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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Christians and Weed

I recently took a trip through Oregon and Washington, both states where recreational marijuana was "legal". (That's in quotes because it's still illegal by federal law, but I guess no one is looking.) In the lobby of the hotel we stayed in where they have all those brochures on things to do in the area, there was a brochure on where to find weed as well as enlightening information about cannabis in its various forms and effects. Coming from a state where it is NOT legal, of course, this was shocking.

For my entire life where I grew up in the era of the drug culture I've had no problem answering the question, "Is it okay for Christians to smoke marijuana?" It was easy. "The Bible says to obey the authorities (Rom 13:1). They say 'No'. So, our answer is 'No'." But some states have changed that position and others (mine included) are preparing to follow suit. Now I'm going to have to pursue the question further. Is it okay for Christians to smoke marijuana?

First, I need to say that I disagree with those who see a clear answer in 1 Corinthians 6:19. You know, the standard "Christians shouldn't smoke because 'your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.'" With that kind of perspective, you'd need to avoid living where there is smog, failing to exercise, even eating Twinkies. You would have to see anything unhealthy as sin. The text, however, is about sexual immorality. So I can't give that one as a blanket answer.

So, the first question you'd need to ask should be easy (since I already used it): "Is it legal?" It isn't in the United States. Some states allow it for medical purposes; others for recreational purposes. Federal law still calls it illegal. But it could be argued that "It's legal in my state" ... if it is. If not, you have your answer.

A real question you'd need to ask yourself is "Why?" Why would you want to? What do you hope to accomplish? As believers, we are supposed to love God and love our neighbors, the two rules of Christian living. How will it assist you in doing so? We are commanded to make disciples. How will this make that happen? That is, is this something of value? I can't actually see how it could be. There is, of course, the medical side that could be considered and it might be argued that, from the medical point of view, it might make you better able to serve God. I cannot find any justification from a perspective of God's purposes for us that would include the use of recreational marijuana, but you should ask yourself these kinds of questions.

As it turns out, there are several aspects to marijuana. One is THC, the compound in marijuana that produces psychoactive effects. In nature, plants don't exceed about 30% THC, but we've improved on it and you can get concentrates up to 95%. Clearly the aim of this product is ... psychoactive effects. Another component is cannabidiol (CBD). This stuff isn't psychoactive. In fact, it can counteract the effects of THC. This is the source of medical effects. Some tests suggest that it can reverse alcohol-induced brain damage, decrease social anxiety, treat schizophrenia and even "turn off" the cancer gene found in metastasis. In some forms, it is also a sleep aid. There appears to be a large number of conditions that CBD can affect. So this form would be a different question.

So, what about Scripture? What does it have to say? Obviously, nothing. The effects of marijuana weren't discovered until 1964. Still, God's Word is not completely silent on the subject. We know, for instance, the command
"Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." (Eph 5:18-20)
Paul says we shouldn't be "intoxicated". We would say "under the influence." Paul says it's "dissipation". The word is "profligacy", a shameless waste. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, make melody in your heart to the Lord, give thanks. Lots of things better than "under the influence." But maybe you don't like the connection of "drunk" and "stoned". So how about this?
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21)
The deeds of the flesh are focused on self. Part of that selfishness includes "drunkenness". Included in the list is "things like these." Surely you'd have to admit that the use of recreational marijuana is aimed at exactly the kinds of things Paul is warning against -- immorality, impurity, an appeal to the senses, drunkenness or, at least, "thinks like these".

The good news for you is that I don't get to make the rules and you get to examine the Scriptures for yourself and see if this is what was intended. As for me, I cannot seem to correlate "getting high" with anything remotely positive in the life of a Christ-follower. You'll have to decide that for yourself. If it's illegal, the question is pointless. God says not to violate the law. But I'm pretty sure, as America's moral conscience dies, it will be a question for you to examine beyond the legality of it. I hope I've given some useful places to look when you do.


Alec said...

Hi Stan,

This seems to be a bigger issue amongst the younger Reformed than one might think.

You've drawn out two essential points which seem to be missing in some other discussions of this issue. First, the way in which marijuana has been engineered to deliver certain effects - medicinal or "recreational". Second, the distinction between THC and CBD. The big problem for Christians using this drug relates to THC.

The Bible is pretty clear about alcohol intoxication:

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1) See also: Proverbs 31.4, 23.29-35, and of course the strange and terrible account of Noah in Genesis 9.21-23.

God warns us that mind-bending drugs like THC will be used exceedingly in the last days. The Biblical term is φαρμακεία (pharmakeia) translated "sorceries" in Revelation 18.23:

for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.

Should we smoke a jay? "Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread." -Alexander Pope


Stan said...

I agree, Alec. But let me ask you. What about CBD? What about the component that provides medicinal applications without intoxication? Would you say that this should be avoided, also? On this I'm not so sure.

Smoke some weed? I think Scripture precludes it. Use some carefully processed plant derivatives for their non-psychoactive, medicinal qualities? I think that might be okay.

Alec said...

The issue of medication for illness is a broad one. CBD (without THC) seems to fall into that category.

But, it gets complicated. A very large percentage of pharmaceutical drugs have psychoactive and/or mood effects. For example Prescription drugs that cause depression or worse.

Perhaps grandma's advice is worth repeating: Take medicine only when you must, and for as short a time as possible.

Stan said...

