Can’t we use drugs like marijuana since they’re naturally made by God and not forbidden in the bible?
This is a very common question and myth. Let me first answer the common arguments that people utilize to normalize drugs for recreational use. Then I want us to look at a biblical view of mind-altering drugs.
A LOOK AT THE ARGUMENTS FOR RECREATIONAL DRUG USE
1. The “reject nothing God made” argument.
I have heard people argue for marijuana or other “natural” drugs by pointing to 1Tim 4:4, which says God gave men good gifts to enjoy and “nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.” However, if we look at the context of that passage we can see that by “nothing” Paul isn’t saying that literally “nothing at all in the whole world” should be rejected. For in other places Paul says “test everything and keep what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). And if we take “nothing” to mean “nothing at all in the world” that would include sin, death, and all sorts of bad, wicked, and harmful things which we should reject! If we claim that, we can say lust isn’t to be rejected, and therefore we overrule 100 passages forbidding lust with one verse that says reject (a very ambiguous) “nothing.” Clearly we cannot use one verse to make a very large sweeping statement. The greek word pas, which is translated as nothing in this passage (also translated as ‘everything’ or ‘all’,) can be used to designate all of something, referring to the previous context. If I say the phrase “I like all the songs,” it doesn’t mean “all the songs in the world since the beginning of time;” instead it means “all the songs” that we just spoke about in our conversation. In the context of 1 Tim 4:3-4 we see Paul speaks about food and marriage. All foods and marriage for all, is permitted by God if we receive it with thanksgiving.
2. The “natural” argument.
Often people say: marijuana is “natural” so therefore its good, healthy. Or that God made it therefore we can and should use it. However, this is rash and illogical. Think about it. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it should be used in every way or in every situation. There are a large amount of poisonous plants that are also naturally occurring in this world. For example there is a fruit called white baneberry which is also “natural” but if its eaten would lead cardiac paralysis and often cardiac arrest (your heart stops). Other plants can cause stomach poisoning, vomiting, and a painful death. All of them are natural, yet no one would argue that we should ingest them. You see, if you make the natural argument to marijuana or other drugs, we have to unilaterally make it apply to all sorts of natural poisons and toxins.
3. The “it doesn’t hurt anyone” argument.
Many teens and young people tend claim marijuana is harmless and bears no potential danger or damage. They point to our president and his past, which involved a couple of run ins with the popular hallucinogenic, and claim that he is obviously unharmed. Although, I will say the current predicament of the US economy and Obama’s plummeting approval rating doesn’t exactly give confidence that one is unaffected by weed ;)
JustThinkTwice, a website run by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has compiled a list of medical reasons (with appropriate medical studies as evidence) that conclusively dispels the myth that pot is harmless. Pot is far from harmless, it can hurt you and people around you.
- Marijuana alters the hippocampus (a major brain structure that has an important role in memory production). This organ is one of the first disturbed by memory diseases like Alzheimer’s; and similarly with pot use, the hippocampus is affected causing the smokers short term memory to be diminished. PET scans have shown that marijuana can stay in the brain for up to three days and affect motor coordination, memory , and learning. This same study said “marijuana use narrows the arteries in the brain, similar to patients with high blood pressure and dementia” (dementia is a mental disorder.)
- Marijuana can lead to lung cancer much faster than cigarettes. According to the American Lung Association “there is 50-70% more cancer causing material in marijuana smoke than in cigarette smoke. In fact, marijuana smoke contains more than 400 chemicals.” Also the amount of tar and carbon monoxide inhaled and absorbed by marijuana smokers is 3 to 5 times higher than cigarette smokers.
- Marijuana is likely to lead to mental illness. The United Kingdom Department of Health acknowledged in January, 2004 that cannabis is an “important causal factor” in mental illness. A spokesman said that “There is medical clinical evidence now that there is an important causal factor between cannabis use and schizophrenia—not the only factor, but an important causal factor.” Schizophrenia is a complex mental illness that has numerous symptoms including being unable to think logically, problems distinguishing reality and fantasy, hearing voices, seeing visions, having hallucinations and etc.
- Marijuana obstructs driving ability. There is evidence and statistics that show the virulent dangers of driving while high. Drivers who are high have affected “alertness, concentration, perception, coordination and reaction time, many of the skills required for safe driving and other tasks.” A study done by the University of Auckland found that marijuana users were almost 10 times more likely to be involved in a car crash than non-users. Ten times more likely is a huge danger!
