By Dan Welters
It is with a sense of reluctance that I reply to Brother Don Potts regarding his article, “King Nicotine or King Jesus,” (Truth Magazine, Oct. 7, 1976). Why should a writer waste his time defending tobacco in an age when the most basic moral virtues and, indeed, the right to life itself are in need of defense? I would as soon misuse the pages of this journal to defend drinking coffee or chewing gum. Nevertheless, a public exposure of Brother Potts’ type of thinking is unavoidable.
Brother Potts is not trying to persuade brethren to use good judgment or to exercise moderation. He is not merely offering for examination a strongly held personal conviction. He has usurped the authority of Christ, Himself, and has handed down an absolute law which states that anyone who uses, raises, or sells tobacco in any form or amount is lost and bound for hell! Jesus and His Apostles lived and died without giving us any such commandment. The church has existed for 2000 years without any such commandment. And now at long last Potts has received his latter day revelation and has issued his edict. So which will it be: King Jesus or King Potts?
Let us examine Brother Potts’ logic. His major premise is: “It is sinful to harm the physical body (1 Cor. 3:16-17).” This is a terrible perversion of scripture. There is nothing in the context to suggest abuse of the human body. The temple of God described in 1 Cor. 3:16-17 is the church of Christ. The old temple at Jerusalem was defiled when persons or things not sealed by blood were brought into it or when unauthorized practices were introduced. All items in the work and worship of the church have been sealed by the blood of Christ, and to bring in innovations of man’s wisdom is to defile the temple. So Brother Potts’ major premise falls, even though any reasonable person will admit that God intends us to take reasonable precautions about our health so as to sustain life.
His minor premise is: “The use of tobacco is harmful to the physical body.” Lacking any scripture on the subject, Brother Potts turns to the conclusions of modern medicine. According to this reasoning, our eternal salvation depends upon our acceptance of the conclusions of a majority of doctors and scientists who also have concluded that man has evolved from an ape. If one examines the medical profession from any unbiased viewpoint he will observe a bewildering confusion of opposing theories, and even more astounding, a colossal ignorance of proper human nutrition. He will observe drugs prescribed by doctors for minor problems which have caused deadly cancer as much as twenty years later either in the patient or his offspring. He will observe inoculations insisted upon by doctors and at times forced upon the population by law which kill more patients than would have ever died of the disease, and which may have horrible long-term side effects not yet fully understood by anyone. He will find doctors who prescribe beer, wine, and whiskey, and others who forbid their patients to touch coffee or tea. If my salvation depended in any way upon the medical profession, I would abandon all hope.
Note that Brother Potts does not say that the excessive use of tobacco is harmful, or even that the habitual inhalation of cigarette smoke is harmful. He says “the use of tobacco is harmful.” He takes the three-pack-a~day cigarette smoker with a hacking cough and a ruined appetite and puts him into the same category with Grandma and her nightly pinch of snuff which is one of hex few sensual pleasures and which harxns her net at all, He makes no distinction among cigarettes, pipes, cigars, snuff and chewing tobacco. All statistics, show that the rise in lung cancer did not occur among smokers until cigarettes became the popular method of using tobacco. He makes no distinction in amount of usage. He does nit desire to counsel on principles o# good health. He desires try make an ironclad law where God has made none.
Suppose we accept Brother Potts’ reasoning. Many of us know a fact of nutrition that he may neat be aware o#: that the use of white sugar by Americans is one of the leading causes of disease and mortality in the Twentieth Century. Some of us could write volumes on the subject, and more volumes on white bread, chemical additives in our food, and floridation in our water supply. A good case can be made, amply documented by authorities in the field, that all these things axe harmful to the body. At lest they can be harmful in large amounts. Shall we then issue a brotherhood diet like that o# the Seventh Day Adventists and force all church members to conform? Brother Potts’ reasoning will lead to just that.
So we conclude that our brother’s minor premise falls flat since that which proves too much proves nothing. Both premises being faulty, the conclusion is in doubt, to say the least. But let’s don’t be too hard on Brother Potts fox his first syllogism. There is still the second syllogism. And you ain’t heard nothing yet! All of you who smoke, or chew, or dip, or raise tobacco, or work in a store which sells tobacco are sorcerers! That’s right, a coven o# witches. Cotton. Mather, where axe you when we really need yoga?
The major premise is accepted, being a simple statement of scripture: “Those guilty o# sorcery ox witchcraft will be lost (Gal. 5:19r20).” The minor premise states: “Those who use or administer fox use, nicotine axe guilty of sorcery.” I find it hard to believe that such a statement ever found its way into print. Brother Potts’ authority is Thayer’s. A Greek-English lexicon and a loaded revolver are two things that ought never to fall into the hands of one unprepared in their proper use. It is well known that many of our English words have more than one meaning. This was also true with the ancient Greek. The Greek word for “sorcery” in Gal. 5:20 has three meanings: (1) the use or the administering of drugs, (2) poisoning, (3) magical arts. Thayer makes it quite clear that the third meaning is the one used in Galatians. If the first meaning is to be accepted, then all pharmacists, all doctors, and all who work in drug stores or who take any form of medication are sorcerers. Brother Potts shows that nicotine can be classified as a drug, and that one gets a “lift” from using it. Caffeine is also an alkaloid drug and it is found in coffee, tea, and some soft drinks. Are those who drink such beverages to be called sorcerers? The Mormon church has made a law against such drinks. Brigham Young had to have a special “revelation” to authorize such a law since he knew it was not to be found in the Bible. Has Brother Potts had a revelation? Is he going to present us with a Word of Wisdom type creed for the church of Christ?
If the only effect of Brother Potts’ article were to discourage someone from smoking, it would not be worth answering. It might be said to have a positive benefit in spite of its poor logic. But articles such as his are far from harmless. Here are some of the reasons why his article had to be challenged:
(1) An attempt to make a law where God has made none is an exercise in creed making, which leads to sectarianism.
(2) Such an attempt, if successful, should logically lead to disfellowship of those who do not obey Brother Potts’ law. Thus division in the church will result.
(3) A twisting of Holy Scripture to prove an opinion is a sin in itself. It is contagious, and will lead to other perversions to justify the first departure.
(4) Such an article as Brother Potts’, in spite of good intentions, brings reproach upon the church and upon faithful preachers of the gospel because of its ludicrous nature. It reflects upon other writers who burn the midnight oil in an effort to be accurate and precise.
Truth Magazine XXI: 6, pp. 89-90
February 10, 1977