‘Pharmakeia’ in the NT Era: Exposition and Application

Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by Jerusalem Blade, Nov 22, 2010.

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  1. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Sorry Ruben, We cross posted. I still see you guys are going to science of the mind instead of Scripture. Just my humble opinion.
  2. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Randy, if you just say this and don't try to show us how or where, I don't think that's altogether fair. It's easy to say, "This is how I see things" but if you won't give reasons what am I supposed to do with that datum, or how am I supposed to evaluate it? I see things differently! We're at a dead end until you give me something to work with.
  3. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I agree Ruben. Sorry.

    I see things differently as one who has stuck his hand in the fire. You admit you haven't. I guess we are at a dead end. I still believe Steve supported his premise in word studies of scripture and History. You have done neither. All you have done is draw out questions. It kind of sounds agnostic to me. Maybe I am out there. But my hand has been in the fire also. I have the scars. I have proof. Look at my Scars. I am skceptical of Rationalist and those who are existentialistic also. But there is much more that I believe Steve has laid out that you are denying by mere words. There is a word. It means something. It has had roots. You seem to deny this.
  4. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Sorry, But maybe I need to start referring back to the original post and quotes from sources in that post. ISBE.
  5. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Thanks, Randy.

    I have some difficulty with the suggestion that experience is necessary in order to be persuaded by Mr. Rafalsky's case. For one thing, we don't require that with regard to other matters: I don't need to have been a Buddhist to know that Buddhism is dangerously wrong. For another thing, it's not the fact of the experiences but the interpretation of them that is at issue. Finally, this question embraces far more than experience: it embraces a theology of the occult, which of course is to be drawn from Scripture, not from experience.

    Second, of course I have raised questions: I'm not the one warning the church of a great danger! But how are we to prove all things and hold fast that which is good if we don't ask questions? Unless you assume that the intent is hypocritical, I don't believe you can move from "questioning" to "agnostic". But I understand if you want to see an opposing theory, and I will admit that I've more hinted at one than set it out. This is because I am explicitly in the position of seeking to understand a position that's been set forth at some length and with considerable vigor.

    I'm not sure how you would arrive at the conclusion that I'm denying that the word means something, though. I have not fussed with the translation "sorcery" for pharmakeia nor sorcerer for pharmakos: I have no reason to call those things into question. Nor have I denied that sorcerers use drugs. I can accept the translation, and the historical association, without any difficulty. But that translation and that historical association, do not lead to the conclusion that (some) drugs are sorcerous substances. That is a leap in logic whose intermediate steps have still not been spelled out. For instance, rosemary has been used in certain magical rites: does that make rosemary a sorcerous substance? Does that mean that rosemary is excluded by the prohibtion of pharmakeia? Or is it only herbs or drugs with certain effects? My alternative theory is that what is prohibited is sorcery (which lies on the face of the text): so we are prohibited from putting rosemary to a sorcerous use; but that says absolutely nothing about the intrinsic properties of rosemary. In other words, by making the word about the properties or effects of substances, it is unduly restricted: it no longer prohibits inept or ineffective attempts at sorcery. But that puts the prohibition at odds with the rest of God's law, which prohibit not merely a successful murder, but the very desire to kill and the anger that leads to it. Again: Aldous Huxley says that by use of a strobe light you can get into a state similar to that reached by taking mescaline; does that mean that strobe lights are sorcerous? If you take Mr. Rafalsky's view of pharmakeia I don't see how you could conclude that they are, because they aren't a pharmaceutical substance; but if mescaline makes you susceptible to demonic influence, and if a strobe light can put you into the same condition of susceptibility, how can you deny that a strobe light can be put to a sorcerous use? But if it isn't the sorcerous use, but merely the sorcerous substance, that is prohibited, you have no grounds to reprove someone for using a strobe light to enter a state of altered consciousness: even though it's the fact that it brings about a state of altered consciousness that appears to be the criterion for entering an herb or drug into the prohibited class of pharmakeia!
    Now if someone could condense that last paragraph into a fifteen word sentence, I think we'd have a clear statement of my position!
  6. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    As I said. I am not a rationalist nor am I existentialist. I am not a logistician either. I still think Steve's review is correct standing on my side. You can't present that. What is the theology of the occult. I find it hard to present the theology of Federal Vision. What is your definition of the Occult? Define it again. Please?
  7. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    Randy, I have to step in to say that I have put my hand into that same fire, and come away with an entirely different view. I did drugs for a looong time. I used pot, cocaine, mescaline, mushrooms, far too much LSD, various opiates, PCP, crystal meth, hashish, hash oil, etc, etc, etc.

    I experienced many hallucinations under the influence of some of those. My view of them then, as now, was that they were products of my own mind due to the affects certain chemicals had on neurons in my brain that controlled the senses by exagerating or modifying them in ways that differed from my normal perceptions of the signals my senses sent to the brain. I noticed that I had control over those effects, and that they tended to exagerate ideas and thoughts, even phobias, that I already possessed. I also thought that weaker minds, and those of less stable psyches should avoid those drugs altogether, because I saw loopier folks freak, and more violent types rage. Maybe that was arrogance on my part, but I thought a man ought to learn his limitations and stay within them. Even then when I saw folks having occultic or demonic reactions to those drugs, I thought that it was due to the fact that they had a proclivity towards superstition, and I still do. And don't get me wrong, I now, and even then to some extent, understand that many (most?) of those drugs can be very deleterious both physically and psychologically, and are thus very dangerous. That is exactly what I teach my children.

    I soon found that I disliked completely some, had no interest in others, and didn't want the side effects of still more, and within a couple of years had settled on pot as normally the only type of substance-induced 'heart-cheering' I enjoyed, and that in great moderation, even to the exclusion of that old demon alcohol, which I always thought made a man stupid and and was more damaging to the health. Over those years I learned how to partake of it responsibly and carefully, but finally was convicted of my flaunting of the magistrate's law, and ceased.

    So here's my view - no holds barred - you and Steve are with pot like unto the guys who can't get near a beer because they have no ability to handle it properly. You didn't with pot (which I hold is one of few such substances that can be used properly- a purely subjective opinion), and had bad experiences that you are now attributing to the pot rather than your own frailties and proclivities, and to cement the prohibition on all are ascribing demonic attributes to the substance rather than your own intents. This has gone on for ages with alcohol as well, by well-meaning but deluded folks who had bad experiences with that drug. I ain't buyin' it, brother.

    Steve's interpretation is influenced by that experience such that it is eisegesis. It is the act of sorcery that is prohibited, not the items that a sorcerer may have used in his false art. As has been pointed out, if that were the case then all drugs, feathers, magnets, bells, and chickens would be forbidden, which is silly. Yes, potioneering was seen by medeival minds as a sorcerer's activity, so the ancient Greek word for sorcerer worked into european languages to mean the mixing of chemicals to make compounds useful for various purposes, good or ill. If that meant that pharmaceuticals are all products of sorcery, you better lay off the Tylenol, and that is exactly where Steve's hermeneutic would carry him if he were to be consistent rather than subjective in his classifications.

