Matters of the Church

The Word and Weed

Note: This article was originally posted in early February, but both it and the comments on it inexplicably disappeared a few days ago, so I’m reposting now.

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, 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 and getting drunk are equally sinful.

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 used 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

The Best Apologetic is Also the Oldest!

I’m often asked “What is the best apologetic argument?”, and in almost every case, after a few questions, it’s clear that the real question is “All of this apologetics stuff is just too overwhelming. Can you give me a single, easy to remember argument that I can use whenever I have to defend the faith?

Before I give you the answer that I’m sure most of you expect, please read this post to the end; there is an apologetic argument that you MUST use in EVERY defense of the Gospel, but I don’t think it is what you expect me to tell you.

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“Winning the Argument” is NOT the Purpose

I’ve been seeing a couple of trends lately both online and in the ‘real world’ that I think are related in that both have a foundational misunderstanding of the purpose of Christian apologetics.

One is the tendency for Christian apologists, video posters, and blog commenters to portray an attitude of “win at all costs; crush your ‘enemy’ and his argument to dust” as if the purpose of apologetics is to ‘put those heathens in their place and show how stupid they are’. The other is for Christian leaders as well as laypeople to dismiss the study and presentation of apologetics as unfruitful, unnecessary, and needlessly confrontational. Unfortunately, it appears that the two viewpoints in some weird, twisted way actually feed upon and amplify each other!

As I’ve said, i believe that both wrong-headed attitudes stem from a false view of the two primary purposes of Christian apologetics.

One of the two primary purposes of Christian apologetics is to provide evidence, reason, and experiences that will give both new and seasoned believers confidence in the truth of the Gospel. I firmly believe that the reason that most teens and young adults ‘walk away from the faith” or refuse to seriously consider Christ is because the majority of Christian leaders, parents, and mentors fail (some even actively oppose) in presenting evidences for the faith (apologetics) to our young people.

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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 #8 – The Triunity of God

You may notice that I’ve slightly reordered our list of essential Christian beliefs. I’ve done so because in this revised order, the first eight in our list now (as one of our more logically-minded readers suggested) makes a progressive path of doctrine that makes number 9 on our list much more understandable once you grasp these first eight. Here’s the reordered list:

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 triunity of God
9. The atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Christ
10. The necessity of faith
11. Christ’s second coming, final judgement and reign.

This makes this installment all about one of the most ridiculed and misunderstood of our core beliefs. The doctrine of the Trinity has been debated for millennia, and yet it is impossible to deny the triune nature of God without denying both essentials #1 and 7.

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Essentials

Recently, I was posed this question:

You often go on about the ‘essentials of the faith’ or ‘core Christian doctrine’ but you never really give an explanation of what these are OR why they are considered essential. Can you at least give me some kind of explanation about this?

So, the next few articles are going to do exactly that. With this article, I’ll define just what an essential doctrine is, give a list of the absolutely foundational Christian beliefs, and go into a bit of detail about why number one on the list is so important. In future posts, I’ll take a closer look at one or two of the core beliefs.

What is a doctrine, and what makes one essential?

A doctrine is simply a statement of belief or truth. Therefore, even if your belief statement is ‘I don’t believe in the value of doctrine”, you have just made a statement of doctrine! Make no mistake: EVERYONE HAS A DOCTRINE OF CHRISTIANITY.

Doctrines (truth statements) that are essential or foundational to the Christian faith are those doctrines that cannot be denied and still be considered a disciple of the Christ. In other words, if you deny these truths, you cannot be Christian. Continue reading

On the Trinity

One of the most difficult core beliefs of the Christian faith is the doctrine of the Trinity. Not only do skeptics and adherents to major religions misunderstand it, but many followers of Christ do as well!

The objections to trinitarianism, in simplest terms, come in one of two forms:

1. The doctrine of the Trinity is false because nowhere in the Bible is the term ‘trinity’ used. It is nothing more than something made up at the Council of Niceae to solidify Church power and serve the political ends of Constantine.

2. Belief in the Trinity is nothing more than polytheism, and is clearly condemned in the Bible (or Koran, if the objector is Islamic).

I will grant that the doctrine of the Trinity is difficult to understand; the concept that there is only one God, and that the one God is made up of three distinct Persons who are also wholly one being appears at first glance to be self-contradictory. Continue reading

Is the Church Age Over?

This is a very interesting question: “Is the church age over i.e. what about church purity Gods plan? (sic)” SS_church [Converted].ai

Since there are two ways to approach this question my first thought was to ask for clarification. But, after some more thought I decided that it is probably more beneficial to address both possible issues. Of course, I’ll save the one I believe most relevant to the questioner for last!

 

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Quick Thought : Who Can Baptize?

I was rather surprised that the question of who is authorized to perform baptism came up twice in a matter of a few days recently. It is a question that I’ve never been asked before!

So, briefly, here’s my answer.

Although many denominations restrict ‘baptizers’ to clergy, in Scripture that isn’t the case. Baptisms are performed by priests, prophets, apostles, and those who have no specified leadership position in the church.

My conclusion from this is that any disciple of Christ is authorized to baptize anyone who wishes to publicly proclaim their allegiance to Our Lord and King by following the Biblical directive to ‘repent and be baptized’.

— Cowboy