Friday, March 6, 2009

Responding to R. A. Torrey on Smoking

Just when I thought I had done enough of the good work of defending smoking (and here's the follow-up), R. A. Torrey comes out and posts five reasons why Christians shouldn't smoke. I can only assume that Dr. Torrey reads our blog and was writing in response to it...

I'll be brief, and I'll go point-by-point. The objections are direct quotes from Torrey.

Objection #1 "Tobacco costs money and does the one who uses it no good and the money that belongs to God is squandered. Many professedly Christian men spend as much money every year on tobacco as would support several native workers in China or India or Africa."

This is nothing if not a good reminder that we need to be wise about spending money on earthly pleasures.

That said, my two pipes together cost me a little over 100 dollars. I have two specifically so that others who enjoy pipe-smoking but who do not own a pipe can smoke with me. A tin of my favorite tobacco is about thirteen dollars. I buy one tin roughly every three months. So after the initial cost, I spend between 60 and 75 dollars per year on smoking. I think that's reasonable.

Cigar smoking is more expensive (one good stick is typically at the very least seven or eight bucks) and addicted cigarette smokers are spending way too much. Torrey's point here is worthy of serious consideration in general: are we wisely spending our money for eternal purposes? I do not think occasional pipe-smoking violates this.

Objection #2: "Tobacco is physically injurious to at least the overwhelming majority of those who use it. Some it hurts more than it does others. Many a minister’s life has been shortened by the use of tobacco. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost and we have no right to do anything that impairs their health or strength."

I've addressed this in both of my posts linked above and won't bother doing it again here.

Objection #3: "The use of tobacco is a filthy habit. It cannot be made anything but filthy. Some are not so filthy as others in their use of tobacco but every tobacco user sooner or later becomes more or less a filthy person, and we are specifically commanded in the Word of God to 'Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh.'"

This can certainly be true. Yellowing teeth and the stench of stale tobacco are not real good for witnessing. But some proper care can alleviate this stuff pretty considerably. I don't smoke indoors (therefore there is no looming tobacco smell in the house), I ash in ash trays, I wear a jacket when I smoke that protects my regular clothes from picking up the smell, and I brush my teeth thoroughly right after I smoke every time. And again, limiting the frequency of smoking lessens this considerably.

One more thing: many if not most folks consider the smell of pipe tobacco quite pleasant. Cigarette smoke smells bad immediately to most of us, and the stale smell of any tobacco is not pleasant. But I've known many who enjoy being around people when they smoke a pipe or a cigar specifically because it does emit such a pleasant aroma. It can be quite delightful, really.

Objection #4: "No person can use tobacco without infringing on the rights of other people. A man who smokes pollutes the air about him for at least 20 feet in every direction and forces others to breathe this polluted air."

This one just isn't true. We sit around and smoke outside of our home, and like I said, many consider the smell quite pleasant. We close the windows and doors to our house so that the smoke doesn't come in, and anyone who doesn't want to smell it, doesn't smell it. And we don't go out and smoke in public.

One of my roommates doesn't enjoy smoking or the smell of our smoke, but he does enjoy the conversation that arises when we smoke. So he sits outside with us, but just sits a few extra feet away and it is apparently no problem for him.

Point is, the kind of smoking I have described rarely offends other people's senses, and it certainly isn't unavoidable for them when it does.

Objection #5: "No man in our day can use tobacco with out losing his influence with somebody. We could give specific instances of men who in many respects are men of extraordinary power who have lost their influence, and who have done positive harm to the cause of Christ, by their use of tobacco. Every out and out Christian desires his life to count to the uttermost for God and will not do anything, no matter how innocent in itself, which he has reason to think will rob him of an ounce of influence for God with anybody. If one will stop to candidly think of it, he must know that the use of tobacco will rob him of the influence with some whom he might and ought to reach and help."

Much of my point in my first post on this subject was exactly the opposite of this, namely that the benefits of smoking for deep, eternally-meaningful conversations with other men have often been considerable. And again, smoking a cigarette with a non-believer has been the way to build relationships on a few occasions. I use smoking for that very purpose.

I think the difference is probably in the stigma. In Torrey's day, my guess is that the old "Don't smoke, drink, or chew, or go with girls that do" adage was common Christian wisdom. But that, I think, is a basically cultural value that does not exist in the same way today (except chewing, which is still disgusting).

In Dr. Torrey's day he was probably right, and for that reason Christians then probably should not have smoked. But the perceptions now have changed for many (though not for all- we should still most certainly be quite careful about this!), and this is no longer as clearly true as it probably was then.

4 comments:

Noah said...

that a boy faris!

Noah

Scott said...

It's possible to just get on with smoking and not worry about defending it. Some people would claim smoking suspect because we have to spend time defending it.

D.J. Williams said...

Good thoughts - thanks for the link!

Gregg said...

Good point Andrew. If culture has changed so much just in the last 100 years, so as to render commonly held practices useless, then think of all that has changed in the last 2,000 years. We probably shouldnt even read the Bible, with all of its outdated "wisdom".


I think the difference is probably in the stigma. In Paul's day, my guess is that the old "Don't sleep with other men or drink too much alcohol" adage was common Christian wisdom. But that, I think, is a basically cultural value that does not exist in the same way today.

In Paul's day he was probably right, and for that reason Christians then probably should not have been Homosexuals or gotten drunk. But the perceptions now have changed for many (though not for all- we should still most certainly be quite careful about this!), and this is no longer as clearly true as it probably was then.