True. Not all medicines are created equal. (And what's up with these "anti-depression" medications that cause depression? Did someone misunderstand the intent?)

Bob said...

question ? how can i get high and communicate with clear conscience with the LORD?
the battle for sobriety is hard enough, but to add a guilty conscience, that is just too much to bare... i have met many christian's that feel that toking a joint once and awhile is fine, so long as it is done in moderation. after all didn't Jesus make the water into wine??
the argument for moderation is just more rationalization. i believe we should keep our garments clean.. we are the children of the promise after all. pray that He will deliver us from temptation.

Stan said...


David said...

One major point missed, everything we do should be to the glory of the Lord. I know in my own life there are too many things I don't do for His glory, why knowingly add another? If someone can give a reasonable example showing how getting high glorifies God, then we can consider it. I don't see that happening.

Stan said...

I wouldn't say "missed", but not explicitly stated. It was in mind when I said, "I cannot find any justification from a perspective of God's purposes for us." David (not you, the other one) went so far as to say, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless." (Psa 101:3) That is, "I want to avoid the not just 'bad', but the pointless."

Jeff Lucas said...

Stumble, stumbling block, conscience, and idolatry. Those are four words that we should all have a solid understanding of when discussing the scripture's knowledge about this subject. Many say the bible doesn't say much about marijuana. And I agree, specifically. But there are many general references, i.e. herb, flower, corn, food, grain, etc. etc. that would include the cannabis plant. And when you consider passages like Colossians 2:16-23, and 1Timothy 4:1-6, and the gnostic asceticism it speaks against, you can see that these dietary standards are not good in the church.
Paul lays down in Romans chapter 14 a condemnation. One judges his brother, and his brother despises him for it. He commands us not to judge, nor despise our Brother over a matter of foods and drinks.
Faith and conscience is at the heart of that chapter. While one Christian may not see one good reason to smoke marijuana, and thinks it would be unpleasing to God to do so; and another Christian from a different culture sees it as a blessing and wishes he had plenty of access to lots of fresh cannabis for juicing and plenty of seeds for eating;
Christ died for both of us. And we shouldn't try to Lord our convictions over each other, or leave our Christian brothers feeling alienated from the body of Christ- speaking in matters of nonessential doctrine of course- which I would consider whether or not one consumes cannabis or not nonessential; just because someone smokes pot does not prevent him from coming to faith in Christ.

If you have a facebook, check out the group page "Christian cannabis fellowship". It's a group I am a part of. You might be surprised at what you find.

I will enjoy reasoning and discussing with you!
God Bless
Jeff Lucas

Jeff Lucas said...

Chapter 14.—Three Good Reasons for Abstaining from Certain Kinds of Food, By St. Augustine

"35. It is clear, then, I think, for what end we should abstain from flesh and wine. The end is threefold: to check indulgence, which is mostly practised in this sort of food, and in this kind of drink goes the length of intoxication; to protect weakness, on account of the things which are sacrificed and offered in libation; and, what is most praiseworthy of all, from love, not to offend the weakness of those more feeble than ourselves, who abstain from these things. You, again, consider a morsel of meat unclean; whereas the apostle says that all things are clean, but that it is evil to him that eateth with offence. And no doubt you are defiled by such food, simply because you think it unclean...
Prove then to me your doctrine that flesh defiles the eater, when it is taken without offending any one, without any weak notions, and without any excess."

And second-

St. Augustine's response to Faustus the Manichæan,
shows the difference between Manichæan and Christian asceticism:
"You, on the other hand, deny that the creature is good, and call it unclean, saying that animals are made by the devil of the worst impurities in the substance of evil and so you reject them with horror, as being the most cruel and loathsome places of confinement of your god...for your idea, and motive, and belief in abstaining from such food is, that they are not typically, but naturally, evil and impure. In this assuredly you blaspheme the Creator; and in this is the doctrine of devils. You need not be surprised that, so long before the event, this prediction regarding you was made by the Holy Spirit."

Gnostic errors are widespread, they appear century after century, and shows itself in many forms of religion, not merely in distorted forms of Christianity. The demonization of the cannabis plant since the 1930's is an example of this Gnostic tendency resurfacing in society, a byproduct of the modernistic world view.

IMO of course!. If you have a facebook, check out the group "Christian Cannabis Fellowship", a group I am a part of. You might enjoy some of the perspectives we offer. I'd like to hear your thoughts on it and maybe discuss our position there to contrast and compare with your blog.
God Bless
Jeff Lucas

Stan said...

I am not on Facebook, so I cannot check out your group. Sorry.

So, what I hear you saying is that there is no reason why Christians should not get high. I offered biblical reasons to think otherwise which you didn't refute, so I'm not sure where you go from there. Based on the arguments you're using (against "demonization" of things that come from nature ... like cannabis or hops and barley?), are you arguing that intoxication, be it by cannabis or alcohol, are not things for Christians to avoid?

I do think it's interesting that you started with "Stumble, stumbling block, conscience, and idolatry." Today's post was on the giving up of Christian liberty so that we will not cause others' consciences to be harmed. It was about voiding your own liberty for the sake of others. You referenced the "don't judge" without comment about not causing others to stumble. It appears as if you're only using Romans 14 as a justification for doing what you want on this subject. Did I misunderstand?

Jeff Lucas said...