    I hold that it is sin for a Christian to partake of pot in any land where the law prohibits it. Where it is legal, it is sin to partake in a fashion that causes one to lose sobriety. It is also likely unwise to partake in any case due to the deleterious affects on one's health that all smoking imparts. But not because the demons might jump out at you.

    'Nuff said and signing off.
  8. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    A few words before I hit the sack.

    CJ, don’t worry, you’re okay – I did change my shirt!

    Brad, thanks for your gracious remarks (save for the “eisegesis” saying)!

    Phil, thanks for your supportive comments!

    Josh and Ruben, you have points well-taken, in that while pharmakeia is expressly prohibited under the severest of sanctions, it is not specified in Scripture exactly what drugs are included in that category.

    In the OT and NT that drugs of a certain class were prohibited – those used in those settings and times for magic arts and sorcerous activities – is clear. But what are those drugs, and particularly with regard to our times? It was the job of the priests then to “put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (Lev 10:10), and “between the holy and profane” (Ezek 22:26).

    In the NT era Paul tells us that we are called to have our “senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb 5:14).

    The Lord tells the ministerium up through the ages – in the person of the apostles-to-be – that “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 18:18; cf. also 16:19). The meaning of binding and loosing in the Jewish context of the day meant allowing and disallowing.

    The Lord says in somewhat the same vein in John 20:23, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” Of course, we remit and retain as under-shepherds ministering His word and will, ministers of His forgiveness.

    It is the job of pastors and elders today to determine what the pharmakeia-class drugs are, and enforce that in the churches by teaching and discipline. In the 3FU’s Belgic Confession, Art. 29, it says concerning one of the three marks of the true church, that “church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin . . . according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto corrected”. This is part of our function as the shepherds of God’s flock.

    As a lawfully appointed elder pastoring a church I have made this determination in accordance with the word of God. I have not made it with bias or in ignorance, but by prayer and spiritual discernment. I will hold to this before God knowing I am expressing His will.

    This goes against the “libertarian” spirit that has come into the church, along with the zeitgeist of the times – this also in the church – that authority is not to be acknowledged or obeyed, for some say, “We have our own minds and opinions in the matter.” But I have no doubt that there shall be a consensus among conservative pastors and elders in this discernment. And the Lord shall see to it that His servants – those who labor and watch over the flock – have the authority by the Holy Spirit to interpret His will and to establish it in His house, His holy temple of living stones.

    Which is not to say that honest questioning, as is seen here, is inappropriate. But the final judgment will be made by the ministers of the Lord.

    For there are days coming, days of lawlessness, where the purity of the church will be of utmost importance in His eyes, as the world, the flesh, and the devil will seek to infiltrate it with error and false spirits and deceptions. Pastors and elders will then, as now, guide the flock in safety.

    It may be edifying to ask the pastors of your acquaintance their views on the subject.
  9. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Brad. I drink much more stronger stuff than beer. LOL. I believe the first post is right. You don't. I don't believe in Evolution as some in the Reformed supposed faith do. Okay. Is it a matter of subjective thought? I believe Steve's OP. You don't. Go for it.

    Do we need to go back to the one toke argument and what high means.

    As I said before.... I have been made merry by alcohol. Tell me marijuana ever made you merry. I can only relate to you that you are outside scripture where I was not in this matter.

    BTW, Steve has more exegesis than your thoughts or Ruben's. Are you sure you want to say eisegesis? I haven't heard one word from God's word on this matter from you.
  10. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Steve's claim that some Yogis get supernatural power by their discipline is a microcosm of his whole argument. You don't have to have fancy words like existentialist or rationalist to simple say, OK, please prove it to me. Every test ever done shows that Steve's statement is false. He believes the statement without the kind of evidence normally demanded of extravagant claims. I don't, any more than I believe the nearer stars revolve around the earth 150,000,000 times the speed of light. Or that if Gill and Calvin were alive today they'd have the same view as modern baptist KJVO's. Or that the nazis still have moon bases. They are just claims that some people demand I believe based on their own personal passion, and I don't roll that way.

    As to the Bible, mandrake and myrrh are both hallucinogenic plants that are mentioned. We know for an absolute fact opium was a chief ingredient in Greek and Roman medicine, especially for the army. There's not a single word in the Bible that forbids their use.

    For a perhaps more practical discussion aid, perhaps someone here holding to Steve's theories will make a list of all plants that are sinful to use.

    ---------- Post added at 03:46 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:33 PM ----------

    I can't imagine any NAPARC denomination doing anything other than slapping your hand if that ever came to a GA level trial.
  11. seajayrice

    seajayrice Puritan Board Sophomore

    Presuming psilocybin mushrooms were legal, the biblical position allows the Believer to enjoy these elements much the same as a good scotch whisky?
  12. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The kingdom of God is not a tyranny, neither is it a democracy, but an absolute monarchy, the Sovereign of which is trusted and loved by His people, and they likewise trust and love the governors He appoints throughout His nation to rule, protect, and nurture them.

    So when these governors of His make a decision regarding the licitness or illicitness of things not explicitly named in the Scriptures (for names change over centuries and millennia) but addressed nonetheless as to their principles and properties, the people of the Sovereign will heed those into whose care and oversight they have been given.

    For we know that in the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of themselves, unholy, despisers of those that are good, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away (2 Tim 3:1 ff.).

    On another note, I see my old sparring partner, TimV, insists that yogis have no supernatural power, as the Indian government did a study of one for their army, and he manifested nothing. And Mr. Tim further opines that my claim to the contrary “is a microcosm of his whole argument”, I suppose meaning it is all nonsense.

    If I’d said that when you leave milk out in the warmth for a while it’ll turn sour, and someone said, “Hogwash! Prove it!”, I’m not sure where I’d start (if I wasn’t around to make an actual demonstration), given the obviousness of it.

    Have you been living in an anti-supernatural corner of your mind these many years, Tim (though I know you are well-travelled and educated)? What’s with this attitude I seem to see in some Reformed people?

    In 2 Thessalonians 2:9, when Paul is talking of the man of sin “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders”, this word “power” is in the Greek dunamis, from which we get the English word dynamite, meaning that this satanic agent has actual powers, and such as will deceive those who believed not the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness, with “strong delusion”. And the lesser agents of darkness, who are called by Paul “false apostles, deceitful workers . . . [appearing as] ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor 11:13, 15), likewise deceive not only through false teachings but lying signs and wonders.

    Tim goes on, “Every test ever done [on a yogi or guru] shows that Steve's statement is false.” What? Who’s doing the testing? Governments? Academies?

    But even governments have in their intelligence sectors departments who seek to develop psychics and their abilities for the purpose of warfare; the U.S. and Russia have been noted for this; it’s been written of and detailed a number of times.

    Is it possibly being asserted that the deceiving works of Satan are only sham shows, and not with any kind of actual supernatural power? No wonder some seem to think of pharmakeia as superstition and hogwash! If the anti-supernatural view as pertains to the satanic kingdom is an underlying paradigm it falls to reason one would disbelieve concerning sorcery.

