Marijuana allowed in the church?


This post is more concerned about the Churches understanding of Marijuana.  I also made a blog post concerning the legalization and hazards of marijuana in another article.  There is a good video about the effects of it in the following blog.  So if you have concerns about some of the interpretation of this blog and you really don’t see the connections this blog makes just go to the blog post linked below and listen and discern if it is harmful or not.  Please watch the video at the link just below this.

We need to revisit this. Especially in light of the recent elections and the stupid information that is being taught to our kids. Marijuana is a psychotropic. It is not like alcohol. It deeply damages the soul, mind, and body.

An Aquaintence and wonderful man of God has written some significant lessons on an upcoming issue in the Church that I believe is important for our understanding.  Please give this wonderful Elder a listen.  Thanks….. He also wrote a piece and blog on the topic here.

There are a lot of dangerous trends, doctrines, and practices encroaching upon the Presbyterian and Reformed churches in 2012, but – next to rampant worldliness – I would say the trend of approving marijuana is the most pernicious. And I would say that the push for “medicinal use” of it is the deadly worm in the heart of the poison apple.

I think it passing strange to see those who uphold a vigorous confessional Presbyterianism and affirm the word of God as their rule of life and faith at the same time condone a practice condemned by God under penalty of the severest sanctions – cut off from the people of Israel and death under Moses, excommunication and eternal damnation (if unrepented of) under Christ.

Part of the problem, I think, is the cultural ignorance that prevails – and a consequent spiritual naiveté (taking so many of our cues from the culture as we do) – with regard to what the issues really are. This was not an issue from the mid-20th century and back, the matter relegated to obscure practices which were universally condemned. But in the latter half of the 20th century things changed. More on that in a moment.

I have seen it said, “Don’t drink the koolaid”, with regard to this topic, which phrase could be variously translated as, “Don’t completely buy into an idea or system, whether good or bad . . . Blind acceptance of something is generally not advised – rather engage in some critical thinking . . . Don’t succumb to any external influence that affects a person’s opinion of something.” To which I would say, it is not Biblical to be closed to “external influence”, especially if that influence comes from Scripture soundly understood, and it is indeed wise to “engage in critical thinking” on any topic of importance! People who are closed to any views but their own do run the danger of shutting out the Lord’s instruction and reproof.

A brief primer on Greek and Hebrew terms, on Biblically-defined sorcery, and the laws of God with respect to this in the Old Testament and in the New.

We have a word in the New Testament (in Galatians and in Revelation) which is translated “sorcery” or “witchcraft”, the underlying Greek of which is farmakeiapharmakeia. The same word –pharmakeia – is used in the Greek Old Testament (sometimes called the Septuagint) and is likewise translated sorcery or sorcerer and witchcraft or witch. The word in the Hebrew OT is kesheph.

So what is pharmakeia about? It is the Greek word used in Revelation 18:23, where harlot Babylon is said to have deceived the nations by means of her “sorceries” (pharmakeia), and it is also used in Rev 9:21 of the Textus Receptus / AV (while the so-called Majority Text and the Critical Text have a variant reading in which the Greek word is pharmakon: drugs “that induce magic spells”, although it doesn’t affect the translation, per the NASB or ESV). In Rev 9:21 it is used with respect to men refusing to repent of their “sorceries” in the time of terrible judgments in the world, those that survived these lethal judgments meted upon the rebellious of the earth. When Paul uses this word in Galatians 5:20 (translated “witchcraft” AV, “sorcery” ESV NASB) it is called a work of the flesh, equal to murder and adultery.