Most seasoned cannabis consumers don't show any signs of intoxication. It's more comparable to tobacco than alcohol.
What I find occurring with cannabis prohibition is quite similar to the prohibition of other foods and drinks, such as alcohol. It appears to me as a form of gnostic asceticism resurfacing in society today through the influences of modernism and postmodernism.
-and what you say about behaving in a love motivated manner to prevent the harming of our brother's conscience is something I agree with entirely. But that doe not mean that my liberty should be judged by another man's conscience.

I can think of three study helps that would be good to help you better understand my position; Wayne Grudem had a word that is relevant, and the TDNT on "conscience" and on "stumble" are also relevant to what we're talking about here- it's a lot to read, but I'll offer it to you for when you have time to consider if you think they're relevant too.

Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology
The Sufficiency of the Scripture
#5. With regard to the Christian life, the sufficiency of the Scripture reminds us that nothing is sin that is not forbidden by scripture either explicitly or by implication. To walk in the law of the Lord is to be “blameless” (Ps. 119:1). Therefore we are not to add prohibitions to those already stated in scripture. From time to time there may be situations in which it would be wrong, for example, for an individual Christian to drink Coca-Cola, or to attend movie theaters, or to eat meat offered to idols (see 1 Cor. 8-10), but unless some specific teaching or some general principle of Scripture can be shown to prohibit these (or any other activities) for all believers for all time, we must insist that these activities are not in themselves sinful and they are not in all situations prohibited by God for his people.
This also is an important principle because there is always the tendency among believers to begin to neglect the regular daily searching of Scripture for guidance and to begin to live by a set of written or unwritten rules (or denominational traditions) concerning what one does or does not do in the Christian life.
Furthermore, whenever we add to the list of sins that are prohibited by Scripture itself, there will be harm to the church and to the lives of individual believers. The Holy Spirit will not empower obedience to rules that do not have God’s approval from Scripture, nor will believers generally find delight in obedience to commands that do not accord to the laws of God written in their hearts. In some cases, Christians may earnestly plead with God for “victory” over supposed sins that are in fact no sins at all, yet no “victory” will be given, for the attitude or action in question is in fact not a sin and is not displeasing to God. Great discouragement in prayer and frustration in the Christian life generally may be the outcome.
In other cases, continued or even increasing disobedience to these new “sins” will result, together with a false sense of guilt and a resulting alienation from God. Often there arises an increasingly uncompromising and legalistic insistence on these new rules on the part of those who do follow them, and genuine fellowship among believers in the church will fade away. Evangelism will often be stifled. For the silent proclamation of the gospel that comes from the lives of the believers will at least seem (to outsiders) to include the additional requirement that one must fit this uniform pattern of life in order to become a member of the Body of Christ. "

Jeff Lucas said...

-the second study help-
TDNT, highlights on Conscience – SUNEIDESIS

-No less than 8 of the 14 passages in Paul are concentrated on the issue of idol meats.
-Paul means something more comprehensive than a subsequent bad conscience
-Not to be defined as a power of religious and moral evaluation or the like which can be detached from man; it is man himself aware of himself in perception and acknowledgement, in willing and acting
-When dealing with the strong and weak in R. Paul can use PISTIS (faith) instead of SUNEIDESIS
-Members of the Congregation who are weak because they are used to idols have not yet won through to the liberating acknowledgement of the truth that they themselves are known and acknowledged by the one true God beside whom there are no other gods but only created things, v.3,7. They are thus threatened at the very heart of their being when as the weak they try to achieve the insight of the strong, v.7, 10f. But because Christ died precisely for the weak (v.11) the strong should know and acknowledge a weak self-awareness better than the weak themselves can do, v. 13. For the self-awareness which condemns itself there is thus set up a liberating boundary from without…
-For the strong the true perception of the freedom established in Christ carries with it a demand that they should accept the weak… this does not imply that the strong might be hurt by the reproaches of the weak, for their freedom is not subject to the judgment of others., v.29a b. What it does imply is that the strong, in the freedom they have on the basis of grace, should not lead the weaker brethren astray, wounding their conscience and thus bringing themselves into ill repute, v. 29a, 30.
-Paul can make positive statements about conscience which are not to be found in the world around. The self-consciousness based on God can be sure of itself in a good and positive sense. Thus Paul can glory in the witness of his conscience which has confirmed that he has walked in holiness and integrity… even though the verdict of conscience is positive, it is not an autonomous verdict, but one which is based on God’s Word.
-Paul takes SUNEIDESIS with a comprehensive breadth and variety not found in any of his predecessors. For him it is no longer just the popular bad conscience or the Hellenistic-Jewish ELEGXOS. It has now become the central self-consciousness of knowing and acting man. With few exceptions it had never been anything like this before in literature.
-The whole complex is encircled and held together by the new thing which Paul connects with the idea of conscience- he declares that man is acknowledged by the one true but gracious God in Jesus Christ.

Jeff Lucas said...

and the third, I hope you enjoy the thoughts and discussion!