    To me this is a dangerous view for the church to hold, for it gives great advantage to the forces that oppose us, underestimating enemies who are our mortal foes, not being aware of what they are able to do. If this is a Reformed distinctive (I don’t know that this is so) it bodes ill for the days to come.

    If any NAPARC denomination – any church I was a member in – would take a stand permitting as licit – given the civil legality of – marijuana or other psychedelics, let me state very clearly that would be a deal-breaker. I would renounce my membership and leave that church as surely as if it had called immoral sexuality acceptable.

    And things may come to that in the future. I hope not, but I see signs of inroads being made in all sorts of areas – theology, morals, prayer and spirituality, ecclesiology, etc – and strong discernment ministries lacking in otherwise good churches.

    Strange times.
  13. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Leaving milk out to sour is demonstrable. You don't make a difference between something easily verifiable and something you just feel like believing since if fits into your world view. It's a classic sign of a conspiracy theorist.

    They even make movies about Men Who Stare At Goats and kill them with them psychic powers. But pointing to the movie and quoting 2 Thes. 2:9 doesn't prove a correlation.

    Would there be a NAPARC wide list of sinful plants? Or would every Session make their own list and expect all other Reformed churches to uphold those individual lists as valid?
  14. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Mr. Rafalsky, I believe our interaction on this thread has probably come to a conclusion. Let me thank you for your willingness to invest time and effort into this discussion, for your clear and detailed answers to some of the questions that have been raised, and for the kindness you've shown to me in your posts. I am still unconvinced by your presentation, but I am grateful for your engagement with the practical difficulties your view raises. I think any discussion of the right and duty of ecclesiastical authorities to regulate substances must be reserved for a separate thread. If there are multiple posts on the topic while I'm typing this, I'll split them off.

    As I see it, these things still haven't been addressed.
    1. If the prohibition of pharmakeia is a prohibition of the use of substances, it leaves untouched alternative means of practicing sorcery, unsuccessful attempts at sorcery, and raises the question of what substances have not ever been perverted for sorcery. Whereas if it prohibits sorcerous activity, it prohibits the perversion of any substance to that end, while allowing the proper use of each substance (which in some cases may be to make rope, or as an industrial lubricant, or etc.).
    2. The possibility of this being a feint to distract our attention from the real concentration of demonic activity. For instance, I think it's fairly well accepted that Manuel Noriega was a standard-issue brutal Central American dictator, eventually removed from power by US intervention, but kept in power through US assistance in the face of democratic opposition from within Panama itself: and this support was given in the name of the war on drugs. The war on drugs allowed a murdering, thieving, torturing bully to oppress his people. Instead of looking for the devil in plants, I think we might find him playing tennis with Noriega.
    3. It still has not been explained:
    A. Why the demonic interpretation of these experiences is the most or only viable interpretation.
    B. By what mechanism certain substances expose to demonic influences.
    C. What bearing other phenomena often associated with demonic activity might have on our understanding of drug use.
    4. Why the Scriptural prohibition of intoxication is insufficient to regulate substance abuse.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2010
  15. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Hello Ruben,

    To start from the top:

    1. With regard to your question concerning alternative means of practicing sorcery, I think what I wrote in the OP covers this:

    Very often we find, in both the OT and the New, [the] use of synecdoche (stating a part for the whole) when the word pharmakeia and its cognates are used, the use of drugs being the essential and common component in almost all of the “magic arts”.

    As an example, I quote from the old ISBE,

    “The word translated in the AV ‘witchcraft’ in Gal 5:20 (pharmakeia) is the ordinary Greek one for ‘sorcery,’ and is so rendered in the RV, though it means literally the act of administering drugs and then of magical potions. It naturally comes then to stand for the magician’s art, as in the present passage and also in . . . the LXX of Isa 47:9 . . . translated ‘sorceries’.” [emphasis added –SMR] (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, Ed., Vol. 5, p. 3097.)​

    So we see that pharmakeia refers to the drugs specifically and by synecdoche to the general field of magic arts, even as “Moscow” stands for the entire nation of Russia. As for “unsuccessful attempts” I would suppose the intent would be sin even though it was not realized.

    Your “it raises the question of what substances have not ever been perverted for sorcery” &etc. brings to mind the “sniffing of glue” or the use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) for getting “high”. Surely these substances are licit when properly used, though a person using them to get high is perverting them (I won’t venture to say if the perverted use would be “sorcerous” due to the uncertain nature of the “high”).

    You intimate that as “sorcerous activity” may be illicit, this would but “prohibit the perversion of any substance to that end, while allowing the proper use of each substance”. Then you give the example of industrial marijuana used for rope, textiles, etc. Okay, I do not deny there is a licit use of the hemp plant. This is related to the view which contests “that the smoking of marijuana necessarily brings in demonic influence. Such a thing is unprovable.”

    Merriam-Webster: Unprovable: Unable to be demonstrated by evidence or argument as true or existing.​

    The real question is, Is there a licit use of the smoking or otherwise ingesting leaf or resin (hashish) marijuana? Leaving aside the purported “medicinal use” for the moment, the question may be rephrased, “Can the smoking of marijuana ever not bring in demonic influence?”

    The answer to these questions would directly relate to the nature of the “influence” of the drug (active ingredient of marijuana, THC) on the state of mind of the user. This, by the nature of the case, would have to be determined by testimonies from subjective evaluation. What in determining this would constitute credible testimony? Although there is also the testimony of religious / cultic usage where the state of mind in question is known to bring spirits in contact with humans. The U.S. government, in allowing a similar substance to Native American tribes on religious grounds, seems to be acknowledging the validity of their testimony (i.e., the witness of the shamans regarding the religious nature of their spirit communications).

    But apart from this latter example, should the absence of a uniform testimony on the state of mind produced simply be allowed to silence the testimony of responsible witnesses, and thus render the impossibility of making a determination? Given the extremity of the sanctions of Scripture on pharmakeia, this seems unwise, at least for those given the care of souls, and responsible before God as watchmen over His house. We shall tackle this issue a little further on.

    2. You bring up “The possibility of this being a feint to distract our attention from the real concentration of demonic activity”? Because there are other “real concentrations of demonic activity” in the world we should consider the focusing on one in particular “a feint to distract” from them? I don’t think you hear that from me, who is certainly not distracted from drawing attention to other real demonic activity, such as the doings of evil men and governments, energized and somewhat controlled by the powers of darkness (under the sovereign hand of God, of course).

    To focus on one activity is not to disregard or minimize others. Not in a healthy mind.

    3. A. The “interpretation of these experiences” as being demonic requires some understanding of them. This is a difficult thing to convey to those who have no personal knowledge of them. We know that if a politician has been found out to have smoked marijuana as a youth, this may be enough to render him disqualified to hold office. In the church it should be otherwise, as for a godly and mature man to render a decision as to the nature of the state of mind in question, this would be of great value in making an assessment of it.

