We are a married couple, a New Testament professor and a theology professor, both Presbyterian ministers, who will comment on important topics that affect Christians. In line with the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Philippians (4:8-9), our perspective will be to encourage Christian maturity.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Does the Bible Guide Us about Marijuana Use?
Today one hardly hears anything from the
church or larger Christian community against the dangers of marijuana. This was
not the case during the Jesus revival in the 1970s when marijuana first became
popular.We found constant statements
against marijuana in the Jesus people newspapers. For example, “Veteran of over
200 Trips says: “I had to do something always because I didn’t want to be
bored…,” a Baptist youth whose drug use left him “almost dead, physically and
mentally.”The same issue included “An Open Letter to
Timothy Leary,” from an “ex-follower,” responding to the ex-college professor
drug pundit who became a poster child for the ‘60s drug movement, asking: “Oh,
Dr. Tim, where have you gone? You and all your false prophets. You started a
psychedelic revolution—a religious renaissance, or so you called it. You set
yourself up as our great high priest….Where are all your prophets now? Now,
when I need help?...I just wanted to tell you that your new religion of
Tuning-in, Turning-on, and Dropping-out isn’t doing it for me….I’m losing a lot
of my friends. They say I don’t communicate—in fact, they tell me I don’t do
much of anything anymore. Do you still have any friends, Dr. Tim? Don’t bother
writing me, Dr. Tim. A lot of my friends are turning-on to Jesus and I’ve been
watching them carefully. They’ve got something that you or I don’t have, Dr.
Tim. They’re full on the inside and they say that Jesus is with them all the
time making them feel like that….They say they are resting in God thru Jesus
is the church’s voice now?
The apostle Paul in his letter to the
Ephesians challenges them to walk wisely and use their time well. Being filled
with the Holy Spirit helps a believer understand God’s will. But becoming
intoxicated with alcohol or marijuana is not
the way to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
For this reason, we encourage you not to support the use nor legalization
The reason drunkenness and use of any
mind-altering substance is wrong is because the ability to be filled with the
Holy Spirit in users decreases, the ability to understand God’s will decreases,
the ability to do God’s will decreases, with the result that ‘wild living” or
“lawlessness” increases (Eph 5:16-18). “Wild living” (asotia, also translated “debauchery”) also occurs in 1 Peter 4:4.
There Peter exhorts his Christian readers not to act as they did as unconverted
Gentiles who live in “licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing,
and lawless idolatry” (1 Pet 4:3). He called these actions “excesses of
dissipation” which cause blasphemy. Paul also warns elders they should strive
to have “a faithful child,” not one “wild” or outside of their control (Titus
1:6). Drs. Janice Phelps and Alan Nourse explain in The Hidden Addiction and How to Get Free that within 15-30 minutes
the person stoned on pot loosens inhibitions and loses awareness of time. There
is definite loss of memory of the immediate past so that a person who starts
expressing an idea gets halfway through a sentence and then can’t remember what
he or she started to say.
In effect, marijuana and alcohol reverse
the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:19-25). The addicting substance overpowers the
human will and excludes the Holy Spirit who genuinely frees the human will.
Drs. Phelps and Nourse describe a dinner gathering where marijuana is produced.
They observe that within 30 minutes the previous interesting conversations all
disintegrated. People began talking with no one listening. Eventually, everyone
gave up on conversation.
How can you love anyone if you cannot even listen? Joy and self-control
Finally, marijuana can become an idol. I
remember one young man who had been a phenomenal evangelist but who never fully
stopped smoking marijuana (“he could stop anytime,” he said) becoming so
addicted that he revolved his whole life on its obtaining and consumption. He
told us: “I love everything about it—the way it looks, the way it smells, the
way it feels.” As Drs. Phelps and Nourse observe, he had arranged his whole
life to fulfill his addictive needs, and “absolutely nothing—pride, economics,
health, or relative values—was allowed to get in their way, ever”.
