Back in the mid-60’s the fad which developed among college students was “doing drugs.” This infatuation with mind-altering substances became a large part of the popular music scene with psychedelic lyrics (“I tripped on a cloud and fell eight miles high; I tore my mind on the jagged sky”) and colorful groups (Strawberry Alarm Clock, who woke everyone up with “Incense and Peppermints”).
The Association came along with “Along Comes Mary” (“now my empty cup is as sweet as the punch”). “Mary” and “Mary Jane” were designations for marijuana in those days, but now young people are referring to it as “dank,” “bo,” “chronic,” and “hemp,” according to “The New Pot Culture” by Monika Guttman in last Sunday’s (2-18-96) USA WEEKEND (4).
And, sadly, the use of marijuana has sharply increased during the past four years. Reader’s Digest credited Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign (in part) with the sharp decline in young people’s use of the drug (February 73). According to the information presented in USA Weekend the number of high school seniors smoking pot declined from 50% in 1979 to 22% in 1992; since that time the number has risen dramatically to 34.7% (5). Something is terribly wrong for the number of users to increase so rapidly in such a short period of time.
One reason for this change may be society’s deemphasis of the subject. Reader’s Digest cites several factors. “In 1989, 518 drug stories were aired on the evening news of the three major networks. By 1994, there were just 78. The number of PDFA spots is down 20 percent since 1990.” And many of those ads are aired at times when young people are not watching (75).
Furthermore, drugs seem to be more acceptable in the entertainment media. According to USA Weekend, approval of marijuana has been suggested on Roseanne , in movies such as How To Make An American Quilt, and once again in the realm of popular music. In fact, a recent CD entitled Hempilation, was released specifically to earn money for marijuana decriminalization (5), a cause which even some misguided conservatives (and liberals such as former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders-RD 74) champion. There are also some potthemed hats and T-shirts that one may find young people starting to wear.
Keep Off the GrassToday’s adults who survived “hippie-hood” may not be too alarmed about this resurgent craze, but they should be because the primary psychoactive chemical (THC) of today’s marijuana has doubled in potency during the past ten years (USA 5). The ease of obtaining the drug should strike fear into most people.
Becoming commonplace are “Phillies blunts,” which are cigars which have been hollowed out and refilled with marijuana. “The nicotine helps increase the high” (4). But consider the following information carefully. Marijuana is currently this nation’s largest cash crop (6). Furthermore, many teens who were interviewed for the USA article said that the average time it would take them to find and buy pot was three minutes (6-7). A Seattle teenager confided to Reader’s Digest that “Weed is as common as school lunch” (72).
EffectsThe effects of smoking marijuana are detrimental to both the individual and society. Let’s begin with the latter. Many who desire either to legalize or decriminalize marijuana have cited “the European model” as a system that works. According to the February Reader’s Digest ,”Dutch adolescent marijuana use, for example, nearly tripled between 1984 and 1992, while the flow of drugs into bordering countries has grown. At the same time the Netherlands is ranked No. 1 in Europe for forcible assaults, up 65 percent since 1985″ (74). Similar unsavory results have been Zurich, Switzerland’s reward. “Today, Switzerland is left with Europe’s highest percapita rate of drug addiction and second highest rate of HIV infection” (75).
The personal effects on the individual user are well known. USA Weekend states them succinctly: “Marijuana reduces coordination; slows reflexes; interferes with the ability to measure distance, speed and time; and disrupts concentration in short term memory. A marijuana smoker is exposed to six times as many carcinogens as a tobacco smoker” (5).
Another danger of marijuana is that (as a “gateway” drug) it leads its devotees to experiment with drugs even more dangerous than it is, as some users admit: “Pot makes you lazy. I don’t like to do schoolwork,” a former 3.5 average student admitted. “A lot of people move on to acid” (Reader’s Digest 71-72). Parents need to be aware of this revived threat against young people and caution them not to be deceived by it.
Many enjoy the high and think they are more lucid when stoned, possessing greater insights. The following letter was written to Ann Landers several years ago–before I began documenting articles properly. The misspellings and errors were on the part of the letter writer. It serves to demonstrate how marijuana affects the brain.