    I want to stress again, this is no mere academic or abstruse theological point, similar to Rome’s “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”, as the penalty for the regular practice of violating the pharmakeia prohibition is denial of entrance into God’s city and a mandated consignment to the lake of fire. Given this, we must – as the church of God – render a clear determination regarding this matter! It is imperative we come to clarity, and it is fair to warn those who would leave it hanging in a limbo of uncertainty or relativity (how much, how little) that they may well be endangering multitudes of professing Christians to commit grievous, damnable sin.

    The church of Jesus Christ, which shall judge angels, ought to a) take this matter very seriously on the pastoral level, and b) seek a church-wide consensus for the safety of the flock, and the purity of the Bride, that she “cleanse [herself] from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (2 Cor 7:1) and be separate from the
    world’s Babylonian ways.

    If the church is to indeed judge angels then she has been given withal to make an assessment in this matter. Where are the pastors who have partaken of this and other hallucinogens in their younger years or times of darkness? Step forth and give an account, for your sojourn among the pharmakeia activities of earlier years was given you for the good of the saints in this moment of time (and without exculpating you of responsibility for those sins, of which you have been cleansed and forgiven), that others of the people of God may not be lured into the grievousness of pharmakeia.

    It will not do to equivocate and put the matter on a back burner. If there can not at this time be a church-wide meeting of the minds, then let it be on a smaller, local level. But it must be done. For there are very many, in the church as well as out, who desist from partaking of marijuana only because it’s not legal and not worth a bust, and resultant criminal record. One might even say the same for the other pharmakeia-class drugs, like LSD (which is being given presently in select therapeutic settings), were they to be made legal. One cannot tell what laws may change in the years to come. With the Trojan horse of “medicinal marijuana” opening the door for many to use it who have “some pain” rather than other analgesics, it will be taken advantage of, for it comes with the added “benefit” of a serious high.

    B. I tried to explain “by what mechanism” these substances “expose to demonic influences” in an earlier post, but what would be an acceptable source of information to you? There is much literature on the subject for those who really want to track it down, from many different angles and disciplines.

    The mechanism is by its nature psychopharmacological, the effect of chemicals on the brain and nervous system, which in the case of pharmakeia-class drugs is unique, and peculiar to those chemicals. They affect the nervous system and brain in their connection to the spirit or soul of the man, activating it to awareness in a manner that is the sole province of the Holy Spirit to do in holiness, and this is why the effect of these drugs is called a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit. In answer to the above noted point questioned, this action upon the nervous system and spirit necessarily brings in demonic influence. Awareness in such a state is unlawful if brought about by other than the Lord. It may not always bring about consciousness of being in a spiritual realm or of spirits, but even the lower-grade heightened consciousness of intense sexual, culinary, aesthetic, or mental pleasure is still due to the energized spirit of the man functioning as an enhancer of sensual pleasure, and is a low-level experience of pharmakeia activity. It is demonic. It is a demonically-enhanced love of the world, through the eyes, the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15, 16). It snares many souls, and one may see why its prohibition will be fought against vehemently.

    C. I’m not sure what “other phenomena often associated with demonic activity” you have in mind. This seems sort of a fishing expedition question. Are you looking to find out from me “other phenomena”? I don’t see its relevance. There are many such. You have noted many of them earlier under the category of deception. Even pharmakeia is to that end. Not the deception that makes it but appear to be something real when it is not, but the deception as to what is real in the spirit.

    In his book, The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America Forever, Os Guinness says concerning this apparent potent awareness,

    “Reality is not to be mistaken for legitimacy. In a day of contentless religious experiences, the appeal of powerful spiritual phenomena is far wider than their legitimacy.

    “Interestingly, the word used for sorcery predicted in this context in Revelation is the word farmakeia, from which we get our word pharmacy or drugs. It is far from fanciful to interpret this as a prediction of the prevalence of drug-inspired sorcery at the end times. The Apostle John warns in his letter that we must test the spirits to see whether or not they are truly from God. In our day, when healing, fortunetelling, and speaking in tongues are so in vogue, there must be neither naiveté nor total skepticism, but a critical discernment made possible within the Christian framework.” (pp. 309, 310).​

    Back to your question, there is much phenomena indicating demonic activity. Outside the church there is the rise of potent New Age spirituality, whose practitioners convey a spiritual force that attracts and keeps many in their webs; the same goes for the Eastern branch of New Age activity in America (and other lands, too). Despite TimV’s remonstrance, those familiar with the spirituality of Eastern and New Age gurus are aware of the demonic power they have, both in teaching and having their disciples experience powers of a supernatural nature.

    Many have been made susceptible to these spiritualities of deception though their initial experiences with pharmakeia-class drugs.

    We are in a rising tide of spiritual and mental deception from the world about us, as the devil prepares his strategies against the church and to set up his own kingdom. The postmil view which denies this present activity and the premil view which says we’ll be outa here before such goes down both disable the discernment and resultant preparedness necessary for these times.

    4. The “Scriptural prohibition of intoxication” is sufficient to address drunkenness, but is not applicable to sorcery. A little “intoxication” by a sorcerous potion is still pharmakeia activity, as I noted above. Whereas a little “intoxication” by alcohol may be acceptable, if it is not drunkenness or habitual so that the user depends on it for his or her state of well-being.


    It may be, Ruben, that there is “limited supernaturalism” extant within the Reformed churches – or some of its members – which intimates (though perhaps not openly expressed) that in Christ and in the church we are so removed from demonic activity that they are negligible as far as we are concerned. It may go even further to deny that demonic power is able to operate in the world in individuals who have given themselves over to be channels of such (whether or not they know what they are vessels of). If this is an attitude here, that may indeed be a factor in the difficulty to apprehend the things I am positing. For if supernatural power is limited to Christ and His church, then all the rest of “alleged” demonic power and influence is bogus, sorcery, gurus, and all!

    I trust the Lord will give His church the discernment needed to stand in His power and presence in the evil day, and to know how to keep ourselves pure from the encroachments of a seductive spirit of worldly and Babylonish pleasure.

    I hope I have answered these satisfactorily, though I realize I may not have done so convincingly to your mind.
  16. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Mr. Rafalsky, I must admit I had not anticipated such an exhaustive reply. Thank you again for your clarity and thoroughness.

    I believe your first point may really have touched on the ground of the matter.

    A word which speaks of the administration of drugs has had its scope narrowed (presumably by usage) to the use or administration of drugs in sorcerous ways (presumably because of the high profile of drug use in sorcery) to the point where "drug administrator" comes to mean, precisely, sorcerer, and "drug administration" means sorcery. Now would that word be applied to someone who practiced sorcery with incantations, strobe lights, and so forth, even without the use of any drugs at all? If the word hasn't come to that point, then it doesn't prohibit "the magic arts" absolutely but only in their pharmaceutical aspect. If it has, it doesn't prohibit drug use or administration simply, but solely in their sorcerous aspect (which I think you accept, because you are not against medicinal drugs, perhaps not even against drugs which are otherwise in the pharmakeia class if there is a medical situation calling for them).

