Unbiblical thinking always comes home to roost

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[Emphasis mine.]

Dear BJU alumni and friends,

In 2008 BJU Press published The Christian and Drinking: A Biblical Perspective on Moderation and Abstinence by Dr. Randy Jaeggli, professor of Old Testament at Bob Jones University Seminary. The book is part of a series of short monographs published by the Seminary to help Bible-believing Christians apply biblical principles and discernment to difficult issues. Taking an inductive approach, Dr. Jaeggli presents Scriptural, medical and cultural evidencethat brings the reader to the conclusion that a Christian should totally abstain from the beverage use of alcohol.

A Problem
The sensitivity and complexity of the topic of the book, combined with the brevity (72 pp.) and inductive arrangement of it, have caused confusion for some readers. They have concluded from some select portions of the text that Dr. Jaeggli condones a Christian’s moderate use of alcohol, which is the opposite of what the book actually teaches. Articles have been written questioning Dr. Jaeggli’s research and Scriptural interpretations, Bob Jones University’s position on the use of alcohol has been questioned, and some of you—our alumni and friends—have asked for clarification.

Our Position
Let me assure you that the University’s position on alcohol has not changed throughout our history; BJU does not believe the Scripture condones the beverage use of alcohol to any degree by Bible-believing Christians. Please read our complete statement on alcohol use on our website: http://www.bju.edu/welcome/who-we-are/position-alcohol.php. All of the administration and Bible and Seminary faculty, including Dr. Jaeggli, fully support complete abstinence from alcohol and teach and preach this position. 

The Solution
While our position is clear and we stand by Dr. Jaeggli’s conclusion that Christians should completely abstain from alcohol, we do not want the University to be in a position of causing confusion or misunderstanding among our Christian brethren. Therefore, we are temporarily pulling the book from distribution. Our plan is to rewrite and edit those portions of the text that have been misunderstood and reissue the book. Please understand that the revised edition, while clarifying earlier in the book that the evidence leads a Scripturally-sensitive believer to an abstinence position, will continue to approach this issue in a way that differs from some approaches of the past,which have become less tenable over time. 

As alumni and friends you are a key part of the university family, and my purpose in writing this e-mail is to show you the University’s heart in this matter and to clarify our position. 

Stephen Jones
There are some days when I am (relatively) proud of my BJU heritage. Today is not one of them.

Dr Randy Jaeggli is a professor of OT studies at my alma mater, BJU. As part of the seminary’s continuing series of short booklets on difficult interpretation questions, he wrote a “biblical examination of the issue of alcohol” which was recently published by BJUP.  The Sword of the Lord crowd and others have thrown down the gauntlet to attack Jaeggli’s scholarship, integrity, mental capacity, and (*gasp*) separateness from the world.

I have not read the book. I understand from the various online rantings and ravings that Jaeggli came to the bluntly obvious conclusion that Scripture does not ever condemn the use of alcohol. Any argument for abstinence must be drawn from extra-biblical (cultural or medical) reasons.  Knowing Dr Jaeggli (I took a wonderful grad course on Isaiah from him in 1997), I am sure his scholarship was unquestionable. I don’t agree with his abstinence conclusion personally, but I respect him for putting the discussion back on extra-biblical grounds (which is the only viable option for someone who abstains). I certainly know plenty of people who choose not to drink, and as long as they don’t define that as a biblical imperative, we’re all good.

Not exactly on pins & needles, I have been waiting to see how the BJU administration would respond to the virulent attacks by radical Fundamentalists on Dr Jaeggli’s booklet.  Jaeggli stands on Scriptural footing, but of course, that is far from adequate in a world governed more by backbiting, character attacks, and the supremacy of tradition over biblical argumentation.  I had hoped Stephen (Jones — the 2nd son of Bob III) and the Board of Trustees would stand behind Jaeggli on the foundation of sound and accurate Scriptural exegesis.

While nothing in the above letter is particularly surprising, I am deeply saddened by the backpeddling. The language is laughable. Essentially — “because people are too dumb or ignorant of the principles of sound exegesis and inductive logic to understand that Jaeggli isn’t a drunken liberal, we are pulling the book from the Press catalog & the shelves until we can make Jaeggli (or someone else) edit into the text a clear, repetitive statement that the Bible demands abstinence. We do this in the hopes that the SOTL crowd won’t separate from us over their incorrect understanding of what the Bible actually says.”


So 1) people are too dumb to handle the Scripture for themselves;
2) when people misunderstand, BJU’s job is to remove well-written exegesis and replace it with “party-line” propaganda; and
3) when push comes to shove, keeping the constituency happy is THE most important priority for the Administration – not biblical truth.

Oh, and
4) Fundamentalists talk a lot about separating for the sake of theological/doctrinal purity — in fact, “separation” is THE highest virtue — yet, when the opportunity arises to draw a line about something truly biblical (not music or the length of one’s hair or third-degree associations), Fundamentalists capitulate again and again. The biblical doctrine will be sacrificed to maintain “friendships” with unbiblical factions.

I left Fundamentalism when I realized they cared more about syncopation than the purity of the doctrine of inspiration & preservation (the KJV/Received Text issue). This is yet another example of an unbiblical emphasis gone amok.

PS> While I’m here, I’ll mention the other reason I’m disappointed today in BJU:
I just ran across the latest version of the Graduate Bulletin (course catalog). … I’m sure these changes aren’t new, but the Masters degrees in the seminary have been reworked now to include “male” and “female” tracks.  When I got my MA in Bible (and granted, I was only the 3rd woman to ever earn the degree at the time, and #2 girl was a year ahead of me), we took everything the men did and benefited greatly from that level of intellectual stimulation.  Writing a sermon outline isn’t a male job.  Learning to exegete well is a gender-neutral task.

I highly doubt the woman’s exegesis course is as rigorous or challenging as the men’s.


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