Stumble (TDNT)
II. Specific New Testament Use.
3. Offense of conscience, R.14:20, Ac. 24:16

Phrase κακον τω ανθωπω τω δια προσκομματος εαθιοντι in R.14:20 does not fit too smoothly into the use of προσκομμα (and προσκοπτω) elsewhere in Paul. The δια here certainly denotes the accompanying circumstance (cf. 2C. 2:4 and Gl. 4:13). The subject of the whole section is faith and conscience (753, 9 ff). Hence there are two possibilities of interpretation. 1. The reference may be to falling in faith; this takes place when a man acts contrary to his conviction and thus betrays it. In this case one should translate: "it is bad for a man if he eats and offends his conscience by his act." ie. "with a disturbed, resisting, bad conscience." On the first interpretation προσκομμα corresponds almost exactly to the προσκοπτω of the next verse (v. 21). But the second is more accurate, for in this context Paul seems to have the cleavage between conduct and conscience in view in his use of διακρισις (v.1) and διακρινομαι (v.23 ®III, 947, 27 ff). δια προσκομματος in verse 20 is thus very close to the sense of διακρινομενος in verse 23. In both the same cleavage is in view as in R. 2:15, which is again dealing with the witness of conscience. In the passage 1C.8 and 10, which are in part parallel to R.14 even in detailed argument. Paul frequently refers to the distress of conscience suffered by the weak, 8:7, 10, 12; 10:27 ff. What he means by δια προσκομματος in R.14:20 corresponds in some sense to the τυπτεαθαι or μολυνεσθαι of συνειδησις in 1C. 8:12, 7. If the meaning of προσκομμα in verse 20 diverges from that in v.13 or the meaning of προσκοπτω in verse 21, this is in keeping with Paul's habits of speech. He can use the same word in two quite different senses in the same passage and even sometimes in the same verse, cf. κρινω in R.14:13

b. the probable thought of R.14:20 is undoubtedly present in Ac. 24:16; εν τουτω και αυτος ασκω απροσκοπον συνειδησιν εχειν προς τον θεον και τους ανθρωπους δια παντος. A συνειδηοις απροσκοπος is either "a conscience which takes no offence" at one's own actions, "a quiet or clear conscience before God and man", or it is "a conscience which suffers no hurt" through one's acts, "an unharmed conscience." Either way the sense is close to that of συνειδηοις αγαοη in Acts 23:1 or καθαρα συνειδηοις in 2Tm. 1:3. Whether one may rightly say that the theology of a good conscience is a sign of lateness here is very doubtful in view of the genuine concern of Paul for conscience in 1C. 8 and R.14 lines 2 ff.; 753, 19 ff.

Stan said...

Okay, let me see if I understand you correctly.

Science says that the THC in cannabis is psychoactive. The legal definition of "intoxication" is "A state in which a person's normal capacity to act or reason is inhibited by alcohol or drugs." But your position is that "psychoactive" and "intoxication" do not apply to cannabis use? In your point of view, this is not "under the influence" and not what Paul referred to as "drunk", "things like these", or "profligacy"? (Or is "seasoned users" a key element here, where the "new" or "novice" users are intoxicated, but once you become "seasoned", you get over it?)

Your biblical approach is interesting in that you are ignoring completely what I wrote today on the subject of Christian Liberty (Wayne Grudem's thing to which you referred). It looks like you do not believe that a believer needs to be concerned if exercising his freedom causes injury to the conscience of fellow believers. By your line of argumentation, Paul would have to have been mistaken when he said, "Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble." (1 Cor 8:13) What he should have said is that he wouldn't eat meat again if it caused himself to violate his own conscience.

I'm always disturbed by Christians that decide to take the extreme version of Christian Liberty: "nothing is sin that is not forbidden by scripture either explicitly or by implication." "Well," they will say, "then we can do just about anything at all!" Scripture is silent on drinking and driving, so that's okay. There isn't a peep about porn on the Internet, so that's okay. Now, mind you, I'm not saying this is what you're saying. It just looks like this is precisely the kind of thinking that your perception of the principle would precipitate.

But, look, it isn't really possible for me to "enjoy the thoughts and discussion" when the thoughts are a flood, a book I will need to read over the next few days, so to speak, that doesn't really allow for discussion. Flooding the comment section in a world practically built on "too long/didn't read" will make it a very difficult discussion.

One of my key questions in the essay was "Why?" You're vigorously defending the use of cannabis (I can't tell if you defend it even if it is illegal) for Christians. Why? For what purpose? What do you gain? How does it help you in "all that Jesus has commanded"? It is clearly important to you that you make this point. What is the importance of cannabis use in the Christian life?

Jeff Lucas said...

We speak of intoxication, and that is a valid point. But again, it takes about two weeks of regular use before the side effects begin to wear off. And we're talking about smoked cannabis there. Raw cannabis flowers, unheated, will not cause an intoxication at all. There's no way it would qualify the koine greek usage of the word drunkenness, imo.
I'm not saying liberty of conscience is a license to sin. That would be an antinomian development from the ascetic rule. Causing your brother to betray his own convictions through his acts (stumble)is a grievous sin. But so is commanding another from a thing in which his conscience sets him at liberty. There are legitimate uses in consuming cannabis.
Take for instance, 9 year old Alexis Bortell of Texas. She started having epileptic seizures, and no medicines were working. They moved to Colorado and started giving her a cannabis oil extract, and she hasn't had a seizure since she started taking it.
-She also made "Christian Citizen of the month" at her new school in Colorado :)

We also see the nutritional value of cannabis seeds in our overall health. They've got protein, amino acids, fatty acids, you can actually get hempseed and hemp oil food products at health food stores.

but here's the "why"; that gnostic germ I'm talking about stifles evangelism and alienates people from the congregations. It is DANGEROUS. And it's far more principled and doctrinal than one generally imagines, scripture, tradition, and reason, the timeless principles applied encompass everything from vaccines to Big Macs and soda pops... we shouldn't view the material aspects of God's creation as evil. And so the question becomes, just like you said in your blog, "is this something that God wants me to do?"
-and for some of us in different cultures of society, and in certain situations the answer is "yes". Remember, Paul said "I will eat no flesh lest I make my brother stumble", also said "eat, asking no question for conscience sake"...