Dear Ann Landers:
Your letter against pot last week was a joke. If you dryed up creeps want kids to believe you, who don’t you tell the truth? I like my hair long. It looks fine. I have yet to see a single letter in your column to tell the GOOD things about pot. Why is that? Because you are a bunch of fuddy-dudies who are scare us kids to death. Well, it won’t work. Most of us know more about pot than our parents and teachers put together. Getting turned on by Jesus is definately. I’m a 16 year-old girl who lives in a medium-size midwestern town. I have been smoking pot at least once a day for two years. It hasn’t hurt me at all. In fax it has done me a lot of good. Not only is pot-smoking fun but it has expanded my conscientiousness and opened my eyes to the beaties of the world and unquestionable. This proves the police are pigs.
Grass has not dulled my mind. It has sharpen it. My think is clearer than it ever was. I am more aware things I never noticed before. Objicts that used to look small look large, especially when I. When I smoke, I see mental imagines in color instead of black and white. I used to be too shy to speak up in a crowd. Now I am a brilliant conversationist. I get stoned but I am 100 percent lucid. I am express my inmost feelings brilliantly. Feet can be friends. When I finish this letter it will be a mastpiece.
If you fail to print it, I will know you are a Communist. In Russia they print only one side of the story. The side they want people to believe. I’ll be watch and waiting. –The Truth Will Win
Peace and serenity are wonderful commodities: they are the ideal, and they are by far what most of us prefer. What we experience, however, are conflicts. How should these be handled?
The Lord anticipated that problems would arise among His people. In the Old Testament, for example, there were so many difficulties (Ex. 18:19) that it was necessary for Moses to judge matters between the Israelites from morning until evening (Ex. 18:13).
The Corinthians mishandled their complaints, and some members of the body of Christ took their brethren to law–before unbelievers, at that (1 Cor. 6:1-8). A few other indications of disharmony are indicated in the book of Philippians. Paul exhorts the brethren to “stand fast in one spirit” (1:27) and to be “of one accord, of one mind” (2:2). Later, he singles out two ladies, Euodia and Syntyche, “to be of the same mind” (4:2). Paul charges brethren in Ephesus to endeavor “to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). If internal unity among brethren were automatic, there would be no need for all these admonitions. Harmony does not just happen; it must be sought.
How, then, should conflicts be handled? Jesus specified what to do in Matthew 18:15. “Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” [Notice that this is a personal matter between two brothers, not a rationale for dealing with false teachers, authors, or college presidents.]
Many situations will be resolved at this point, if both parties are sincere and genuinely concerned about taking care of the matter. Of course, if the offending party persists, one or two more brethren are to discuss it, and finally the church must be informed and fellowship withdrawn from the stubbornly impenitent one.
But what happens when this divine process breaks down? What if, as in the case of Marian Guinn, aperson refuses to talk to the elders or anyone else, and then files a lawsuit for harassment? Or what happens if a person confesses sin before the church for appearance’s sake but never brings forth fruit worthy of repentance (Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:20)? Or what happens if the individual leaves, attends another congregation, and misrepresents those he/she has left behind?
When the process the Lord authorized breaks down due to the impenitence of the person who has caused the problem, that itself reveals the insincerity of the individual who assumes such a rebellious posture. The congregation should withdraw fellowship from such a person.
No one should be allowed to repent verbally when no effort has been or will be made to correct the problem. Some have repented of fornication–after each illegitimate birth. Obviously, something did not change. Others have said things such as, “I repented; so I don’t have to talk to you.” How could an attitude be any more unspiritual than that? Who dares to play the hypocrite before God and the church by pretending to repent in order to “resolve” a problem? For shame.
And what of those who leave one congregation for another, in which they feel free to spread rumors and untruths? How can such matters be handled, especially when those listening to suchmisrepresentations have such itching ears? Some of these insults may be against individuals, or they may be against the church as a whole.
Handling Personal AttacksCertain responses should be ruled out, such as smacking them “up side of the head.” Sure, it would feel good for the moment, but it’s not the Lord’s way. (Besides, if they have never developed a conscience or integrity in all the years they’ve been studying the Bible and listening to sermons, it probably can’t be beaten into them, either.) If Paul had personal enemies in the first century (and he did), chances are we are going to have a difficult time escaping false brethren, too (2 Cor. 11:26).
