Monthly Archives: January 2012

I have a heartache for the church


(free graphics)

By Spencer D Gear

My heartache is ….

imagethat the pastor will get back to his biblical role;

image that all of God’s people in the church will be regarded as ministers;

image that the days of the mute Christian will be abandoned;

image that when Christians meet as the church, all will have opportunity to participate;

image that “one another” ministry will replace “one person” ministry;

image that all Christians will care for one another and that true pastoral care will happen;

image that we will be the church rather than go to church;

image that we will quit calling a building the church.


Four situations have tapped into my heartache:

The first was a telephone conversation with an Australian pastor whom I had never met previously. He transparently shared the stresses of the pastorate and that in his 25 years of ministry he had had two “nervous breakdowns.” One indicator from the USA confirms this pressure: “The incidents of mental breakdown are so high that insurance companies charge about 4% extra to cover church staff members when compared to employees in other businesses.”[1]

The second incident came on the heels of that conversation. I was reading the article, “Pastoral Pressures,” in which it stated that “pastors are the single most occupationally frustrated group in America” and that “roughly 30% to 40% of religious leaders eventually drop out of the ministry…. About 75% go through a period of stress so great that they consider quitting.”[2] Even though this represents the USA situation, my mixing with the clergy shows similar frustration in Australia.

Publicity for a clergy conference said that “Pastors are worn out, discouraged, and in need of affirmation. In fact, poll after poll reveals that most pastors are battling isolation, depression, and loneliness. They are so beaten up by the ministry”.[3]

The third came in Dr David Wilson’s observation of “a real lack of pastoral care in the Church today” and the exhortation that “God’s people need to be cared for.”[4]

The fourth is that as I, as a former co-ordinator of a Christian-based youth counselling service, faced a huge dilemma. I worked in a white hot world of teenage rebellion, horrible sexual abuse (generally within the family or extended family), abused parents, attempted & completed suicides, drug abuse, and parents who are disillusioned by child rights without responsibility. I see a church that seems to be handicapped in addressing these issues and ministering to people caught up in Australia’s cultural crisis. I meet staff in similar Christian agencies who grapple with a church that is slim on pastoral care. This has been my experience over the last 17 years also. [I speak as an Australian who has been pastor of two churches, one in the USA and the other in Australia, taught in theological colleges, is participating in an itinerant ministry as preacher and seminar presenter, and have recently retired after 17 years straight of counselling and managing counsellors.] I am an Aussie who also have lived for seven years in the USA and Canada.

It seems that two fundamental areas need to be addressed. But are we brave enough? To even raise these topics runs the risk of being branded a fringe dweller. I consider that these issues are too critical to the Kingdom of God and the church in Australia to worry about name calling and labelling.

Maybe I am thinking too basically, but the biblical solutions seem rather obvious: Get back to what the Bible says about (1) the spiritual gift and role of a pastor, and (2) the church functioning as God intended. This applies to when the church meets together, ministry to one another in the body of Christ, and how the church reaches out to the wider community.

In spite of the risks, I believe the challenge is to


Image result for photo church pastor public domain

This is radical thinking and I don’t expect too many present-day pastors will readily buy into this view. There’s too much at stake. I seek your correction if this is an unbiblical emphasis. But it seems to me that we have cast the pastoral role into an almost-one-person ministry.

It’s an expectation that is too great for the pastor, without speaking of its lack of biblical consistency. It also shoves the parishioners into the margins of the church. Most do not see that they need to function in any substantial way in today’s Australian church.

It should not be surprising that pastors have breakdowns, leave the ministry, and that there are about 10,000 ex-pastors in Australia.[5] I believe that we ask of the pastor what the Bible does not require. Is the expected role closer to a one-man band or CEO than a shepherd?

For a word that appears only once in the New Testament (Eph. 4:11) and even then as the dual role of pastor-teacher, we have built up an amazing job description in the 21st century. This, I believe, is contributing to the pastoral dilemmas we are facing. However, as we shall discuss, a good case can be made for pastor = elder = bishop, thus cancelling the impact of a once-only use of “pastor” in the NT.

This is not the place to debate the elder, pastor, and bishop distinction. However, 1 Peter 5:1-4 seems to combine these roles:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (ESV).

This led leading Bible commentator, F.F. Bruce, to write that pastors “are the same people as are elsewhere called elders and bishops.”[6]

Jon Zens’ provocative article on “the pastor” challenged me. This is where I have been thinking and dreaming for years:

“There is no evidence anywhere in the New Testament for the primacy of one man’s gifts. There is evidence 58 times in the New Testament for the importance of mutual care and multiple gifts: ‘love one another… admonish one another… edify one another… comfort one another… forgive one another… give to one another… pray for one another.’ Why are our churches marked by obvious emphasis on ‘the pastor,’ but very little – if any – concern for the cultivation of mutual relationships? We have exalted that for which there is no evidence, and neglected that for which there is abundant evidence. We are used to pawning off our responsibilities on someone else. We want the church to minister to us, but we think very little as to how we can minister to the needs of others.”[7]

Gene Edwards, a radical cell church advocate, is just as pointed, “In our age, we come to a [church] meeting to get our empty bucket refueled. In their day [first century Christians], they came to a meeting to report out of the overflow of their lives. There’s a world of difference.”[8]

I believe a strong biblical case can be made for elders/pastors/bishops who care for believers and feed/teach the flock, but it is a plurality of elders – not the one-man/one-woman band. [See Acts 20:28; 1Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5; 1 James 5:14; Peter 5:1-4.] According to I Peter 5:4, the only singular shepherd is the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Himself.

No wonder we have pastors at burnout, dropout stage! Could we be distorting the pastoral role in the church today? It seems that the evidence points in this direction. Do we have the discernment and will to return to a biblical pastoral role? Or would it hurt too much to consider this direction? Are we too far gone to change it?

The New Testament evidence seems to point to a church (singular) having elders/pastors (plural). This applied even to new churches that may have had small numbers! I do not see significant biblical evidence for one person (pastor) as leader (overseer) of a local church. Is the pastoral trouble of today linked to a wrong doctrine of pastoral theology?

One of the primary functions of the pastor-teacher is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12 ESV). In about 50 years as a believer, I do not believe that I have seen this as a function that rates high on the agenda of the local church. Lip service and classes, but this is hardly actively equipping people for their ministry. I see it in Christian Brethren assemblies, but there are other issues with that function that include a lack of interest in the continuing gifts of the Spirit and the closing down of women in ministry. The open worship that I’ve attended at Brethren assemblies indicates that men generally give a verse from Scripture or some brief statements, but there is no understanding of 1 Corinthians 14:26 functioning for men and women in the church:

Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you (NLT).

Are we in strife today because we have built a pastoral role out of our own thinking, following the precedent of the Roman Catholic Church or John Calvin, and failing to be truly biblical in our role definition?

The Bible is very clear but we are confused.



In the context of Ephesians 4 and the pastor-teacher role, it is stressed that the pastor equips believers to bring them to maturity. The aim is that “each part does its own special work ” (v. 16 NLT). The equipping task is to help all members of the church to be equipped in their gifts and released for ministry. This has hardly been my experience in the evangelical church.

The stress in I Corinthians 14:26 is that “everyone” has the opportunity to participate with his/her gift when the believers “come together.” No matter what one’s view of tongues, interpretation of tongues and other charismata, the first century church practised open ministry where everyone was given the opportunity of ministry.

What’s the purpose of this? “But everything that is done must strengthen all of you” (I Cor. 14:26 NLT).

So, a mute congregation when the church gathers, is contrary to biblical Christianity. I believe that this is one of the blights on much of today’s church. We have closed down believers when the church gathers. About 10-15% of the people doing all of the work is a natural outcome. I am convinced that the present pattern of ministry in our churches fosters this low participation rate.

Getting back to biblical functioning for all of God’s people will help the pastoral crisis and get God’s people involved again. But can we do it in light of at least 1900 years of contrary practice? Is this a possible expectation for denominations that perpetuate the current pastoral role? The elevation of the clergy and the virtual silence of other believers seem to have happened around the third century.

The situation is so serious that one pastor

“likened the total church to an army. The army has only one Commander-in-Chief, Jesus Christ. The local church is like a company with one company commander, the pastor, who gets his orders from the Commander-in-Chief…. The Pastor has the power in a growing church…. The pastor of a growing church may appear to outsiders as a dictator. But to the people of the church, his decisions are their decisions.”[9]

This may be an extreme example, but it illustrates the hierarchical pattern of leadership that seems to have come into the church from the secular culture around us, without conforming to New Testament teaching.

Jon Zens nails it: “Our practice focuses on ‘the pastor,’ and the ministry of the saints one to another is virtually non-existent. Are not our priorities mixed up?”[10]

There does not seem to be NT support for the clergy-laity distinction in God’s kingdom values. Wouldn’t it be best if Christians quit handing over many duties to the pastor and moving him/her to a stress breakdown? The biblical alternative is that all should become involved in ministry. This would ease the burden on the pastor, address the pastoral care need, and involve believers in active ministry. The church gathering would move from being a b-o-r-i-n-g experience for too many of God’s people and become an interactive, mutually edifying gathering that builds up the body as it glorifies the Lord

The cell church movement is seeing such action, but Ralph Neighbour warns that it requires a paradigm shift.[11] This paradigm shift involves:[12]

1. The cell is the church. A CGC [cell group church] is never a church with cells. A “Heaven and earth” difference between the two modes is claimed and strenuously emphasised. “The Church is formed from them (cells) and is the sum of them”.

2. The cell is “the Basic Christian Community”. “The cell group is not just a portion of church life, to be clustered with dozen other organisations. It is church life”. “Cell churches are the only way that true community can be experienced by all Christians”.

3. Nothing competes with the cells. “Everything in the church is an extension of them and flows from their combined strength”. “Every department of the church is designed to serve the cell ministry. Indeed, departments do not have any constituency of their own”.

4. Cell multiplication is essential. Neighbour expects cells to grow to 15 members in 6 months, and thereafter “multiply” into two. This process of multiplication is continuous. Khong allows 12 to 18 months for each cell to multiply. However, “if a cell functions for a long time without multiplying … the cell is deemed unhealthy”, and is liable to be dismantled, and its members re-assigned to the vibrant cells.

5. Every cell begins with evangelism as its ultimate goal. “In the first meeting of every cell, the members by faith set a date by which time the group will birth another cell”. They must always reach out to evangelise the people around them.

6. Cell membership is mandatory. “There is no buffet menu of options open to members except that they be in a cell group”. No one may join any training program or Bible class if he or she is not a cell member.

7. Cell leaders shoulder the bulk of pastoral care through their shepherding responsibilities within the cells.



I am disturbed by the way some believers and pastors urge Christians not to drop out of church, with the exhortation, “Do not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is” (Heb. 10:25 KJV). What ruffles me is that the kind of gathering is stated clearly in the context, but seems to be missed by those doing the exhorting. When we come together, it is to be a gathering in which we “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” and “encourage one another” (vv. 24, 26 NIV). Imagine such happening in the traditional church service in Australia today! If it were, perhaps believers would not be as tempted to drop out. I know from personal contact that the lack of such “one-anotherness” is contributing to some leaving the church.

The pastor-teacher’s role is linked with equipping the saints, but we must not miss what I think is minimised: Believers mature as “every supporting ligament” is involved and “as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16). This is far removed from one dominant part doing most of the work.

When I became a believer, I was baptised into the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13). I believe we are losing what it means to be a functioning member of the body of believers, connected to one another, ministering to one another, and living in Christian community that is more than a theoretical option. Sadly, too many of us get more community in the Lions, Rotary and Quota clubs than in the local church. Gangs and the drug culture attract youth to a radical view of community! My counselling of rebel youth revealed the equivalent on some of our school campuses. They are called the “cool” or “wicked” (meaning “cool”) group to hang around with.

Our experience of Christian community is especially needed in a culture on the skids. I have led and participated in many groups for secular parents with rebel teenagers, only to find that many of these people do not have the character and commitment to be available for another parent as a support. Those of us who read our Bibles and minister to troubled individuals, know that selfishness is rife. Christ’s body has supernatural resources to be a selfless, caring community. We dare not abandon our responsibility.

Over 35 years ago, Howard Snyder called the church back to a comprehensive understanding of the gifts and the elimination of the clergy-laity distinction:

“If we wish to be biblical, we will have to say that all Christians are laymen (God’s people) and all are ministers. The clergy-laity dichotomy is unbiblical and therefore invalid. It grew up as an accident of church history and actually marked a drift away from biblical faithfulness…. It is one of the principal obstacles to the Church effectively being God’s agent of the Kingdom today because it creates the false idea that only ‘holy men,’ namely, ordained ministers, are really qualified and responsible for leadership and significant ministry.”[13]

In Hebrews 10:24-25, the “one another” ministry is God’s way of dealing with apostasy and helping believers to persevere. We should be committed to nothing less.

Christian psychologist, Archibald Hart, speaking of pastors, said that “their strong religious beliefs mean they won’t kill themselves. They just spend their time wishing they were dead.”[14] That’s not my experience as a Christian counsellor. Christian leaders, including pastors, do threaten and some commit suicide. Jon Zens claims that “burnout, moral lapse, divorce, and suicide are very high among the ‘clergy’. Is it any wonder such repeated tragedies occur in light of what is expected of one person?”[15]

For such a situation, the Los Angeles Times recommended: “Pastors need to set limits for themselves if they are to avoid burnout.” They “need to have hobbies and interests outside the church” and “a regular support group of other religious leaders.”[16]

I have severe doubts that this would be adequate, especially in light of the contemporary pastoral role when compared with what Scripture requires. If we are out of line with God’s will for the pastor, why should we expect God’s blessing? In opposing the very idea of a clergy conference, Jon Zens writes that

“By not challenging the ‘clergy’ system, which has brought untold hurt to those within its pale, you end up giving pep-talks and encouragement to people who are functioning in an office Christ has nowhere revealed in His Word…. The most Christ-honoring and caring thing you could do is to tell the 70,000 men that come to Atlanta to stop being ‘clergy’, because God’s Word teaches nothing about ‘clergy’… Do you leaders care at all that the New Testament is, in fact, against the ‘clergy’ system? Are you concerned that the ‘clergy’ system, as James D. G. Dunn points out, does more to undermine the canonical authority of the New Testament than other heresies?”[17]

There are serious questions that need to be answered if we are to address the crisis in the pastorate and the pew:

image What biblical grounds do we give for the pulpit-centred, one-person pastor focus on Sunday?

image  For what reason have we eliminated the “everyone” who is gifted contributing when we meet together?

image How can we give everyone the opportunity to participate in edification times when we meet together on Sunday and at other times?

image If admonishing, exhorting and encouragement can only be performed by elders/pastors, it should be expected that God’s people feel inadequately equipped to do this. How can this change?

image What will it take to move the church away from going to church on Sunday to being the church?

image How can mute believers be given their proper place in the assembly and in the functioning body? After all, Heb. 3:13 says we are to “encourage one another daily” (NIV).

image How can we justify exhorting Christians that they must not stay away from church, but must come to hear the one-person minister?

image Can the church’s present order of service encourage “one another” ministry?

image Even more radical is the question: Can’t the present one-way communication, called preaching, become an interactive sermon? Surely such a view would not violate the scriptural mandate to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2 NIV).

In short, I believe we need to:

  • return to a biblical view of the pastor; quit the exaltation of one-person ministry in the local church;
  • equip and mobilise ALL believers to be active, participating members of the local church;
  • abandon the distinction between clergy and laity, and
  • demonstrate and promote the “one another” ministry.

If there is anything in the local church that conflicts with the Bible, we should eliminate it? It just might be one of the diseases that is contributing to a “sick” church and some disillusioned clergy.

Jon Zens gets to the core: “It seems to me that we have made normative that for which there is no Scriptural warrant (emphasis on one man’s ministry), and we have omitted that for which there is ample Scriptural support (emphasis on one another).”[18]

Can these become realities, or will my heartache continue?


Please note: After I prepared this article, I was alerted to some considerable difficulties in the Gene Edwards/Frank Viola camp by this article, “Gene Edwards: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.”  Since I do not live in the USA, I am not able to examine this situation firsthand.  Therefore, while I appreciate much of Gene Edwards’ ministry and his challenge to the traditional church, I am experiencing some disquiet over the contents of this article and some other information that has reached me.  Proceed with caution, would be my recommendation with regards to the ministries of Gene Edwards and Frank Viola.  You might also like to visit these sites for critiques of Gene Edwards and others in the house church movement, and those advocating a return to New Testament biblical practices::


[1] Rowland Croucher and others, “Pastoral Pressures”, John Mark Ministries, January 5 2003, available at: (Accessed 17 January 2012).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Men of Action, November 1995, p. 4, relating to the February 1996 Clergy Conference, Atlanta, in Jon Zens, “The ‘Clergy/Laity’ Distinction: A Help or a Hindrance to the Body of Christ?,” Searching Together 1998. Available at: (Accessed 17 January 2012).

[4] “The Other Side,” New Life [Australian Christian newspaper], 8 July 1999, p. 11.

