An ETS ethical dilemma

Two baptists walk into a hotel room. (I realize that sounds like the beginning of a bad and highly inappropriate joke.) Since the hotel messed up their reservation the night before, they find waiting in the room a nice pile of goodies, including a bottle of wine. One of the two baptists is under contract with a school that does not allow the faculty to drink. The other baptist is under no such obligation. What do you do?

Now, I would hope that if you were the first baptist, you would refrain from drinking. Over the years I’ve known a few people who taught (or studied) at schools with requirements like this, and they felt perfectly free to violate the policy whenever they wanted because “It’s a stupid rule.” To be honest, I don’t really care if you think it’s a stupid rule. If you signed an agreement with a school in good faith, you have a responsibility to hold up your end of the bargain. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else. (Having said that, I’ll also say that I really appreciate being a part of an institution with a very different ethos. Western Seminary does not ask its faculty to sign such policies, trusting us to understand what a biblical lifestyle should look like and to act accordingly.)

So, that takes care of the first guy. But, what if you’re the second guy? What do you do? Do you crack open the wine and drink away, preferably taunting your friend at every opportunity? Or, do you refrain and spend the evening grouchily reminding your friend that there are other schools around?

A truly challenging ethical dilemma indeed. This real-life situation transpired here at ETS this week. And, I have sad news to relate. The first baptist held true to his convictions and was prepared to give the bottle of wine away. The second baptist chose instead to drink said bottle of wine. The sad news is that the first baptist was planning on giving the wine to me! Stupid second baptist. He clearly failed the test and must proceed directly to ETS purgatory – attending yet another paper.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on November 19, 2010, in Humor. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I am sure a similar story spawned the phenomenon of naming a church “First Baptist.” *wait–I pastor a First Baptist!*

  2. Very similar to the joke that…

    “Unitarians are people don’t recognize the Trinity;
    Protestants are those who don’t recognize the authority of the Pope;
    And Baptists are those who don’t recognize one another in the liquor store.”

    I still laugh…and cry for the schools who micro-manage (and misunderstand) holiness by focusing on the use of alcohol (which Jesus basically requires, cf. Eucharist). 200 years ago when I applied to DTS I kindly declined from pledging to abstain from either alcohol or tobacco – I mean come on! How can you do theology without tobacco!?

    • “How can you do theology without tobacco!”

      Nice 🙂

      • Interesting question that has haunted the Reformed in Holland for well over a century. And perhaps Baptist minister Elijiah Craig would have been distraught to find his ‘creation’ of the formula for bourbon whiskey in the 1780’s would have never be permitted to flavor the Dutchman’s favorite cigar then or even today. Well, I supposed it was predestined anyway 😉

  3. pgroach: I am Baptist and a student at DTS! 🙂

  4. if you’re the second guy, you do nothing to cause your brother to stumble.

    another example where the biblical ethos and teaching of love is far on the periphery of our Christianity.

    i think even the manner to which we discuss the topic shows our understanding of love.

    as i’m a student at Southwestern Baptist seminary with the no alcohol policy, i do find the situation funny as I have had to check my freedom for the sake of respect and love for my brothers.

    knowledge puffs up, love builds up…

  5. Quincy, I would definitely agree that the second Baptist shouldn’t do anything to cause his brother to stumble. I actually know the first Baptist in this story rather well, and I don’t think he had any problem with the situation. So, I do not think the second Baptist did anything wrong here.

    I think we also need to reflect on what it means to cause another person to stumble. It does not mean that I must refrain from doing anything another Christians feels he/she can’t do. But, it does mean that I shouldn’t lead someone into acting in such a way. There’s a difference there that I think is important. So, I’d agree that we must at times restrict our own freedom for the sake of others, but we shouldn’t turn this into a blanket policy (law) that offers a universal prohibition on such actions.


    Baptists one and two pray over the wine, get some bread and take communion together until the bottle is empty. Reminded of their unity with one another and indeed all the brothers and sisters at ETS they are especially kind-hearted and generous during the papers and debates that follow.

    • But, since Baptists generally done use wine for communion, that would probably only work if they pretended the wine was really just funny tasting grape juice.

      And, are you suggesting that ETS would go better if all the Baptists just drank more? Interesting thought.

      • Ah, but you didn’t ask for “what do Baptists generally do” you asked for a solution.

        And, actually, “funny tasting grape juice” is a pretty good definition for wine.

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