes hard to distinguish between them, it is vitally important to do so.

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