- Marijuana often leads to other dangerous activities. Numerous research studies and statistical analyses have shown a link between frequent marijuana use and increased violent behavior. According to a DSHS study “adolescents 12-17 who use marijuana weekly are nine times more likely than non-users to experiment with other illegal drugs or alcohol, five times more likely to steal and nearly four times more likely to engage in violence.”
A CHRISTIAN ARGUMENT AGAINST HALLUCINOGENIC DRUGS
Clearly the most common arguments promoting the use of marijuana and other “natural” drugs for recreational purposes do not stand up to simple logic. But what does the bible say about it? It doesn’t name these drugs by name, yet are there principles that apply to situations like contemporary recreational drug use?
1. We are to be sober
The scriptures call christian men and women to “be sober” or “sober-minded” on numerous occasions (1Th 5:6 , 1Th 5:8 , 1Ti 3:2 , 1Ti 3:11 , 2Ti 4:5 , Tts 2:2 , 1Pe 1:13 , 1Pe 4:7 , 1Pe 5:8). This is a principle that is clearly taught throughout the bible; you must be clear-headed, rational, logical, lucid, coherent, and able to think; and you can’t do that if you are high. First, you are far more likely to do stupid and sinful things if you are not lucid or clear headed. Whether its driving dangerously and killing someone, or speaking rudely to someone you love, or having sex with someone other than your spouse; all are far more likely to happen if you can’t think straight. Bad decisions are spawned by drugs.
Second, you can’t succeed at life if you are high. Try marrying a wife/husband and loving them when you aren’t clearheaded. Or getting an education, or even maintaining a job. Or telling someone how Jesus has blessed your life and family. It’s very likely all will fail if you aren’t sober.
Third, a sign of being a Christian is that you are sober instead of being irrationally incoherent. A Christian proves that he or she has been affected by Gods Grace by living a life of sobriety not escaping into hallucinations.
2. Hallucinatory experiences have historically been associated with sorcery.
The main use of today’s recreational drugs throughout history is as entheogens. These are basically (natural) chemical substances used to create psychoactive (mind/mood affecting) feelings, visions, hallucinations in pagan, shamanic, and other spiritualistic rituals and practices. Marijuana is among these hallucinogens and has historically been used in many false religions as part of the ecstatic worship experience.
If you go throughout the bible and read of idol worshipers and false gods, you likely run into cultures that used today’s drugs to stimulate a hallucination or supernatural feeling as part of the ceremony for that idol. I remember hearing in school about Native American tribes in which the men would fill the air with marijuana smoke and begin to have visions and other ecstatic experiences as part of their spiritual shamanism and mysticism. This is primarily the method by which false religions would have experienced the supernatural and the demonic.
There is no doubt about it, what we call drugs was a huge part of spiritism, sorcery, wizardry, and idol worship for all of recorded human history. In fact modern historians claim that entheogenic use of drugs for spiritual purposes has been recorded in every age of human history and the only decline came from ares where people converted into the Judaism and Christianity.
3. The bible uses the same word for sorcery and drugs
This is by far the most interesting part of scripture regarding drugs and hallucinogens, however, it is something we should be very careful about in order to avoid drawing incorrect conclusions.
The bible uses two different Greek words that are translated into the English words magic or sorcery.
First, ‘mageia’ is used in Acts 8:11 and second pharmakeia is used in Gal 5:20 and Rev 9:31. The first of these words is where our English word “magic” comes from; the second is where our English word “pharmacy” comes from (because the word is associated with mixing potions). Thought lets be careful and not call today’s pharmacy or medicine as sorcery because the bible has many instances of real medicine as being good (Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11; Luke 10:34 1; Timothy 5:23 etc.)
However, the word pharmakeia does indeed have as one of its definitions the administration of drugs (see image below). And if we understand the culture of paganism and shamanism that has inhabited the world since the beginning, we would easily see that Paul probably meant the use of hallucinogenic substances as part of paganism and idol worship. With this use of phramakeia in Greek culture, I believe that today’s abuse of hallucinogens (of which marijuana is one of the mildest, yet still potent) is most assuredly connected to ancient mysticism and shamanism.
Drug abuse, especially hallucinogens like marijuana are not neutral when we consider their history, uses, and effects. They have physical effects and spiritual effects which are not compatible with the Christian life.