    Are we agreed as to the lexical fact? By a natural progression pharmakos and pharmakeia now mean, simply, sorcerer and sorcery respectively, without regard to the means employed or the success experienced.

    If we are, it leaves this one crucial point.

    Please forgive (and correct) me if I have missed something, but I think you don't have Scripture support for this: it is based on experience and testimony, and hence the need for discernment. Unless some drugs are intrinsically sorcerous when ingested, they don't fall under the prohibition of sorcery as such, but only under the prohibition of their use for sorcery. But in a sense this brings us around full circle. How do we know that the demonic interpretation of the drug experience is the best one? Do the arguments in favor of the demonic interpretation equally support the demonic interpretation of other phenomena, like sleep paralysis? Clearly the fact that it felt demonic to some cannot be regarded as sufficient; to others it did not feel demonic. I was once asked to view a video which I shall not identify, but which seemed to me like the most blatantly demonic thing I have ever encountered; but for that I have only my instincts, whereas Scripture tells me that requiring God's people to abstain from meats which God has created to be received with thanksgiving is a doctrine of devils (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Given a desire not to go beyond what is written, and given the things which Scripture does clearly identify as demonic (e.g., idolatry, statism, certain kinds of regulations), I do wonder if an appeal to discernment, to experience is enough to prove the point. Now please understand, Mr. Rafalsky, I am not intimating that you are endeavoring to spread a doctrine incited by devils, and I do understand that the contention is that God has not given these substances for ingestion (unless perhaps in narrow cases of medical necessity), anymore than He has given poison ivy or cyanide for ingestion. But I hope you can also understand why it is taking a great deal of persuasion, because Scripture doesn't identify "pharmakeia-class drugs", or even necessarily maintain that such a class exists.

    It is true that demons could be active on very many fronts, and certainly I did not mean to say that you minimized the reality of demonic activity in other realms. In light of the fact that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, though, I do wonder if he puts in anywhere near as much time in a witches' coven as he does in conservative churches.

    I am not sure that "limited supernaturalism" gets very close to my point of view, although I have no doubt that there are some limited supernaturalists out there. But surely a hallmark of demonic activity is deceit (their leader is the father of lies); and as such, clean-living prosperity gospel preachers may be, without any use of drugs or techniques of altered consciousness, as much agents of Satan as the most impressive of yogis.

    Now let me ask one further question. Is it your belief that the Holy Spirit gives a heightened consciousness, and this holy awareness is mimicked by the effect of these drugs?
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2010
  17. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Wow - this is quite the thread; very interesting concept.

    I do see a bit of what was mentioned previously, that there seems to be a 'running back to science' going on that is perhaps subconscious, but there nonetheless. We seem, as Reformed believers, to hate ascribing supernatural/spiritual reasons to things almost to the extent that the Pentecostals seem to love it. I am not sure if it is a Reformed default setting, a bit of cessationist 'oversteer' perhaps, that we lean more heavily on the intellectual and less on the 'spiritual' (but in all things attempt to maintain a scriptural focus). Whatever the case may be, it has been a very enlightening read.

    I was reading "The Presence of Spirits in Madness" by VanDusen and came upon something that I found tangentially germane to the discussion (others may see it as a red herring or just plain out-to-lunch, I don't know). It is simply that our concept of what is going on with the mentally ill, is for the most part, defined by science. Van Dusen's work with those that hear 'voices' led him to a much different destination than conventional psychology, which provides answers that we 'know' to be true, because we don't ascribe demon possession to madness in the same way as was previously done. Much of the ammunition we bring to bear in the opposite direction then, is personal, anecdotal material, and doesn't stand up to scrutiny like empirical evidence (without folks like VanDusen and Swedenborg in the mix). And yet, there are people well acquainted with such situations that have been saying for years that this is indeed the work of demons and that such forces play a larger part in our lives than we'd like to admit. But as they have no 'authority' in the matter, such claims can be dismissed when their anecdotal evidence does not match with ours. But we also have historical examples that are detrimental to the argument: the Oracle at Delphi for instance, who was apparently under the influence of a stream of ethylene gas rather than that of the 'spirits'. Science always has an answer, and sometimes it's even right.

    But I think we too often don't want to go down Steve's path because it doesn't fit with our preconceived notions of what we've experienced. I did plenty of stupid things in my earlier years, which included smoking up, and while there were no supernatural experiences attached thereto, there was an otherworldliness to it that could conceivably have been a 'lowering of a wall' between the real and the supernatural. We see the Celts felt the same way about Halloween. Whether that particular time had anything to do with it or not, I am not sure, I don't claim to know the mind of Satan and his minions on this. But the Celts' steadfast belief in a 'thinning of a veil' between our world and another had something to do, I think, with the activities of that night on the part of both these men and demonic activity.

    This is all to say that I think that Steve is onto something.

  18. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    To further clarify, I would say not only does “ ‘drug administrator’ come to mean, precisely, sorcerer, and ‘drug administration’ mean sorcery”, but also one who participates in pharmakeia activity is a sorcerer and the pharmakeia activity is sorcery.

    One who attains a state of awareness so as to have communion with spirits or to function in that realm with spiritual power through “incantations, strobe lights, and so forth” is also practicing sorcery, even though pharmaceuticals are not being used. I have heard of those who may do this through the agency of spirits without any longer having to use the drugs. They have become familiar with the spirits. Technically gurus who use demonic power to manifest spiritual “light” and “powers” I would term sorcerers, though the term guru (as I am using it here) is a class of demonic practitioner by itself.

    The prohibition against pharmakeia forbids the magic arts absolutely, both as regards the generally essential component of drug use, as well as by synecdoche the entire enterprise.

    You ask, “Are we agreed as to the lexical fact? By a natural progression pharmakos and pharmakeia now mean, simply, sorcerer and sorcery respectively, without regard to the means employed or the success experienced.” We are agreed, although if “success” is not ‘experienced” the person is not actually a sorcerer nor has committed sorcery, but is in the same class of guilt as one desiring to commit adultery (or murder) but not having done so. Also, you may have noticed in the OP’s link to a research article on medicinal marijuana, there is a genuinely medicinal use by extract of the cannabinoids, and other use. I quote from the article:
    “The main success of THC has been found in patients suffering from AIDS-related wasting syndrome and in some cases in which patients are suffering from intractable pain. However, nearly all of these studies involved the use of controlled doses of purified cannabinoids, bypassing the adverse effects associated with smoking marijuana. Dr. Robert L. DuPont, Georgetown University School of Medicine, says that most opponents of the medical use of smoked marijuana are not hostile to the medical use of THC, 'while most supporters of smoked marijuana are hostile to the use of purified chemicals from marijuana, insisting that only smoked marijuana leaves be used as "medicine," revealing clearly that their motivation is not scientific medicine but the back door legalization of marijuana'.” –The Medical “Benefits” of Smoking Marijuana (Cannabis): a Review of the Current Scientific Literature
    Why have I studied these things? Finding myself in this realm many years ago, I determined to know what was what here. In Proverbs it says, “The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked” (21:12), and, “A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof” (21:22).