Related words (called cognates) are used also in Rev 21:8 and 22:15 of “sorcerers”, those who use and administer the drugs, and influence others by means of them. In 21:8 it says that these people have their part in the lake of fire – “the second death” – and in 22:15 these are said to be eternally barred from the City of God. Let’s try to get a sense of what this deadly (per Scripture) pharmakeia is. Consider this item from The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 2, p. 558,

. . . pharmakos, magician (Rev. 22:15); pharmakeus, mixer of potions, magician (Rev. 21:8); pharmakeia, magic, sorcery (Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21; 18:23). The basic word pharmakon does not occur in the NT [save in the aforementioned variant –SMR], but its meaning of medicine, magic potion, poison gives the underlying idea of the words. Potions include poisons, but there has always been a magical tradition of herbs gathered and prepared for spells, and also for encouraging the presence of spirits at magical ceremonies (cf. possibly the final sentence of Ezek. 8:17: “They put the branch to their nose”). Sorcery is classed among the works of the flesh in Gal. 5:20. [underlined and last bold and italicized emphases added – SMR]

Another example, from the old ISBE,

“The word translated in the AV ‘witchcraft’ in Gal 5:20 (pharmakeia) is the ordinary Greek one for ‘sorcery,’ and is so rendered in the RV, though it means literally the act of administering drugs and then of magical potions. It naturally comes then to stand for the magician’s art, as in the present passage and also in . . . the LXX of Isa 47:9 . . . translated ‘sorceries’.” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, Ed., Vol. 5, p. 3097.)

And from, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, by Spiros Zodhiates:

“Strong’s #5331, pharmakeia, from pharmakon, a drug, which in the Gr. writers is used both for a curative or medicinal drug, and also as a poisonous one. Pharmakeia means the occult, sorcery, witchcraft, illicit pharmaceuticals, trance, magical incantation with drugs (Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21; 18:23; Sept.: Ex. 7:22; Is. 47:9, 12). (pp. 1437, 1438)

The lexicons and the commentators hold that pharmakeia pertains to drugs used in the “magic arts”. In fact, Kistemaker says of pharmakon (drugs) – appearing as a variant in Rev 9:21,

farmakon [pharmakon]—“magic potion . . .” [and refers] to the concept of drugs that induce magic spells. [Emphasis in original]. (Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Revelation, p. 302.)

The picture we are getting is of drugs used for sorcerous potions, which may “encourage the presence of spirits” and “induce magic spells”. Often we find in the OT the use of synecdoche (a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa) when the word pharmakeia and its cognates are used, as the use of drugs is the essential and common component in almost all of the “magic arts”. Consider, the Jews who translated the OT Hebrew into the Greek LXX always used the word signifying “drugs used as magic potions” when referring to certain magic arts and its practitioners. Why would they do that – use that particular word – were it not actually so?

But what does all this talk of drugs used for occult purposes – for “sorcery” – have to do with 21st century life, and with the recreational (and sometimes “medicinal”) drug, marijuana? Aren’t sorcery and magic potions something of the ancient past, legends, and superstition? First, let us be clear to differentiate between the entire realm of superstition with regard to the occult and its practices, and the plain Biblical definition of the term. It is granted that there is a plethora of arcane nonsense in legends, fictional stories, etc. Yet it is also certain there is a Biblical definition with regard to pharmakeia / sorcery, for to violate it was death under Moses and removal from the church under Christ – very serious punishments!

Were there things happening in the 1st century (and earlier in OT times) that no longer happen now in our day? But if that’s so, why does John in the Revelation speak of sorceries as pertaining to the end times – the very end times – which may well be in or near our own time?

And can it be that such a sin as this – ranked with murder and adultery, and warranting eternal punishment if unrepented of – is incapable of being identified by modern exegetes?

There is an answer to these questions. Since the latter half of the 20th century – from events in the 1950s through the 1980s – we have developed a term never before used in the history of the world: recreational drugs. People differ in their views of them. They began in popular use in the ‘60s, and the two staples of the counterculture that used them were marijuana and LSD, although mescaline, peyote, hashish (and hashish oil – both of these derived from the marijuana plant), STP, PCP (angel dust), and sometimes various amphetamines or cocaine were mixed / used in conjunction with these drugs. To law enforcement these drugs are sometimes a big deal (though some agencies and laws are becoming more lenient), but to the general populace they pretty much are no big deal at all. Connecting them with sorcery, given their popularity and seeming harmlessness (at least as regards grass), seems farfetched!

