sin

Word and Weed

One of the reasons for the length of time between this post and the last is simple disobedience. I KNEW the God wanted me to write this; I simply didn’t want to because of the reactions I am almost certain I’ll get from most readers.

And, no, it wasn’t because I was afraid of offending anyone or because I was overly concerned with being taken the wrong way, or even that I would be ignored or my stand rejected without consideration. Even though the majority of conversations I’ve had on this topic (which is coming up quite often lately) gets one of those responses, my main excuse for not posting this is because, based on previous conversations, I felt it was a waste of time.

“Why, Lord,” I asked, “Should I put all this effort into something that I know will just come to nothing?”

And, of course, the answer was the same as always in these cases. “Because that is what I want you to do, and I know the outcome – you don’t. Read your Scripture and thing back on church history. Are you so arrogant to think that you are the only one I’ve asked to do something that seems silly at the time? Get on with it!”

 So, here’s the question: 

“Is it OK for a Christian to use recreational marijuana in those states that have legalized it?”

There are really two questions to be answered. You will notice that the second presupposes a “yes” answer to the first, and that a “no” answer to the first makes the second irrelevant. Here they are:“Is it OK for a Christian to use recreational marijuana in those states that have legalized it?”  and “How much of a buzz can I get without sinning?”

Before I answer, I want to make it VERY clear that I am NOT addressing the issue of medical marijuana. I am looking at the use of recreational marijuana, even if used for medical reasons but without a prescription. There are legitimate PRESCRIBED MEDICAL uses for it, most of which do not contain significant amounts of the compound primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects.

The reason I stress prescribed and supervised medical use is because over thirty years in various ministries and two decades of my wife working at a resident teen treatment center I can without reservation state that of ALL of the many acquaintances, friends, and family members that I have observed self-medicating with controlled substances (including both alcohol and marijuana), it has NEVER turned out well.

Back to recreational use. As a follower of Christ, the primary authority should be the Bible. However, Scripture does not directly mention marijuana. Therefore, we must look at what God has said in His word about similar substances, and draw a correlation from that.

There are two topics in the Bible that most directly relate to the issue: sorcery, and alcohol.   The first requires a bit more explanation, so let’s look at sorcery first.

Although Scripture does not explicitly mention narcotic and mind-altering drug use other than alcohol, extra-Biblical writings of the times as well as the writings of early church fathers and contemporary historians indicate that the use of such drugs was an integral part of many sorcerous practices. For example, sorcerers and magicians frequently used psychoactive potions to induce visions and help in divination.  The Bible very clearly forbids the practice of sorcery and occult magic in Ex. 22:18, Mal 3:5, and Gal 5:19-21

As for alcohol, we are repeatedly reminded that we are not to get drunk. A few passages that emphasize this are  Rom. 13:13,  1 Cor 6:9-10,  Eph. 5:18, and 1 Thess.5:7-8.

So, the obviously most valid conclusion from these and other passages is that we are forbidden by God to purposely become intoxicated. In other words, getting high is equally sinful as getting drunk.

But, I’ve been asked, since we aren’t forbidden from the use of alcohol as long as we don’t get drunk, doesn’t the same apply to recreational use of other drugs?

That’s a good question, but when the effects and common uses of non-prescribed mind-altering drugs such as cannabis are examined, it becomes clear that the real questions is “Can I use marijuana anyway?”.

Here’s the BIG difference: while for the average adult it takes about two to 4 servings of an alcoholic beverage to become intoxicated, for cannabis clinical studies have concluded that in order to become intoxicated to the point of impaired judgement and reflexes takes on average 4 – 6 puffs. In other words, most adults will get a buzz from less than one joint, and a full one can get you flat out high unless you are using it frequently enough to build up a tolerance.

Coupled with the fact that no one I have interviewed or read accounts from uses cannabis in cooking (brownies or cookies, y’all?) does it as a flavor enhancer or for any reason other than to get high, it is safe to conclude that there is no safe, legitimate, or Biblically sound use for recreational marijuana. Remember, as I said before – self medicating with controlled substances has, in my observation, never turned out well.

But there are other reasons to refrain from recreational use. First of all,  in Romans 13:1-2 Paul reminds us that we are to obey the laws of the land. While Scripture does give us the obligation to break this general rule when obeying the law forces us to violate GOD’S commands, this practice clearly does not fall under that exception. So, since use of recreational use of marijuana is still prohibited under Federal law anytime you use cannabis without a prescription you are willingly disobeying the law.

