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What does THC have to do with TGC?

What did you do over Christmas vacation? I wrote an essay for The Gospel Coalition. They asked me to reflect on what pastors should say to church members who live in states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. My answer?

Well, I said a bit more than that. Yes, that means a second post in the space of a week – what the Chinese call a "double happiness." Here are some snippets from my contribution.

Now that recreational marijuana has become legal in my state of residence, Illinois, pastors want to know: may disciples light up as they take up Christ's cross?

Even those who agree about the intended and unintended consequences of marijuana differ over how to evaluate its recreational use. My essay focuses on the qualifying adjective – "recreational" – and proposes what I call a Protestant play ethic.

The underlying question is whether the intended effects of using weed – reducing anxiety; experiencing highs, or altered states of consciousness; enhancing creativity, etc. – ought to be regarded as valuable or harmful. In particular, is recreational marijuana use consistent with gospel citizenship?

The apostle Paul could almost be said to have anticipated pot's legalization when he wrote to the Corinthians: "'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful.' .... All things are lawful,' but not all things build up" (1 Cor 6:12; 10:23).

Much like the spell the green lady cast over Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum in Lewis’ The Silver Chair, marijuana clouds our ability to perceive the world clearly and dulls our sense of urgency about what disciples should be doing.

Contemporary culture typically depicts marijuana users as hapless but harmless. “Stoned,” “baked,” and “blunted” are all passive verbs – ways of describing the lethargic state commensurate with being under the influence. Can disciples be simultaneously saints and slackers? Could recreational marijuana be the latest opportunity of sloth: not mere laziness, but the deadlier sin of not caring enough to stay awake?

Disciples should be wise stewards of their time and energy, for what happens during times of recreation is spiritual formation too. The watchword for wise disciples is “Watch! Stay alert!” (Mark 13:37).

I know, I know. This blog is supposed to focus on systematic theology. And yet, one key purpose for systematic theology is the maturing of disciples, and there is nothing like a good dose of doctrine to help us snap to attention to reality. And that's the dope on doctrine...

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