Alec said...

Hi Stan,
It's a shame that Jeff is choosing not to respond to your points in the article, and in the comments, but is instead holding to his point (which he has asserted but not yet proven) that THC in marijuana is analogous to nicotine in tobacco and/or that pot is food.

Stan, you make an important point:

But, look, it isn't really possible for me to "enjoy the thoughts and discussion" when the thoughts are a flood, a book I will need to read over the next few days, so to speak, that doesn't really allow for discussion. Flooding the comment section in a world practically built on "too long/didn't read" will make it a very difficult discussion.

A sad thing about public relations driven culture is the idea that using people to advance your marketing agenda is ethically fine. I hope Jeff is not choosing to do this here on your blog in an attempt to boost his social media group.

Was that your intention Jeff? Please say truthfully it isn't so!

Stan said...


I addressed in my essay the question of medicinal use of cannabis. The CBD compounds in cannabis are not psychoactive and do not produce a "high" or "intoxication" effect. I wasn't concerned about those. That aspect is not in question. In fact, as I understand it, doctors have been legally prescribing CBD for patients for some time, even outside of states where medical marijuana is legalized. So we can agree on the medical aspects apart from the psychoactive aspects.

My essay was about recreational marijuana -- specifically the THC use. I asked in the essay, "Why?" I still have to ask that question. (I have to ask it about everything.) Why use a psychoactive drug? How does that help me to serve Christ? How does that bring greater glory to God? These ought to be the primary concerns of every believer. It seems to me that the psychoactive component of marijuana is aimed at precisely what Scripture warns against -- intoxication. Now, if it is true that cannabis use can cause intoxication and if the Christian in question is using it for that purpose and if that Christian says, "Well, in the culture of society in which I live this will enable me to get closer to people to share the gospel," I have to wonder where the line is drawn. A Christian might say, "If I sell drugs it might enable me to get closer to other drug dealers to give them the gospel." A Christian woman might say, "If I become a prostitute it might enable me to get closer to other prostitutes to give them the gospel." Yes, I'm being extreme. My point is that the question first must be whether or not it is intoxication and whether or not God tells His people to avoid it.

I cannot base my understanding of Scripture on "alienates people". While I seek to be at peace with all men, Scripture is crystal clear that the world will hate the message we bring. God's abundantly clear prohibitions against sexual immorality, for instance, do not make Him popular with people in our culture. That doesn't mean I get to negate it to avoid alienating people. Nor am I suggesting that marijuana or Big Macs are evil. I'm asking the question from the aspect of the effects and the motivation about which Scripture does have something to say. It is not my job to tell unbelievers that they are not meeting God's full expectations for His people. It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict the world of sin. But if a believer wishes to follow all that is commanded (as Christ said) and if I care about fellow believers (as Christ commanded), I think it is incumbent upon me to point out to fellow believers seeking to obey God that it looks to me as if God's Word is opposed to wasting our time and mind in chemical intoxication (alcohol, cannabis, or anything else) and we would be wise to spend our time and money elsewhere. My goal is to focus all that I do on following Christ and glorifying God. I cannot imagine how "getting high" does that, nor can I see how "getting high" is not a violation of the injunction not to get intoxicated (since I've already said that the medicinal, non-psychoactive side is not an issue). So far you haven't helped me see that differently.

Jeff Lucas said...

-I’ll break my comments into 3 parts
-1.When you pull a flower off of the cannabis plant, or use raw, fresh cannabis for juicing, It is loaded down with a substance called THC-A. This is not an intoxicating substance. If you heat that THC-A, it will become Delta 9 THC, and that does produce euphoric effects. It’s the delta 9 THC that recreational cannabis consumers are after. You literally have to throw the raw flower into the oven at 250 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes before it will produce a euphoric effect. It’s a process called decarboxylation.-And again, these euphoric effects are side effects. They dissipate after a few weeks.
So I will maintain that the effects of cannabis hardly qualify a “drunkenness” position in the koine greek that Paul used when penning scripture. That definition is a drunk for real. “May cause drowsiness” doesn’t’ qualify what Paul was speaking of. Nor does John Calvin’s annual ration of 250 gallons of wine. Now, there’s metaphoric uses of the word “drunken” in the Bible, but literally, it’s a falling on the floor sloppy alcoholic. Or maybe a heroin addict “nodding off” on a street curb or something.
It’s not describing the same experience, that’s not a typical “pothead”. But I have a feeling experience is the only way to prove that point. Other than consuming oneself, one might be able to discuss with other cannabis consumers to learn about what it’s effects are like. But for a guy who never consumed it before, or experimented a time or two… that person would only know what its effects are from an observational standpoint.
But I’m being sincere, not just trying to “win” a discussion. To compare; If you get yourself one of those old “Lucky Strikes” or “Camels” or “Pall Mall” cigarettes, it will nearly knock you off your feet. One can literally feel the nicotine moving through their veins, then all tingly and nauseous. For those first few minutes, that little bit of tobacco is more impairing than cannabis to an experienced or seasoned user. And yet, we wouldn’t consider a tobacco consumer “drunken”. Even a substance as simple as table salt has an effect on our minds, but we wouldn’t qualify that as “drunken”. I would suggest the same is true with cannabis use. So your point that “the question first must be whether or not it is intoxication and whether or not God tells His people to avoid it.” Is a place where we would differ in opinion. I would say “no, smoking pot by a seasoned user does not qualify drunkenness”, and you would say “yes, it does”.