Oddly, the properties of these drugs – and I will single out marijuana and LSD – have the same properties as the pharmakeia / sorcery drugs Scripture strongly warns against: the capability of “encouraging the presence of spirits” and inducing spiritual / religious states of consciousness. That ought to send up red flags of warning to those who ponder these things.

At any rate, prior to the 1950s such things – recreational drugs – were unheard of, save perhaps in small subcultures (Black musicians, for example, who used marijuana). In the pre-counterculture days going all the way back to ancient Israel, Biblically defined sorcery was a verboten – forbidden – thing, connected as it was to the demonic and demonic practitioners. History is replete with instances of severe inquisition and punishment of those suspected of sorcery and witchcraft; nor were all such occult activities merely superstitious or hoaxes, seeing as the God of Israel took it very seriously, instructing His primary Lawgiver to execute the death sentence on violators, and revealing to John in His Revelation to him that eternal torment would be meted on unrepentant violators of His law given through Christ and the apostles. So we know there is real substance to such activities, for the Bible to take such a view of them!

In the pre-‘60s counterculture times such things showed their faces only in the crawling shadows of the world, rightly condemned by society. These were shrouded activities, and no wonder superstitions arose about them – they were hidden, frightening, and unknown.

But now . . . welcome to the end of the world! And to the sorceries (pharmakeia) of Babylon the great, which deceived the nations by means of them! The Bible shows one picture, which we sort of dismiss as “unknowable, undecipherable”, while we have a picture of our own – borrowed from the world, of course, from which we take so many of our cues! – of groovin’ hipster Christians, PCAers endowed with great Christian liberty, full of ourselves, disdainful of the old paths of sobriety and godly fear.

On the one hand we say, keep the Sabbath, don’t even go out to eat on it (not weighing in on that issue here), while on the other we say, it’s okay to get high using these drugs, it’s just like wine. And in so doing we actually cause Christ’s little ones to stumble and sin! Is there no fear left of doing and speaking evil? Why do we carelessly shoot our mouths off like the wicked on matters fraught with such danger and eternal consequences?

Romans 1:32
 [People], Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Exodus 23:1-2 Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.

Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment

The world that reviles God and His laws is well aware of the Spiritual Use of Cannabis, why are we so ignorant of such things yet ready to shoot our mouths off?

It will not do, those of you who say that because it is illegal, that is sufficient to settle the matter, because in some countries – with Christians in them – it is legal; and it is essentially decriminalized in parts of America, and it is legal if one has a script from a doctor. So the old laws of the civil magistrate are no longer fence enough against this evil. And I daresay that in a short time it will become legal throughout the United States. No, it is up to the church to come to understanding, and to take a stand. More particularly, it is up to the pastors and elders of God’s flock, and with them the sessions and classes and boards of elders, to teach and uphold the word of God.

Nor will it do to liken it to alcohol, saying that we must be sober and clear of mind, for it is an entirely different substance with a profoundly different effect on the human body and consciousness. It is foolish naiveté to confound the two.

Yet some will say, we are only enjoying ourselves; we are not involved in spiritual or occult activity, these Biblical prohibitions do not apply to us.

To answer: It’s common knowledge that there had been an upsurge in psychedelic drug use starting in the 1950s with the Beats, and in the ‘60s with the counterculture (as well government intelligence agencies, politicians, practitioners in the therapeutic fields, artists, intellectuals, teachers, lawyers, etc, etc). Seeing as this was such an open and widespread phenomenon very few have made the connection with the topic of Biblical “sorcery”, an activity commonly thought of as taboo and arcane. To add to this, the fact that many of those who used these drugs did so “recreationally” and not for any sort of occult or spiritual purposes has given the impression that these drugs were not necessarily “sorcerous” although they could be used for those ends. This was the time when “sorcery” /pharmakeia became widely popular and supposedly both fun and enlightening. “ ‘Sorcery’?” some will say, “What, are you crazy, we’re just having fun! Just because others have used grass and acid for that, don’t lump us in with that crowd! Our culture is not a monolith, there are many different things going on.”

