I've had a great time speaking at the Fuse's "Wheel of Theology" series these last two weeks. The Fuse is a young adults' program at Grace Church here in Ashland and during the Spring they have their group submit theological or biblical questions for a panel to answer.
I like this simply for the reason that it shows these young people are thinking seriously about Christianity and a comprehensive Christian worldview. I commend the guys leading this ministry (Rich, Ben, Randy) and all of the pastoral staff at Grace Church for their work.
Here are a few of the questions I was called upon to field
Marijuana is starting to be legalized in the United States. How should a Christian respond? There are basically four things to remember Scripturally when thinking about this subject.
Medicinal purposes: The Proverbs say, “Give strong drink to the perishing.” It allows the one who is dying to have some reprieve from the pain by means of drug induced stimuli. Marijuana has also, in ages past, been used as an anesthetic prior to surgery. These are legitimate purposes according to Scripture.
Purposes of dominion: God calls us to take dominion of the world and advance society. The things He has created are the raw materials for our creative and productive work. This includes the marijuana plant. Through scientific inquiry we have discovered good uses for it (and perhaps there are many more usages waiting to be discovered). For instance, the marijuana plant can be used in forms of rope. Such a thing would be most useful and godly.
Purposes of food: God gave us every seed bearing plant for food. Eating it might be a legitimate thing to do....But as Joe Carter has said: let’s get real, no one is adding hash to their brownies because it makes them taste better.
Recreational purposes: The key to remember is this: Any drug should be carefully examined as to its affects upon our minds and our bodies. Obviously, we do not want to bring physical harm upon ourselves. We might use as a good guide what Solomon said regarding his use of alcohol: He drank enough to where he still had the capacities of his mind. In other words, he was not drunk or given over to senselessness. God requires us to have self control and our powers of rationality are key to that.
Studies indicate that it only takes approximately 4 tokes to affect your psychological state. I've also heard that just one puff can put you over the top. This makes the use of marijuana unwise for the Christian. It should also make us question the terminology of "recreational use of marijuana," as it makes it sound fun and exciting.
There are two basic things to consider regarding participation in a secular band, the company you keep and the content of your songs. I'll start with the later.
If you are singing songs that are overtly immoral (i.e. rape your mother, premarital sex, hedonistic lifestyle), then you are most definitely out of God's will. Even if you are only playing the guitar and not directly singing them, this is being an accomplice in the act.
However, if you are singing songs that are not directly against God's law, you might be able to do it. Love songs are not expressly evil in and of themselves (Just check out the Song of Solomon). There are many songs that what we might call adiaphora, i.e. "things indifferent."
The other item to consider is the company you keep. Scripture says that bad company corrupts good character. If you are in a band, it may be likely that these guys you are playing with are your closest confidants. They are people with whom you hang and have a good deal of interaction. This might not be healthy and you need to use discernment.
Overall, if this is a question someone truly is considering, he has to gauge whether or not it is healthy for his walk with Christ. It might just be love of pleasure or pride that motivates his wanting to participate. Or, it may be a good means of using his God given gift in order to make a jump to a more overtly Christian purpose.
Images of Jesus
Some people deem it okay because Jesus was a man. They can depict his human nature, just as long as they are not worshipping the image. Teaching purposes, they say, are ok.
I differ from the main stream. I think that the second commandment applies to the person of Jesus too. That’s because Christ wishes to be known through his word and the sacraments. The Bible says that "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God."
What's more, to depict Christ is to teach something about Christ (liberal, feminine, surfer dude who cannot ever be made.) It is my belief that teaching is a form of worship.
Even if that isn't true, learning about Christ should lead you to worship. So if you are learning by means of images, you are worshiping God by means of images. So, the use of pictures of Jesus does, in my opinion, violate the second commandment's prohibition to not worship or bow down to images. See the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 96-98
If you want images, the Bible does provide you with some. They are baptism and the Lord's Supper. Developing a right understanding of these tactile means of grace would be a very good thing to do.
There are many people in the Bible with disabilities. Mephibosheth had crippled legs, Ahaziah fell through the upper latice. The Apostle Paul likely would have had some degree of diability after being stoned, recieving the 40 lashes minus one (5 times!), beaten with rods (3x!), and shipwrecked at sea. Then, of course, there are all the people who got healed, a significant cast for sure.
Here are some things to note:
Symbolic: People with deformities were not allowed into certain places in the temple. The purpose for this is symbolic: the closer one comes to God the more “holy,” i.e. perfect, he had to be. This is not to say that these people were rejected by God. The Lord was simply using a picture lesson to teach our deformity of sin and need for Christ's redemption.
Purpose: Sometimes people are given a disability because of a direct curse from God. For instance, Miriam was inflicted with leprosy temporarily. However, sometimes people receive this condition as a result of God’s purpose and plan for their lives ("who sinned, this man or his parents?" Jn 6). Others have disabilities as part of the effects of sin through aging or war.
Most disabilities are not debilitating. You might be prevented from engaging in certain forms of activity or certain amounts of activity. But normally, you are not prevented from taking dominion in some capacity and engaging in meaningful work. I say this because our culture today sends the message: disability means useless, or gives the excuse to not work.
Think of Paul. Despite him likely having a bad back with all that he went through, he still vigorously sought to fulfill his calling.
Due Honor & respect: At the same time, those who are infirm ought to be respected and honored by those who are physically well. Leviticus 19:14 says, "Do not put a stumbling block before those who are blind." Negatively this is saying that God hates it when we take advantage of those who are disabled. Positively this is saying we should respect them and do everything in our power to promote their welbeing.
The Scripture also is high on restitution. So, if an employee is hurt on the job and it is the company’s fault, they ought to provide fair and just compensation.
If their disability is debilitating, then they should be recipients of charity and encouraged to work in the capacity that they can, if it only be a life of prayer.
At the same time, those who are disabled should not become a special class of people. By that I imply the state and federal regulations that mandate ramps and parking & such for people with disabilities. This is an infringement on the private sector.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.