Friday, November 20, 2020

The Christian and Marijuana

[Disclaimer: this post is NOT intended to disparage the medically helpful use of non-THC cannabinoid products, nor the careful and temporary use of medically-indicated antidepressant or anti-anxiety drugs prescribed by a physician.]

As the recreational and medical use of marijuana is legalized across America, I am concerned that believers are justifying the use of pot because “it is no longer illegal.” Though it remains a controlled substance on federal lists, the feds don’t seem to be on a crusade against states where marijuana use is now legal at the state level.

Between the general cultural lessening of the stigma regarding drug use/abuse, and the change in its legal status, some professing Christians believe that the use of psycho-active substances such as marijuana is a legitimate lifestyle choice. The most common justification I hear is, “it helps me relax,” or “it helps me deal with stress.”

There are, in my opinion, many good reasons Christians should abstain from all psycho-active substances unless specifically prescribed by a physician. There’s a medical case against it (especially regarding teens and marijuana, in terms of the impairment of brain development), there’s a psychological case against it (loss of motivation and ambition, and the development of psychological dependency), and there’s certainly a social case against it (marijuana is a gateway drug and is demonstrably associated with irresponsible behavior). Great caution should be exercised even when a physician does prescribe a drug—the over-prescription of psycho-active drugs is a recognized problem in the typical American practice of medicine.

There is also a likely Scriptural case against such drug use at the lexical level. The Greek term φάρμακον (pharmakon, from which we get the English terms pharmacy and pharmaceuticals), and its related words, is translated with the English term sorcery or sorcerer in Galatians 5:20, Revelation 9:21, 18:23, 21:8, and 22:15. The Dictionary of New Testament Theology indicates this word group was typically associated with the use of substances involved in the practice of magic: medicines, herbs, potions, and poisons. The New Testament consistently associates the word with negative and prohibited practices. Galatians 5:20 includes sorcery in the list of the “deeds of the flesh,” saying that “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21).

Modern users of marijuana may not be consciously engaging in classical “magic” practices in their use of the drug, but that neglects to consider the general shift away from superstitions in our post-enlightenment culture. For example, moderns don’t necessarily believe in animistic gods as supernatural beings—but we still practice idolatry by worshiping something other than God (sex, money, etc.). The worship no longer takes on the appearance of the cultic practices of the pre-modern era, but it is worship all the same and therefore idolatry all the same. By the same token, moderns using marijuana are not consciously practicing magic, but they are pursuing the benefits, the highs, the alteration of consciousness that ancient magic practices promised, and as such there is virtually no distinction between modern and ancient usage of drugs.

But none of those arguments are the strongest arguments against the use of marijuana by believers. When a believer uses the drug for the euphoria of the high it is no different from drunkenness, which is roundly condemned by Scripture. When a believer uses the drug to relax or escape the pressures of stress and difficulty, he is endorsing the assumption that stresses, difficulties, and trials are bad, are a moral evil, and therefore should be eliminated or avoided.

But that’s not how the Scripture treats stresses, trials, and troubles. Instead, the Bible presents these dynamics as tools in the hands of God that make us more like Christ. Peter says the trials work the “proof of our faith, being more precious than gold,” and ultimately are found to “result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). Somehow I don’t think that dealing with trials by toking on a joint produces the same glory, honor, and praise toward Jesus Christ.

Peter also says that God’s divine power has granted us “everything pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). I don’t think he meant that God’s power plus pot accomplishes the glory of Christ. If we need marijuana to cope with life, then we are obviously demonstrating to the world that God’s divine power is frankly inadequate.

Paul says that he boasts in weakness, distresses, difficulties for Christ’s sake, because in his weakness Christ’s power is perfected in him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I don’t think Paul dealt with his troubles with Christ plus pot.

In my opinion this is the greatest argument against the use of marijuana. The stresses, trials, troubles of life are designed to produce the image of Christ in our character. When we can only deal with those things by getting high, we are confessing that what Jesus has done for us is insufficient to deal with “real life.”

Is the inadequacy of Christ really the message you want to proclaim?

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Book Review: Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody

Pluckrose and Lindsay dismantle Critical Theory in an intellectually rigorous way. It's frankly refreshing. The
book begins with an examination of the historical development and foundational ideas of postmodernism. They contrast it with classical liberalism. Although Critical Theory is rooted in postmodern ideas, postmodernism became little more than a faddish philosophical plaything because it ultimately deconstructed itself. If all knowledge is subjective and socially constructed and all truth claims are oppressive, well, that applies to postmodernism, too.

What rose in its place Pluckrose and Lindsay identify as "applied postmodernism." The main distinction is that applied postmodernism arbitrarily considered claims of oppression to be objectively real, while continuing to view most other claims of knowledge as mere social constructions. Applied postmodernism makes up the foundation of all variations of Critical Theory.

Most of the remainder of the book, chapter by chapter, examines the following branches of Theory: Postcolonial Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory and intersectionality, Feminism and Gender Studies, and Disability and Fat studies.

The book concludes with a close look at Social Justice scholarship and Social Justice in its real-world application.

Though it is a much overused cliche, Pluckrose and Lindsay demonstrate that the emperor of Social Justice and Social Justice "scholarship" indeed has no clothes. In fact, the authors demonstrate how Social Justice themes and emphases frequently hurt the very identity groups they are seeking to help.

The book is heavily documented with primary sources, and engages Theory's various scholars by the use of their own words and writings (perhaps 25% of the length of the book is composed of the extensive documentation and end notes). If one is researching Theory, I imagine this book is a virtual catalog of the most important sources.

In my opinion, Cynical Theories is a hugely important contribution towards rolling back the progressive tidal wave of intellectual irrationality that has taken control of virtually all aspects of modern culture. Five stars: highly recommended.