Jeff Lucas said...

-2. Another simple point concerning intoxication and sobriety, that I think I can follow your reasoning on. Take the hypothetical of a person on his deathbed being administered morphine. -Now I know we’ve made exception to the medical uses of substances, and are specifically talking about a person smoking cannabis to get the delta 9 thc and produce those euphoric effects… what purpose does that recreational use serve the Lord? But the intoxicating effects are the same in either case. If drunkenness is sinful for a teenager sitting next to Timothy Leary thinking he’s “expanding his mind”, why is there an exception there for a guy on his deathbed, about ready to experience that same intoxication? I guess what I’m asking is, for that guy on his deathbed, what is the “sober” thing to do? Seems like taking the intoxicating, mind altering substance morphine would be the sober thing to do.
Now that’s just a hypothetical, and not a good one at that. A guy on his deathbed has right reason, whereas the kid drinking alcohol to “catch a buzz” really does not. But my point is that the intoxication is the same. The drunkenness is the same. There shouldn’t be a grey area there. It should be very contrasted, you’re either drunken, or you’re not. You’re either lost in a sinful, mind gone state, or you’re not. If a drunkard is not going to enter the kingdom, that’s the end of it, whether it’s a college kid at a frat party, or an old man on his deathbed.
My own thoughts; the guy on his deathbed is being “sober” and making a sober decision to consume morphine to alleviate his pain. Alexis Bortell consuming a THC oil, is the sober thing to do. And to contrast, the kid smoking weed to produce euphoric effects, is being human, and a fleshly one at that. God is providing two seemingly opposite instructions for both. But when a clear conscience and right reason and “be ye sober” are the basis of one’s decision, it becomes a very consistent response. It’s no longer about the substance, but rather about the ministry to which it is devoted. As Christ said “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, what comes out of the mouth defiles a man.”

-3. As far as alienation goes, one does need to consider the alienation of our CHRISTIAN brothers and sisters because the scripture condemns that alienation over dietary matters in Romans 14, Colossians 2, and 1Tim.4. That alienation is what the Gnostics were doing to the Christians at Colossae, and prompted Paul to write quite the condemnation (Col.2:16-23). It’s why I feel, a deep knowledge and understanding of the Gnostic heresies of the second century (a very dynamic and broad scope of heretics) provides us the framework to best understand how we are to view the use of substances in our diets today- and it’s a broad principle, it encompasses our approach to everything- whether it be cannabis, alcohol, medicines and vaccines, a Big Mac, a Soda Pop… anything that the world is implying is “evil” and “unhealthy”… we need to think those things through like Christians. We’re sitting here straining gnats over delta 9 THC… What did God say about giving to us every herb bearing seed? The early church fathers already hashed this out for us, we just got to go back and rediscover their apologetics. The Gnostics figured all matter to be evil. God sees it all as “very good”. So we in a way must learn to view matter, such as the cannabis plant for instance, as “very good”, and yet still be able to discern the proper and improper uses of the substance. And you can’t argue that abstinence from cannabis- and the more fully developed commanding others to abstain, is the “absolute right thing to do for all believers at all times.” There is right reason to consume delta 9 THC, whether we can conceive of those things or not. To deny this is to deny God’s handiwork in creation and take on a dualistic world view… a very gnostic one at that. Not to be too sarcastic, but “He didn’t make it green with seeds and say ‘Behold I have given it to you for food’ by mistake.”

Jeff Lucas said...

- While I see we differ on the intoxication question, I do sense that we agree that the question “is this something God wants me to do?”, is of a primary consideration, and that our actions are in obedience to the Lord and in service for Him from the bottom of our hearts. That’s the question that every individual Christian must answer for themselves. And if a person feels it’s sinful or unpleasing to God, and he does it anyways, he has turned his back on his conscience, and harmed it by betraying his convictions. He “stumbled”. It is that clear conscience void of offence towards God and men that is most important.
-But I also propose the question, why did he “stumble”? Because he thought it to be unclean, and ate it anyway. He didn’t follow his convictions. As the scripture says “he who doubts is damned if he eats”… that’s what happened there. Now, your point that we shouldn’t do things that cause our brothers to be emboldened to betray their convictions like that is well taken here and in your blog yesterday, but such is not always the case when consuming cannabis. Consider Church history of Eusebius, book 5 chapter 3. There’s a story about two Christians in prison named Attalus and Alicabades. I’ll not quote it here, but check it out sometime.

Stan said...

So, Jeff, how many books have you written on the subject? (I mean ... wow! ... that's a lot of stuff to read.)

Having both smoked marijuana and smoked cigarettes, I have to say that my experience disagrees with your position that they are the same or similar. But that's not my primary issue.