[5] See Rowland Crowcher and others 2003. “How many ex-pastors?’ January 5. John Mark Ministries, available at: (Accessed 17 January 2012).

[6] Epistle to the Ephesians. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1961, p. 85.

[7] Jon Zens, “The Pastor”, Searching Together 1998, available at: (Accessed 17 January 2012).

[8] Gene Edwards, How To Meet. Sargent, GA: Message Ministry, 1993, pp. 63-64.

[9] C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow, Regal, pp. 66-67, in Zens, “The Clergy/Laity Distinction,” p. 3.

[10] Zens, “The Pastor,” p. 6.

[11] See Ralph W. Neighbour Jr., Where Do We Go From Here? A Guidebook for the Cell Group Church. Houston: TOUCH Publications, 1990.

[12] The following points are listed in Peter Koh n d. “Cell group church structure: An evaluation”, Church & Society Vol 6 No. 1, pp. 41-43, available at: (Accessed 30 May 2015).

[13] The Community of the King. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1977, pp. 94-95.

[14] Walter Albritton 1999. “Why some pastors are so frustrated they wish they were dead”, Feb 21. Available at: (Accessed 17 January 2012).

[15] Zens, “The Clergy/Laity Distinction”.

[16] Clergy/Leaders’ Mail-list No. 850, p. 2. Also cited at: (Accessed 17 January 2012).

[17] Zens, “The Clergy/Laity Distinction”.

[18] Jon Zens, “Building Up the Body – One Man or One Another?”, Searching Together 1998. Available at: (Accessed 17 January 2012).


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 January 2017.


One Drug Addict’s Story: Set Free!

(public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

“When I used pot everyone was affected.” Colin [3] was adamant. School teachers said he was a pain in the butt. He couldn’t give a damn about his parents. Friends warned him about his changed personality.

His peers, in his language, were “hit men.” Success in rugby league was shattered. The boss sacked him because of his tardiness.

Portal icon  He warns: “As a young teenager, pot slowed my maturity. My memory was shot, and still is to some degree. I find it hard to use my mind at its full capacity. It is still difficult to relate to people.”  Increased marijuana use made him feel miserable. Crazy as it seems, the more he got into dope, the more marijuana he used to try to relieve his cannabis-induced misery.

What takes a normal kid in the suburbs in an average Aussie family to the depths of despair through drug addiction? He says that it started in year seven when he began “mixing with the wrong crowd” and a friend’s brother introduced him to the bong. “We would smoke in the school grounds at night and at weekends.”

It was an innocent first encounter, he asserted. Cigarettes, a cold beer and “a bit of marijuana.” By age 17, it was marijuana daily, with occasional use of speed and LSD. “It was a very expensive habit, but I always found the money to be stoned most of the day.”

His parents woke up six years later. Michael, his father, said that “it didn’t gel until he was 18.” How could parents miss the signs for so long?  Michael explained: “We grew up in a world without it. I was born in the country, worked long hours on the job. I went to boarding school. We knew right from wrong, so I didn’t go looking for this kind of stuff.”

Colin’s behaviour was uncontrollable but Michael read it as adolescent rebellion that he would outgrow.

Looking back, Michael says that he can now see the symptoms. Colin was sly and deceptive. Money and other goods disappeared from home. He’d leave for school with his clothes ragged — by choice. But Michael and his wife were not too worried. He was a teenager.

Colin grieves over the stress it caused Mum and Dad. The family was traumatised. He speaks about the “increasing careless attitudes towards anyone who got in my way. I was never home. I seldom made any family contribution. Everything was a hassle. Any inconvenience to me was absolutely intolerable. Getting high was first priority.” With regret, he admits, “I turned into a liar, deceiver and thief in my own family.”

His behaviour deteriorated. “My character changed. So did my outlook on life. Friends warned me about the changes in my personality. My values were turned around.”

Portal icon He “lost his memory often, but that was almost a good thing, I thought. That’s part of being stoned.” He described his thinking as “like a few cords in the head had been severed, wires burned out, and sparks jumping the lead.”

This is consistent with the research of Dr. Richard Schwartz at Georgetown University (USA). He found that “cannabis-dependent adolescents have selective short-term memory deficits that continue for at least 6 weeks after the last use of marijuana.”

Sister Yvonne at the drug education and prevention agency, PRYDE (Cronulla) [4], remembers Colin’s state: “He could hardly string a sensible sentence together. Four or five different ideas were in the one sentence, but not one of the ideas was related to any other.” This is what researchers into the effects of heavy cannabis use call “sequential dialogue” problems.

The local shopkeeper, newsagent, anybody — became the victim of Colin’s rage, offensive attitudes and filthy language. “I was not pleasant to be around.”  Being high was more important than friends. He lost contact with mates in the last two years of his use. “They were my best friends. Now I struggle to make up for lost time.”

In relationships with girls, pot had to be involved. One girl stood by him as his life was in tatters. When he started treating her as a non-person, she opted out of the relationship. He cared deeply for her but “cannabis blinded me to whether or not people loved me.”  Mates were treated as scum and throw-aways. He lost a small carpet-cleaning business. “I mixed with drug addicted criminals constantly. Soon I learned how to be one of them. I hated others with a passion. People were scared of me. But I thought I was in control.”

Eventually his mind “broke down” and he was admitted to a hospital psychiatric unit because of his drug-induced psychosis. “I was hearing voices in my head and having good conversations with radio and TV announcers. It was scary. There were times of reality. Then I’d slip back to my crazy self.”

During one of those schizophrenic-like episodes Colin walked back and forth beside the main highway. Semi-trailers screeched past and he “contemplated stepping in front of them.” Death looked like a safe place for this teenager. Suicide or jail!  He was prepared for either. Three times he contemplated suicide and says that he was “within inches of death.”

The connection between pot use and schizophrenia is well documented. Marijuana use was linked with schizophrenia as an independent risk factor in a major Swedish study. Dr. Sven Andreasson and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, found a 600 per cent increase in the incidence of schizophrenia in those who used marijuana on more than 50 occasions in a lifetime.

How much longer could Colin maintain his destructive lifestyle? Once when he faced a local magistrate for drink driving, possession of cannabis, assault and verbal abuse, a parole officer suggested a way out.

He recommended that Colin consider a Christian-based drug rehabilitation agency.  Religion? Matt would have none of it. But he had come to the end of himself. He didn’t know where to turn. Voluntarily, he entered the Christian rehabilitation centre but within five weeks was dismissed for rude and rebellious behaviour. “I had been doing this kind of stuff for years,” he said. A month later he was back in the program. Within twelve months, Colin was free of drugs and has been clean for the last 12 years.

Related image

(courtesy Google)

Former Christian counsellor at the rehabilitation centre, Alice, remembers how distrusting he was of people. He avoided closeness with anybody. She recalls how he “couldn’t stand any form of authority. He would smile and then ignore instructions. He was sneaky. A con!”

Alice says that when he returned to the Rehab Centre after his exclusion, she noticed new motivation. He wanted to change. He was committed to learning new principles in his life.

“But he did have a fiery temper that led to conflict with people. Through it all,” Alice recalls, “even though he was not always right, there was a child-like sincerity within him.”

Colin admits there have been temptations to re-use, but when that happens, “I stop, am still, renew my mind, and remember where I have come from.”  He says the change came when he committed his “life to Jesus Christ. I confessed my sin to him and now I am free.”  Why did he need a religious experience to get free of drugs? Others have not needed Christianity to leave illicit drugs behind. He is firm: “Jesus Christ offers hope that doesn’t fade. I needed lasting strength.”

Leading politicians in Australia advocate the decriminalisation of marijuana, similar to the legislation in South Australia and the A.C.T.  Colin objects: “If we let this drug loose in society, expect behaviour and character changes like what happened to me. The place would be a madhouse with thousands of Colins.  It will affect the milk bar person, the bread man, schools, social interaction, all of life around us. It’s a crazy idea.”

The change has been radical for Colin. Instead of ripping off society, this former drug addict is now giving back to the community. As a volunteer with the Drug-Arm street van, he raps with street kids on weekends. He speaks at schools and churches; works with the police in crime prevention strategies. This is the new Colin in action.

What a turn around! He entered a Bachelor of Theology degree programme at a theological college in Australia. The drug abuse still impacts on his memory. Learning Greek grammar is difficult. For many of us, English grammar is a challenge to master, even without drugs. He struggles with remembering the content of his speeches, based on brief notes.

He has returned to the Drug Rehab. as a temporary weekend supervisor. From drug addict to drug rehabilitation leader! Colin puts it down to “being set free.” [2]


2.  This is a true story.  I have known this former addict for 19 years.

3.  Colin is not his real name.

4.  NSW, Australia (a southern suburb of Sydney).


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 June 2018.



How to talk to your child about alcohol and other drug use

By Spencer D Gear

Alcohol or drug use, particularly when it may involve a member of your family, is a very emotionally loaded issue. Thus, it is quite natural that many parents are at a loss to know how to begin to handle this problem within the family.  The following guidelines were prepared by counsellors trained in working with young people to provide parents with some basic ideas for use in dealing with this issue.



1. Become informed about alcohol and drugs and their effects. Be a credible source of information for your child.

2. Make your position on alcohol and drug use clear to your children so that they know where you stand, even if you have no indications they are involved.

3. Husband and wife should try to reach agreement with each other over handling the issue. There should be consistency and mutual support in your communications with your child on this subject.

4. Be aware that the behaviour you are expecting from your children may be different from that of their peers and that peer acceptance may be of paramount importance to them. Work with them so that they understand the reasons for your expectations. Strengthen their feelings of self-confidence and independence.

5. If you suspect alcohol or drug use, avoid unproductive accusations. These often result in denial. Sit down with your children and discuss calmly any suspicions you have. Talk about your personal concern for them, as well as their wrong-doing. Try to keep discussions on a rational level. Overly emotional, angry outbursts frequently serve only to cut off parent-child communication prematurely.

6. If you see evidence of alcohol or drug use (i.e. physical or psychological symptoms or drug apparatus in their possession), restate your position and make clear the consequences you are prepared to enact. Make sure you are prepared to follow through with the consequences you set. Empty threats are meaningless to a child.

7. Avoid “labelling” or name-calling. You are not dealing with your child’s character at this stage, but with his/her behaviour. Try to remain calm and avoid saying things which tend to further alienate you from your child. The goal of communication is to help him/her understand that, although you are concerned about and disapprove of his/her behaviour, you still love him/her.

8. Try to maintain good communication with your children’s teachers. Let them know you are interested in their progress in school and would be appreciative of feedback from them regarding their academic and social behaviour. Make your child aware of this so that the children realise there exists a “parent-teacher coalition.”

9. Make it your business to get to know your child’s friends, who their parents are, where and with whom he/she is socialising, whether or not parties will be supervised by adults, and so on. Don’t be afraid to communicate with parents of your child’s friends. Introduce yourself to them in person or by telephone. As a general rule, parents have the bests interests of their children in mind and need to reach out and support each other. Make sure that your child is aware you are establishing communication with his/her friends’ parents – being secretive only breeds mistrust.

10. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Counsellors trained in working with children and adolescents can help by re-opening communication between parent and child, providing a neutral ground for expression of feelings, and serving to “de-fuse” the climate of tension within families which sometimes develops over issues such as alcohol and drug use.


Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.


Whytehouse Designs

The Christian and drug abuse[1]

For Christians living in the 21st century, we cannot afford to be ignorant about drug abuse. It is all around us. Drug busts have made it to the front page of my local newspaper, the Bundaberg News-Mail (Queensland, Australia).

 Portal icon How should you respond to the escalating drug problem?

blue-arrow-small What should you relate to your children & friends?

blue-arrow-smallWhat is the message we should take to a culture that is enmeshed in drugs — legal and illicit?
blue-arrow-smallWhat reasons can we give for our approaches to drug abuse?

I want to limit my focus to the biblical, theological and ethical issues of the use of drugs for non-medical reasons.


The Christian response has some foundations:

  • The existence of the living, eternal, personal God who is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
  • He is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • He is the Redeemer of the world who sent Jesus to die on the cross to provide salvation.
  • He is the Judge before whom all persons, including nations, will bow and be judged for what they have done;
  • He is the One who writes the rules of the universe.
  • As Francis Schaeffer’s book title puts it, He Is There and He Is Not Silent. He’s the listening and speaking God who speaks through the Bible, illuminates it by His Holy Spirit and speaks to our heart by the Holy Spirit.

We must begin any attempt to address the drug situation from these foundations.

Isaiah 8:19-20 reads:

When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn

(note especially v. 20).Many are asking today: What’s wrong with drugs? They say that marijuana is no worse than alcohol or cigarettes, the legal drugs. We must give our youth solid reasons for not using illicit drugs.

A. Foundation Principles

Bible basics for all of life, not just the drug experience, is the Creation, the Fall and Redemption. These make up the foundation of a biblical world view. To interpret and understand anything biblically, we must see it in light of Creation, the Fall and Redemption.

1. Drugs & the Doctrine of Creation

Why be so basic? What does Creation of the heavens and the earth have to do with drugs? When talking about drugs, there are four reasons to begin with Creation(Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”).

a. We are living in a postmodern (“post-Christian”) age.

Religious liberalism within Christianity contributed to this by hacking into the very heart of the supernatural God who is exists and denigrating God’s works in the world. It has moved the church away from its view of truth. The conservative evangelical

operates with a definite supernaturalism — God resides outside the world and intervenes periodically within the natural processes through miracles… The liberal… [considers] there is no supernatural realm outside of the natural realm. God is within nature rather than beyond or outside it. [2]For example, what this means in terms of liberalism:
  • Human nature contains God;
  • There’s a spark of the divine in every human being;
  • Human nature has not been corrupted by sin; rather, human nature is good and has the potential for developing;
  • Human beings do not need conversion; they just need inspiration and a vision of what they can become. [3]
  • Christianity’s beliefs are so tied to the ancient world and need changing. They are old fashioned and out of date. It is not necessary to conserve or preserve those doctrines [of Christianity]. [4]
  • Jesus is basically a good man, a teacher of great spiritual truths, but not the miracle-working, pre-existent Second Person of the Trinity. There is no Jesus dying for the sins of the world as a substitutionary atonement. [5] Of course, there was no miraculous birth.
  • The Bible is not the Word of God, but the writings of human beings, containing many errors.

Then add scientism to religious liberalism and you have an explosive mixture that hacks into the heart of supernatural Christianity. Scientism states that the principles of the “scientific methods can and should be applied in all fields of investigation.” [6] All of life is governed by what you can see, measure and manipulate.

This have moved our thinking away from the truth of Creation, for people in Western cultures. I have people who come to me who have perpetrated horrible sexual abuse against children and ask, “What wrong have I done?” Children who lie, steal, are disobedient, rebel like crazy, and think it’s their right. Many of them have no remorse for the wrong they have done. Where is conscience?

What is right and what is wrong? Just your opinion against mine? This is postmodern relativism. Anything goes as far as values are concerned. Why the hue and cry when euthanasia is voted down by the parliament? Why is the government even thinking of lowering the age of consent for sex to 10 and making incest no longer a criminal offence? How do we choose right vs. wrong?

That’s why we must get back to Creation.

The second reason we must get back to Creation when talking about drugs is:

b. Because of the influx of Eastern religions and the popularity of the New Age Movement.

This view is pantheism. All is god. Therefore, the universe is God. This is especially true of young people. Many young people have never heard of Creation. In my field of welfare, the New Age movements’ meditation, crystals, yoga, mantras and the like are dominating in dealing with stress.

This comment comes from the front page article of Contact [7], “a monthly Newsletter for people interested in mental health in the Bundaberg district” (May, 1997). It recommended Eastern meditation, saying it

Is all about relaxation, contentment and awareness. It is all about “stilling the spontaneous activity of the mind” as one of the Eastern Master[s] wrote 300 years before Christ.Through the deep relaxation that meditation can bring, comes an altered state of awareness. This altered state of awareness can take people from aggressive to tranquil, from fearful to confident, from doubtful to positive and from discontented to understanding.

Then the article proceeds to recommend many methods of meditation: transcendental meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, concentration, walking and standing, mantras and chants. It admits that the mantras and chants are “derived from Eastern religion where they were believed to have mystical powers.”

The third reason we must get back to Creation is because:

c. Pantheism is the basic world view of many who take drugs.

It interprets the drug experience for them. Leaders in the “flower children” of the 1970s who were into drugs, Timothy Leary, Alan Watts, etc. openly embraced pantheism.

Why do you think the Green movement has become so big? Nature is part of God and needs to be preserved, according to pantheism. Ecological movements use pantheism in their presentations.

There’s a fourth reason to get back to Creation:

d. Unless you understand the biblical doctrine of Creation, you can never understand the rest of Scripture.

blue-arrow-small To get to the sinful response of the Fall into sin, you must start with Creation. After the Fall comes Redemption. We must start with Creation to oppose pantheism. I also put it to you that in this secular age, we need to get back to Creation, the Fall and Redemption in our witnessing for Christ.