1. Be willing to discuss a problem with someone who is genuinely concerned about it, but the basis for the discussion must reside in objectivity. Nothing will be accomplished if all that is going to occur is an exchange of allegations and denials of private conversations which no one witnessed. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (Deut. 19:15, 2 Cor. 13:1).
2. Let someone arbitrate in a dispute. Both parties should select a neutral group of people to hear both sides and make suggestions. Paul says there ought to be at least one wise man among us to judge between brethren (1 Cor. 6:5).
3. But what if all these techniques fail? What if some do not want a resolution? What if they really enjoy reveling in hit-and-run character assassination?
“When somebody has been so unkind to you, some word spoken that pierces you through and through, think how He was beguiled, spat upon, and reviled. Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in you.” As English poet George Herbert wrote: “Living well is the best revenge.” In other words, keep being a faithful Christian, work for the Master, and forget those who have nothing better to do than carp,complain, criticize, and accuse falsely Another’s servant (or church).
If we devote ourselves to going on to perfection, people will come to doubt those whose favorite pastime is “badmouthing.” If the congregation busies itself in evangelism, edification, and benevolence, the inaccurate and false representations of others will eventually fall on deaf ears. We cannot allow others to disturb and distract us from doing and being what pleases our Lord.
4. Realize that those who engage in the negative behavior of attacking others have fallen prey to Satan’s influence. Wise brethren are not ignorant of the devil’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). Pray that they see the errors of their ways, and repent. (Remember Matt. 5:38-48 and Rom. 12:17-21.)
Of course, murmurers and complainers would be out of business in a week were it not for the fact that too many people delight in hearing what they have to say. All of us need to turn away our ears from “hearsay.” If a brother has some objective evidence to present against another brother, fine. Present it. Otherwise, keep silence. The body of Christ does not need to “bite and devour one another” (Gal. 5:15).
We should be careful not to be foolish enough to hear only one side of a story. “He’s my friend, my child, my neighbor. That’s good enough for me.” Since when do personal attachments take the place of evidence? Friends, children, and neighbors have been known to lie or be mistaken. As Solomon wrote: “He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him” (Pr. 18:13).
During the 14th Annual Denton Lectureship last November my task was to review Monroe Hawley’s 1992 book, Is Christ Divided? Attending that particular session was Leroy Garrett, who has lived in Denton a number of years and now attends the Singing Oaks Church of Christ, which observes Christmas and Easter with special programs (and which has departed from the faith in a number of other ways).
After the discussion forum had ended, Leroy introduced himself to me and gave me a copy of his current paper, Last Time Around (he used to publish Restoration Review, which I first saw thirty years ago). The invitation was to read it and let him know what I thought of it, which I am now doing. He was very cordial, and the analysis which follows reflects no personal animosity since he was in no way personally unkind to me.
Perhaps he is not unkind to anyone. On page four of the October, 1995, issue that he gave me, he provides an “update” on the “International Church of Christ, formerly Boston Church of Christ.” He extends no criticism to the group which has correctly been identified by many as a cult; in fact, he considers them “phenomenal.”
The front page article is entitled “Concerning Those ‘In Error.'” Leroy says he suspects many will identify with a letter he has received from a sister who has “hung in all her life.” She apparently is on Garrett’s mailing list (who else would write to him?), which means she must have been pondering his views for a while, which may explain her confusion.
She identifies herself as one who “grew up in the Church of Christ,” which presumably means under its influence since one can only be Jewish by birth; one becomes a Christian by being taught (Heb. 8:10-11) and then obeying the gospel, not by birth. She (seemingly unashamedly) confesses: “I have never as an adult believed that only those in the Church of Christ are Christians,” and wants to know if she should leave it.
Now many faithful gospel preachers would probably ask her some questions, such as, “How does one become a Christian?” Or “If you think there are Christians besides in the Lord’s church, could you explain where they are and how they came to be there?” Or even: “What you think is not nearly so important was what the Bible teaches on the matter; what does It say?”