It seems as if you're saying that the primary use for cannabis is not to smoke it, to get high, to obtain the psychoactive results. Now, we've already set aside the medicinal, non-psychoactive use as not the point, so what other use for cannabis is there if not getting high? Why is it classified as an illegal drug if it is not for getting high? I ask out of ignorance, obviously. I get medicinal use and we're not talking about that. If not the euphoric effects, what?

In your point 2, it sounds like you're backing out of the "It doesn't get you high" point. It sounds like you're saying, "Yes, it does, and that's okay."

I'm baffled by point 3 at a couple of points.

"One does need to consider the alienation of our CHRISTIAN brothers and sisters because the scripture condemns that alienation over dietary matters"

It sounds like you're saying that the alienation we need to avoid is judging, not harming their conscience. This is not consistent with the texts.

"What did God say about giving to us every herb bearing seed?"

So, what is your current use for poison ivy, quinine, or aconite? (Aconite is an herb that causes heart arrhythmia, respiratory system paralysis, and death.) If "God gave us every herb bearing seed" means "They're all good to use", what's taking you so long to use these? If, on the other hand, you agree that not all herb bearing seeds are good even though they are "given by God", then we're back to the question of whether or not cannabis intoxication is good for Christians.

You continue to talk about condemning that which is evil or unhealthy. I'm not. I'm talking about whether or not it is a good thing for Christians to do something, not whether or not the thing itself is good or not. (Besides, having already and repeatedly stated that I'm okay with medicinal cannabis, it should be abundantly clear that I am not, therefore, stating that cannabis is evil.)

"You can’t argue that abstinence from cannabis ... is the 'absolute right thing to do for all believers at all times.' There is right reason to consume delta 9 THC, whether we can conceive of those things or not."

I'm waiting for you (someone, anyone) to give me the right reason for Christians to get high. Clearly I cannot conceive of it. No one is offering any. (And, interestingly, again, while you started with "It's not about getting high", you end up back here at "There is a right reason to get high.")

Is it your view that the only conscience you need to avoid offending is your own? It looks like you don't believe offending other Christians -- causing other Christians to stumble -- is an issue.

But, in the end, I'm still without answers to the critical question. How does X (it doesn't matter what X is, although in this dialog it is "smoking marijuana to get high") glorify God? How does it assist me in following His commands? Whatever it is -- be it what I eat, what I wear, what I watch, or what I do -- I am always aiming for glorifying God. No one is offering any suggestion as to how this particular activity -- getting high -- does this.

Jeff Lucas said...

I should write a book… LoL!
You ask "how does it glorify God?" Let me give it a shot-
He has given it to us for our sustenance. Historically the cannabis plant has been cultivated by mankind since the dawn of time for fiber food and oil, with a 4000+ year old documented medical history with not one recorded death as a result of toxicity. The effects of cannabis certainly were not just recently discovered in 1964 as you suggested in your original blog. Our brains produce THC like compounds, and our bodies have an endocannabinoid system that acts as an overall immune regulator, and by consuming cannabis, one can supplement this endocannabinoid system to improve their quality of life… it is a blessing! We glorify God when we say “look what He has created for us to sustain us in life!” A plant that can power our cars, build our houses, feed and clothe the poor, arrest the development of glaucoma and stop a full blown asthma attack… Thank God for providing for us!

Now I don’t know what you’re experience is smoking weed or cigarettes (I never touch the stuff… :) ), but most people seem to enjoy it. It is a blessing to them, kind of like a nice cold beer after a hard day’s work for a beer drinker. It’s relaxing and relieves stress, and helps a person wind down. Those effects are a part of the design of existence by a holy and wise creator, they have purpose. It’s not drunken, they're “akrothorakes”. And it’s a stumbling block to them to hear that Jesus is going to set their hair on fire and send them to hell for smoking weed, especially before they even hear who Jesus is. They never hear the Gospel, and what they do hear seems entirely wrong. How can something so beneficial be sinful to use? They come to church once or twice and feel alienated, hiding how they feel from others, and never really get opportunity to grow with his fellow believers. We need to be watchful of that alienation.
I agree that you are recognizing good legitimate “Scripture approved” medical reasons to use cannabis, and by default see a goodness in it. But there is natural leading to the view that the material aspects of God’s creation can be somehow evil in themselves, from the arguments you have presented. We should be aware that the early church fathers went to great lengths to refute that view, and avoid that same mistake in our theology.
In my first comment, I quoted Augustine giving three good reasons to abstain from certain kinds of foods. Those three reasons are good, Christian reasons. Aside from those reasons, we’re free to eat and drink. Those things are a blessing to us.

On the point of eating poison ivy, I think Justin said it best in his dialogue with Trypho, “"As you interpret it, the thing is incredible. And first I shall not occupy myself with this, though able to say and to hold that every vegetable is food, and fit to be eaten. But although we discriminate between green herbs, not eating all, we refrain from eating some, not because they are common or unclean, but because they are bitter, or deadly, or thorny. But we lay hands on and take of all herbs which are sweet, very nourishing and good, whether they are marine or land plants." And then remind you that cannabis is a very nutritional herb!
As far as causing weak Christians to stumble; Without emboldening them to stumble, they need to grow up. To the pure all things are pure. It is indeed true that all things are clean. It is their failure to study the scriptures that leaves them weak and vulnerable to stumble to start. The false image in their world view about the thing, that is the stumbling block, the idolatry, the “not seeing it the same way God sees it… which is “very good”; not the fact that a person with a clear conscience uses cannabis. That weak person needs to start trusting the scriptures, like Alicabades did.
Let me offer a list of scripture. Hope I don’t get accused of “cherry picking”…
Mark 7:17-23
Romans 14
1Cor. 8:1-13
Col. 2:16-23
1Tim. 4:1-6
Rev. 2:14-15

Stan said...