The doctrine of Creation means:

  • Time, matter, energy, space and all things that are created had a beginning. They are not eternal. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
  • By an act of His sovereign will, God created everything without using pre-existent material.
  • The Creator and His creation are totally and qualitatively different from each other. Human beings are distinct and different from animals.
  • The universe is not God or a part of God. It is the creation of God (John 1:1-4; Col 1:16-17; Heb. 11:3; Rev 4:11).
  • The universe was originally created good and with a divine purpose. God created everything with a definite purpose in mind (Prov. 16:4; Ps. 19; Rev. 4:11).
  • Nothing happens by chance or luck in the universe. Nothing is meaningless.
  • Therefore, we must look upon every plant, drink and drug as having some purpose and function in the created world.

When the biblical doctrine of Creation is understood and believed, the pantheistic drug experience will be rejected.

The Eastern/New Age pantheist wants to get away from life and the body in this world. He/she wants to escape to an inner world of non-material reality. Only in the teaching on Creation, do we find a positive attitude to material reality. It is all made by God for a purpose.

Pantheism can never use drugs for the correct purpose in its escape to “Nirvana.” The Hindus see themselves as trapped in a wheel of suffering “and they yearn to break out of the cycle so that they can finally merge as a mindless drop in the great sea of forgetfulness that they call Nirvana.” [8] This is what many on drug trips expect.

Only the biblical doctrine of Creation serves as the positive, useful and correct use of drugs which God created.

Don (D.A.) Carson preached a series of messages for the Presbyterian Theological College, Melbourne, in late 1996. He’s an outstanding evangelical scholar of the Bible as well as a thinking, enthusiastic university evangelist. He says that he is having considerable impact on these postmodern students by going back to Genesis 1-3. He places a photocopy of Gen. 1-3 on each seat in the building and proclaims Creation, the Fall and then Redemption in Christ. You can read of his approach in his massive book, The Gagging of God (600 pages) [9]. Some of it is heavy going, but Carson’s analysis and solutions are brilliant, in my estimate.

2. Drugs and the Biblical Teaching on the Fall

blue-arrow-small Human beings were created righteous, pure, holy and good (Gen. 1 & 2). Gen. 1:28, “God blessed them and said to them, `Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'” This is the Cultural Mandate.

But then sin entered (Gen. 3). Original sin was a deliberate act of rebellion. Gen. 2:16, “And the Lord God commanded the man, `You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Gen. 3 shows how they listened to Satan, ate the fruit and the dreadful consequences of sin and eternal damnation came on the human race. This original sin was rebellion of human beings misusing part of creation to satisfy the evil desires of the heart.

The sin of Adam had two effects:

a. It made him legally guilty before God because he had broken God’s law.

So human beings at that moment were subjected to God’s justice and holiness.

b. Adam’s sin infected his own being and made him evil. This has been passed on to the whole human race.Human beings became corrupt in every aspect of their natures. The Bible’s clear teaching is that all human beings are now born with an evil nature and that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Ps. 51:5; Rom.. 1-5; Eph. 2:1-3). No aspect of us misses the radical effects of the Fall into sin. In our emotional, intellectual, volitional activities we are sinners before the true God.

Our thoughts, feelings, desires come out of wickedness in every area of our experience. In relation to God, sin is disobedience to God’s Holy Law and Word (I John 3:4). Sin is a form of idolatry (Ex. 20:3-7). In relation to the world around us, sin is the abuse and misuse of the creation — in opposition to the commands of God’s law (Ex. 20:8-17).

This means that a person does not ultimately become a drug abuser because of environmental or psychological factors. These are important factors, but they are not the ultimate cause of drug abuse. From the Christian perspective, drug abuse does not come from people’s ignorance or peer pressure but from sinfulness.

Why am I going over this fundamental doctrine of sin? Unless we see this, we are misguided in our attempts to help drug users. We must lay the axe at the root of the problem, because a radical cure is needed. If a person is serious about getting off drugs, he/she must see drug abuse as something that is sinful, that needs repentance from sin.

I read about

A well-known Christian drug-abuse center in Brooklyn, New York. Several men from the FBI [went] in and started asking questions. In conversation, one of them said that the government could not officially send anyone to a religious organization even for drug rehabilitation. However, so many drug users had been cured at this Christian establishment that they had come to see the secret of the success. After the Gospel was explained to them, they replied that the government could not use any religion for rehabilitation, but they were going to send people to them unofficially. Certain individuals with whom the government had worked and failed had come to the center. There they had been converted and seemed permanently cured of drug abuse. Obviously the power of the Gospel had been displayed to the government officials. [10]

3. Drugs and Redemption

There are four basic aspects to biblical redemption:

a. It is something that God has planned and accomplished.

The Fall into sin did not take God by surprise. He had planned salvation for people before He created the universe according to Eph. 1:4, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

b. The Trinity is involved in Redemption.

God the Father planned the salvation of sinners by choosing them for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13). He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us, paying the full penalty for the sins of the people (Heb. 2:17) so that we could be redeemed. He died in our place to secure eternal redemption for us (I John 4:10).

Then the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to apply Christ’s redemption to sinners. We could say, “Christians were chosen by the Father, purchased by the Son, and sealed by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). Salvation is from the Triune God.” [11]

c. Redemption concerns individual persons

Individual people become Christians. It is personal (John 6:37, 65). God the Spirit renews and indwells individuals (Eph. 1:13). However, these individuals become part of the body of Christ–corporate. But individuals make up this body (I Peter 2:5).

d. Redemption has cosmic ramifications.

The earth itself will one day be redeemed from the effects of sin. READ ROMANS 8:19-23.  There will be a new heaven and a new earth without contamination (2 Peter 3:7-13). All of this confirms that biblical Christianity is radically opposed to the pantheism of the drug experience and Eastern religions. Pantheism believes in the ultimate destruction of the individual person by absorption into the One.

This Eastern view of the annihilation of the individual self is a popular explanation of drug-induced experiences. This impersonal annihilation teaching has been known to be the background of some suicide attempts.


Based on the foundation laid, we can say, concerning drug abuse:

  • We are dealing with the difference between right and wrong;
  • The basis of Christian ethics is:
  • Something is absolutely wrong when God says it is wrong in His Word. God writes the laws for the universe.
  • We must examine the Scriptures to know the thoughts of God concerning drug experience. The Bible alone tells us this (Isa. 8:20).
  • Those who base their views on subjective experience will contradict much of what I have said. These people exalt experience over the Word.

A. The Distinction Between Medical Use of Drugs and Illicit Drugs

blue-arrow-smallThe NT records over 100 cases of healing, most of them being miracles by Christ and the apostles. Jesus portrayed himself as a physician (Mark 2:17).

If we take the teachings of Christ, we can construct a biblical view of the role of a physician to indicate some of the functions of medicines.

  • “Jesus said, `It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick'” (Matt. 9:12). Therefore,
  • “The function of drugs for medical purposes is to bring a person from the abnormal state of sickness or unwholeness into a state of normal health.”[12] God, in His grace, has given human beings the means to cure diseases. However,
  • “Drug abuse functions to take a person from the normal state of life into an abnormal state.” [13]
  • The medical use of drugs has been used to help people with emotional difficulties, e.g. anti-depressants. On the other hand, drug abuse has been linked with permanent mental illness (we’ll talk about his when we get to discuss marijuana).

The drug experience is designed to take people into an inner world and to forget about society, problems, the family, work and school. If you go to Nimbin, Northern NSW, you can still meet drop-outs from society and those on drug highs. However, you don’t have to go that far. I know of many who have dropped out and into drugs — in Bundaberg — a regional Queensland city and district of 65,000 people.

Robert Morey’s summary is penetrating: “The use of any drug for the purposes of entertainment, escape, mind-control, religious worship, occult experiences, magic or murder is a sin against God, the Creation, the Society and the Individual.” [14]

My proposal to you condemns any use of drugs for non-medical reasons, regardless of whether that use has developed into a physical dependence or continuous use. I do not support the methadone program. It is the giving of a synthetic morphine substitute (methadone) to heroin addicts. The methadone is not for medicinal reasons. It is a continuation of drug addiction. Neither the individual nor the government has the power to change the drug addiction.  Some by sheer determination have come out of the drug scene — but it’s a tough battle. That’s why the Australian government’s policy is “harm minimisation.”

However, I know of many who have been set free from the oppression of drug addiction through a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ — through repentance, forgiveness and faith. If you are interested in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that changes people NOW and guarantees eternal life — see “The Content of the Gospel.” [15]


Some people seem to think the Bible has nothing to say about the drug problem in our society. They reach this understanding because of

A. Two basic misunderstandings:

1. They assume drug problems are peculiar to the 21st century.

The fact is, the ancient world during biblical times had many drug cultures. Many of the empires surrounding Israel wisely used drugs in their cultural life.

  • Jewish awareness concerning drugs. In Gen. 30:14-24, Jacob’s wife obtained a love potion called “mandrakes” to cure her infertility. She soon discovered that only God can open the womb for the infertile.
  • In NT times the drug problem was worse. Drugs were integral to the popular Mystery Religions of first century AD. Acts 19:18-20 — the people who had repented under Paul’s ministry, turned away from their mystery religion and burned their occult books that, no doubt, contained recipes for various drugs. [16]

There’s a second misunderstanding that causes people to think the Bible does not speak of drug abuse.

2. In their reading of the Scriptures, they fail to see the places where the writers raise the issue.

This is understandable because drug abuse is not mentioned explicitly in the English versions of the Bible. It is disguised by certain translations that are used.

Consider the Greek word, “pharmakeia.”

The English words, “pharmacy, pharmaceutical, pharmacist”, come from the Greek word, pharmakeia. The origin of this word refers to the making and use of drugs. “The word means in the classical writers, a preparer of drugs.” [17]

W.E. Vine in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says, “In sorcery, the use of drugs whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc., professedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.” [18]

A more recent word study by Colin Brown, says, concerning pharmakeia, “Its meaning of medicine, magic potion, poison gives the underlying idea of the words. Potions include poisons but there has always been a magical tradition of herbs gathered and prepared for spells, and also for encouraging the presence of spirits at magical ceremonies.” [19]

B. Biblical Use of “Pharmakeia”

We see the use of pharmakeia in passages like Gal. 5:20 where one of the works of the flesh (“acts of the sinful nature”) is witchcraft or sorcery (depending on the translation). Drugs were part of witchcraft. Pharmakeia was only part of sorcery, “it literally means the act of administering drugs.” [20]

In the context of Galatians, pharmakeia refers to sinful activity. It is the practice of witchcraft, involving drug abuse. It is the non-medical use of drugs that is one of the “acts of the sinful nature.” We must get this clear. People may say the reasons they use drugs are: boredom, to get kicks, or to escape, “but the ultimate motive lying behind all other seeming motives is a self-satisfaction of the inner, depraved desires. This reveals that a drug experience is essentially selfish because it directs one entirely into oneself.

Galatians 5: 17 makes it clear that drug abuse is being in total opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

In this context, the remedy for witchcraft and drug abuse is the work of the Spirit of God which replaces the “acts of the sinful nature” with “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

You will also notice in Galatians 5 that pharmakeia is linked with other sins. For example, in v. 20 the list “couples idolatry with its habitual ally, sorcery.” [21]  The Bible seems to place certain sins together because there are elements that bind them together — idolatry and witchcraft.

With this is mind, what kinds of sins are generally associated with witchcraft and drug abuse? If you look at the list of sinful practices here is Gal. 5:19-21, they divide into four basic categories: [22]

1. Sins of sensual passion. “Fornication” or “sexual immorality” (NIV) refers to any kind of sexual immorality outside of marriage. “Impurity” or “uncleanness” often refers to the unnatural sexual acts such as homosexuality. “Debauchery” or “licentiousness” indicates the “giving up of oneself totally to sensuality and is expressed in such sins as pornography, exhibitionist nudity, sleeping around with anybody. These are sins against the body. [23]

2. Sins of unlawful dealing in spiritual things. “Idolatry” means that one makes a god out of some aspect of created things. The wood or stone idols of the heathen are obvious. The secularism and exaltation of reason of modern human beings are also forms of idolatry. All idolatry is a direct sin against the God who exists.

3. Sins of “violations of brotherly love.” Or, sins against your neighbour — hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions and envy.

4. Sins of “intemperate excesses.” Or, sins against society. These are sins that usually happen in groups. In Gal. 5, these sins are mentioned as “drunkenness, orgies and the like.”

Western people seem to be returning to the “Age of Magic” through the New Age Movement There’s a resurgence in meditation, yoga, crystals, astrology, the occult, witchcraft and Satanism. “There is an acknowledged attitude toward drug abuse which views it as a magical solution to personal problems.” [24]

Wherever the Bible mentions sorcery/witchcraft (pharmakeia), it also refers to drug abuse, which was an integral part of ancient sorcery. When the Bible condemns witchcraft/sorcery, the denunciation includes drug abuse. This position is taken by many well known New Testament commentators and scholars. [25]

There are other biblical uses of pharmakeia that I can mention briefly:

Rev. 9:20-21:

Even after a third of the human race has perished under God’s relentless, severe punishment, people still will not repent of their sins and turn to God. John, the revelator, mentions certain sins that were prominent at that stage of society. They include “magic arts” (NIV), pharmakeia. We could just as easily translate v. 21, “Nor did they repent of their… drug abuse.” [26]

The judgment of God could not break [people] of [their] addiction to drugs. It is only the grace of God which can savingly change the heart of a drug-abuser. Notice the sins which accompany drug abuse in the context [of Rev. 9:20-21]. [27]

Note: “worshipping demons.” Right now, the worship of Satan and his demons, the rise of witchcraft, astrology, magic, and the occult, is happening at the same time as the rise in drug abuse. The Bible, thousands of years ago, told us this would be so.

The existence of these things in cultures of the East and now in the West (thanks to the New Age) supports the underlying unity between these evils. “What binds them together is a lust to substitute the world of the creature for the world of the Creator. In his rebellion, man wants to be his own Creator and to live in a pleasure world which panders to the desires of the flesh.

Rev. 9 says that the people “did not repent… they did not stop worshiping demons and idols” (v. 20).

Alan Watts, one of the leaders in the hippie drug culture in the 1960s and 70s, “pointed out that drugs cause a person to loosen up in the area of inter-physical and inter-sexual contact with other people.” [28] We know that some drugs seem to heighten sexual sensations during intercourse. When a person takes drugs, he/she often loses self-control, including sex-control.

I don’t have space to look into Revelation 18:23; 21:8; 22:15 to see how illicit drugs will be used by people and nations at the end of the church age. Just before Christ returns. However, it is important “to note that the last chapter of the last book of the New Testament ends with a warning to those who traffic in sorcery and the wrong use of drugs.” [29]

The Old Testament is just as adamant against use of drugs and sorcery. e.g. Ex. 7:11, 22; 8:18; 22:18; Deut. 18:11; 2 Kings 9:22; Isa. 47:9, 12; Dan. 2:2; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4; Mal. 3:5.

The early church felt the force of the Scriptures against sorcery to be so strong that they met at the Council of Ancyra in Galatia about A.D. 315 to pass a severe canon against all (pharmakeia) [30]. The church of the twenty-first century must stand by this historic canon in condemning all forms of sorcery, especially drug abuse, which is at present over-running our society. The early Christians saw clearly that drug-cultures and drug-religions are diametrically opposed to biblical Christianity. The truth of this absolute antithesis [drugs and Christianity do not mix] must be revived in our day so that the Church may not only survive but also triumph.[31]


We can briefly note

Portal icon1. Even some of those coming out of the hippie movement of the 1970s, such as Timothy Leary & Alan Watts, linked “religious” and “mystical” experiences with LSD and other drugs. This was their wonderful motive for taking drugs. [32] Aldous Huxley, who didn’t believe in “god”, linked the “religious” experience with taking drugs. [33]

2. But what has liberalism done over the last 100 years in the church? It has not taught people to fear God and it has rejected the new birth that brings regeneration. It brought “dead, formal, and external religion. This created a vacuum within [people] which drugs now attempt to fill.” [34]

3. Liberalism rejects the Christianity of the Bible, shattering the foundation of historical “facts”, leaving religion to be a non-rational leap of faith or state of mind. This opens life up to the drug experience.

4. This view is not only in modern liberalism, but in modern philosophies of art, music and literature of the last century. It is also the experience of the New Age Movement. Those on drugs, often say, “Why waste time meditating or praying when I can drop out on drugs?” How are modern liberal theologians going to interpret the drug-induced, non-rational religious experience when there is nothing like it in orthodox Christianity? The answers will come from: (1) Eastern religion (Hinduism, Buddhism), or (2) Existential Christianity of the Charismatics/Pentecostals.

5. Drug-induced mystical experience or hyped-up experiential highs of some Christian groups are not acceptable before God. Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

The way to the true God is the way of “faith.” The Bible’s view of faith is “that certain conscious commitment of the whole [person] to the Lord Jesus Christ in all the glory of His person and work.” [35]

6. Your true worship of God is this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). You cannot love, obey and worship the one true God through a drug-induced experience. Your heart will be somewhere else, your soul high, your mind blown and your strength zapped.

