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The Puritan Board forum has a good discussion on mind-altering drugs and the Bible.

A member asked why Scripture is silent about these substances. Another long-time forum member, Steve Rafalsky, who attends a Presbyterian Church of America in Astoria, Queens, replied with much to say on the topic. And, no, the Bible is not silent on the matter.

Rafalsky took drugs in the 1960s and became a Christian when he saw how destructive the counterculture lifestyle was. His comments come highly recommended, particularly to readers under the age of 50.

In commenting on the 1960s and the legacy of that decade, Rafalsky says, in part (emphases mine):

That drug culture killed a lot of people, and drove many others mad, and influenced the mental and spiritual consciousness of collective humankind by opening a terrible Pandora’s box – an interdimensional gateway, if you will – allowing direct demonic influence to enter the archetypal human heartlands by means of these sorcerous drugs. Many pagans are aware of these things (though not from the Christian view which discerns the evil), but most of the Christians not, which will be a grave handicap in maintaining holiness in the church, seeing as we are growing so lax in letting the world into our sanctuary.

The United States changed forever. This is happening in Europe, too:

… much as Tolkien’s “shadow of Mordor” encroaching upon all of Middle Earth, or the days of Noah where “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually . . . [and] the earth [was] filled with violence through them” (Gen 6:5,13) – and what was once a relatively pleasant world (and country, for those in America) to live in, became increasingly hostile and unjust, and the culture Babylonian, that is, seductive by means of its arts, entertainments, luxuries, comforts (while multitudes elsewhere languished in misery and want). The world became more beast-like with its wars everywhere, emerging police states even in the supposedly civilized West. Ethnic groups now fostered hatred toward other groups (cf Matt 24:7 – “nation shall rise against nation”, which in the Greek is ethnos shall rise against ethnos – people groups against people groups), and social fabrics increasingly disintegrated.

This odyssey / pilgrimage to the Heavenly home now became a trek through a gauntlet of violence, and not only that, but due to the increasing wickedness the Almighty meted judgments upon this Babylonian entity. The stench of the blood and pain of 96,000,000 babies murdered in the womb (in America alone) over the brief period of 41 years, along with the celebrating all manner of sexual perversions and sin drew from Heaven great wrath, and the days were to become hard.

Some of the Puritan Board’s younger readers think this is an overstatement, however, Rafalsky is writing a book which he will self-publish about a reformed drug user who backslides and then finally sees the horror of what it is before returning to the Church.

Rafalsky has a lengthy blog post, also on Puritan Board, which parents, guardians and youth pastors might find useful. In it, he addresses the many mentions of mind-altering substances and those who administer them.

Scripture, he says, used the following Greek words in ancient translations concerning drugs and those who administer them:

With regard to pharmakeiaBAGD 2nd Edition says, that in Rev 18:23 the meaning is “sorcery, magic”, and in Rev 9:21, “magic arts”. It also gives usages in many other classical and LXX readings, but for brevity I’ll limit it to the NT usage, and will in the following citations also.

Concerning pharmakon – drug – in classical use (it’s not used in the AV NT) there are 3 meanings: 1) “poison”, 2) “magic potion, charm”, and 3) “medicine, remedy”. These are on page 854a of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker’s, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd Edition.

Pharmakos – “poisoner, sorcerer, magician”. These entries were all found on page 1917 of Liddell and Scott.

He explains that ‘sorcerer’ and ‘magician’ in this context are not the way we understand them today, but in Revelation are used to denote:

one who administers or uses a certain class of drugs to “enchant”, to cast a psychic spell upon by use of these drugs and accompanying demonic power. It doesn’t mean a deceiver – a liar – generally or even figuratively, but specifically one who uses sorcerous potions. Liars / deceivers are already classed separately in this listing. Likewise in Rev 22:15 where a similar Greek word, pharmakos, is used for sorcerer, with the same meaning as pharmakeus in 21:8, again with liars / deceivers named separately. In these verses the usage clearly refers to drug-using-and-promoting people, so at the very least it is quite possible pharmakeia / sorceries in Revelation 18:23 – “by thy sorceries were all nations deceived” – refers to drug-related activity and not deceptive practices.