    The problem with your view that I “don’t have Scripture support for this: it is based on experience and testimony, and hence the need for discernment” and thus renders the interpretation I posit merely subjective at best, is that we have a life or death matter due to the sanctions against sorcerers and sorcery – eternal punishment in the lake of fire – completely unresolved, and relegated to a back burner with no prospect of being definitively dealt with. When you have a large number of people put at such risk of running afoul these sanctions and you equivocate as to what the acts are they punish, well, you have an iffy church unable to give people the directions to keep them out of Hell. Is that acceptable? What would you say to those who come to you for counsel? “Ruben, I have access to some great and potent marijuana, and I’m a Christian living in Amsterdam where it’s perfectly legal, and I’ve been reading your posts and I get the view that if partake of this weed in moderation and with regard to safety (i.e., not driving or operating machinery) I’m not in violation of the Bible. Is that right?” What can you say by way of counsel to this person? That you’re not sure? Or yes it’s okay?

    I am not picking on you personally, Ruben, as I know you are seeking to understand, but rhetorically addressing the church in your person.

    The sin of sorcery is on a par with murder, adultery, and lying. Can we not come up with a definition of what it is other than vague equivocations?

    What I suggested was that – in item 3. A. in my previous post above – godly and mature men who have had experience with these things in their earlier years present a testimony to the church so she is able to make an assessment from their spiritual understanding of their past experience.
    Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

    Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

    If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

    I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? (1 Cor 6:2-5)​
    In the absence of clarity as to what the pharmakeia-class drugs are, and to seek to ascertain if they even exist, what shall you do? Am I but talking to the wind when I keep saying that the horror of the sanctions against this (to some) uncertain sin threaten a great many people who have no guidance in the matter? Is it of importance to you to determine precisely what is entailed in this deadly sin? It is to me!

    I am focusing on one aspect of the demonic. I know there is a vast field pertaining to this subject. I have interest in just one thing in it for this present discussion. Murder is demonic (of the devil), as is adultery, and lying. Sorcery is listed with them; can it be we do not know what it is, or entails? We put it on the back burner at our peril. Do you have better suggestions than mine for figuring out what this Biblically prohibited activity is? I’d be interested to hear them. But we do have to figure it out. But I am repeating myself.

    Do I think the Holy Spirit gives a “heightened consciousness”? Great question. It is certainly not heightened in the sense that pharmakeia-class drugs heighten it. With them there is a quickening not only of the spirit of man, but of his sensual faculties as well. They bring an awareness of bodily and soulish functions at a profound level, and outwardly of other spiritual beings, whether humans in their proximity or other sentient beings, even those invisibility-cloaked. The spirits may easily infuse spiritual phenomena into the beings tripping on the pharmakeia drugs, as their consciousness is open and receptive to such input. Generally people not under the influence of such drugs are not open and receptive to such; their consciousness is not aware or sensitized to such.

    As I sit here writing, no doubt there are demonic beings around (and angels too, most likely), but I have no awareness in this realm except the Holy Spirit give it, and He hardly ever gives such awareness, for He is not into promoting clairvoyance in His people. Nor am I interested in being aware of angels or demons. I am interested in being aware of my physical surroundings, the psychological, emotional and physical life of those humans and animals in my environs, and last but not least, the presence of my God. The awareness the Holy Spirit gives is not “heightened” to perceive spirits – unless it be to give me spiritual discernment of something needful – or to amplify my sensory capacities. The awareness He gives is of my state of being, the state of those people around me, and of the presence of my Savior, who is bodily in the heavens but by His Spirit omnipresent, and particularly in intimate communion with me, unworthy though I am for such grace and love – but that’s what grace is, undeserved favor.

    So, no, the Holy Spirit does not “heighten” consciousness in the sense used of the other substances. Consciousness of Him – Jesus, and the Father in Him – is the heart of life itself. Our Lord grants us to be aware of those things that are needful to us here; He is sparing so that we learn to live by faith, not by sensation. Our awareness of Him is a profound assurance in the depths of our being that His word is true, and all His promises are true. When His word says, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the age . . . I will never leave you nor forsake you . . . nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Me”, this living word is the reality I live in. This is the heightened consciousness the Spirit of Christ gives.

    Ruben, I'll most likely be away for a few days, for sermon prep. I thank you for the discussion – it is most helpful to me for distilling my thoughts.


    The Lord doesn’t want to come back and find His bride stoned, but reflecting His majesty as she stands firm giving her testimony of Him and His Kingdom, even unto death.
  19. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    He probably doesn't want to find her tilting at windmills, fearful and superstitious, ascribing spiritul powers to inanimate objects (which is idolatry), and not apprehending the victory He won on our behalf over spiritual forces of darkness (who may have authority over worldlings, but none over us - we have authority over them) such that her energies are spent harping on indifferent matters and conjuring up boogey-men rather than proclaiming and exhibiting His gospel to a dying world, either.
  20. seajayrice

    seajayrice Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'd bet dollars to donuts Steve's skeptics have never done LSD.
  21. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    With all due respect, I don't see why we can't accept the historic position of the church that it is purpose that makes the activity sorcerous or not. Maybe it isn't the substance, but the intent. I haven't heard anyone in this discussion disagree that Christians shouldn't smoke pot---it violates the commandment against drunkenness. What we are questioning, though, is whether in every case the use of marijuana involves demonic activity.

    Again, pharmakeia was historically understood to mean "potioneering" and (at certain points) alchemy (the latter clearly wasn't meant as a) it didn't exist in the 1st Century b) alchemy was actually a sort of early science---an attempt to manipulate natural substances rather than supernatural).
  22. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    If you've become one of Steve's fans, could you make a list of all sinful plants? And another question, if elders are given the authority to define which plants are sinful to use, what happens when there is a disagreement between elders? Steve said he was given the power, as an elder, to put a plant into a sinful to use category. So he names plant X sinful to use, and he's over ridden at the Presbytery level. If he leaves the denomination as he said he would under those circumstances, he's not allowing fellow elders the same authority he claims he's given.

    PS Keven, that's not running to science, it's good, proper Calvinistic systematic logic.

    Further, it escapes me how, as Ruben carefully and graciously explained, one cannot see that occult ceremonies including up to necromancy which don't involve plants can't be called witchcraft i.e. can't be condemned as Pharmakeia under Steve's definition.
  23. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    You lost that bet, CJ. As stated in an earlier post.

    I don't understand the relavance to a discussion of marijuana.
  24. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    In response to Tim...
    First off, the plant itself is not demonic. The use of it is what is being considered. Second in response I don't think Steve is addressing all aspects.

    I think Steve admitted that one can practice sorcery without pharmaceuticals....

  25. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Let's remember that Calvin himself rightly (and probably wrongly) participated in the condemnation of those alleging to practice witchcraft.