When Jesus saved the demoniac, the demons were gone; he was clothed and in his right mind (Mark 5:15). According to 2 Tim. 1:7, the work of the Spirit in your life produces a sound mind/self-discipline. When the prodigal son was converted “he came to his senses/he came to himself” (Luke 15:17). Acts 19:18-20 makes it clear that the sign of true conversion is turning away from all forms of witchcraft — drug abuse.

Many people try to get to God via a drug experience. They by-pass Jesus Christ and are damned. “Since the Fall, [human beings have] attempted to find inward peace, happiness, and joy by any means except the way laid out for [them] in the Scriptures.” [36] The use of drugs in every aspect is opposed to the work of the Spirit in producing the fruit of the Spirit. Drugs is a manifestation of the sinful nature. Refer to Gal. 5:16-23.


1. In Gen. 1:28 we have the Cultural Mandate that God has given to human beings. Does drug abuse violate the Cultural Mandate? If so, why & how?

  • Drugs are an escape from this world into an inner world of irresponsibility.
  • Drugs can cause people to be blind to the evil and inhumanity around them. They see the real world as an illusion. “Marijuana is particularly guilty in this area. It cuts down on the motivation to do physical and mental labor. While they are high on pot, the earth can go to `pot’ for all they care.” [37]
  • To enable people to obey the Cultural Mandate, they must have use all of their faculties and be consciously working with all of creation. Drug abuse is a sin against the earth.

Portal icon2.    Why is a widespread turning to drugs detrimental to society?

  • It makes human society ultimately meaningless; society has no real significance.
  • Just take a look at some Eastern countries where drug abuse is endemic. Go to Burma, India. Andrew Weil has admitted that “clearly much drug taking in our country [speaking of the USA] is negative in the sense that it is ultimately destructive to the individual and therefore to society.” [38]
  • Those under the influence of drugs cannot truly love their neighbours. Yet drug users could respond, “Well, I know that when I am high I love everybody. The love which I have when high is fantastic and unbelievable. And you should feel what it is like to make love when high. Man, that’s love.” [39]

This is a confusion of fleshly excitement and lust, with love. This means that true human relationships cannot happen when intoxicated. Just take a trip through a drug community and see the filth, poverty, crime, disease, immorality. Drug users are a negative influence in any society.
  • Widespread use of drugs causes many drop outs in society. They don’t produce for society. They live off society by welfare, stealing, prostitution, etc.

3. You have to decide for yourself whether or not to use drugs. I put it to you that your personal drug use could:

  • temporarily affect you as a rational being while on a high;
  • it can twist your sense of time and history;
  • drugs can sometimes render you incapable of intelligible communication with another;
  • many drug users have lost their sense of being an individual person distinct from another. If this happens, you are destroying the image of God in yourself, reducing yourself to the level of an animal, plant or machine,
  • You may lose your sense of being a creature. Drugs create a sense of euphoria which sometimes may cause you to think you can transcend your creatureliness — even become a god. Some think of themselves this way, as superman, and leap from a tall building to their death. [40] Just remember that Satan’s main temptation to Eve at the Fall was “you will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). Ever since then, people have tried to experience godhood. They use drugs as one trip to try to get there.

Many drug users find that drugs help to create a period of self deification which eventually causes psychological problems and sometimes physical harm.

Remember, injecting SPEED may KILL you; LSD probably breaks chromosomes; many drugs destroy brain cells; marijuana has serious adverse effects. There are grave personal consequences from using drugs. They may alter your mind permanently. You can expect basic, and maybe, permanent change to your personality. Many times you may lose your ability to concentrate or read. Motivation could be zapped — especially with marijuana.

4. Pill popping is much quicker than sanctification. Some ask, “Why spend hours in prayer when a pill can give you instant peace? Why seek to put to death the sin of anxiety when a tranquillizer will calm your nerves?” Read James 1:2-4.

5. The use of drugs may open you up to demonic or satanic control. Is it worth it? Many pagan religions have used drugs to gain entrance into the spirit world to commune with evil spirits and gods.

6. Addiction is slavery. Paul to the Corinthians said, “I will not be mastered by anything” (I Cor. 6:12).


Numbers of people have debated marijuana use through the pages of the my local newspaper, the Bundaberg News-Mail. A summary of an article and three letters-to-the-editor follow:


In the Bundaberg News-Mail, “Friday Faith”, April 4, 1997, p. 18, it recorded:

1. “An outspoken, inner-city youth counsellor (Pastor Morrie Thompson, Teen Challenge, Adelaide) has called for tougher marijuana laws, including life imprisonment for adults supplying the drug to minors”:

2. “Current legislation [in SA] is responsible for many young people moving on to other drugs”;

3. “Lives are being ruined by m. because many teenagers were unaware of its dangers”;

4. “Many young people did not believe m. was harmful to their health despite `the peak health bodies in the world (being) unanimous in their condemnation of the drug’ because of a lack of information”;

5. Because the general community is ambivalent in its attitude, due mainly to misinformation, criminals are reaping a rich reward”;

6. “M. laws should be tightened to make growing `any quantity’ of the drug a criminal offence with `extremely heavy fines'”;

7. “A reward system should also be set up for information leading to conviction”;

8. “M. use could lead to harder drug abuse because `soft law’ sent a message to the community that `drugs are OK'”.


An April 12, 1997 letter to the Bundaberg News-Mail, in reply to an article, “Call for tough laws”, News-Mail, April 4, 1997, warning of the dangers of marijuana use contained this content :

1. “Pastor Morrie Thompson, calling for life imprisonment for marijuana dealers”;

2. “The nonsense printed by Drug Arm on marijuana”;

3. “The most dangerous drugs in common use are the legal ones: alcohol and cigarettes. . . The drug most linked with a greater use of hard drugs is alcohol”;

4. “Marijuana has never killed anyone”;

5. “The ban on alcohol earlier this century did nothing to curb its use, and only enriched the mafia. . . Marijuana now performs this role”;

6. “The drug debate needs informed opinion, not hysterical lies”;

7. “The best approach, I believe, is moderation in all drug use, whether legal or illegal”;

8. “Any high can induce an addiction cycle, and that mixing hard drugs, especially with alcohol, can be fatal”;

9. The ABC’s Quantum is running an excellent series on drugs at the moment. I am sure we will all find it informative on m., and that the claims made by the above writers will be entirely discredited”:


An April 21, 1997 letter to the Bundaberg News-Mail (replying to letter of April 12) proclaimed:

1. “Misguided conception that marijuana is a comparatively harmless recreational drug.”

2. “Cannabis sativa is a complex mixture of about 60 cannabinoids.”

3. “The worst offender in cannabis appears to be THC.”

4. “It is rapidly absorbed by the blood through the lungs and accumulates in heart, brain, liver and body fats. Since release from fat can take up to 40 days the residual effects of marijuana can be topped up by intermittent smoking. Is this the recreational aspect you refer to?”

5. “Effects such as memory loss, balance and co-ordination impairment, hallucinations, anxiety and panic attacks and a form of psychosis…”

6. “The increase in the incidence of tongue, mouth and jaw cancer is apparent but as yet undocumented. It may be no worse than tobacco smoke but it does exist.”

7. “The biological dependence is well known.”

8. “All addictions need financial input to support them… supplemented by crime… juveniles turning to crime to support their addiction.”

9. “You look at the long term effects of drug dependency and not at the short term pleasures.”


An April 24, 1997 letter to the Bundaberg News-Mail (replying to letter of April 21), stated:

Portal icon1. “Where oh where do you get your facts on marijuana use?”

2. “Your exaggeration of undocumented stories and half truths have little factual basis.”

3. “When we discuss m. it is essential that we are entirely truthful and do not conduct a campaign of scaremongering.”

4. “While the ACT and SA Governments have decriminalised m., Qld persists in prosecuting it as a dangerous drug.”

5. “If it must remain illegal surely the word `prohibited’ would be more descriptive than the word `dangerous’.”

6. “One of the most remarkable qualities of this drug is its safety as medicine. It is non toxic. No deaths from overdose have been reported. In fact it is safer than some foods… It is far safer than aspirin and many legal medicines which commonly have a lethal dose only 10 times their effective dose.”

7. “It has been estimated that one would have to smoke 800 m. cigarettes to induce a fatal reaction.”

8. “Like any drug used to excess it can have minor side effects. It is not called dope for nothing.”

9. “The citizens of Arizona and California voted into law their right to have legal access to marijuana for medicinal uses.”


A. Initially, people use drugs because of:
  • social pressure,
  • boredom,
  • curiosity,
  • desire for a new experience,
  • better sex,
  • to gain wisdom & intelligence,
  • to escape pain, worry, responsibility, tension, etc.

To begin with, the use of drugs comes out of normal, natural or environmental needs or desires. Drug abuse is one way to try to satisfy our needs or desires. This doesn’t mean it is beneficial.

1. We must distinguish between needs based on creation and sinful needs.

Creation needs:

Gen. 1:27, “So God created man (human beings) in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Psalm 8:3-9:

    When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.  O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

We were created by God to relate to God. This is a creation need.

Gen. 2:18, “The Lord God said, `It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
We are created with a need for human companionship, communication and love. There are created needs, but there are also

Sinful needs

In Gen. 3, human beings sinned and the results are: needs and desires are contaminated by sin. The desire to kill oneself or other human beings goes back to the Fall. When talking about drug abuse, we must make sure we are clear about the difference between created desires and sinful desires.

Within the limits of God’s will, He has provided us with wonderful ways to satisfy created needs: companionship through friends, marriage; relating to God through His Word, worship, prayer.

The desire for food and sleep comes through creation. The desire for a drug experience comes from the Fall into sin and the guilt that comes.

Initially, people use drugs for many sinful reasons.

B. Why do people continue to use drugs?

When I speak with drug users, most of them don’t give me the initial reasons for trying drugs. Many times they will say:

  • it feels good;
  • it puts me into a mental state so that I don’t have to worry about the things around me;
  • it has expanded my consciousness; it is a “high” that gives me a different perception on the world.

Let’s get this clear: the main reason for entering into the drugged state is the abnormal mental state that it gives — the high.

Most people would not risk memory loss, zapped motivation, schizophrenia, etc. if it were not for the altered states of consciousness that they experience.

C. The Pluses and Minuses of the Drug Experience

During the drug experience, you may lose:

1. the ability to rationally understand things;

2. contact with the normal world of sense perception;

3. any accurate perception of the size, shape, or colour of objects;

4. the ability to perceive differences between objects;

5. the sense of self and its identity;

6. the awareness of time;

7. consciousness of the past and its importance;

8. consciousness of the future and its goals;

9. the ability to give sustained attention;

10. the ability to communicate intelligently.

Portal icon During the drug experience, you may gain:

1. the sensation of having great insight, intuition, & knowledge;

2. the monistic or pantheistic perception of the universe;

3. the experience of godhood by sensing that you are infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, indestructible, and eternal;

4. the sense of being possessed, overpowered, or carried along by some force greater than oneself;

5. a heightened perception of sounds sights, and colours;

6. a heightened sensual experience of sex, touch, and taste;

7. a confusion of the senses in which one may see music and hear colours;

8. the ability to live in the present without any care or concern for the past or future;

9. the ability to be released from all responsibility and restraint and to do whatever one feels like doing;

10. mystical or religious experiences with God/”god” or spirit beings. [41]

D. What can we say about the altered state of consciousness?

Is it good, bad, neutral or a mixture?  Is it beneficial or destructive for human beings? Our answers to these questions decide the issue of drug abuse.

  • For some years I have thought and taught that the way to fight drug abuse is to show the scientific (factual data) about the harmful effects of drugs. But I’m not convinced now that this is the correct focus. Why?
  • I think this is opening the door to decriminalising or legalising drugs. Why?
  • I have no basis or right to reject legalisation of a drug which could be discovered in the future that does not cause physical harm.

While the harmful effects of drugs play an important part in the battle against drug abuse, I believe the primary attack should be made against the major motivation and goal of drug abuse: THE ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS. This, I believe, is the core of our battle.

Once we realise that the core issue is the drug experience itself, then anything that produces in human beings this altered mental state must be condemned. This condemnation stands whether this drug is physically harmless and non-addictive. [42]

There are other ways to produce this altered mental state: Eastern meditation, yoga, chanting, singing and dancing.

I am convinced that biblical Christianity can give the proper arguments against drug abuse and answers to the issue of the drug experience. This requires a knowledge of basic Christianity — which is fairly scarce these days. We are in a day of shocking biblical illiteracy, even in the evangelical church.

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X.    Endnotes

[1] Much of the content of this web page is based on a summary of R.A. Morey, The Bible and Drug Abuse. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1973. This is one of the most helpful books I have ever read on a Christian understanding of drug use. Unfortunately, the book is now out of print.
[2] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1985, p. 304.
[3] Ibid., p. 305.
[4] Ibid., p. 113.
[5] Ibid., p. 663.
[6] Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged. Collins World, 1978.
[7] Issue 10, Bundaberg, Qld., May 1997, p. 1.
[8] Johanna Michaelsen, Like Lambs to the Slaughter. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1989, p. 302.
[9] Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.
[10] Morey, pp. 21-22.
[11] Ibid., p. 24.
[12] Ibid., 28.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid., p. 29.
[15] “The Content of the Gospel” by Spencer Gear is a summary of essential Gospel content (a sorely needed emphasis in these days of spiritual declension in the church), based on John F. MacArthur Jr., Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles. Milton Keynes, England: Word Publishing, 1993, p. 247ff.
[16] See A Deissman, Light From the Ancient East. New York: George A. Doran Co., 1909, p. 259 for an example of a drug formula in a magic book. In Morey, p. 103, as footnote for Chapter 6, No. 2 (p. 32).
[17] Kitto (ed.), A Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature. New York: William H. Moore and Co., 1846, p. 959, in Morey p. 32.
[18] W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. London: Opliphants, 1940, Vol. VI, “Sorcery”, p. 52.
[19] Colin Brown (Ed.), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 2. Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1976, p. 558.
[20] James Orr (Ed.), International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939, 5:3097, in Morey, p. 34.
[21] W. Robertson Nicoll (Ed.), The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. III. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1967, p. 187.
[22] J.B. Lightfoot, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1957, p. 210.
[23] Morey, p. 36.
[24] Ibid., p. 33.
[25] Alford, Kitto, Lange, Lenski, A.T. Robertson, Vincent, as in Morey, footnote 9, p. 103.
[26] Literally, “their drugs,” Henry Alford, Alford’s Greek Testament, Vol. IV, Part II. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Guardian Press, 1976, p. 648; also supported by A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. VI. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1933, p. 369.
[27] Morey, p.37.
[28] The Joyous Cosmology. New York: Vintage Books, 1962, 93, in Morey, p. 39.
[29] Morey, p. 42.
[30] Lange, Lange’s Commentary, 138, in Morey, p. 42.
[31] Morey, p. 42.
[32] A. Watts, The Joyous Cosmology, pp. xi, xviii, 18-19, 90, in Morey, p. 43.
[33] See Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who is There. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1968, pp. 27-29.
[34] See Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape from Reason. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1968, pp. 46-55. Also W. Braden, The Private Sea: LSD and the Search for God. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1967, 117-119, in Morey, pp. 44.
[35] J.G. Machen, What Is Faith?. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965, in Morey, p. 47.
[36] Morey, p. 49.
[37] Ibid., p. 53.
[38] “The Natural Mind: A New Way of Looking at Drugs and the Higher Consciousness,” Psychology Today 6, no. 5 (October 1972), 83, in Morey, p. 56.
[39] Morey, p.56.
[40] See Lit-sen Chang, Zen-Existentialism. Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969, 14, in Morey, p. 60.
[41] Andrew Weil, “The Natural Mind: A New Way of Looking at Drugs and the Higher Consciousness,” Psychology Today, 6, no. 5 (October 1972), pp. 51-66, 83-96. In R.A. Morey, The Bible and Drug Abuse. Baker Book House, 1973, pp. 8-9.
[42] Morey, pp. 10-11.
The Truth Challenge (homepage)


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.


Whytehouse Designs

Summary of the effects of marijuana use

Marijuana (public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

1.    One cigarette (joint) impairs the short term memory for at least 6 weeks.  There are many studies demonstrating the deterioration of short term memory in marijuana users.  The definitive and best controlled of these was done in 1989 by Dr Richard Schwartz.  He demonstrated persisting impairment of short term memory six weeks after supervised abstention from the drug.  Just one joint is all that is needed.  (Dr’s Richard Schwartz, Gruenewald, M Klitzner et al “Memory Impairment In Cannabis Dependent Adolescents”, Am, J. Dis, Child, 143:1214-19, 1989 – Georgetown Medical School – Washington DC).  Take a read of this one from The New Scientist, “Natural high helps banish bad times.”

