A friend on Facebook once posted that “Sin will lead to addiction, addiction will lead to sin”. Bishop Joseph Butler (1692-1752) once remarked that “Everything is itself and not something else”. I agree. So, sin is not addiction and addiction is not sin. They are two different things and cannot be the same.
The foundational problem with the statement made on Facebook is that the terms have not been defined. What is sin and what is addiction? Sin is, in simple terms, thoughts, words, or deeds contrary to the will of God. Addiction is a medical term not related to sin. On the other hand, a term like “stronghold” is a biblical term and concept. So, from a theological perspective, addiction is actually a spiritual stronghold that results from habitual sin.
Sin has effects, two of which are that it enslaves (John 8:34) and controls (Romans 6:12). In John 8:34, Jesus stated that “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin”. “Commits” is a present tense verb (think “continual” tense). So He’s not talking about the occasional “white lie”. He’s talking about habitual sin. No matter what it is, if you do it often enough, sooner or later it’s got you–it could be gossip, overeating, lying, profanity, anger, verbal abuse, bitterness, materialism, criticism, etc.
But Romans 6 clearly teaches that the believer is no longer a slave to sin but has been freed from it (vss. 6-7). What this means is that sin is no longer our master, it no longer rules over us, and we no longer have to obey its desires in us. While free from the controlling power of sin (not to mention its eternal penalty), we are not, however, free from its influence.
The reason we are still subject to sin’s effects is because it is still present and operative within us (Romans 7:17, 20-23). This is why God never promises to redeem the body—it is totally contaminated by sin. Someday we will have new, resurrected bodies. However, they won’t be these bodies. But please, don’t miss the important, technical difference between being enslaved to sin versus being influenced by sin.
So, Christians can succumb to the enslaving and controlling effects of habitual sin, but they are not slaves to it.
In conclusion, habitual sin may indeed lead to an addiction in the sense that continually viewing pornography results in a stronghold. But addiction, being a result of habitual sin, does not lead to sin since it is an outcome, not a cause. Every addictive behavior is also sin in the Bible. It is the habitual practice of sin that creates the “addictive state”, or as I prefer, the “stronghold”.
It would not be incorrect, however, to state that habitual sin can lead to an addiction and addiction will lead to further sin”. Romans 6:19 makes it clear that habitual sin promotes additional sin. Hence, the person who quits drugs yet continues in sexual sin is at risk for returning to drugs since “Every sin we commit reinforces the habit of sinning and makes it easier to sin” (Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness).