I have a question about the word pharmakea which appears in the sin list
in Galatians 5:19-21. Probably because of the problems I see personally
with people taking pharmaceuticals. Especially psychological (which are
mind altering) drugs. I don’t know of anyone who does well spiritually
who take these medicines. I also believe that God created our bodies to
be perfect systems that do not need outside help, especially when it is a
money driven industry, like the pharmaceutical companies in our country.
I don’t want to sound dogmatic, but I think that reliance on a drug does
cause us to not rely on God, don’t you? My general overview of the
definition of sin is reliance on anything outside of God. I don’t
know…I’m just trying to figure this out for myself.
Somehow I think that we Americans think that we’re so enlightened that the
Bible doesn’t apply to us. We rely on our Western doctors to give us
medicine and to heal us, we eat our bacon and lobster, we listen to our
doctors tell us that fasting is not healthy, in other words, we ignore the
advice that God gives us on how to lead healthy lives. And then we wonder
why we’re sick. The definition “the use and adminstering of drugs” was
what came up for the Greek definition on the online Bible I was using. I
welcome your thoughts.
To be honest, I think your position, though taken with a pure, devoted and
loving heart, tends toward legalism. By this theory, then it would be
sinful to get braces for a child with very disfigured teeth, as this is
not accepting the “perfect” body God gave us. It would also be sinful to
get chemotherapy if we have cancer. It might even be sinful to get a cast
on a broken limb because it is more spiritual to let God heal us naturally.
Now, I understand that my example is exaggerated, I understand that you
are thinking it is one thing to accept a physical healing, but another to
take a drug which affects our mental capacity. This sounds logical, but I
would like to challenge your thinking a bit. I believe that if you had a
relative who was experiencing absolutely excruciating pain due to cancer,
you would BEG the doctor to allow him or her to have mind-altering pain
medication to relieve the suffering. God has allowed us human beings to
create, using science, the ability to relieve suffering. I believe that
Jesus would support our relieving of suffering.
And I will admit that the relief of mental illness is moving even more
into a grey area. However, I would claim that if you had a close family
member with schizophrenia you would beg the doctors to allow and your
family to accept taking these mind-altering drugs. Schizophrenia is a
genetically-influenced disease which has devastating effects. It makes a
person dangerous to both him/herself and all those around. It destroys
life. If a scientifically-derived medication can relive the danger and
emotional suffering of schizophrenia, and if God has given us the ability
to relieve this suffering, I say we should do it. The same sort of
comment applies to those suffering the brain chemistry imbalance which
produces manic depression. Now, acute depression is an even more
difficult question, but again, I believe that if you or someone close to
you was suffering from clinical depression, you would want to provide any
possible relief to this person. The legalist in this case comes across as
cruel and unloving. Jesus was not cruel and unloving. Perhaps he would
provide miraculous healing to such a person. We do not have access to
that kind of healing, at least not normally.
Are there cases in which resorting to chemicals to heal our mental
stresses rises to the level of sin? I say yes. However, we ought to
reserve judgment about the case in general and deal with the individual
situation. Getting drunk on a regular basis as a treatment for stress
rises to the level of sin for sure. Are psycho-active medications
over-prescribed? Yes. Do you have a point that Christians in general
ought to seek ways to rely on God for strength and in many cases get off
such drugs? Yes, but I believe that if you are not an expert on such
things, you ought to proceed cautiously.
I do not deny that taking mind-altering drugs for entertainment or fun is
wrong and sinful. It is absolutely sinful. However, I do not believe
that all psychoactive drugs are a conspiracy from Satan. So, I suggest
you carry your conviction. It is a good thing, but you ought to moderate
your position somewhat. And by the way, I believe that Christians ought
to eat healthy and take reasonable care of their bodies. I am 52. I run
and keep reasonably thin. However, even this can be taken too far. Both
the extreme attention to healthy eating and exercise on the one hand and
the couch potatoe lazy fat person on the other, are extremes of American
culture which ought to be avoided.
So, I disagree that all “use and administration of drugs” is a sin. I
hope I did not come across too strong here, but I have seen Christians
take views on this which have caused me to cringe–views which are
sincere, but uninformed and can approach cruelty in the extreme case.
I have a feeling you will agree with me on this.
John Oakes, PhD