Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 13, 1967
NUMBER 10, PAGE 11b-12

Smoking - A Response

Kenneth Hirshey

In the April 27, 1967 Gospel Guardian brother Rolf L. Miller reviewed my article on Smoking. In the interest of truth I wish to reply to his article. I do not believe I misrepresented a single passage of scripture either deliberately or unintentionally; therefore, I wish to explain each of the five scriptures I quoted in my article. This I will do during my review.

Brother Miller agrees that smoking is harmful to the body, even though he feels... "pipe and cigar smoking is not near as damaging." The main portion of my article dealt with proof of the harmful effects of smoking; but can we condone a sin because it is a smaller or seemingly less serious sin? How about beer? Beer is much less harmful than whiskey.

True, cigarette smoking contributes more to lung cancer, due mainly to inhaling; however, pipe and cigar smoking are as much - if not more - to blame for buccal cavity (mouth) cancer. 6.8% of all cancer in men and merely 1.7% in women is in the buccal cavity. Research men believe these figures reflect the smoking habits of men compared to women. The pipe and cigar are considered male smoking instruments. There are 19,000 new cases of mouth cancer each year!

Many doctors recognize that buccal cavity cancer is more likely to be seen in pipe and cigar smokers. In his book The Truth About Cancer Dr. Charles Cameron says , " increased susceptibility is not striking, but most statistical surveys show that it is there. "

Brother Miller believes I have misapplied I Cor. 3:16-17. These verses refer to the church at Corinth as the "temple of God." "If any man defile the temple (church) of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." (Underscore mine) I Cor. 3:17. How does a man defile (currupt or deprave) the church? Paul says the Corinthians "are yet carnal" I Cor. 3:3. Carnal means "having the nature of flesh, i. e. , sensual, controlled by animal appetites, governed by human nature, instead of by the Spirit of God, W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of N. T. Words. We defile the church when we practice sins of the world, and do not turn from carnal desires. Would smoking be classified as a carnal desire, or would it be spiritual? Is it of God, or of the world?

The temple referred to in I Cor. 6:19,20 is the individual's body. Vine, Arnadt and Gingrich, and Thayer all assert this meaning of the word temple, as does the context demand it. The thought contained in these verses is that we are Christ's and have not the right to use our bodies according to our own pleasure. Christ paid the price for us; therefore, we must employ our bodies in service to Him.

Brother Miller has lifted Mk. 7:15 out of its context. A specific case is recorded here. If we apply this verse in the general sense, as does brother Miller, we would justify social drinking, L. S. D., Marijuana, Heroin, Morphine, glue sniffing, etc. That which proves too much proves nothing!

The apostle Paul, in Rom. 12:1, tells us that our reasonable service to God is..."to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God." Notice the rendering in the New English Bible, "Therefore my brothers, I implore you by God's mercy to offer your very selves to him: a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for his acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart." The Phillips Modern English: "With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him." The idea here is that the Roman Christians were to restrain all sensual appetites and lusts, and made service to God their primary concern. This is reasonable service since they are God's.

Brother Miller again misuses Mk. 7:15-20 in an attempt to push aside the teaching of I Thess. 5:2122. Most of those who smoke do not want their children to do so. They are not proud of their smoking. Please notice the comments of Adam Clarke concerning verse 22. "Sin not and avoid even the appearance (underscore mine) of it. Let not the form of it appear with or among you, much less the substance. " Since brother Miller honestly admits that smoking is, according to medical authorities, harmful, then he admits that one may willfully fulfill the desire to do that which is harmful to the body. When he says smoking is not evil, he is assuming that which must be proved.

In paragraph 6, brother Miller indicates I stated smoking is not dealt with in the scriptures. In my previous writing I said it "is not mentioned in the New Testament." IT IS DEALT WITH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT! Many things are not specifically mentioned but are dealt with, and thus condemned by the scriptures. Some of these are the instrument of music in the worship, social drinking, and gambling. Brother Miller's error was when he said "Since... the word is silent regarding smoking, one may fulfill the desire to smoke...without of itself, violating the scripture." This is the old threadbare argument that the denominationalists have used for years and one now being used by institutional brethren: To wit, that silence means consent! SILENCE IS NOT AUTHORITY TO DO A THING!

Paragraphs 8, 9, 10 of brother Miller's article are full of sophistry. He attempts to justify one practice by another practice or practices. Everything we teach or practice must be justified on the basis of the Scriptures and must stand or fall by its OWN MERITS! Lifting a verse out of context, as was done in Rom. 14:14, is certainly not according to the rules of Bible study. Read Romans 14:14-21 and see for yourself what is taught here. "Nothing unclean of itself" is in a context of clean and unclean meats; some meats were formerly unclean; all meats are now clean; no meats are now unclean in and of themselves, since the Lord made all clean: but it is a sin to eat the meats in the presence of those who think it wrong to eat them! So even if brother Miller thinks it is not wrong, in and of itself, to smoke, it would still be wrong to smoke in the presence of those who believe it to be wrong!

Brother Miller perverts the context of Rom. 14: 14. "Nothing unclean of itself..." must be understood in its context. Paul is not applying this expression to any and everything universally! Would fornication be unclean of itself? Certainly so! Brother Miller needs to reconsider Romans 14.

Brethren, it is a matter of "personal judgment" Presto! and the subject immediately becomes untouchable! Brethren say that the orphans home arrangement is a matter of "personal judgment"; that the Herald of Truth is a matter of "personal Judgment"; that social drinking is a matter of "personal judgment." The sectarian says that sprinkling is a matter of "personal judgment"; "attend the church of your choice," or your religious beliefs are a matter of "personal judgment." Let someone speak concerning these and he is accused of "making issues" or destroying "the work of God." Just because the Bible is silent about a practice (does not specifically mention or condemn it) does not mean that we have the right of personal selection.

A man who smokes two packs per day spends over $4.00 per week or $200 per year. This is more than many give to the Lord! Wouldn't mankind be better off without tobacco to damage his body, to take his money, and to smell up the world wherein we live? Brethren, to serve God and live acceptably in this life at best, is not achieved without effort. Let us not discourage those who would attempt to improve one another through teaching.