Marijuana slowly results in less and less desire to please God. The person
appears more and more self-centered, but in reality increasingly focuses on
centering his or her whole life on using marijuana like “communion.” Marijuana
users become a new “church.” Instead of the body of Christ bearing more and
more fruits of the Spirit---love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control -- the body of Cannabis bears more and
more works of the flesh: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, use
of drugs, hatred, strife, anger, quarrels, drunkenness, carousing (Gal
5:19-22). For example, Gil Kerlikowske, the White House director of national
drug control policy, said a study by his office showed a strong link between
drug use and crime. Marijuana was the most commonly detected drug found in 54%
of those arrested. Marijuana was the most popular drug used by men who’d been
arrested in New York, Denver, Atlanta, and Chicago. The
Apostle Peter describes such people as “those who indulge their flesh in
polluting desires, and scorn authority” (2 Pet 2:10). They are “waterless
springs and mists being driven by hurricanes” (2 Pet 2:17). The drug
precipitates a “hurricane,” a powerfully controlling wild force making the
human will in contrast a “mist”—a weak and insubstantial breeze. Peter observes
“those who scarcely have escaped living in error, being slaves themselves of
corruption, are promising so-called freedom. However, the freedom is actually
slavery because one is enslaved to what one succumbs (2 Pet 2:18-19).
Therefore, use of such a harmful drug is specifically included as a work of the
flesh along with idolatry and hatred and other actions which, if kept up and
never changed, according to Galatians, can keep us from inheriting God’s
kingdom (Gal 5:21). Behind this and other drugs enters an unwanted guest, the
The Apostle Paul specifically tells the
Galatians not to use drugs. Pharmakeia
in 5:20 is often translated “witchcraft” or “sorcery,” but Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon defines it first as “use
of drugs” then as “poisoning or witchcraft.” Pharmakeia is not Wicca per se, rather it is ancient witchcraft,
especially Satanism, that would use drugs to poison or induce altered mental
What can you do to erode away the
magnificent calling we have from God? Take marijuana or become drunk. Then the
Holy Spirit can no longer fill you up with good fruits, you will lose the
ability to use your time well or to understand and do God’s will, slowly
poisoning your body so the Evil One can slip in and become a controlling
hurricane, your free will becoming merely a mist, your life wild, directed by
forces other than God.
Is this what we want to promote in
others? Is this what we want America to become? As Christians, we should be a
positive influence in our society. We can at least use our vote responsibly.
Our ultimate goal should be to restore transgressors in a spirit of gentleness,
as Paul explains in Galatians: “brothers and sisters, if even someone is caught
in any wrongdoing, you, the spiritual ones, restore such a one in a spirit of
gentleness, looking to yourself lest you also be tempted. Carry one another’s
burdens and thus fulfill Christ’s law” (6:1-2).To “restore” is to repair such a person back into the fabric of
Christianity. “Restore” is also used in ancient times for mending fish nets (Matt
4:21). People addicted to alcohol or marijuana do not have a fully free will or
a real sense of reality. Reasons may not work with them. Rev. Joseph Kellermann
says: “It is not true that an alcoholic
cannot be helped until he wants help.” To
save a life, restoration may include mandating addicts into an in-house program
until their will is free. (Massachusetts has a chapter 35 law that helps family
members do this.) Do not simply criticize someone wallowing in their weakness.
Help them out— consistently -- trying to respect their wills, but gently. At
the same time, be careful that you yourself do not become tempted. The Miracle
Grow treatment is God’s power, which is ours through prayer and a loving
Christian community. For example, over 75% of Adult and Teen Challenge
graduates remain drug-free permanently, versus 4% of non-Christian program
graduates. Christian programs are effective because they create environments
where people are encouraged to be filled with the Spirit and be guided by the
Spirit. We have a great resource in our God, but let us do what we can that is
preventative so that many people do not get trapped. That is what our ability
to vote against legalizing marijuana will help ensure.
Mark Lindley, “Veteran Of
Over 200 Trips says: ‘I had to do something always because I didn’t want to be
bored,” Hollywood Free Paper (vol 3:
Issue 7, 1971), p.3. “An Open Letter to Timothy Leary,” p. 4.
Janice Keller Phelps and Alan E. Nourse, The
Hidden Addiction and How to Get Free (Boston: Little, Brown, 1986), 151-54.