    Is this a suspension of that systematic logic, or is it good Calvinistic illogical behaviour? Honestly, 'attempting to spread the plague' and other such behaviour likely consisted being accused of: owning a cockrel that laid an egg, or souring milk in a cow from 30 paces by nefarious means, or being an old woman that shape-shifted from woman to cat to raven. Elsewhere, I read that he was convinced that Deut 18's references to witchcraft meshed perfectly with his own conception of the practise, though the original meaning of the word had become obscured even before the time of the Septuagint's writing. 'Logic' is not a term that fits Calvin on this topic. 'Conviction', yes, but I don't know that we can attribute much of his belief in this to logic.
  26. EricP

    EricP Puritan Board Freshman

    Perhaps, based on my own exegetical ignorance, on a sound "fools rush in" principle, I should put this thread in my "read only" category; but of course, as a traveled fool, I can't restrain myself. However, based on the OP, I might suggest a degree of exegetical care: while there are likely many reasons to avoid licit and illicit psychotropic drug use, basing such arguments on words/cognates rarely used in the NT (though not at the hapax level), and not exactly garden-variety in the Old can be a stretch, and thus might leave one more open to a "well that's your interpretation" line of argumentation which often devolves into misunderstanding and name calling. Looking even briefly at more current NT dictionaries (even NIDNTT, for example) would not suggest a certain connection between pharmakia and drug use--even in Greek secular culture there were likely many other avenues of sorcery than would suggest a necessary link between chemicals/drugs and witchcraft/sorcery/etc. Unless there is such a necessary link, while again there can be many reasons to avoid use of many different kinds and classes of drugs (be they sedative, neurotransmitter-related, hallucinogenic, etc, etc), it would go beyond Scripture to use God's Word as the fundamental rationale against their use (and of course the LXX is incredibly helpful in defining meaning and context for many Hebrew words and phrases, but not necessarily normative of definitive for Koine Greek). Personal experience is of course a valuable teacher for all of us, and can be the source of incredibly valuable insight; yet we all agree that our experiences should kneel to the clear meaning of Scripture as much as possible, given our fallen nature and fallen world.
  27. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Mr. Rafalsky, perhaps we are not quite as agreed as I'd hoped! Either you are saying here, "One who participates in sorcerous activity is a sorcerer", which is tautologous, or you are saying, "One who participates in drug administration is a sorcerer", which might come as a surprise to many compounding pharmacists. Of course, I'm fairly confident that you don't mean to say either one of those things, but without assigning to pharmakeia and pharmakos an equivocal meaning it is difficult to see what third option there is.

    I think the difficulty I have here is that it appears to me that you are understanding the word both as a synecdoche and according to its etymology. That strikes me as being an instance of an equivocal definition of a term. However, if you have examples from Biblical or other literature of the use of a synecdoche where the term simultaneously functions according to its etymological and figurative use I would be very interested to see them.

    It certainly makes far more sense to me to not use smoke in a medicinal way, though I understand that pills of various kinds can also create issues. Perhaps cannabinoid-infused olive oil is a sensible way to preserve the medically valuable elements in a usable form. But I don't think that this point is really germane to our discussion.

    Certainly, the prohibition of sorcery is quite important to grasp and apprehend. It is also important that the church should not be pressured to create a definition, but to derive one from the word of God. No matter how appalling the sanctions or dangers are, the church should still be sure of its biblical basis. But again, if the discussion is to turn to church authority and its relation to drugs I think a new, more focussed thread would be a better venue.

    As far as what I personally could say (I've never taken on the mantle of the personified church before!) I would start with sobriety: God has given us the spirit of a sound mind, we are to be temperate and self-controlled that we may bring our entire course of action under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

    This again, I think, would require a different thread to discuss fully. But something that leaps immediately to mind is having, or pretending to have, sources of supernatural information, whether it be the dead, or demons, or what have you.

    Thank you sincerely for clarifying this: I was quite worried for a little while! The similar language I had heard before was from Rebecca Brown and to some extent also Madeleine L'Engle (in her novels, which hopefully are not meant for theological treatises!), so I didn't have a very positive context into which to place your remarks.

    Likewise, Mr. Rafalsky, and may the Lord bless your preparations. I too will be signing off for the weekend.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010
  28. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I am going to close this for a few days. Steve, Ruben, and I are going to be busy for a few days if I am understanding things. Will reopen it on Monday most likely. Sorry if that is inconvenient for anyone.
  29. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Josh, I didn’t say it to cast aspersions on those who disagree with me, for there are sincere objections to my view. I say it because if it were to become legal, on a large scale or a local scale, what would prevent Christians from getting high if the only guideline from the church was to do it “in moderation”?


    Tim, a “list of sinful plants” wouldn’t be necessary, only the statement of the church that in principle hallucinogens were prohibited, and some examples could be given as a guide. If Christians wanted to please God in this matter that would go a long way in their having a careful attitude.


    Ruben, I only wanted to add a note of precision to the terms “sorcerer” and “sorcery”, adding participation in as well as administration of.

    Earlier I had distinguished the three uses of pharmakon (drug), as being medicine, poison, and sorcery. It is this latter which the NT uses exclusively. Pharmacists get off free!

    With regard to synecdoche, please recall I gave two instances of commentators having this view:

    Commenting on this last verse, Malachi 3:5,

    “And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers [pharmakos], and against the adulterers, and against false swearers”, [emphasis mine –SMR]​

    Calvin says, “as the word is found here all by itself, the Prophet no doubt meant to include all kinds of diviners, soothsayers, false prophets, and all such deceivers: and so there is here again another instance of stating a part for the whole”, saying of the Jews of that time, “they were then so given up to gross abominations, that they abandoned themselves to magic arts, and to incantations . . . of the devil.” (Calvin’s Commentaries; Vol 15, p. 577).

    Very often we find, in both the OT and the New, this use of synecdoche (stating a part for the whole) when the word pharmakeia and its cognates are used, the use of drugs as the essential and common component in almost all of the “magic arts”. Consider, the Jews who translated the OT into the LXX invariably used a word signifying “drugs used as magic potions” whenever referring to the magic arts and its practitioners. Why would they do that – use that particular word – were it not actually so? . . .

    Likewise with the apostles – Paul and John – we see them using the words pharmakeia and its cognates as such drugs are always connected by them with the magic arts, and in fact stand for them, even as Washington stands for the United States. Drugs stand for the magic arts – by synecdoche – being an essential ingredient in their activities.

    As an example, I quote from the old ISBE,

    “The word translated in the AV ‘witchcraft’ in Gal 5:20 (pharmakeia) is the ordinary Greek one for ‘sorcery,’ and is so rendered in the RV, though it means literally the act of administering drugs and then of magical potions. It naturally comes then to stand for the magician’s art, as in the present passage and also in . . . the LXX of Isa 47:9 . . . translated ‘sorceries’.” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, Ed., Vol. 5, p. 3097.) [emphasis mine –SMR]​

    I think this is a sign (this having to repeat things) that the thread has run its course, and redundancy will increase if it continues.