2.    In a major study to investigate the effects of cannabis on motor skills, twenty four hours after one cigarette (joint), experienced pilots performed severely impaired simulator landings.  These pilots reported that they felt absolutely fine, with normal mood, alertness and performance and were completely unaware of their impairment.  Several major rail crashes in     the USA have been associated with the use of marijuana.  (Dr JA Yesavage, VO Leirer, DG Morrow, Stanford University – “Marijuana carry over effects on aircraft pilot performance” – Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, 62:221-27, 1991)  Marijuana use is a continuing concern to paediatricians.

What about road accidents?

Cannabis and driving: a new perspective” by Carl J O’Kane, Douglas C Tutt and Lyndon A Bauer, warns of the influence of marijuana use on one’s ability when driving a motor vehicle [Emergency Medicine, Volume 14 Issue 3 Page 296  – September 2002].  Whilst much research exists from overseas relating to increased risk of motor vehicle accidents due to marijuana use, the following Australian data are significant.

Dr Judith Perl, pharmacologist, of the Clinical Forensic Medicine Unit – NSW Police Service released information in 1991 of a study conducted over the period 1987-90.  The study involved taking blood and urine samples from accident victims in four Sydney hospitals at random.  The only qualifier was that those measuring .05 BAC [blood-alcohol concentration], or known to have consumed alcohol were not tested for other drug use.  The increase in positive testing for cannabis in the blood of these victims was staggering, increasing from 28% (87-88) to 68% (1990).  [See also Judith Perl,  “Drugs & traffic safety”, Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences 17:25]Mrs Kate Carnell stated in “Debates of the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory” (Hansard, 9 September 1992, p. 2077) that:

“Cannabis is clearly a cause of driver impairment – a fact of which we are becoming incresasingly aware.  A study conducted by Dr. Judith Perl, of the forensic unit of the New South Wales Police, shows that cannabis is the single most important source of driver impairment discovered in blood and urine samples.  Cannabis constituted 68 per cent of all drug-positive urine and blood tests conducted in New South Wales during 1990.  Thus the threat that cannabis poses to driving safety is not idle and it must not be ignored.  We know that alcohol also affects driving ability, judgment and skill performance, but the residual effects of cannabis last much longer than those of alcohol.”

3.    A 15 year research project at the Karolinska Institute and Juddinge University Hospital, Sweden, revealed a 600% increase in the incidence of schizophrenia in conscripts who had used marijuana 50 times or more in their lifetime.  This study used a standardised method for the diagnosis of schizophrenia.  (Longitudinal study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden – 15 year study using 45570 army conscripts – Dr Sven Andreasson,  P Allerbeck, A Engstrom et al., Cannabis and Schizophrenia: A Longitudinal Study of Swedish Conscripts.  The Lancet, 2:1483 -1485,1987).

4.    A parallel study showed a 500% increase in the overall incidence of other psychiatric disorders in conscripts who were users. (Andreasson, S; Allerbeck, P; Rydberg, U., “Schizophrenia in Users and Non Users of Cannabis”  Acta Psychiatr. Scan., 79:505-510, 1989)  The use of cannabis in adolescence and risk for adult psychosis was examined in a New Zealand: longitudinal prospective study.  It found that “early cannabis use (by age 15) confers greater risk for schizophrenia outcomes than later cannabis use (by age 18). The youngest cannabis users may be most at risk because their cannabis use becomes longstanding.” [BMJ BMJ. 2002 November 23; 325 (7374): 1212–1213] [2].  The New Scientist reports on another study confirming the “Cannabis link to mental illness strengthened“.

5.    The Swedish study scientifically linked marijuana to the dramatic increase in drug-induced schizophrenoform illness and the associated increase in teenage suicide rates and other violent death (as above )

6.    The so called “Amotivational syndrome” –
Portal icon  Apathy, poor judgement, lack of self care,
Portal icon  Decreased empathy (perception of others problems)
Portal icon  Impaired perception of past, present and future.
Portal icon  Difficulty with information processing.
Portal icon  Difficulty with sequential dialogue.
(Goodman & Gilman – “The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics” 8th Ed. 1991)  For the latest edition.

Dr Robert C Gilkeson, – a teacher, paediatrician, adolescent neuropsychiatrist and brain researcher, specialising in early childhood development and learning disabilities, moved in 1987 (after some years of paediatric practice and consultancy) to devote his time to research the effects of marijuana on brain function.  Up until his untimely death in 1993, he was the Director of the Center for Drug Education and Brain Research.  He summarised his general findings in a paper to the US Committees of Correspondence, Drug Watch division with this quote:

“My research studies of youngsters from kindergarten through high school show previously well adjusted and intellectually endowed children falling apart academically and emotionally in the teenage years with the only new factor being that of occasional marijuana use.  Marijuana use can lead to an inability to retain strong self image, and an inability to visualise and plan for the future.  Using marijuana makes ‘great’ people feel average, and ‘average’ people ‘dumb’.  Marijuana use is toxic to all cells, and most especially toxic to brain cells.

“In 1981, my eight year study of 90 adolescent marijuana smokers was completed.  Each youths brain wave tracings (EEG) showed dysfunction (decreased activity) similar to brain wave tracings of the learning disabled.  A decrease in brain cell energy causes a decline in the level and complexity of thought and behaviour.  ‘Burned out’ kids with impairment to both their frontal lobe and their short term memory due to chronic intoxification of marijuana were evident.

“These impairments are the cause of the increased violent and non violent juvenile crime, truancy and school drop out, teenage runaways and vagrancy, teenage prostitution and pregnancy, venereal disease, adolescent depression and suicide, polysubstance use and adolescent psychiatric referrals.  Most alarming of all is the fact that we have witnessed the appearance of a new chronic organic brain syndrome called ‘burnout’ caused by marijuana use.”

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Recent research in animals has also suggested that long-term use of marijuana (THC) produces changes in the limbic system that are similar to those that occur after long-term use of other major drugs of abuse such as cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. These changes are most evident during withdrawal from THC. During withdrawal, there are increases in both the levels of a brain chemical involved in stress and certain emotions and the activity of neurons in the amygdala. These same kinds of changes also occur during withdrawal from other drugs of abuse, suggesting that there may be a common factor in the development of drug dependence (Connecticut Clearinghouse, “Marijuana: The Brain’s Response to Drugs,” 1999).

In 1992, a study assessed the acute effects of cannabis on human cognition.  This study found that cannabis impaired all capabilities of learning including associated processes and psychomotor performance.  (Block RI, Farinpour R & Braverman K., “Acute effects of marijuana on cognition: relationship to chronic effects and smoking techniques. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behaviour,” 1992, 43(3):907-917).  Here is a summary of that research.  Also take a look at: “Marijuana use during pregnancy damages kid’s learning” (The New Scientist).

“Much recent research is showing us exactly how marijuana impairs the brain. For instance, three days or more after smoking marijuana, PET scans of chronic marijuana users show decreased metabolic activity in the brain, especially in the cerebellum, a part of the brain involved with motor coordination, learning, and memory [Volkow ND et al., Psychiatric Research Neuroimaging 67:29-38, 1996]” (quoted from, “Prof. Miron Is Wrong About Marijuana,” Janet D. Lapey, M.D., The Massachusetts News Columnist, February 2000).  However, The New Scientist claims that “Controversy still rages over whether cannabis damages the brain.”

For a summary of information for teenagers see:  “Tips for Teens: The Truth About Marijuana.” 

7.    Four times the cancer causing potential of cigarettes.  Cancers of the mouth and jaw usually seen in men (over 60 ) who had been heavy smokers and drinkers for decades have been found in young users.  All had been daily marijuana users but had not smoked nicotine and only used a small amount of alcohol if any.  Study group was young men between 19-38 who had developed squamous cell cancers of the tongue or jaw with lymph node involvement. (PJ Donald – “Marijuana Smoking – Possible Causes of Head and Neck Carcinoma in Young Patients” Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, 94:517-521, 1986 – University of California, and Hoffman, D.; Brunnermann, KD.; Gori, GB.; Wynder, EL., “On the Carcinogenicity of Marijuana Smoke”.  In: Runeckles, VC., ed. Recent Advances in Phytochemistry, New York: Plenium, 1975:63-81.) 

The New Scientist reports on “Cannabis smoking ‘more harmful’ than tobacco.”

“Marijuanasmoking is associated with a dose-dependent increased risk ofhead and neck cancer. . .  Marijuana is a riskfactor for human head and neck cancer ” (“Marijuana Use and Increased Risk Zuo-Feng Zhang, Hal Morgenstern, Margaret R. Spitz, Donald P. Tashkin, Guo-Pei Yu, James R. Marshall, T. C. Hsu and Stimson P. Schantz (Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention Vol. 8, 1071-1078, December 1999)

Here’s a summary of risk factors for head and neck cancer, including the use of marijuana.

Although scientists have been convinced in the past that smoking causes lung cancer, the strong statistical associations did not provide absolute proof. This paper absolutely pinpoints that mutations in lung cancer cells are caused by benzopyrene. An average marijuana cigarette contains 30 nanograms of this carcinogen compared to 21 nanograms in an average tobacco cigarette (Marijuana and Health, National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine report, 1982). This potent carcinogen suppresses a gene that controls growth of cells. When this gene is damaged the body becomes more susceptible to cancer. This gene, P53, is related to half of all human cancers and as many as 70% of lung cancers.

Commentary: Clearly marijuana smoke contains more of the potent carcinogen benzopyrene than tobacco smoke. Furthermore, the technique of smoking marijuana by inhaling deeply and holding the smoke within the lungs presents a chance of much greater exposure than a conventional tobacco cigarette. (Commentary provided by William M. Bennett M.D., Professor of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, Clinical Pharmacology and Hypertension at Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon.  This information is from Drug Watch Oregon).

8.  Depression of the immune system at both humoural (body fluids) and cell immunity levels. In fact the immune system response is lowered by up to 40%.  Studies have shown for instance that young people who are users tend to be ill more frequently than non users.  Dr Akira Morishima has found that marijuana more than any other drug he had studied is closely     correlated with a high rate of chromosome damage or destruction particularly in relation to T- lymphocytes (white blood cells). [Friedman, H; Klein, TW; Newton, CA; Widen, R., “The Effects of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and 11-hydroxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on 7-lymphocyte and B-lymphocyte Mitogen Response”. J. Immunopharmacol., 7,451,1985 Florida University – 1985 &1994 Drugs of Abuse and the Immune System; 1st International Symposium Paris 1990  & A Morishima, GG Nahas & et al].

“There is good evidence that THC and other cannabinoids can impair both cell-mediated and humoral immune system functioning, leading to decreased resistance to infection by viruses and bacteria. However, the health relevance of these findings to human marijuana use remains uncertain. Conclusive evidence for increased malignancy, or enhanced acquisition of HIV, or the development of AIDS, has not been associated with marijuana use” (National Institutes of Health – Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana, February 19-20, 1997)

For a contrary opinion, see “Marijuana and Immunity,” Leo E. Hollister M.D. (Journal of Psychoactive Drugs pp. 159-163 Vol. 24 Apr-Jun 1992).

Portal icon9.    Fertility and other sexual development problems in males and females.

Males: sperm production is reduced, sperm motility reduced, production of testosterone and other hormones are reduced or delayed, which inhibits normal sexual development in males.  Studies indicate that sometimes this sexual developmental delay leads to lack of interest in females and normal copulatory behaviour.  Another side effect is the chromosomal damage (up to three times the normal rate) giving rise to the inability to produce normal pregnancy.

Females:  marijuana can cause defective menstrual cycles, damage the ovum, cause production of high levels of testosterone, and significantly reduce levels of prolactin, which is required for milk production.  Additionally females who use during pregnancy or who have residual levels of THC still present in their bodies are shown to produce lower than normal birthweight babies and, especially males with a higher than normal mortality rate. (Dr Wylie Hambree et al Columbia University; Dr Susan Dalterio University of Texas; Mendelsen JH et al Journal of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, 1978, 207:611-617; Dr Ethel Sassanrath, University of California; Hingson et al ‘Paediatrics’, vol 70 Oct 92 – Marijuana Alert.  Hatch, E; Bracken, M., “Effect of Marijuana Use on Foetal Growth.”  Am. J. Epidemiol. 124, 986, 1986.  Fried, P; Watkinson, B; Willan, A., “Marijuana Use in Pregnancy and Decreased Length of Gestation.”   Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol., 105, 23, 1984)

A new study at the University of Buffalo, USA, has found: “Men who smoke marijuana frequently have significantly less seminal fluid, a lower total sperm count and their sperm behave abnormally, all of which may affect fertility adversely, a new study in reproductive physiology at the University of Buffalo has shown” (University of Buffalo Reporter, October 23, 2003).

Researcher Peter Fried, a psychologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, “told New Scientist (25 March 2003) that as well as affecting memory and learning, exposure to marijuana during pregnancy has a strong effect on visual mapping and analysis in human children.”

10.    DNA metabolism is inhibited thus interfering with cell function and replication.  The blockage of this process results in slowing down the manufacture of DNA, RNA and proteins in the cell nucleus – a process essential for cell life.  (B. Desoize; G Nahas; C Latour; R Vistelle,  University of Champagne – Ardenne, “In Vivo Inhibition of Enterocyte Metabolism by Delta-9-THC” Pro. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med., 181, pp. 512-516, 1986)

11.    Associated with the above the THC enlarges the area between each cell, resulting in poor transmission of nerve impulses.  This can lead to impaired speech and comprehension of complex ideas, loss of memory, difficulty in concentrating, insomnia, lack of body coordination and loss of muscle strength, impaired vision and unexpected mood changes.  (RG Heath et al – “Chronic Marijuana Smoking  – its effect on the Function and Structure of the Primate Brain”.)
Again associated with the issue of DNA, RNA, cell function and replication is the issue of birth abnormalities being produced in the offspring of parents who have used or are still using marijuana.  These abnormalities closely resemble those of thalidomide babies although where thalidomide produced such abnormalities called phecomelia – in place of hands and feet, new borns had seal-like flippers.

Marijuana is responsible for defects such as non-existent limbs, phocomelia, syndactyly (fingers are fused together rendering them useless), missing hands and forearms, webbing of the hands, lack of nails, club feet and hydrocephalus (so called water on the brain).  Dr Virchel E Wood, Orthopedic Surgeon & Associate Professor of the School of Medicine – Dept of Orthopedic Surgery – Loma Linda University (USA) has indicated that abnormalities can occur in the young of one or both parents who have been shown to have used marijuana.  People who use marijuana and other drugs have 18 times more birth defects than non users.

n research reported in 2003, Drs Kenneth L. Audus, and Michael J. Soares of the Institute of Maternal-Fetal Biology concluded that “illicit drugs (e.g. cocaine, marijuana, etc) taken by the mother at virtually any time during gestation have the potential to adversely affect the outcome of pregnancy, resulting in severe complications for the mother, pre-term birth, abnormalities in fetal development and increased health risks as the newborn grows into adulthood” [” Dr. Audus is an internationally recognized expert on drug metabolism and drug transport by the placenta, while Dr. Soares’ expertise resides in understanding mechanisms controlling the growth and development of the placenta”] (News Release, September 1, 2003).

Dr Susan Dalterio of the University of Texas (San Antonio) has noted in extensive studies that genetic mutations have passed through to the second generation of offspring of marijuana users.


Such warnings [about marijuana use linked to psychoses] should not surprise the scientists who have for many years maintained that the THC contained in marijuana is dangerous. First, in the late 1960?s Dr. Robert Heath, then chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Tulane Medical School, found that marijuana affects brain waves and destroys brain cells. [3] Second, a study conducted by Dr. Ethel Sassenrath at the University of California at Davis between 1974 and 1978 found that THC increased the rate of fetal loss (in utero, fetal death) in monkeys by over 300%, while at the same time decreasing the birth weights in those babies born alive. [4] Third, a study by Dr. Susan Dalterio, at the University of Texas found that marijuana decreased testosterone and impaired sexual development in male mice. [5] Finally, a study by Dr. Albert Munson found that injections of THC suppressed the immune systems of mice and made them 96 times more susceptible to the herpes virus. [6] (Schaffer Library of Drug Policy)

12.    1100% increase in the incidence of acute non lymphoblastic leukaemia in the offspring of mothers who used while pregnant or just prior to conception.  The research also indicated that that these children developed the leukaemia earlier – 19 months instead of the usual 93 months.  (Professor Neglia et al Minnesota University – reported 1990 and Robson et al Children’s Cancer Study Group – reported in “Cancer” 63:1904-1910, 1989)

13.    Marijuana prevents liver enzyme CP450 from breaking down anti-depressant medication thus causing an accumulation of the anti-depressant in the body which can result in death (Dr John Anderson – Neuro Scientist, Consultant, Psychophysiologist – Neuroscience Psychological Services Centre,  Westmead,  Sydney NSW).  It is tragic for the scientific cause of the investigation of the impact of marijuana and anti-depressants that Dr. Anderson died in 2002.

