Theonomy and drugs.

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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
My calling your recent post “thoughtful” was, I now see, striving to be irenic at the expense of being accurate. For example, you say,

“I find it interesting that you hold the KJV as the best and practically the only translation to be used, yet the translators seem to have erred in translating pharmakeia as sorcery. One wonders why they would obscure the meaning of the text in this way.”​

If you really considered what my views are, you’d know I have repeatedly said I consider all honest Bibles legitimate (a dishonest Bible would be the JW’s NWT), and amply adequate for the Lord’s use in converting souls and nurturing both individuals and churches in godliness; the text-critical issue I am concerned with is the validity of the variants—such as the last 12 verses of Mark, the pericope adulterae, 1 Tim 3:16 (“God was manifest in the flesh”), Asaph and Amos replacing Asa and Amon as Christ’s forebears in Matt 1:7, 10 in the CT Greek, and the ESV, etc. etc.—and preferring a text without erroneous variants, certainly a worthwhile thing to investigate, and take a stand on.

Your remark is yet but one more attempted “drive-by” (as you put it) hit job. For if you were conveying anything besides another personal cavil you’d know that almost all the translations at Revelation 9:21 (and its cognates elsewhere) translate pharmakeia either sorcery or witchcraft (a textual variant in some Greek mss, pharmakon, does not affect translation) :

KJV: sorceries
ESV: sorceries
NASB: sorceries
ASV: sorceries
NIV: magic arts
Young’s Literal: sorceries
Geneva 1599: sorcery
RV: sorceries
RSV: sorceries
NRSV: sorceries
Tyndale: sorcery
HCSB: sorceries
Lamsa Syriac Peshitta: witchcraft

An unusual exception is in the Jewish New Testament, by David H. Stern, which reads (and I quote from his JNT Commentary notes):

Misuse of drugs in connection with the occult, usually translated ‘sorceries,’ ‘witchcraft,’ or ‘magic arts,’ [and] here rendered by this longer phrase in order to focus on the fact that using potions and drugs is an essential part of the word’s meaning – as is clear from the derived English words ‘pharmaceuticals’ and ‘pharmacy.’ The usual renderings suggest to many people a setting so removed from the fabric of their lives that the text does not speak to them. The reason I employ this lengthy expression is that the Jewish New Testament is a product of the 1980’s, when the Western world has seen an explosion of drug abuse, and I want readers to understand that this subject is dealt with in the Bible.

Spiritually speaking, there are four distinct categories of [psychedelic] drug misuse: (1) taking drugs in order to explore spiritual realms, (2) taking drugs in order to engage in ‘sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts’ while under their influence, (3) giving drugs to other people in order to gain control over them, which is another form of ‘sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts,’ and (4) taking drugs for pleasure. The last is a misuse because the drugs in question – besides whatever temporary enjoyment they provide, and apart from their adverse medical and psychological effects – open a person to supernatural or spiritual experiences; but these experiences are almost always demonic and not from God, since the Holy One of Israel reveals Himself through his Word (Ro 1:16-17, 10:8-17), not through drugs. (pp. 816, 817)​

Would you go on record, Scott, as saying all these translations “obscure the meaning of the text”? You prove yourself an untrustworthy witness by being so careless in your critical statements. Were I you, I’d quit while I was not too far in the hole, scholarship and credibility-wise!

The idea, indeed held by some godly folks, that abortifacients are the pharmakeia spoken of in the NT is best refuted by their redundancy, given that aborting a preborn human by drugs (or otherwise) is nothing but murder, and in the texts used by those who posit the abortifacients are the pharmakeia, “murder” is already listed in the texts at Rev 9:21; 21:8; and 22:15, along with sorcery as the sins condemned. Murder by drugs and murder are a redundancy. Regarding the “seductive aspects” of deception, in the latter two Revelation verses cited liars / deceivers are likewise already listed along with sorcerers as those barred from the city of God and to be sent to the lake of fire; so those involved in the seductions of deception have their own listing, and do not need a redundant second mention. Sorcerers are drug dispensers and practitioners literally.

While the consensus among commentators and linguists is that in Revelation 18:23 pharmakeia concerns deception by means of sorcerous drugs—that is, a result of their activity and influence—it is the drug influence that is the source of those “seductive aspects” of the deception promoted. Listen to the text: “for by thy pharmakeia / sorceries were all nations deceived.” And what exactly is the deception spoken of in this passage?

When you opine that the Biblical pharmakeia / sorcery potions are not efficacious—but merely superstitious occult lore—you reveal that you are judging a matter of which you have no personal knowledge, but just taking an ill-informed guess. It surely is not bad to have no personal knowledge of such things as LSD and mescaline—the godly should flee such abominations!—but to speak with purported authority on that which you are ignorant of is a bad thing, as you deceive those likewise ignorant into holding false views, which could endanger them. This is a form of being a menace (albeit supposedly well-meant).

There are those keen observers and investigators in the Christian camp, such as Os Guinness in his book, The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America Forever, who have discernment and understanding. I will quote a bit from his book:

From chapter 7, “The Counterfeit Infinity”:

A third defining feature of the counterculture is its resort to drugs, particularly the psychedelics to achieve a transcendental consciousness and a true infinity. Within the movement drugs attained an almost sacramental importance. They are virtually the bread and wine of the new community. But for many outside the movement they are a spectral horror, a phobia almost on a par with communism. . . .

