Are Christians really free to smoke pot?

marijuana

Yesterday, Andy Crouch wrote a thoughtful piece on marijuana and Christian liberty. In it, he explains that while the editorial position of Christianity Today is that Christians are free to smoke marijuana recreationally where it is legal, “when it comes to pot in our particular cultural context, we think it would be foolish to use that freedom.”

This subject is not an easy one to deal with, but it’s an important one. Marijuana is legal in several states, and its legal status has been disputed in my homeland for well over a decade1—so it’s a subject we’re all going to have to deal with sooner or later.

Now, there’s a lot I agree with in Crouch’s article, particularly its conclusion that Christians shouldn’t smoke weed, even if they’re free to do so.

“The Christian’s freedom is a gift that leads to serving others, with care, attention, skill, and singleness of heart,” Crouch writes. “It’s a freedom that willingly sacrifices easy pleasures in order to serve. And by that standard, it’s hard to imagine that pot will be helpful any time soon.”

So while I agree with his assessment that if we are free to do this, we still shouldn’t, I’m honestly uncertain about the if itself. In other words, I’m not certain the Bible actually allows for this to fall under the domain of Christian liberty. Here are two points to consider:

1. Is it really lawful? The Christian liberty argument centers on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:23: “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” One of the challenges we face is with how to read Paul’s words. His quoting of the Corinthians insistence that all things are lawful or permissible may not have been approvingly. In fact, based on his response, “but not all things are helpful… not all things build up,” it could well be that he was outright refuting their claim.

Further to this, we see Paul’s insistence on a life of Spirit-fueled self-control (Galatians 5:22; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:2, 8). While we should be careful to not read into this an outright prohibition of substances that can impair our self-control (after all, the Bible does not forbid the consumption of alcohol), we should take it seriously: If something impairs my ability to think clearly or to practice moderation, am I really free to partake?

2. Is it really good? This is probably the more fundamental issue. Crouch writes that, “Christians despise no created thing. The marijuana plant is a part of a world that was declared good by its Maker every step along the way.”While God certainly did create everything “good” in the beginning, we also have to recognize that all things are not as they should be.

In the beginning, the first man and woman were free to eat of everything in the Garden—everything but the fruit of one tree. But when they sinned, the entire world was affected, and today it groans under the curse, as it awaits the inauguration of the new creation (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:17-19; Romans 8:22). As a result of the curse, we see that plants that were once created “good” are now “bad” for us.

Before the Fall, no mushroom existed that would poison us if we ate it, and no leaf would cause a rash if it touched us. Simply, we need to recognize that—just as with certain types of wild mushrooms and Poison Ivy—the effect of marijuana on the mind is likely not the original intent as seen in God’s good creation . In fact, it is more likely the result of the curse! Thus, we should be careful about classifying it as “good,” lest we inadvertently call something “evil” “good” (Isaiah 5:20).

Which takes us back to the beginning.

I agree with Crouch that even if Christians were free to use marijuana in moderation for recreational purposes, they should not—but, I’m uncertain that the if in this case is really an if at all. I’m just not sure the Scriptures support such a position.

What are your thoughts on this?

Show 1 footnote

  1. Which is just as wishy-washy as it sounds, friends.
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  • tod

    What about All seed bearing herbs are good for man kind ?

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Well, pre-fall, this was certainly true. All seed-bearing plants were good for food. In our fallen world, there are seed-bearing plants that are not good for us (including many berries that grow in the wild).

      • SAM

        Marijuana IS good for us…..still!!! VERY good! Just like God said!!! And nowhere did He EVER change His mind!!! Cannabis CURES cancer and MANY other diseases!!! It is VERY good!!! :-)

        http://www.ebeneezer.net/ritual/vegetable/offsite/bible.htm

        • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

          That’s some… interesting interpretation of the Scriptures on that link.

  • mamazee

    I see marijuana and alcohol as medicines. I don’t smoke and have never tried marijuana, and felt a little guilty taking real wine during communion at our new church – BUT I definitely think there is a place for pot, if it is legal. I also distill herbs into tinctures and use them for effective pregnancy remedies, so I think the more tools in my toolbox, the better. If marijuana helps to assuage pain, why would I deliberately snub it, but not snub prescription drugs that are more powerful, addictive, and have worse side effects?

    • sam

      AMEN!!! I AGREE!!!

      Marijuana IS good for us…..still!!! VERY good! Just like God said!!! And nowhere did He EVER change His mind!!! Cannabis CURES cancer and MANY other diseases!!! It is VERY good!!! :-)

      http://www.ebeneezer.net/ritual/vegetable/offsite/bible.htm

      • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

        You’ve already made this exact comment once. I’ll delete it if I see it a third time.