    I do want to correct myself when in an earlier post I termed gurus “technically” sorcerers. They are not, as they do not use magic or drugs in their seeking demonic power (they would call the power divine), but rather yogic disciplines. To those who say there is no such thing as actual power manifested by these chaps, I will forgo answering so obvious a phenomena.

    Actually, “cannabinoid-infused olive oil” – or let me more precisely say “THC-infused olive oil” – can easily be as potent as the delivery-route of smoking it. Medicinal extraction of pure cannabinoids is different than either.

    With respect to the thought of some that that this view concerning pharmakeia / sorcery involves “superstition”, I shall reiterate from the OP an excerpt from the definition there:

    Superstition: 1 a. A belief, conception, act, or practice resulting from ignorance, unreasoning fear of the unknown . . . trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation . . . 3: a fixed irrational idea : a notion maintained in spite of evidence to the contrary. (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, 1971, p. 2296)​

    The view I present certainly does not qualify despite some disagreeing that it is rational thought. To remedy this misunderstanding, and for those interested in studying this matter from a Christian and cultural-spiritual vantage, I would recommend Peter Jones’, Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian America, and Os Guinness’, The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America Forever. These are cultural studies with spiritual discernment. Another important book of keen discernment is A Time of Departing, by Ray Yungen.

    Peter Jones is an ordained pastor in the PCA and a professor at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, CA. A quote from the first chapter of his book: “The sixties counter-culture revolution was a spiritual movement. Woodstock, a spiritual happening, was the drug trip search for the Garden of Eden . . . The revolutionaries said it. We just didn’t believe them. The Beatles went East while the gurus came West. Chemically inspired highs of acid-heads and predictions of polytheists have diversified into the New Age multi-cultural spiritual highs of the nineties.” (pp. 21, 22)

    As I have said earlier, it is odd that among those who object to this view are some having no experience in the matter, and likely have not considered cultural studies of that time period, and opine on what they are not really familiar with.

    I think I have presented my case as well as I can. It is a simple and clear-cut issue to me. Mark my words that it shall become a burning issue (no pun intended) for the church in the time to come. Perhaps what I have presented may be a resource to be considered for that time. If anyone wants a pdf copy of the removed “Prop 19 and Legalization of Marijuana” thread as an additional resource PM me.

    I think all our views have been aired. If you wanted to close the thread, Randy, I would have no objection. Further discussion would likely be redundant. And I need to get back to other tasks.
  30. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Mr. Rafalsky, thank you once again for clarifying and refining. I too would be quite happy to move on to other things, especially as you are correct to observe that things begin to become redundant. Although we have and do disagree, let me state that I admire your zeal and your willingness not to dodge hard questions.

    The state of the question is this:
    I affirm that the understanding of pharmakeia put forth in the OP is based on an equivocal definition, one that attempts to take the word literally and figuratively at the same time and in the same text. (Hence my request for examples of other terms used literally and figuratively - or etymologically and synecdochically. I may not have been clear enough in that request, since you provided instead instances of the use of pharmakeia itself as a synecdoche.) I believe you unwittingly admit the point in saying that the NT exclusively uses pharmakon of sorcery.
    I deny that a pharmakeia class of drugs is taught in Scripture, or can be derived therefrom. Some may be convinced by appeals to experience or discernment, but my own discernment tells me that this procedure is insufficiently Berean. Scripture doesn't identify the constituent drugs in this class, or describe the paramenters of the class, so their identification is arbitrary.
    The question is not whether sorcery is demonic: certainly I don't deny that it is. And the question is not whether becoming involved with demons is acceptable, or trivial (no and no).
    So the question returns to this: does Scripture identify the administration or ingestion of certain substances as being intrinsically sorcerous. This is what I deny.
    To prevent offenses it may be noted that this does not give license to drug abuse: leaving aside the question of legality, Scripture still contains stern injunctions against inebriation, and positively commands sober-mindedness. I don't know that the virtue of sobriety (not merely in not being overpowered by alcohol, but in the sense that opposes superficiality, giddiness and flippancy while commending earnestness and seriousness) is highly valued in our culture, so perhaps it can seem like a slight safeguard against the onslaught of carnal delights in myriad form; but renewed teaching on and exemplification of this virtue may surprise us in its positive results.
    To anticipate an objection, given that sorcery is such a serious offense, it might seem best to err on the side of caution. That is understandable; but Scripture doesn't give us that alternative, because an authoritatively imposed asceticism that interdicts what God has given is clearly and unambiguously identified as demonic.
    No doubt warnings can be given about the dreadful consequences that have often followed on drug use. As noted previously, dreadful consequences have also followed the war on drugs.
    The upshot is then, that to the question of whether Scripture prohibits administration or ingestion of a certain class of drugs as intrinsically sorcerous, the answer is no.
    As to why, then, the word for sorcery is connected to the word for drugs, no doubt sorcerers have frequently used drugs: no doubt many effects attributed by them to their magic art were simply the natural functioning of the herbs they ingested or administered. But they have not used only hallucinogenic drugs: it would be difficult to find an herb or plant they have not used. Ingredients which God commanded the Israelites to employ in the sacred incense for the tabernacle, or in the holy anointing oil, have been used by sorcerers, and are sold by occult stores today. These are obviously not in a proscribed class: and nonetheless, they are abused by sorcerers for sorcery, and that use falls under the condemnation of Scripture; but when sorcerers use, say, a hundred herbs attributing particular effects to each, it is arbitrary (absent Scriptural lines of distinction) to pick ten or twelve of those herbs and say that these are the truly sorcerous ones. And so, again, the identification of a pharmakeia class of drugs is not drawn from Scripture, but rather from experience or from research. In the same vein, people hallucinate from causes other than drug use: if hallucinogenics are sorcerous, is any hallucination sorcery?
    And this is why I still can't get away from the thought of superstition. Anyone who has ever had a high fever with delirium knows that the mind can do strange things; attributing strange-things-the-mind-does-under-the-influence-of-drugs to demons with only the warrant that has been suggested appears to be a classic example of attributing spiritual properties to material substances, and appealing to malevolent supernaturalism to explain a straightforward phenomenon. Before it is urged again that I have no personal experience, let me point out that others who share my views do, and that drugs are not the only means of having strange experiences.
    For this reason I would urge readers, before leaving a church that doesn't share your discernment on the matter, before dismissing as deceived by Babylon's sorceries the brothers who disagree, before supporting a political posture that has provided cover for brutality and hypocrisy abroad, consider that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, and reflect on what the Bible identifies as demonic, such as sorcery, idolatry, improper asceticism, false teaching, statism, a culture of self-gratification, and make sure you are disputing the dominion of darkness with the right weapons (prayer, the word of God and the armor of righteousness), and in the right places.

    I am happy to try to answer any specific questions anyone may have, but I cannot continue to type up such long posts. And if anyone wants to start a discussion of some of the side issues touched on in this thread (like the nature of discernment, or the place of the church in declaring substances off limits) please do so on another thread.
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