It may be very high-sounding and in harmony with the spirit of the age to allege that Christians can be in all denominations, but it is altogether different to explain how such a phenomenon occurs. Take the Presbyterian Church, for example (which the woman’s husband grew up in). It is a man-made denomination, not the Lord’s church. Calvinism, which doctrine they follow, teaches that children are depraved sinners at birth; they are thus baptized (actually sprinkled) while mere babies.
Is the letter-writer willing to assert that those who have never heard the gospel and who have been baptized as babies are saved? If so, exactly what New Testament has she been reading? Certainly, she did not get such an idea from Jesus (Mark 16: 15-16), Peter (Acts 2:38), or Paul (Romans 6:3-5). In order to become a Christian, one must “obey the gospel” (1 Cor. 15:1-4, Rom. 6:17-18). Those who fail to obey it are lost (2 Thess. 1: 6-10). So how can there be a Christian in the Presbyterian Church, when they neither teach nor practice what the New Testament teaches?
Leroy’s ResponseMost faithful gospel preachers would probably answer somewhat along the lines presented above (and send along some lessons on the nature of the church), but Leroy Garrett does not see fit to reply in such a fashion. He “advised this sister and her husband that leaving one church and going to another does not always solve the problem.” Please understand that Mr. Garrett is equating the Lord’s church with a denominational church when he gives such advice. The woman had written about leaving “the Church of Christ.” Since there is only one true church (Eph. 1:22-23, 4:4), Garrett must know the only other “church” she could attend would be a denomination, and that appears not to bother him–even though he encourages her to stay where she is.
Why does he advise her to remain with a group that makes her feel like a “hypocrite” since she can not agree with them? “… they have a better chance of being a catalyst for change if they remain where they are.” Such is apparently the philosophy of Shelly and others–don’t leave the church; be a “catalyst for change” instead. Remain as the Trojan Horse to destroy (oh, excuse me) reform it from within. The church needs these people about like a house needs termites.
Notice to the Fifth ColumnTo all of those who think they can “help” the church by subtly getting it to change, consider the response of at least one conservative.
Thanks for your consideration, but we do not want or need your help. We have the Bible and find it utterly sufficient in matters of doctrine and morality. If you had something constructive to offer, we would be happy to listen, but all you seem to want to do is tear down those things it took faithful brethren generations to build.
You mock the old hermeneutics of “command,” “example,” and “implication” (which Jesus Himself used as methods of interpretation) and have replaced them with the touchy-feelies (if it feels good do it). You accuse us of causing division over the instrument when you know full well that the source of the problem involved those who introduced it and who still refuse to renounce it for the sake of unity.
You would make of the Lord’s church a denomination and do away with the Bible’s teaching about salvation (Acts 2:38). Truth is of no consequence to you whatsoever; it has been cast aside for “love,” a soft, warm, gooey feeling that overlooks practically everything instead of looking out for the best interests of others (1 Thess. 5:15), such as communicating the truth that could set people free (John 8:31-32).
Many of us intend to stand with the Scriptures rather than follow the lead of the culture we live in. Homosexuals will not convince us that the Bible is in error about them, nor will feminists cause us to be silent about 1 Timothy 2:9-14. Neither will you remove us from the Biblical doctrine of fellowship (2 John 9-11).
By aligning yourselves with the denominations you have robbed yourself of the chance to offer anything of value. Those defending the concept have been met and defeated by us for decades. And you don’t even have the courage to defend your beliefs in honorable public debate. Instead of remaining among the churches of Christ, why don’t you shed a modicum of your cowardice and join your denominational buddies? You will be happier not associating with those you hold in contempt, and we will be free of “catalysts.”
Atheists have taught us that it is rational to be ignorant; if, however, we learn Truth, we immediately become irrational. Some atheists (see last week’s article) admit they don’t know how the world came into existence. Christians, however, know that God created the world (Gen. 1:1) because of the natural evidence of the creation (see Romans 1:18-20) and because of the supernatural revelation which God has given us (the Bible), whose authenticity has been overwhelmingly attested in a variety of ways. Atheists reject the evidence, preferring ignorance; then they call Christians irrational.
