In March 2008, Christianity Today published an article entitled, “Addicted to Sex” and featured the story on its cover. While they are to be praised for reporting on this grave and pervasive issue, and while the article did not fail to reference some biblical perspectives on sexual addiction, I have several serious concerns with the article.
They refer to addicted people as “Addicts”
Why should any Christian subscribe to a false, negative, failure identity as an “addict” when the Bible says we are new creations, fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image, God’s workmanship, and complete in Christ?
Labeling a person by what they do (or have done) rather than by who they are in Christ is simply dumb. Things like sleeping and eating are things we do habitually, but we would never identify ourselves as “Sleepers” or “Eaters”. These are behaviors, not identities.
In some programs you attend regular meetings. Think about attending those meetings day after day, week after week, month after month, and repeating the words, “I am an addict” or “I am an alcoholic”. What do addicts do? They take drugs, use pornography, etc. What do alcoholics do? They drink.
Since what we believe about ourselves ultimately determines our behavior, we must be wary of failure identities inconsistent with our true identities as God’s children. For as he thinks within himself, so he is (Proverbs 23:7).
Knowing our identity in Christ is essential for a proper worldview and understanding of addiction in
order to find true and lasting freedom from it and to help others do the same. It’s not what we do that determines who we are. It’s who we are that determines what we do.
They bought into the lie that Christians are powerless
Why should we believe we are powerless when the Bible says we have been given a spirit of power and can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (1 Tim. 1:7, Philippians 4:13)?
If you see yourself as an addict with a disease over which you are powerless, I don’t know how you’ll ever make it. In fact, the odds are you won’t. While it’s no longer studied, the average success rate of all valid, scientific studies conducted for 12-Step programs was only 10%. Care to guess what the percentage was for those who received no treatment at all? 30%.
People can’t change the sin until they address the disease first
This is simply wrong. Of paramount importance is the fact that no one has ever discovered the “disease of addiction”, no one has ever discovered an “addictive gene”, and no one has ever discovered the “addictive personality”. These things simply do not exist.
Standard pathology textbooks do not include any type of addiction because addictions do not fulfill the nosological criteria for diseases (Schaler, Addiction is a Choice, 2000). The disease concept is a discredited theory, but as Dr. Hebert Fingarette puts it, “Almost everything that the American public believes to be the scientific truth about
God doesn’t tolerate sin while we fumble with disease theories. The truth is that no progress will be made until the habitual sin is dealt with.
We Christians need to do the hard work of research and begin thinking critically and theologically about claims made by “experts” and “authorities”. Most of what is promoted as “Christ centered” or “Bible based” in these types of ministries is not—it is actually syncretism, the blending of antithetical belief systems. Hence, they experience poor success rates often no better than the secular programs after which they are modeled.
Jesus said he who commits sin is the slave of sin (John 8:34). Commits is a present tense verb, meaning he who repeatedly commits sin will in fact become (indicative mood) enslaved by that sin. Sin enslaves and controls. It doesn’t matter what it is, it could be gossip. Do it often enough and sooner or later it’s got you.
Thus, from a theological perspective, we are face-to-face with a spiritual stronghold the develops as a result of habitual sin. Fortunately, Jesus already dealt conclusively with sin, so that no Christian is addicted for life. Rather, he/she is made free by the truth and is sanctified in the truth (John 8:32, 17:17). If the Church continues to approach addiction from strictly medical, psychological or sociological perspectives without giving any consideration to the effects of sin, we’ll never help anyone find freedom in Christ.
The biblical prescription for change is the renewing of the mind according to biblical truth. If we hope to help Christians find true and lasting freedom from addiction, sanctification is the answer because (are you ready for this?) the more like Christ we are, the more power we have over temptation and sin.
A radical new concept—from 2000 years ago.
<<This post has been revised and updated>>