Others will say, “I have seen people high on marijuana, and they are not mentally impaired but rather brilliant in their thinking and their arts.” No argument with that, except to say that the devil, prince of the demons (as well his underlings), are also “brilliant”, so brilliance is no sound criterion of judgment on a state of mind.

It just goes to show how poorly thought-out and naive our views on the topic are! People smoke or ingest marijuana to attain a psychological or psychic “high” – an elevated and enhanced state of consciousness – though some would deny calling this “high” as much a pharmakeia activity as a more spiritual awareness, or some would say not even that, but only a psychological high, or simply an enhancement of the senses . To deny that pharmakeia can involve enhanced physical sensation and pleasure through this psychic “high” – without any overt occultism at all – is an attempt to dissociate their sinning from pharmakeia activity. But this is taking refuge in lies. We must recognize that to use sorcery to indulge in sensory (including psychological) pleasure is as much one of its activities as the seeking of psychic, occult, and spiritual experience.

But what about medicinal use? Isn’t that legitimate? This is a more nuanced topic than the world realizes, as it does not have spiritual discernment. But we who are Christ’s should have it.

It is understood that a person psychically “elevated” by marijuana may experience a sense of detachment from the bodily source of pain, and thus a decrease in the sensation of its intensity; still, the very action that detaches from the pain will open one to other aspects of the “high” such as consciousness in a dimension not usually entered in the normal state of mind, the dimension spirits inhabit. Even were I (speaking personally) in extreme pain I would not opt for marijuana relief, as the “cure” would be far worse than the ailment: making myself vulnerable to demonic activity – deception, depression, oppression, delusion, attack, etc. The web page linked to earlier in this article, Spiritual Use of Cannabis, showing its use for shamanistic and psychic activity in a number of pagan spiritual paths, clearly demonstrates its effectiveness and power as a means of enhancing contact with the spirit world and its occupants. Does one think that by force of will – or “good intentions” – one can hold off demons one has opened one’s consciousness and heart to? One can surely hold them off by the word and Spirit of Christ, but if in disobedience – even if done unwittingly – opening wide the door to their entrance through sorcerous drugs, they will take advantage of that and either enter or exercise their influence under cover of deception. The folks who say, “I’m only using it for simple enjoyment; but for “sorcery” – be it far from me!”, deceive themselves thinking they can avoid the consequences of entering the dimension of satanic presence, even if they do not believe it.

Let me posit a possible situation in an area where grass is legal for medicinal use. What would one think of a pastor, say in Colorado or California where medicinal grass is legal under prescription for pain, or Holland where it is simply legal, who, having smoked before the service, ministers while high? Or where a number in the church are (legally) high in the service? Would you assert that, if they’ve done it in moderation (or for pain relief), this is fully in accord with the word of God? Does using a Biblically forbidden substance for pain relief exempt one from obedience to God’s law? Did God have a good reason for forbidding pharmakeia drugs?

Or if the assistant pastor – who teaches the teenage Bible study – has pain from a sports injury, and smokes (with a prescription) beforehand, is that okay? Though surely there will be teenagers – as well as adults – who, knowing their pastors are smoking marijuana (under medical license) for pain relief, will say, “Well, if they can do it for pain – and are okay mentally, and also accepted by the church – why can’t I do it as well for fun? We can see it’s not harmful if used reasonably.”