  I would like to see in-depth research conducted to follow-up Dr. Anderson’s pioneering work.  Here is a summary of Dr. John Anderson’s preliminary research.  Further, Dr. Anderson contended:

Statistics suggest that 40% of ADHD children are predisposed to substance abuse during adolescence or adulthood. Of the ADHD population who are poly substance users, 67% smoke marijuana. Many behavioural changes are similar to those of ADHD: academic ability decreases; sniffles, colds, trivial illness, especially respiratory system; concentration levels decrease; depersonalisation; increased levels of anxiety; increased depression; reaction times slows; short-term memory difficulties; a lack of motivation or interest in things previously enjoyed; increased impulsivity; space and time distortion; may increase appetite.  (A summary of a talk presented by John Anderson to ADDult, NSW, Australia)

14.    Marijuana use and its link to other illicit drugs, is not genetic according to
Michael Lynskey, at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri, and his team [who] found that the early user [of marijuana] was two to five times more likely to go on to use harder drugs or become dependent on alcohol – regardless of whether they were an identical twin or not.

    The fact that identical twins, who share all their genes, did not differ from non-identical twins, who share half, suggests that the progression is not the product of genes. (The New Scientist, 21 January 2003, based on an article in the  Journal of the American Medical Association, vol 289, pp. 427, 482).

15.  Yet, there is a rising swell of support for marijuana use across Europe and Canada, according to The New Scientist

For further marijuana research summaries, see the Drug Watch Oregon website.  See “Marijuana: Facts for Teens.”
Here’s a short summary of the effects of marijuana (a summary of this article).


  • See the Washington State University article, “Marijuana Effects” that confirms the deleterious consequences of marijuana use.


1.  Susan Dalterio is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biology at the University of Texas at San Antonio.  Her email contact is:  [email protected]

2.  Copyright © 2002, BMJ BMJ. 2002 November 23; 325 (7374): 1212–1213, “Cannabis use in adolescence and risk for adult psychosis: longitudinal prospective study, ” Louise Arseneault, lecturer, Mary Cannon, Wellcome Trust advanced fellow, Richie Poulton, director, Dunedin multidisciplinary health and development study, Robin Murray, professor, Avshalom Caspi, professor, Terrie E Moffitt, professor. 

SGDP Research Centre, King’s College, London SE5 8AF, Division of Psychological Medicine, King’s College, Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Correspondence to: T E Moffitt [email protected]

3.  Robert G. Health, “Cannabis Sativa: Effects on Brain Function,” Biological Psychiatry, Vol. 15, No. 5, 1980.

4. Government’s Supplemental Sentencing Memorandum Re: Health Effects of Marijuana, U.S. v. Greyshock, United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, 1988.

5.  Ibid.

6.  Ibid.


Copyright © 2012Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.


Is use of marijuana a sin for Christians

Flowering Cannabis plant

By Spencer D GEar

Is it a sin to use illicit drugs such as marijuana? I would say, yes, for these reasons:

1. You say that “I don’t’ see God declaring it a sin, so I don’t believe it is a sin”. Just because God doesn’t mention taking illicit drugs such as marijuana, does not mean that He doesn’t give principles in the Bible that apply to illicit drugs. If I am to accept your line of reasoning, I would have to say that I will promote abortion because the word “abortion” does not appear in the Bible. Also, if I pursue your view, I would say that I do not accept the Trinity because the word, “Trinity”, does not appear in the Bible. There are obvious reasons to reject abortion because it is the killing of a human being – yes, a human being from conception. The doctrine of the Trinity, even though the word is not mentioned in the Bible, is taught in the Bible as three persons in one God. The idea that God does not declare the use of marijuana as sin, so it is OK to use marijuana for a Christian or anybody else, has BIG holes in it. These include:

2. You have quoted, “all things are lawful”, but you didn’t complete the verse. The whole verse states: “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything. ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’—and God will destroy both one and the other'” (1 Cor. 6:12-13a ESV)[1]. Here Paul gave the slogans of the Corinthians and then provided his responses:

Slogan: All things are lawful for me; Response: but not all things are helpful

Slogan: All things are lawful for me; Response: but I will not be enslaved by anything

Slogan: Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food; Response: and God will destroy both one and the other

You are practising the Corinthian kind of sloganeering when you only quote part of the verse – the slogan. Paul opposed the slogans and gave God’s responses. There are plenty of applications in this slogan-response sequence to apply to illicit drugs. In context, 1 Cor. 6 is referring to food and sexual immorality (especially). However, God’s response through Paul is, “not all things are helpful”, “I will not be enslaved by anything”, and “God will destroy both one and the other”.

We know that marijuana use is NOT helpful. I have already provided you with a list of very negative consequences of marijuana use, based on the research. Since marijuana is a drug of addiction, it fits right in with Paul’s response, “I will not be enslaved by anything”. If you are truly wanting to follow the Lord, you will not want to be enslaved by the THC in marijuana. Therefore, it is a sin to break God’s teaching on what is beneficial for your health.


3. However, you dare to ask, “Why are we making stupid laws?” Excessive alcohol drinking is harmful to one’s health. But 50 glasses of beer in a lifetime do not have the same risk as 50 joints of marijuana: There was a 600% increase in the incidence of schizophrenia in conscripts who had used 50 cannabis cigarettes or more in their lifetime. (Longitudinal Study at Karolinska Institute in Sweden – study over 15 years with approx 55000 conscripts -Andreasson, Allerbeck Engstrom et al -The Lancet – 1987). One joint of marijuana impairs short term memory for at least six weeks. (Dr’s. R. Schwartz, Gruenewald, M Klitzner et al “Memory Impairment in cannabis dependent Adolescents.” 1989 Georgetown University). Please understand that I am not advocating the use of tobacco or alcohol. I have not used either in all my life, but what I’m trying to point out is that moderate use of alcohol does not have the same impact on one’s brain as use of marijuana. Therefore, based on the scientific evidence, far from making stupid laws by making marijuana use illegal, governments are making very sensible laws in trying to prevent severe medical and mental damage to individuals. Your accusation of “stupid laws” in relation to marijuana use does not hold up under the weight of mental illness caused by marijuana use, based on the research. I KNOW the impact of marijuana from 34 years of counselling these people. Please don’t be so myopic as to write anti-marijuana legislation off as “stupid laws”.

4. There is one area in which I substantially agree with you. There are better places than jail for rehabilitating somebody with a drug and gambling problem. Jails seem to be too easy of a sentence for most criminal offences.


5. You say, “But its not a sin for me to gamble”. I don’t know how old you are as a Christian. Have you been truly born again or are you a Christian in name only. It seems that you have an elementary understanding of Scripture. I live in a country, Australia, that has a love affair with gambling. Almost 21% percent of the world’s poker machines are in Australia.[2]

What is God’s view on gambling? Games of chance are not approved by God. Here are some biblical reasons:

I cannot locate a Scripture which states, “Thou shalt not gamble,” but the concepts of chance, luck and fortune should not be in a biblical world and life view. Support for gambling as we understand it today is foreign to the Scriptures for these reasons:

a. The Christian view of godliness

According to Matthew 6:33, believers are to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things [material things] will be added to you.” We are exhorted to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). How is it possible to use gambling for help with daily necessities and still rely on God to supply our needs?

b. The Christian view of work

Ephesians 4:28 says: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Could it be said that the modern concept of gambling, reaping many dollars for a small investment, is akin to stealing from others – legally? The Christian work ethic is one of labouring with one’s own hands or abilities to raise money or goods to maintain one’s individual life and family, and to share with those in need. Receiving $40 million as a gambling jackpot for spending only a few dollars sounds more like a “rip-off” of other people than an honest day’s work. But, of course, it is all done legally and governments receive their share of the “rip-off.”

c. The Christian view of stewardship

Hebrews 13:5 states that believers are to “keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have, for he said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” This is in contrast to the ones seeking big bucks from all sorts of gambling, with the investment of an infinitesimal amount.

The gambler seems to be like the greedy person. What is the biblical view of greed? The greedy are “the unrighteous who will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9). But there is good news for the greedy. They can be redeemed by being washed by the blood of Jesus, justified and sanctified. “Such were some of you,” said Paul of the greedy (I Cor. 6:11).

The common jargon these days is that gambling is supposed to be for fun – entertainment. Second Timothy 3:4-5 warns us that Christians are not to be “lovers of pleasure.” Instead they are to be “lovers of God.” Those who love pleasure are to be avoided (v. 5).

d. The Christian view of love for your neighbours and enemies

Jesus told us, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). How can we as Christians truly love our enemies (Matt. 5:44) while we contribute to taking money away from them? Approximately half of the revenue at poker machine venues in Australia comes from problem gamblers according to the Productivity Commission Report in 1999. How can we justify gambling when it is causing devastation to the individual and 5-10 other people associated with the problem gambler?[3]

e. How the Christian views his/her influence on others

How can Christians be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-14) while greedily wanting big bucks and ripping others off – legally, of course – through 21st century-style gambling? How can you “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt. 22:39) while at the same time taking money from him/her through gambling?

Biblical Christianity promotes the view of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), which is a life-style that, it seems to me, is impossible to reconcile with a 21st century approach to gambling that is promoted by governments.

f. Luck and fortune are not part of God’s kingdom

Isaiah 65:11-12 warns:

But you who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword . . . You did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in.

Luck, chance and fortune are not in God’s worldview. Neither should they be in ours. These are essential to the gambling kingdom! Christians should set a godly example and not participate in any games of chance.

Pastors and churches that approve of gambling should be called back to biblical Christianity.

6. Acts 5:29 states that “we must obey God rather than any human authority” (NLT). There are times when governments make unjust laws that conflict with God’s laws. At these times I must obey God rather than government. If I had been Corrie ten Boom in World War 2, I would have told lies like she did to prevent the slaughter of Jews and others in the Holocaust. But that is not what we are doing when we defy government laws against marijuana use, as the THC in marijuana is a very dangerous drug.




[1] See also 1 Cor. 10:23 where Paul states, “‘All things are helpful, ‘ but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful, but not all things build up” (ESV).

[2] “Russell Crowe rallies against gambling,” China Daily, 2008-01-03, available from: (Accessed 15 November 2008).

[3] Senator Jeannie Ferris 2000, 3rd National Gambling Conference, Rex Hotel, Sydney, 12 May, available from: (Accessed 15 November 2008).


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.


Whytehouse Designs

What is truth?


(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

A.  Introduction

In 1993 when I was co-host of a talk-back radio show in Canberra, Australia, a caller was defending the right and value of sleeping around with anybody. As I began to present God’s absolutes as they apply to human relationships, she said something like, “That might have applied thousands of years ago, but it has no relevance whatsoever in today’s world. That’s out-of-date garbage.”

During October 1993, I advertised three times in The Canberra Times, personal column of the classifieds (Saturday edition): “There is a way out of homosexuality for gays who want to change. Ph Spencer (and I gave the phone number).”

I received about 25 phone calls, some of them abusive, but enough men wanted to begin my “Steps Out” group for those who want to be redeemed from homosexuality. One fellow who responded to the advertising, when I mentioned that this was a Christian-based group, shouted: “That’s your opinion; I know that homosexuality is right. I was born that way.” And then came a pile of swear words.

Sometimes I have shared my testimony of how Christ invaded our Bundaberg, Qld home through the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade in Brisbane (a land line crusade rally at the Bundaberg Show Grounds) and my parents trusted Christ as their Lord and Saviour. This led to the salvation of the three children in the family. I have thought: I’m sure a Hare Krishna could tell of a changed lifestyle. Mormons speak of a “burning in the bosom” that convinced them that the Book of Mormon was true and this changed their lives. If I base my witnessing on a personal testimony, what’s the difference from the Hare Krishna or the Mormon?

That great English defender of the faith and writer, the late C.S. Lewis, saw the battle lines. He contended that the final conflict between religions would involve Hinduism and Christianity, because these two would offer the only viable religions. Because Hinduism absorbs all religious systems, and Christianity excludes all others, maintaining the supremacy of the claims of Jesus Christ alone. [1]

These examples raise a critical issue when we consider Christianity: Are we dealing with an individual religious experience, a personal opinion, a personal choice, or is this truth? One of the core verses is:

B.  What does Jesus say? (John 14:6)

“Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (NASB).

We often think of Christ’s words as metaphors:

I am the door; I am the vine; I am the light of the world; and we can tend to see these words metaphorically: I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life.

In our world today, that bases truth on personal opinion, the majority vote, or the views of a prominent leader, Jesus is saying something remarkably radical. So revolutionary that it will change our view of the church and our world if we understand what Jesus is saying.

Jesus said:

1.    I am the truth

  • He is not stating that He is the Messiah or Son of God in this instance. Although he is Messiah, that is not His point here.
  • He is not saying this is truth about Me.
  • He is not saying I am one way to truth.

He is saying: I am the truth. It could not be clearer.

2. What is truth?

This was Pilate’s great question to Jesus Christ (John 18:38).

One dictionary definition is: Truth is “genuineness or veracity”; “that which is true; a fact; a reality; that which conforms to fact or reality; the real or true state of things.” [2] Another dictionary adds that truth is “that which is in accordance with what is, what has been, or must be.” [3]

This is confirmed by my Greek word studies of aletheia which state: “John uses aletheia regularly in the sense of reality in contrast to falsehood or mere appearance… The revealed reality of God.” [4] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says of aletheia: “The word has an absolute force. . . not merely ethical truth, but truth in all its fulness and scope, as embodied in Him.” [5]

When we apply this to Jesus, this is an amazing statement. Jesus is saying, “I am ultimate reality. I am the root of what was, what is, what will come, I am the foundation of all that is genuine, factual and real in the world. Everything flows from Me.”

Jesus is the truth.

God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex 3:14). To the unbelieving Jews, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58) and they wanted to stone Jesus. No wonder. He was not claiming to be like God, or sent by God, but he was claiming to be Yahweh — the “I AM.”

When I speak out against abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality; make a stand for justice for oppressed people; when I proclaim the atonement and salvation through Jesus Christ alone; when I practise biblical ethics on the job; when I write letters or articles for newspapers or magazines, my aim is never to promote my own opinion. My sole desire is to proclaim Jesus Christ as the ultimate reality of all that exists and has existed and will exist.

We do the greatest disservice to you, and especially our young people, when we ask them to experience Jesus without an understanding that we are talking about truth.

The world wants to separate faith from knowledge and reason. Christians don’t want to mix faith with reason. “Thou shalt not think” seems to be the 11th commandment. And yet, what did the apostle Paul do when he proclaimed the Gospel? I read through the Book of Acts and this is the kind of language I appears:

  • explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (17:3)
  • “he was reasoning in the synagogue. . . trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (18:4). cf 17:2,4; 18:19; 19:8, 26
  • solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ” (18:5). cf 20:21, 23
  • “This man persuades men to worship God” (18:13).
  • “He powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (18:28).

What drove Paul to be such a defender of the faith?

Second Corinthians 5:10-11 gives us the key: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (NIV). Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (NASB).

Yes, Paul was a gifted apostle. Most of us do not have such a gift. But what drove Paul, must drive us: All Christians will appear before Christ’s magistrate’s court one day to be judged for our rewards. If you know what it is to fear the Lord, you must be involved in persuading people of the God who exists, who they are before Him, and how they can be set free from a life of sin and enter into eternal life by repenting of their sin and trusting Christ as Saviour and Lord — this will mean that your life must be as salt and light in this world.

This is quite in contrast with the scientific world where a Carl Sagan, of the Cosmos TV series, could so arrogantly say: “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” [6] Western civilisation was built on the foundation that there is a God of truth who gives objective truth that is ultimate reality. This is the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Here are two recommended resources for an analysis of the nature of truth:

C.  It is crucial that we understand Christianity as truth.

Down through the centuries, people have tried to find answers to life through the biblical world view and hundreds of other philosophies. But we have reached utter despair in Australia today. I see it in kids who are high on all kinds of drugs, youth who are committing suicide as a phenomenal rate. When I was working for the international Christian-based drug rehabilitation and counselling agency, Teen Challenge, Canberra, we as staff were confronted with three attempted suicides referred to us in one week. There is a sense of hopelessness and disillusionment in Australia. Families that are busting apart. Crime on the increase. Approximately 100,000 unborn babies slaughtered in Australia every year through abortion. That’s about one every seven minutes.

This should not be surprising when our society is influenced by the Eastern mysticism and occult of the New Age Movement, or straight secularism — this life is all there is to live for and then you die you rot. So eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die. In eastern mysticism you seek meaning within yourself. For secularism, it is this life — so rip into it and use and abuse people, yourself and your environment. Who cares? You only go round once.

As a result, the Australian culture and much of the world are morally exhausted. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the suicide rate, sexual promiscuity, divorce rate, premarital pregnancy rate, abortion and euthanasia, sexually transmitted diseases (in 1988, there were 51 STDs. Now we are approaching 60 STDs, with a new one discovered about every 9 months. [7]  Australia and the Western world are morally destitute.

It is critical for Christians to understand that Christ is the truth, ultimate truth. This will alter your view of Christianity and the nature of the world. Your university studies, the environment for political and ethical decisions, your personal worth and significance, the whole of life, need to be measured by Him. If a personal God is not there, who is? When Charlie Chaplin heard that there was no life on Mars, he said, “I feel lonely.” [8] Ultimate questions are too horrid to contemplate if there is no meaning apart from me and the universe. Thank God we have this revelation:

Jesus Christ says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). The beginning and the end flow from him. The past, present and future are His.