Monday, November 9, 2020

You may find these hard to put down...

Want a break from the bad news, the political news, the Covid news, and the riots-in-Portland news?

Would you like an exciting Cold-War story about conflict with the Soviet Union at the height of America’s military strength? Want to read an intriguing espionage tale? Want to read a great action/adventure tale that does not contain any gratuitous sex or obscene language?

Let me recommend the Falcon Series. It’s an exciting tale (four novels) about an American F-16 pilot who gets shot down and captured by the Soviets in what amounts to a high-tech kidnapping. He finds himself incarcerated in a Soviet interrogation camp. He knows he has two options: escape, or torture followed by death.

The Falcon Series is set in the Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The research behind the Series gives it a ring of authenticity often missing in the military and espionage genres. Fast paced, unpredictable action will keep you engaged from wheels-up to the final scenes.
 Kirkus Reviews said of Falcon Down: “Cobb has clearly done his research on
multiple counts and, like Tom Clancy or Dale Brown, masterly intertwines military technology and behavior into a tightly plotted narrative in which every development follows logically and smoothly from what came before. This deft touch extends to the characters: . . . This first installment chronicling the adventures of Maj. Jacob Kelly turns out to be an undisputed success.

I measure my success as a writer by whether or not I can make you miss your bed-time. According to a number of readers, the Falcon Series has been very successful by that metric. The books are available in both Kindle and print format. The book links below take you to Amazon--however, there are bundle prices in the Doorway Press store that will save you up to $16 for the complete set (print format).

Book 1: Falcon Down 
Book 2: Falcon Rising 
Book 3: Falcon Strike 

And one last thing: if you read any of the Falcon Series, and you enjoyed it, leave a rating or review (preferably) on Amazon or Goodreads, or other reading sites. And tell a friend! Thanks!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

When all is said and done, it's time to reboot...

First: full disclosure. I wrote this post for my benefit, to remind me of what is true and to get re-centered on what is important, and what is ultimate. I am a political junkie and sometimes get off-centered. I needed the thought that went into this essay in order to restore my own sense of balance. Perhaps it can help you, too. Take a deep breath, and read on...

Tuesday will come and go and the earth will continue to orbit the sun. No matter who is elected (and no matter how long it takes us to find out who won), you’ll still need to go to work, raise your children, love your spouse.  

Here are a few thoughts to remember:

1. No matter who wins, the outcome is ultimately an act of God’s sovereign control over His creation. “For not from the east, nor from the west, Nor from the desert comes exaltation; but God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another.” (Psalm 75:6–7). Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 4 is particularly helpful: “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17).

2. Do not get caught up in conspiracy theories. God’s got this. What if the vote is polluted? What if there is cheating, perhaps organized fraud? The sin of man will never overcome the plan of God. Conspirators may thwart the will of man, but they will never thwart the will of God. Psalm 2 should forever destroy the fear of conspiracies: “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:1–4).

3. On the other hand, don’t be glib about the sovereignty of God. The fact that Christians have confidence in God’s sovereign control of all things should never lead the believer to become glib or insensitive to suffering that is a result of wicked men and poor governance. Jeremiah knew God was in control of the Babylonian invasion—but he still wept for his nation, nonetheless. Jesus knew His Father was in control of the judgment to come, but He still wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Caring deeply about our nation and its fortunes is neither unbiblical or unspiritual—rather, it is an appropriate response to our stewardship in this earthly kingdom.

4. Remember that relationships are far more important than politics. Our politics are certainly formed out of our worldview, but not everyone has thought as deeply about the connections. All of us, including me, live with a degree of cognitive dissonance or intellectual contradiction in our opinions and viewpoints. The Scripture is absolute; our opinions are not absolute. Don’t confuse the two. We are to receive one another: “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:1–4)

5. Do not buy the argument that concern for the economy and the policies that impact it is a greedy preoccupation with wealth. Many of those who make this charge are precisely the ones whose economic status largely protects them from the vagaries of a faltering economy. For the majority of Americans, the health of the economy translates to whether they can pay their rent or mortgage, keep the electricity and heat on, and put food on the table. The economy matters hugely, because it has a direct and often immediate impact on human suffering. Christians should care about this—not only in terms of mercy ministries, but in terms of laws and policies that add strength to the economy.

6. Do not buy the argument that the church and its mission are largely unaffected by culture in which it lives. Paul intimates in 1 Timothy 2 that domestic tranquility has a positive effect on the ability to share the gospel: First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1–4)

7. Don’t be confused: America is neither ultimate nor permanent. The Constitution is neither ultimate nor permanent. Only God, His Word, and His plan are ultimate. “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Someday—maybe soon, who knows—all the works of man will come to an end in the fires of God’s judgment. Washington D.C. will be burned to a crisp. London, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Seoul, and all the capitals of men will be burned to a crisp. That doesn’t mean the policies and laws of those places are irrelevant, but it does mean that they are at best temporary.

8. Don’t be confused: America has been greatly blessed by God, but Americans are not the people of God; rather, the true church comprises the people of God. While the Constitution embodies many biblical principles, it is not the sixty-seventh book of Scripture—it’s not the Epistle to the Church of Philadelphia, USA.

Here’s what we should remember: we must faithfully exercise our stewardship as citizens of an earthly kingdom, but we must never allow that citizenship to take priority over our heavenly one. On Wednesday morning, God will still be on the throne. His sovereign plan will reign supreme. He will still be good and loving and just and faithful. The blessed hope of the believer will be unchanged by political winds. Fullness of joy is found in the presence of God, not in political victory. Our joy will continue no matter who sits behind the Resolute Desk in the White House.

If your eyes (and my eyes) are fixed on Christ, our joy will be undiminished.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1–4)