    • Helen

      this is so true, why take antidepressants and other medicines that are man made that have such harmful side effects when marijuana is all natural. All seed is good, is still in effect, God didn’t say we had to eat all seed, just that it was good. Some poisonous stuff is a bare root or bulb and not a seed at all. I’m pretty sure mushrooms are definitely not reproduced with seeds, they are fungus and have spores but not seeds. Some berries are poisonous but are great for color, paints and other things God did not say all seed was edible, just good, now the good they are depends on what it is. I say if you can replace medicines with such words that you can not pronounce or understand with side effects consisting of liver failure, impotence, blindness, heart attacks, severe rashes, and even death well marijuana would be the better of the choices…

      • Chuck

        It would seem that eating a seed is a little different than smoking it. As for eating Cannabis, it seems as though Colorado has run into problems recently related to the consumption of MJ.
        While I have no prejudice against medical MJ and the fact that natural MJ seems to be more efficient than artificial in therapies, the weight of the damage caused by MJ societally seems to be much greater than the benefit medicinally.

  • A duck is a duck is a duck . .

    Some musings . . .

    Research recently released shows the devastating impact of marijuana on the brain. It is rather humorous that the prophets of pot would have us believe their perspective when the empirical data shows that their use of the drug has caused damage in their brains. Worse yet, younger people who smoke pot have longer lasting brain damage that follows them into later adulthood. People who start smoking pot in their late 20s see less brain damage than those who start in their late teens and early 20s.

    The medicinal marijuana argument has been a Trojan Horse from the beginning with the endgame the legalization of recreational use. I don’t dispute the medicinal qualities of weed; I simply question the integrity of the authors of the argument that has lead to recreational legalization. Remember when lotteries came around? The same strategy was used then; find an indisputably positive statement and let that be the basis of the argument. They told us that the lottery would be great for education; yet the lottery is played disproportionately by people at or below the poverty level. So while we throw a few shekels toward the edu-crats, we encourage poverty stricken people to throw their money away for a vain hope. The same with the medicinal marijuana argument; while good can be realized from the herb, the normalizing of this plant’s recreational use will have dramatic consequences for our society and for the next generation of young people.

    Finally, the comparison to alcohol is flawed at its core. I am a consumer of fine beer and scotch. I do not EVER get drunk; I know my limit and I drink responsibly. I take very seriously that I bear the likeness of Jesus my Savior, and I will not dishonor him by my actions. The only purpose for the recreational use of pot is to get high, to alter one’s state of consciousness. The application of Ephesians 5:18 is entirely appropriate to the recreational use of Marijuana. Additionally, alcohol is out of the body at a much quicker pace; it is absorbed very quickly too, so knowing your self and practicing the fruit of self control is of course critical. The lingering effects of marijuana intoxication can remain in the body for up to 5 days. So the weed you smoked on Friday night at the party may cause you to fail the midterm exam you have on Monday.

    “All things are permissible, but not all are beneficial.” I would hope that discernment and wisdom would prevail; but then again, that would require followers of Christ who respond rationally and Biblically to the unending cultural pressure we experience. Sadly, the church has continued to acquiesce to these pressures as Jesus told us it would. I implore you, if you are a follower of Jesus, to follow Galatians 5:6b, “what matters is faith working through love.” We don’t have to compromise to live by this principle. In fact to agree with or ignore that which we know is harmful to our fellow man is to deny living by this principle. We should not act or speak judgmentally; but let’s call a duck a duck. Recreational pot is a mistake, one whose impact will not be felt until a generation has been damaged by it irreparably.

  • bailey

    think that it is sad when Christians look only to one source for answers. Yes, God provided us with a beautiful gift, His written word, but has he not also provided us other resources?
    For years, Christians have used the bible to eisogetically fight for beliefs that contradict scientific evidence. Galileo? Anyone?
    I’m not saying that as humans, we always get it right. There have been numerous theories and principles throughout scientific history that were eventually proved wrong.
    But that doesn’t mean that the hundreds of studies and findings being published right now don’t hold merit. Not to mention the thousands of years of historical evidence
    Cannabis was used safely and frequently as medicine for hundreds, if not thousands, years before congress declared war in the 30′s. Do Christians even know why?
    Give you a clue…is has nothing to do with health and safety, but more so racism. Google Harry Ansliger.
    Ok, so you say. I’ll research it, and you find a government funded experiment on monkeys that shows significant brain damage linked to marijuana. Good, but don’t stop there, dig deeper. You do, and you’ll find the experiment was a hack. They deprived the poor monkeys of oxygen for 20 minutes! You try to go with out h2o for 20 minutes and keep full brain functioning.
    I’m sorry, but there is so much information on this topic that Christians need to be studied up on. Both the history and the present findings. I believe staying ignorant of these facts is a sin. And blindly following the lies is just as bad.
    no cannabis is not addicting. It has less potential to be habitual than coffee. And no, its not a gateway drug. No, it won’t cause lung cancer, and no it has never caused death. It doesn’t make you lazy or stupid. Please. I urge you to do an unbiased study of can ibis before you go looking for biblical verses that potentially validate your claim, the one that you were probably raised to believe and just don’t want to be wrong, even though it is.

  • bailey