To those who doubt the meaning, Rafalsky cites an additional source (underscore and emphases in the original):

Consider this item from The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 2, p. 558,

. . . pharmakos, magician (Rev. 22:15); pharmakeus, mixer of potions, magician (Rev. 21:8); pharmakeia, magic, sorcery (Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21; 18:23). The basic word pharmakon does not occur in the NT, but 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 (cf. possibly the final sentence of Ezek. 8:17: “They put the branch to their nose”). Sorcery is classed among the works of the flesh in Gal. 5:20. [underlined and last bold and italicized emphases added –SMR]

He goes on to mention instances where hallucinogens are used in non-Christian religious rituals and explains:

we are confronted with a class of drugs that “induce magic spells” or, to put it in other words, whose affect in the consciousness enable the user to have profound mystical / spiritual experiences, as well as to come into the presence of spirit beings. This is not all of their possible effects, but enough to get us started in our examination. This is Biblically-defined “sorcery” – pharmakeia …

He adds:

when Scripture speaks in Revelation 9:21 of men refusing to repent of their “sorceries” (pharmakeia) in the time of the sixth trumpet and its judgments, and in Rev 18:23 of the judgment of the harlot Babylon for (among other things) her “sorceries” (pharmakeia) which deceived the nations – those centuries prior to the latter half of the 20th might not have understood the meaning and significance of the “sorceries” written of here, for sorcery and magic arts then were practiced in the dark, away from the view of society, hidden in all its aspects due to its evil nature, widespread condemnation, and severe penalties.

How true. But, what about recreational drugs, we ask? Rafalsky states:

People smoke or ingest marijuana to attain a psychological or psychic “high” – an elevated and enhanced state of consciousness – though some would deny calling this “high” as much a pharmakeia activity as a more spiritual awareness, or not even that, but only a psychological high, or simply an enhancement of the senses . To deny that pharmakeia can involve enhanced physical sensation and pleasure through this psychic “high” – to the exclusion of overt occultism – as well as said occult activity, is an attempt to dissociate their sinning from pharmakeia activity. But this is taking refuge in lies. We must recognize that to use sorcery to indulge in sensory pleasure is as much one of its activities as the seeking of psychic, occult, and spiritual experience.

He also points out (emphasis in purple mine):

The widespread acceptance of “getting high” – “the relative innocence of this harmless substance” (if used moderately, so the reasoning goes) – has made it seem like harmless fun indeed. Many argue on this basis and will not even hear the exposition of Scripture. It has been said that such exposition is “stretching the meaning of the Greek words” – even though the meaning is clear and unequivocal. There is no stretching of the meaning of pharmakeia; its lexical import is precise: illicit drugs used to enhance the awareness of the flesh, its senses, and its state of mind or consciousness, quickened to these ends by a psychic energy not the Holy Spirit, but such as enables souls to be influenced by the demonic, or, if they are closed to this possibility, to be influenced by the demonic while completely unaware of it – thinking their “fun” state is just a super lark. Though the demonic influence is there, affecting their psyche, and they [are] blind to it. That’s a dangerous deception. Some call this, “Reefer madness hysteria.” The watchman on the wall is but called to cry out the danger approaching. We are responsible for heeding the cry.

He sums up scriptural references to drugs this way:

What we see is that there are different “levels” of Biblically-defined sorcery: occultic, spiritual, psychic high, and sensual pleasure. The enhancement by means of psychedelic agents constitutes them all pharmakeia activities.

This also includes most forms of cannibis, with the exception of those which have the THC removed, and, therefore, the high.

Rafalsky goes on to deplore the laxist attitude of Christians and clergy who say that there is nothing wrong with mind-altering drugs. On the contrary, he posits that taking them is spiritual fornication, which Scripture condemns. Of the 1960s, he says (emphasis mine):

There was an event (the term now used for military-scale biological, chemical, or nuclear events) that befell the entire world through the drug-energized sixties generation in America, as this potent counterculture permeated the nations of the world through its music, literature, art, film, and other culture-bearing vehicles. These nations and cultures of the world were leavened from within by the exciting new consciousness of the sixties and the Woodstock spirit exported into them, but it was a Trojan Horse filled with the denizens of Hell. Its impact was, in the psychic realm, the equivalent of a massive nuclear detonation. The “fallout” of this “detonation” came in the presence of malign spirits and their influence upon the new thinking: it became (seemingly) obvious to all that real vitality was not to be found in the Christian faith but in the relativity of postmodernism – the validation of everyone’s subjective truths and beliefs – and thus was the world made ripe for satanic deception on an unprecedented scale.


The damage done is irreversible. The timetable of the Sovereign God is counting down. Across the non-Western world Christians are already under severe duress, persecution increasing daily. And the signs are that a groundswell is building up in the West – the mystery of iniquity and lawlessness – and that He who restrains it will not restrain it for long (2 Thess 2:6 ff.).

There is much more. Rafalsky might sound alarmist and heavy-handed, but he was immersed in the drug culture 50 years ago and know whereof he speaks.

The term ‘recreational drug’ only became part of popular parlance around that time. Yes, there were certain groups of people who used them before, but they were small subsets of society. During the latter half of the 20th century we saw an explosion in drug use. In the 21st century, we are now seeing legalisation of substances which have no place in a Christian lifestyle.

I would highly recommend Rafalsky’s research and thoughts, although they might need to be expressed differently to a young person.

That said, he proves that Scripture has much to say on the prohibition of mind-altering drugs.


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