Study: Majority of Protestants Say Alcohol Consumption is Not a Sin

Although an overwhelming majority of Protestant pastors and lay people agree that Scripture indicates people should never get drunk, only less than a third say it forbids drinking, a new study showed.

Slightly more laity (29 percent) than senior pastors (24 percent) agree people should never drink alcohol, according to the latest study by LifeWay Research. Moreover, senior pastors (68 percent) are more likely to agree that reasonable consumption of alcohol is a "biblical liberty" compared to lay people (54 percent).

Yet, 90 percent of clergy, compared to 63 percent of laity, say a Christian drinking alcohol could cause other believers to stumble or be confused.

Overall, the majority of Protestant pastors and laity do not consider drinking alcohol a sin.

Christian opinion on whether the Bible condemns drinking alcohol is varied with ongoing debates between churches completely opposed to alcohol and churches that hold a more liberal view that a lot of times argue that Jesus and his disciples drank wine and that Jesus even turned water into wine.

Leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention – the largest Protestant denomination in the country – are more conservative on the issue. They reaffirmed last year their stance against the manufacturing, advertising, distributing and consuming of alcoholic beverages.

Southern Baptist clergy are less likely to agree that Scripture indicates it is not a sin to drink alcohol than other Protestants, the latest LifeWay survey found.

Among senior pastors, 41 percent of Southern Baptist pastors at least "somewhat" agree that Scripture says people should never drink alcohol compared to 21 percent of non-Southern Baptists.

Southern Baptist pastors and laity themselves are less likely to drink alcohol or to condone drinking it than other Protestant pastors and lay people.

Research further showed a gap between Southern Baptist clergy opinion and that of their laity. SBC pastors are much more likely than laity to agree that Christians should not drink.

Seventy-seven percent of Southern Baptist pastors say Christians should not use alcohol as a beverage while 59 percent of laity agree.

Only 3 percent of Southern Baptist senior pastors drink alcohol compared to 29 percent of lay people. Among non-Southern Baptists, 25 percent of clergy consume alcohol while 42 percent of laity do so.

Furthermore, three quarters of Southern Baptist pastors agree that when a Christian abstains from drinking alcohol, this makes non-believers who see this more interested in Jesus Christ. Over half of SBC lay people (58 percent) agree. Non-Southern Baptist pastors and laity are even less likely to say the same, with less than half (47 percent and 44 percent, respectively) agreeing that abstinence from drinking may attract non-believers to Jesus Christ.

Findings are based on a survey conducted this year between April and May among 1,004 Protestant laity who attend church at least five times a year and 1,005 Protestant senior pastors.

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