Finally, Paul spend a large portion of his letter to the  Romans (Rom. 14) giving instructions about how just because we CAN do something it is often the case that we SHOULDN’T.  He emphasized that if indulging in something that is pleasurable or even possibly personally beneficial in some way is likely to cause a sibling in Christ to stumble in their relationship with God WE SHOULD NOT DO IT. 

Additionally, we must keep in mind that Jesus, in Luke 9, talks about the necessity of personal sacrifice even to the point of death and torture in order to be an authentic disciple. If we as Warriors of Faith are not willing to sacrifice even in relatively small ways by refraining from what is clearly not in keeping with God’s will or commands, then are we truly ‘warriors’ at all? I think not.

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For those who either dispute my assessment of the physiological effects of cannabis, or are unfamiliar with the research, here are a couple of sites to take a look at:

Here is a link to a clinical study discussing average amount needed for intoxication as well as some other information to think about.

Lifehacker has a fairly comprehensive article on the physiological effects of weed

But Jesus Never Claimed to be God!

This is another old argument against classical Christianity that I still hear rather often: “Jesus never claimed to be God” usually coupled with “so clearly he wasn’t”.

While there is no place in Scripture where Jesus said the words, “I am God”, the assertion that He never claimed to be God is quite very inaccurate. The argument comes from a basic misunderstanding of first century Jewish culture as well as Biblical illiteracy. No serious student of the Bible can make such a claim unless he ignores or discounts major passages of the Gospels.

The way in which Jesus claimed to be God is best summed up in the Homan Quicksource Guide to Christian Apologetics:

“In the first century, much like today, to say “I am God” would be almost meaningless. Even Roman Emperors were ascribed deity or claimed deity for themselves. What Jesus did do was claim to be a very specific God to a specific people in a very specific way. And the way in which He made His claims was unambiguous and unmistakable to those people.”
==Powell, D. (2006). Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics (pp. 310–311). Nashville, TN: Holman Reference. Continue reading

A Christlike Response to Those Who Support the LGBT Lifestyle

(Note: instead of citing Scripture throughout this article as usual, I will list relevant passages at the end)

The comment I hear quite often about Christians is that we are bigoted/intorlerant/hateful just because we refuse to condone and enable a lifestyle that we disagree with.

Granted, there are a few “Christian” groups and quite a disturbingly large number of people who claim to be Christian that oppose the LGBT supporters and practictioners in ways and with words that are hateful or demeaning in tone. Some of that is in response to the hateful, derogatory, and malicious rhetoric that constantly flows from the LGBT activist community, some out of personal animosity – but all wrong and unChristlike.

The other extreme of Christian response is to either remain silent (and by doing so giving tacit approval) or to actively approve the lifestyle. This approach is often taken out of fear of reprisal or public disapproval, sometimes out of a belief that the LGBT stand is appropriate – but this response is equally wrong, and equally (perhaps even more) unChristlike.

Unfortunately, the constant LGBT rants and name-calling, setting up straw men to knock down, and focusing on the extreme opponents that descend to their methods of public discourse is quite effective in drowning out those of us who attempt to share Christ’s view of this matter in a gentle but firm way.

I’ve noticed that there is a basic reluctance on both sides of the fence to try and really understand the worldview and perspective of the other side. I expect that from the LGBT support side; I find it disturbing from the Christian side. How can we hope to have any kind of an impact, or expect the other side to even consider our view if we refuse to listen to them?

So, here’s a short summary of what I understand both sides to believe. Keep in mind that these are general statements. Continue reading

Essentials #4: The Necessity of God’s Grace

Previously, we examined the truth that everyone is subject to God’s punishment for sin, and this time we will briefly look at the necessity of God’s grace. Before that, however, let’s review our list of essential Christian beliefs:

1. The infallibility of the Bible in the original manuscripts.
2. God’s sovereign rule over all creation
3. Human depravity
4. The necessity of God’s grace
5. The virgin birth
6. Christ’s sinlessness
7. The full humanity and deity of Christ
8. The atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Christ
9. The triunity of God
10. The necessity of faith
11. Christ’s second coming, final judgement and reign.

So far, we’ve seen that, in plain terms, God made everything (and everyone), and as Creator He has both the power and authority to make the rules and set the punishment for any offenses. We’ve also seen that every one of us had disobeyed those rules and have rejected God’s terms for life, liberty, and contentment with Him. We are all therefore deserving and certainly subject to punishment unless God Himself rescues us from it.

That act of rescue is the ultimate demonstration of God’s grace toward us. Continue reading