Besides the corruption of morals of others, children included, let me say what the Scripture view of this would be. A pastor has smoked his grass (ostensibly for pain) and expanded his consciousness by opening himself to the spiritual realm – much as the Hindus do to contact their spirit entities – and he is now open to energies and influences or thoughts that come to him from he-knows-not-where. But they seem to be godly and in accord with the Bible, and he has a new depth of feeling for the subject he is speaking on, and sharp insight, and he powerfully feels what he believes to be the presence and love of God. Has this man increased his godliness and anointing through the drug? Scripture says he has taken a drug (pharmakon) . . . known to induce magic spells, and to encourage the presence of spirits at magical ceremonies. Well, one wouldn’t call a church service a “magical ceremony” someone might respond! Unfortunately, using a sorcerous drug of the pharmakeia-class would turn that church service into a magic ceremony, replete with demonic agency operating through the minister intoxicated by it.

Recently (May 16, 2012) in the NYTimes online OP/ED section, an article appeared by a sitting New York State Supreme Court Justice, Gustin L. Reichbach, titled, “A Judge’s Plea for Medical Marijuana”, and is one of the most compelling, heartwrenching cries for the allowing of medical marijuana I have heard (and I’m sure those reading can come up with like cases they know of). Read it and see. Justice Reichbach is a for-real candidate for this medical use. Which better allows me to make my point: As far as the world is concerned, allowing this man medical marijuana – and as he puts it, the “inhaled” kind, not the synthetic – is simply a human right, a humane medical treatment. But spiritually, what is the cost? Now Justice Reichbach is not – to my knowledge – a disciple of Christ, but for a disciple what would it be? It would be opening the heart and mind to demonic activity. Let me put myself in his place: without some grass – inhaled – I cannot eat (my appetite has failed), and cannot sleep, both of which I need to prolong my life. But with it, I could do both. Would it be worth it to me? To the world this dilemma is false, delusional, and cruel! To the spiritual man or woman it is vital and actual: would I allow my communion with Christ and communion with other disciples in spirit to be open to influence or infiltration by demonic beings? Just for the ability to eat something, or sleep, or to relieve pain? Put another way, would I, under torture – being starved, subjected to sleep deprivation, and inflicted with pain – betray my Lord and my friends? Why, given the same conditions of affliction, would I voluntarily sin, if I would refuse to in the other case? No, God giving me strength I will retain my integrity of being before Him and my friends. I would refuse to smoke the “medicinal” marijuana for the sake of keeping my spiritual health and integrity. Especially if I were in terrible pain with advanced, terminal cancer, I would not use marijuana for relief. Would anyone in their right mind, when on the very brink of death, open their hearts and minds to demonic influence? That would be sheer destructive madness!

There is a dangerous naiveté regarding supernatural activity among some believers – the Reformed included – but this ought not to be the case when it comes to pastors and elders. I should hasten to say that I have never yet seen a pastor or elder support the use of these drugs even if legalized.

It was prohibited in ancient Israel because partaking in a pharmakeia drug would bring an evil presence into the community. This was supposed to be a spiritually sensitive and holy community, Israel. Just one sorcerer (or witch) – pharmakos – would bring an evil state of mind or consciousness into the community, and pollute it. For this cause it was commanded, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18; cf. Deut 18:9-14). The general equity of this law is understood with regard to the NT laws pertaining to pharmakeia use: not physical death but spiritual death (cut off from the church) if indulged without repentance. For the bringing in to the community of God’s people the spiritual presence of the demonic through the channels of pharmakeia users – that is, demonic influence through the minds and consciousness of people high on marijuana – is wickedly polluting the holy people with the spirit of alien and hostile entities. It is an abomination to God and to His church.

Pastors and elders, be aware that this is a fight that is coming quickly down the road. If we can see it here, in a relatively godly confessional community, it will be even more widespread elsewhere. Though I must say, it will rarely be seen in those despised IFBs, for they believe in being separate from the world, and would rarely fall for such deception.

Steve Rafalsky
Member, Queens Presbyterian Church, Astoria (PCA)
Queens, New York
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