Colossians 1:15-17 says: “And He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

This Jesus, who said, “I am the truth; I am the beginning and the end” and “all things hold together through Him” is also the one who said, “Sanctify them by the truth; [the Father’s] word is truth” (John 17:17 NIV).


D.  God has spoken truth through the Scriptures.

His word is truth, true to reality. II Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”


This is not the place to develop a defence for the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Word of God (see, ‘Can you Trust the Bible?).  But sufficient to say that the Bible will leave the writings of antiquity for dead when it comes to assessing the accuracy of a document. I recommend John Warwick Montgomery’s, History and Christianity, Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, and Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament History?[9]

With the Bible, we are dealing with accurate, verifiable, objective truth that can be trusted. It matches up with the external world around us, and the uniqueness of human personality.

Do you understand the implications of this? When you want truth about morality: you shall not commit adultery and flee sexual immorality are the truth about relationships.

It means that there is no such person as an atheist. Fools, yes! But certainly not atheists. The truth of God’s word says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God” (Ps 14:1).

Why is this? Because of the objective truth of Romans 1:18-20!. So-called atheists are “suppressing the truth” of God’s evidence in creation, “by their wickedness.”

That’s why Ps 14:1 can be emphatic in giving the objective truth — a fool says there is no God.

I support the scientific enterprise. Christianity gave science its foundation with a personal God who created an orderly universe that could be investigated in a systematic way. But, I am amazed at all the philosophising about the origin of the universe, when the simple fact is: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The more modern cosmology develops, if scientists would bring God into the equation, the more one sees the enormity and complexity of the universe — and the might and mystery of Creator God.

Yet, as I was finalising my preparation for this message (preached in 1993), I picked up The Canberra Times (Nov 7, 1993, p. 19), in which there was an article, “The Eternal Question”. I was thrilled to see that a capital city newspaper was taking up the subject of life-after-death.

But I was shocked to read the statement by Rev. Neil Adcock of Canberra Baptist Church that “he does not believe that some souls will be eternally damned to Hell.”  He says that “judgment is largely an assessment of oneself in the light of the reality of God and all that God stands for.”

“‘All the stuff of fires and brimstone really comes out of the medieval idea of the earth being flat — Hell was underneath and Heaven was up there. We know that is not the case… I do not necessarily believe that the goal of a Christian life is to get to Heaven. “‘I think the goal of a Christian life is to grow in character like Jesus Christ… [The article’s statement: “He is honestly unknowing about the difference between an afterlife in Hell and one in Heaven” is incorrect, according to my personal phone call to Neil. He said he doesn’t know where the journalist got that from. When I asked him about judgment, he said he considers the Old Testament prophets inferior to Jesus and the New Testament.]

“‘Judgment is largely an assessment of oneself in the light of the reality of God and all that God stands for.'”  That’s Rev Neil Adcock from Canberra Baptist Church.

Yet, the Jesus who said, “I am the truth,” will say to unbelievers at the judgment, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41), a place, Jesus says, where there “will be weeping and grinding of teeth” (Matt 24:51). And Neil Adcock doesn’t know what hell will be like?  Is this a statement about his view of Scripture?

He says, “Judgment is largely an assessment of oneself in the light of the reality of God and all that God stands for.” The ultimate truth of God’s Word is much different. Romans 2:5 says: “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed”. In the Book of Revelation 6:17, “For the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand?”

“More than one writer has drawn attention to the fact that there are more references in the Bible to the anger and wrath of God than there are to the love of God.” [10]

I phoned Neil Adcock five days after the publication of the article, and not one clergyman or anybody else in Canberra, had phoned to ask about the unorthodox theology in the article. Where are the defenders of the faith today?  However, Neil did tell me that members of his congregation had commended him for going public with his views.

Let’s look at:

E.  The modern world

Flower   If there is no ultimate truth, your school and university studies are only a process with no ultimate answers to be found. If there is no ultimate truth, you have no solid, unchanging standard to judge music, art, literature, business deals, the church, politics and government, or your personal life. There is no way to judge between the horrors of Hitler’s Nazi Germany and the work of Mother Teresa. The difference between good and evil amounts to personal opinion, the majority vote, or the imposition of a dictator or a government elite.

The late Francis Schaeffer shared the speakers’ platform with a former American cabinet member and urban leader, John Gardner. Gardner spoke on the need to restore values to our culture. After he finished speaking, a Harvard University student asked him: “On what do you build your values?” Gardner, who is usually articulate and scholarly, paused, looked down, and said, “I do not know.” [11]

In our secular, relativistic culture, there is no basis for values. Absolute, unchanging values are so vital for politics and government, law and order in society. If we look to puny human values, we are doomed.

What is truth? Jesus said, “I am the truth.” God’s Word is truth. Ultimate values are centred in

Flower  the God who was;

Flower the God who is;

Flower  the God who is to come.

Pilate said, “You are a king, then!” “Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me'” (John 18:37, NIV).

Christianity is not some psychological religious experience. This is not a feel-good religion. Contrary to Sigmund Freud, Christianity is not an illusion. It is not the opiate of the people, as Marx would say. Christianity is Christ, who is truth, ultimate truth. Christianity is true to reality. It can be verified and falsified.

Pontius Pilate symbolises modern people. Just turn on the TV to Donohue and Oprah, or here in Australia to Kerry O’Brien, Ray Martin, Mike Munro, and other current affairs’ hosts and imagine their asking questions like:

Flower  What is the meaning of life?

Flower  How does this affect our lives?

Flower   Is it right, moral or good?
Flower  What is true?
Flower  What is truth?

Francis Schaeffer: Courtesy Wikipedia


Francis Schaeffer was right, “Modern man has both feet firmly planted in mid-air.” [12]

R.C. Sproul puts it another way: “Modern man is betting his life that this is it, and that there is no judgment and that there is no eternity.” [13]

Listen to the words of distinguished historian, Arthur Schlesinger: “It is this belief in absolutes … that is the great enemy today of the life of the mind…. The mystic prophets of the absolute cannot save us. Sustained by our history and traditions, we must save ourselves at whatever risk of heresy or blasphemy.” [14]

Australian philosopher/bioethicist formerly at the Human Bioethics Centre, Monash University, Melbourne, and now at Princeton University, NJ, USA, Dr Peter Singer, wrote:


“Once the religious mumbo-jumbo surrounding the term ‘human’ has been stripped away, we may continue to see normal members of our species as possessing greater capacities of rationality, self-consciousness, communication, and so on, than members of any other species. . . If we compare a severely defective human infant with a nonhuman animal, a dog or a pig, for example, we will often find the nonhuman to have superior capacities, both actual and potential, for rationality, self-consciousness, communication, and anything else that can plausibly be considered morally significant… Species membership alone, however, is not morally relevant.” [15]

If we follow this kind of ethic, I am convinced it will lead our culture into a shambles. I believe, this kind of ethic will help Australia to become a lawless moral mess.

But Jesus said, “I am the truth.” God’s “Word is truth” — real truth, objective truth that is ultimate reality.

F. The challenge

We are living in a decaying society and we cannot afford to be aloof in our comfortable churches.
Charles Colson says a ‘dark age’ is upon us;
Carl Henry writes of ‘the twilight of our culture’.
Malcolm Muggeridge predicted the end of Christendom.
Francis Schaeffer warned of the “spiritual collapse of the West.” [16]

Moral and spiritual clouds are looming. The crisis is not just some small shower, but a mighty thunder storm. The crisis may shake the very fabric of Australia. The boundaries that held back our vices and promoted our virtues are eroding.

What can the people of God do?

  1.    We, the church, must defend the truth, objective truth, ultimate reality.

Church leaders will need to equip their people to do apologetics in a post-Christian society. We must!

No wonder their is moral rot in Australia — sexual immorality and perversion, family breakdown, crime, drugs. Christian values are on the decline across the nation. Why?

Christians are generally illiterate when it comes to defending the faith. There has been a fierce attack on the Christian world view for at least 30 years. The mass media feed viewers with a regular dose of violence and sexual sensuality. And we Christians vegetate in front of the box while our Christian values are assaulted — and there’s hardly a murmur.

Church leaders undermine the word of God, like the Canberra Baptist pastor I mentioned, with hardly a whimper. This must change as we equip a new generation of believers to defend the objective truth of God’s Word.

John Wesley challenges us: “Making an open stand against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness which overspreads our land as a flood is one of the noblest ways of confessing Christ in the face of enemies.”

There is no other way out of this mess Australia is in, without the salt and light of the people of God. We are the only ones who can provide the answer and show a crumbling, sceptical culture the ultimate and only reality, Jesus Christ.

2.     We must have a renewed commitment to truth.

The evidence is compelling that the Scriptures are God-breathed, authoritative and trustworthy, without error in the original manuscripts in all that they affirm. We need to stand boldly for the inerrant Word of God.

3.    We must challenge our culture in its moral choices.

Mark 7:23 says, “… All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” This is an offence to modern people to say that evil actions come from within the person. Homosexuals tell me, “I was born that way.” Or as a woman told me the other day, “I had the demon of lust cast out of me.” Or, I was a victim of my upbringing, alcoholic parents, domestic violence. Or, my generational sin has caused this problem I have with the occult. When will we get back to the sinful nature within as the problem, and personal responsibility for overcoming it?

R.C. Sproul shocked me when I read: “If you think about it, we are all really more like Adolf Hitler than like Jesus Christ.” [17]

The atrocity is that we in the church have allowed our society to decay by not standing for truth, not confronting our culture, failing to promote an intelligent, consistent Christian world-view, and not consistently living the truth in our own lives.

Former Dutch Prime Minister, Abraham Kuyper [lived 1837-1920] , would encounter some stiff opposition from the civil libertarians if he promoted this view today:

“[Our call] is this: that in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the state for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which the Bible and creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.” [18]

It is urgent: We need to equip ourselves to offer a reasoned, consistent defence of God’s absolute truth, the biblical world-view, in the marketplace of our cities and towns.

Proverbs 29:18 (New International Version) summarises it so well: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.”

This is where we are in the twenty-first century. The people are casting off restraint. We are in an age of chaos personally, in the family, in many nations and internationally. September 11, 2001 was a gross symptom of what is happening world-wide. Will you join me in defending the Christian faith now to all peoples and nations? Will you join me in living out the Christian life with authenticity in these crisis times?

Take a look at Norman Geisler’s view of the nature of truth.  He concludes that truth is that which corresponds to reality.  Check our what this apologist says in his defense of the nature of truth as applied to Christianity.  Douglas Groothuis answers the question, “What is truth?


1. In Walter Martin, The New Age Cult. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989, p. 13.
2. Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (unabridged). Collins World, 1977.
3. In Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, The Body: Being Light in Darkness. Milton Keynes, England: Word Publishing, 1992, p. 158.
4. Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Vol 3). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978, pp. 889, 891. 5. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. London: Opliphants, 1940, p. 159.
6. In Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview (Vol. 5). Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1982, p. 439).
7. John Ankerberg & John Weldon, The Myth of Safe Sex. Chicago: Moody Press, 1993, p. 53.
8. In Charles Colson, The Body, p. 161.
9. John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity. Minneapolis Minnesota, Bethany House Publishers, 1965; Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972; Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1987 (InterVarsity Press, USA); F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1960 (rev. ed.); Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament History. Sydney: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986.
10. Eryl Davies, An Angry God? Bryntirion, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1991, p. 70.
11. In Colson, The Body, p.163.
12. Ibid.., 165
13. Ibid.
14. From Schlesinger’s speech at Brown University, in Brown Alumni Monthly, May 1989, pp. 18, 22, in Colson, The Body, pp. 170-171.
15. Pediatrics, July 1983, p. 138, in Franky Schaeffer, Bad News for Modern Man. Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1984, p. 156.
16. In Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, Against the Night. London: Hodder & Stoughton, p.10. [Servant Publications, USA]
17. In Charles Colson, The Body, p. 191.
18.  In ibid., pp.196-97.

The Truth will set you free!


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 September 2016.

Apparent contradictions and inerrancy

(public domain)

By Paul Gear

I’ve been studying the Gospel of John at college this semester, and one view that i’ve encountered is the view that John’s chronology of the Passion week, in particular the day of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, contradicts that of the Synoptic Gospels. This article by Barry D. Smith explains some of the issues and argues for the view that there is no contradiction.

This got me thinking about the implications of this view for the doctrine of inerrancy. Inerrancy is a presupposition in this case (the only one that i’m prepared to bring to biblical studies), but i think it is a reasonable one based on inductive study of the Scripture. Wayne A. Grudem, “Scripture’s Self-Attestation and the Problem of Formulating a Doctrine of Scripture”, in Scripture and Truth, ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992), argues decisively that Scripture itself gives Christians no option but to accept inerrancy.

Here are some quotes from his article (emphasis in the original in all cases):

God’s words, especially God’s words as spoken and written by men … are viewed consistently by the Old Testament authors as different in character and truth status from all other human words; … In truth status they are seen as being different from all other human words, for human words invariably contain falsehood and error (Ps. 116:11), but these do not; they are spoken by God who never lies (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29). They are completely truthful (Ps. 119:160) and free from impurity or unreliability of any kind … (p. 35)

Perhaps it has not been stated emphatically enough that nowhere in the Old Testament or in the New Testament does any writer give any hint of a tendency to distrust or consider slightly unreliable any other part of Scripture. Hundreds of texts encourage God’s people to trust Scripture completely, but no text encourages any doubt or even slight mistrust of Scripture. To rely on the “inerrancy” of every historical detail affirmed in Scripture is not to adopt a “twentieth-century view” of truth or error; it is to follow the teaching and practice of the biblical authors themselves. It is to adopt a biblical view of truth and error. (p. 58-59)

To believe that all the words of the Bible are God’s words and that God cannot speak untruthfully will significantly affect the way in which one approaches a “problem text” or “alleged error” in Scripture. To seek for a harmonization of parallel accounts will be a worthy undertaking. To approach a text with the confident expectation that it will, if rightly understood, be consistent with what the rest of the Bible says, will be a proper attitude. (p. 59)

I have looked at dozens of [“problem texts”], and in every single case there are possible solutions in the commentaries. If one accepts the Bible’s claim to be God’s very words, then the real question is not how “probable” any proposed solution is in itself, but how one weighs the probability of that proposed solution against the probability that God has spoken falsely. Personally I must say that the “difficult texts” would have to become many times more difficult and many times more numerous before I would come to think that I had misunderstood the hundreds of texts about the truthfulness of God’s words in Scripture, or that God had spoken falsely. (pp. 367-368; 59n84)

The last two paragraphs quoted above are particularly relevant here. It seems to me there are a few possibilities in the particular case of John’s Passion chronology:

  1. John might or might not have been aware of the Synoptics, and was unaware that his account contradicted theirs. (This might also include such views as that John was written before the Synoptics.)
  2. John was aware of the Synoptics, was aware that his account contradicted theirs, but didn’t care because he wasn’t seeking to be historically accurate.
  3. John was aware of the Synoptics, was aware that his account contradicted theirs, and was consciously seeking to correct them.
  4. John might or might not have been aware of the Synoptics, or might or might not have been aware that his account contradicted theirs, but decided to change which night the Last Supper was on for theological, thematic, stylistic, or other reasons.
  5. Neither John nor the Synoptics was being precise about their use of Passover festival terminology, thus there is no contradiction.

Smith’s article seems to prefer solution #5. There may be other options that i haven’t considered. I’d be happy to hear about them if you have any references.

Based on the principles outlined in Grudem’s article, i would make the following conclusions about each option:

  1. John, while not specifically contradicting the Synoptics, may nonetheless be guilty of historical blunder.
  2. John is not specifically contradicting the Synoptics, but is working at a lower level of precision. This runs aground on the fact that his language is specifically locating the events in question on certain days, so it would be hard to argue that he is aiming for less precision.
  3. At least one of the two chronologies (John or the Synoptics) is historically incorrect.
  4. John, in specifically employing an unhistorical approach, is saying that these details are inconsequential, and secondary to his greater purpose, which is to engender faith. This runs aground on the same issue as #2 (his specific language about days), and also raises the question, “Why should i believe in a Jesus presented by someone who has deliberately muddied the waters about the details of the object and origin of that belief?” Or, put another way, “How does setting Jesus’ upper room discourse and crucifixion on days on which they did not really occur help to promote belief in Jesus? Rather doesn’t it diminish belief in Jesus?”
  5. This view seems to take appropriate account of the facts marshalled by Grudem, while acknowledging that the level of precision used by the Gospel writers does not meet with 21st century expectations of precision (the so-called “videotape view of history”).