Among other statements in Nicole Piscopo’s article, “They Oppose Religion in Public Life,” which ran in The Dallas Morning News on Saturday, November 11th, are these:
1. “To some, atheism advocates personal responsibility and is devoid of the ‘wishful thinking’ of an afterlife” (6G).
2. “But fear of divine retribution is not only unnecessary for moral behavior, but is a ‘selfish and depraved’ motivation” (6G).
Does atheism really advocate personal responsibility? Of course, atheists are quick to say so, but such can hardly be the case. Who are all the crimes committed by, Christians? [Now it is true that some who have professed to be Christians have committed crimes and various other sins, but in doing so they trespass against the very teachings they are bound by.] However, what law could an atheist possibly violate, and to whom is he responsible? To be sure, if he transgresses a civil law, and he is caught, then he might face punishment, but he is certainly accountable to no one of any higher authority. How long does it take people to realize, “Hey! There’s a lot I can get away with.”
Without a recognition of the fact that there will be a Day of Judgment, what motivation does anyone have to be moral? To the atheist who contends we ought to be moral, the reply comes back, “Why ought I be anything? And who’s going to make me?” Without fear of the Judgment, motivations become “selfish and depraved.” It is exactly lack of respect for the Bible as the inspired Word of God that has led to the depravity of this age.
Most people are not looking forward to the afterlife in which they give an account to God (2 Cor. 5:10). Many have reinvented it so as to save everyone. People desire the rewards of heaven; they just don’t like the alternative. Accountability and eternal punishment in Hell have become very unpopular doctrines.
LOGIC AND CRIME”This is the country that has the most churches. At the same time, we’re the country with the highest violent crime rate. We have the most churches, but we also have the most prisons” (6G). Is there some kind of link here? Is it commonplace for people to meet for worshiping God and then go murder and rob people? [Actually, most go out to eat dinner in local restaurants.] This statement is about the equivalent of saying, “The United States grows the most corn of any nation in the world, but our literacy rate ranks only 25th. Therefore, we should stop growing corn.”
Anyone wanting a logical connection between crime and something else might consider that we frequently have more taverns than church buildings. Oddly enough, more fights and murders are committed in places that serve alcohol than where people are singing hymns in glory to God. Being “filled with the Spirit” has not been nearly so deadly as being filled with “spirits.”
“MOTHER EARTH” AND RATIONALITYSome atheists are apparently rabid environmentalists. “The planet has suffered under religions that place human life at a higher level of importance than ecology” (6G). “We are profoundly more concerned with this planet and this life because this is all there is” (6G). Are respect for human life and ecology at cross purposes? If so, human life is more important. Man is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28); trees are not. Mankind is given dominion over the earth, not the other way around. The earth is not our long-lost mother; God, however, is our Father. What is frightening about atheism is that it pays more homage to rocks and dirt than living human beings. What kind of rationale is that? Will it be advocated that we kill human beings to save the earth?
CHURCH AND STATE”Separation between church and state used to command almost universal respect. Now it’s become a dirty phrase” (6G). Good–it is a dirty phrase–as used by the atheistic lawyers of the ACLU, whose fanaticism has become apparent to most people. The so-called wall of separation between church and state is a myth; our constitution nowhere says any such thing. Our founding fathers believed in God. “Chiseled in the granite of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., are the words of Jefferson: ‘God gave us life and gave us liberty. Can the liberty of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” (Five Lies of the Century by David T. Moore, p. 13). Moore cites a number of quotations, proving that separation of church and state never called for separation of G o d and state.
The Dallas Morning News published two related articles on the subject of atheism which are somewhat unique. One deals with an atheistic church–an interesting concept that will be dealt with later; the other discusses atheistic opposition to religion. Both stories appear under the bold headline banner of “Atheists: Defenders of Nonbelief” on the Irreligion page dated November 11th.
Nicole Piscopo wrote the article entitled “They Oppose Religion in Public Life.” The reader seeks in vain for a clear thesis; the journalist simply slings out a few diverse ideas, connected by the common thread of atheism. Our approach, therefore, will be to comment on some of the major emphases.