I've been fascinated by the numbers of people arguing in various places that getting high is certainly a godly thing to do based on that Genesis reference, "And God said, 'Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.'" (Gen 1:29) Interesting, since God specifies that it is "for food" and I know of no one who smokes marijuana "for food".

You're referencing the effect of "It's wrong for Christians to get high" on the unbeliever. I'm not sure why. Telling an unbeliever that they are not glorifying God by smoking marijuana is nothing I've ever done, let alone telling them that Jesus will set their hair on fire for it. Seriously, you've known Christians who said such nonsense? The title was "Christians and Weed" and was aimed at Christians. Unbelievers have no interest in glorifying God. And I'm not interested in moralizing them. So in this line of reasoning as well as the next, where some people might see my argument that Christians are not best glorifying God by getting high as a statement that marijuana is evil in itself, is it your understanding that I shouldn't say anything that might be misunderstood or abused?

On the Scriptures you listed:

"Do not, for the sake of [marijuana], destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he [consumes]. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything [including getting high] that causes your brother to stumble." (Rom 14:20-21)

"For if anyone sees you who have knowledge [smoking marijuana], will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to [smoke marijuana]? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if [getting high] makes my brother stumble, I will never [get high], lest I make my brother stumble." (1 Cor 8:10-13)

(Is it your understanding of Col 2:16-23 that Christians can do whatever they want and no one has the right to make any comment?)

(I fail to get the connection in Rev 2. Balaam told Balak how to trip up the Israelites by encouraging them to their favorite sins. That would sound like a warning to avoid such things, not an encouragement to indulge them.)

Well, I suppose we've reached an impasse at this point. I still don't have any idea of what you or anyone else thinks getting high does to improve my life purpose of glorifying God. And I'm not convinced, either from science or experience or personal observation, that using marijuana for its psychoactive effects is somehow qualitatively different than drunkenness. (In fact, the amount of alcohol it takes to get the average person intoxicated is much larger than the amount of THC required.) It appears that your best arguments are "God gave us herbs, so let's get high", "I shouldn't be too concerned about causing my brother to stumble; he just needs to get a stronger conscience", and "No one should be allowed to tell me what's right or wrong." Since I cannot come to the same conclusions you do about this, we'll just disagree. It's not like I'm suggesting Jesus will be setting your hair on fire or sending you to Hell for it. I do wonder why you believe it is your mission in life to defend the principle of Christians getting high, but that's not my problem, is it?

David said...

"They come to church once or twice and feel alienated, hiding how they feel from others, and never really get opportunity to grow with his fellow believers. We need to be watchful of that alienation."

Where do you draw the line then? If the goal of church is to attract non-believers through accepting their sins, should we not condemn anything sinful? Just say, "You're alright just as you are, God forgives all"? Or do we do as Stan suggested and join them in their sin to make them feel included?

You keep talking about cannabis use, but it sounds like you mean something different than Stan. This may be my limitation, but I don't know if anyone that eats cannabis for food, nourishment, producing energy in the body for living purposes. Ingesting oil (which I assume doesn't have the psychoactive properties) for medicinal or health reasons is not in view here. Smoking weed for the purpose of distorting the mind is. Lighting a joint can be for no other reason than intoxication, veteran user or newbie. Those that smoke it "medicinally" are after both the medicine and intoxication. And if what you're saying is true, smoking weed is worse than drinking alcohol. If the intoxicating effects of weed wear off after a few days that is far worse than the evening it takes for alcohol to leave. And if the only way to get to the "sinless" position of smoking you seem to believe in is by being a veteran toker, then you have to sin a lot to get there in the first place. Not really a strong place to be.

Stan said...

One other thing, Jeff. There have been deaths directly related to marijuana. Beyond that, Colorado is reporting a spike in "marijuana-related deaths". And as I'm writing this, the local news is telling of a man pulled over for driving at 95 mph and arrested for resisting arrest. Beyond deaths and being illegally "under the influence", science reports various negative effects from smoking it. There are up to 70% more cancer-causing substances than in tobacco smoke. Studies say that cannabis is a unique drug that can cause abnormal cell division resulting in severe hereditary defects. Children of mothers who smoked marijuana during pregnancy show higher rates of all sorts of maladies. There are also reports that it damages brain cells and lowers intelligence levels. Additionally, they have measured damage to memory. Small amounts of THC can cause temporary sterility in men. This is just a sample. (Interestingly, that article refers to the effect as "intoxication" and indicates that marijuana "reaches the same pleasure centers in the brain that are targeted by heroin, cocaine and alcohol.") So, sure, marijuana is a benign drug that doesn't kill anybody and doesn't intoxicate anybody and is not harmful ... but that's not entirely true.

Jeff Lucas said...

yeah we're probably beating a dead horse at this point. But I did appreciate the discussion, you guys gave me a few things to think about for sure!
God Bless,
Jeff Lucas

Stan said...

To nobody in particular, this must be a real hot button issue for Christians today, given the large reader count I'm getting on this single entry.