In Proverbs, a King gives advice he got from his mother to his son:
4 It is not for kings, Lemuel—
it is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
6 Let beer be for those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
7 Let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:4-9)
This is one Biblical data point on the place of intoxicants in life. On the one hand, they can help ease the misery of the poor and enable them to live another day. On the other, they deprive leaders of reason and lead them to neglect their responsibilities, leading to oppression.
Another data point is the story of Noah. He got drunk and one of his sons found him naked and made fun of him. This led to a curse and the Bible's first mention of slavery.
A third, back in Proverbs is:
Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1)
So intoxicants can lead to quarrels and violence.
The New Testament does not lighten up on the subject:
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters ... nor the
greedy nor drunkards ... will inherit the
kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
Another verse is Ephesians 5:18.
That leaves us with the question of whether to apply Biblical cautions about getting inebriated by alcohol to all hallucinogens and mind-altering substances or to treat them as a separate category.
This passage in Galatians is instructive:
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and
debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy,
fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy;
drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that
those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The word translated witchcraft is pharmakeia, from which we get words like pharmacy and pharmaceutical. It is lumping the use of certain drugs into the same category as drunkenness.
Now that is a negative view of drug use: rules saying what not to do in order to live a righteous life and communiocate with God.
For a positive list of the approved ways to communicate with God, there are many places in scripture. One place I like to go because it has examples of all the approved ways that I know, is Job. In Job are found examples of (or references to):
- Observing God in nature
- Listening to Wise elders
- Meditating on God's Word
- Listening to God's living Prophets
- Angelic mediation
Two Christian additions to this list are baptism and receiving communion. The latter is related to those Jewish sacrifices where the person offering was permitted to partake (like the fellowship offering).
The two that intersect in Pagan religion with drug use are dreams and visions.
One Christian principle about communication with God is that you don't force it. Magic and pagan practices are about actions that we can do to manipulate spirits to speak to us. With God, you ask, and you wait. If God answers, good. If not, you are patient. You are invited to continue asking, but God is free and cannot be compelled. The story of King Saul consulting a medium so that he could speak with Samuel the prophet, who was dead, is instructive. He was employing forbidden means of communicating with God and was punished for it.
So back to mind-altering drugs. Some of them are used to treat people for schizophrenia (such as THC), psychosis, and other mental problems. In such instances, those drugs - which do alter brain chemistry - are used to restore sanity, sobriety, and rationality.
So my answer to you is that if mind-altering drugs are used to promote sobriety and rationality and a clearer perception of reality, they may be used by Christians profitably. If they are used to distort reality and confuse our ability to discern reality from unreality, they are to be avoided.
Of all the authorized religious practices, holy communion and fasting are the most instructive. The first is related to something we take into our body - bread and wine - while the second is about withholding all physical nourishment from entering our body. These are the two major Christian practices related to material (or its absence). (Certain vows - like silence, poverty, lenten abstinence - are less common but are related.)
The simplicity and sanity of these commonplace practices is a hallmark of Christianity, which eschews secret rituals and occult practices. It is about making a spiritual connection, which is why material means are downplayed.
Response to Comment:
I would like to see examples of hallucinogens which fall into each
The medical dictum is that "the poison is in the dose". I knew a man in college who tried LSD and it had NO effect on him. On the other hand, I once took a common cold remedy and it left me high as a kite, with subjective feelings indistinguishable from legitimate experiences of the joy of the Holy Spirit that I had on other occasions. I never took that medicine again. Thus the Bible's emphasis on sobriety and preserving sound judgment as opposed to itemizing chemicals and putting them in categories seems wise.
11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes
out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matthew 5:11)
Jesus would seem to be allowing people to ingest all things, except that some substances (in doses and effects that vary by person) inevitably reduce inhibitions or distort perception such that the person who eats or drinks them inevitably speaks (and act outs) defiling things.