One point that atheists seem eager to affirm is that atheism “is not a self-centered endorsement of hedonism or immorality that many atheists say they are accused of practicing” (6G). As was pointed out in previous articles (see #19 and #20), no one ought to accuse atheists of being those things; but to accept their philosophy opens the door to such practices, which they cannot logically defend.
This column begins by whetting the reader’s appetite. The “co-president of the nationwide Atheistic Alliance,” we are promised, “tells how he became an atheist” (1G). Since he had a religious upbringing in the Greek Orthodox Church, we become curious as to how and why he changed his mind. But all we are told is: “By his early teens, he had his doubts. By 16, he and theos had parted ways” (1G). Why, how convincing. It’s a wonder 90% of people are not atheists instead of just 10%!
Actually, the article goes on to delve much deeper into the co-president’s psyche. We are informed that for him “the idea of God touted by most religions goes against all rationality” (1G). Oh, really? So how does the idea of God contradict rationality? Mr. Tzanetakos (whose first name ironically is Christos) fails to say (or maybe he did say, but the journalist failed to mention it).
So, he charges that the idea of God is irrational, BUT then asserts that “energy, not God” created the universe. “The question is, what is energy?” No, Mr. atheist, the question is, “Where did energy come from?” Was it created? No? Then it must be self-existent. But if energy can be self-existing, then why can’t God be self-existing? One must start with intellect, matter, energy–something. Whatever we call it, it was either created (which fails to solve the problem) or eternal.
“We as atheists simply state our ignorance, but we’re not going to create an imaginary entity” (1G). What an admission!! He states that as an atheist he has no explana- tion for the origin of all things (while theists do). Then he goes on to confess ignorance. [Of course, we already knew that. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God,'” (Ps. 14:1).] But if you do not know how something occurred, how can you rule out one of the alternatives? The only way to eliminate God as being the Creator of all things would be to disproveHis existence. Possessing a few doubts scarcely qualifies as convincing evidence for his case.
MYTHICAL STORIES?The next atheist whose views are featured is Dr. Tim Gorski, an obstetrician. [This occupation seems grossly incongruent with atheism. How can anyone monitoring life in the womb and bringing newborns into the world even doubt the existence of God, let alone deny it?] “The mind revolts” against the concept of God, he affirms. What does such a statement imply about the vast majority of people whose minds haven’t revolted?
“I started picking the minds of the priests, but I found they didn’t have any good answers,” the doctor says of his Catholic youth (1G and 6G). So, because the priests didn’t want to be bothered with questions from a snot-nosed, ten-year-old, he became an atheist. That makes sense. Or maybe his questions were so intense and crucial that the priests couldn’t handle them. Even Jesus was twelve before He astounded the teachers of the law (Luke 2:41-47). Besides, we could ask atheists like Mr. Tzanetakos some questions about the origin of all things, and he would plead ignorance. Based on his inability to answer questions, perhaps all atheists should become theists.
Gipson Arnold, president of Atheist Network, thought even as a child that Bible stories were too “far-fetched.” “Jonah and the whale sounded like Jack and the beanstalk”; “And isn’t being a virgin and being a mother mutually exclusive?” (6G).
First of all, what are the similarities between Jonah and Jack? Jonah’s mother isn’t even mentioned. “Jack” is a story of fantasy and never pretends to be true. Jonah was a real man living in historical times who attempts to avoid his commission to preach to real people in a known country (Assyria). Jack lives “somewhere,” and the seeds he casts out the window grow up over night into a beanstalk, which arises through the clouds where a giant lives. Right! No wonder atheists are termed foolish–when they can’t discern between make-believe and a descriptive narrative.
Of course, mothers are never virgins. That’s what all the excitement is about, Gipson! Mary was the only woman who was both! Get a grip; try to distinguish the virgin birth from Cinderella. It’s not that hard if one possesses a smattering of objectivity.
In the previous two weeks we have examined four arguments against drinking. They have involved: 1) the bitter fruits of alcohol, 2) abstaining from fellowshipping that which causes abundant miseries, 3) the effects of alcohol, and 4) guarding one’s influence. Interspersed with these categories have been the Scriptures and the oft-repeated question, “WHY DO IT?”