Assuming i have a reasonable grasp of the available options, i can’t see any reasonable option for Evangelicals but to choose #5 (or possibly a combination of #1 & #5, although i think this is infeasible on other grounds).1

Of course, there is another alternative: that the biblical authors were incorrect (either by mistake, or by deliberate misrepresentation) in asserting that the Scriptures are without error and that God cannot lie, and that we should not require ourselves to believe what they believed. (I am discounting the possibility that Grudem’s conclusion about Scripture’s self-attestation is wrong. He brings literally hundreds of Scriptures to bear on the problem, and the evidence marshalled is overwhelming.) My question in response is: if the biblical authors were wrong hundreds of times about the trustworthiness of Scripture, what were they right about? If i am to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but at any point he could be lying (because in this view, God can lie) about Scripture, salvation, or anything else of consequence, that is not a Jesus i am willing to believe in.


See Richard Bauckham, “John for Readers of Mark” in The Gospels for All Christians: rethinking the Gospel audiences, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1998. Bauckham’s argument is that John assumed knowledge of Mark on the part of his readers, and left specific markers in the text to enable readers to calibrate his chronology with Mark’s.


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.

Blue Greek Key With Lines Border by GR8DAN - A blue greek key based border.

The Rhema Barb and Its Poison: The Rhema vs. Logos Controversy

Related image

(courtesy Player FM)

By Spencer D Gear

John Dawson, as Director of Youth with a Mission, wrote Taking Our Cities for God, in which he stated: “There is always the release of God’s power when we declare out loud His word.  The Greek word rhema is the biblical term for the specific personal communication of God with His children here and now.  This is different from the logos, which refers to the already revealed word recorded in Scripture.” [2]   Is this really the case?

Kenneth E Hagin (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

The name, rhema, is particularly associated with the ministry of the late Kenneth Hagin Sr. (died 2003). The doctrine of “rhema,” as proclaimed by the Hyper-Faith Movement, claims that “you can have what you say” or “how to write your own ticket with God” (the language of Kenneth Hagin Sr.) [3]  if you will only confess it.  So, health, wealth and many other outcomes are based on a confession of the “rhema” in one’s life.  “Name It and Claim It” theology is based on this understanding of “rhema.”  Can this distinction of rhema be sustained by a study of the New Testament? 

These statements have developed a doctrine of the spoken word, known as, “rhematology,” or “positive confession.”  It stresses the power of one’s thoughts and words in affecting reality in a person’s life. 

It is common, particularly in Pentecostal and charismatic circles, to try to distinguish between the two Greek words that are translated, “Word, ” in the New Testament – rhema and logos. The point made is that rhema is “often a word spoken for a particular occasion.”  It is God’s word for you in your present situation. 

This is seen at the popular level in Dr. Paul Choo’s article on the Spirit-filled life and victorious faith: “Logos refers to the whole revelation of God (e.g.. John 17:17). Rhema (which is found in Rom. 10:17) refers to a part of God’s Word, i.e. a specific promise.” [4] A search on the www revealed that this was a common theme: “‘Rhema’ means ‘spoken word’, and ‘Logos’ means ‘written word.'” [5]

It is claimed that “the logos is universal while rhema is particular.  The logos is objective, while the rhema is subjective.  The logos is eternal, while the rhema is contemporary.” [6]   However, when we examine the biblical evidence, the differences between rhema and logos cannot be sustained.

Both rhema and logos for spoken word

Both rhema and logos are used in situations where the “spoken word” is indicated.  In Luke 5:5, Peter’s words to Jesus were, “But at your word [rhema] I will let down the nets” (ESV). [7]   On the other hand, it is said of the nobleman whose son was healed by Jesus, that “the man believed the word [logos] that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way” (John 4:50).

Some want to conclude that rhema is never applied to the person of Christ.  In Matt. 4:4, Jesus stated, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word [rhema] that comes from the mouth of God.”  Another example is the use of rhema in verses such as Matt. 27:14, where Jesus was on trial before his crucifixion: “But he gave him no answer [rhema], not even to a single charge”

When Peter denied the Lord, he “remembered the saying [rhema] of Jesus.”  As already indicated, Luke 5:5 says, “But at your word [rhema] I will let down the nets.”  Luke 7:1 is a telling example: Speaking of Jesus, it states:  “After he had finished all his sayings [rhemata, the plural of rhema] in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum.”  Therefore, the honest interpreter of the New Testament must conclude that it is incorrect to say that rhema is never applied to the person of Christ.

Peter, in his epistle, used both rhema and logos without thinking that there was any difference in meaning.  He said that we are born again “through the living and abiding word [logos] of God” (I Peter 1:23).  Two verses later, Peter writes that “the word [rhema] of the Lord remains forever” (v. 25).

Korean Pentecostal leader, Paul Yonggi Cho, maintained that we as Christians “can link our spirit’s fourth dimension to the fourth dimension of the Holy Father—the Creator of the universe—we can have all the more dominion over circumstances.”  The Holy Spirit causes this through dreams, visions, and visualisation.  By the latter we “incubate our future” and “hatch the results.”  This happens through our speaking that rhema word that “releases Christ.”   How does one receive this rhema?  According to Cho, it is a “specific word to a specific person in a specific situation” and is attained by “waiting upon the Lord.” [8]

“If rhema is supposed to be a spoken word and logos the written word, Paul [the apostle] apparently did not recognize that distinction.  When talking about the gifts of the word of wisdom and the word of  knowledge, he used logos rather than rhema (1 Corinthians 12:8).  It seems that rhema would have been more appropriate if the distinction which some make is valid.” [9]

Logos and rhema are synonymous words in Greek

Two passages that seem to be referring to the same action, use rhema and logos interchangeably.  Jesus said, “Already you are clean because of the word [logos] that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).  When Paul spoke about Christ sanctifying and cleansing the church, he indicated that Christ “might sanctify her [the church], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [rhema]” (Eph. 5:26).

This is further illustrated in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint (LXX), the translation which was completed about 250 BC.  The first two verses of Jeremiah read: “The word [rhema] of God which came to Jeremiah” (v. 1) and “the word [logos] of God which came to him” (v. 2). [10] It is clear that even as far back as the third century before Christ, rhema and logos were used interchangeably.

For NT Greek buffs, this technical information confirms that rhema and logos are synonyms.  If we examine the Greek verb forms of these two words we find:

“In the present tense, the verb form of logos is lego.  But other tenses for this verb contain the stem used in rhema (ero, eireka, eiremai, errethen).  It is an irregular Greek verb.  The present tense (I say) and the logos use the same stem, but most other tenses use the stem from which rhema is derived.” [11]

The Englishman’s Greek-English Concordance [12] lists every mention of the words, rhema and logos in the New Testament.  An examination of these will clearly show that the contemporary distinctions between rhema and logos do not hold up under careful investigation.

(image courtesy

What can we conclude?  The evidence does not point to any kind of difference of  meaning between rhema and logos.  They “are very close synonyms, and we must not force on them a distinction in meaning.  Often a change is made from one word to the other simply to give literary variety.” [13]

David Watson gave a helpful summary of the evidence for rhema vs. logos. [14]  His conclusion supports the evidence above:

“In no New Testament dictionary or Greek lexicon of any substance can the claimed distinction between the two words be found….  The massive weight of evidence shows that there is no clear distinction to be made between logos and rhema in the Scriptures.  Thus the two far-reaching inferences mentioned above are based on a false premise.” [15]

I endorse Anthony Palma’s practical conclusion:

“This matter is of more than academic significance.  Among some who promote this distinction in meaning, a danger exists that the so-called spoken or contemporary word will be esteemed more highly than the Scriptures.  But the principle given in 1 Corinthians 14:29 is that all messages must be evaluated, and the only sure basis for evaluation is the written Word of God.”[16]

This wrong-headed doctrine of rhema has had some materialistic and threatening outworking in ministries such as that of Paula White on a Benny Hinn Telethon, LeSEA Network, April 16, 2004.  In her promotion of the alleged meaning of rhema, she proclaimed, “Now, get up and go to the phone!  When God begins to speak to you dial that number on your screen.  Don’t you miss this moment!  If you miss your moment you miss your miracle!….  He’s [God’s] giving you a Rhema Word right now….  The God that I serve is speaking to you right now!”  She proclaimed that “God is looking for somebody to believe that this is a Rhema Word.”[17]

The contemporary confusion in understanding of rhema and logos is “a reminder that a little ‘knowledge’ is a dangerous thing.” [18]  How many more people are going to be hurt and misled by the false rhema doctrine of a “special word for an occasion” that comes with a barb like that of Paula White, in this same Benny Hinn Telethon.  She gave this threatening message: “You will die!  You will die unless you go to the phone and do what God says to do.” [19]


What difference does it make?  When preachers with a high public profile or ordinary believers proclaim that sickness can be healed when a person experiences God’s rhema [special word for the occasion], and it doesn’t happen, some people are left disillusioned with the Christian faith because their God has not met His obligations.  One other alternative is that these people are accused of not having enough faith or having the wrong kind of faith.  For the ill, this is a particularly cruel accusation — their God did not come to the party OR their faith is sub-standard.  These are the people who need God’s encouragement and not condemnation. 

The real issue does not amount to a wrong kind of faith but it is the promotion of a theology of health and wealth that is a false doctrine.  These preachers and teachers need to be exposed for what they are – false teachers!

Based on an examination of the biblical material, we can conclude that the differences between rhema and logos promoted by some prominent preachers in the charismatic movement, cannot be sustained.

They promote a false distinction between rhema and logos and are thus false teachers.


[2]  John Dawson 1989, Taking Our Cities for God, Word Publishing, Milton Keynes, England, p. 197.

[3] Hagin Sr., K. E. 1979. How to Write Your Own Ticket with God, Kenneth Hagin Ministries, Tulsa, OK.

[4]  Pastor Dr. Paul Choo, preached at Gospel Light Christian Church, Singapore, 10 December 2000,”The Spirit-Filled Life I – Faith Is the Victory,”available from: [Accessed 4 May 2005].

[5]  From Arthur Chiang, “The Power of Words”, 17 September 2004, Free Community Church, available from: [Accessed 4 May 2005].  Jason Clark wrote of “logos being the entirety, like a full-sized sword; and rhema, a small portion” in “What Do You Think About Preaching?”, available from: [Accessed 4 May 2005].

[6]  For a critique of this popular view, see Anthony D. Palma, “Word…Word,” Advance, May 1977, p. 27.  Palma alerted me to the distinction between rhema and logos in this article from this  Assemblies of God (USA) magazine, Advance.  Much of the following information is based on Palma’s article.

[7]  Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version 2001, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois.

[8]  Paul Yonggi Cho 1979, The Fourth Dimension: The Key to Putting Your Faith to Work for a Successful Life, Logos, Plainfield, NJ, pp. 41, 44, 81,91, 97-100.  For an assessment of Cho’s theology of the Holy Spirit, see Simon K.H. Chan 2004, “The Pneumatology of Paul Yonggi Cho,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies (7:1), pp. 79-99, available from: [Accessed 4 May 2005].

[9]  Palma, p. 27.

[10]  Please note that these are literal translations from the Septuagint and are not following modern English translations of Jeremiah1:1-2, such as the ESV.

[11]  Palma, p. 27.

[12]  For example, Jay P. Green, Sr. 1976, The New Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament, Associated Publishers & Authors, Wilmington, Delaware, p. 4483.

[13]  Palma, p. 27.
[14]  David Watson 1982, Called & Committed: World-Changing Discipleship, Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois,
pp. 110-112.

[15]  Watson, p. 111.[16]  Palma, p. 27.
[17]  Cited in “Paula White,” available from: [4 May 2004].
[18]  Watson, p. 112.

[19]  Paula White, Forgotten Word Ministries, available from: [12 January 2007].

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 November 2018.



Should God heal all Christians who pray for healing?

Jesus calming the storm

(Jesus calming the storm, courtesy allthingsclipart)


By Spencer D Gear

Is it the will of God to always heal people when we pray for them?

A Christian friend wrote to me asking for recommendations concerning  a situation in which he was asked to pray for healing for a sick person. My friend was impressed in his heart that instead of praying for healing, that he should trust the Lord for what God was doing through the sickness. When this information was revealed to the person who asked for prayer for healing, my friend was accused of this giving an ‘almost heretical response’. Why? It was because my friend had an inner impression that God had a bigger issue in the sick person’s life than physical healing.

There are dangers with ‘impressions’ because they are subjective and I find it difficult to discern if my friend is hearing from God or if this is a personal view. We know that God gives the gifts of the Spirit that require ‘some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching’ (1 Cor. 14:6 ESV). The safety of the church gathering that enables discernment of the manifestation of gifts is much more suitable than to receive a private impression. However, we do read in passages such as First Chronicles 14:10, 14 where ‘David inquired of God’ (ESV) and received the answer that he should go against the Philistines and God would give them into his hands. On another occasion (1 Chron. 14:14), God’s answer from David’s inquiry was that he was not to attack the Philistines.

Does the Bible teach that during the ministry of Jesus there was no person who wasn’t healed by Jesus? Let’s examine the Scriptures with a few examples, but they are enough to cause us to question the ‘almost heretical’ statement that a person does not believe that God always heals.

A few fundamentals are happening with the ‘almost heretical’ statement that are very different from when Jesus walked this earth and contrary to what we should expect from God when we ask for physical healing.

  • The Scriptures do say on occasions that Jesus did heal all who came to him in verses such as Matt. 8:16; 12:15; and Luke 6:19. But there’s another dimension.
  • On other occasions Jesus healed, not all, but “many” who came to him. See Mark 1:34; 3:10; 6:13.
  • BUT, there were circumstances in which Jesus did not heal people. I’m thinking of Mark 6:4-6:

‘Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith’ (NIV).

  • What about the events like that at the Pool of Bethesda according to John 5:1-9? Verse 3 says that at that pool ‘lay a multitude of invalids-blind, lame and paralyzed’ (ESV) but only one invalid who had been at that Pool for 38 year was healed. The facts are that Jesus did not heal all who were sick in Israel at the time of his life and he didn’t even heal all invalids at the Pool of Bethesda. It is false information to say that Jesus healed all. He clearly didn’t.

People may ask why Jesus didn’t heal all. My understanding is that healings are pointers/signs to God’s greater healing of the human soul through salvation and God’s ultimate healing of the universe that will happen with a new heaven and a new earth at the end of time.

However, I do need to say that I accept the gifts of the Spirit are available for today’s Christians and one of the gifts is the gift of healing (1 Cor. 12:28-29).  We must not overlook the biblical fact that God’s gifts to Christians function according to the “measure of faith” that God has given to believers:

‘For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you’ (Rom. 12:3 NIV).

According to James 5:14-15, the ministry of healing is available through the local church (and it is sadly neglected in most churches) in the anointing of oil by the elders of the church:

‘Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven’ (NIV).

Again, the emphasis is on “the prayer offered in faith” will cause the sick person to be raised up by the Lord.

I do not find any indications that Jesus healed all people. Nor do I find examples in the New Testament where all people were healed whenever there was a prayer for healing. I do find this in James 4:2b-3:

‘You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures’ (NIV).

There are many reasons why we do not receive physical healing when we pray and when others pray for us. The major reason is that God is sovereign and we are puny, fallible human beings who can have the wrong motives.

There is also the further biblical truth that most Christians find hard to bear as stated in James 1:2-4:

‘Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing’ (NASB).

God has a greater plan for our lives than physical healing. The trials of our lives are meant to be considered with an attitude of ‘all joy’ by the Christian because God knows what trials are instrumental in achieving. Difficulties in our lives are are designed for the testing of faith to produce endurance of the faith so that we will be “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” when we face Jesus. This is a hard dose to take for many Christians.

May I say personally that I would not have reached this point of growth in my Christian life if it were not for the many trials of sickness that God has put me through. This has included 3 bouts of rheumatic fever when I was a child, aged 6, 10 and 12, that left me with leaking mitral and aortic valves in my heart. This has resulted in five (5) open heart surgeries in my adulthood to replace (4 times) the valve with4 mechanical ones and one surgery was for a repair around the valve. The last surgery in 2013 was to replace both mitral and aortic valves.

As an adult, I have prayed on all five occasions for healing and the church has prayed for my healing, so that I would avoid the surgeries, but God has not chosen to heal me. God has a greater purpose in my life and that is Christian maturity and endurance in my faith.

My wife, Desley, has a debilitating physical disease, polycythemia rubra vera, that has the possibility of becoming leukemia. I am amazed at her godliness and trust in the Lord through severe headaches and lack of energy on a daily basis, and her venesections from time to time to drain blood from her.

It is not biblical to demand that God heal others or oneself when you and others pray. Jesus did not do it and there is ample evidence for God’s greater plan of development in Christian maturity.

May I also add, that the demand for God to heal all people, can come with a diminished view of what life in the presence of God is all about. For believers, to have a desire to continue to live in this present evil world has some irony about it. Why is not living in the presence of God at death, and living for Him through trials in this life, not the way God plans it for all believers?

See these related articles:

Turning trash into treasure (James 1:2-4). This is based on a sermon I preached.

Were miracles meant to be temporary?” (Jack Deere)

St. Augustine: The man who dared to change his mind about divine healing (Spencer Gear)

Are there apostles in the 21st century? (Spencer Gear)

Are miracles valuable? (Spencer Gear)

’Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer’ (Romans 12:12 NIV).


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 October 2015.