What Does the Bible Say About Marijuana? An Exhaustive Study Part 2: Categorizing Cannabis

Question: Does the Bible's prohibition of drunkenness apply to recreational marijuana?

In our last post we agreed that the Bible teaches that drunkenness is sinful. But does this also apply to marijuana and Christian Recreational Cannabis Use (CRCU)? Are drunkenness and marijuana intoxication the same from a Biblical perspective? Many Christians believe they are. In fact, this is one of the arguments most often proposed by opponents of CRCU. Here is the argument in its simplest logical form.
  1. The Bible teaches that drunkenness is sinful.
  2. Cannabis use is similar to drunkenness.
  3. (Therefore) Cannabis use is sinful.

This argument is based on the principle that behaviors which are not expressly prohibited in scripture can nonetheless still be considered sinful if they are found to have sufficient similarities with prohibited behavior. For example, false testimony is expressly prohibited in Exodus 20:16. And while the Biblical context for nearly all such prohibitions is that of witness testimony, reports, and the like (Pr 6.16–19, Ex 23.1-2, et al), we rightly expand the prohibition to include all manner of verbal dishonesty. This creates a category.

Consider that lying about your education seems a very different kind of false testimony than lying about an upcoming surprise party. A lie about a surprise party, while similar in some respects, still seems different enough to me that I intuitively do not categorize it with the rest of false testimony. Lying about one's education, for many reasons, bears much more resemblance to the expressly prohibited examples of false testimony we find in scripture.

Categorization is thus defined as the expanding of express prohibitions to include other similar behaviors, and it is an appropriate method of interpretation in some cases. Therefore, the argument against Christian Recreational Cannabis Use based on its similarity to drunkenness is not principally invalid. But rather than relying merely on intuition to establish the similarities, we should take care to examine closely whether drunkenness and marijuana intoxication are truly similar enough to warrant categorization together.

We agreed at the beginning of this series that alcohol use is not sinful. It is acceptable to have a glass of wine at dinner even if that wine causes some slight intoxication, because slight intoxication is not drunkenness. So it seems that some form/level of alcohol intoxication is acceptable for a Christian, but there is also a level of alcohol intoxication that is sinful once it is reached. What exactly is that level? Where should a Christian draw the line? And can this line be drawn for other intoxicants as well? Does even minimal cannabis use create levels of intoxication that are similar to the intoxicating level of drunkenness? Or is moderate cannabis use most similar to moderate alcohol use than to drunkenness?

In order to answer these questions, a Christian would like to find relevant passages in scripture and apply them. But the Bible does not say anything explicit about cannabis (as we also agreed at the beginning of this series). It is not even described as an agricultural product, much less prohibited as a recreational intoxicant. So we have little Biblical ground from which to draw any direct conclusions about marijuana or its intoxicating effects. If we wish take what the Bible says about drunkenness and apply it to cannabis use, we must be careful to be sure that it actually applies. We need to look at every single verse in the Bible that mentions subject. We need to know everything the Bible has to say about drunkenness before we can responsibly categorize recreational cannabis use along with it.

Up next, every verse than mentions drunkenness. Stay tuned!

AHEAD to Part 3
BACK to Part 1

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