The reason more Scriptures have not been cited is that proponents of drinking within the church frequently point out that they agree with the Bible–they too condemn drunkenness; they only defend light or moderate drinking. It is for exactly that reason that the above question has been asked. What authority is there to drink, period? What purpose does it serve? What good does it accomplish? Since the answer is, “Nothing,” a Christian ought to remove himself as far away from alcoholic beverages as possible.
“JESUS WAS A DRINKING MAN”The above statement was made in a sermon by a social drinker in a congregation in southeast Kansas about twenty years ago. When the local preacher objected, the elders upheld the man who made the statement (a generous giver) and fired the preacher!!
Such a statement blasphemes our Lord and shows to what desperate lengths some will go to justify their sins. The passage of Scripture usually cited to support this erroneous notion is John 2:1-11, in which Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast. Many conclude (along with Ann Landers) that “wine is wine” (meaning that since wine is fermented today, it was also fermented back then). In fact, some of our commentators have come to the same conclusion. Such an assertion can only be made in ignorance (believe me, that was the kindest way I could think of to say it; the other choices sounded much worse).
The fact is that a number of words are translated wine in the Bible. Some refer specifically to the fruit of the vine, some obviously refer to the fermented state, and some are just generic words (such as oinos), in which the context must decide the intoxicating power of the beverage. Would Jesus turn water into a dangerously potent brew after the guests had already sated themselves? “Man, I got bombed last week in Cana of Galilee, and I owe it all to a man called Jesus.” Would Jesus violate every principle He taught about self-control to help these people get drunk? How absurd! “But it was described as the best wine.” Such could hardly refer to the highest potency (which some affirm) since that would not be immediately known; rather, the flavor is being complemented.
ALL WINE IN THOSE DAYS WAS FERMENTED WINEEvery Christian should be in possession of two facts: 1) Ancient civilizations knew at least four ways to keep wine from fermenting. Books that deal with this subject are The Bible, The Saint, and The Liquor Industry by Jim McGuiggan, The Bible and “Social” Drinking by W. D. Jeffcoat, and Bible Wines by William Patton; and 2) The alcoholic content in today’s wines is much higher than occurs by natural fermentation. Any wine with an alcohol level higher than 12% has been fortified to make it stronger.
“FOR MEDICINAL PURPOSES”Paul told Timothy to “take a little wine for his stomach’s sake.” But why did Paul have to command him to do so? For some reason, Timothy had made it a habit not to drink wine. Didn’t he like its taste? Was he trying to avoid the charge of being a drunkard? After all, Jesus had drunk wine and was accused of such (though untrue). Was it just safer to avoid intoxication by drinking something else? No matter what the answer, Paul’s admonition to drink wine revolved around relief for his stomach; it in no wise authorizes social drinking for recreational purposes today.
“But my doctor told me it would help my heart.” Some do, but they ought not. Rod Rutherford, in Major Lessons from the Major Prophets (the third POWER Lectureship book) writes: “However, a panel of doctors including Dr. William P. Castelli of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, state that the risk of drinking alcohol is too great to ever justify recommending it to anyone” (440). Brother Rutherford goes on to say that the ingredient beneficial to the heart (resveratrol) is more abundant in grape juice than in fermented wine. Grape juice is also somewhat less addictive.
“THE BIBLE DOESN’T SAY NOT TO DRINK AT ALL”Consider Vine on Eph. 5:18 and the verb methusko : It “signifies to make drunk, or to grow drunk (an inceptive verb, marking the process of the state expressed in No. 1), to become intoxicated” (Vine 341, Rutherford in Major Lessons of the Major Prophets 441). Becoming drunk is a process: if it is never begun; it can never be completed.
If, after all that has been presented, a person insists upon drinking; then it is obvious that his mind was made up from the beginning–and why. After Samuel gave numerous reasons for the nation of Israel not to have a king, they said, “Nay, but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations…” (1 Samuel 8:10-20). Today, people consider what the Bible teaches and reject it, saying, “No but we will have musical instruments; we will be homosexuals; we will remain married; we will drink.” “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Pr. 14:12).
