by Tom Breeden /
Historically, Christians across the theological spectrum have had a settled position on marijuana use: almost universally forbidden. Yet this position has been primarily a matter of Christian tradition, rather than theology. In practical terms that’s been sufficient, because until recently every law in the land (at least, as written on the books) has upheld the overwhelming Christian consensus on this issue.
But Western nations, of course, are in the process of reconsidering and recategorizing marijuana use, and in many places (more places all the time) the cultural climate is shifting in favor of smoking pot recreationally or using it medicinally. As a result, some Christians are honestly beginning to wonder whether either or both of those uses are really so bad.
Clearly, these trends are only going to increase. It’s high time the evangelical church had a short, clear, simple book that offers a sound biblical response to the question, “Can I smoke pot?” We have made an effort to provide such a book, which we plan to release in early October. Today we are announcing the book, and thought you’d like to hear from one of the authors, Tom Breeden. He and co-author Mark Ward will follow up with additional blog posts about Can I Smoke Pot? in coming weeks.Teenagers ask the best questions. I was serving as a pastoral intern during my second year in seminary, working primarily with middle school, high school, and college students. I received all kinds of questions from them. Some of these questions were what you’d expect: “Why is it wrong to have sex before marriage?” Some of them were humorous: “Is it a sin for me to troll people on the internet?” But one question came up more frequently than I expected: “Is it a sin to smoke marijuana?”
I didn’t have a great answer. I knew what I thought, but I couldn’t easily explain it from Scripture. The students didn’t need my opinion; they needed God’s Word. That semester I was taking an ethics class and we were given wide latitude for our term papers. Anything connected to Christian ethics was fair game. So I decided to answer these students’ questions and knock out my term paper at the same time.
It didn’t take too long, however, before I began getting discouraged. I could find bits and pieces of the answers I was looking for, though these often depended on biblical “proof texts” whose relationship to the topic was a bit shaky. I found some insight in blog posts, too, but I needed something that went further than a blog post is really designed to go. Disheartened by my results, and facing a looming due date, I picked a new paper topic.
But the question stuck with me. What does the Bible really say about marijuana use? The answer hit me when I wasn’t looking for it. I was reading the Westminster Confession of Faith and came across Chapter 1, Paragraph 6.
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” (WCF 1.6, emphasis added)
The Bible answers our questions in more than one way. One is to explicitly address them. We know the Bible condemns murder, for instance (e.g. Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:21). However, there’s another way. The theologians who wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith called it “good and necessary consequence.” Good and necessary consequence invites us to apply clear and explicit passages of the Bible to less-clear areas.
For example, the Bible doesn’t directly address internet pornography. How could it? The internet didn’t exist when the Bible was written. But the Bible isn’t silent. The Bible is clear and explicit about sexual lust (e.g. Matthew 5:27-30) and we can apply those passages to topics like pornography, which is just a specific form of lust. In that way, we can know what the Bible teaches about pornography.
This was the piece I was missing. I couldn’t expect the Bible to say something explicitly about marijuana. What I needed to do was look for topics that the Bible was more clear about and also related to marijuana. That’s how Mark Ward (co-author) and I settled on the topics in the book. We focus on topic areas where the Bible is more clear.
By doing this, Mark and I felt confident we could come to a conclusion about marijuana too. We think we succeeded, and we hope the church agrees.
Learn more about Can I Smoke Pot? – Marijuana in Light of Scripture
Tom Breeden received an M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. and is currently licensed by the Blue Ridge Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He currently serves as the Pastoral Intern at Grace Community Church in Charlottesville, VA.