Two preliminary qualifications must be made. First, we are concerned with the psychedelics and not the depressants or stimulants. Many in the sixties generation have taken speed, heroin, and opium; others have resorted to nutmeg or airplane glue. These drugs range from the trivial to the terminal, but the [latter] are hardly worthy of attention, and the horror of the [former] are well documented. The psychedelic movement, on the contrary, shows the resort to drugs at its highest and is close to the nerve of the counterculture. . . . (Pp. 236, 238)​

Guinness proceeds into a close examination and analysis of the claims, the drugs themselves, their histories, and different aspects of their spiritual, philosophical, and cultural impact. The next chapter appropriately follows this one: “Encircling Eyes”, on the occult:

But developing alongside the psychedelic movement and related to the logic of its failure is a further trend. It is a real defining feature of the movement. It will probably outlast the counterculture and go far beyond to be a profound influence in the closing years of the twentieth century. I am speaking here of the resurgent trend toward the occult.

The Fire Burns Low

Early hunters on safari in Africa used to build their fires high at night in order to keep away the wild animals. But when the fires burned low in the early hours of the morning, the hunters would see all around them the approaching outlined shapes of animals and a ring of encircling eyes in the darkness.

As we have witnessed the erosion and breakdown of the Christian culture of the West, so we have seen the vacuum filled by an upsurge of ideas that would have been unthinkable when the fires of the Christian culture were high. But this last trend is the most sinister of all. The occult is not just another compulsive spiral down which many have plunged, caught by the current of fascination with the weird and the wonderful. The trend is difficult to chart except the points that are spectacular, silly, or sinister and thus basically irrelevant to its deeper reality. At this deeper level the occult needs to be felt to be understood. So far as its future is concerned, only the grey outlines have emerged. But these are enough to quicken an appreciation of the horror of great darkness sweeping over the West, inexorably rolling inward like a swelling black tide or approaching with its encircling eyes.

In many ways this trend is the most surprising of all. Only a short time back any belief in such a world as the astral, the supernatural, the occult would have been relegated to the ridiculous. Spine-tingling stories and horror films were the modern surrogates for the modern loss of belief in Hell. They were anything but real. Perhaps stories of the occult were to be expected as part of the Middle Ages or the missionary world, but certainly they had little to do with the twentieth-century West and still less to do with the avant garde and the young. But the occult can no longer be relegated in time or distance. Yesterday’s skeptics are some of today’s firmest believers. (pp. 276, 277)​

After examining these developments in the culture of the times he was writing of, and of the reality of occult signs and powers in the writings of Paul (2 Thess 2:8-12) and in the Apocalypse, which signs and powers—especially at the very end of the age—are meant to deceive, Guinness says,

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. . . . there must be neither naiveté nor total skepticism, but a critical discernment made possible within the Christian framework. (Pp. 309, 310)​

[end Guinness]

I think I have already made a sufficient case with regard to the lexicons and commentators, despite your saying to me, “You have not shown how these numerous commentaries…agree with you.” This is because you doubt the drugs are capable of doing what so many testify they are capable of doing, and despite the commentators’ assertions. You have evidently not done any research in this field, nor consulted reputable writers who document their and other’s experiences, or scientists who study the field.

You further opine, “You have latched on to pharmakeia = drugs and run with it.” This despite the lexical and commentary data. I’d call this “effortless armchair musings” in lieu of serious investigation and reportage. And then you give another ill-informed opinion:

“The drugs or potions seem to be something that is used on someone else--they are poisons or enchantments to cause someone else to be weakened in some way. The self-administration of drugs in shamanism is likely not in view.”​

Can you cite some authority to support this mere conjecture?

Another Christian writer, J. McCandlish Phillips, renowned NY Times reporter until he quit to go into ministry, wrote a book, The Bible, the Supernatural and the Jews, which has a section in it, “Drugs and the Supernatural” (p 245ff.), where he discusses this phenomenon deeply and at length. There is just so much literature—Christian included, though mostly secular—which goes into this stuff, that it would take a studied indifference, a willful ignorance, for anyone who claims to be knowledgeable in this area to deny its reality—not its legitimacy but its reality. Just a few of the more well-known writers are Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley, Robert de Ropp, Richard Alpert, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey; it is to be noted that these all—with their experiences of and pronouncements on the properties of psychedelic agents, as well as the spiritual paths these agents facilitated—are antichrist teachers, and their works, among many others, were devoured by the counterculture youth of the sixties and seventies, naively thinking them seers.

The affect of these psychedelic agents in the consciousness of that generation was unexpected and profound; and their—that generation of souls—influence on the global community was likewise profound, for they exported into all the world both the agents themselves and how to produce them, along with the music and literature of the “high” Woodstock generation, all of which were in truth a Trojan Horse containing a deceptive new consciousness, into which had entered those very spirits loosed through classic sorcery disguised as entheogens, psychedelics (mind expansion agents), and spiritual sacraments. It was both a master demonic coup against the human race, and a judgment from the One who opens the seals, sounds the trumpets, and pours forth the vials or bowls on an evil generation. Astute observers of the zeitgeist—the spirit of the age—discern the increasingly infernal content of the various global cultures as a direct result of this demonic invasion. And the content is getting much worse.

It appears there is an aversion—a kind of mental allergy—among some sectors in the Christian church to acknowledge these things that so many are deeply aware of—yet many caught up in as in the “strong delusion” of 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. Yet you have said of me I am given to “idiosyncratic interpretation”. I would term this view of yours a sheer lack of perspective, a perceptual myopia. Idiosyncrasy: “a characteristic peculiar to an individual or a group”. In truth the “idiosyncratic interpretation” is really yours, peculiar to the myopic sector you are part of.

The times we are in call for spiritual understanding and discernment in the light of God’s word. Those who seek to impede or discredit this are called obscurants.
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