From childhood until about the age of fifteen I attended a denomination. No, there was no choice in the matter, and I did not enjoy it–even though I had sung in the choir. Part of the reason I disliked the worship ordeal was that it was very formal, and I had to be quiet–and still, which is tough for youngsters. But even as I reasonably conquered the temptation of restlessness, the hour was no less enjoyable. As soon as I could get away with it, I quit attending.
Probably, it would have been difficult to explain what turned me off about it, being as yet unknowledgeable in the Scriptures. A general impression would have been all that could be cited rather than detailed specifics. The entire worship experience could be characterized as artificial, superficial, and formalistic–from the organ music which silenced everyone who entered into the “sanctuary” to the “responsive” readings (which required little thought), the entire hour was programmed.
Did I make any effort to learn about any other religious group? No, because I foolishly bought into the devil’s uninspired notion that “all churches are alike.” I became one of those creatures that believes in God but has no use for “church” connections or activities. None of that “goody-goody” stuff for me. Things remained that way for about three years when the cute little teenage girl who is now my wife invited me to attend worship with her.
My motive in agreeing to go with her was less than honorable. In fact, my mind was already made up that we would go through the perfunctory motions of worship, and then I would explain to her what was wrong with everything. She would probably be surprised at such hostility, but so be it. Ironically, I was the one who was surprised. Whoever said that all “churches were alike” had lied.
Instead of artificiality there was genuineness. Friendliness abounded rather than strict formalism. In place of a sophisticated speech was a sermon delivered with conviction. Instead of superficiality there was vitality. My presuppositions having been blown to smithereens, I grew interested in what was going on but remained cautiously skeptical (looking for opportunities to catch these people in some kind of hypocrisy–which never happened).
As time passed by, I came to understand what the differences were between the Lord’s church and denominations. For the first time I was taught the gospel and that I needed to obey it. Wonderful fellowship, meaningful religion, and encouragement to obey were excellent drawing cards, but the clincher was the emphasis upon truth.
The Truth Revealed in the Bible
Why it did, I don’t know, but truth mattered. Perhaps it was the fact that children were taught that telling the truth was right and lying was wrong that made truth seem important. In conjunction with that, I was fortunate enough to grow up in an age when respect for authority was still being taught (if not consistently practiced). Truth was authoritative, and all forms of authority must be respected.
If the Bible didn’t mention Christmas and Easter (and it doesn’t), then that settled the matter; they were not to be observed as religious holidays. If the Bible said, “Sing,” then that eliminated the use of instruments. If the Bible said, “Go ye,” then it was time to be evangelistic. If the Bible said there was but one gospel (Gal. 1:8-9), then all others were false. It was that simple.
It still is. Its importance has not changed. Proverbs 23:23 still says: “Buy the truth, and do not sell it; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” The words of Jesus have not changed; it is still the case that all who continue in His word are His disciples indeed. They shall know the truth, and the truth will set them free (John 8:31-32).
Along with everything else we need to communicate to those outside of Christ is this fundamentally crucial attitude of seeking the truth. Ask people what they look for in a “church,” or ask them to select a word that would characterize the “church” they attend. They will think of several descriptions, but they will not describe themselves as “a people that exalts, searches for, and abides by truth.”
We ought to plant some seeds here. “Does your church emphasize truth?” “What is the authority in your church?” “What is more important than truth?” No matter what is given (spirituality, for example), it must be derived from the Scriptures. We must challenge people’s thinking with things that we used to say, “Will you study with me and show me from the Bible why you do what you do? I will be happy to do the same with you.” “Neither of us has anything to fear from truth. If our idea is right, fine. And if we learn that we were mistaken about something, so much the better. In either case, we have nothing to lose and everything to win”
One final word. There are those among us today who would remove the emphasis upon truth. Why? They say the emphasis on truth has led to division. So? People getting married has led to divorce. Shall we just commit fornication? Likewise, shall we just give up our distinctive stance for truth because some have had more zeal than accuracy? If God’s people shy away from the pursuit of truth, we will have nothing to offer those who are lost. We would be no different than any other religious group. If God’s people choose to walk in darkness, the world will not be made any brighter.